Sunday, September 27, 2015




“I have heard people talk about their childhoods. Rating on a scale of 1 to 10, my childhood was an 11.” When I read these opening lines, I correctly suspected that Kathleen Blake Shields had a memoir well worth reading.

I started transcribing and editing Kathy’s memoir, based on her nearly idyllic childhood, at the same time I was finishing reading another memoir, The Tears from My Soul, by Sharon Lane, detailing Sharon’s heart-rending early years. The contrast could hardly be more stark: Kathy’s working-class parents were loyal to each other and devoted to their children. Her life in her small town---Maybrook, NY--seventy miles north of New York City, was nearly heaven. Lane’s African-American, lower-class life, down South and then in the MidWest, was hell, with booze, incest, infidelity, child and spouse abuse rampant. The difference was not due to racial discrimination or income but to culture.

Kathy’s upbeat memoir is a reminder of how well some parents have succeeded in providing for their children here in America. Her stories from her wonderful childhood rival those familiar to fans of Little House on the Prairie.

Often, grim, down-beat childhoods spawn up-from-the-muck memoirs that are stories of efforts to overcome adversity. This memoir reassures us that there are happy childhoods and excellent outcomes.

You will be entertained and uplifted.

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D. 
264 East Drive 
Walden, NY 12586


I had always wanted to write down my memories of our childhood, but I kept putting it off. It wasn’t until I got sick, starting in 2006, and I went to my family doctor and was told I had allergies, and then, no, not that, maybe a sinus infection. I was still sick when in 2008 I found another doctor who sent me to a lung doctor, after a biopsy.

That pulmonologist told me I had pulmonary fibrosis and only three to five more years to live. I went away with this, but I didn’t accept it. This doctor was about three hours away from where I live, so my own Dr. Granger found me one closer.

In November 2013, after my first visit, my new doctor asked,

"Who told you that you have pulmonary fibrosis.?

I told her it was Dr. J.

She replied, “I don’t think so.”

I went for a C. T. Scan. At my next appointment, my new doctor told me she herself was right: it was hyper-something and no death sentence; this gave me the will to write this memoir for my grandsons, my sisters, my daughter, and my son.


I have heard people talk about their childhoods. Rating on a scale of 1 to 10, my childhood was an 11.

I was one of three girls each born to our mom and dad two years apart. First, in April 1946, was Doreen. Next, in 1948, again in April, came me, Kathleen. Like clock-work two years later, in April 1950, came Nancy, the baby. We always heard that our dad wanted to try again for a son, but Mom said no.

Another story we heard was that after Nancy was born, my mom got very sick, close to death, and Dad and Mom considered letting Mom’s brother and his wife adopt Nancy. They had no children and were not able to have them. After this idea came to light, our Grandma Blake put an end to it, saying that in the event Mom died, she would raise Nancy Lee (whom she named), Doreen and me, with Dad by themselves. Of course this wasn’t to be, because Mom recovered.

I still get a special feeling in my heart when I think of my childhood. Whenever I am asked this question, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” my answer is always the same, “Oh, this is easy: to go back in time to when I was little, about five years old and grow up again.”

Growing up again would give me another chance to spend time with my mom, dad, grandma, and other relatives, to talk to them and learn about them. We never had enough time back then, as there was always tomorrow, but as we all know, we run out of tomorrows, and then it’s too late.

Now that I’m a grandmother with two grandsons, if I could teach them one thing I’ve learned, it would be to take time to get to know all of your family before it’s too late. I hope that when they read this, they will know me a little better.

I have learned, in the years since everyone has passed away, more things about my Blake family, through research done by our second cousin Cheree Conklin Cardone. Her father was the son of our aunt Lila, my father’s sister.

Cheree has researched the Blake family and has written it all down. One of the things she learned was that my grandmother’s father was named Charles Eugene Siegman, and he was a Confederate soldier, who fought in the Civil War, from Virginia.

On my father’s side was John P. M. Blake. He married Elsie Eager, the daughter of William and Sarah Wells. He was involved in politics. In 1793, he was elected deputy sheriff and five years later he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He was reelected sheriff and served from 1800 to 1805. He served several years as an assemblyman, and for two years as a member of the House of Representatives and Judge of the New York Common Pleas Court. No one since has held so many positions on both the state and federal levels.

They built the homestead in 1794 and added an addition afterwards. Every summer there is held, in the nearby town of Campbell Hall, the annual Bull family picnic.

My great-grandfather Charles Siegman’s family had a big farm in Montgomery, and once in a while we would see relatives there. To this day the city of Middletown has a Sarah Wells Road.

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