Scraps of the past

Ellis Parker's relatives show off their scrapbook in Mt Holly, New Jersey

Ellis Parker’s relatives show off their scrapbook in Mt Holly, New Jersey

One of the problems with writing a non fiction crime book is knowing when to stop. It seems as if there is always just one more piece of information just over the horizon. Then, of course when you do finish, these bits of information show up, too late to be included. I was reminded of this fact of life at the recent event in New Jersey.

The Ellis Parker book event and historical site tour was held  in Mt Holly, New Jersey, scene of much of the action in Master Detective, the true story of Amreica’s Sherlock Holmes. Over 50 people showed up and trekked between the sites, such as the old jail, the courthouse, the Elks Club, and Ellis Parker’s second home in the 87 degree heat. Amongst the literary enthusiasts were a number of descendents of Ellis Parker I had not previously met. (Well, since Parker had so many children, his descendents are many and varied.)

Anyway, one of the relatives said he had inherited most of Parker’s famous pipes, and another said she had inherited his bed. Yet another brought a scrap book kept by another relative, now deceased. In the old scrapbook was almost every piece of paper Ellis Parker must have touched in his life. There was his driver’s license from 1922, his Elks Club memebership card from 1919, a pair of theater tickets from 1930, train passes from just about any year you could name, and membership cards in the New Jersey Police Chief’s Association and the Egg Island Gun Club. There was even a collection of the highly personal Christmas cards he sent out. Of course, not much of this collection of paper artifacts would have been vital to the book, but it was interesting to see it all, and it made Parker almost come to life. Fortunately, there was nothing that contradicted anything in the book!

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