Part 17: Riley's Early 20s and His Journal: A Look Back

“They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.”---FDR I'm trapped at home like everyone else in Seattle due to the Corona Virus pandemic. Above are the headlines from Friday, March 20, 2020. It's a bit bleaker today, Saturday. Here is a link to a cartoon that explains what the virus does to the human body and why it's so dangerous. I hope this link never stops working so people will remember that this is not the flu. Lots of bad information out there. Back to my dad's journal. It's been difficult to read my dad's notes about the Great

Part 13: A Wedding, A Short Con, and Drifting

What amazes me reading through my father's detailed notes about his past is his recall. He started this journal late in life, and with each entry, divided up into how old he was, he includes not only personal information, but historical information. Riley writes that in 1932, when he was 14 years old, Jack Dempsey retired from boxing. Then he writes about how Dempsey opened a restaurant at 49th and Broadway in New York City. He even knew the address and the building it was in, 1619 Broadway in the Brill Building. I love stuff like that. I'm sure he had meals there-- later, when he had a job working for Lou Levy and the Andrew Sisters in the 1940s. Regarding his historical notes on the time,

Part 10: Riley's Real Troubles Begin

Reading through the reports from The Eastern Carolina Industrial Training School for Boys, I noticed a dramatic change in tone in the reports after the Depression hit. In the early days of the school, 1926, 1927, 1928, reports were upbeat (not counting the poor horse and squirrel) then in 1929 the staff seemed overwhelmed. They had planned to grow all the food for the "school", but things weren't going as planned. The next door neighbors, a black farmer and his family, had a good farm going, so perhaps the school should've hired an actual farmer. The administrators suggest in a report that the State of North Carolina might purchase the property next door for the school to farm. They mention

Part 8: Things Boys Got In Trouble For in the Early 1900s

I found this list of habits and offenses that could categorize a kid as a delinquent back in the 1920s. The list was in a pamphlet at the Wilson Library. We'll get to that research soon. One of the most profound things that happened as a result of pitching my story to the Hidden Brain podcast last year is that I was reunited with my father's belongings. My father's friend, Ted, had stored dozens of boxes in his office, and apparently didn't realize how much personal information was mixed in with my Dad's Encyclopedia of Folk Music. In any case, the notes for the memoir my father wrote for me back in the 1980s was in one of those boxes. It was in the last box I went through. I've organized th

Part Seven: Riley's Cowboy Act (& Fact-Checking)

As a kid, I called my father "Riley." I was allowed to call my parents by their first names, or Mom and Dad. Sometimes in this blog, rather than call him "Dad" each time, I'll refer to him as Riley. Remember, he took his middle name and made it his first name sometime in the 1930s. His first stage name was "Lanky Bill" when he performed in black face with other teenagers. After that, he took on dozens of pen names and stage names, and...I'm not sure what his other names were used for. I just found a new one the other day with help from Claire Boynton, who has helped me organize my father's writings and all the other information I've been compiling the past 20 years or so, blending things in

Part Four: The $10,000 Question

If I hadn't submitted my story to the Hidden Brain podcast, I don't think I would have ever been reunited my father's missing boxes again.

Watch This Space!!

This blog will fact check the"The Cowboy Philosopher" segment on "Hidden Brain" that it explored the life and career of Riley Shepard.

Recent Posts
Find out first!

©2020 by Stacya Silverman.

All photos on this site were taken by Thomas Schworer or David Hiller unless otherwise noted.