My Grandpa turned 95 years old last month. Good lord. 95. While I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the quickening pace of my own biological clock, my Grandpa’s life span is more than double my paltry “THE END IS COMING!” timetable. My Dad and Aunt Linda came from the Pacific Northwest to celebrate the significant birthday, and my Aunt Maureen traveled down from South Dakota.
This was just too big of a milestone to miss. (Full disclosure- I did miss the actual birthday due to a photo job, but I was there for the birthday week.) I packed up the car and endured the freakishly beautiful 11-hour road trip to my hometown.
I haven’t been home in over a year and a half, so it was a long overdue trip jam-packed with friends and loved ones. When I’m in town, I usually stay with the parent’s of my best friend. It was the perfect time to visit as the goats they keep recently had kids. If you’ve never spent real time watching baby goats play, just do yourself a favor and google it. It’s too freaking cute. They are seriously like puppies. It’s too much. I had to snap some photos of the suckers.
But I digress…
My mother is a nurse, and my father, a philosopher/gypsy. My mom is from a big Polish Catholic family in Detroit, and my Dad came from a small coal-mining town in Utah. Carbon County is nestled right in the middle of the state. If you’ve ever driven from Salt Lake to the gorgeous southern half of the state, you probably stopped for gas there.
My parents moved the family there, as I was about to start the 7th grade. My sister and I were ecstatic. A lot of our Dad’s family lived there and it meant that we would be free to roam the hills in search of adventure with our cousins far more often.
This is Helper, the town where I spent my formative years. Helper sits right at the base of a scenic canyon. It derived its name from the “helper” train engines that would push other trains through the treacherous canyon when they got stuck. Who even knew trains could get stuck? I took these photos on Helper Main Street last week.
Because it was a mining town, it was a thriving, culturally diverse community in its hay day, replete with an underground boxing ring and whorehouses.
This is a photo of a group of Greek miners from the Carbon County archives. Check out the guns and the liquor. I love this pic so much. You can see it displayed at the new Senior Center, thanks to my awesome Aunt Debby who is the head honcho there and responsible for curating some amazing historical pics. Although this pic doesn’t have anything to do with my actual family, I feel a sense of pride when I look at it. This is where I’m from! There was a kind of rough and tumble, pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality ingrained in the fabric of the region that I was proud to be a part of.
I loved growing up in Carbon County. I loved my friends, my experiences, and my family. Especially my Grandparents. I was so proud to be “a Kobe”. It felt like everyone seemed to know my predecessors. Still even now 18 years after I moved away, if I’m in town a stranger will inevitably comment, “you MUST be a Kobe”… Or, “Which Kobe are you?”
It wasn’t all roses. I often dreamed about living somewhere where I could go to the grocery store and not run into someone I knew. Growing up in a deeply religious state was also very difficult for me at times. I stopped going to mass at a young age because I felt deep down that it was wrong for me personally. I never felt right within the confines of many established belief systems… especially when it was demonstrated in an oppressive, judgmental way as was often the case growing up where I did. My leaving religion was hard for certain family members, and I feared my Grandpa would be disappointed in me, but he never was. The deeply devout Catholic that he is, only once did he mention anything remotely resembling a sermon on behalf of his beliefs. Once. We were having a conversation about the importance of letting go, and he leaked out that he felt he had to forgive people that wronged him because he believed that if he didn’t, he would have to bear the weight of his sin in hell forever. HELL IS FOREVER he said to me. He wasn’t trying to get me to believe the way he did, he was just sharing his perspective in a conversation. As far as sermons go, that was seriously tame. I’ve experienced harder sales pitches from 4th graders, while in elementary school, once the other kids found out I wasn’t Mormon.
My Grandpa led by example. He didn’t use religion as a means of convincing others to believe as he did, but rather as a tool for good. He used his church as a way to get involved in the community and help others in need, without the pushing of “his Jesus” onto others. This has always stuck with me. In fact, his unconditional love of humanity while not pushing a religious agenda was a refreshing awakening that helped snap me out of what was a reverse religious prejudiced lens I often viewed others through. It was a profound lesson that served as a jumping off point to my own personal growth.
My Grandpa Jack Kobe, or as many still refer to him, Coach Kobe, was a pillar of the community. He was a veteran, a teacher, a coach, and a philanthropist in his own way. I still hear new stories from people I never knew were associated with our family about how he affected others on small and large scales . Now I’m not so naive as to think that my Grandpa was perfect and without ego. I know he is flawed as we all are. My experiences and interpretations of his life and what it means to me are my own. I am extremely grateful to have him as an example in my life. I adore him.
I want to put together some kind of interpretative/artistic/portrait project on what he has taught me, and what he means to me. I would really like to open this up to anyone that knows Jack Kobe to share your stories and experiences with me so that I might know his character outside of my own perspective. Please feel free to comment here on my blog, or to contact me personally via post, email, or any other means of communication. I don’t want to do a straight up documentary piece of the man, but rather, use the values and goodness he inspires as a starting point for a fun, exploratory visual project. If nothing else, I would love to hear any and all stories you may keep dear 🙂