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Paul Atwell

Jessie ShipboardOut of all my grandparents and great-grandparents, Paul Atwell is the least familiar to anyone still living. He fathered little Marjorie during his brief marriage to my great-granmother Maxine, but by the time his daughter was two years old the marriage was already in the process of dissolving. In fact, the separation was so much "in process" that the 1930 census counted Maxine and Margie twice, once in a household with Paul, and again back at home with Maxine's mother. It's a chance administrative foible that happened to catch a snapshot of a relationship in motion.

The Atwells had been farming Kentucky ground for several generations by the time Paul happened along. Oral history claims that Bertie Atwell, Paul's mother, was half-Cherokee, but I haven't been able to trace her record back to the time before her marriage, or learn more about her family. Nor are there any records of what motivated her son to leave Kentucky, his parents and seven younger siblings, and light out for California sometime in the 1920's. By 1930 he was working in a shipyard in Vallejo, fudging his age by a few years (he listed himself as 25, but previous census records put him at only 23), heading toward a divorce from his young wife and a recruiting career in the U.S. Navy.

Jessie & Charles VictorThe marriage between Maxine and Paul was not a happy one, and my grandmother's only memories of her biological father are vague. Nevertheless, when I think of his family's long connection to the Kentucky soil, juxtaposed with his own career in the shipyards, I think he must have been a unique mix of land and sea, earth and water. The Paul Atwell socks adapt the traditional gull-and-garter stitch pattern into a "gull-and-seed" pattern that also combines these elements – sea birds with land-rooting plant-life. The pattern is subtle and masculine, and engaging enough to hold a knitter's interest. Make them in an earthy brown to let the "land" element predominate, or a slate blue if you're feeling oceanic.

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