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January 2013

So much of what we have in the archives deals with life in the Koreshan Unity as it happened here in Estero. After the death of Dr. Teed in 1908, many members of the unity began to roam a bit. This is not to say they left the Unity for good, but they either traveled, or in some cases, lived somewhere else while retaining some means of identification with the Unity. With the dawn of the 20th century, people everywhere began to travel more and move.

One member who did that was Laurence Wilmer Bubbett, (known as “Laurie”). He was President of the Unity for some time, beginning in 1949 when Allen Andrews was “expelled” from the Unity. Laurie, whose parents, James and Evelyn entered the Unity in Chicago in the early days, really knew nothing else, but the notion of community living here in Estero. That being said, even a lifelong member like Laurie Bubbett, moved about a bit after 1908.

Laurie lived in New York City from 1915-1918 as well as Baltimore and Miami, always making a living as a printer and a musician. He is said to have been a gifted violin player. It isn’t clear if he evangelized on behalf of the Koreshans.

After a time, he returned to the Unity. One of his closest friends was his brother-in-law, Claude Rahn, another lifelong Koreshan who also moved away while remaining a member. Claude had been married to Laurie’s sister, Imogene who died in 1932. Claude lived in New Jersey and Laurie lived here. They corresponded and we have some of their letters, most of which were “chitty-chat” where Claude thanks Laurie for the gift of oranges at Christmas, etc.

The most interesting things in what we call the “Laurie Bubbett Material” collection (Beginning with item AM-0113) are two notebooks. The first, is an expense journal, or ‘daybook’ that Laurie kept, beginning in 1933. He begins saying:

“Expenditures in cash form Mother and self, beginning December 1, 1933, Estero, Fla. Mother (Mrs Evelyn Bubbett) receives a widow’s pension of $36.00 a month from the government. It had been $40 but was recently reduced 10%.”

Laurie lists each expense and when one looks at the prices of goods and services, it makes you realize just how much prices have risen over the past 80 years. Laurie bought 2 gallons of gasoline and paid 41 cents. By the end of 1934, when he quit making entries, he used much less detail and had entries for various items such as “candy 5 cents” and “milk, 35 cents”.

It is always interesting to see how prices have changed over the years. This expense journal is a peek at what life, albeit a “Koreshan” life, was like in the midst of the 1930’s.

Categories: Monthly Feature.

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