On a warm summer evening in California, about 1977, my father and I were enjoying a cold drink. We began to talk about our family and I told him that I knew a great deal about my mother's side of the family - because we grew up around her parents and siblings - but I knew very little about his family. I had always referred to his parents as "Grandma and Grandpa Swarbrick" and didn't even know my grandma's name. Balboa Beach, California
As we talked, he told me about his mother, Alice Mary Maltman, and her family. His maternal grandfather was born in England and served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. His mother was born in Toronto, Canada and lived there all of her life. He knew quite a bit about her family and had fond memories of his Uncle Irving, and the summers spent on Aunt Flossie's farm.
He told me that his father was called Richard Joseph Swarbrick and was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. He left home as a young man to travel the world with a Music Hall (Vaudeville) troupe and toured Europe, Japan, and North America as a professional roller skater - billed as "The Human Top".
When I asked about his father's family I was surprised to learn that he knew almost nothing about them. He didn't know his grandparent's names, didn't know if his father had any brothers or sisters, and knew nothing at all about the family back in Scotland.
Naturally, I was more than a little curious. When I asked why he knew so little, he told me the story of his father, The Human Top.
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PHOTO NOTE: Photo taken Newport Beach, California, October 2002 by Glenn Swarbrick.