Finding Pop in Laurel Hill, and depending on strangers' kindness

Published: Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 08:45 PM.

Exploring Laurel Hill, population 500, and meeting its residents would be my way to experience the area where my father, Daniel Webster Henderson, was born in 1893 and raised in his early years. 

He was the second child of Thomas and Eliza Garrett Henderson, and I wanted to know all I could about them, too. 

Experiencing the area was also a way to personalize the narrative that I was writing to accompany 100 years of family photos I was placing in albums by decades. 

It gave me — the youngest of nine children; born when my father was 54 — answers to questions about grandparents I never met, and my father who died 40 years earlier.

Driving west from Jacksonville across the Florida Panhandle, I saw topography from stories Pop would tell while rocking in an aluminum chair on the front porch of our West 90th Street home. We lived in what became known as South Central Los Angeles.  Our two-bedroom home was a kitchen for Mom, a roof over the heads of five boys and four girls, and a learning center to understand how to survive in the world. 

My hope was also to find out all I could about Pop’s stay in an orphanage when he was young.  Rocking on the porch after a good meal Mom cooked, Pop would remind his children, “In an orphanage, I had to fight with the rats for food.”

My initial research to find my Pop started with a visit to I sent an e-mail to the web editor, who suggested I go to the Baker Block Museum and then to the Laurel Hill Grill.

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