Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving - Parade Memories

Living in NYC, my family often went to the big Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which meant getting up early and riding the subway an hour to get downtown to a street where we could see the floats and bands pass by. Of course Spider Man wasn't in the parade then, but other cartoon favorites were fun to see. Santa in his sleigh arrived at the tail end of the parade, then as now, much anticipated as the high point of the whole show. The crowds were enormous but we usually staked out a spot where we children could sit on a parent's shoulders or climb on a nearby statue or fountain to get a better view. If we were lucky, we'd come home with a little balloon of our own!

In other years, we watched the Macy's parade on TV and flipped channels to see the Dayton's parade in Detroit (after the Macy's parade was over) and the Gimbel's parade in Philadelphia. I didn't realize that the Philadelphia parade had continued after Gimbel's went bust in the 1980s, but now it's the IKEA parade. The Detroit parade is now "America's Thanksgiving Parade" and will take place on Saturday.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy memories.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Thanksgiving 1956

My maternal grandmother (Hermina Farkas Schwartz) and her siblings and their families celebrated Thanksgiving (Nov 22, 1956) by gathering at the Hotel Gramercy Park in New York City for a masquerade luncheon. This was only one of many "Farkas Family Tree" get-togethers that I can remember over the years. The photographer spelled "Farkas" incorrectly (bottom right of photo, it's spelled "Falkas"). I'm one of the Hawaiian girls at left toward the back of the room, wearing a lei. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - Wartime letters to Mom, 4/13/1944


War-time letter to my Mom from her friend Eleanor Weinberger, postmarked April 13, 1944. Eleanor's husband Monty was in the service and they moved as he was stationed in different places. One big problem for me, all these years later, is that I don't remember Mom ever mentioning Eleanor, yet Mom kept a big bundle of letters from her--kept the letters for decades. Who was Eleanor and why was she so important in Mom's life?

[This letter was written on letterhead from the Hotel Buena Vista and Cottages, Biloxi, Mississippi, "overlooking the sparking waters of the Gulf of Mexico" - postcard, below, is from the Web site FamilyOldPhotos.com]


Dear Daisy,

Received your letter and was happy to hear from you. Your letter was nice and newsy and I enjoyed reading it. If you’re interested in my impressions of Biloxi, for your information, I plan to write a book about the place after the war is over. Just keep my letters and each one shall be the basis for another chapter!

I have definitely decided that there’s one difference between Goldsboro and Biloxi. Goldsboro had no advantages—had nothing to do—so I went to work and tired myself out so—that I didn’t want to do anything. In Biloxi, there are advantages but there are disadvantages too, which far outweigh the advantages and makes it impossible the enjoy the place. Of course this is all my opinion. Some people I’ve met down here feel I’m wrong but of course, we all have a different idea of living and mine simply doesn’t coincide with what I’m faced with. 

We’re still living in the room we found the day after we arrived. After we took it we discovered we were on the wrong side of the tracks—I’m tickled pink when Monty leaves the car for me! Then, too, I’ve discovered that roaches are very unpleasant company to have around and have to be content with the retort “oh! They’re all over town—even in New Orleans" people say when I happen to mention it as a slight drawback to our room. Yes! They’re in N.Y. too, but not in every house! 

The worst thing of all though is the water. It’s sulphuric and sells that way. The smell seems to remain everywhere and it’s really very nauseating, when it’s as constant as it is. Both Monty and I refrain from drinking any and I usually have to wait about 3 hrs after any meal to take a bath. The water isn’t as bad in other parts of town—another reason for my wishing to move. 

All these things seem to outweigh by far, the glorious days, the Gulf, palm trees and basking in the sun, on the beach. By the way, our room is about a mile inland, that’s why it’s so cheap--$10 a month! Heck! I had my own furnished apt. in Champaign for $42.50 a month. We’d love to spend our time down here, living at one of the hotels on the beach, but it's far beyond our reach. Rooms are $5 or $6 a night and over a period of a month it just about amounts to what Monty’s making. But I do manage to make good use of the hotels’ facilities, like ping-pong, checkers, the sun-decks, etc. It’s fun and it helps a little, to bear the unpleasantries.

So that, my dear, is Biloxi—you can have it—any day. They say, people pay thousands for sulphuric water. I’d pay thousands too, not to have it. Forgive me if I sound a bit unenthusiastic, but things do seem dark right now. They always do before the light and here’s hoping things become a little brighter.
         
Do remember me to Daddy when you next write. I’m really not in the mood to write very much nowadays. I’ll feel much better when I’m settled. My best to your parents. 

            Love to you—
            El

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Meyer Mahler and Tillie Jacobs Mahler

Here are the tombstones of my great-grandparents, buried in Queens, New York. Meyer MAHLER's inscription, translated, suggests a connection to the famous Luria family (reputedly descended from King David):
Here lies the distinguished man from the branch of the fear of heaven, author of the sefer "Kanaf Ranannim," R' Meir Eliyahu son of R' Dovid Akiva, born in 5616 died 3 Shvat 5670.
The sefer mentioned here was written by Chanoch Zindel LURIA. According to Meyer's death cert, his mother was Hinde Luria. So far, I've found no other evidence of any direct link to the Lurias, but will keep looking.

Tillie JACOBS MAHLER's inscription, translated, says "Here lies Mrs. Taube Raize daughter of R'Yonah, died 11 Silvan 5712." Yonah might be Jonah, a clue to Tillie's father, Jonah Jacobs?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday's Obituary - Isaac Burk

When paternal grandfather Isaac Burk died suddenly while visiting his wife's sister and brother-in-law in Washington, DC, the obit in the New York Times was quite terse, with nothing more than the basics. It read:
BURK--Isaac, on Oct. 8, 1943, husband of Yetta, father of Millie, Miriam, Harold and Sidney. Funeral 3:15 pm Sunday, Oct. 10. 1943.
This obit appeared on the day of the funeral service, which took place in New York City where Isaac lived, with the burial in New Jersey. "Yetta" was actually Henrietta, and "Millie" was Mildred, Isaac's oldest daughter. Since Isaac's sons Harold and Sidney were fighting in Europe at this point, having enlisted early in WWII, it must have been a very small group that attended the funeral, unfortunately. I've never uncovered any evidence of Isaac having siblings, so I suspect that only his daughters, widow, and widow's family were in attendance.

Isaac's name was recorded as "Birk" when he arrived as an immigrant, but he changed it (or the spelling was changed for him) sometime during his early years in New York City and Montreal, moving between the two places as a carpenter looking for work.

When Isaac married Henrietta MAHLER (my grandmother) in June, 1906, he listed his father's name as Elias (L. or S.) Burk and his mother as Necke (or Neche) Burk, although the "Burk" last name was clearly corrected on the marriage cert so it may have actually been spelled "Birk" or "Berk" the first time through the clerk's hands. Isaac said he was 26 and Henrietta said she was 19 at the time of their marriage.

Any BIRK or BURK relatives out there?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Those Places Thursday - Ungvar (now Uzhorod)

Grandfather Teddy (Tivador) SCHWARTZ and his siblings (including Paula and Etel, above), came from Ungvar, then part of Hungary and now in the Ukraine. After Teddy, his older brother Sam, and their little sister Mary moved to New York, they periodically received photo portrait postcards like the above from the old country. Whether Grandpa sent photo postcards back, I don't know. Sadly, I also don't know for sure what happened to Etel Schwartz.

Curious to see more about Ungvar, I located this site with vintage postcards of the city in the 19th and 20th centuries. Wow, it was more cosmopolitan than I expected. Even though Grandpa probably lived outside the city, it's interesting to see the skyline and buildings he would have seen in the city itself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wedding Wednesday - 1946

The biggest social event of 1946 in my father's side of the family was the wedding of my parents (center, seated). Alas, Mom's gold lame wedding dress is long gone but it was quite glamorous!

Surnames: Burk, Birk, Schwartz, Volk, Mahler

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mystery Monday - Margaret Schwartz and son William

My great-uncle Samuel SCHWARTZ died in 1954, while married to his second wife, Margaret (his first wife, Anna, had died in 1940). According to family lore, Sam and Margaret drifted away from the family after their marriage and once Sam died, leaving nothing to the children of his first marriage, the rift was complete.

Looking for more on Margaret, I found a grave for someone with that name in the same cemetery where Sam & Anna are buried...in fact, Margaret's plot is in the same block and section as Sam & Anna, and the burial society (1st Hungarian Independent Lodge) is the same for all three.

Now for the mystery: The next of kin listed on Margaret's cemetery info is "William Schwartz, son." Although I don't know whether this is the correct Margaret (I've guessed wrong before!), nobody has ever heard of Margaret and Sam having a son. Is William Schwartz a distant relative? Does he still have any of Sam Schwartz's family heirlooms?

Mystery partially solved! My cousin Bonnie just told me she remembers that Margaret had a child from her first marriage, so William must have been my great-uncle Sam's stepson. Where William might be and what he knows about the Schwartz family remains a mystery still.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Talented Tuesday: Needlework Experts

My mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk) and my younger sister, shown above, were talented with a needle and thread or yarn. Mom did petit point and needlepoint when she was first married, but from an early age she had been crocheting afghans, doilies, etc. She never sewed her own clothes because her mother (my grandmother, Hermina Schwartz), was a proficient seamstress who made the family's clothes for many years--and when my mother was working and earning money, she wanted store-bought apparel, not home-made.

My younger sister embroidered, did needlepoint, crocheted, and was good at many different hand-crafts.

My mother taught us to crochet before we started school (I now quilt as well) and my twin sewed a lot of her clothes during high school and college. Now one niece is an expert crocheter and another loves to embroider. The tradition of needlework continues!

I still have some items embroidered by my grandmother and mother, which I treasure and take care of so the memories and stories of their talents remain alive.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Data Backup Day - Suspenders and Belt Edition

Having lived through several PC crashes that demolished my data in the bad old days, I now rely on the "suspenders and belt" strategy of ensuring that my stuff can be retrieved, even if my computer is a total loss.

First, I use Mozy backup, and have set the program to back up every day at the same time. Worst case, I lose 24 hrs of data if I have to retrieve a Mozy backup from the previous day. This is the belt part. Mozy is well worth paying for, IMHO, and it's served me well for more than four years.

Second, now that I've given up the PC world and become a Mac fan (remember, "fan" is short for "fanatic"), I have Apple's Time Machine backing up every hour to an external hard drive that sits right on my desk. Really worst case, I'll lose an hour. Who can beat that? This is the suspenders part, the extra bit of insurance that lets me feel secure about my data.

And now for the genealogy part: The family names I'm researching are SCHWARTZ (Herman and Hanna Schwartz from Ungvar and their five children, Samuel, Theodore, Etel, Paula, and Mary); MAHLER (from Riga and Kosovo and thereabouts, David Mahler and Hinde Luria and their son, Meyer Elias Mahler, who came to NYC in 1880s); McCLURE (parents of William Madison McClure of Ohio and possibly, earlier, Pennsylvania). Any distant relatives out there, or anybody who knows something about these families, please get in touch! Happy to share info. Thanks.