Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ibolyka Schwartz in Folk Costume

Here's a newly-discovered photo of Ibolyka Schwartz--my first cousin once removed, daughter of my great-aunt Paula Schwartz. The handwritten name at bottom looks like it was added by my grandfather, Theodore (Tivador/Tivadar) Schwartz.

I wrote about Ibolyka (Violet) and her mother earlier this year, including a photo of Ibolyka as a child in 1930 in Ungvar (which was then part of Czechoslovakia but earlier and later, part of Hungary. Today, Ungvar is in Ukraine.)

This photo is undated, but she's wearing (I believe) a Hungarian folk costume and looks to be a teenager. Here's a translation of the Hungarian inscription on the back, with my thanks to John Kemeny for his assistance (see below for a scan of the original inscription): 

For Uncle Tivadar and family, memorabilia.
Respectful handkisses,    

This postcard was probably sent between 1938 and 1940, given Ibolyka's age and the internal political situation in Ungvar at the time. I'd dearly love to know what became of Ibolyka. I'm certain that Paula perished in the war, unfortunately.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Time Travel: 1909, When Marian McClure Was Born

This is the first in a series of "time travel" entries, looking at what was going on when/where my ancestors were born or at other significant points in their lives.

This entry is about my late mother-in-law, Marian Jane McClure, born in 1909 in Cleveland, Ohio. Here she is in May, 1955, with husband Edgar James Wood. Marian made the ceramic bird pin she's wearing.

I know from the Census that in 1910, Marian was living with mother (Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure) and father (Brice Larimer McClure) at 567 E. 115 Street in Cleveland, Ohio. This was a quiet residential neighborhood with modest homes, off of St. Clair Ave, a major street. Her father, an expert machinist, worked as a wire weaver, making wire cloth.

Here are some of the influences on Marian's world in the Cleveland of 1909:
  • Exploration was all the rage. Shackleton thought he'd arrived at the South Pole in early 1909 but he was actually nearly 100 miles away when he turned back. Peary and Cook were vying to "discover" the North Pole. Such travels of exploration captured the public imagination during the years leading up to WWI. Marian would have picked up some of these tales of undaunted courage. Her granddaughter is very interested in Shackleton, as it happens!
  • Everyday life was changing. The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company was wiring many neighborhoods. Even if Marian's home wasn't wired when she was born, it would be very shortly. Radio was the coming thing (Marconi shared the Nobel Prize in 1909); Marian would have grown up with radio programs in the background all her life. Air flight was in its infancy, but as an adult, Marian liked ocean-liner trips with her husband, Edgar. 
  • No car? No problem. The interurban light rail system and streetcar networks were well-established ways to get around in Cleveland and beyond. Marian and her family could pay a few pennies to hop on a streetcar and visit friends and relatives. Her father, Brice, probably rode the streetcar to his job as a wire weaver. Cars were still expensive and rare, and not really needed (yet).
  • City girl. With a population of more than 500,000, Cleveland was the 6th-largest U.S. city and by far the largest in the entire state. The Industrial Exposition of 1909 attracted more than 200,000 visitors, who were impressed with Cleveland's manufacturing might. Although Cleveland was spread out, residential neighborhoods like Marian's were only a few streets away from small shops (drugstores, bakeries, grocery stores, etc.) Marian lived in Cleveland most of her life. By the time she left Cleveland to move closer to grandchildren, the city's pollution had been mostly cleaned up and the Cuyahoga River no longer caught fire as it had many times before, starting in 1868.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Military Monday: What Dad Did in the War, 1942-1945

Second from left in the front row is Harold Burk, my father. He enlisted on March 7, 1942 at Camp Upton, NY. Maybe this is his basic training photo?

Dad served in the Army's 3163rd Signal Service Company, as a teletype operator and then as a personnel clerk, rising to the rank of Technician, 5th grade (insignia at right) by the time of his discharge in October, 1945. In all, he served for 3 years, 6 months, and 28 days.

The pinnacle of his advancement was becoming a sgt, but he didn't hold that post for long (see earlier blog post about his story about that experience).

Dad's military paperwork shows that he served in Central Europe and Rhineland (red/blue insignia above left), leaving for Europe in November, 1944 and returning to the US in July, 1945. At left are three photos of him, marked "Paris, April, 1945."

He received a "European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal" as well as a good conduct medal. Sadly, I don't have either of his decorations, and he told precious few stories of his time in the service.

After his service was over, Dad didn't waste any time looking for the right gal to marry. Three weeks after his discharge, he met Mom (Daisy Schwartz) and kissed her on the first date, according to a letter she wrote to her best friend. By New Year's Day, 1946, they were engaged, and because of the severe post-war housing shortage, they didn't get married until November, 1946. My father wooed my mother endlessly during that time, sending her cards and letters when separated, many of which she saved for decades (and passed along to her daughters). He was 10 years older than my mother and eager to make up for lost time by settling down right away!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

52 Weeks: Fame--I Danced on Broadway with Rum Tum Tugger!

Terrence Mann--yes, that handsome star--was my partner in an impromptu dance to the stage of New York's Wintergarden Theatre on the last Monday in February, 1984. Cats was still one of the hottest tickets in town.

At the time, I was an executive with a retail trade organization and was running a New York meeting for 300 credit managers from department stores around the United States. The committee head had arranged for the tickets on a free night during the meeting--it was his third time seeing Cats--and he made sure that I sat in K 120, an aisle seat mid-way up the orchestra section. (My twin sis was there too--her tx is above.)

When sexy Rum Tum Tugger (played by Mann) pranced off the stage in Act I during his big musical number, he ran up the aisle and stopped right next to my seat. He held out his hand to me, I grabbed on, and he pulled me up and into the aisle. Then he spun me around in a circle and we flew back down the aisle. He propelled me onto the huge stage, at the very center of the spotlight, in front of the cast and chorus (who kept singing and dancing in the background). Good thing I was wearing a nice outfit and my best makeup!

Astonished, excited, and blushing--but playing along--I mimicked Rum Tum Tugger's dance steps for a minute or two onstage. He then did something even more surprising: He reached down to the knee-length hem of my skirt, picked it up ever so slightly, and said to the audience, "Great legs!"

Rum Tum Tugger finally danced me back to my aisle seat, blew kisses to me, and went back to the stage. Throughout Act I and into Act II, every time this hunky guy left the stage to sing or dance in the aisles, he moved near me and blew me kisses. Again and again. I was so flustered that I couldn't pay any attention to the show itself. (In fact, I got tickets again the next year so I could enjoy the performance as part of the audience. I didn't sit in an aisle seat, and anyway, Terrence Mann had left the show by that time.)

I had no idea that dozens of the credit managers from my meeting were sitting in the mezzanine at that Cats performance! The following day, when I walked into the meeting, I was cheered (ahem, not jeered). The managers assumed that I had arranged my Broadway debut specifically because they were in the audience. I sheepishly admitted that I didn't know they'd be there and I certainly didn't expect to be dancing with Rum Tum Tugger. The committee head surely knew when he gave me the aisle seat--but he stayed mum before, during, and ever after.

So that's how I came to dance on Broadway with Terrence Mann. Want to see him as Rum Tum Tugger? Click here for the video snippet!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy: Bedroom (Three's Company)

My two sisters and I shared a bedroom in our family's 2-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. (At that time, everybody we knew--everybody--lived in an apartment.)

Three's company in one crowded bedroom: Three beds, a standing closet, a bureau, and three active girls.

On a rainy day, we'd push all the beds against the walls and march around to the music of "Zulu Warrior" blasting from the record player. Stomp, stomp, stomp, it's a wonder our downstairs neighbors didn't go ballistic!

On summer nights, the windows would be wide open to let in the breeze. This also let in night-time sounds, such as the distant rattle of trains on the elevated subway line, one l-o-n-g block to the east. Although there was a bit of street noise from the occasional car driving along Carpenter Avenue, where our windows faced, traffic was pretty sparse in those days.

Our bedroom was painted one of two colors: Landlord beige or landlord green. Every three years, the landlord was required to repaint, and those were the "standard" colors for everybody. (Want something different? Tip the painter privately for paint and special treatment.)

This photo of we three sisters in the summer of 1960 is unusual because my twin and I (I'm on left, she's on right) are wearing matching dresses, and our younger sis is in a special dress, as well. Usually we all wore pants so our tomboy antics wouldn't ruin our clothes. Plus, my mother--a fraternal twin who, as a child, was often dressed exactly like her sister--was determined to dress us as individuals. That's why I think this was some occasion when matching twin dresses were in order. Wonder what it was...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: My Farkas Family

In 1932, my great-aunt Jeanne (Regina) Farkas (third from left in front row) married Harold Marks (third from right in front row).

The matriarch and patriarch, my maternal great-grandpa Moritz Farkas (second from left in front row) and great-grandma Lena Kunstler Farkas (fourth from left in front row), were in their early 70s.

My mother's parents, Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Theodore Schwartz, were married about 20 years at that point. Hermina (known as Minnie) is second from right in front row, an honored sister of the bride. Theodore (Teddy) is third from right in back row. In later years, Minnie came to look very much like her mother Lena, including the trademark natural waves of hair on the forehead. Minnie kept her white-gray hair very long, in a bun at the nape of her neck. It's difficult not to wonder where, in the Depression years, the family found the money for what looks like a formal wedding.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Motivation Monday: A Secret Gift (Book Review)

Over the weekend, I read A Secret Gift by Ted Gup, the story of the author's quest to learn more about his maternal grandfather. For any family genealogy nut (like me!), this is fascinating reading. It's wonderful motivation, as well, because of the satisfaction of following along as Gup puts the pieces of the puzzle together and reconstructs the past (very vividly).

What drew Gup into the quest was a dusty suitcase. By the end of his years of research, Gup had uncovered most of his father's secrets--and his father's secret kindness in his adopted hometown of Canton, Ohio.

It all started when Gup's mother, 80 years old, was clearing out her attic and gave him a suitcase of letters and other family memorabilia. Inside was a large envelope with the mysterious inscription: "Pertaning Xmas Gift Distribtion." (Yes, bad spelling and all.)

The letters were dated December 18, 1933, one week before Christmas, in the dark days of the Depression. Also with the letters was a sheaf of canceled checks, each for $5 and each signed by "B. Virdot." Gup puzzled over the envelope until he pulled out a folded piece of newspaper and read the story of a mysterious benefactor, B. Virdot, offering money to locals who were down on their luck. B. Virdot, it turned out, was Gup's grandfather, Sam Stone, acting anonymously to help families in his community.

Why would Sam hand out money to Canton residents? That's what Gup wanted to find out. He also wanted to know who got the money, why, and what it meant to them. So he not only applied his genealogical tracing skills to Sam and family, but to the people who had written the letters found in the suitcase. Once Gup tracked down descendants and read them the words of their parents or relatives, he got their side of the story and showed what the $5 gift meant to each family. (Gup reminds us that $5 then was like $100 today.)

Sam's story, as told by Gup, reveals his dreams and fears, his ups and downs. Highly recommended for the genealogy as well as the writing and the heart-wrenching, heart-warming picture of his family and the families he helped.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: Matriarchs--Daisy, Minnie, and Yetta

My mother and grandmothers are gone, sorry to say, but they live on in my heart and in my blog! Happy mother's day to these matriarchs of my family.

At left, smiling broadly, is my mother, Daisy Ruth Burk (nee Schwartz), on her wedding day in 1946 in New York City. She's wearing her fave Persian lamb coat and getting ready to go to Bermuda on her honeymoon with Dad (Harold Burk). Daisy married at 26 and had three much-loved children. She had a passion for reading, was an ace typist, enjoyed crocheting. Cooking wasn't her strong suit but she had a few signature dishes that we children relished (like junk soup and blintzes).  

At right is my maternal grandma (Daisy's mom), Hermina (Minnie) Schwartz (nee Farkas), on her wedding day in 1911 in New York City. She married Theodore (Teddy) Schwartz, who was then selling insurance (?) to immigrants, and after her son Fred and her twins Daisy and Dorothy were born, she and Teddy opened their own grocery store in the Bronx. Minnie was an expert seamstress and the back of her embroidery pieces looked just as good as the front. She was also a great cook: Her native Hungarian dishes (like strudel) were legendary in the family.

At left is my paternal grandma, Henrietta (Yetta) Burk (nee Mahler). Yetta, born in Latvia, married my grandpa Isaac Burk in New York City in 1906. Yetta had four children: Mildred, Harold (my Dad), Miriam, and Sidney. She crossed the border to and from Canada following Isaac for about five years as he got carpentry work in Montreal. Thanks to my cousin Lois, I know a bit more about Yetta: She was a lively woman who knew how to laugh, she had a dog named Blackie, and she was particularly close to her sister Ida Mahler Volk.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: "Father's Consent on File" for Elizabeth Rinehart

The probate court of Crawford County, OH is surely the most genealogy-friendly place in America. Less than a week ago, I sent for the marriage record of Edward George Steiner and Elizabeth Jane Rinehart, my hubby's maternal great-grandparents. Here's their application for a marriage license, received in my SASE just a couple of days later!

This application, dated 6 August 1851, was written out one day before the actual marriage on 7 August 1851.

Although it doesn't tell me who Edward and Elizabeth's parents are, it does say that Elizabeth was under the age of 18 (confirming birth info I found in later Census records). Her father had to consent to the marriage, which he did, as you can see from the notation at bottom left.

Best of all, this document puts to rest the question of how to spell Elizabeth's maiden name, sometimes shown as Reinhart.

The "marriage license" itself is a handwritten note in which P. Flack, M.G., certifies that he "solemnized the marriage of Edward G. Steiner with Elizabeth Rinehart." Wonder what "M.G." stands for?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy: Weather--Hot Town! Summer in the...

City. Both my mother (Daisy Schwartz) and my father (Harold Burk) grew up in New York City. They never owned a car and never lived anywhere but a city apartment.

New York was and is a hot town, in more ways than one. Summer in the city meant trying to get OUT of the city heat!

Of course air conditioning was a thing of the future, so they used box fans to cope with summertime heat. And they never slept on the fire escape, not once (nor did I, growing up in a Bronx apartment).

Sometimes my grandparents (Hermina Farkas and Theodore Schwartz) took a week or two off from their Bronx grocery store and rented a room in the "country" (upstate New York, anywhere from Spring Valley to the Catskill mountains). This photo shows my mother and her twin, Dorothy Schwartz (both in front row), with family members at a casual summer resort during the 1930s.

During the 1940s, when she was working as a secretary or typist and living with her parents in the Bronx, my mother made enough money to go to the Catskills or Adirondacks for a week or two to escape the blazing city heat. One year she made enough to go to ritzy Scaroon Manor on Schroon Lake, NY, partly to relax and partly to meet eligible bachelors. (I know this sounds like a typical genealogist's interpretation, but it's actually based on letters written to her by friends, asking about her vacation and any date possibilities.)

My father, who lived in Manhattan until he came back from WWII and met and married my mother, told of spending a summer day as a teen, picnicking with his family in the Bronx. This was in the 1920s, when the Bronx was "country" with farms, dairies, etc. It was an all-day outing to get from Manhattan to the Bronx, unpack and enjoy the picnic, pack everything up, and get back home. My memory of his memory is that the family made the day-journey in a horse-drawn conveyance of some sort. I suspect they used public transportation to get to the outskirts of the Bronx and then picked up a horse-drawn streetcar from there. Summer in the city? Get out (of town)!