Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sorting Saturday: Summer Camp Heirlooms

Hubby made this aluminum plate while at summer camp, etching each letter by hand. The inscription on the back reads:  

This plate was made by Wallis Wood 
at Centerville Mills YMCA Camp 
August 30, 1951

The W in the center stands for Wood and around the outside are the names of all family members, including father (Edgar James) and mother (Marian Jane) plus Wally's siblings and Mitty, their beloved terrier mutt.

Centerville Mills YMCA Camp no longer operates, sadly. But this plate, and another W aluminum plate with family initials proudly made by hubby, are heirlooms with good summer memories attached.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Family Ties: Mahler, Volk, Wolf in 1925

Tillie Jacobs Mahler
A close look at the New York State Census data for 1925 shows just how close my Mahler relatives were to the Volk and Wolf families they married into. Literally close!

First, here's a quick overview of who's who. Tillie Jacobs Mahler, my great-grandma (left) was the mother of Henrietta Mahler (my grandma), who married Isaac Burk.* Henrietta's sister Ida Mahler married Louis Volk. Louis Volk's sister Beckie married Simon Wolf.

In the 1925 Census, look who was living at 2347 Morris Ave, Bronx, NY:
  • Louis & Ida (Mahler) Volk and their young son Myron.
  • Tillie Jacobs Mahler, and her grown children Morris and Dora. Tillie was Ida's mother and Louis's mom-in-law.
2400 Walton Ave., Bronx, NY
Literally around the corner in 1925, living at 2400 Walton Ave, Bronx, NY (apartment building shown at right) were:
  • Simon & Beckie (Volk) Wolf and their daughters, Celia, Pauline, and Shirley. Beckie was Louis Volk's sister.
More mysteries appear in the 1915 NY Census. But more about that soon!

*Isaac and Henrietta Burk and their 4 children (including Dad!) lived at 1642 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan in 1925, so he could commute to his job as a cabinetmaker in the furniture district downtown.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dad Says Aloha to Hawaii--for 2 days

My father, Harold Burk (older son of Isaac Burk and Henrietta Mahler Burk) was a self-employed travel agent in New York City. He was often offered "fam trips" (familiarization trips) to various destinations, so he could see first-hand what the travel and accommodations were like and make recommendations to clients.

Since 1946, Dad's travel agency had been located inside the swanky Savoy Plaza Hotel (it became the Savoy Hilton in the late 1950s), and his clients had money to travel wherever. But with 3 young kids, he rarely took advantage of these trips.

One of Dad's dreams was to go to Hawaii and in 1959, he was offered a fam trip there. My mother simply couldn't find anyone to take care of the youngsters for a week or more. Finally, she suggested he go alone, which he reluctantly did.

Here's what he looked like getting off the plane in May, 1959, probably in Honolulu. This was in the days when leis were made of stunningly beautiful orchids!

Dad was in Hawaii for perhaps 2 or 3 days when he got an urgent call from my mother: We three kids had fallen sick with something like German measles. She needed his help. He had to turn around and fly home. He brought back a small figure, like a netsuke, and my memory was it looked like a Buddhist god of contentment. It sat on his dresser for many years as a reminder of his brief trip to Hawaii.

The following year, Dad had his first heart attack. Within a couple of years, the Savoy Hilton had been torn down to make way for the General Motors building. While the hotel was in its heyday, Dad would very likely have rubbed shoulders with the likes of "Don Draper" and his ilk, especially if they enjoyed the tiki menu at the stylish Trader Vic's restaurant.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Dance Card from Zeta Psi Frat, 1923

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood, kept a scrapbook of his college years. As a member of the Kappa Chapter of Zeta Psi Fraternity at Tufts, he enjoyed many frat and sorority dances--and held onto the dance cards from each one.

Above, a page from his scrapbook, showing some of the programs/dance cards.

Left, his dance card from a pledge dance in January, 1923.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: All Dressed Up, 1978

I've been on a digitizing kick, as you can see from this small treasure trove of photos showing the ladies of the family all dressed up for weddings in 1978.

The wrap my sisters are wearing in these photos was "in the family" (kept in my mother's venerable Lane cedar-lined hope chest), but who made it or acquired it and when, I don't know. It's still in the family, in mothproof storage (right, Sis?).
My Mom (Daisy Burk) and my twin

My younger sister

Me (left) with oldest niece and Tyrone

Sunday, June 3, 2012

When Isaac Met Henrietta (1905)

1905 NY Census
Henrietta Mahler married Isaac Burk on June 10, 1906, in New York City. 

Over and over, I've tried to figure out how they met. He was a carpenter from Russia (now Lithuania), she was the Latvian-born daughter of a tailor.

Now the 1905 New York State Census has provided a very tantalizing clue: two "Burke" brothers living as boarders with Henrietta's family (father Meyer, mother Tillie, and siblings) in an apartment in Manhattan. Do the math: That's 11 people in what was certainly no more than a 3-bedroom apartment, if they were lucky.

One boarder was Meyer Burke [sic], a cutter from Russia who had arrived in the US 2 years earlier. His age seems to be 20. There's a good chance that this Meyer was working with Meyer Mahler, and boarding with him for convenience.

The other boarder was Isidore Burke [sic], a carpenter from Russia, 23 years old, who had arrived in the US only 1 year earlier. Wanna bet this was Meyer's brother?

My grandfather Isaac Burk was a carpenter. He came to the US in 1904, having first stopped off in New Brunswick, Canada on December 5, 1903, following a 12-day trans-Atlantic trip from Liverpool on the S. S. Lake Erie.

1910 Census
It's very easy for me to believe that the Isidore shown on the 1905 Census is actually Isaac, especially since in the 1910 Census, there's a boarder named "Jennie Birk" living with Tillie Mahler and her family. Isaac Burk spelled his name "Birk" earlier in his US stay...and nobody ever spelled "Burk" the same way. Jennie, by the way, is an "operator" meaning she operated a sewing machine.

Now to hunt down Meyer and Jennie Burk/Birk/Berk/Burke and try to find out more!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sorting Saturday: Don't Get TOO Organized!

Sometimes doing too good a job of sorting is a bad thing! Why? Because documents or photos that should be together get put in separate places. By reuniting these things, I'm piecing together a trip that my parents took the year after they were married.

For better organization, I had sorted all my photos and family memorabilia into family archive boxes (one for Mahler, one for Burk, etc.) Today I was looking at a Schwartz box and noticed the postmark on this postcard folder sent by Daisy Schwartz Burk and her new husband, Harold Burk, to Daisy's parents (my grandparents), Theodore Schwartz and Hermina Farkas Schwartz. As usual, the grandparents were staying for a week or two in upstate New York to escape the summer heat of New York City. The postmark on this mailer says July 24, 1947.

Now look at the b/w photo above, taken at the Au Lutin qui bouffe in Montreal, dated July 16, 1947. It shows Daisy Schwartz and her husband, Harold Burk (center), with a mystery man at right. That mystery man is also in my parents' wedding photos on the Mahler side of the family, which is why this was in my Mahler box. Daisy has a wrapped gift on her lap (is it for the mystery guy or from the mystery guy?).**

Clearly both of these are part of the same swing through Canada at the New England border. Neither of my parents could drive a car, which means they took the train--easy enough from New York City. Who is this mystery man? Did he live in Montreal or did he arrange to meet my parents while all were visiting the city?

I'm going to put each item back in its family archive box but with a note about the trip, for cross-reference purposes

Never give up on mystery photos! You just never know when a new cousin connection will result in an "a ha" moment for unidentified relatives.

**UPDATE: The mystery man is my father's first cousin on the Burk side, whose family lived in Montreal. That family has a copy of this photo, as well, so when I connected with them a few years ago, we were able to piece together a lot of the story!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Decoration Day in Upper Sandusky, Ohio

My late in-laws, Marian McClure Wood and Edgar James Wood (below), observed Decoration Day every year by driving Marian's father (Brice Larimer McClure) back to Old Mission Cemetery in Upper Sandusky, Ohio to decorate family graves.

Buried in that cemetery were Brice's late wife (Marian's mother), Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948), as well as Steiner relatives, including Floyda's parents, Edward G. Steiner (1830-1880) and Elizabeth G. Steiner (1834-1905).

The trip from Cleveland took about three hours, and Edgar's diary usually mentions lunch and dinner on those days. Later, his notes remarked on newly-opened highways that made the trip faster and easier. Here are a few diary excerpts:

Saturday, May 30, 1959: Brice, Marian & I drove to Upper Sandusky to decorate graves. Had a very good lunch in town. In late afternoon, visited Helen, Carrie & John Traxler. (NOTE: Carrie was Marian McClure's aunt)

Monday, May 30, 1960: Marian, Brice & I drove to Upper Sandusky to decorate cemetery graves. Very rainy. Had picnic lunch in car in local park. Had fine dinner at Miller's in Lakewood.

Sunday, May 30, 1965: Marian, Brice & I drove to Upper Sandusky where we decorated graves. Had a picnic lunch in the park. Home for dinner.

Tuesday, May 30, 1967: Drove to Upper Sandusky with Marian & Brice to decorate graves, picnic lunch in the park. Drove down by I-71 and US 30 N. Returned the usual way.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Orphans for the Day at Euclid Beach

Nehez, Cleveland News: The Flying Turns
Guest post by hubby, remembering a special and thrilling day at Euclid Beach, Cleveland's amusement park.

Early one summer morning when I was about 14, I took my 9-year-old brother for a day of adventure at Euclid Beach, without telling anyone our plans. We'd been to the park many times, but never on our own.

First, my brother and I stopped at the nearest Cleveland Trust branch, where I withdrew some money from my passbook savings account.

After an interminable streetcar ride from Cleveland Heights, we arrived at the park. I bought a few tickets, and we began our rounds of the rides. The Flying Turns (pictured here) was one of the most exciting rides in the park, and we were looking forward to it!

The park seemed full of kids our age, each wearing a tag. Standing in line for a ride, I talked with one of the kids and learned that it was the annual orphans' day picnic. That meant the orphans could ride as often as they wanted for free! The kid generously offered me his tag, and his buddy handed a tag to my brother. I said, "What will you do?" He said they'd just go get replacements.

My brother and I were astounded by the wealth of opportunity that suddenly opened to us. We rode one ride after another, losing track of time. The only money we spent during the rest of the day was for popcorn balls and Euclid Beach taffy. We felt like we had just won the sweepstakes!

Finally, when the orphans had to leave the park, we reluctantly had to find the streetcar and rode home, exhausted but happy. At dinner, my mother (Marian McClure Wood) asked where we'd been all day. We told her we'd been "orphans" for the day and had ridden all the rides at Euclid Beach for free. She was mortified.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Citizens of London: Sgt. Schwartz and WWII

Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz, my mother's twin sister, was a  member of the WAC (Women's Army Corps) Detachment of the 9th Air Division (and its historian). She joined the detachment on April 23, 1943 and left it on August 21, 1945.

Auntie Dorothy was one of four stenographers who worked in shifts 24/7 to take notes about changes in aircraft movements and other operational activities vital to the air war. For her support during the period leading up to V-E Day, she received a Bronze Star Medal!

Dorothy was in England for much of her service, following intensive stateside training. So I was very interested in reading the lively, well-written book Citizens of London by Lynne Olson, all about the Americans who "stood with Britain in its darkest, finest hour" (as the cover says). Prominent people like Averell Harriman, Edward R. Murrow, and John Gilbert Winant formed close ties to the people of England before and during WWII, staying in or near London as the war progressed and letting America and the world know about the danger and the courage. Not dull, not dry, and very relevant to folks like me who had family members in the war and in Britain.

Olson conveys a wonderful sense of the ups and downs of daily life in London and beyond: What it was like to live in cities under nightly attack from American military personnel swarmed in as D-Day approached and turned rural villages into bustling depots for supplies and training...the feeling of "live for today" because tomorrow was very uncertain...the joy of eating an orange after not seeing one for two years...and finally, the strong and enduring "special relationship" between the British and the Americans, personal as well as political.

My aunt was befriended by a family in the British countryside, an experience very much like what Olson describes happening to U.S. GIs and pilots during 1944-5. I have several letters from the family, who wrote to my grandparents (Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Theodore Schwartz) to rave about my aunt and offer reassurances that she looked well and she was being taken care of. Did my aunt stay in touch after the war? I don't know, but I'm grateful that she had caring people around her while she was so far from home for the very first time, in her mid-20s.

Note: One of the comments below is from the VOGW, a group that is honoring Allied troops from WWII who are buried in Waalwijk and compiling information about the role of women in WWII. Visit their site here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: The Sunday Before Thanksgiving, 1946

Having been engaged since New Year's Day 1946, my parents were married on the Sunday before Thanksgiving:

Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Schwartz request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Daisy Ruth, to Mr. Harold D. Burk on Sunday, the 24th of November, 1946 at 12 noon. Hotel McAlpin, Broadway and 34th Street, New York City.

Above, my mother Daisy (in gold lame dress and matching gold shoes) enjoys a joke along with her new husband's Mahler and Markell cousins and in-laws.

Thank you to Cousin Lois for identifying the woman who's standing above my mother's shoulder as Sylvia Ruth Volk, daughter of Ida Mahler Volk and Louis Volk. The young man whose knee my mom is sitting on is probably Daniel Markell.

My parents visited Ida and Louis in 1946, while still engaged, and brought them a house gift: a big salad bowl and a set of scoopers. Sylvia told her daughter Lois the story of that visit and when Lois attended my niece's wedding last year, she gifted the happy couple with the scoopers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Edgar Wood at the Keyboard

This is a very rare photo of my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood, playing the piano after retirement. He had played his way across the Atlantic during the summers of his college years in the late 1920s.

For decades afterward, he played professionally at nights and on weekends while continuing his "day job" as an insurance adjustor.

Lucky for me, he played a couple of numbers at my wedding to his son, not too many years after this photo was taken. Blog entry #300 is dedicated to Ed. PS: I just unearthed a 1985 photo of Ed at the piano, below :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mystery Monday: NOT Dora Lillie Mahler, Madcap

Are these photos of my great-aunt, Dora Lillie Mahler? NO. UPDATE: Subsequent research turned up true photos of Dora. This is photo above is not the same Dora.

My mother said that some of the photos were "Dora, friend of Grandma," also known as "Madcap Dora" because she was what was once called a "stitch." But my mother may not have known that her mother-in-law Henrietta Mahler Burk had a younger sister named Dora, who died in June, 1950.

Above, Dora seems to be in a traditional folk costume of Eastern Europe. Below, she's with a beau. The bottom photo is probably the oldest--check out that teeny, tiny waist!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: The House on Rodman Street

Finally, I've seen the house on Rodman Street NW in Washington, D.C., where my great-aunt Ida Mahler Volk and great-uncle Louis Volk lived in the 1940s. It's been a long journey of genealogical discovery getting here!

Before Y2K (remember that?) I was desperately searching for the death cert of my grandfather, Isaac Burk, not knowing where and when he died. Isaac was married to my grandmother, Henrietta Mahler.

Genealogical records weren't as widely available online then as they are now, and it wasn't easy to find out about Isaac. Eventually, I found a terse obit for Isaac in the New York Times, which indicated when he died but not where. It must have been an especially sad time for the Burks because Isaac and Henrietta's two sons (my father Harold and his brother Sidney) were serving overseas in 1943 when Isaac died, and almost certainly couldn't get home for the funeral.

Eventually, an official in NYC suggested that I check with officials in Washington, D.C. That was the hint I needed. Once I sent for and received Isaac's death cert, there were new mysteries to unravel: Louis Volk was the person who gave information to the authorities when Isaac suffered a fatal heart attack at the house on Rodman Street. Why was Isaac, who lived in the Bronx with his wife Henrietta, visiting Washington in the first place? How was Louis Volk involved with my grandfather?

It took many more years to work out who was who and how we were related. Great-aunt Ida and Grandma Henrietta were sisters. Ida and her husband Louis both served as character witnesses when Grandfather Isaac petitioned for citizenship and was naturalized in 1942. Louis served as a character reference when my father, Harold Burk, son of Henrietta and Isaac, applied to be bonded at the beginning of his career as a travel agent.

Here's where the magic of cousin bait comes in: Ida and Louis's granddaughter, Cousin Lois, found me through this blog in 2010. She has filled in much of the missing info, introduced me to Cousin Lil (daughter of another of the Mahler siblings), and welcomed my branch of the family into her life. Sis and I are delighted that she took us to visit the house on Rodman Street, 69 years after Grandfather Isaac and Grandma Henrietta were there to visit Lois's grandparents, the Volks.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Grandma Climbs a Tree

My maternal grandma, Hermina Farkas Schwartz, had this photo in one of her (sparsely-filled) photo books. She had come to New York City in her teens, but tried to escape the heat every summer with a week or two upstate. My guess is that's where this photo was taken, right around the time of her marriage to Theodore (Tivador) Schwartz. See their wedding photo at top right of the blog's masthead!