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Archive for May, 2009

It’s that time again…time for my monthly Weekend with Shades column, The Humor of It, at Shades of the Departed.  After being sick this month, I had a hard time finding the humor in anything, but I found some inspiration in events that happen around this time of year – and seeing how silly my old photos of those events looked certainly helped!  This month’s column is called Rites & Wrongs of Passage.  It tries to find the humor in those two events that were oh-so-important long ago – the prom and graduation.  Once again, I have a special photo (two for one this month) to invite you to join me at Weekend with Shades.

Lou and I at my senior prom; my friend Kathy as one seriously cool graduate.

Lou and I at my senior prom; my friend Kathy as one seriously cool graduate.

Yes, I know footnoteMaven doesn’t refer to these sorts of shades, but I can’t resist.  Besides, I want to see how many shades photographs I can find – it’s my own personal photo carnival each month to entice you to wander over to Shades of the Departed for my column.  Come to think of it, you should also wander over every weekend because there is a stellar collection of columnists, as well as during the week for the illustrious footnoteMaven’s own writing.

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There’s a new carnival in town – A Festival of Postcards.  This carnival will be a bit more challenging than the others I participate in, because I do not have a large collection of postcards – and very few related to genealogy!  But half the fun is the challenge itself, and I was delighted to find one for the inaugural edition of the festival.  The theme is Wheels.  Here’s a postcard I must have received with some photographs from my great-aunt:

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

This is a nice “vintage” shot of a gas station (was it called “filling station” back then?) called the Wallace Garage in Salem, IL.  If you click on the photo for a close-up view, you will see that the garage is a Texaco station that does general repairs.  They’re an official AAA station, they use Havoline engine oil, and – best of all – a sign in front advertises “modern sleeping rooms.”  It may look a little different than today’s gas stations, especially the cars to the right in the photo.  But, some things never change – just notice the woman trying to get the hose to reach to the other side of her car while the attendant seems to just be standing there watching her fumble with it.

The photographer is noted as “Benke” – apparently this was a Fred A. Benke.  He was called “Salem’s well-known photographer” by this Salem historical site, but I wish he was just a bit more well-known so I could find out more about him!

The reverse of the postcard:

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

It is not postmarked in Salem, Illinois but in Odessa, Texas at 7 PM on August 24, 1932.  It was mailed using a 1 cent stamp to Mr. J. Zawodny, 2512 E. Indiana Ave, Phila. Pa.  (same address as the 1930 census).  The note reads: “Well folks were making good time going to Mexico tomorrow.  Stan.”

The recipients of the postcard are my great-grandparents, Joseph and Laura Zawodny (although it’s addressed to Joseph, the note does say “folks”).  My logical assumption is that the  sender is their son, Stanley, who would have been 23 years old at the time.  My first thought was that perhaps this was a road-trip honeymoon; however, Stanley did not get married until 1934 (to Elizabeth Tiernan of Philadelphia, PA, the sister of his brother-in-law John).  I have no idea why Stan was traveling to Mexico in 1923, but hopefully he had a good time!  At least he was a thoughtful son to drop a line to his parents on the journey.

[Written for A Festival of Postcards: Wheels]

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Mom and Me, 1968

Mom and Me, 1968

I’ve been wanting to write a tribute to my mother now for quite some time, so when it was announced that the topic of this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy was mothers, I was thrilled.  But then “something” came up, as usual. Blogging, and life in general, has been non-existent for the last two weeks because I’ve been sick.  As in feeling-awful, missing-work, doctors-don’t-have-a-clue, everyone-please-stay-away-from-me sick.  But I also had what you might call writer’s block caused by the subject matter, not my clogged brain – what do I write about that sums up my mother and how much she means to me?

Mom and Me, 1975

Mom and Me, 1975

It’s not that there’s a lack of material – there’s so much to say!  Do I write about how I almost lost her (that is, she almost died) three times in my life – including the day I was born?  Or how she taught me everything I know about my faith in God?  Or how her beliefs and illnesses shaped my views on health?  Or how she’s without a doubt the World’s Greatest Cook?  Or about her extreme generosity? Or her talents as a dancer?  Or her unfulfilled dreams that could have used her other talents?  Do I talk about how she met my dad?  Or how hard it was for her to simply become a mother and the sicknesses she endured after giving birth?

I simply have too much to say about my mother, but I felt too sick these past two weeks to say any of it.  I even missed Mother’s Day itself last week.  But the  COG deadline is today, and I am finally feeling better.  I realized I can fully introduce my readers to my wonderful mother with one simple story.  While I was home sick, she brought me chicken soup.  Twice.  I’m not talking about that stuff they call “soup” that comes in a can – no, this is the real deal as only my mother (and deceased grandmother) could make it.  Oh. So. Good.  I’ve tried to duplicate this magic; I’ve failed.  To put this act of charity in perspective, I’m not a child sick in my room upstairs.  She’s 73 years old, but she drove twenty minutes to come to my house (dragging along my dad, also recovering from a bad cold).  She came because she knew it was the only thing that would help me get better.  And it did.

But I have a theory on that…I don’t think my cure came 100% from that delicious chicken soup.  No, not entirely.  I have no doubt it came from my mom’s love.  You see, she’s my chicken soup for my soul.  Who could ask for anything more?

Mom and Me, 1997

Mom and Me, 1997

[Written for the 72nd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Mothers]

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In the Roman Catholic tradition, the month of May is usually the time of “First Communion.”  On Saturdays and Sundays in early May, you can still see processions of children dressed in white as they enter church to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  The age for this event varies, but it usually occurs in the second or third grade.  In the past, as you will see in the “vintage” photos below, First Communion occurred in first grade.  In celebration of May and First Communions everywhere, here are some photos of my father’s First Communion Day – May 11, 1941.  Today boys don’t usually wear shorts and knee socks!

James A. Pointkouski's First Communion Day, May 11, 1941

James A. Pointkouski's First Communion Day, May 11, 1941

There are several photos of the procession of children into the church, St. Peter’s, located at 5th & Girard Avenues (today the church is also the national shrine of St. John Neumann).  In the first photo below, you can see my father as the fourth child from the left in the row closest to the nun.  He appears to have noticed the photographer!  The photo that follows shows him walking out of the photo’s range.  The final photo shows the girls in the procession – and since I’m sure that the rules did not change by the time I made my communion in 1975, the children are likely lined up in alphabetical order.  Therefore, one of those gals is likely my dad’s first cousin, Rita Bergmeister.

Procession of First Communicants, St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, PA

Procession of First Communicants, St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, PA

Dad_1stComm3

Dad_1stComm4

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71st Carnival of Genealogy

Welcome to the 71st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy!  The topic for today was Local History! As genealogists, we are used to tracing our ancestors and the history of the places they lived. But not all of us live where our ancestors did – do we take the time to see the history all around us? Well, based on the response – yes, we do take the time!  Come and read some fascinating entries on what proved to be an interesting topic.  In the twenty-five submissions presented here, you will read about some amazing historical places, events, and people located in sixteen U.S. states and two Canadian provinces!

Carol Wilkerson presents MacArthur Left But Volckmann Remained posted at iPentimento | Genealogy and History. Even though Russell Volckmann was a WWII hero, Carol’s husband was never taught about him in any of his schooling.

Kiril Kundurazieff presents Hunting Down the Honeymoon Hotel: A Genealogical Adventure posted at Musings of a Mad Macedonian. This picture filled Detective Tale is about a, um, Honeymoon Hotel, on the Boardwalk in Newport Beach, Ca., a hotel with a history going back to 1904. With just a receipt with no address, or city, for the hotel, Kiril used his investigative skills to find the place, which was where his parents spent their honeymoon in 1958. $43 for a 6 day stay.  You can’t buy a Love Nest for that much money today, hee, hee!

Elyse Doerflinger presents A California Port Town – COG posted at Elyse’s Genealogy Blog. Elyse wrote about San Pedro, California – the port town right next to the Los Angeles Harbor.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino presents My Hometown: Methuen, Massachusetts posted at Acadian Ancestral Home. My Hometown: Methuen, Massachusetts provides an insight to local history as well as the history of America. As an Acadian researcher it also tells about the Acadian families exiled to Methuen in the winter of 1755-56 when exiled from Nova Scotia by British Governor Charles Lawrence.

Elizabeth Powell Crowe presents Wordless Wednesday/Carnival of Genealogy 71st Edition posted at Crowe’s Nest by Elizabeth Powell Crowe.  Huntsville, Alabama (where Elizabeth was born) recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding at the Big Spring.

Earline Bradt presents COG Local History – “The Tomato Capital of Canada”, Leamington, Ontario posted at Ancestral Notes. Though close to one of the first areas to be revealed after the last ice age, and 40 miles away from one of the earliest explored areas of the New World, Leamington, in Essex County, Ontario was one of the last to be settled.

Leah Kleylein presents Random Notes: COG – Historic King of Prussia Inn posted at Random Notes. Leah offers a short history of the King of Prussia Inn, located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault presents Kahnawa:ke – Home of the Haudenosaunee « A Canadian Family posted at A Canadian Family. Evelyn lives on land that rightly belongs to the Mohawk of Kahnawake.

Linda Hughes Hiser presents Carnival of Genealogy–George Ornan Willet posted at Flipside. Linda writes: “What a great topic! I found out that the street where I live was named for my town’s first mayor.”

Denise Olson presents Living History posted at Moultrie Creek. Denise’s family research turns up centuries-old ties to her home town.

John Newmark presents July 2, 1917 – East St. Louis posted at TransylvanianDutch. 92 years ago one of the bloodiest race riots in our nation’s history occurred three miles from the office building in which John works today.

Ruby Coleman presents Rails Then and Now in Nebraska posted at Nebraska Roots and Ramblings. The railroad coming through Nebraska was instrumental in the history of the nation as well as locally. North Platte, Nebraska as a terminal had a colorful history that is to this day of historical interest.

Cheri L. Hopkins presents “GERONIMO”, High Flying War Dog of the 507th ! posted at THOSE OLD MEMORIES. Geronimo, the WWII CANINE paratrooper of the 507th, was a favorite figure in the history of Alliance Nebraska. This a short story tribute to this awesome soldier.

Midge Frazel presents Williams LATHAM posted at Granite in My Blood. Gravestones and their resting places in greater Bridgewater MA owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Williams Latham, local author and historian.

Kris P presents Carnival time! Peabody, MA « From the seed to the branches posted at From the seed to the branches. Read about a “proud Southern girl” who winds up on the North shore of Massachusetts.

Amanda presents The Erie Canal posted at A Tale of Two Ancestors.  Amanda connects her current location, Syracuse, NY, with the home of her ancestors in Buffalo, NY.

Sheri Fenley presents San Joaquin County Local History – A Sack of Flour posted at The Educated Genealogist.  Read about San Joaquin County and the famous sack of flour!

Randy Seaver presents A Victorian House in San Diego – turned into a box posted at Genea-Musings. Randy’s favorite house in San Diego has a history, but it’s hidden beneath the exterior paint and stucco.

Bill West presents West in New England: LOCAL HISTORY – THE NORTH ABINGTON RIOT posted at West in New England. One August day in 1893 all heck broke loose in North Abington Center and became the North Abington Riot!

Cherie presents 71st Carnival of Genealogy: Local History posted at Still Digging for Roots.  Cherie recently discovered a local hero of the Spanish-American War.

Julie Cahill Tarr presents David Davis (1815-1886) posted at The Graveyard Rabbit of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Bloomington, Illinois is rich with history. There are many places and people of interest, but this post focuses on one gentleman, David Davis.

Greta Koehl presents Tinner Hill: Desegregation, Graveyards, and My Fireplace posted at Greta’s Genealogy Bog. What could desegregation, graveyards, and my fireplace possibly have in common? They all have a connection to Tinner Hill. Greta feels very privileged to live within walking distance of this community and thinks you will find its history as fascinating as she does.

Jasia presents Brief History of Saint Joseph, Michigan posted at Creative Gene. Jasia’s new home town is Saint Joseph, Michigan. It’s a wonderful resort town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Come read about it’s history and see some fabulous vintage postcards of days gone by!

footnoteMaven presents From the Flames My Home posted at footnoteMaven.  fM’s home was built as the result of the careless act of John E. Back, June 6, 1889.  But she writes, “Perhaps he did us all a favor.”

And finally, Donna Pointkouski presents Shadows of History in My Backyard posted here at What’s Past is Prologue.  Donna wonders if the history of her new town in New Jersey could compete with her hometown of Philadelphia, PA.  It can! Read about the shadows of history she discovered right in her backyard.

This concludes this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.  I hope you enjoyed learning about each other’s hometowns and their fascinating histories, people, and places as much as I did.

Now it is time for the next Call for Submissions! The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: Mothers! Mother’s Day is right around the corner and this is the perfect time to honor your mother, grandmother, godmother, step mother, den mother, aunt, neighbor, or friend who happens to be a mother. If you’ve written about your own mother for the COG before, consider writing about another mom on your family tree. Let’s make all our moms famous! The deadline for submissions is May 15th and next edition will be hosted at Creative Gene.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using the carnival submission form. Please use a descriptive phrase in the title of any articles you plan to submit and/or write a brief description/introduction to your articles in the “comment” box of the blogcarnival submission form. This will give readers an idea of what you’ve written about and hopefully interest them in clicking on your link. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Thanks for the COG poster, fM!

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I was born and raised in Philadelphia, one of the most historic cities in the U.S.  Even so, my neighborhood was far removed from the main historic sites like the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’ house, or Independence Hall.  So far removed that the neighborhood is usually called the Far Northeast.  As the name implies, it is to the far northeast of the city bordering Bucks County, Pennsylvania and it was not fully incorporated into the city limits until 1854.

Since this area of the city was mostly “settled” in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, we never knew that it even had a history.  But local streams had exotic Indian names like Neshaminy and Poquessing so we could only imagine what that history may have been.  I eventually learned that the area was once the land of the Lenape. The Lenape land became farm land for English and Swedish settlers, then summer homes for Philadelphia’s wealthy elite, then the sprawling middle class pseudo-suburb that it remains today.  Within all of those various uses for the land lies a rich history.  A saint played in my backyard.  A Founding Father was born just a few miles away. William Penn’s surveyor, who planned the city of Philadelphia, chose this area to live.  And perhaps most exciting of all, George Washington’s army camped a mile away on their way to Yorktown and marched down what is now called Frankford Avenue.

When the time came to purchase a home, I decided to leave my old neighborhood and I set my sights on “East Philadelphia” – otherwise known as New Jersey.  I used to drive through the area of Palmyra and Riverton, and I liked the old houses and charming vibe.  But could these sleepy towns compete with Philadelphia’s history?  I soon learned that history is all around us – sometimes even in our own backyard.

Palmyra, my new hometown, was only officially formed in 1894.  But the history of the land itself was as fascinating as my old neighborhood’s history!  Originally this area was also the land of the Lenape and served as a vast hunting area for the community.  In 1689, the first settlers showed up – the Swedes – and it became the northern portion of New Sweden.

About three generations later, descendants of one of those first Swedish settlers, Elias Toy, built a stone farmhouse in 1761.  That house, slightly modified in the ensuing years, still serves as a residence — about 100 yards from my backyard!  It is the oldest house in Palmyra and the surrounding area.  The view of it from my backyard  is blocked by trees, but here’s a view from the road on its other side.

The Toy-Morgan House, Palmyra, NJ, originally built in 1761.
The Toy-Morgan House, Palmyra, NJ, originally built in 1761.

The Toy family had about 300 acres of farmland and orchards, and most of this area forms the town of Palmyra today, most notably my own property and street!  According to Life on the Delaware: A History of Palmyra, “legend has it that Benjamin Franklin paused here more than once while on his voyages to visit his son.”  The house remained in the possession of the Toy family until 1848, when it was sold to the Morgan’s – another family that had lived in the area for many generations. He  expanded the size of the house in 1853 to its present form. You can read more about the house in a recent article or see a rather historic drawing of the house that looks remarkably like today’s photo.

This is the view from the Toy-Morgan House looking north at the Delaware River
This is the view from the Toy-Morgan House looking north at the Delaware River. That’s an abandoned Philadelphia factory to the left on the other side.

The area surrounding this house changed over the years.  In the 1830s the railroad tracks were laid and the Camden & Amboy Railroad made the area more town-like than farmland.  Then it was referred to as “Texas” – and perhaps there was a bit of a wild west feel with horses and farms.  But in 1849, the name Palmyra first appears on a map of Burlington County, reportedly christened by another Toy family descendant.

What I find interesting about the Palmyra, Riverton, and Cinnaminson area in New Jersey is that you can still see remnants of several eras of the area’s history – the shadows of history left behind.  These shadows create some remarkable juxtapositions.  For example, the Toy-Morgan house reminds us of the early settlers, but its view of the river is now partially blocked by condominiums. The local produce market, Hunter’s Farm in Cinnaminson, has a sign announcing “Settled 1760″, but there is a Wal-mart and a highway about a mile down the road.  In Riverton and in some sections of Palmyra, there are brightly colored Victorian houses that have been gracing the streets for 150 years with newer homes mixed in between.  The new “light rail” uses the old railroad tracks from the 1830’s.  Along the river, some of the magnificent summer mansions of wealthy Philadelphians mingle with newer, more modest, modern homes.  And, though the median income for the town was $51,000  according to the 2000 census, it’s the home of a car dearlership where you can buy a Bentley or an Aston-Martin.  If you look beyond the new and the modern, you’ll see a fragment or a shadow of  history from one time period or another.

I have taken great pride in researching the places my ancestors lived and worked.  Some of the town histories from Poland and Bavaria go back to the middle ages!  Back when their hometowns were established, mine was wilderness whose history remains hidden. Who would have thought there could be so much history in my own backyard?

Spring beckons as the sun sets over the Delaware River in Palmyra, NJ.
Spring beckons as the sun sets over the Delaware River in Palmyra.

[Written for the 71st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Local History.]

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