Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thank you for your service

To all of those who have (or currently do) served in the military, thank you for your service.  So many of my ancestors served – Revolutionary War, Mexican-American War, Civil War and World Wars I and II – and I wish they were here today so that I could thank them personally.  But since that’s not possible, I try to keep their stories alive so that in my own way, I am thanking them.

I first wrote about my 2x great grandfather, Emery Waller, and his service in both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.  What a thrill to “find” him in an unmarked grave and then having the honor of obtaining a headstone for him so that he would no longer be forgotten.  You can read about him here:  Emery’s First Veteran’s Day.

I also had a Special Veteran’s Day post so that I could honor all of my family veterans.  My dad was such a handsome soldier in World War II! 

Today as I was gathering things for this post, I opened up the boxes of military uniforms I have to see if there was anything I had missed.  It seems like just yesterday that I combed through those boxes with my mother but since she’s been gone now for close to 5 years, it’s obvious that time has really gotten away from me.  But I was rewarded with a nice surprise – my grandfather’s WWI military overcoat! 

While it definitely needs a good pressing, it’s done pretty well for being just shy of 100 years old!  And it completes the set with his uniform and hat (you can see that in the Special Veterans Day post above).

And look what else I found today!  Obviously from a more recent time (he has it dated June 6, 1957) but look at the hat he’s wearing!  Could it be?  Could he have found a reason to pull out his then 40 year old Flying Cadet hat to wear to the Fresno Realty Board function?

Sig Yesterday and Today 1957

I’m going to say YES!

I love to be reminded of this day 99 years ago and the loving words my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, wrote to her future husband about the excitement of the day.  In her words:
November 11, 1918 – 9 PM 
My dearest Boy 
I was so overjoyed this morn at the wonderful news that I just had to telegraph you and hope you received my telegram O.K. At 4:20 A.M. I was awakened by whistles blowing and bells ringing out the joyous news of peace. They kept the racket up for two hours and started it again at nine this morn. Then at two this aft all the automobiles who could paraded and everyone was so happy. Everything was closed up so we went for a lovely ride around the 17 mile drive and just returned. 
My, but I was busy this afternoon down town receiving congratulations from friends I met, dear. It was rather hard to recognize people in their masks but I managed to.And to think that my boy is really flying. Received your letter this morn and was so happy to get it and to learn that your first flight was so successful and I hope the rest have been likewise. And now that the war is a thing of the past, love, am so anxious to know what they are going to do about discharging you. Guess now that you have had a start at flying you would like to continue but I’d rather have you safe on terra firma. And I hope my wishes will have some weight. But it must have been a wonderful sensation – flying 2000 ft and I am so proud to think of my boy being so brave and fearless. If conditions hadn’t changed you would have probably been driving alone in a very short time. I am wondering and wondering if they will still continue to train you. Hope not. So please, let me know, sweetheart, about it as soon as you can.
It’s days like today that having the personal history to connect to is so meaningful.

Thank you for your service to all those who have served!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Scrapbook #3 – Jim Jeffries Obituary

Sig 1910 Ben Lomond Close up

I shared this photo back in 2014, although at the time I didn’t know too much about it other than that the man on the right was my paternal grandfather, Sig Levy. I knew it had something to do with Jim Jeffries in 1910 when he was training for a fight with then heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, but not much else. You can read about it HERE.

As I went through Sig’s scrapbooks this year, I learned more about Sig’s role promoting Raisin Day in Ben Lomond – you can read about that HERE

And then just a few months ago I found another reference to Sig’s involvement with Jim Jeffries, although it was a newspaper article from 1950 that referenced things that had been going on Forty Years Ago.  HERE.

I didn’t expect to find much more about Jim Jeffries, which was ridiculous since I’ve learned that my grandparents (and my parents) saved EVERYTHING.  Did I really believe that would be it? 

What kind of crazy self-talk was that?  Look at this lovely gem from The Fresno Bee, March 8, 1953, page 6-B found on the next page of the scrapbook.

Jeffries Obit with photo Fresno Bee 3_8_1953 Page 6B

BOOSTING THE RAISIN – James T. (Jim) Jeffries, second from right, who died Tuesday night at the age of 77, is shown munching raisins at his Ben Lomond training camp near Santa Cruz in 1910.  He was in training for his heavyweight title fight with Jack Johnson at the time.  This old photograph is the property of Sigmund Levy [and now in 2017 his granddaughter, Debi Austen], far right, a Fresno realtor who took a couple of cartons of raisins to the Jeffries camp to publicize Fresno’s Raisin Day.  On the left is Al Quadros, who drove Levy in a buggy [a buggy?] from Santa Cruz to the training camp.  Holding the poster is Wick Adams, a New York hotel ownre and friend of Jeffries.

And his obituary followed.

Jeffries Obit Fresno Bee 3_8_1953 Page 6B

Jim Jeffries is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

Jim Jeffries grave

Meeting Jim Jeffries was obviously a very important event in the life of my grandfather, Sig Levy, and he spent time in his later years reminiscing about that meeting.  Who knew?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Scrapbook #3 – 1914 Governor’s Day

Before I start, I have to say that I hate my cr*ppy memory!  Geez, I know I’ve seen this picture before but for the life of me, I can’t remember where.  And I don’t have the patience to look thoroughly so if I’ve shared this before, I apologize.

Now that I have that out of the way, the next page of the scrapbook showed me this from The Fresno Bee, Thursday, October 1, 1953, page 5-A.

Governors Day 1914 Fresno Bee 10_1_1953
EARLY DAY EVENT – Governor’s Day at the Fresno District Fair was quite an event in 1914.  Shown left to right in the grandstand are the late Frank Hill, Mayor Alva E. Snow, J.E. Dickenson, Governor Hiram C. Johnson, George H. Warlow, H. Wingate Lake, William Stranahan and H.E. Patterson and Sigmund Levy.

ExFair Director Recalls Governor’s Day Celebration

Governor’s Day at the Fresno District Fair in 1914 was recalled today by Sigmund Levy, a Fresno real estate and insurance man who was the fair’s director of exploitation from 1914 to 1918.

“I can remember it as though it were yesterday,” Levy said.  “We needed a lot of help in those days to put over the fair.  The governor drew a larage crowd.”

Levy has a photograph taken in the grandstand that day.  In the picture are the late Governor Hiram C. Johnson, Mayor Alva E. Snow, Frank Hill of the Fresno Traffic Association, J.E. Dickenson, the fair director; George H. Warlow, the fair president; H. Wingate Lake, a hotel manager; William Stranahan, Fresno public works commissioner, and H.E. Patterson of the Fresno County Chamber of Commerce and Levy.

Levy declared the exhibits at more recent fairs were similar to those in 1914.  Each night a dance carnival was held in those days.

“It really packed them in,” he said.

C.G. Eberhart, a retired vineyardist who was the fair manager from 1911 to 1920, recalled one of the big features of the fair 32 years ago was a “train wreck” which drew an attendance of more than 25,000 persons.

Eberhart said two old locomotives, purchased from the Santa Fe Railway, were started from opposite ends of the infield, but many of the spectators decided the seeing was not nearly as thrilling as the anticipation of the collision.

“The grandstand was jammed,” he declared.  “There was a hush among the spectators as the locomotives approached.  Bombs on the engines enveloped them in clouds of smoke as they came together with a deafening crash.

He inaugurated the initial five gaited saddle show ring for purebreds during his first year as manager and said the fair boasted three of the fastest harness horses in the United States, trained by Billy Durfy and owned by Clarence Berry of Fresno. 

One more Fresno event my grandfather was involved in.  Who knew?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Scrapbook #3 – Fifty Years Ago (plus one more)

The next ‘clippings’ in the scrapbook tell us about life in Fresno in the very early 1900’s.  My grandfather, Sig Levy, was a young lad at that time but 50 years later, he found a way to get himself mentioned in the newspaper.  And as he loved to do, he saved all of these clippings and put them in a scrapbook (thanks, Sig).

Fifty Years ago - Fresno Boys Athletic Association 10_17_1954

Thankfully Sig pointed out where he was mentioned in the Fresno Bee – I might have missed it otherwise.  So there he is in high school and it seems he’d already perfected the art of getting involved.  None of the other names look familiar to me although I’m not sure any of his school mates’ names would be.

Speaking of school, look at this article that mentions the mid year graduates of Fresno Grammar School.  I don’t know the grade levels of this school and I couldn’t find anything to tell me the date – he graduated from high school in 1906 so would that have been when he graduated from 8th grade?  So 1902?

Fifty Years ago - Fresno Grammar School

I was able to locate a photo of the grammar school from about 1916.  As my dad was so fond of saying, now I can visualize Sig walking through the front doors.

Fresno Grammar School

While I know now that Sig was an avid tennis player, it’s fun to see mention of it again in the newspaper.  Sorry to read that the home team lost, though.

Fifty Years ago - Easton vs Fresno Tennis 5_14_1955

An interesting story at the end about the death of two horses at the “death gap” crossing.

I realize I’ve shared this photo before but I’ll use any excuse to share it again.  How ‘bout them shoes?

Sig Tennis

And then I remembered that I have Sig’s tennis racquets hanging on my wall!  I remember back in the early 80’s after Loraine died and we were cleaning out her house.  I asked my dad if I could have the tennis racquets and he looked at me strangely and said “um, sure”.  I’m certain that he, along with my siblings, thought I’d lost a brain cell or two and honestly, there were times I might have agreed with them.  But now after hanging on our wall for nearly 35  , I’ve grown quite attached to them.  I wonder if one of these is the one Sig is holding in the photo?

And more news about tennis.

Fifty Years ago - Fresno Tennis 12_11_1955

The other stories are sure interesting – arrested for allowing freight cars to block the street for more than five minutes?

And then a random article from 1937.  I know that the Sig Levy family went on a road trip in 1940 – I wrote about the scrapbook someone kept of the trip HERE.  But now I learn they went on a month long tour of the East!

Return from Tour 7_26_1937

I don’t remember my dad talking about this trip but I guess since he was just 10 years old, he might not have had many memories of it.  I can’t imagine being gone for a month!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Scrapbook #3 – Forty Years Ago

Next up in the scrapbook is lots of little articles from The Fresno Bee telling us what was going on in the area years before - if we missed it the first time, we were able to read about it 40 or 50 years later!

In the 1950’s, there were many references to things Sig had done much earlier in his life and, as was his habit, he was sure to add the ‘clippings’ to his scrapbook.  Thanks, Sig!

Forty Years Ago - Visits Los Angeles 4_28_1952

Sig didn’t add the date but that didn’t stop me – off to to see what I could find.  Sure enough, there was the article on page 24 of the Fresno Bee Republican from April 28, 1952.  I guess in 1912 it was big news for two young men to visit Los Angeles.

And while I was looking, I also found this from March 22, 1952 – wonder how Sig missed this?  

Forty Years Ago - Visit Fresno County 3_22_1952

Oh BOY would I like to know more about this!  Sig went to Tijuana?  And what did the excitement look like?  Did he have trouble getting back into the country?  I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled for more information!

Forty Years Ago - Tijuana 10_28_1954
I know that Sig loved to play tennis and, apparently, was quite good at it.  I’m sure he was thrilled to see this in the newspaper on October 10, 1955.
Forty Years Ago - Tennis Championships 10_18_1955
It seems that Sig and E.A. Berg seemed to spend a lot of time together – this is the first I’ve heard about the Fresno County Fair.
Forty Years Ago - Fresno County Fair 8_20_1955

Street dance?  Street dance?  I realize Sig was involved in a lot of organizations and activities but a street dance????

Forty Years Ago - Street Dance 11_15_1955

Now I need to keep my eyes peeled for the American City – I’d love to read more about the Fresno Commercial Club.  I know Sig spent the majority of his career in commercial real estate - I have a TON of scrapbooks with articles about development to prove it!

Forty Years Ago - Fresno Commercial Club 11_12_1955

Earlier in the scrapbook (HERE) I shared a newspaper article and now I’ve found the original photo.  If not for the newspaper account, I would have no idea what was going on here on October 26, 1952.

Realty Board 10_26_1952

And a very fun article (with a photo) from July 17, 1953.  I’ve found lots of photos and other ephemera from their cruises (HERE, HERE, and HERE) but I’ve not seen anything from cruising in 1953.  I’m so glad there’s a newspaper article to tell us and even show us a photo!

Travelers - 7_17_1953

Six weeks?  Now THAT’S a cruise!

Thanks to both of my grandparents for being packrats and scrapbookers!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Scrapbook #3 - The Flag Speaks

With so much discord in our country today, it might be karma that, at this particular moment in time, I found this publication in my grandfather’s scrapbook.  I know from several items of Sig Levy’s that he was a patriot and was very involved with activities around the flag.  So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to find this.

The Flag Speaks page 1

Hmmm, I wonder why he included this?  It wasn’t taped or pasted like the other items but just loose between the pages.  Was it a last minute addition?  I’ll never know but it was obviously important enough for him to save.

I did a little research on William Tyler Page, President General.  It was interesting to learn that he was the winner of a nationwide contest for writing a National Creed, which would be a brief summary of the American political faith founded upon things fundamental in American history and tradition.  There were 3,000 contestants and his winning creed was:

"I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principls of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.  I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies."

The next page of the publication shows a picture of William Tyler Page.

The Flag Speaks page 2

My research shows that William Tyler Page, a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer, Carter Braxton, as well as the 10th President of the United States, John Tyler, died just a few months after this publication on October 19, 1942.

And then I connected the dots as to why Sig saved this newsletter – he was quoted on page 3.  I’m always so thankful when he marks on the page where his name is shown!

The Flag Speaks page 3

FRESNO, CALIF.  (Pop. 60,685) had a “brilliantly successful” Flag Week, according to Sigmund Levy, Flag Week Chairman, who says further that “Patriotism was stimulated to a great degree and the effect on many towns in our country that patterned after our celebration and also held patriotic ceremonies was gratifying.  I assure you that it has been a pleasure for me to serve as chairman of Flag Week in Fresno and thank you very kindly for your courteous cooperation.” 

I had to laugh that he described the Flag Week in Fresno as “briliantly successful” – how else would the Chairmann of the event describe it?

And the last page included quotes from radio stations across the nation.  KVI in Tacoma, Washington is still on the air today. 

The Flag Speaks page 4

This gives me a glimpse into yet another activity that Sig was involved in and I’m happy to know how important patriotism was to him.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Scrapbook #3 – Comrade Sig Levy

It’s time to get back to Sig’s scrapbook – you can read the first installment of Scrapbook #3 HERE.

Several group photos on the next few pages with nothing identifying them other than the date.  Although they were glued to the page, I was able to carefully peek behind the photo to ensure there was nothing written there.  Nope.

December 23_1945

So the only notation on this was the date – December 23, 1945.  But after scanning and scanning the photo, I just couldn’t see him even though I figured he must have been in the group shot.  So I did what people of today do – I zoomed in and found him!  What was the event? 

December 23_1945 cropped

Then another from December 23, 1948 that gave me a little more information.

December 23_1948

So I wonder what’s going on here?  I went to and did a search and came up with this article from from The Fresno Bee Republican, December 22, 1948, page 13.

Student Nurses Honored Fresno Bee 12_22_1948

Okay, that makes sense as I knew Sig was involved with the nursing program.  And look – he headed the committee and was at the microphone.

December 23_1948 Sig cropped

And another photo with the nurses from December 24, 1950.  Sig is easy to pick out – I sure wish I knew who the others were.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any newspaper article about this.

December 24_1950

And then some clippings about War Dads.  I’ve looked for some information about this organization but need to research further.  Interestingly, one of my searches took me to a blog that I’d read several years ago.  While Sig didn’t note the newspaper or date, I was able to find the publication dates of these two articles.  I love the way Sig made notations to point the reader to his name – thanks, Grandpa!

Fresno Bee Republican, June 30, 1944, page 9

War Dad Leaders Fresno Bee 6_30_1944 page 9

The Fresno Bee Republican, July 10, 1944, page 7

War Dads Fresno Bee 7_10_44 page 7

And then a few stories about Comrade Sig Levy – did War Dads call their members Comrades?  I need to figure that out!  I sure hope that the readers heeded the warning to not visit him so he could get his rest.

Sig Levy ill

Huh?  A parade that turned out to be a parade?  Not sure what the surprise was.

Quadruplet celebration

This last article showed me the non political correctness of the time – it provides a window into how far we’ve come in the last 50+ years.  I thought about not sharing the article, but since it references my “crack track runner” dad I just have to include it.  So, I’ve redacted the reference to how short my grandfather was.

Fresno Post 6_15_1944 redacted

Gordon didn't get his legs from his Dad.  Hahaha!

My grandfather, Sig Levy, was a busy guy!