Sunday, April 27, 2014

Raise your hand!

Raise your hand if you’ve seen your mother pregnant!  Okay, that might not be too much of a stretch because many of us have younger siblings or there might be photos showing you how your mother looked as she was great with child.

But how about seeing your grandmother pregnant?  Probably not too common.  And what about your GREAT grandmother?  Raise your hand if you’ve seen that!

Can you see my hand wildly waving?  And can you see the big smile on my face?  Because I think I HAVE seen my great grandmother pregnant and now I’m going to share it with you.

Here’s my great grandparents, Bertha Schwartz and Abraham Gunzendorfer, standing on the porch of a house. 

Bertha Abe c 1895

I haven’t yet figured out if it was their house or just where they were but what a beautiful house!  They look quite at home so I’m imagining it’s their house but for now I’ll just have to be satisfied seeing them there together.

And here’s one of just Bertha by herself.

Bertha in front of house c 1895

But wait!  All of the other photos I have show her as a very small woman with dresses cinched at the waist and this dress looks quite different.  So I had to zoom in closer to check it out and look what I see!

Bertha in front of house c 1895 cropped

She’s pregnant, right?  Or is she just dressed up to go to a costume party as a court jester?  Maybe she’s in her bathrobe or housecoat?  Or maybe she’s not pregnant but just gave birth to a child?

Here’s a photo of Bertha (on left) with an unidentified friend – she has a very tiny waist and wore her dress tightly cinched at the waist.  Not pregnant.

Bertha and friend

So what do you think?  Have we now seen my great grandmother pregnant?  PLEASE SAY YES!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Levy Brothers – part 2

Out of the four Levy brothers (my grandfather, Sig Levy, and his brothers), only three had children and only one, Sig, had only boys.  So to continue with the Levy brothers theme, meet my dad, Gordon (1927-2005), and his brother, Robert Levy (1920-2004)

Here’s one of the first photos of the boys together.  Since my dad was born in February, 1927 I’m guessing this is late that year.  I don’t know for sure (maybe a cousin can help me out here) but I think that might be their house at 1212 Van Ness, Fresno.  Dad doesn’t look too happy.

c 1927

He seemed a little happier, and steadier on his feet, by May, 1928.  Looks like the boys were ready to swim!


Later that year, the boys posed with their mother, Loraine.  I just love her hat!

w Loraine 3Sep1928

Dad turned 2 on February 11, 1929 and again the boys posed for a photo.  How cute are they in their little coats and hats?  Looks like Dad got a fun little riding toy for his birthday.  One look at this photo and there’s no doubt I’m a Levy.


And five years later, they celebrated Dad’s birthday again together – the hats and coats are gone.  Love the slicked back hair, Rob!


By 1943 Rob was off to serve his country but had to pose for a few photos first.  Look at them shaking hands – something, it seems, that my family did a lot.

July 15, 1943

March 12, 1944

And in December, 1947 the whole family posed together.  This tells a lot about my grandfather – Dad was about 5-9” and he towers over Sig. 

w Sig_Loraine Dec1947

Fast forward about 20 years and the boys were still posing together. 

My beautiful picture
Rob and Gordon
c. 1962

Dad and Rob never lived near each other as adults but even with the miles and years between them they always remained close.  We loved when “Uncle Bobo” came to town and we always laughed at his jokes, no matter how corny (and most of the time they were corny). 

I’m going to guess this photo is from the 1970’s or early 1980’s – check out the glasses!

My beautiful picture

Uncle Rob and Aunt Pat came to visit us here in Washington in 1997 – of course we couldn’t keep Dad away.  These brothers loved each other and they loved to keep their cameras close by at all times.  Since they were usually the photographers, it was hard to get them to pose together but we were able to get them to stand still in front of Snoqualmie Falls.


While I know they saw each other many more times in their lives, this might have been the last time I saw them together. 

But in early 1998, I had the pleasure of visiting Rob and Pat at their home in Louisville, Kentucky so I filled in for Dad with the photo opportunity!

Rob_Debi 1998

I’m so glad these Levy brothers broke the mold and never let each other out of their lives! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Levy Brothers

In honor of National Siblings Day (who knew there was a designated day?) it’s fitting to highlight siblings in my family, starting with the Levy brothers.  These brothers worked together in commercial real estate in Fresno in the early 20th century but, sadly, they didn’t all end up together at the end of their lives.  I hate thinking about the squabble that caused them to separate and I’m saddened that until recently, I wasn’t in touch with some of their descendants.  But I am now and for that I’m grateful!

The brothers were Herb (1884-1952), Leon (1886-1962), Sigmund (my grandfather, 1888-1968), and Ben (1892-1965).  Additionally, there was another brother, Arnold (1890-1890), who I wrote about here

Here are the boys in about 1889, before Ben was born.

Leon, Sigmund, Herbert Levy c. 1889

Here’s the young family in about 1890. 

Levy House Van Ness Avenue Fresno 1890

The family looks so small in this photo – here’s a close up. 

Levy House Van Ness Avenue Fresno 1890 cropped
Goldie and Herman Levy
Herbert, Leon and Sig

And by 1892 Benjamin had joined the family.

Benjamin Levy
Benjamin Levy

The house had sure changed by 1907!

Levy Home 1907

Although I don’t know the date this was taken, the family were all together and posed for a photo.  My best guess would be that this was taken somewhere about 1906-1908 based on the ages of the boys.

Levy Family Leon_Sig_Ben_Herb_Goldie_Herman
Standing – Leon, Sig, Ben, Herb Levy
Seated – Goldie Benas Levy and Herman Levy

By 1920 Levy Brothers was a thriving business and it looks like there were a number of people working there besides the four brothers. 

Levy Bros Office 1920

I can’t make out much in this photo except I do see my grandfather, Sigmund Levy, second from the right. 

The Levy Brothers ventured out for a photo in 1929 – boy do they look dapper!

Levy Brothers Ben_Herb_Sig_Leon 1929
Ben, Herb, Sig, Leon Levy
August 7, 1929

And they were together again in later years.

Levy Brothers Ben_Sig_Herb_Leon
Standing – Ben and Sig Levy
Seated – Herb and Leon Levy

And that’s about where the trail runs cold as the brothers had a falling out and some never talked to each other again.  I didn’t know until recently that my grandparents lived almost around the corner from Herb and his family.  All those years of visiting Grandma and Grandpa and there were my dad’s cousins so close but yet so far.  I’ve reconnected with Herb’s grandson and hope that one day we’ll be able to meet in person (Fresno, here I come!).  These brothers may have stopped communicating in their later years but their descendants will put a stop to that!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

All Aboard!

My great grandfather, Abe Gunzendorfer, was apparently quite a mechanical guy.  I recently ran across some interesting postcards.

Post Card

Now that’s not that interesting but look what’s on the other side!

Station and Power Plant
“Station and Power Plant”
Scene from Miniature Railway System – Window Display 1916
Mechanical and Electrical Construction by A.B. Gunzendorfer

I have a very faint memory of hearing about a railroad train display in The White House, the Gunzendorfer family mercantile.  But now I can see exactly what it looked like.  Or as my Dad would like to say, “now I can visualize it”. 

Here’s some other postcards:

Traffic Scene
“Traffic Scene”
Miniature Railway
Window Display Christmas 1916
Mechanical and Electrical Construction by A.B. Gunzendorfer

Forest Scene
“Forest Scene”
Miniature Railway System
Window Display Xmas 1916
Mechanical and Electrical Construction by A.B. Gunzendorfer

What beautiful work!  And while the next pictures aren’t great, it is interesting to see how the train was displayed in the windows.

Window Display Left Window Display Right

And here’s some other detail – I love how he named it the A.B.G.R.R. for Abe B. Gunzendorfer Railroad.

Abe Gunzendorfer Railroad

I’m not sure the signs above the cars can be read well - the last car says “….Power Plant”, the next car says “Electric Block System – Safety First”, the next car says “Free delivery to all parts of the state”, and the front car says “Train hand-made – Electrified - A.B. Gunzendorfer”.  I can just imagine him working on this train all year long in order to get it ready and on display for the holidays.

A few years ago I wrote about the lawn swing Abe built in 1909 – you can read about it here.   So now not only did Abe build a lawn swing but he also built an entire railroad system.  And one more thing he built – a pigeon house!  Not just any ole pigeon house but a MAMMOTH pigeon house!

Mammoth Pigeon House

Look at that – capacity 600 pigeons!  What in the world could he have done with 600 pigeons?  Or any pigeons, for that matter?  Another question I’m sure I’ll never have the answer to.  Sigh.