Sunday, August 31, 2014

It starts with a photo…..

For anyone who has researched their family, is an amateur or professional genealogist, or anyone with just a basic curiosity of where they came from, often times it starts with a photo.  You know what I mean – you see a photo, figure out who it is, start to research him/her, and 743 hours later, you’ve accumulated more information than you ever dreamed would be out there.  And all the while you know you should be cleaning the toilet, finishing the laundry, or doing something other than sitting in front of your computer looking for things.  But you just can’t stop.

And that’s where I’ve been for the last 24 hours.  My brain is spinning with what if’s, if only I knew, and more questions than I had when I awoke yesterday morning.

The culprit.

Adolph Gunzendorfer 1905 Postcard

Adolph Gunzendorfer 1905

Now I’ve seen several personalized post cards in my grandmother’s collection so can only assume this is another one.  I know that Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Gunzendorfer were my great grandparents and they did, in fact, live in Monterey, California in 1905 after spending about 8 years in San Francisco.  I also know that Abe’s brother was Adolph, also known as A.G., and that he was in Los Angeles between about 1901 and 1907.  So it would make sense that he would write a card to his brother, sister-in-law, and their two children, one of whom was my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer.

What I can’t be sure of is if the man looking silly on the card was, indeed, Adolph Gunzendorfer.  I have only run across one other photo of Adolph when he posed for a family photo in about 1896.

Gunzendorfer Family
Back row – Abraham, Gustave, Minnie Dauterman ?, Adolph ?, Jacob?
Center row – Bertha Schwartz (holding Loraine), Ferdinand, Fannie Goldstein, Inez Steinberger (holding Mervyn)
Front row – Irene Gunzendorfer

I’ve made some assumptions on this photo but I’m about 99% sure I’m accurate.  I’m positive that is Abraham on the left, nearly certain next is Gustave, assume it is Gustave’s wife Minnie standing next to him, and then I know the next two are either Adolph and Jacob…..or Jacob and Adolph.  But since Adolph wasn’t married at the time and Jacob was, I can assume the woman sitting in front of whom I think is Jacob is his wife, Inez, holding their young son, Mervyn.  And I know that is Bertha on the left (I’d know her ANYWHERE) holding my grandmother, Ferdinand and Fannie in the center, and then little Irene in the front.  And since my grandmother was born in January, 1896 and Mervyn was born just 3 months later, I can be certain this photo was taken some time in 1896.  And then came the goofy photo from Adolph above which makes me really think Adolph is second from the right in the family photo.

So then what?  Let’s see what I know about Adolph.

He was born in February, 1866 in California.  I don’t know the exact date or city but hope to be able to figure that out.  I have found a marriage record from 23 Mar 1887 showing his marriage to Emma Schoen in Monterey.  I have found NO other reference to Emma so I hope to be able to figure out what happened to her – did she die, did they divorce, or what?  From 1888 to 1896, I know Adolph was in Monterey working in the family business, The White House.  And that’s where things started to get a little more interesting.

By 1901 Adolph was a “manager” in Los Angeles.  And by 1904, the city directory shows that he is a Manager in billiards.  Huh?  Each year thereafter his occupation remains unchanged and finally he is linked to the Casino Billiard Parlor at 344 S. Spring in Los Angeles.  And during that time he decided to send a goofy post card to his brother back home in Monterey.

It must have taken some time to get the Casino Billiard Parlor up and running as the Grand Opening was held on 15 Dec 1903.

Casino Billard Parlor Opens Today Los Angeles Herald, Vol XXXI, No. 76, 15 Dec 1903
Los Angeles Herald
Volume XXXI, Number 76
15 Dec 1903

There were lots of other ‘amusements’ in Los Angeles at that time but I can imagine this grand opening was quite an attraction.

In 1904, Adolph was a “backer” in a group of well known gold mines In Kern County operated by E.W. Doss.  $10,000 was a lot of money in 1904!  (Los Angeles Herald, Volume XXXII, Number 56, 26 Nov 1904)

But by 1908 things didn’t seem to be going so well for the parlor.

Casino Billiard Parlor Los Angeles Herald Vol 35 Number 24, 2 Jul 1908
Los Angeles Herald
Volume XXXV, Number 274
City Hall Notes
2 Jul 1908

Now that’s interesting.  And even more interesting that by 1910 Adolph was back in San Francisco with his wife, Charlotte White.  What happened in Los Angeles to cause him to come back to the northern part of the state?  I know that from 1910 until the end of his life in 1932, Adolph was a fixture in San Francisco where it looked like he worked in an international specialty company. 

A few other interesting tidbits about Adolph will show up soon – stay tuned for more of the story!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Great White Hope

I’m sure that all of us who are old enough to remember films from the 1970’s is familiar with the film The Great White Hope, starring James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander.  This was originally written as a play in 1967 and then adapted for the screen in 1970.  The Great White Hope told a fictional life story of boxing champion Jack Johnson (James Earl Jones).  “Acting as a lens focused on a racist society, The Great White Hope explores how segregation and prejudice created the demand for a ‘great white hope’ who would defeat Johnson and how this, in turn, affected the boxer's life and career” [Wikipedia].  I remember loving the film (I always love a good romance) and watching the relationship between James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander – an African American man and a white woman falling in love was somewhat risqué in 1970.

So what does that have to do with my family history?  Well until recently when I came across a photo, I would have said “not much”.  But there in front of me was an interesting photo with a few clues.

Sig 1910 Ben Lomond

It’s a little hard to see, although I knew that was my grandfather, Sig Levy, on the right.  So, I enlarged it and cropped it a bit.

Sig 1910 Ben Lomond Close up

Hmmm, it still doesn’t tell me much.  I knew my grandfather was active with Raisin Day festivities so this wasn’t too surprising.  I turned the photo over to see if there was anything written on the back and once again, I was disappointed that there was nothing to give me a clue.

Sig 1910 Ben Lomond Back

Wait!  If I looked real closely, turned the photo just right and held it up to the light, I could see something written on the back.  It looked like my grandfather’s handwriting and since it was written in pencil, it was very hard to read.  So I got out my glasses and was able to make out the words:

“Taken when Jeffries was champion of the world.  At Ben Lomond training for the Johnson fight.”

Interesting to be sure but I still didn’t know much more than I had before that.  And then I did what anyone in 2014 would do – I opened google and typed in “Jeffries Ben Lomond world champion” and a new world was opened up to me – the world of James Jackson Jeffries (1875-1953), the boxing heavyweight champion of the world from 1899-1906!  And then I read that he trained in Rowardennan Redwood Park, which was built in 1895 and was at the southern edge of Ben Lomond.  Jeffries had come out of retirement in 1910 in order to fight John Arthur “Jack” Johnson, the African American man who was crowned Heavyweight champion of the world in 1908.  Throughout his boxing career, Jeffries refused to fight Black boxers so this must have been quite a story.

The Great White Hope was the reference to the boxers whom the white people hoped would finally defeat Johnson and the first person to accept the challenge was Jim Jeffries.  By 1910 Jeffries had been retired for 5 years and had ballooned from his fighting weight of about 220 pounds to a whopping 330 pounds.  He chose Ben Lomond as his training site and for three months beginning in April, 1910, Jim Jeffries trained so that he could be back in shape for the fight to be held in Reno on July 4, 1910.

James Jeffries SF Chronicle 13 Jun 1910 page 8
San Francisco Chronicle
June 13, 1910
Page 8

There was much at stake for both Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson.  Of course, Jack Johnson wanted to defend his crown and Jim Jeffries wanted to be the hero for the white people of the world.  But cash was involved - $65,000 (1.65 million in today’s dollars) was paid to Jack Johnson and $120,000 (3 million today) for Jim Jeffries.  And to the people who wanted to witness the fight in person – the Oakland Tribune reported on June 25 1910 (page 16) that a round trip ticket from Oakland to Reno on Southern Pacific Railroad would set them back $11.15, or about $278.75 in today’s dollars.  But I’m sure the 20,000 people who were in attendance at the ring built just for the occasion didn’t care as they just wanted to be part of history. 

James Jeffries vs Jack Johnson
James Jeffries and Jack Johnson
July 4, 1910
Reno, Nevada
photo by Wikipedia

Jack Johnson won the fight and retained his heavyweight title until 1915 when he lost to Jess Willard, a white boxer.  Johnson died in a car crash near Raleigh, North Carolina on June 10, 1946 after he raced away in anger from a diner that refused to serve him.  He was buried in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, initially in an unmarked grave.  Jim Jeffries died of a heart attack on March 3, 1953 and is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

I’ll never know if my grandfather met Jim Jeffries or if he even saw him train in Boulder Creek in 1910.  But by being there and taking a photo, and more importantly writing on the back of the photo, I’ve learned a lot about The Great White Hope.  Who knew?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fun with Sig

Sadly, I don’t have too many memories of my paternal grandfather, Sig Levy, as I wasn’t quite 14 years old when he died.  And as I think about that, it occurred to me that he passed away 46 years ago yesterday, August 16, 1968.  I’ll wait while you do the math…….

What I do remember about Grandpa Sig is that he ‘collected’ little trinkets and had a treasure trove of stuff in the little room off the garage for us to look at and if we were really lucky, he’d send us home with something.  I can just imagine how thrilled my parents were with that but I guess as long as Grandpa was able to get rid of some stuff, he was happy.  And as I go through all of the stuff that has been in storage all these years, I can just imagine how much there must have been because, undoubtedly, the trinkets must have ended up in the trash.

I also remember that Grandpa was a fun-loving guy and everyone seemed to love him.  He was involved in everything possible and I know he passed that on to his son because my dad was the same way.  So how fun for me to come across some pictures that reminds me of how active he was and how much fun he seemed to have.

Apparently Grandpa liked to swim because I ran across this picture of him with his friends.  That’s Sig on the right – how’s that for a stylin’ bathing suit?  The guy in the middle sure looks like Johnny Carson to me.

Sig Beach Bathing Suit

After his death, I was given a couple of Sig’s old tennis racquets and we’ve had them hanging on our wall for about 30 years - I think I need to hang this photo next to the racquets.  Check out the shoes!

Sig Tennis

Too bad this photo is torn because I’d sure like to see the entire photo and, more importantly, be able to read what someone wrote on the back.  It might have given some clues as to what was going on.  That’s Sig on the left in the front.

Sig Center

I’d sure like to know the story behind these.  Looks like they were dressed up for a play for something.

Sig Costume

Sig Costume 1

Sig Costume Bottom Middle

Here’s Sig with Steel Davis, one of Fresno’s most beloved Police Officers.  Besides those words on the back of the photo, I also learned that Mr. Davis assisted with the Raisin Festival Parades.  I did a quick search on for Steel Davis and can see he was born in 1878 and died in 1935 but I don’t see any children or even any family trees – is no one looking for him?  I’d love to connect with a descendant because this photo of him in his uniform is priceless!  And no, he wasn’t a giant – my grandfather was probably only about 5’ 2” tall.

Steel Davis_Sig Levy

I just love this photo and have a larger version hanging in my hallway – I can just imagine Sig whistling on his way to work.

Sig Whistling 1940
Sig Levy - 1940

Grandpa liked the girls!  Here he is with Jack Marvin, test pilot, and Alyse Kaye Moffett, Miss Fresno 1957.

Sig Yesterday and Today 1957
Jack Marvin, Alyse Kaye Moffett, Sig Levy
June 6, 1957 – Fresno Realty Board

What’s everyone looking at?  Whatever it was Grandpa wasn’t too interested.


I’d like to know how tall this guy is.

Sig Levy Bros

Here’s Sig with the ladies again.  At least Grandma was with him this time.

Sig_Loraine Hawaii

I love when I find a description and a date on the back of the photo!

Banquet for Shriners 50 yrs or more Sig Loraine left Wm Burks opposite April 1967
April, 1967
Banquet for Shriners
At this table are members of the Shrine for 50 years or more
In foreground Mr. & Mrs. Sigmund Levy
W. Burks on opposite side of table

And this is how I remember Grandma and Grandpa – him in a suit/tie and her in a dress.  And look at us in our little matching outfits! 

Sig_Loraine_Debi_Cary c 1959

Sunday, August 10, 2014


As I continue to work through the scads (that was my grandmother’s word) of photos I have, I’m reminded of the many times my grandparents, Sig and Loraine Levy, cruised here and there.  I particularly remember their voyages on the S.S. Lurline between San Francisco and Hawaii.  I believe they would travel from Fresno to San Francisco, with a stop in San Jose either before or after their cruise, and from San Francisco would sail to/from Hawaii.  And now I’ve found photos as evidence of their journeys!

Sig_Loraine SS Mariposa Monterey 1959
Sig and Loraine Levy
8 Aug 1959

I can just imagine sailing in the 50’s and 60’s – what a different time.  My grandfather looks so dapper in his tuxedo!  And thanks, Grandpa, for putting the date on the back of this photo! 

No date on this photo but based on the clothing, I’m guessing it was the same voyage.

Loraine_Unknown_Unknown_Sig_Unknown Lurline

Once they arrived in Honolulu, I remember that they always stayed at the Royal Hawaiian, the beautiful pink hotel on Waikiki Beach.  I’m sure back in the day it was about the only game in town – now it’s dwarfed by the other more “hip” hotels. 

Royal Hawaiian
Royal Hawaiian Hotel
photo by cryptic_star

I have found records showing they sailed on the Lurline from San Francisco to Honolulu in April, 1949, August 1951, and August 1956 but I haven’t found any photos that look to be from these trips.  Yet.

1966 seems to have been a big year for cruising.  In June, they sailed on the SS President Wilson but I don’t know where they went.  The photos I have are in ‘jackets’ that show the name of the ship and Hawaii-Japan-Philippines-Hong Kong so I’m guessing they went to one or all of those countries.  There is a little nugget in my brain saying they visited Japan but I can’t be sure.  No matter where they went, they seemed to have had a good time!

My grandmother loved her mink and took it everywhere with her!  I remember when we cleaned out my parents’ house last year finding the mink in the bedroom closet – I’m sure my parents never knew what to do with it.  I don’t want to think about what happened to it in the estate sale.

Loraine_Sig arrive SS President Wilson 1966
Loraine and Sig Levy
May, 1966

I wish I knew who these unidentified people are.  If I could find passenger lists for this voyage, I might recognize some names.  But here’s Grandma with her mink!

Sig_Unknown_Unknown_Loraine SS President Wilson

And some quiet dinners together.

Sig_Loraine SS President Wilson

Loraine_Sig SS President Wilson

But the quiet dinners didn’t last – looks like there was a costume party aboard the ship.

Sig June 1966 SS Pres Wilson

And guess who won the prize for the most original costume?  Thank you, Grandpa, for writing that on the back of this photo!

Sig Beefeater Best Costume June 1966
June, 1966
On board Pres Wilson
Sig won the prize for most original costume

Later that year they were cruising again as they were on board the Lurline on the Hawaii Holiday Cruise December 20, 1966 – December 30, 1966.  This cruise went from San Francisco to Honolulu via Nawiliwili (Kauai), Lahaina, and Hilo.  Look at that – Grandma has on a different mink!

Loraine_Unknown_Unknown_Sig Lurline 1966

Who are these lovely ladies with them?  I thought they might be the Stubblefield sisters, their next door neighbors for years, but I was able to find a passenger list on line and there was no indication that the Stubblefields were on board.  Oh look at that – if you look in the top right hand corner you can see the top of the ship!  Here’s the ship from the back of the photo ‘jacket’.


While I’ve never been on a cruise, I have heard that eating is one of the main events.  Looks like it was a great opportunity for some photos, too!

Unknown_Sig_Loraine_Unknown 1966

I have to laugh that they are sitting in the exact same seats!

Sig_Loraine c 25 Dec 1966 SS Lurline

I don’t know if this was from the same cruise but I do know it was on board the SS Lurline.  Grandpa always did like the ladies!

Sig Lurline

I just love looking at these photos and imagining what their voyages were like.  Thanks for sharing them with me, Grandma and Grandpa!