Sunday, April 26, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge: What I Remember – Part 2

For the last few years, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers posting as part of the A to Z Blog Challenge.  From the website the challenge began in 2010 and the challenge was this:   Can you post every day except Sundays during the month of April?  And to up the bar, can you blog thematically from A to Z?

I never took the challenge, even though it looked interesting and I enjoyed reading many of the posts.  So this year I’m doing my own abbreviated challenge – What I Remember from A to Z.  And I won’t do it daily but will condense it into several posts.  You can read Part 1 here.
J = June Bugs

As I wrote in Part 1, we spent a lot of time in Fresno as kids since all of my grandparents lived there.  And I remember that I always, always hated to visit in the May-July time frame because there were – GASP! – June Bugs.  Anyone who has been around me for more than about 3 minutes knows that I HATE bugs and as far as I’m concerned, they can all be eliminated from this planet and the world would be a much better place.

But sadly for me, we did visit during June Bug season and I can still remember trembling at night while those damned things were smashing into the upstairs windows as we tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to sleep.  Even though it was hot and that house had no air conditioning, those windows had to stay CLOSED!  Splat, splat, splat against the window!  Ugh, I’m shuddering now just thinking about it – although it could also be from scanning the internet for a picture of the stupid thing.

June Bug

I’m not even sure if this is what they really looked like because I ever got close enough to one of them to actually look at it.


KLIV was an important part of my past in a couple of different ways. 

First, KLIV was one of “the” radio stations to listen to when we were growing up.  KLIV has been on the air since 1946 (before my time) and was originally KSJO, a daytime only AM station.  In 1960 it became a top 40 station, which is what it was as I was growing up.  The station changed hands in 1967 when it was purchased by Robert “Bob” Kieve and James Trayhem, Jr. and then became a big band station in 1981.  I remember my dad talking about Bob Kieve and, in fact, Bob spoke at my dad’s memorial service in 2005. 

In 1991, KLIV became an all news station and somewhere after that time, when I had long since moved from San Jose, it became important for another reason.  My dad, a long time stock broker/financial advisor in the Santa Clara Valley, became one of the KLIV “voices” when he began to report the financial news on the radio.  Since I didn’t live in the area, I rarely heard my dad’s voice coming across the airwaves but I do remember once driving in the car while I was visiting and poof, my dad was talking to me.  I blocked everything else out and drove along with a smile on my face listening to him tell the listeners how the Dow Jones had performed that day.  After he passed away, a KLIV listener even signed the on-line guest book saying “I miss his voice already.  He was such a staple that it will be strange not to hear him.  My prayers are with his family, I know they will miss so much more than just his voice.”

L = Levy Brothers

My grandfather, Sigmund Levy, and his brothers operated an insurance and real estate business, Levy Bros.  I always thought it was so cool to have a business using my last name!  But what I didn’t know is that it was that business which, in the end, tore the brothers apart.  I wrote a little about the brothers here.  That business was such an important part of our family history and one day, I want to learn more about it.

M = Ming’s

Ming’s was a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto that was the site of many, many family dinners over the years.  Ming’s was the first Chinese fine dining restaurant on the mid-peninsula and opened in 1956 on El Camino Real.  It was a favorite gathering place for Stanford staff and the Stanford football team ate there after every home game.  This must have been what enticed my parents to dine there.  When El Camino was widened, it displaced the restaurant and it was relocated to Embarcadero, east of the Bayshore Freeway.

I remember getting dressed up for dinner – jeans, shorts or casual clothes were not appropriate attire for a visit to Ming’s back in those days – and we’d pile in the car for the approximate 30 minute drive to Ming’s.  Once seated, Mom would be the only one with a menu as there was really no point in the rest of us even looking at it.  Mom always, and I mean always, did the ordering for the table no matter how many people were there or who they were.  We’d start with Won Ton soup, sometimes she’d add their signature Chinese Chicken Salad, Ming’s Beef, and Leechi Pork (yum, my favorite) were also staples.  If there was a special occasion or guests in town, we’d always make a visit to Ming’s.

I’ve learned that Ming’s was closed in December, 2014 and will be demolished to make room for an extended stay hotel and a newer, smaller Chinese restaurant.  One day I hope to be able to visit again and rekindle some old memories.

Photo by Veronica Weber
December, 2011

N = Needle

I probably shouldn’t share this memory but since my dad is no longer here, I’m probably safe.  I will say that Dad was never really the type to get ‘mad’ but he did have a habit of reminding us about something over and over and over again.  And this was clearly one of those times.

I can’t imagine why I loved to sit on the floor of my room, propped against the foot board of the bed, watching TV, and doing whatever it was I wanted or needed to do.  I do remember sitting there doing some mending or hemming or something that involved a needle.  The other thing I liked to do was walk around the house barefoot – really, what California teenager actually liked wearing shoes?  I’m sure you know where this is going – suffice it to say that needles on the carpet and bare feet really don’t go together and the next thing you knew, I stepped on the needle that should have never been on the floor in the first place and surely should have been put away when I was done.  But hey, I was 15 years old and I knew everything.

I pulled it out, or so I thought, and went about my day.  Ouch, my foot sure hurt!  I didn’t want to admit how much it hurt because I had a school scavenger hunt to attend that night which I was really excited about and I wasn’t going to miss it.  I did go on the scavenger hunt but by the end of the night the boys (oh, I loved being the little sister of a popular senior girl with lots of boy admirers) were literally carrying me on and off the bus and around town trying to find whatever it was that was next on our list.

The next morning I tried to get out of bed and literally could not put any pressure on the foot.  Uh-oh, I guess I had to admit to Mom and Dad now what was really going on.  Thankfully, our next door neighbor (and like a second dad to me) was a physician and even though he was an anesthesiologist, he took one look at my foot and announced that it was time to get in the car and go to the emergency room.  And within a few hours on that fall Sunday morning, I found my second dad back by my side getting ready to put me to sleep so that I could be taken to the operating room to get that darned thing out of my foot.

After an overnight stay and a week on crutches, I was pretty much back to the pre-needle incident.  And all these years later (and it’s been A LOT of years since I was 15) I still have a little scar and lump on the bottom of my foot thanks to the dreaded needle.  Probably a good reminder to not sit on the floor to sew and to never, ever walk around bare foot.  And if that wasn’t reminder enough, my dad was always there to remind me!

O = Organ

My dad not only played the accordion, but he also played the piano and later in life, the organ.  What special memories I have of Dad playing the organ and as the years went on, he shared those memories with my daughters.  He took lessons (usually weekly or bi-weekly) until shortly before his death and there were so many hours spent in that house listening to the beautiful sounds that would come from his hands and feet. 

My beautiful picture

P = Pets

Mom and Dad had pets since they were first married (maybe even before) and I can never, ever remember them being pet-less until the last few years of Mom’s life.  There were many but, sadly, I haven’t run across pictures of many of them. 

Their first pet was Fluffy, a beautiful silver Persian cat.  The story goes that Mom was home alone one night (I believe before they were married) and Fluffy started growling and hissing.  I don’t know any of the particulars but Mom always said there was an intruder trying to get in the apartment and Fluffy’s behavior must have scared him off.  Good girl, Fluffy!


Another early pet was Bruce, a beautiful Collie.  I think they brought him home as a puppy shortly after they were married.


Bruce must have become a dad because I found this photo of Mom holding puppies which was labeled “Bruce and the Children, July 25, 1952”.  I think the mom’s name was Lassie (duh) and there were a total of five pups. 

Bruce Pups

I do remember that while Bruce was fine with us, he wasn’t too fond of children so we had a special section of the backyard fenced off so he would be away from our friends when they would come to play.

After Bruce left us, we started on the poodle craze and had a miniature silver poodle named Penny, followed by two smaller poodles named Buffy and Tinka (after my mom’s hairdresser).  The poodle craze was over and then started on the Sheltie band wagon. 

My beautiful picture

Dad wanted to name our next dog Tinka after the apricot/buff poodle who died so young but we didn’t want to hear it.  What a shock when we walked into the house to meet a Sheltie and the owners said “meet our dog, Tinkerbell”.  It was fate and her name was never changed!

Several other dogs followed Tinker – Mandy, the beautiful Sheltie who died in Dad’s arms after a hit and run outside their house, and then the wacky Cherry Pie (boy, that dog was weird).  By then it was time to try a large breed (what couple in their 70’s decides they need a big dog?) and Cody, the Golden Retriever, joined their family.  Cody was a faithful friend to Mom once she was alone but then, sadly, he left her, too.  And those last few years of Mom’s life was probably the only time I remember the house being pet free.

I even had a short stint as a lamb owner when I raised Lil Abner as a 4H project.  It was a sad day when I sold him at auction but I ended up getting quite a high price for him.  I wonder if it had anything to do with Dad’s Rotarian friend who bought him?  He did invite us over for lamb dinner one night and while I can’t remember if Mom and Dad went, I politely declined.  And I haven’t eaten lamb since.
Lil Abner 1968
Lil Abner and Me
August, 1968

Q = Quilts

I have a couple of quilts that I rescued from the storage unit which had been left to die in that dark, dusty hole.  I brought them home, had them dry cleaned, and left them wrapped in the plastic in order to pass down to descendants at some later date.  My mother thought they were made by her great grandmother, Rebecca Moriah Waller McAboy, but she couldn’t be 100% sure.  Here’s one – does it look like something that would have been made in the late 1800’s or very early 1900’s?

A very long time ago, my mother gave me this quilt which she thought had been made by her grandmother, Mabel McAboy Fitzgerald.  I always thought it was so fun with all the little girls in their sun bonnets.

I have a lot of memories about this quilt.  I remember being sick and lying on the couch to watch TV, covered in love with this quilt that my great grandmother, Mabel, made.  I always loved the scalloped edges.

R = Rabbi Gitin

While my family wasn’t deeply religious when I was growing up, there was one constant in our lives that provided us with a spiritual upbringing – Rabbi Joseph Gitin.  Not only was Rabbi Gitin the Rabbi of our Temple, but he and Dad became great friends due to their shared love of Rotary.

I’ve run across many photos of Rabbi and his beloved wife, Rosalie, and I’m sure there are more to come.  In fact, Rabbi Gitin probably deserves his own blog post at some point in time. 

My beautiful picture
Rabbi Joseph Gitin, Geraldine Levy, Gordon Levy
Date unknown

Rabbi Gitin officiated Mom & Dad’s renewal of their wedding vows on their 25th wedding anniversary in 1975 – perhaps this was taken at that time.

My beautiful picture
Rabbi Joseph Gitin and Rosalie Gitin
Date unknown

Rabbi Gitin was a major part of the most intimate and meaningful day of my life.  And, as always, he beamed that ever present smile.


Another very important event that Rabbi Gitin shared with us was a celebration for Dad when he was awarded the Legacy Medal in 1982.  Of course they sat at the table with us – Dad wouldn’t have had it any other way.  I’m not sure what my mom was thinking but something sure put a funny smile on her face.

Gordon and Gerry Levy, Rabbi and Rosalie Gitin
March, 1982

Several years later, he officiated at my sister’s wedding – he and Dad spent some time together on the lawn during the rehearsal.

Rabbi Joseph Gitin and Gordon Levy
August, 1987

After the rehearsal, we went to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant (not Ming’s) and as usual, Mom did the ordering.  Of course since my mother wasn’t raised Jewish, she didn’t think about what foods Jews might or might not eat.  Once again, Rabbi and Mrs. Gitin were seated at the table with us.

Rabbi and Rosalie Gitin
August, 1987

Imagine Mrs. Gitin’s surprise when the waiter arrived at the table with Moo Shu Pork!  Yikes, Mom didn’t think about the fact that Jews don’t eat pork.  I will never, as long as I live, forget Rabbi Gitin leaning over to Mrs. Gitin and whispering “Rosalie, just shut up and eat it!” 

Come back next time for the last installment of A to Z Blog Challenge – What I Remember.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge: What I Remember – Part 1

For the last few years, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers posting as part of the A to Z Blog Challenge.  From the website the challenge began in 2010 and the challenge was this:   Can you post every day except Sundays during the month of April?  And to up the bar, can you blog thematically from A to Z?

I never took the challenge, even though it looked interesting and I enjoyed reading many of the posts.  So this year I’m doing my own abbreviated challenge – What I Remember from A to Z.  And I won’t do it daily (obviously, since it’s now April 19th and I’m just getting started) but will condense it into several posts.

A = Accordion
I remember my dad playing the accordion.  He didn’t play often but I remember him dragging it out of his closet, strapping it on, and away he’d go.  I wonder if many people play the accordion anymore.

B = Blood
I remember eating roast beef and we always carried on the tradition of drinking the “blood” after the roast had been sliced.  We’d get a spoon, dad would tilt the plate, and we’d collect a spoonful of the juice and slurp it down.  My dad’s parents started them on the tradition while they sat at this dining room table.  It makes me sick to think about it now.

Dining Room 1982
Levy Dining Room

C = Costumes
I never thought about Mom being crafty but thinking back, I think she was.  I remember she made a skirt for us every year for the school folk dance event and many years we had cool Halloween costumes.

Oh my, what is THIS?  It looks like me posing as a baby doll but that isn’t my sister in the fancy hat.  Maybe our next door neighbor, Mary?  What in the world were we thinking?

My beautiful picture
Baby Doll and Friend

By 1960 we were costumed in a little more ‘traditional’ costumes – a farmer and a queen.  That’s me as the queen!

Farmer_Queen 1960

And the following year, I used the cannibal costume that mom had made a few years before and my sister was half of a set of dice.  Check out the chicken bone on the hood of the cannibal – I’ve always remembered that!

Cannibal_Dice 1961

D = Doug’s Delivery
This was a big day in our lives – our little brother was making an early entrance into the world.  I remember Mom coming from the back bathroom and saying it was time to go to the hospital because there was water all over the floor.  I’m pretty confident that a little girl about to turn 7 didn’t really understand what all of the water was about but I do remember there was a lot of excitement, my sister and I were carted off next door for the night, and we waited patiently to find out if we were getting a sister (please!) or a brother.

The next morning we went off to school without knowing what was going on or why Mom wasn’t home yet with her new little bundle of joy.  I know my family has heard this story way too many times to count (boy did my Dad love to tell it!) but I remember sitting outside my classroom on the little step eating lunch when I saw Dad coming across the playground.  He walked up to me with a big grin on his face and said “Debi, you have a little brother” and I said what any almost 7 year old girl hoping for a sister would say “YUCK!”.  But I quickly learned that a little brother was THE BEST and now a half century later, I’m so happy to have this wonderful man in my life.

Apparently, we wrote letters to Mom while she was in the hospital.

Debi writes letter Cary writes letter
Deep in thought
Love the Brownie uniform

And since Mom was gone, it looks like we took over her bed.  Dad captioned this photo “Sing Along” – wonder what we were singing?

Sing along

Mom had her own bed in the hospital – she looks happy to have the delivery behind her.

Mom Hospital

E = Eggs
I’ve written before about my grandparents’ chicken farm.  I have such wonderful memories of that farm and the hours we’d spend there helping them around the farm.  We loved to collect the eggs, clean them, and most of all, weigh them and put them in the correct cartons.

Debi_Cary collecting eggs 1958
Off we go to collect eggs

Debi_Cary_Shell_eggs 1958
Old fashioned egg scales

F = Fresno
Since both of my parents were born in Fresno and all of our grandparents lived there, we spent a lot of time there as kids.  What I remember most about Fresno was the heat in the summer and houses weren’t air conditioned back then.  Plus, since we were there to visit our grandparents and their friends, it seemed that everyone in Fresno was OLD.  We had many good times on the patio where we spent so many hours tending to the eggs.

Family Dinner
Shell Hunter, Clara Fitzgerald Hunter (standing), me, Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy, Mom (Geraldine Martin), Sig Levy, sister Cary.

Dig in Sig
Dig in, Sig

My parents both graduated from Fresno High School, as did my grandfather, Sig Levy, and his brothers.

Fresno High School

G = Grandparents
I have so many memories of my grandparents and every once in awhile something new pops into my brain.  I always felt special in that growing up I had five living grandparents (four biological plus one step) and two great grandparents.  I was almost 12 before I lost any of them and then one by one they were gone.  And not only did I have so many grandparents but I actually have a photo of six of them all together!

Standing – Edward Fitzgerald (great grandfather), Clara Fitzgerald Hunter (grandmother), Sheldon Hunter (step grandfather)
Seated – Mabel McAboy Fitzgerald (great grandmother), Geraldine Martin Levy (mother), Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy (grandmother), Sig Levy (grandfather)
Not pictured – Earle Martin (grandfather)

H = Horses
One of my fondest memories from childhood is the hours and hours we spent with our horses.  I need to do a separate blog post about that as there is so much to say but for now I will say the six plus years I was a horse owner may have changed my life.  My “guy” was Smokey Joe, a beautiful (at least to me) dappled grey gelding who was one of the most docile horses I ever came in contact with. 
My beautiful picture
Smokey Joe
We spent hours together in that stall

My beautiful picture
All ready for the show

I = Intercom
My grandparents used to have this intercom contraption in their home that always fascinated me.  There was a little alcove in the upstairs hallway that, at one time, held the intercom machine and somewhere else in the house were other alcoves (unfortunately, my memory is pretty fuzzy on this).  I don’t know why this memory has stayed with me all these years because I don’t think I ever saw the intercom work but I thought it was so cool that you could be upstairs and talk to someone else downstairs.  Pretty fancy technology for a home that was built in 1934!

Come back next time for What I Remember – Part 2!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Schwartz Siblings

Since we just celebrated National Sibling Day, I thought I would honor the earliest siblings I have photos of – my great grandmother, Bertha Schwartz, and her brothers.  I do have photos of my great grandfather, Abraham Gunzendorfer, and his brothers but I’ve already shared their picture here

I’ve written about Bertha on numerous occasions and feel like of my ancestors whom I never met, I know her the best.  Maybe it’s because I remember hearing my dad and grandmother talk about Birdie so much as I was growing up, maybe it’s that there was always a picture of Birdie as a young girl displayed in our living room, or maybe it’s because I have so many of her things now.  Whatever it is, I’m thrilled to feel like she’s really a part of me and love being able to share her story with my descendants so that they, too, will know more about this beautiful woman.

Bertha Schwartz c 1878
Bertha Schwartz
c. 1878
Photo displayed in our living room

While the above photo is a treasure, I just love these photos of Birdie and her brothers with their parents – I just wish I had one photo with all of them together. 

Rebecca_Louis_Joseph_Bertha Schwartz cropped
Rebecca Steen Schwartz (1848-1918), Joseph Schwartz (1867-1919), Louis Schwartz (1834-1893), Bertha Schwartz (1872-1950)

I just love the hair styles all swooped over to one side.  Must have been the fashion of the times – too bad Louis couldn’t participate.

Schwartz Louis Family cropped
Milton Harry Schwartz (1878-1958), Rebecca Steen Schwartz,  Louis Schwartz, Colman Schwartz (1884-1920)

They look so formal and dark, as if they were in mourning.  But what a handsome family!

Unfortunately, there were five other children born to Rebecca and Louis but three of the children died very soon after birth while young Tina died in 1870 and Marks died in 1877, both at the age of four.  But the other four children pictured all lived into adulthood.

Here’s to the Schwartz siblings – Joseph, Bertha, Milton, and Colman!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Gone With The Wind

Sometimes there’s a book, movie, or play that changes your life for no apparent reason.  In my case, that book/movie was Gone With The Wind.  I don’t know what it was about it that had such a hold on me as I was never interested in history but for some reason, I was captivated by it.  And I still am to this day.

My first memory of Gone With The Wind was reading the book.  And such a special book because my grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy, gave me her copy to read.  So maybe the first ‘hold’ on me was the fact that I was reading my grandmother’s book and knew it held a special place in her memory.

She even put her name and address inside the front cover so in the event she lost it, the book could be returned to it’s proud owner.

I always loved the way my grandmother wrote her “L”s!

As a young teenager, I remember going to the Century 21 Theater in San Jose to see the movie.  This was at the time when you bought your tickets in advance so you didn’t have to wait in line.  I don’t remember who I went with or if we had reserved seats but I do remember that we bought a program when we entered the theater, had seats right in the middle, and enjoyed the intermission during the movie.  Intermission and programs at a movie!

Years later my husband gave me a treasure – an original three color theater herald for the first release of the movie.  A small supply of posters had been found in a box below a theater stage and had been untouched for nearly 60 years!  And then he framed it for me!

I remember one Christmas getting my very own deluxe edition in VHS format.  Even though I have no way of watching it today, I just can’t part with it.

But even with all of these memories, there was a memory I was missing for many, many years.  At one point, my grandmother gave me another copy of her book and I remembered it so clearly as the pages were actually written in columns so there were two columns per page.  I remember it was somewhat difficult to read it but it was such a classic.  And then my memory went black as no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find the book.  What happened to it?

And then the unthinkable happened and after the death of both parents, it was time to clean out our childhood home.  A home my parents had lived in for over 50 years and where they had kept pretty much everything they’d ever owned.  I know there are lots of you out there who know what I’m talking about!  And books – oh my, were there books.  Books in every closet, under beds, overflowing from every bookcase, and every other nook and cranny available.  It was overwhelming and we finally just stacked them up waiting for the Estate Liquidator to take care of them. 

Maybe I took a little more care when we cleaned out the closet in my bedroom because, after all, who knew what a young woman would have left with her parents when she started her married life.  But thankfully I did take extra time because guess what I found?  THE MISSING BOOK!  And now every time I open it and read the words, my mind takes me back to the first time I read it, the movie at Century 21 Theater and, most of all, my grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy.

It’s just a plain book on the outside and the spine has certainly seen better days but that’s what adds to the memories.


But it’s the pages that really hold the memories.  I know people must have thought I was crazy all those years I told them about the book and the columns on the pages but here’s proof that it actually exists!

I don’t know if these books were gifts she received during her lifetime but they sure are gifts to me.  I like to think about her reading these books and hanging on to the memories forever, just like I have.

Loraine reading
Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy
Date unknown