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.


  1. I sat with my toes curled reading that needle story. I could feel it! Remember how Mr. Potato Head pieces had that long post? I rolled over on the floor and got Mr. Potato Head's hat stuck in my knee. I was able to pull it out myself, and there was nothing to do but let the hole fill back in on its own. ICK

    Now June Bugs -- they were fun. We used to catch them and tie a string around their leg and then spin the string over our head like a lassoo. Listen to 'em buzz.

    Love the Rabbi and pork story.

    See -- you really could have done the A To Z Challenge! But your way is fun too.

    1. You are definitely my hero completing the A to Z challenge every year, Wendy. Someday I want to be just like you. Although I'll leave Mr. Potato Head's hat alone!