Sunday, September 27, 2015

Family Photos – The End of the Story

I continue to go through photos, albums, and other family items in order to document things for future generations.  Next up, a family photo album that was stashed away in my parents’ home.  To start from the beginning, click here.

So I’m down to the last few pages of the family photo album.  What fun it’s been to reminisce about my childhood and the photos have brought back so many wonderful memories.  I’ve shared some of these photos before but in the interest of documenting the photo album in its entirety, here we go.

Page 28 - Halloween 1961
Halloween 1961

Out of all of the Halloween costumes we had, these were the most memorable.  In fact, they might be the only two that I really remember.  While that cannibal costume would not be acceptable today, it was pretty cool back in 1961.  So cool, in fact, that I was the second sister to wear the costume.  And I will never, ever as long as I live forget the chicken bone tied at the top.

I really don’t know for sure about the rest of the kids in this photo.

Page 29 - Halloween group 1961
I’m pretty sure the “baby” standing on the right is our dear next door neighbor, Mary.  She was almost exactly halfway in age between my sister and me so we did a lot together over the years.  The clown looks familiar (Karen Z perhaps?) but I have no idea who is on the right or what she’s dressed up as.  Maybe these were friends of my sister?

But the bench that they’re sitting on holds a lot of memories for me.  I think it is the gliding bench we had that, at some point, was re-covered and was in the house when we cleaned it out in 2013.  I remember sitting on that bench as a new 7-year old big sister in my brand new, fancy schmancy nightgown holding my baby brother.  All of a sudden “URP” – and I had baby vomit all over my nightgown!  So I did what any 7 year old would do and pitched my baby brother across the room so there would be no chance of more stains on my nightgown.  Thank goodness Mom was there to catch him!

Page 29 - Bruce still here too 1961
Bruce still here, too

I think Bruce was the first dog my parents owned and he was definitely the first dog I remember.  He was so good with my sister and me but not so reliable near other kids.  So when my brother was born in 1961, a separate fence was installed in the back yard so Bruce would have his own area and we wouldn’t have to worry about little brother.  He sure was a pretty dog!

At this point Dad got a little out of order – he must have just been trying to even the photos out on the pages.

Page 29 - Deb is 7
Deb is 7

Geez, looks like I’m flashing a gang sign or something – I wish I knew the story behind that!  And where are my teeth?  My favorite cake has always been chocolate cake from a bakery with white frosting – looks like that goes back a long way.  Yum!

Page 29 - Deb is 7 group

And here’s the group!  I think I can identify everyone in this photo – a few of whom I am still in contact with today.  This means you, Mary K. and Debbie B. 

It’s fun to see the room - while not much had changed since that day in 1961, so much had changed.  For those who were in the house in later years, the window on the left was turned into a book case during the remodel in 1962 so that the area behind it could become my sister’s bedroom.  And the other window was knocked out to make a step down entrance into a big family room, while the wall with the cuckoo clock became an open area looking onto my dad’s organ.  But I think the desk in the corner is probably the same desk that was there in 2013, and the dining room table and chairs that we’re sitting at was also still there.  Proof once again that my parents never threw anything away.

And here’s where we get out of order because the last page is dedicated to the birth of my brother on November 28, 1961.  My 7th birthday was 2+ weeks later.

Page 30 - Mommy after Dougs birth
Mommy after Doug’s birth

She looks tired but happy!  Back in those days, of course, we weren’t allowed to see our mother while she was in the hospital so it looks like we wrote her letters to tell her how much we missed her.

Page 30 - Cary writes letter 11_28_1961
Girls write their mom at hospital
November 28, 1961

Look at all those pencils!  One thing I remember is that we had one of those cool pencil sharpeners that are bolted into a wall in the garage – maybe she just pretended she needed a bunch so she could use the pencil sharpener.  And look at the Polaroid picture – too bad I can’t make out the image in the picture.

Page 30 - Debi writes letter 11_28_1961
Girls write their mom at hospital
November 28, 1961

I sure look thoughtful.  Maybe I’m thinking about one day finding these letters - I’ll bet at some point I do.  Wouldn’t that be a hoot?  Looks like I bucked the trend and used a pen!

Page 30 - Sing Along 1961
Sing Along

I have no idea what we were singing along to but I do know this was my parent’s bed.  It must have really been a special occasion to have been allowed to climb in their bed.  And my sister looked so stylish in her hair net!

And with the birth of a new baby brother the family photo album comes to a close.  I hope I’ll run across another installment which would include my brother.  But if not, I have lots of slides that have been scanned but need to be organized.  I’ll just keep plugging away!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Family Photos – 1961

I continue to go through photos, albums, and other family items in order to document things for future generations.  Next up, a family photo album that was stashed away in my parents’ home.  To start from the beginning, click here.

During 1961, it appears that Dad just took a few random photos.  I know he took more (because he took photos constantly) but these are the only ones that seem to have made it into the photo album.

Page 27 - Cary Cover Girl 1961
Cary Cover Girl 1961

Nice hair, sis!  At least your bangs have finally grown out!

Page 27 - Cary Cover Girl 1961 Piano

Page 27 - Deb now collects stamps 1961
Deb now collects stamps

I have so many memories about stamp collecting.  The most important is that we were each given a “country” to collect and being the good Jewish girl that I was, I picked Israel.  I didn’t really care what country I collected but Israel seemed like the right thing to do at the time. 

After our parents had both died and we were cleaning out the house, the many books of stamps were still in the back store room where they’d resided, untouched, our entire lives.  What to do with them?  I know we could have done so many things but at that overwhelming time in our lives, it was just important to get rid of them.  No, we didn’t throw them out but we did leave most of them with the estate liquidator and I don’t think any of us want to know what happened to them.  But it’s nice to see this picture and remember the happy times of sitting with Dad putting our stamps in the appropriate books.

Page 27 - Cary_Debi 1961
Cary and Debi 1961

Being that my parents never threw anything away, I can’t figure out if this was in our house (because none of it looks familiar) or somewhere else.  Either way, it’s a pretty cute photo and we are sure growing up!

Page 28 - Family Camp 1961
Family Camp 1961

I’ve posted this photo of YMCA Family Camp before – it was crazy hat night!

Page 28 - The Jacksons Visit 1961
The Jacksons Visit

Oh boy, this photo brings back so many memories.  The Jackson family (no, not THAT Jackson family) lived next door to us when I was born and although both families moved within a few years, they remained family friends throughout our lives.  They had three sons, the oldest of which was just a little older than me.  Of course Bob is the man in the photo and Joey, his wife, is on the right.  That’s my mom in the middle but I don’t know who the older woman is – perhaps Bob or Joey’s mother?  I also just noticed that the background is the same from the picture above so I’m guessing that to be our house.  And the card table and Bob’s chair looks familiar, too.

As I added this photo to the blog I began to wonder what happened to the family and started a quick search to see what I could find out.  I knew that Joey had died years ago (20?) but never knew what happened with Bob.  Sadly, I stumbled across Bob’s obituary and learned that he died at the age of 91 just over a year ago.  But included was a beautiful photo with his ever-present smile!  I’ve also sent an e-mail to Monterey Jazz Festival organization as I know that the oldest son has been involved with that organization for years.  I hope he gets in touch with me.

Yikes, what’s going on here?

Page 28 - Debi_Cary 1961

I think my parents still had that bed in my old bedroom when we cleaned out the house!

Page 28 - Fluffy still with us 1961
Fluffy still with us

Yes, Fluffy is still around.  I remember that cat would go anywhere her heart desired – window sills, counter tops, wherever she wanted. 

This photo means a lot, even though I have no idea where it was taken.

Page 28 - Debi_Cary_Gerry_1961

That’s my mom with my sister and me.  You may not be able to tell but knowing that this is 1961 and little brother was born in November, Mom must be pregnant.  Debi, step aside just a little so we can get a better look at Mom’s tummy!

Only a few more pages left.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Oh what a life!

Gordon Levy c 2005
Gordon Levy, 2005

For the last 10 years, and I’m quite sure for the rest of my life, Labor Day will always be a difficult time for me.  It was September 5, 2005 (Labor Day) that in one short instant and without warning, my dad was gone.  Sure we’d always worried about his heart since he suffered a heart attack in 1978 and a bypass in 1979 but he always told us he was an “Iron Man” – wouldn’t that mean he’d be the first person ever to live forever? 

When I first started blogging, I wrote about my dad, Gordon Levy, and why Labor Day was such a hard day – you can read about it here.  But this year I decided that rather than focusing on his death I would focus on his life

Dad always loved to talk and he was one of those people who could talk to anyone at any time.  Large crowds?  No problem.  Give him the stage and off he’d go.  But on this day, sometime in late 1999, he actually prepared a talk for a Rotary meeting.  And as luck would have it, we were fortunate enough to find his typewritten notes which described his life as he was introducing a fellow Rotarian.  So who better than to tell us about his life than him!  Read on…..

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss my life directions before my fellow Rotary members, and perhaps you will agree that it has been a relatively normal life that was anticipated for me in 1927 - about the time Lindbergh flew the Atlantic and Herbert Hoover moved into the White House and the great depression was around the corner. My birthplace was Fresno, where I attended local schools, and looked forward every year to the Raisin Day parade, which my father helped promote when he was not engaged in the real estate business. After all, raisins were big in Fresno, and still are a major part of the economy. My parents' families both came from Germany, my father was raised in Fresno and my Mother in Monterey. Her grandfather appeared on the Monterey Peninsula during the 1860s, and eventually opened a general store called the White House, which lasted until 1944.

Gordon Apr_5_1929
Gordon Levy, c. 1929
Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, changed our lives forever; and I remember hearing FDR call it a day of infamy at an all school assembly. Suddenly everyone wanted to be in uniform, sports were curtailed, but our activities continued - blackouts, gas rationing and sugar stamps, although many felt we on the West Coast were in for serious times. As valedictorian of my high school class, in 1944, I talked about the future of civilization and the concept of One World described by Wendell Wilkie, never realizing that my next most important speech would be today before the Greatest Rotary Club in the world - 55 years later.
In high school, besides the normal things, I prepared to enter the military service, bedazzled as we all were by uniforms, war ribbons, battle plans, and Glenn Miller. As a matter of fact, June 6, 1944, the D Day invasion, was two or three days before we graduated. In that year they called me a pretty good high school sprinter, winning the Fresno Relays High School 100 yard dash in 10.1 seconds - 55 years ago on a dirt track with subpar shoes, less conditioning than today and non-scientific diets.
I took up residence at Stanford University, awaiting my call to the US Army Air Force, and due to a lack of upper classmen, ran a few hundred yard dashes, and debated on the University team, primarily against Univ of California on subjects such as Should we Have Military Constipation uh, Conscription and should we join the United Nations.

Gordon Military
Gordon Levy, c. 1945
Once in the Army, I learned that flight training, navigator school and gunnery training, were out because the war was ending, and I was going to be a cryptographer. The school lasted one day. That was fortunate because I did not really know what a cryptographer was. We were slated to be in the invasion of the Empire of Japan, but the atom bomb terminated that plan, for which I was eternally grateful. As a result, the military took me to the Army of Occupation in Germany, barely six months after the end of hostilities, and my prior training as a journalist landed me a position on the staff of an Army newspaper - where I covered sports, war crimes trials, and put the paper to bed in a German printing shop - Buchdrukerei - and couldn't wait to get home - just in time for the Big Game of 1946, which Stanford won, naturally. And as I look back, the experience in Germany, of seeing in person the Nazi leaders on trial, of watching the Bitch of Buchenwald in testimony - this year was a highlight of my life.
Next followed several years of returning to the world of academia - at Stanford, where we lived the good post war life, and I spent one season as a sprinter on the track team, where I ran against USC's Mel Patton in the LA Coliseum. Believe it or not, the world's greatest sprinter vomited before both the 100 and 220 in fear of ME, then proceeded to defeat me by 10 yards in the short race, and a bigger gap in the 220. My roommate summed it up, when I said how badly I was beaten, "At that moment, you were the second fastest sprinter in the world."

Gordon Track
Gordon Levy, c. 1947
I attended Stanford Law School for one year, as part of a special undergraduate program, then successfully negotiated with the Graduate School of Business, coming to San Jose in 1951 with Dean Witter and Co. Why San Jose? I had been the Stanford Sports correspondent for the San Jose Mercury - working with Louie Duino, Wes Mathis, Dan Hruby etc. - and got paid 10 cts per inch, so I wrote the longest stories possible. I figured my name would be recognizable in San Jose because of the many by-lines in the sports section, and it gave me a place to feel like it was home, but that proved to be an idle dream.
Dean Witter was my career until 1974 - I was the branch manager for 11 of those years, and I can recall when I came here in 1951, the Dow Jones Average was around 240 (now over 11,000), we did not have quote machines, copying machines, FAX machines, computers, cell phones, barely any TV - instant communications were a thing for the future. We had a boardmarker to keep stock quotes up to date with chalk, but EF Hutton put in an electric board to show us the wave of the future. There was no Microsoft, Yahoo or Apple - everyone was looking for the next IBM, and they sprouted up all around us.
In the early fifties, starting a family, creating a home and getting involved in community affairs, plus building a securities business occupied me completely. When our manager, who opened our office in 1947, Fred Korb, proposed me for Rotary in 1954, as an additional active, it was a thrill and a proud moment. Fred became president of this club on July 1, 1954, and suffering from heart disease and jaundice, passed away two weeks into his term, to be replaced by Bill Powell. Fred was a veteran of Pearl Harbor, diving off one of the Navy ships during the attack to save his life and swimming to shore on that day of Infamy. That experience caused the heart condition that took his life, and my membership in Rotary has been a type of memorial to him. He was a dynamic leader, and he was the real reason I came to San Jose.
After 23 years in the brokerage business, I decided that there must be more to life than Dean Witter, and joined Ron James, who was the new president of the San Jose Chamber of Commerce and Convention Visitors Bureau - a mouthful. I spent ten glorious years with Ron, but a heart attack and subsequent heart surgery caused me to reconsider my life, which brought me back to Dean Witter at the insistence of John Elliott, your current Treasurer. I have been back with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (I already paid a fine for this ) for 14 years, and must say that Dean Witter, John Elliott and San Jose have been good to me. In the twenties, Dean Witter himself travelled through here on a train, selling stocks and bonds along the way, while his cousin Jean Witter did the same in the San Joaquin Valley. And in those times the NYSE was open Saturdays.
I still have the wife I married 49 years ago, her name is Gerry, and many of you know her because she, too, believes in Rotary -- three marvelous children - one a golf professional if you can believe that, one an executive with Weyerhaeuser Lumber and the other a full time Mom at the moment. We have four grandchildren, all of them priceless. We just returned from a wedding of our first grandchild in Seattle, and we experienced a family reunion that we often dream about. So if it goes no further, it has been a good, productive and exciting life.
A couple of observations - as I mentioned, the change in the way we do business is significant, as well as the level of the DJ from 240 to 11,000. I was not smoking anything unusual in those days when I tried to interest people in stocks. We were known as customers men in those days, now financial advisors. At that time we had five brokers in San Jose, now about 100. A daily volume of 1,000,000 shares was big then - so big in 1970 that the NY Exchange closed one day a week to handle paperwork - now it often is a billion shares in one day. During my lifetime I was always younger than everyone else - now I am given senior citizen prices without asking, people hold doors open for me, and I can get preferred parking with a handicapped placard.
Through it all, Rotary has been a major part of my life - perfect attendance for 45 years - feeling that somewhere in every week there should be room for a Rotary meeting. In 1943, as president of the Fresno High School student body, I was privileged to attend the Fresno Rotary Club, so I can almost match Ernie Renzel in time of service. Serving as President of this Club in 1966-67 is the greatest honor I have ever received. The associations and friends I have made, through Rotary, the YMCA, Junior Achievement, the Jaycees and a flock of other activities has made it all worthwhile. But as I see that there are only a few past presidents, alive, who served before me -- Ernie Renzel, John King, Gordon Graham (who lives in Wyoming) and Bill Brownton I am beginning to sense how many years have passed. Thank you all for being part of it.
Through it all, I have tried to follow the principles of honesty and loyalty, which my father instilled in me at an early age, and I strongly urge everyone to practice those characteristics, because it has worked for me.
And now a word about Bob Kieve - he is a shining light on our community scene, he has been a giant in Rotary to this day. He and I were both sprinters of sort, we often confuse people because our hairlines have disappeared, he has had heart surgery - twice - while I have only had it once, and we both treasure Rotary. He is a journalist, which I pretended to be, and we have become good friends. And, at indoctrination meetings with new members, he means it when he says, "If you cannot stay for the whole meeting, don't come." We are both glad you came and stayed today.
Dad was one of a kind.  We still laugh today when we think of all of the crazy things he used to do and say.  But a picture is always worth 1,000 words so I hope this photo of him at his second grandchild’s wedding gives you a sense of what he was really like – after all, it was the big University of Washington/Stanford football game day and Dad needed to keep track of the score!

Gordon Headphones 2004
Gordon Levy, 2004

Miss you today and every day, Dad!