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

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Herbarium:  A collection of preserved plant specimens.  These may be whole plants or part plants: these will usually be in a dried form mounted on a sheet but, depending upon the material, may also be kept in alcohol or other preservative.  (Wikipedia)

Looks like my grandfather, Sigmund Levy, had his very own Herbarium!

The Kenilworth Herbarium and Plant Analysis, copyrighted in January,1899, was a series of blank forms (11x14 inches) on one side of which the plant was mounted and classified, and upon the other side an outline was given for a complete and systematic analysis of the plant, with space for drawings of important parts.

When I opened up the book, I found this written on the inside front cover.

Looks like it might have been a hobby or even a school project for Sig.

The book gives a pretty nice order of description for the owner to follow – and it looks like Sig followed the instructions perfectly!

Here’s the page that faced this with the actual plant still mounted into the book.

Based on the date of March 20, 1903, Sig would have been just shy of his 15th birthday.  I can't get over the perfect handwriting - I have quite a few things of Sig's with his handwriting and it is never this perfect.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Here’s another interesting page.

Cemetery?  Sig, WHICH CEMETERY?  What were you doing there?  Just collecting plants or visiting a relative?  So many questions!

Delphinium Photo
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

So it looks like Sig was a packrat in his own right.and I can completely understand where my dad got his packrat tendencies.  Note to self:  don’t follow too closely in my ancestor’s footsteps.

I can’t believe this book is 112 years old.  Thanks for leaving it for me, Sig!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Memorial Tributes – Mabel McAboy Fitzgerald

I’ve had this box of things tucked away in a drawer and I decided to finally get it out and look through it.  I guess it’s official that my paternal grandparents weren’t the only packrats in the family – they shared that gene with my maternal grandmother, as well.  Although I will say that I can completely understand hanging on to the things you received when your mother died – how could you throw something like that away?  Inside the box was this book.

Memorial Tributes

And when I opened it up, I saw it was memorializing the death of my great grandmother, Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald.  For the most part, the book was blank except for telling me that the services were held at the John N. Lisle Chapel in Fresno on November 15, 1966 at 2:30 p.m. with the Rev. Chester Snyder officiating.  But this page had some interesting information on it.

Clarence & Lorraine Follett (Mabel’s granddaughter and her husband)
Clara Hunter (Mabel’s daughter and my grandmother)
Warren Crawford (husband of Mabel’s daughter, Viola)
Stanley Fitzgerald (Mabel’s son)
E.F. Fitzgerald (Mabel’s husband and my great grandfather)
Viola Crawford (Mabel’s daughter)
Mr. & Mrs. Ferd. Fries (unknown but a pallbearer)
Mrs. Weisbrodt (unknown)
Winifred Hoey (daughter of Clara McAboy Hoey and Mabel’s niece)

And the funeral card.

Funeral Card Front

Funeral Card Inside

I don’t remember anything about this funeral and have no idea if I was even there but my dad was a pallbearer.

And more stuff!

I went through each card – some were cards which were attached to floral arrangements and some were ‘announcing’ the presence of someone at the service.  Here’s a few interesting ones.

Card Sig Levy

Looks like my paternal grandparents were there.  And that’s Sig’s handwriting.

And so many people sent flowers and someone wrote the type of arrangement on the back of the cards.

Flower Card Henry Langworthy

Henry was the son of Mabel’s sister, Lilly Gay McAboy, and William Ralph Langworthy.  Henry sent pink and white carnations.

Flower card John Fitzgerald

John Fitzgerald was the brother of Edward Fitzgerald (my great grandfather) – Jack and Elfie were his son and daughter-in-law.  They sent lavender chrysanthemum and pink carnations with a pink bow.

Flower card Sig Levy

And my paternal grandparents sent flowers and this is Loraine’s handwriting – I’d know it ANYWHERE!  They sent a bronze mum plant and someone added on the back Please Give Water.  Hope someone did that!

Flower card Gordon Levy

Even my parents sent flowers!  They sent a wreath of lavender mums, pom poms and pink roses.

This one just breaks my heart.

Flower card Ed Fitzgerald

Oh geez, he sent flowers?  The spray sounds beautiful and had a satin ribbon saying “Loving Wife”.  I do remember after she died Great Grandpa was overcome with grief and cried for months.  As I remember, the two of them were having some sort of disagreement so Mabel decided to spend the night at my grandmother’s house where she died in her sleep, just 6 days before their 65th wedding anniversary.  And being a sensitive 12 year old, I also remember just a month later picking out cloth handkerchiefs as my gift to him for Christmas.

Mabel is buried in I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Fresno.

Mabel grave

I don’t know why this is spelled Mable – everything I’ve seen is spelled Mabel including the record of her birth.  A mistake?  Did no one care or did no one take the time to make it right?

Mabel McAboy c 1965
Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald
6 Jun 1883 – 12 Nov 1966