Sunday, March 28, 2021

52 Ancestors: Loss - Levy Bros. Profit & Loss Records

I've had this book, which belonged to my grandfather Sig Levy, for many years sitting on a table.  I'd glanced through it a few times but it wasn't until this blog prompt came up that I spent more time with it.  Remember, my grandparents saved everything.

Here's the first page.

When I looked at this it occurred to me to search for it to see if I could find any history on it.  While I didn't find history, I did find an identical book selling on eBay for $31.45.

Look at that - a Profit and Loss Statement for May.  Actually, there are pages and pages for each month but this is just an example.

And on the opposite side of each month is individual years - this is 1931-1936.

Even though my father thought I'd be a good accountant, I quickly realized that profession was not for me.  So I'd really have to study this to figure out what it all means.

I found the salary detail interesting - this is from Jan 1-June 30, 1941.  I laugh to myself that each time the four brothers were listed it is always in age order - Herb, Leon, Sig, Ben.  So they each made $1500 dollars over 6 months or $250 per week.  In today's dollars that would be $4618 per month.  

And look at that - a couple of other Levys were working with the firm.  Herb Levy, Jr. was Herb's only son.  And Robert Levy was Sig's oldest son and my uncle.  In 1941 Rob would have been just 21 years old and about ready to enlist.  I can see that the following 6 months (July 1 - December 31, 1941) he earned $117 and the following six months was just $18.  Probably just a part time job.

And Herb's daughter, Barbara, also worked for the firm in 1944 and made a whopping $92 for the year.  

The commission page was especially interesting to see what properties sold for back then.

I looked up the house at 647 No. Van Ness Avenue, built in 1932, and Zillow shows the estimated value of $260,000 today.  And the house at 610 Pine Avenue, built in 1935, has an estimated value of $592,352.  

Levy Bros. was a successful business until 1965 after Ben's death left Sig as the only remaining brother.  Hopefully, the business never experienced a "Loss".


Sunday, March 21, 2021

52 Ancestors: Fortune - 10 years of blogging

This week's blog prompt is Fortune.  Many of my ancestors had one fortune or another - a long and healthy life, a house full of children, a successful career, or a large bank account.  But today I want to concentrate on the Fortune I've had by starting this blog 10 years ago tomorrow.

Photo by Phae

You can read my first post HERE.  I remember writing that first post (thanks again for the push, Kerry!) and wondering if I'd have enough to say.  When I first started blogging I was so envious of the ephemera that other bloggers had and longed to find just a snippet of what they had. Be careful what you wish for!  

The first two years of blogging I was able to share what I'd learned with my mother and each year for Christmas I put together a book using Blurb to share with her since she didn't use a computer.  I remember sitting together and looking through the book and I could see a gleam in her eyes when she learned something new about her family.  Seeing the happiness it brought to her is what helped me to keep going and sometimes when I feel like I've had enough, I think that maybe, just maybe, someone will be glad that I did.

Over those 10 years, I've written 407 posts and had 1835 comments on the blog plus countless others on Facebook.  In looking back on the posts, the most read posts were:

Back in Time  The story of my grandfather asking my grandmother's parents if they could be married.  And the letter they wrote back to him giving their permission.  What a beautiful love story.

Wanted: Herman Levy Herman Levy was my great grandfather and has been a bit of a brick wall for me.  I posted this on the History of Fresno Facebook page and received a lot of views.  Over the course of the last 10 years I've connected with many grandchildren and great grandchildren of Herman - maybe one day we'll all be able to bust through this wall!

Best Wishes for a Long and Happy Life Together  The end of the books recording the wedding of my parents.  I have such wonderful memories of lying on the floor with my sister and pouring over these books.  

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Where Were They 100 Years Ago?  It's fun to look back at where our ancestors were living, especially when there's a picture of the house!

Grandma Was a Party Animal!  I loved going through my grandmother's scrapbook and learning about her as a young woman.  Not only am I happy that she had a scrapbook but that she saved it for me to find!

Not necessarily one of the most viewed posts (although it is much more recent so hasn't had the opportunity for people to "find" it) was one I struggled with for the blog prompt.

52 Ancestors: Multiple - Love Letters  My grandparents' thoughts during the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918. I have finished the transcription project and am now working through the letters my mother wrote to my father when he went away to college and then into the service.  Just proves that my dad had the packrat gene as he saved the letters.  Unfortunately, my mother must have missed the memo that she was supposed to save his letters as I haven't run across any yet.  

It's been an amazing 10 years and I've learned so much about my family.  I would like nothing more than to share this with my father, who used to give me tidbits of information, for I know the joy it would have brought him.  But he knows, he knows.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

52 Ancestors: Name's the Same - Winfield Scott Byrd

A year ago, the blogging prompt was Same Name and I wrote about my husband's great grandfather, Winfield Scott Byrd.  You can read about it HERE.  

A similar blog prompt this week had me thinking about another ancestor(s) who had the same name and it suddenly occurred to me that as I was preparing last week's blog, I found a photo of Winfield Scott Byrd! 

It started with discovering this photo album that belonged to my mother-in-law.  Sure, I'd seen it before but had tucked it away into a box to save for a rainy day.

I showed it to my husband and we couldn't figure out who most of the people were because many of the photos were loose or just haphazardly thrown in.

My mother-in-law had included a Record of the Photographs, although it was written in pencil so it was a little difficult to read.  And not sure how to figure out who was on which page.

On one page there was a photo of an older gentleman who we thought might have been a teacher.  It was 'glued' down but my husband decided he wanted to look on the back to see if it was labeled.  I about had a heart attack as he lifted the photo out and what did we see?  A labeled photo.  And not just any photo but the label read "Daddy Byrd (My Grandpa), January 27, 1935, Nampa, Idaho".  This was Winfield Scott Byrd!

Winfield Scott Byrd, January 27, 1935
88 years old

I'm so glad to have found this - and especially glad that my husband didn't listen to me as he took it out of the album!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

52 Ancestors: Multiples - The Mystery of the Twins

I have heard stories that I have some multiple births in my family but I have not been able to confirm that.  So when the blog prompt of Multiples came up, I immediately thought about my husband's grandmother, Pearl Grumer, and her twin, Ruth Grumer.  We have very few photos of Pearl and the one below is the only photo we have of Ruth.

LtoR:  Ruth Grumer, Kenneth Whitmore, Pearl Grumer, Ruby Byrd, Evenlyn LaRoche, Marcus Byrd

Pearl and Ruth were born on 1 April, 1894 in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  They were the daughters of Mary Nelson, who was born in Sweden, but we are unclear as to who their biological father was.  They, along with their sister Bertha, were apparently adopted by Frank Grumer after his marriage to Mary in 1897.  My mother-in-law referred to Frank as "Daddy Grumer" and thought that the children had, indeed, been adopted.  Ruth's death certificate states that her father was Frank Grumer while Pearl's states that her father was unknown.  Sadly, I don't know anything about Mary Nelson and my friend in Sweden has searched for her unsuccessfully - Mary Nelson is a pretty common name.

I can find no census records for Mary and the children in 1900 but found Frank in Green River, Wyoming as a lodger.  His age and birthplace are correct but it shows that he was single.  Huh?

By 1910 Frank is in Green River with Mary and the girls and it shows that he and Mary were married for 18 years.  Another fact that seems incorrect since they were married in 1897 - maybe they said they were married prior to the twins' birth so no one knew they were adopoted.

1920 found the family in Green River - Frank, Mary, Pearl, Bertha, and Bertha's 5 year old daughter, Bernice.  Ruth was married and lived nearby.

Pearl married Marcus Burket Byrd in 1921 and by 1930, they were in Sacramento with their young daughter, Ruby.  Marcus worked on the railroad so the family moved around often.

I'd like to solve the mystery of who the biological father was - perhaps it was Frank and since the girls were all born prior to their marriage, maybe they kept that a secret.

Sadly, Pearl died before my husband was born so he never had the opportunity to know her except through the few pictures we have of her.

Pearl (Grumer) Byrd

Pearl, along with her husband Marcus Byrd, are buried in Sunrise Memorial Cemetery in Vallejo, California.  Ruth is buried with her husband, James LaRoche, in nearby Skyview Memorial Lawn in Vallejo.

I'm not giving up!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

52 Ancestors: Unusual Source - U.S. War Rations

My parents, Gordon and Gerry (Martin) Levy, met at Fresno High School in about 1943 - dad was a senior, Mom was a sophomore.  Shortly after my dad graduated in June, 1944 he went away to Stanford to start his college career.  Of course, Mom missed him terribly so she did what people did in those days, she wrote letters to her man.  With social media and e-mail today, those hand written letters are virtually non-existent but, fortunately, my dad inherited the "pack rat" gene and saved the letters she wrote to him.

Gerry Martin and Gordon Levy, c. 1944

They look so young in this photo but it would have been about the time they were writing to each other.  Note:  My mother apparently did not have the "pack rat" gene as I haven't located any of the letters he wrote to her.

My latest project has been transcribing the letters she wrote to him and I've learned a lot about my mother from these letters.  I could research for years and years and without this unusual source I would never have learned details about her cousin Norma, whom she spent a lot of time with, and Norma's parents, Winnie (Dick) and John Hoey.  And who would have guessed her overuse of the exclamation point!!!!!!  But most of all, I would have never understood just how much this young woman who had just turned 16 loved my dad. 

As I transcribed letters yesterday, I came to a very interesting section where she wrote on September 2, 1944:
Just went down to get the steaks!!!  Beautiful 2 inch thick T-bones!!!   This isn’t common knowledge but we don’t have to pay the points until we get them!  Also I think the place should be reported to the A.P.A. for the prices they charge!!  Not because they’re high but because they’re so low!!!!  Please don’t think we’re too awful – we’re not you know!!!

Of course my radar went up as I typed the part about common knowledge and then - what?  Points?  So I did what any person in 2021 would do and immediately started researching.  And sure enough, I started learning about meat and cheese rationing in World War II.  

I came across a blog at that was very interesting.  On March 29, 2018 she wrote this:

Rationing of meat and cheese was an important part of life on the US Home front.  A complex and constantly changing system kept grocery shoppers on their toes.

The United States produced meat and cheese for her civilians and military, and also for her Allies.  During World War I, food shortages were a serious problem, with hoarding, escalating prices, and rushes on stores.  When World War II started, the government reduced deliveries to stores and restaurants, instituted price controls, and urged people to voluntarily reduce consumption.  Britain had already instituted a point-based rationing system and had found it effective, so the United States decided to implement a similar program in 1943.  Rationing made sure everyone got a fair share.

Did Mom or Dad ever talk about this?  While I knew there had been rationing, I didn't really think abut the fact that it could have affected my parents or even grandparents.  But, apparently, it had.

And the blog went on to say:

War Ration Books Two, Three, and Four contained blue stamps for processed foods and red stamps for meat, cheese, and fats.  Each person received 64 red stamps each month, providing 28 ounces of meat and 4 ounces of cheese per week.  The stamps were printed with a number for point value and a letter to specify the rationing period - such as C8.  Rationing calendars in newspapers declared which stamps were current and for how long.  To prevent fraud, the stamps had to be torn off in the presence of the grocer.  Stamps were good for one, two, five, or eight points, with "no change" given, so the shopper had to be careful to use the exact number of stamps.  The system was simplified on February 27, 1944, when plastic tokens were issued as change.

Each cut of meat was assigned a point value per pound, based not on price or quality, but on scarcity.  These point values varied throughout the war depending on supply and demand.  "Variety meats" such as kidney, liver, brain, and tongue had little use for the military,, so their point values were low.  On May 3, 1944, thanks to a good supply, all meats except steak and choice cuts of beef were removed from rationing - temporarily. 

You can read her complete blog HERE

And then it hit me - I'd seen War Ration Books somewhere around my house so I went on a hunt to find them.  There they were - the property of my husband's maternal grandparents, Pearl (Grumer) and Marcus Burket Byrd.

Pearl (Grumer) and Marcus Byrd, date unknown

I have to laugh - "Do not lose it".

Never pay more than the legal price - how did you know what was legal?

My mother's letters to my dad have proven to be an unusual source and I had no idea the things I'd learn.  Who knew?

Sunday, February 7, 2021

52 Ancestors: In the Kitchen - Tamale Pie!


Yes, that's me in the kitchen apparently helping Mom cook.  Funny, I don't remember ever being 'allowed' to help in the kitchen but here's proof that I did.  My mother always wore an apron - looks like I followed in her footsteps.

Mom was a good cook and I remember that she typically prepared a 'well balanced' meal each night - salad (not always green but maybe shrimp, macaroni, etc.), a meat (chicken, steak, or icky chicken liver), and a vegetable (broccoli, squash, carrots).  But once in a while she'd make some sort of casserole, most memorably "goop" and tamale pie.

I don't remember ever making tamale pie as an adult and doubt that my children have ever had a taste.  But when Mom died and we were cleaning out her house, I remember my brother, sister, and I reminiscing about tamale pie and did any of us have the recipe?  We all quickly chimed in "NO"!

So as we continued to clean, we all stayed on the lookout for the recipe.  And when we got to "the" recipe box, we figured we were close.  I don't remember when Mom started this recipe box but you can see that it's seen better days.

There were a lot of recipes stuffed inside.  And sure enough, there it was!

Tamale Casserole?  What the heck?  We always called in Tamale Pie so I was a bit confused and even wondered if I'd found the correct recipe.  But after a trial run, my taste buds told me it was THE one.

Disclaimer:  The first time I made it I found it impossible to find Nalleys Enchaladas (cracks me up that she spelled it like that) or any other brand of canned enchiladas.  So I punted and used two cans of tamales instead - wouldn't it be better to have an additional can of tamales in Tamale Pie anyway?  And this year required three trips to three different grocery stores to find canned tamales - darn Covid!

I don't know if Mom switched it up but I always remember the olives being whole rather than chopped.  I can remember biting into them and a bonus squirt of tamale pie would take over.  Yum!

Years ago someone in the genealogy world shared a photo of a recipe they'd had etched into a bamboo board and instantly I knew what I would give my brother and sister that year for Christmas.  Maybe I couldn't ship them food but I sure could send them this.

I love that it's in Mom's handwriting!

We never really do much on Christmas Day so I've started a new tradition - I make Tamale Pie.  And just like I remember, it is so, so good.  See those whole olives in there?

I don't remember Mom serving it in a 'special' bowl but I have realized that we all have certain foods that go into certain bowls.  Mashed potatoes in this bowl, green salad in that bowl.  And now I have a Tamale Pie bowl, although I might need to double the recipe so that it fills up the bowl.

I don't have a photo of Mom with her apron on but I do need to shout out my compliments to the chef!  And what woman in the 1950's didn't wear pearls to a barbeque?

Thanks for the recipe, Mom!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

52 Ancestors: Favorite Photo - It's not just a house

A house is not just a house - it holds special memories for generations.  One such house is this one - I doubt there are too many homes that a professional artist captured in color.  This "photo" hung on my parents' wall for years and I was lucky enough to take it home with me when we cleaned out the house in 2013.  Thanks brother and sister!  

Sig Levy house, Echo Avenue, Fresno - Artist Donna Locati

My grandparents, along with my Dad and his older brother, built and moved into this home in 1934 when my dad was just 7 years old.  I've written about the house HERE and HERE.  But to recap.....

The house looked a lot different in 1934 when they moved in.  I can just imagine the excitement of the young family as they looked forward to the many memories that would be made in that house.  Amazing what a little landscaping does.

In 1982 when my grandmother died, we went to finish cleaning out the house and I took a few photos.  It sure was bittersweet to see a 'For Sale' sign in front.

My 2nd cousin (our grandfathers were brothers) lives around the corner and knows the owners of the house, only the second owners since 1982.  I remember at one point my dad was in Fresno and because he was fearless, he stopped the car in front of the house and marched himself up to the front door and rang the bell.  Sure enough, the owners were home and invited him in for a tour.  

Google Maps shows it looks like this today.  Much nicer to see the foliage cut back so the house can be seen better.  I did like the dark trim and balcony railing, though.

I love having the painting in my home - it brings a smile to my face every time I walk by.  Be sure to take some photos today of your house, and other important houses, so you can see the changes as time goes on.  Remember, it's not just a house.