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Archive for August, 2008

The Carnival of Genealogy 55th Edition is “Show and Tell”.  “Remember that fun little exercise you used to do in your grade school days? Here’s your chance to do it again. Show us and tell us about an heirloom, a special photo, a valuable document, or a significant person that is a very special part of your family history. Don’t be shy now, show us what you’ve got! This is all about bragging rights so don’t hesitate to make the rest of us green with envy! This is your chance to brag, brag, brag, without seeming like a braggart (you can’t be a braggart when you’re merely following directions ;-)… so show and tell!”  This edition of the Carnival is hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene.

Do to the time constraints I have right now – I will be re-running one of my older posts on “The Christening Gown”.

The Christening Gown (originally published on May 28, 2008)

One of the items that I treasure is the Christening Gown my great-grandmother Katie J. (Blazer) Johnson hand made.  I first saw this gown when I was in high school and needed something that had been passed down through the family for an oral report.  Mom dug it out of the storage trunk and handed me the box.  Inside was this off-white gown and some pictures.  In the old photos were babies wearing this gown: my grandfather – Glen R. Johnson; his son – Glen R. Johnson, Jr.; my aunt – Genevieve; and my mother.  I’m not really sure they were all actually baptized or “christened” in this gown as I have other documents and oral histories about each one being baptized as an older child.

The gown is actually in 2 parts.  The slip which is plain gets put on the baby first and then the “dress” goes over that.  It has hand tatted lace and exquisite handiwork.  There are been some rust stains scattered here and there and Mom actually soaked the dress is carbonated water to remove most of them (old laundry hint!).

The dress remained at my mother’s and when it was time for my nephew’s first child to be baptized, the gown came out of storage and used.  When my first born grandson was to be baptized at six weeks, my mother shipped the box from Ohio to Texas to me.  Then my youngest grandson also wore the gown at 2 months when he was baptized.  The Christening Gown has been worn by 3 out of five generations (I don’t believe any of us – children of my mom, aunt or uncle or our children – have worn the gown).  It truly is a treasure that I will keep for future babies to use.

(Picture is of my youngest grandson wearing the gown at his baptism in October 2006.)

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Today’s “Freaky Friday” edition explores what I would encounter if I lived in a different era. I thought it would be easier if I started with the decade prior to my birth and then move backwards!

THE 1950s

Women weren’t entering the work force as more than nurses, teachers, switchboard operators, secretaries, waitresses or stewardesses (notice the different terminology than today?).  Generally if women attended college, it was for a nursing or teaching degree, to get involved in a sorority which could help them move in the correct social circles or to find a husband.  They weren’t inspired to reach for the sky to do anything they desired.

Families found entertainment through television which had reached the mainstream.  Evenings were spent watching “Your Show of Shows”, “Ozzie and Harriett” and Milton Berle.  They also spent time at local community social events or through travel usually in their new “finned” automobiles.  Air travel wasn’t as common as it is today.  Films that captured attention included science fiction especially in the face of the new Cold War. (see Footnote 1)

Young women wore poodle skirts, rolled up blue jeans, penny loafers and bobby sox.  They dressed conservatively lest they be saddled with an unsavory reputation.  Married and older women wore tailored suits to church and social ocassions.  They were polished and dressed well when they were out in public.

Rock and roll was brand new and under close scrutiny from parents and those in authority.  Musical artists who came into their own during this decade include Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Bill Haley and the Comets among many others.

Women who were married, especially after children were born, stayed at home and ran the household.  Not only was she the housekeeper, the cook, and the laundress, but she took care of everyone’s schedule, made a hot meal three times a day, joined the PTA, the church ladies organization, and community or social groups.

When she went to the grocery store, she generally paid less than $1/gallon of milk; less than .20/loaf of bread; and less than $1 for a T-bone steak.  When her new Ford (costing less than $2,500) was filled up with gas, she paid less than .30 per gallon. (see Footnote 2)

SummarY 1950S vs 2008

  • Career: Secretary – CEO/owner of own business
  • Education: high school diploma – PhD
  • Being Unmarried: Old Maid – Single Woman
  • Being married: wife & mother – partner in marriage
  • Entertainment: Ozzie & Harriett (not quite reality TV) – Survivor (reality TV)
  • Films: The Blob – The Dark Knight
  • Music: Early Rock & Roll – Heavy Metal
  • Daily life: Centered around needs of family & others – attempting to be Superwoman
  • Social activities: PTA, garden club – (still) PTA, physical fitness activities, sports, volunteerism
  • In the Home: cooking, cleaning, etc. – dividing up the chores, hiring a lawn & maid service to help
  • Prices: .27/gallon of gas – $3.40/gallon; .90/gallon of milk – $4/gallon of milk
  • Travel: family vehicle – air travel

In conclusion, I can’t honestly say I would be less happy in the decade of the 1950s as I am today.  My parents were older when I was born so they had lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the 1950s so they had the values of the time.  In many ways my values were shaped from how I was raised and the ideals within my family.  Yet, I’ve come to appreciate and sometimes depend on the technology we have today.  Don’t have time to go to the library, check the internet.  Want to see a movie that no one else in the family wants to see, download it and watch it whenever you want on your computer or Ipod.  Forget what else you were supposed to buy at the store, use the cell phone to call home.  Don’t have time to wash all those dishes, load the dishwasher.  Don’t have time to preheat the oven and cook dinner, set the microwave.  Unfortunately the down side to all of this is that patience is tested – not only for waiting for a page to download from the computer but waiting in line at the post office or in traffic.  Not often is there time to actually stop and smell the flowers let alone eat two or three meals together each night.  Days are scheduled down to the last minute without any give built in for spontaneity and fun.  Perhaps it’s time to bring a little of the 1950s “slowness” to modern times – if only to be able to appreciate each day before it draws to a close, lost forever in all those other days that we eventually wish we could have again.

Footnote 1: Wikipedia – 1950s

Footnote 2: What it cost in 1954

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This photograph was taken in Coshocton, Ohio in the early 1940s.  Those in the picture include:
Back Standing: Norman, Gail, Bervil, Paul, & my dad, Gene; Front row: Gertrude, my grandfather – Lloyd, my grandmother – Ella (House), and Marie.  All seven children of my grandparents were together.  I don’t know the reason for this ocassion.

This photograph was taken in the Summer of 1967 in St. Claire Shores, Michigan at my Uncle Pauls’ home during the very first Amore Sibling (Descendents of Lloyd and Ella Amore) reunion.  This reunion was actually recorded on reel-to-reel tape, and I know have the CD of this recording.  I hope to get it transcribed at some point.  Left to right: my dad – Gene, Paul, Marie, Gertrude, Gail, and Norman.  My Uncle Bervil didn’t come to this reunion or to any of the subsequent reunions.  He also never went to the Amore-Baker reunion held for the Descendents of Henry and Annie Amore except maybe once.

This one shows Norman, Paul, Marie, Gail, and Gertrude.  My dad was taking the picture so he’s not in it.  This was taken at a Sibling reunion in the 1970s. 

What I find interesting is how close the brothers and sisters remained most of their lives.  Besides getting together once a year for their own reunion (held at each others’ homes), most of them traveled to the Amore-Baker reunion that was also held every year in Coshocton.  They also visited with each other quite a bit.  Unfortunately as age and health concerns creeped up on each of them, the visits grew further and further apart.  My Uncle Norman moved closer to my dad in the 90s.  My Uncle Paul moved from his home in Michigan to Las Vegas to live with his surviving son after my aunt passed away.  Luckily my dad lived out West for a good number of years and was able to visit him at least once a year.  My Uncle Gail passed away in the early 1980s.  My Aunt Gertrude became more reclusive and stopped communicating with her siblings in the 90s.  Today only Aunt Marie and my dad are the only ones left.  I feel quite lucky that I saw my uncles and aunts a lot while I was growing up since they seemed to be spread out from Illinois to Michigan to Pennsylvania to Ohio.  The last time I saw all of them together (minus Uncle Bervil) was in the early 1970s at the last Sibling reunion I was able to attend.  Someday I hope that all of us that are left – descendents of Lloyd and Ella – now spread out even further than before – can make an effort to come together to remember those who came before us and catch up on family ties.  There are 11 of us first cousins left – many of us haven’t seen each other or spoken to each other in over 30 years.

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Top: Amore family

Center: Amore Siblings minus one brother, Bervil

Bottom: Amore Siblings minus two brothers (one was taking the picture & the other was absent)

All photographs owned by: Wendy Littrell [address for private use]

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Audio Tapes

In the 1950s when my parents lived in Japan, they bought a reel-to-reel tape player and recorded oral letters which they sent to my grandparents in Ohio.  There weren’t many that survived as they were erased, recorded over or became so bad no one could understand what was recorded on them.  Those that did survive were compiled into CDs by my cousin and sent out to those of us who were there.  I really wasn’t there as it was many years before I was born.  I’m on one or two tapes that were recorded at my dad’s family reunions. 

Yesterday I received these seven CDs in the mail and hurriedly put one in to listen.  I had never heard my sister as a young girl or my brother’s voice as a young man.  All of them – including my parents – sound so young.  Then today I listened to another CD that included the voices of my grandparents. 

To say that this is like Christmas for me would be an understatement.  I’m hearing people whose voices I haven’t heard in many years.  Even though I have dozens of handwritten letters, there is something to be said to actually hear family speak about their day to day activities.  I hear the excitement of being in a new country, the sadness of being so far from family, the laughter from being silly, and the fear when my aunt became very sick.

My cousin probably doesn’t really understand just how much these CDs mean to me.  It’s a piece of time that will never come again – yet it’s been captured forever in the lilting words of my family.

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Many of you have been following the Genea-Blogger Group Games during the last couple weeks and the closing ceremonies were yesterday.  Thomas MacEntee from Destination: Austin Family hosted the ceremonies. Please go to Closing Ceremonies to see all the flags of the participants and the medals won.

Here are the awards I received:

Cite Sources – Platinum

Organize Your Research – Gold

Write! Write! Write! – Diamond

Genealogical Acts of Kindness – Diamond

I want to congratulate all of the participants on – not only acquiring a medal or two (or three or four or . . . ) – but on getting a little more organized.  We are such a great team!  Go Team GBG!

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I decided to head over to Alltop to see who all made the list and much to my surprise . . . (wait for it) . . . (wait for it) . . . I made the list! Do we have a party now? Confetti! Noise makers! Champagne! I’m a cool kid, too!

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