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green park

My parents, brother and sister called Green Park apartments in Tokyo, Japan their home for a short time when they lived overseas in the 1950s. Built around 1953, the complex had everything families would need under one roof – a post exchange, a movie theater, club for teens, etc.

For more information about Green Park, please visit Green Park photo essay featured on the Japan Brats website (which is also a very cool site to peruse if you happened to spend a lot of growing up years in Japan as a military brat – I’m looking at my sister here!)

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gaffeygazette

In 1953, my dad had already been in Japan for several months. Now, it was time for my mom, brother and sister to make the journey. They boarded the USNS General Hugh Gaffey for the trip over the sea from Seattle to Japan. Following are bits of my mother’s letter diary she wrote.

June 10, 1953
Well, will start our daily diary on board ship.
June 9 – We were up at 5:00 A.M. at the Hostess House. Had our bed check at 6:00. Bags were picked up at 6:30. Then we went to breakfast at 7:00 A.M. Had 2 hrs to wait. At 9:10 we boarded buses to take us to the pier. Everything went according to schedule. At 10:15 we unloaded, rec’d our passports and went aboard.
Mom Ann Mike on ship
After looking over our cabin & stowing away some of our packages we carried aboard, we went up on deck. Our cabin is on B deck which is 2 decks below. Have nice quarters. It was very interesting to watch people coming aboard as we were among the first to board. The band was playing. We took several pictures of the dock and band & people coming aboard.
We pulled away from the pier promptly at 11:00. Stayed on deck for awhile, then went below. We are on 2nd call for mess so our hrs are 8:00 A.M., 11:45 and 5:15.
In the afternoon we had to go to a meeting and also had a fire & boat drill. We don’t stay below too long at a time as I guess the depth and rocking of the ship makes you squeamish.
We went up on the sun deck and watched the sights. We are traveling the great circle route which is by way of Alaska. Our ship travels 29 knots & goes faster than you realize. At 7 o’clock I asked one of the Lt’s if we were out of the sound yet as we still saw land. He laughed & said what you see now is the Aleutian chain, stretching out from Alaska. The sun never set till 10 P.M. last nite & was beautiful. Also at 10 P.M. we saw the last touch of land. The children have curfew at 8:00 P.M. They have to be in bed by that hr.  We will only be on the water 9 sailing days but due to the time change will actually be 10 according to the calendar. I heard someone talking & they said we would skip Sat, but will wait & see, you hear so many rumors you’d be dizzy if you believe them all.
June 10 – It is now 11:15 and will soon go to lunch.  We were up at 6:30 and made ourselves presentable, at our breakfast or rather I did. Was raining this A.M. & real rough.  Was like riding the elevator.  The ship just pitches about.  The Captain announced some of the decks closed due to rough weather.  He expects to be out of this roughness in the next day or two. In the evening played canasta.  We have coffee hr at 9:00 so drank coffee & ate angel food cake & then retired.  The ships paper said we traveled 471 miles in the last 25 hrs.
June 11th – We sat our watches back one hr in the nite, and made it difficult to try to sleep. The sea is really rough today the ship just rocks from side to side & back & forth. We have run into considerable fog. Was talking to the Capt of the ship & he said this fog has put us back a day & they have changed course. He’s a very nice person & comes around & talks with everyone. We have slowed down to 15 knots & traveled 560 miles in the last 25 hrs. We have 2400 troops aboard too & I feel for those boys. They don’t have any privileges & have to stay either on the forward deck or aft. and have no protection. They are quartered on the same deck as we are but are in the center of the ship & very poor ventilation.
June 12th – We sat our watches back another hr in the nite, and are to set our watches back again tonite. We rec’d our declarations forms for customs at 8:30 this morning. It is quite a job to fill it out. Had another boat & fire drill this morning at 10:30. Tomorrow we pay our subsistence. It is much cheaper than we all thot. Is only 16.43 per person so will only come to little over $49.00. Here I was planning on $90.00. The trip across is cheaper than the trip from Ohio to Seattle.
June 13th – We ran into a storm in the late afternoon & tossed the ship.  Our port holes were latched down & our room was like a dungeon.  It is the Aleutian squall we are in.
June 14th – It’s Sunday & sure is rough.  The bow of the ship comes up out of the water & slaps down.  Still have our port holes latched down.  It is stifling in the cabin.  All decks are out of bounds as the waves are quite high & we toss about.
June 16th – It is Tuesday.  We cross the international date line yesterday afternoon.  So we missed Monday entirely.  The sea has calmed so our port hole is open.  Has warmed up & by grapevine we are 2½ days out of Yokohoma.  Boy this is a long boat ride, even tho I haven’t got sick I’ve seen all the water I want to for awhile.  It’s the monotony that gets me.
June 17 – Wed & just a few more days to go.  The day passed very fast for me.
Debarkation title
June 18 – Thurs & today & tomorrow before we get off this ship.  We will drop anchor late tomorrow afternoon about 20 miles off shore & then Sat morning will dock. It is getting very hot. We ran into a squall last nite & they latched down the port holes & brother we roasted. I’m sitting here in my slip trying to cool off. Will write more tomorrow.
Fri June 19th.  This is our final day sailing.  Will drop anchor sometime this evening.  Also we are to see land about eight tonite, sure will be good to see the good solid land (even tho its Japan it’s better than all this water).  The steward was telling me it’s a sight to watch the husbands come storming up the gang plank.  They are to come on by alphabetical order there’s no stopping them.  I’m going on deck to watch them & take some pictures then will rush down to the cabin.
Sat – June 20.  This is the great day.  It seems nobody slept much in the nite.  Saw land for the first in 9 days.  We had stopped around midnight & was sitting outside the harbor.

Yokohama harbor
At 8:30 had our money changed.  Then back on deck.  We couldn’t take pictures till we were 300 yds from the pier.  We had a good spot along the rail.  Finally we could see the sponsors & band in the distance.  Seemed the ship would never get to the pier.  I started taking pictures of the band just as we nosed into the pier.  I spotted Gene right away.  They were all standing on a high balcony.  I started waving & finally he spotted us.  He used the binoculars so he could see us close.  He also was taking pictures as the ship was pulled alongside.  Gene was smart & started downstairs.  He got up to the gate so he could be one of the first on board.  All the passengers on board had to go to their cabins so the sponsors could find you.  He had a staff car & driver to take us to where we were going.  Went thru customs.  I’ll bring this diary to a close for this time.

(Photos: Mom, her roommate Ann and my sister on the deck of the USNS General Hugh Gaffey. Photographer: Jim Amore. Digital image scanned from original slide by Wendy Littrell; Scans of ship’s newspaper, originals in possession of Wendy Littrell; photo of Yokohama Harbor. Photographer: Jim Amore. Digital image scanned from original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell – address for private use.)

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Blog Throwback Thursday

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I’ve realized that I just can not do Wordless Wednesday posts because I always have something to say about a photo. I picked the photo above for Throwback Thursday not for the person (me at a very young age) but the items captured by my father when he photographed me.

A few years after this photo was taken, my dad built a bookcase to separate the entry way of our house from the living room. He also laid laminate tile on the floor so the carpeting on the upper left side of the picture had to be taken up. The new couch next to me was black and orange. Mom was never crazy about the color but she liked the way it sat so she had it recovered in a burnt orange color. Some forty years later, that same couch was where family sat mourning her death. A couch that no one wanted and no one could haul off. I wonder if someone is enjoying it now almost seven years after she died or if it ended up in a dump somewhere.

The dining chair now sits in my home in Missouri – along with the table and other chairs of the set. Who knew that when this picture was taken back in 1965 that I would know exactly where that chair was going to end up?

The table between the chair and the television sat under my vanity for a very long time in our Texas home. Inside – where once was magazines and needlework books – were wooden Disney characters from Bambi. Those figures had graced my bedroom wall as a young child. Now, they are packed away.

That old black and white television set was the only TV in our house. Many times when the TV would get a “snowy” picture, Dad would climb on the roof to adjust the antenna. I would stand at the open door while he moved it around so that way I could relay what was happening on the TV as Mom watched to see if a picture was coming in. I’m not sure what commercial was on the televison when Dad snapped the picture but obviously whatever medicine it was “effective as codeine!”

Many years later, that TV set was put in the basement when we got a brand new color television! But we still had to get up out of our seat and cross the room to change the channel!

When I see pictures of objects that were familiar to me as a child, I always feel a sense of nostalgia. For me, genealogy is so much more than searching for ancestors who have come and gone. It is a history and what transpired within the lives of those people to make them who they were. Such is it for me. Remembering how I felt at certain points in my life – and the objects and places around me – is part of my history. My kids and grandchildren will not know details about why a particular place, or thing, or moment in history is important to me unless I tell them. And tell them again. And again.

Have you shared your memories and history with your family?

(Photo by Eugene J Amore; original slide and digital version in possession of Wendy Littrell – Address for private use)

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Two years ago, I posted an article about my my great-grandfather’s brother, Jacob Marion Wilt. If you haven’t read it or need a refresher, please go here.

In summary, I have not been able to locate any further information on Jacob nor on his wife, Sena Gibson, for the last two years. I located their son, Russell, and his wife, Ferna Potter (I learned her maiden name!), along with their daughter, Thelma. Or is she (more on that below)?

Yesterday, after checking Find a Grave one more time, lo and behold! There was the headstone for Jacob. Checking in the same cemetery, I located Sena, Russell, and Ferna! Yes, I did a happy dance – not so much of a dance rather than some arm and fist pumps in my chair!

Now, I have a more detailed picture of Jacob’s life and death than I had two years ago. It turns out that Sena Gibson was born Marsena Gibson to Wilson Gibson and Cynthia Ann Maddy about 1856 in Indiana. Sena’s mother, Cynthia, is found at the age of 12, living in the household of Andrew and Marcena Maddy in the 1850 US Census in Henry county, Indiana. Cynthia’s siblings included James, Isaac, Elizabeth, George, Rhoda, Philena, and Sarah Jane.

Cynthia and Wilson married in Henry county about Feb 1855. Besides Marsena, they had two more children – Rhoda and George (which coincidentally, are the names of two of Cynthia’s siblings). The family is found in the 1860 US Census in Jefferson, Henry county, Indiana – along with a girl named Amanda, age 9. Amanda is possibly the daughter of Wilson Gibson from a previous marriage. By the 1870 US Census, Wilson has died (about 1864) and Cynthia has remarried Thomas Ray on March 7, 1866 in Henry county. Son, George, is not in the household giving the impression that he died between 1860-1870. Included in the household is “Sena” Gibson, age 14; Rhoda Gibson, age 12; Sarah Ray, age 4; and James Ray, age 1. In the 1880 US Census, Cynthia and Thomas with children: Sarah, James, Albert, Josie, and Alta are still living in Henry county. Marsena (“Sena”) is found living in the Anderson Sherman household in Henry county as a servant.

The following year on August 5, 1881, Sena Gibson and Jacob Wilt marry in Henry county. About nine years later, their son, Russell Ray Wilt, was born in the same county. Due to the amount of time between their marriage and the birth of Russell, it seems likely that other children may have been born – and died (as a result of stillbirth or miscarriage). However, no records have been found. Sena does report on the 1900 US Census that she is the mother of only one child and that child is living. It wouldn’t have been the first time that a woman did not list stillbirths. It is also possible that couple may have had fertility issues, and Russell was their “miracle” child.

Jacob and Sena are found – still residing in Henry county – in both the 1900 US and 1910 US census records. Jacob does not list an occupation in 1900 but in 1910, he says that he is a “railroad worker.” At that time, the family owned their home “free and clear.” By June 1917, their son, Russell, is a resident of California as shown on his draft registration for WWI and is self-employed. Was that the reason Jacob and Sena moved to California from their native Indiana? To be closer to their only son? Jacob’s father, (my 2nd great-grandfather) Israel Wilt, was still living. Was it difficult for Jacob to move clear across the country from his then 80-90 year old widowed father – knowing that he would probably never see him again? Sena’s mother, Cynthia, had died in August 1911, so she wouldn’t have been leaving her parents.

The couple has been very hard to find in the 1920 US Census. Up until today, I wasn’t sure if they were in Indiana during the enumeration or on their way to California. Jacob Wilt has been found in the 1920 US Census! He is a renter living at 439 King Street in San Bernardino and listed his age as 57 (several years were shaved off his age!), born in Indiana with father born in Virginia (yes) and mother born in Pennsylvania (yes). Jacob is a laborer on the railroad. And for the kicker – his marital status shows he is divorced. What? Divorced? So where is Sena? Has she died?

Yes, Marsena Gibson Wilt died on December 26, 1913 at the age of 57 years in San Bernardino. She is listed as Mrs. J Wilt. So does that imply that prior to Russell moving to California by 1917, the entire family moved? Did Jacob and Sena divorce prior to her death or did Jacob marry someone else between the end of 1913 and the census in 1920? But what happened to Jacob Wilt? In 1930, he is renting 1745 W. King Street in San Bernardino next to the rail yard. He lists his age as 69, working for the railroad “at home” and is widowed. By the 1940 US Census, Jacob had already died. His death record shows that he died at the age of 70 on September 26, 1931 in Los Angeles county.

Jacob and Marsena are buried at Mountain View cemetery in San Bernardino. Thanks to Lynette (Find a Grave member: Gooffson), she not only uploaded the cemetery information to Find a Grave but also photos of their headstones. She has allowed me to use her photos in my family tree.

Jacob Wilt gravestone

Marsena Gibson Wilt headstone

(Headstone photos by Gooffston – AKA Lynette – used with her permission.)

Finding Jacob and Marsena’s headstones and where they are buried enabled me to find even more records and information for my great-grand-uncle and his wife!

Their son, Russell Ray Wilt, had moved – either with is parents or by himself – after 1910. On his WWI draft registration, he lists his birthday as September 6, 1890 and place of birth as Newcastle, Indiana (in Henry county). The address he resided at on June 5, 1917 was 1120 S. Madison in Stockton, California. Russell was a self-employed oilman with a wife who was dependent upon him for support. In 1920, Russell and his wife, Ferna, are roomers in the household of 64 year old Isora M. Oulland in the 7th Ward of Modesto living at 142 Rosemont avenue. Russell’s wife, Ferna, is listed as age 28 born in California with her father born in “English” Canada and her mother born in Illinois. Russell does not have an occupation listed.

In the 1930 San Diego, California City Directory, Russell and Ferna are living at 2351 Boundary street. If that address is still current today, the home is duplex. Russell’s occupation is salesman. By the 1930 US Census enumerated on April 11, 1930, the family is living at 1382 36th street in Oakland, California. They are renting for $30/month. Living with them is their “daughter” Thelma, age 12 born in California. So where was Thelma in the 1920 US census? She wasn’t shown to be living with them in Stockton – unless the landlord, Ms. Oulland, provided the information to the enumerator and failed to mention Thelma. Russell was 22 and Ferna was 21 at the age of their first marriage – putting their marriage as taking place in about 1912. That leaves the impression that Russell was in California by that time. His occupation in 1930 was a specialties salesman.

The 1940 US Census reports that Russell and Ferna were living in Chillum, Washington. By 1940 they are residing in Alderton, Washington. Once again, the couple are roomers in the household of a widow – 69 year old Charlotte Laidlaw, who was born in Canada. Russell lists that his occupation is a self-employed artist and had worked 30 weeks in 1939 and only 6 hours between March 1 and March 30, 1940.

On March 27, 1937 Thelma L. Wilt and James M. Norris were married in Kittitas county, Washington with the approval of Russell Wilt and John Norris Jr (fathers of the intended). Thelma would have been almost 19 years old. James McGovin Norris was born on October 29, 1906 in Roslyn, Washington. The couple are living on the United States Indian Service Government Camp located in Yakima county, Washington in the 1940 US Census – along with their year old son. Thelma reports that she has completed one year of college. Her husband is a surveyor for the government.

By November 30, 1951 Thelma and James had divorced. She then married William Christensen in King county, Washington.

By the time of the 1942 WWII Draft registration – to register older men – Russell and Ferna were back in California, living at 1700 “F” street in San Bernardino. Russell was unemployed at the age of 51 years. He had a scar under his right arm – no mention if it was a large scar or not.

Russell died on August 4, 1954 in Orange county, California. He was buried in Mountain View cemetery – the same as his parents. Ferna followed on August 1, 1963.

Now, back to Thelma and the answer to where she was in the 1920 US Census since she did not appear in Russell and Ferna’s household. I still haven’t located her but I have learned that Thelma was born Thelma Serrano to Lucille Rogers and Arthur Jesse Serrano in March 1918 in Alameda, California. Apparently, the child’s mother took off and left her with Arthur who in turn moved in with his parents. Soon, Thelma’s biological grandparents came down with tuberculosis. Arthur feared for his daughter’s health and put an ad in the paper asking for a couple to take his daughter. It is unknown if an adoption ever took place after Russell and Ferna took young Thelma into their home as their own daughter. Thelma tracked down her biological family in the late 1970s.  She passed away in Washington on February 21, 2000.

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“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santaya

True? False? Somewhere in between?

Those of us who were alive and cognizant of the world around us on September 11, 2001 surely do remember that morning, what took place, where we were and what we were doing, and how it made us feel.

For me it is not only a remembering of that September morning but of the loss of my brother less than two weeks before. I also remember how just years prior to 9/11 that my husband had flown on each of those doomed flights during the days that he traveled very frequently – almost weekly – for business.

Here are my previous posts beginning with the first: Remembering Those Lost; My Thoughts on 9/11; Reflections on September 11, 2001; and Anniversary of the Last Day of Normal.

Today, I’ve put the flag up as a way to honor all those who have lost their lives on 9/11, who were first responders, and those who have been lost due to the war on terror.

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My husband, grandson, and I began a new adventure recently – selling our home and moving 600+ miles away to another state. The knowledge of the move was known for quite awhile but the logistics and details were filled with stressful moments. How long would our home need to be on the market before it sold? How much would it cost to make sure the home was ready to be sold (cosmetic and other repairs)? Would there be enough “profit” for us after the sale? Move ourselves? Hire a moving company? What to take? What to pitch? What to give away? When to start packing? Where to put the boxes that were packed? And for the love of everything – what is this going to cost? (If you have ever moved, you know what I’m saying!)

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U-Haul with some boxes in the over cab

Luckily for us, the selling of the house was almost the easiest part – we closed even before we had to move. Then it became a matter of how quickly can we get everything packed. Once we started packing boxes, it became pretty clear that there wasn’t any place to put them and be able to pack more! So we decided to rent a U-Haul truck in order to start getting things out of the house. 

 

My husband very meticulously figured out the best way to maximize the space inside the truck in order to pack everything in to it. There were some (in retrospect) funny moments such as when my husband and son-in-law was moving our reclining sofa and loveseat from the house into the truck. Our daughter mentioned that hers came apart to make it easier to move but since the company who delivered our furniture years ago brought each piece in as one piece and not apart, no one bothered to check. (It was only after they about killed themselves getting it out of our house, into the truck, off loaded from the truck at our new home and just before figuring out how to get it from an outbuilding on the property to the basement of the house, did my husband realize that yep – they did come apart!)

Time seemed to be our enemy on the day my husband had wanted to get on the road. Without any place to sit or sleep, we ended up staying in a local hotel overnight before braving the last bits of cramming more items into the truck or the vehicle I was going to be driving and being sure to leave enough room for our traveling items (luggage and a couple bags of “important paperwork”).

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Husband and I with our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons

With good-byes, hugs, and tears shed, we finally hit the road and left our home north of Dallas in the afternoon of June 11th. We stopped for the night at a nice hotel in a small Oklahoma town and enjoyed a delicious meal at the diner next door. The next morning, we began the last leg of the journey to our new home.

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That picture and the one below is what it’s all about! Big sky, rows and rows of corn, soybeans, and wheat! Gravel roads and country lanes. Barns and tractors. People who wave as they drive by. Neighbors who bring corn, corn, and even more corn! Furry critters and feathered friends to watch and marvel over. Small towns and big hearts.

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Our life is a little more slower paced these days – at least until our grandsons starts high school soon. My deadlines are 7 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. (breakfast, lunch and dinner – oh wait, here it’s called breakfast, dinner and supper!). There’s always laundry to be done, weeds to be pulled, flowers to be watered, and new places to discover. It’s not quite retirement but it’s pretty dog gone close!

Stay tuned for more stories of our life in Missouri – and what this means for my genealogy research (hint: I’m really excited!!)!

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Mid-Hiatus

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I’m just “sort of” back right now. Isn’t that a beautiful sight? That’s our new view looking down the road.

We’ve moved. To Missouri. To a farm. Up-sized – not down-sized. This is land that has been in my husband’s family for 5 generations.

Many stories to tell. Stay tuned.

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