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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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john lafayette johnson birthday 001

This is a picture that my mother told me was taken for my great-grandfather’s birthday. When I asked her who everyone was (besides those whom I knew), I don’t remember if she told me or if she just said “relations.” I’ve slept since then and of course – it is NOT WRITTEN on the back of the picture. I dug it out again last week and decided it was time I tried to figure out who was at the birthday celebration.

I knew it was taken in 1939 – two months before my great-grandfather (he’s the older man on the far right), John Lafayette Johnson, passed away from pancreatic cancer. Even if I hadn’t been told that was the year, I could look at the image of my mother – third from the left in the sweater with the “B” on it – and know that she was still in high school. In 1939, she was 17 and played basketball for her high school, Bath Consolidated Schools, located in Bath Township, Greene county, Ohio. My great-grandmother, Katie (Blazer) Johnson, had passed away in 1930 of stomach cancer which explains why she wasn’t in the picture.

I knew the photo was taken in front of the home on Ohio Street in Fairfield (now Fairborn, Ohio) because I have seen other pictures of the same house and in the 1940 census, my grandparents were still residing there. My first thought upon seeing all the other people was that it was Johnson relatives, but when I shared it with some distant cousins hoping they would recognize someone, it was a bust. Anyone that it might have been had already died by 1939. Besides, the Johnson relatives lived in Indiana.

So I turned to my great-grandmother’s family. They lived in Urbana, Ohio – about an hour’s travel today. Her brother, Wesley Blazer, was still living in 1939 but I had never seen a picture of him. His son, Glen O. Blazer, I had known and had pictures that I could compare as well as his wife, son, and sister. Below are the comparisons. The picture on the right was taken in 1976. Looking at the ears, chin, mouth, nose and eyes led me to believe this was Glen. Based on that deduction, all I needed to do was compare photos of his wife, Nina (Cushman) Blazer, and his sister, Ada D. Blazer, as well as place them in that time frame.

glen blazer comparison

Below, the picture on the right of Nina Cushman Blazer (Glen’s wife) was taken at a reunion in 1969 – 30 years after the one on the left.

nina cushman blazer comparison

The comparison collage below of Ada Dell Blazer show how she looked in 1939 (left), around 1918 (top right), and at a reunion in the early 1970s (bottom right).

ada blazer comparison

Based on the photographic evidence, I was able to see the picture more clearly (pun intended!). Since Wesley Blazer was still living and would have been 76 years old, I believe he is the gentleman with the hat sixth from the left. The young man standing just over Nina’s shoulder would be Marion Blazer – son of Glen and Nina. In 1939 he was about 16 years old. The man peaking out from behind Ada’s head would be her second husband, John Black, and their daughter would be in front of her.

Below is the photo after I added the names of those in the picture.

john lafayette johnson birthday

 And just for more comparison – here’s a few photos taken in 1969 and the early 1970s that include my grandparents, Glen & Vesta Johnson, as well as Glen and Nina Blazer, and Ada (Blazer) Black.

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alice foley 001

This picture was among hundreds of other photos I ended up with many years ago. Most had belonged to my maternal grandparents, Glen and Vesta (Wilt) Johnson. The name on the back (hurray! There was a name on the back!) was Alice Foley. My mother told me she wasn’t related – just a friend of my grandparents. Ten to fifteen years ago, I didn’t have very many resources to figure out just who she was.

Today, I looked on FamilySearch.org for an Alice Foley living in Madison county, Indiana about 1920. Living at 206 E. Fourteenth Street (about 2 1/2 miles away from my grandparents) was 34 year old Alice Foley as a boarder in the Charles and Ina Miller household. Alice was single and born in England as were her parents. She was employed doing housework in a private home.

There is also an Alice Foley living at 1623 Arrow Avenue – a few houses away from my grandmother’s parents. This Alice is age 28 and married to the head of household, Harry Foley. She was also born in England and came to the United States in 1906. Included in their home were children: Mary A. Foley age 5, Philip Foley age 3 years and 2 months, and Anna B. Foley age one year and 3 months.

Between the two choices, I’m more inclined to believe that this is a picture of Sarah Alice Bullock, born in September 1891 in England, and married to Harry Foley in Anderson, Indiana on August 9, 1910. However, the woman in the photo is not wearing a wedding ring which could mean that she did not have one, this photo was taken prior to being married, or I’m wrong about who this is.

However, if someone is reading this who happens to be a descendant of the correct Alice Foley or Sarah Alice Bullock or whomever it is – please let me know so I can solve the mystery!

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I have three pictures of my Johnson ancestors with mules – two of them in particular. I can’t say for certain these two mules were used to plow the fields.  The first photo (above) wasn’t easy to scan – it is in a frame, and I don’t want to take it out in fear of damaging it. The only way I could digitize the picture was to take a digital photo of it. The “bubble” glass isn’t conducive to that (and without the flash the photo wouldn’t have come out at all). This is my maternal great-grandfather, John Lafayette Johnson, born in Howard county, Indiana on March 2, 1861. The first census (1880) I found for him shows him as a 19 year old man working as a laborer on the Isaac Goble farm in Rush county. (I have been unable to locate the 1870 census for him.) In 1900, he is married to Katie J Blazer and living at 1524 Forkner Street in Anderson with their two sons, 13 year old Letis, and 1 year old Glen (my grandfather). His occupation is listed as “rod roler.” Ten years later the family is still living in Anderson but at 434 17th Street. This time Letis (age 23) and Glen (age 11) are joined by baby sister, Mary, age 1, and John’s father, (James) Wilson, age 80.  John’s occupation is listed as huckster – a salesman. In 1920, John and Katie have lost their oldest son and baby girl but have added Glen’s wife, Vesta (my grandmother), and a foster daughter, Eva, to the family along with a grandson (my uncle – age 2 1/2). John’s occupation is Vendor – Retail and my grandfather’s occupation is Expressman.

johnson mules 001My grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, with the mules
johnson mules 002

So about those mules?

The only thing I could come up with is that the family probably did have a garden – more than likely a very large garden. Perhaps they used the mules to plow the garden or maybe they just had mules! Notice that I don’t have pictures of the mules AND a plow. Just mules. Some people have horses – my Johnson ancestors had mules.

I tend to prefer this cute little mule: donkey on farm

Mule and Flower Box on the Littrell family farm in Missouri

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! This week’s challenge is “Plowing Through” – do you have an ancestor who had to plow through – fields, snow, a tough time?

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Mother and Daughter to Be Reunited By Story In Herald

Echoes of twenty years ago were sounded yesterday when a mother and daughter who had been separated for that length of time found each other through the medium of The Anderson Herald. Twenty years ago October 2, 1910 a baby girl was born on an interurban car at Fortville. The child and mother were brought to St. John’s hospital here.

Limited circumstances prompted the mother to give her daughter to a woman at Fortville, who promised to rear the child. Four years ago the foster parent, Mrs. Charles Johnson, died. Shortly before her death Mrs. Johnson told her daughter, Eva Mary, about the adoption.

Several years ago Miss Johnson married John Skinner of Fortville. During the past four years, Mrs. Skinner has made every possible effort to find her real mother. Several days ago a letter was received at the Herald office from a woman in Chicago who saw an advertisement in a magazine carrying the name of Eva Mary Johnson mentioning her adoption when three days old at St. John’s hospital.

The woman, Mrs. Clara Badgly Grennells, 810 Berry Avenue, Chicago, requested The Herald to print her appeal. Mrs. Skinner read the story which appeared Tuesday and is in communication with the Chicago woman. A meeting is to be arranged soon. Mrs. Skinner said she is confident that Mrs. Grennels is her mother as her mother’s maiden name was Clara Badgly.

And with that newspaper article, the search for the missing Clara began. I urge you to go back to a previously written post – Independent From Birth to read about the woman searching for Clara – my grandfather’s foster sister – Eva – before continuing on.

Go ahead – I’ll wait . . .

Now for the inconsistencies that I know of: Eva’s full name was Eva Louise Johnson. The only reason I can think of that she would go by Eva Mary is because Mary was the name of the birth daughter of her foster parents. My grandfather’s baby sister, born in November 1909, died before she was a year old so perhaps my great-grandmother smashed the names together when she spoke to Eva. Maybe she really did grow up as Eva Mary but somewhere along the way became Eva Louise.

The next error is the name of the woman who agreed to take Eva – it is not Mrs. Charles Johnson. It was Mrs. John Johnson. My great-grandmother was married to John Lafayette Johnson. In the 1910 census there are two other married adult “Charles Johnson’s” living in Anderson, Indiana. One is age 63 and married to his second wife, Fannie, age 37 with their fourteen year old son, Stanley. The other Charles Johnson is 23 and his wife, Alta, is two years younger. In the 1920 census there is not any household with a daughter, Eva, aged 9-10, with Charles Johnson as Head of the Household.

The third error is the birth date. Eva’s date of birth has always been given as October 5, 1910 but if there is truth that she was three days old when Great-grandmother Katie took Eva then it would make her birth date October 2 but was given the October 5 birthday instead. Katie died in May 1930 so that would make the article dated in 1934 as it says “four years” since Katie’s death.

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Eva as a young married woman and with husband, John Skinner

On the 1930 Census taken a month before Katie died, in April 1930, Eva listed her age as nineteen and reported she had been married at age 18. They also had a son, Charles, who was four months old. The family was living at 1618 Cincinnati Avenue in Anderson, Indiana – a three bedroom, one bath two-story home built in 1900. They were living there with two other families and renting a room. John was a machinist working for an auto parts factory.

1618 Cincinnati Avenue Anderson Indiana

1618 Cincinnati Avenue

Within four years after that census was taken, Eva would begin her journey to find her biological mother.

The newspaper clipping mentions a reunion. There were blatant errors in the first two paragraphs of the article. Could there possibly be more? Would Eva get the reunion she so desperately wanted?

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The Look of Love

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A few days ago I posted a photo of my parents that was one of my favorites, but when it comes to my maternal grandparents – I have many that I adore! The reason I enjoy looking at them is because in photos of just the two of them, their love for each other just radiates off the photo. Take a peek!

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