Sunday, September 17, 2017

Scrapbook #3 – Comrade Sig Levy

It’s time to get back to Sig’s scrapbook – you can read the first installment of Scrapbook #3 HERE.

Several group photos on the next few pages with nothing identifying them other than the date.  Although they were glued to the page, I was able to carefully peek behind the photo to ensure there was nothing written there.  Nope.

December 23_1945

So the only notation on this was the date – December 23, 1945.  But after scanning and scanning the photo, I just couldn’t see him even though I figured he must have been in the group shot.  So I did what people of today do – I zoomed in and found him!  What was the event? 

December 23_1945 cropped

Then another from December 23, 1948 that gave me a little more information.

December 23_1948

So I wonder what’s going on here?  I went to and did a search and came up with this article from from The Fresno Bee Republican, December 22, 1948, page 13.

Student Nurses Honored Fresno Bee 12_22_1948

Okay, that makes sense as I knew Sig was involved with the nursing program.  And look – he headed the committee and was at the microphone.

December 23_1948 Sig cropped

And another photo with the nurses from December 24, 1950.  Sig is easy to pick out – I sure wish I knew who the others were.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any newspaper article about this.

December 24_1950

And then some clippings about War Dads.  I’ve looked for some information about this organization but need to research further.  Interestingly, one of my searches took me to a blog that I’d read several years ago.  While Sig didn’t note the newspaper or date, I was able to find the publication dates of these two articles.  I love the way Sig made notations to point the reader to his name – thanks, Grandpa!

Fresno Bee Republican, June 30, 1944, page 9

War Dad Leaders Fresno Bee 6_30_1944 page 9

The Fresno Bee Republican, July 10, 1944, page 7

War Dads Fresno Bee 7_10_44 page 7

And then a few stories about Comrade Sig Levy – did War Dads call their members Comrades?  I need to figure that out!  I sure hope that the readers heeded the warning to not visit him so he could get his rest.

Sig Levy ill

Huh?  A parade that turned out to be a parade?  Not sure what the surprise was.

Quadruplet celebration

This last article showed me the non political correctness of the time – it provides a window into how far we’ve come in the last 50+ years.  I thought about not sharing the article, but since it references my “crack track runner” dad I just have to include it.  So, I’ve redacted the reference to how short my grandfather was.

Fresno Post 6_15_1944 redacted

Gordon didn't get his legs from his Dad.  Hahaha!

My grandfather, Sig Levy, was a busy guy!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Who would I like to meet?

I noticed yesterday that someone on Facebook had asked the question “if you could meet one of your ancestors, who would it be?”  I wish I’d paid more attention to who posted it so I could give them credit but at the time I just scrolled on by.  But I couldn’t get it out of my head and just kept thinking and thinking about it.  Who would I like to meet?

Of course there are several that I’d like to see (and hug them tight) to have an opportunity to sit and ask questions.  But, I’ve already met them and if I didn’t ask them questions, I have no one to blame but myself.  That makes me cranky but I had to think about those I was never fortunate enough to meet or, really, KNOW. 

I was fortunate to know all of my grandparents and even two of my great grandparents so I couldn’t pick them.  And, of course, I couldn’t pick either of my parents since I knew them until the day they died.  So who would it be?

I wish I’d had an opportunity to meet my paternal great grandparents, Abraham and Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer. 

Bertha Schwartz_Abe Gunzendorfer
Bertha (Schwartz) and Abe Gunzendorfer, c. 1944

I know quite a bit about them (thank you, family packrats) and I have a LOT of photos of them.  And since my dad knew both of them, and my mother knew Birdie, I have several first-hand stories about them.  So, neither of them.

Next up would be Bertha’s parents, Rebecca (Steen) and Louis Schwartz.  Now they would be interesting to meet.  I’ve been in contact with a researcher who is writing a book – it is at the publisher now and should be available next month – and Louis, particularly, is noted in the book.  In fact, I’ve even donated a few photos for inclusion, if they find them useful.  I have original photos of the house that Louis built, and both Bertha and my grandmother were born in, and many of their personal effects (thanks again, family packrats).  Sometimes I feel like I’ve already met Louis since I know so much about him.  So, neither of them.

Rebecca_Louis_Joseph_Bertha Schwartz cropped
Rebecca (Steen), Joseph, Bertha, and Louis Schwartz, c. 1875

My paternal great grandather, Herman Levy, has been a brick wall for me so I think it would be interesting to meet him.  He arrived in Fresno in 1874 and was the first man to be made a Mason in Fresno, being part of Lodge No. 247, F. & A.M.  His obituary in 1918 called him a Pioneer Citizen so I’m sure he would have lots to share.  But even though I share my birth name with him and would like nothing more than to know more about his parents, grandparents, and on down the line, I wouldn’t pick him.

Nor would I pick his wife, Goldie Benas.  I’m fairly certain my dad was named after her – she died shortly before he was born and my mom told me that the custom was to name the baby using the first letter of a recently deceased relative (his name was Gordon) – and I know she’d have a lot to tell me.  But no, I wouldn’t pick her.

Benas_Goldie Levy_Herman
Goldie (Benas) and Herman Levy, c. 1917

While I’ve always been particularly fascinated with the paternal side of my family (is it normal to be more curious about those who share your birth name?  is it because they were packrats and I know so much about them?), the one person I would love to meet is on my mother’s side.  The man I have grown to know in a way I never thought possible.  Not only that, but I was able to share the details of his life with my mother, his great great granddaughter, before she was gone. 

So who is the ancestor I would love to meet?  My 3x great grandfather, Emery Waller!

I have researched Emery a lot and know that he served in the Civil War –  in the 107th Illinois Infantry as both First Lieutenant and Captain.  He took part in the battle at Winchester on March 23, 1862 that resulted in the defeat of Stonewall Jackson’s forces.  I would like to know more about that!

I know that his first wife, Rebecca Parker, most likely died as a result of my 2x great grandmother’s birth.  My hunch is that the baby, Rebecca Waller, was named in honor of her mother.  I wrote about finding Rebecca Parker HERE.  It would sure help to learn more about Rebecca’s death and Emery’s later marriage to Clarinda.

For those who have followed my blog, several years ago and only because of a slight nudge, I ordered Emery’s pension record to see what I could find.  And while at first it didn’t seem to give me any new information, once the light bulb went off a whole new world was in front of me.  And then I found his unmarked grave in Kansas.  What an emotional journey to get a headstone for him – our story even made the front page of the local paper in McPherson!

But there is still so much I want to know about Emery.  What was life like after the Civil War?  What took him to Kansas?  What were my 2x and 3x great grandmothers like?  And while I know from his pension record that he was about 5’7” and between 135 and 145 pounds, most of all I just want to actually see him.  So meeting him would be a win/win – I could look into his face (and take a picture) and find out so many more details about him and his life.

So that’s who I would like to meet.  What about you?

Emery Waller gravestone
Emery Waller, McPherson Cemetery

Monday, September 4, 2017

Ancestors at Work

Today is Labor Day, the day we set aside annually to pay tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.  Thanks to a suggestion by a fellow blogger, it’s also a day to take a look at my ancestors at work.

First up, of course, is my dad, Gordon Levy.  Dad was what many would describe as a workaholic – he worked full time until the day he died on, coincidentally, Labor Day at the age of 78.

Dad started his career in 1951 with Dean Witter, where the financial advisors of the future were then known as a Customers Men.  I remember visiting Dad at his office on 1st Street in San Jose when there was no electronic board to keep track of the stock quotes – rather, there was a boardmarker who kept track of things using a giant chalkboard and chalk.  I don’t know that I have a photo of him specifically at work, but I do know that he always wore a suit and matching hat to work.

Gordon Levy c 1960

After 23 years in the business, Dad decided there was more to life than Dean Witter and decided to follow his dear friend, Ron James, to work at the San Jose Chamber of Commerce and Convention Visitors Bureau.  By that time I was out of the house so I don’t know too much about his day-to-day work there, but I do remember that he loved traveling around the country on one Chamber mission or another.  And I found a photo of one of those trips.

My beautiful picture

After 10 years, during which time he had a heart attack and bypass surgery, he took a pause and decided it was time to go back to Dean Witter (by then Morgan Stanley) where he finished his career.  What a change in the business over his lifetime – I remember he used to tell me to NOT send him an e-mail because he wasn’t sure how to reply.

As we were growing up, Mom stayed at home – back in those days she was labeled a Housewife.  Of course that term has long ago been forgotten but I know she was pretty content with her life. 

I don’t remember her ever gardening but maybe she did?  If nothing else, she posed for a picture and passed the gardening gene on to my sister.

Page 8 - Our Mother

We were fortunate that we lived around the corner from the elementary school, however there were a few years where my sister and I went to out of area schools for different programs.  I remember riding my bike to/from school but I also remember Mom driving us.  Of course it’s not like what parents of today go through but I’m sure it was a task to get us each to wherever we needed to be.  She must have felt like she lived in the car!

My beautiful picture

My grandfather, Sig Levy, worked in real estate/insurance services in the family business, Levy Brothers.  An early photo of their office – that’s Sig second from the right.

Levy Bros Office 1920

He also worked until his death at age 80.  I think the “work until you die” mentality needs to end with me!

Sig Levy Bros 2

Sig’s father, Herman Levy, started his career running a dry goods store and later worked in insurance.  I haven’t come across a photo of him at work but I like to think this photo was taken in order to feature him in the insurance business.  Sadly, it was also used for his obituary.

Herman Levy

My paternal grandmother, Loraine Gunzendorfer, came from a family business in Monterey, The White House.  While she helped out in the store during her teenage years, it was her dad, Abraham, and her grandfather, Ferdinand Gunzendorfer, who ran the store for more than 50 years.

White House Black_White

Here’s Ferdinand (with beard) in front of the store.

White House Ferdinand Cropped

My maternal grandmother, Clara Fitzgerald, and her second husband, Sheldon Hunter, worked out of their home raising chickens!  I have great memories of being there with them and helping them collect, clean, and packaging eggs.  I wrote a post about that HERE

Here’s Grandma candeling the eggs.

Clara candling eggs

And with Grandpa Shell in the packaging plant (aka garage). 

Cary Levy_Sheldon Hunter_Debi Levy

A few years ago I found a newspaper article from the Fresno Bee, September 27, 1959 that I thought was interesting.

Fresno Bee Sunday Sept 27 1959

New Occupation – Sheldon Hunter, a retired Fresno telegrapher, has found that “wire” means more than a telegram.  Here Hunter inspects his recently constructed wire cage house for his West Olive Avenue flock of White Leghorn layers.

Retired Telegrapher Finds Poultry Flock Demands Work

When Sheldon A. Hunter of 2341 West Olive Avenue, Fresno, retired in 1955 as manager of the Fresno office of Western Union, he recalls he did not know the difference between a laying hen and a bantam chicken.

Today the grey haired Hunter is the knowledgeable owner and operator of a 2,000 bird egg laying flock, who maintains he “never worked harder, made less or felt better.”

Hunter and his charming wife, Clara, bought the one-acre layout two and a half years ago when it included only 600 hens.  They have expanded cautiously and only recently constructed a new cement floored laying house featuring the latest in wire cage operation.

Hunter, whose Western Union career covered 47 years, including 35 years in Fresno, credits feed company salesmen and breeder representatives with a big hand in helping him learn the poultry business.

“We thought this would be an interesting part time occupation,” Hunter grins, “but we find there is always something to do, repair or change.  And these birds need a lot of care.  But we like the idea of keeping busy.”

Meet Their Customers

Since all the Hunter eggs are sold directly from the small combination garage and egg processing room, the retired couple enjoy meeting people who stop to purchase the eggs.

Mrs. Hunter chuckles as she recalls a visit by a 10 year old neighbor girl.

“She wanted to borrow three eggs because her mother was baking a cake and didn’t have enough,” she says.  “But she assured me she would soon return them because her mother was going downtown and would buy some there.”

Have Fruit Trees

Along with the modest sized poultry setup, the Hunters are proud of their variety of fruit trees, ranging from figs to persimmons, a vegetable garden and boysenberry vines.

While the Hunter operation ranks quite small as compared to some of Fresno County’s sprawling commercial laying establishments, the owners keep abreast of the latest breeding developments.  They are grooming a new experimental White Leghorn strain obtained from Washington State which is said to lay larger eggs for specialized poultrymen who have a market for them.

And that’s a tribute to my #ancestorsatwork!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It’s National Dog Day!

Today is National Dog Day – who knew?  This gives me a great opportunity to celebrate the dogs in my life!

After my parents were married but before I was born, a beautiful collie named Bruce was the first dog to join the family.  I don’t know why but I’ve always remembered that his registered name was Elesko’s Golden Bruce.


While Bruce (or Brucie as we sometimes called him) was great around my sister and me, when little brother joined the family he couldn’t be trusted around a new baby, not to mention our friends who liked to come play in the back yard.  So we built a separate, fenced off area for him to stay in when we were outside or friends were over. 

I don’t recall what happened to Bruce (or when) but next to join the family was Silver Penny, a miniature poodle.  Quite a change from a collie!


I will always remember Penny’s dainty feet.

Once again, we were dogless (I don’t remember the details) and Buffy, a silver poodle, joined the family.  If I remember correctly, she was named after the little sister on Family Affair played by Anissa Jones.


See the resemblance?


At that point my parents decided that while one dog was fine, two were even better and a little apricot poodle joined our family.  Shortly after we brought this little pup home, my mother visited the beauty parlor for her weekly “do” and told her long-time hairdresser that we hadn’t come up with a name yet.  The hairdresser, who had become a dear friend, said we could use her name and we did.  Meet Tinka!


Unfortunately, Tinka had some health issues and after just a short year or two, the epilepsy became unmanageable and we had to put her down.  So it was time for a new dog. 

I’m guessing that because my parents missed their beautiful collie, yet weren’t ready for a big dog, they decided on a sheltie.  I remember driving the 30 minutes or so to check out a dog, about 7 months old, and discussing on the way there what we should name her.  We thought and thought and were having difficulty coming up with a name when Dad said “let’s name her Tinka”.  No, we couldn’t possibly do that even though we all loved the name.  We arrived at the house, knocked on the door, and the owner greeted us with the beautiful sheltie by her side.  And when she said “come in and meet our dog, Tinker” we knew we had just met our new family member.


It wasn’t long before I met my soon-to-be husband.  I’m not sure why we thought it would be a good idea to get a dog (and I’m sure my future mother-in-law agreed) but we brought Tanya, a german shepherd, into our lives.

Once we were married and living in an apartment, Tanya stayed with my mother-in-law but we did take her on outings whenever we could.


By now we were living in a house which made it the perfect time to bring some dogs into the family.  And one by one they came, and one by one they left for one reason or another.

First up was a yellow lab that if I hadn’t seen this picture of me with the puppy in the house, I would never have believed we ever owned one.  She must not have stayed with us long because either she never got a name or the years have erased it from my mind.


I don’t know, maybe we were just puppy sitting?

Then came Tasha, our golden retriever.  We drove at least an hour, in the middle of the gas crisis of the 1970’s, to pick up this cute little girl.  The breeders had marked each of the dogs by shaving a small spot in a different location so that the prospective buyers could identify which one they wanted.  I believe Tasha was right hind leg but she was more easily identifiable by the muddy paws she had here.


I spent a LOT of time with Tasha going through obedience training, and even a few shows.  And she spent a lot of time going on outings – she even went with us to pick out our Christmas tree.


I guess the “two dogs are better than one” gene didn’t stop with my parents and we became the proud owners of another golden retriever pup, Quiche.  I don’t remember much about Quiche other than she had some sort of growth on her head and was bandaged for what seemed like forever.


Tasha and Quiche, along with a cat, hamster, and four tortoises made the big move from California to Washington with us, all riding in our Toyota station wagon we towed on the back of the U-Haul truck.  What a wild sight that must have been for people as they passed our mobile pet store on the highway.

I don’t remember all the specifics but somehow Quiche was placed in a new home and Tasha went off to a breeder who was anxious to have her lineage in their kennel. 

And for a short time, we were back to one dog, Kodiak.


Cute little dog but I remember NOTHING about her other than her name.  What happened to her?  Where did she go?

And then we were back to the two-dogs-are-better-than-one mentality and Christmas brought us sisters Chelsey (buff) and Maddie (black).  We felt like our kids were finally old enough to really enjoy (and help care for) dogs so two dogs it was.


The pups were cute but having two puppies at the same time was probably not the best decision.  They sure loved going out to our property on the Cowlitz River.


But as so many sisters do, these two sisters fought like we couldn’t imagine.  So as hard as it was, one of them needed to find a new family and, fortunately, a friend was only too happy to bring Maddie into their home.  Perfect solution!

Out of all the dogs we have had as a married couple, Chelsey became the dearest addition to our family.  She loved to lay by the fire and just be close by at all times.  Until she got sick and her life was cut much too short.


Our hearts were broken and it seemed that the best medicine would be to get a new dog to fill our lives.  We decided on another cocker spaniel but the new pet couldn’t look like either Chelsey or Maddie but needed to be an individual.  Enter Kylie!


I know she looks a lot like Chelsey but in reality she was buff and white.  And she grew into a beautiful dog – one who, apparently, wasn’t too photogenic except when she was sleeping.


Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that cars and dogs don’t mix well and we lost Kylie all too soon.  Which should have been the end of the line but for those of you with kids, you know that no matter how old they are they can’t stand to be without a dog.  And what kids don’t like a cute little dalmation?


I will admit that Zoey was an adorable pup but I have NO idea how the family in the Disney movie could have handled not only Zoey, but her 98 brothers and sisters.  That girl was active and mischevious…..but we loved her just the same.  And she grew into a beautiful, loving dog who was happiest when we were camping and playing in or near the river.


And yes, you guessed it – back to the two-dogs-are-better-than-one thought and Payton the border collie came to join us.  Payton was named after my favorite basketball player, Gary Payton.  Boy was she a crafty one and she taught Zoey many tricks, the worst being “watch me climb this fence”.  While a border collie has no trouble scaling a fence, it’s not a good activity for a dalmation.  But they did have fun playing at the river together.


But Payton needed to be on a farm herding sheep and cattle so off she went to live with a friend on a farm to do what she did best.

And then we saw Quincy waiting patiently to be adopted.  He had been returned to the shelter because the owners decided he was just a bit too large for their one bedroom apartment – no kidding!


Once Zoey was gone, Quincy was alone – he really needed a family with kids to keep him active.  And was he ever lucky when we found a family with not just one but THREE kids to love on him.  And as he drove away, he never looked back.

We’ve been dogless now for about 10 years but what great memories we have of the dogs in our life!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse Fever

There is so much talk about the eclipse tomorrow – people are flooding into the areas of totality, special glasses have flown off the shelves long ago, and there is great interest in what our animals will experience as day turns into night.  Here in my area, we’re expecting about a 92% eclipse.  The last total eclipse in the Seattle area?  1979.  The last total eclipse that spanned the country?  June 8, 1918.  I wonder what the excitement was like nearly 100 years ago as they prepared for the eclipse in a time without social media and instant access to information.

I’ve heard that in 2017, animal shelters are providing special glasses for pets.  Is there a danger that a dog would look directly at the sun to take a peek?  Did they provide special glasses in 1918?  Was this dog, perhaps, getting ready for the eclipse in 1918?

Smoking DogPhoto by Abraham Gunzendorfer, Monterey, California

The path of the 1918 eclipse started south of Japan, went across the Pacific Ocean, and then across the United States. The largest city to see totality was Denver although many could theoretically see it as the size of the shadow was between 70 and 44 miles across as it travelled across America. The longest duration of totality was in the Pacific at a point south of Alaska. The path of the eclipse finished near Bermuda.  From wikepedia

My family was in California (Fresno, Monterey, Santa Cruz) at that time and I wondered what they were hearing and seeing.  Big newspapers of that time were in San Francisco and Oakland and from what I found with a quick search, much like today there was a lot of hype about the upcoming event.

There was a pretty good description of what to expect on page 4 of the June 7, 1918 edition of the Oakland Tribune.

Oakland Tribune 6_7_1918, page 4

Looks like they were anticipating a 79% shadow in the Bay Area.  Lots of excitement for an event that would last somewhere between 45 seconds and 2 minutes.  Hope my ancestors had their smoked glass ready!

And on the day of the eclipse, June 8, 1918, the San Francisco Chronicle got people even more excited with more information on page 3.

San Francisco Chronicle 6_8_1918, page 3

I can just imagine people standing together with their glasses on.  No instant communication back then – you either saw it or you didn’t.  Tomorrow I imagine many of us will be streaming it into the comfort of our own home.

Eclipse glasses

And the day after brought us more pictures as seen here from page 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle, June 9, 1918.

San Francisco Chronicle 6_9_1918, page 1

What an exciting time that must have been.  And then it hit me – I have letters that my grandparents wrote back and forth to each other in 1918.  Could they have talked about the eclipse in their letters?

A quick scan of Loraine’s and I found nothing of interest.  But there in the box of letters from Sig to Loraine waiting to be transcribed, his letter of Sunday, June 9, 1918 caught my eye.

After some sweet nothings and explanation of how business was going, he got to this:

"Did you see the eclipse of the sun yesterday.  It was absolutely perfect down this way.  I looked at it through smoked glass – you know we only see that once every hundred years so I guess you and I won’t see many of them.”

So he was right – they didn’t see any together.  But did they ever in their wildest imaginations envision their grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even great great grandchildren experiencing one a century later?

Enjoy the eclipse tomorrow and if you’re planning to watch in person, be sure to wear your special glasses (if, in fact, you were actually able to score some).