Rediscovered Family History

My wife and I are in the process of cleaning the house.  Granted, it’s a 20 years process, starting when we moved into the house back in November of 2000, but it’s an ongoing thing.  Recently, I took it upon myself to work on clearing out the garage, going through the boxes that have been sitting there for the better part of those 20 years, intending to rearrange the space on the sides for better storage since it is just a one-car garage. There are multiple yard machines and other equipment that need to be stored there and the car.  During the summer, the car sits outside, and the inside of the garage clutters up.  Usually, come winter, everything is piled to the sides, and I squeeze the car in.  This year I wanted to do it differently.

In going through the various boxes, I found one that was chock full of black and white photos.  I didn’t recognize the ones on the top, so I figured the whole box was probably from my in-law’s house, so I brought it in and told my wife she needed to look through them, as she probably hadn’t seen them in better than the 20 years.  The box sat in the house for a couple of weeks untouched.  The day before yesterday, she brought me a smaller box with an even smaller photo album on top that said quite whimsically, “Grandma’s Brag Book.”  I opened it up, and the first photo was of a baby with dark hair.  Definitely not me!  I had blonde hair up until age 7.  It was a baby picture of my brother.

1967, 1 year 9 mos

Several pictures in was a shot of me when I was 21 months old.  I was a happy kid when this picture was taken!   Sadly, none of the other pictures are of me; they’re of my brother.  But even so, the box of pictures had a lot of memories in them, places my father had been during World War II when he served in the US Army in Okinawa.

My father, standing outside his quarters in Okinawa c. 1945

I had never seen pictures of him in his Army uniform, though I was aware through his discharge papers (which I still have) that he made sergeant before he returned to civilian life in 1946.  A good number of the pictures I don’t recognize anything in them and only some of them have captions on the back.  Seeing as hundreds of WWII veterans are dying on any given day, it’s remote that any of the people in the pictures are still alive, or they don’t have copies of the pictures that I now have in my possession.

My other issue is what to do with the family pictures going forward?  Seeing as my wife and I decided not to have children, I really don’t have anyone to pass them down to that they would mean anything.  My father’s siblings didn’t have children, so there aren’t any cousins I could bequeath my pictures to.  Sending them to a historical society was a thought. Again, none of my family was either famous or historically significant, so it would just be a pile of pictures of people that no one would recognize.

I wonder what others do with their family pictures when there’s no one left to inherit them?

Melancholy Holiday

Today, 31 years ago, my Mom died.  This is a picture of her at age 8, with her Uncle George in Ballston Spa, NY.  One of my cousins shared this picture with me about 5 years ago.  I don’t recall ever having seen it before at that time.  My cousin told me that George apparently always had these pants that were too big for him, so the family invariably called him George ‘Baggy Pants‘ Burton.  

Her passing (to me) was one of those things that you’ll remember as long as you live, and of course, the day just happens to be the same one as when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

I’m not going to relate the circumstances of her passing, that’s a story left untold.  I remember it vividly, that’s sufficient.  I don’t have a lot of pictures of her growing up and in her teens and twenties.  I do have a few pictures of her and my father, but the majority of the family pictures are with my brother, who, for whatever reason refuses to share them.  (Which admittedly is somewhat weird, since he is in denial about what sort of childhood he had with them and myself)  Consequently, I’m left with my own memories and a few pictures that I’ve had saved, as well as shared photos from my cousins who are still living.

Every year that goes by, I celebrate her birthday on July 14, recall my parents’ wedding anniversary on October 8, and of course mourn the date of her death, November 22.

I miss you every day Mom.  

Old Neighbors

I grew up in a rural part of New York State.  At that time, there were some transplants from New York City (90 miles south) that had purchased houses and lived there on weekends and vacations, but certainly not the way that they have transformed the town in the intervening years since.  In my own neighborhood/cul-de-sac, there was at least one family that fit this description, as the house was not often occupied during the week, but came to life on the weekends and in the summer when school was out and the weather was much warmer.

The family had two children, but neither of them was educated locally.  Even so, the family was pretty subdued and didn’t make much of their present or past significance in show business.  There was a persistent rumor that the father did voiceover work in commercials (the one I remember vividly was that he was the voice of Starkist’s ‘Charlie the Tuna’ from television, [which I recently discovered turned out to be false]) and that he had acted in a soap opera or two in New York City.  As neighborhoods go, ours was pretty seemingly uninterested in things that were considered sensational so this information was left to rumor and innuendo and nothing much was ever made of it.

I have a small fixation with the neighborhood I grew up in, in that I keep tabs on the house and the surrounding area, even though we sold the property in 1992 and it’s gone through several owners since then.  I did visit the property two years ago with my birth mother, to show her where I grew up and for me it was a possibility of seeing the house where I spent 27 years living and supposedly maturing.  The current owners of the house weren’t amenable to us going through it, since the elderly father of the woman that owned it lived there with an aide, so we were relegated to walking the grounds outside. I was able to peek into the windows of a few of the rooms to see if much had changed, some things did, others haven’t.  But that isn’t the topic of this entry.

A couple of nights ago I was looking at Google Earth and thought to check out the street view of my neighborhood (if indeed it was available) and discovered a Google car had indeed made it to my cul-de-sac.  I just happened to be checking out some of the other properties and decided to look at the cluster of mailboxes near the intersection of two streets.  Lo and behold one of them looked strikingly familiar.  The family name of the ‘famous’ family was still on one of them!  It was the same size and shape that I remember, and the little brass and black stick on letters I’d remembered seeing there were still present, spelling out the last name.  So I was intrigued that perhaps they still owned the house and property.  Only a couple of the original residents of the area are still in their houses, all of the others have either died or moved elsewhere.

Doing a little Internet digging I discovered the tax records (they’re publicly available in case you were wondering) and sure enough the property is owned by their Limited Liability Corporation, but it has the family name attached to it all the same.  From that I discovered the father had died in 2015, but the mother still lived mainly in California, and apparently the son now lived in the house as he was apparently retired from his former work at CBS Sports (he was a producer).  There was a police blotter report from a couple years ago where the son was ticketed for DWI by the local yokels, and it listed his age.  From there I came upon the obituary of the father, and it listed his accomplishments and among them were his voiceover work, as well as acting in a soap opera from the 1950s.  A serial called Young Dr. Malone that apparently had started as a radio program but morphed into a television one when tv became the norm and housewives needed distraction during that era.

As it turned out, the rumors were partially true.  We had a somewhat celebrity living in our midst.  They were very nice people as I remember and didn’t make much of their celebrity.  Of course, we also had a millionaire living in our neighborhood, but that’s another story for another day.