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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Colonizing With Chickens


APRIL 20, 1924 


Farming suggested for Surplus Girls

Paris April 19, 1924

Poultry farming as an alternative to marriage has been recommended to girls in a letter to a Paris newspaper.  There are hundreds of thousands of girls say the writer of the letter, who cannot possibly be provided with husbands and as all cannot wish to be typists, secretaries or shop assistants it is suggested that they should form themselves into groups and rear chickens.

Girls who prefer freedom in the fresh air of the country to a strenuous life in the city might in this way form colonies on the land in some of the beautiful agricultural districts of France and carve out an excellent career for themselves.



  • Poultry farming as an alternative to marriage
  •  Hundreds of thousands of girls ... who cannot possibly be provided with husbands
  •  all cannot wish to be typists, secretaries or shop assistants
  •  it is suggested that they should form themselves into groups and rear chickens.
  •  form colonies on the land ... and carve out an excellent career for themselves.

As hilarious as this is, I'm sure the letter writer meant well.  There was a terrible shortage of men thanks to WWI but for a girl to feel chickens and colonizing were her best alternative really is demoralizing.  And who was this letter writer?  Do we think it was a man or a woman because it is easy to assume it is a man but could just as easily be a meddling Lady Dowager type who thinks she has all the answers to the world's problems?   One thing is for sure, the letter writer doesn't realize the work involved in farming.

That's it chicken farmer or typist?  Seriously?  My grandmother was a school teacher as was her grandmother.  Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale revolutionized nursing.  So yes, opportunities were limited but they were there. Unless you are born to chicken farming or raise a few for your own
food, I don't think that it is a career that could be considered "excellent" much less the alternative to a marital relationship.

The language is superb though presumably it had to have been translated from French.  The question is still begged "who provides husbands" as if they were a commodity and not dependent on chemistry and situation and romance and all that good stuff?  The wording makes it sound like there's a shortage of wheat and not enough loaves of bread for everyone. But I suppose War does make young, healthy men into commodities.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

But What Do You Really Think?

Louis Anderson Faithful Servant of Curtis Family

Not to cast aspersions on the Curtis Family for they did give Mr. Anderson a burial in their family plot crowned with the above is with the wording of said stone I take umbrage.  

No matter how much pride Mr. Anderson had or had not in his work within the Curtis family, he was more than a servant, he was a human being.  "Faithful" makes him sound like a dog or a geyser.  While being faithful is admirable, would you want it to be the one word that sums up your life? The Curtis family are talking about how they perceived Louis' feelings toward them and not how they felt about him.  Where is the love?  I could think of hundreds of better words to describe the relationship between Louis and the Curtis family if he is in their plot from affection.  Sadly, I fear he is there because of duty. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

For some unknown reason, Diana and I always feared we'd end up a New York Post Headline when we were younger.  You know the shock and horror type of proclamation like the classic "Headless Body Found in a Topless Bar."  But it does seem our family may have some genetic disposition to making the papers and not in a positive way.

I'm currently researching our Sharp side of the family and am pleased to see they worked their drama out in very public ways--and not necessarily by their choosing.  Based on how many of their marriage break-ups ended up in the paper, I'm thinking there must have been a wannabe reporter reading the court dockets for the most lurid or funny spins on heartache and therefore fed his family off the backs of mine.

William and Sarah Sharp immigrated to Syracuse from Kent, England in 1871 and, like their contemporaries the Sharkeys, got right down to the business of making babies.  They had eight in all starting in 1872 and ending in 1890,  five boys and three girls.  The middle daughter was our great-grandmother Mary.

Here we go:

Joseph m. Millicent and had no children.  Millicent died dreadfully after collapsing in a drug store at the age of 47.  Yes, that made the papers.

Anna m. Charles and had no children of their own.  However, they raised Anna's youngest sister Sarah's surviving child George.  The one who made the papers in this scenario is Charles who was beaten up over a radio in the lung sanitarium at the age of 62.

James m. Nellie who left him while pretending to visit her father.  At first, their 2 surviving children were put in the care of the orphanage but before too long James moved to Ohio with the boys and remarried.  Oddly, Nellie lived with her old in-laws for a time, never remarried and lived to 97.  They made the paper at least two times.  Once in reference to how James was left and the next was when he won the decree of divorce over Nellie while in Ohio.  Nellie said James deserted her but James claims to have dropped her off at her father's only to come home to find her clothes and all their valuables gone and the children unattended.  Maybe losing their eldest child, daughter Cora upset their lives too much to reconcile.

Mary m. James Sharkey and I always thought the scandal here was that he died young and unexpectedly.  I could never figure out why it seemed the Sharkey family shunned Mary.  After all, she had converted for James, they were in their mid-20s when they married...what could be the problem?  Well it seems that our friendly reporter made it very public that Mrs. Mary Sharkey was looking to separate, divorce or annul her marriage to James because his "addiction to drink made living with him impossible".  So there you go, no wonder she and James aren't even buried in the same cemetery.  Mary humiliated the Sharkey Clan which is quite likely why Gram didn't really know any of them.  This story was printed two months before James died.   So much could have been avoided if he had only imploded before Mary felt compelled to take legal action.

William m. Maud and had no children to my knowledge.  In fact, no scandal here except Maude disappears after the 1930 census.  In 1940, William is still married but living alone.  Did Maude ditch him?  No major newspaper revelations on them.

George m. Florence and did not have any children.  In 1910 they were sharing a house with George's younger sister Sarah and her then husband Ralph Sidman and both marriages break up.  Florence and George fight in the papers with Florence revealing that the credit George has denied being extended to her at the local shops is a joke anyway because he has no credit to withhold.  Florence goes on to say that George doesn't support her at all and that she earns her money doing washing and looking after George's nephews.  Ouch.  George remarries but I'm uncertain to whom.  They may have a daughter but I'm still working on that.  Sadly, George died in 1918 from pneumonia which was written up in the papers in a huge article that describes how the US Army rejected him for WWI because he had been crippled in the Spanish American War at age 17.  He enlisted in Canada and promptly became ill and died.  It has a real "Appointment in Samarra" feel to me.

Harry m. Mary and then, Edna.  This has been covered in a previous entry regarding Edna's brother "Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?"  Mary dies or disappears but she is gone by the 1920 census and, it turns out, her four children with George are in the Orphanage with their cousins.  Woot woot, it's a party.  Harry and Edna last though and the kids turn out just fine.

Sarah m. Ralph Sidman and had two children.  Their daughter died in childhood and their son was raised by big sister Anna.  Ralph deserted Sarah and remarried a woman named Florence.  Now, as I said, Florence who was married to George and Sarah and Ralph were all living together before their marriages fell apart.  I don't know if this Florence is the same one who ran off with Ralph but it seems very likely.  Sarah remarried but never had any more children.


Mary Sharp Sharkey

I guess we all end up in print at some point or another but here's to keeping out of the papers as long as we can--at least for the wrong reasons.  ;-)

Addendum October 2013:  It seems not just Anna's husband made the papers.  I have come to find that Anna had a heart attack that soon proved fatal on the train down to Maryland.  It seems she had to be removed in NYC where she later died thus making the papers for her dramatic exit. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Asylum for Idiots

While bouncing around the Web this morning trying to see if I could stumble on any new inroads to my Syracuse genealogy, I found this wonderful example of the process of human evolution.  However, the cynic that occupies a good deal of my psyche is thinking you know damn well there would have been some dolt or two bristling at each name change declaring "What's wrong with calling them feeble minded when that's what they are?"  I guess some progress is faster than others but the most important thing is to keep moving forward and not backward.

New York State Asylum for Idiots, afterwards
Syracuse State Institution for Feeble-Minded Children, afterwards
Syracuse State School for Mental Defectives, afterwards
Syracuse State School, afterwards
Syracuse Developmental Center


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thank You! You've Been a Lovely Audience

Given my own childhood experiences visiting cemeteries, it seems natural that my kid would join me  on my new venture into Find A Grave volunteer photography.  Elle has enjoyed the hunt in all aspects but one--the mausoleum.  For some reason she is fine with the idea of bodies in the ground we're walking on but not the idea of them stacked in "drawers" around her.  Fair enough, we all have to make our peace and find our comfort level with the end game and the combination is different for all of us.  She is very earthy so it makes sense.  I promised her if she wanted to come with me again she would never have to go in another mausoleum.  Ever.  Still, when I headed out today and told her she could stay home with her dad, I was surprised that she was furious I would consider leaving her behind.  So off we went. 

Elle is a very handy helper and always good company.  We each take different rows looking for our "claimed" name and, once found, the two of us pretzel ourselves into the various poses necessary to block the sun from dappling on the headstone.  Then it is Elle's job to find a little stone to leave behind for us to say "we're your family's proxy and you are not forgotten".

At our last section today I saw the headstone Messerschmidt and thought of my father.  When I was around 14, Dad told me a joke about a WWII hero speaking at a DAR luncheon. The pilot was telling a thrilling tale of battle explaining that "There were Fockes on our left and Fockes on our right" and at the sound of the word Fockes there was a bit of mumbling and gasping from the ladies who thought they were hearing an altogether different word.  The pilot continued  "The Fockes opened fire and..."
The luncheon host quickly stood up and interrupted the pilot's story and said "I think you may need to explain to the audience that Fockes are a type of German plane".

"Oh, of course, Fockes are a type of German plane" confirmed the pilot..."But these Fockes were Messerschmidts".


As often happens with me and Elle, I start a conversation with her that is age inappropriate.  I back myself into a corner with my nostalgia about Fockes, Messerschmidts and Dad and begin trying to tell Elle this joke full of new words and ideas while promising to tell her the joke again when she was older.  The idea of waiting didn't sit well with her so, as we walked the lanes edged with headstones, I push on explaining the difference between the names of the planes and the "F" word.  To some extent, she does know about World Wars but not the "F" word.  It is funny what we find offensive--Anglo Saxon epithets vs. War, but we work within the society we live.  In her most adorable way, to reward my efforts of drawn out explanations, Elle roars with delight at the punch line on the 5th retelling.  I know it was her generous way of wrapping it up for both of us so we could move on.  She didn't fully get it but like any soon-to-be 8 year-old, she wanted to badly enough to pretend. 

For me, it was nice to give Elle a glimpse of the grandfather she never knew. 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sidetracked at the end of Wisconsin

Scenic view?  What scenic view, there's graves in that thar State Park.  This whole preoccupation of mine with the dead is my grandmother's fault.  There's no two ways about it.  Every visit to grandma Lu's involved visits to cemeteries to say howdy to the ancestors. So is it any wonder that I love or Findagrave?  No, and not surprisingly, while at the most geographically isolated (at least to me) part of Wisconsin--Rock Island--I couldn't help but be drawn into the graveyard in the middle of our campground.  Three stones remain on what was once thought to be an indian burial ground.  But the Indians always did know where the best burial places were, that's why we use them too.  Anyway, the three graves that can still be noted are John A. Boon, his young son Francis Wm. Boon and the inventor Chester H. Thordarson.

While Chester Thordarson was an uber-cool inventor with many patents and awards to his name, most importantly for creating the first million-volt transformer, who actually owned Rock Island for decades, I was excited to learn a little something of John A. Boon.  Boon seemed to own part of the island first and when I say "owned" we know what we're talking about--not the first to live there just the first to put a value on location, location, location and get a deed on it.  John and a friend, Neil McMillan, I believe bought 22 acres of the island through the land offices of Green Bay.  John was a fisherman.  In truth, I don't know how to read the actual location but if it is not on Rock Island, it is most likely on Washington Island where both were important founding family names.  Look at this awesome document:  President Polk sells off a piece of Wisconsin to John and Neil in 1846.

There is another cemetery on the island but I did not get a chance to visit it this time.  What I did learn is its circumstance is a little more tragic in that they are mostly graves of unknown victims of shipwrecks. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Who are you and what are you doing here?

Charles Van Pelt has a great deal to answer for namely, who is he and what is he doing in my Sharp family plot?  There's no Lucy nor Linus but there is Charles, having tragically died of meningitis at the tender age of 20 and he's right between my English-born great grands, Wm and Sarah Sharp.  And so I'm off on another dogleg trying to piece the past together.

Syracuse Herald Journal, January 2, 1929

Obviously, this clipping helps and Mrs. Harry Sharp screams "Hey, over here!" to me but while I know Harry--my grandma's uncle, I don't have a name for his wife.  And the fertile Mrs. Cora Van Pelt was Mrs. George Padbury many moons before- having 4 Padbury babies before she had 5 Van Pelt babies-- so who is who?  Also, I know Charles died from meningitis because years ago some lovely woman who worked at Oakwood cemetery sent me a list of the 8 people buried in lot 132 and how they died.  Only now do I have the wherewithal to follow some of it up, including Charles.

Okay, Mrs. Harry Sharp, why would Harry bury his brother-in-law next to his parents?  Was there no Van Pelt family plot?  Look, I'm not trying to sound hard here.  I think it is lovely the Sharps said "We've got room,"  because they were all still mourning the death of their patriarch Wm six months earlier.  It is just that, on paper, it looks like Charles is right in between Sarah and William.  That may not be how it is in reality but it has been nearly 20 years since I was at this gravesite so I'd be assessing it differently now.

....Much, much later that night and the the knot is out.  Harry was married twice--first to Mary who died I know not when but before 1925 and second to Edna May Van Pelt who was only 5 years (if that) older than Harry's eldest child.  Charles Van Pelt was Edna's brother and he is not in between Wm and Sarah after all though on paper he is B to their A and C.  The kind keeper of info sent a little sketch of the plot layout and it doesn't read left to right as one would think.  If only I had actually looked at the whole page before I got my dander up.  It's funny how you stop seeing things after 20 years of pushing it around.

I'm still cleaning and sorting and tossing and documenting so that the next generation won't have so many layers to sift through.  I did find this awesome photo of Harry from the days of his first marriage when he went off to France in WWI.

Kind of funny how I cut it so that it looks like Harry found the Anthrax Germ.

Harry and Edna were married until Harry's death in 1971.  Edna died in 1993.  They are buried in Oakwood Morningside as well but I have not located their graves yet.  It's on my list.


Friday, July 6, 2012

"Walking Before Dark"

My friend and poet, MacKerrow Talcott, wrote this years ago and kindly shared it with me.  I have always loved the images evoked by her solitary stroll and am reminded of similar journeys and imaginings of my own.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Walking Before Dark

I don't know
who made this wall
in the middle of the woods.
Scofield, Weed, Tuttle, Bates
are on houses, hills, streets;
but there is no name on this wall
in the middle of the woods.
I won't call it my own.
I only want to follow it a ways.

The trees are see-through now.
Crows and owls can see
all the walls of New England.
I see that each stone must be
a milestone because the walls run
mile upon mile (like railroad ties,
telephone poles), and stone upon
stone.  When they were laid
did they spark and ring?

The walls were laid low
(as the trees once were)
a hundred or more years ago.
A deer, a Scofield girl, or even I
could jump over.  Weather will
lay the walls lower (haven't the trees
crashed into lean-to's and split rails),
though strong forces - dead weight
and vines - hold the stones together.

Here there is a clearing,
the stone wall surrounds gravestones.
I climb over the wall trying not
to disturb the stones, trying not
to turn one stone over.  I look
for names, birthdays, deathdays
but they have been scoured (as if by the sea).
I think the Scofield girl knows
when to gather skirts, flowers and stones.

I don't know who made this wall
in the middle of the woods.  If I follow
it a ways I might find a chimney
or a foundation also made of stone.
I wouldn't get lost following this wall,
but it's late now, it's cold now.
I'm heading home.

--MacKerrow Talcott

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Myles to Go Before I know

Back in 1994, when I first found James Sharkey and family on the census, I was completely taken with the trajectory of his youngest sibling, Myles.  Dominick and Nora started having babies right when they landed around 1871 and finished 19 years later with the birth of Myles Bernard Sharkey in 1890.  The thought of nearly twenty years of spawning exhausts me even from my safe vantage point here in the future.  However, a large family should mean more surviving family-history sources.  Since my great grandfather died young at age 29, I needed to find other lines to connect with, if I was to learn more.

As I mentioned before, that has proved difficult but one of the first lines I followed was that of Myles.  Out of the seven first-generation-born Sharkey children, Myles was the one who most successfully managed the American Dream. You would think Nora would have been quite done with the whole baby thing but, in truth, she seems to have poured her life's remaining energy into nurturing her last bloom.  How else can you explain why five of Myles six older siblings didn't go past the 9th grade in school while Myles finished high school, graduated from Syracuse University and studied medicine at the University of Maryland?  There was time to support him with the other children grown enough to help around the house and taking up trades of their own.

I gave Myles romantic hero status the moment I learned he was born on Valentine's day.  Upon learning he never married, I decided he had been career-driven and had a star-crossed lover whom he only regretted not choosing at the end of his life.  But that is all fantasy, the facts are he registered for the draft in WWI and I believe he must have served because he died in the Veteran's hospital in Bath, NY in 1943 from what I guess was cancer.

In the intervening years, he was a regular at society parties making a good single gentleman to seat with the ladies.  His older sister Mary never married either and, being 14 years his senior, took up the role of lady in his life.  Mary was a milliner but seems to have enjoyed her role as hostess for her brother quite well.  Together, they lived respectfully and comfortably.  I believe the eldest sister in the family, Teresa, who also finished high school and was a teacher, divorced her first husband.  Her daughter seems to have lived with Myles and Mary for a short time as a result.  This always sort of galled me.  If they could look after Lenora, why not look after my grandmother in the orphan asylum? 

It has occurred to me more than once that, perhaps, Myles was gay.  Myles liked parties and was thrown with eligible women often according to the papers of the time, could he really not find one that suited?  I was certain he was handsome and, unbelievably, I found this article the other day.  All things were against me but perseverance because during the early part of the 20th C there were two famous boxers named Sharkey clogging my searches and, in this case, they spelled Myles' name wrong.

But it is him.  As Diana says, "nice eye sockets".    Creepy but cool, I say. I know from his draft registration that the eyes in those sockets were blue and that wavy hair was brown.  I also know he didn't remain a doctor in a hospital or private practice but worked for H.H. Franklin Manufacturing Company presumably, as a company physician. 

Myles will always be romantic and tragic to me.  But alas, his line gives me no descendents-- only an interesting glimpse of his life as an immigrant family's success story.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

What's Cooking: Musings on Modernity

I am not a cook.  I could be a cook but I have too many food issues; I'm a vegetarian texture-eater  who hates tofu, eggplant and large mushrooms, random exotic fruits give my mouth a weird, scratchy feeling, I have an almond-family allergy that may or may not be abated when the almonds are cooked, I have never cared for seafood (except Friendly's fried clams) so instead, I'm more of a baker.  You can't go wrong with cake and cookies.

Growing up, our house always had a brownie or cake mix to make.  I have no idea why these items were on the shopping list but I remember, as a teen, being able to open the cupboard and assuredly find brownies to be made.  Mom's only stipulation was "use walnuts to cut the chocolate taste".

Our cupboard, also, always had a box of magical Bisquick that could make biscuits, dumplings, shortcake and pancakes! I believed in the mystical powers of Bisquick well into my 30s when I was living in England and found a box in my local Sainsbury's.  I was so beside myself with joy and nostalgia.  The English box didn't have the standard recipes as on the American box so the next time I went home I brought a box back and cut them out when it was empty so I'd always know how to make my English Bisquick do what I wanted.

It was only when we moved back to the US that I first gave the powers of Bisquick any thought and looked at the ingredients.  It was only flour with baking powder, salt and butter already in it. That's not magical; that's lazy.  I don't buy it any more.  In fact, I only buy cake mixes in a time/ingredient crunch but pancakes and cakes and even brownies made from scratch don't really take much more time and taste infinitely better.  What the hell have we been thinking? 

 Yesterday, I was making cupcakes because I found a tub of processed chocolate frosting that admittedly I had once purchased in a previous time-crunch experience.  Feeling the need to not waste it, I made vanilla cupcakes from scratch and because my kid hates fake frosting, I made her a little butter cream.  Anyway, none of this is the point which is that as I was mixing up the butter and sugar, out of nowhere an earwig falls into the batter and scrambles for cover under a hunk of butter.  I did what I'd like to think anyone in my position would have done; I screamed and screamed a little more (not loudly so much as consistently) and dumped my bowl in the sink.  Quickly, I scooped the beast out with a spoon into the sink and flushed it down the disposal where I ground him into smithereens. 

As I flipped off the disposal and gave the bowl a clean, I thought of Nora Cass.  Do you know what my great-grandmother Nora would have done, or yours for that matter?  They would have picked the bug out with their bare hands and squashed it between their fingers before continuing to cream their batter.  They wouldn't have started over.  They couldn't have afforded to if it had even dawned on them.  But we are so spoiled with convenience and plenty.

Andy Warhol
Recently, I was speaking with Diana about our grandmother Mabel's cooking abilities.  I was dumbfounded remembering our favorite dish of hers was chicken and dumplings. I don't even think the chicken was fresh but was made from Campbell's cream of chicken soup and had Bisquick dumplings.  OMG, that was tasty back in the day when I ate such things.  What a salt lick but hardly scratching the surface of what a farm girl should be capable of cooking.  Why didn't Gram eat fresh food or cook more originally than that?  Even when she packed our lunches for the Greyhound ride home from a visit, they would always include a bologna sandwich, Snack Pack pudding in the metal can, a grape or orange Crush soda and a Wet One.  Everything was processed in her kitchen.  Diana thinks it's because, being born at the right time for all these newly-created food stuffs, Gram embraced their ease and convenience without a single glance back.  She was a Modern Woman who kept a Modern Kitchen.

It is interesting to note that all this modernity has made us a fat and lazy nation.  And, it is also interesting to note, my generation of friends is reverting back to a natural state of culinary affairs.  We grow our own food as best we can, we belong to CSAs, buy local, buy organic...No more dark magic from the Bisquick box, we can mix our own dry ingredients, thank you very much.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Sharkey Name Game & A Bad Tattoo

I should be grateful in my genealogical endeavors that my Irish side of the family has a somewhat unusual name.  I mean, it's not the name an author would chose first in identifying an Irish protagonist: James Sharkey.  The name doesn't immediately make you think green fields and barley or a scrappy, jaunty-cap-wearing trap driver.  But you'd be surprised how many Sharkeys there are in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It is not even the amount of Shakeys that is my real problem though. It's the crazy amount of times the names Dominick, Winnefred, Catherine, Joseph and Mary get reused.  I am stuck and here is why:

My great great grandmother Nora (Honora) Sharkey was born a Sharkey in 1850 and married a Sharkey around 1871.  One must presume she and her husband were some sort of cousins because his name, like her brother's was Dominick.  This sort of thing can certainly happen without being kin--but usually in reverse when a man marries a woman with the same name as his sister.  This happened to me and for a brief moment in time there were two of us named Jennifer Lucas in my family.  Unfortunately, my brother's ill thought-out tattoo "Jen & Rich" in a love heart outlasted the marriage.  I must point out that, oddly enough, I married a Richard but I have not tattooed it anywhere.   But again, my argument is that if the bride and groom have the same surname to begin with they likely have a common ancestor, no?

I started what I refer to as unpicking the knots in the Sharkey ball of yarn almost 20 years ago when my mother died.  At that time, I only knew my grandmother's father was named James.  In the "old" days one had to actually go to an official location to look at microfilm of old census records to find your people.  I still can remember my first squee!-- when I found them through the view finder.  I did literally squeal so loudly that I was compelled to apologize to my fellow researchers.  None of them blinked, none of them cared, all of them were looking for their moment to do the very same.

My first squee! Now easily obtained online.

I was living in New York City at the time so as soon as I could, I went up to Syracuse and found their graves in St. Agnes Cemetery, the streets they lived on and the church they attended.  I found Nora's obituary in the library and learned I was not crazy--there were two Dominick Sharkeys and thankfully she was not married to her brother.  I could not, however, find where they came from in Ireland and the line of this huge family seemed to dry up.  My life took on other focus as my grieving for my mother--which I think sparked this need to know--moved on to other phases.  Genealogy was set aside.

Fast forward to the present and I have found only one relative who comes from this line and admittedly, he knows less than me.  Still, it is wonderful to know someone else cares that these people lived.  On, there are folks that seem to have my people in their trees but it still doesn't pan out for me.  There's no supporting evidence that I can see for the connection.  I can't find where mine were born or married and I can't find what ship they came over on. 

Either Dominick or Nora had a mother named Mary Conlon and a father named Dominick as seen on Nora's death certificate--but I think Dominick answered the questions as if they were being asked of him not Nora.  A few years later on Dominick's death certificate his parents are listed as Dominick and Mary Sharkey.   So no real help.

Suggestions welcome and, as always, think through your tattoos before application.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ladies Who Paris

Home. I'm sure I'll have a few more nods to Paris still to come but I just love these surreptitious snap shots of two Parisienne women of a certain age dressed up for a day at the Musee D'Orsay.  I wish I had the guts to get their perfect coifs and suit-matching scarves in the shot as well but I settled for the detail of their suits.  I loved the solid colored linen suits made interesting by quirks of design.  The outfits reminded me of what my grandma Lucas would have worn on a similar outing.  They looked like a page in a catalogue or an article teaching you how to pack light and maximize your outfit with accessories.  I swear they could have easily switched jackets to double their options.  Not to point fingers but look at the contrast with the woman to the right.  All I can say is may I put in such an effort as these beauties when I'm 30 years down the line!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Walk in the Park

The best thing about the Tuileries today was the public water fountain.

Sarah and Ellie cool off.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ship Ahoy!

"The Deutschland" is launched at Luxemburg Gardens

Trust me, my kid would have loved to have dived right in.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Un Incident Technique

 With Myrna Loy the globetrotting teddy bear.

Taking in the breeze on the stairs down

Apparently, there was an "technical incident" at the Eiffel Tower leaving only one elevator in use so there is a two hour wait to get up.  I think it will be that way all summer so bit of a bummer.  But we stuck it out and even walked down.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fatigue Du Musee

Or something quite similar.  We're hitting a wall on the art tour.  Elle even became quite sad about a statue of a woman holding her lover's severed head.  Can't blame her.  Nudes schmudes though. The kid is fine with all that--even had a good laugh over fig leaves and learned about circumcision.  She does not even question (aloud anyway) why the woman is naked at the picnic on the grass.  The only time she was shocked was at the postcard rack when right at her eye level was Ruskin's worst nightmare.  Just took her by surprise after all the smiling Renoirs, I suppose. 

Musee D'Orsay

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Afternoon in Giverny

Elle is a Monet fan so we took an afternoon trip to see his house and gardens.  The froggies were a courting in the lily pond...loudly. 

Looking out Monet's bedroom window

Sunday, May 20, 2012

360 Degrees

Elle circles a statue at Versailles and finds "thar be dragons."

I don't mean to disparage the French and their incomparable history however Versailles is a MAJOR disaster in regards to heritage management both in the protection of a historical structure and in the control and flow of visitors.  I worked in Heritage Management for a number of years at one of  English Heritage's premiere London sites so I am familiar with the effort necessary to balance both the building's integrity and the visitors' experience.  It is not easy and when the building was in peril we would take measures.  At Versailles today, I could only say that it felt like we paid our fee to push through sweaty bottle necks at every doorway, constantly dodging other people's photographs,  learning nothing and feeling like rats in a maze.  There was no easy exit and no attendant in any room.

 Displays were paltry and uninformative.  In fact, there was almost no interpretation.  You could get a free audio guide but what was the point?  You couldn't see much.  In more than one room there was simply a load of cushioned stools pushed back in rows behind the rope suggesting courtly ghosts might be sitting on them and looking back at us.  Well that's a thought I would have had if I wasn't tearing through the masses to get to some air.  It was really ghastly and the decay of the palace was really depressing.  I realize the age but nothing was sacrosanct, nothing appeared important enough to protect.  Hell, I used to keep people from stepping on a replica carpet we prized it so much. 

We used to joke about the visitors who rarely had questions about the palace we worked in but always wanted to know where the toilets and tea rooms were.  However, those two locations are crucial knowledge in a heritage site.  And the toilets at Versailles were quite appalling.  The toilets always had long queues and there was no real distinction between the men's side and the women's.  All the women queuing for the loo in the garden could watch the men at the urinals should we accidentally look left.  In fact the last loo of the day was unisex and two men were using the urinal beside my daughter and me as we were drying our hands.  Fantastic.  Not Continental Chic, just foul really.

Versailles is quite literally not what it used to be.  Save your money and your time and read about it instead.  Buy a guidebook because that is the best way to actually see a room.


Friday, May 18, 2012

"Regarde le ciel"

Ah, Paris is a lovely as ever.  R and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary showing our girl around town. :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Early Writings

Youthful celebration of two of my favorite women:

The Lucas Chicken aka The Checkered Chicken sat in Gram's china cabinet for years until it was mine.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Now Don't Start That Again

Last year my birthday fell on Mother's Day as it did the year I was born.  Leap year has pushed it ahead an extra day this time which is throwing me for some reason.  It must just be an aging thing.  :-)  Anyway, my sister has asked me to rerun the entry below so here it is and remember to always honor your mothers if you can, if they don't really drive you crazy...well honor them to the best of your ability at any rate because it really ticks off those of us without one around anymore when people take their moms for granted:

May 8, 2011

I was born on Mother's Day--May the 8th and all.  Apparently, many of us arrived that day crowding the rooms of Strong Memorial in Rochester, NY.  Post delivery, my mother was put in what she called "a glorified broom closet" because of the shortage of beds.  On the wall was a poster showing her step-by-step how to perform a vasectomy.  In keeping with the era, my dad was relegated to the waiting room for my big entrance.  Apparently, he was so worked up in there someone asked if I was his first baby.  "Third!" he barked.  Also, the last.  That probably had nothing to do with the poster though.

Another fun fact about my birth is that I was a birthday present for my sister.  Diana was 2-years-old and laid up with Chicken Pox when Mom went into labor.  Mom had asked Diana what she wanted for her birthday which happens to be tomorrow, May 9th.  Diana unequivocally answered "A baby sister".  Mom said she'd do what she could.   It is very nice when a plan comes together.  I was adored from the get-go and Mom even let Diana push me around the driveway in her doll carriage.

More than any other month, May will always be a month of love and loss for me and for Diana.  It is my most conflicted month by far.  The double birthdays have always been fun and I married in May but I also lost my mother in May, my aunt passed away on my birthday 3 years ago and my brother was buried on my birthday 14 years ago.   Diana and I once wondered if we could cut the month out of the year altogether. I even pretended my birthday was August 5 (8/5 instead of 5/8) for a short while--okay well I talked about it.  But in the end, it was all sort of silly.  All months have good and bad dates and memories.  I think May is the sore thumb because losing Mom was probably the hardest loss of my life.

There is nothing like a mother and there was certainly none like mine.  I will love her and hold her in my heart forever.  I see her in the dimples of my own daughter and those of my nieces.  I see her in Diana and I see her in me.  I hear her words come out of my mouth and I laugh.  I'm lucky for the mother I had and for the women in my life who loved her, love me and helped bridge my loss as I married and became a mother without Mom by my side.

Happy Mothers Day to all the Moms and the people who "have their backs".

Much love to my mother, my mother figures and my grandmothers known and those yet to be discovered:

Sandie; Liz; Mary; Sue; Carla; Patty; Rosemary; Catherine; Mabel; Maryann; Alice; Hattie; Nora, Honora, Sarah; Diantha; Dolly; Lydia; Sarah; Heather; Ursula...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Real and Imagined

Had a wonderful day planting and weeding in the garden despite the lack of sunshine.  It always feels like this when I'm outdoors getting things done:

However, as I'm bent over in hideous track bottoms with ancient, LL Bean once- green clogs slid on over white athletic socks, a purple tee shirt peeking out from under a red fleece and hands encased in fuschia gloves, I was not really rocking what I was feeling inside. Where I envisioned her above, everyone else was seeing this. 


Friday, May 4, 2012

Satellite Cass Family Reunion

Mary Cass Eccles
Satellite Cass Family Reunion
Tallahassee, Florida May 4, 2012

Yesterday cousin Patsy Eccles and me had a big sit down-box sorting session in a famed Tallahassee eatery. Patsy knew and was known by everyone. Very impressive. We dug into this box that was only slightly organized and found some unbelievable gems. Patsy is the great granddaughter of Mary Cass Eccles who was Frank Smith Cass’ sister. The readers of the Checkered Chicken will recognize Frank as Allen Cass’ father. This means that from Judd and Diantha Cass (Frank and Mary’s parents) back we have all common ancestors.

The impromptu reunion finally answered the question I have had in my heart since I was little child at my Grandma Mable Cass Lucas’ knee: Who is gonna care about this except Jenny and me? Well the answer is PATSY!!!!!!

The result of our meeting was the decision to forget more sight seeing adventures that Patsy had planned for us and just order in lunch, spread the Cass archives all around the swanky hotel room Patsy has me staying at and start connecting our own dots. Patsy found an amazing amount of loot from her trip north several years ago to Chautauqua County. Readers of the Checkered Chicken will be pleased to know that Patsy found some diary entries belonging to Luella Springer Eccles (Mary’s daughter). Unfortunately the conference I am in Tally for starts tonight and will put an end to our merriment.  A huge shout out to my Grandmother Mabel who kept the papers and research in impeccable order. I love seeing her original handwritten notes in the margins of her research.  


Can You Hear Me Now?