Whamageddon

Author’s disclaimer: There is no link or blog trick that will play the song “Last Christmas” by Wham anywhere in this post.  I give you my word that, if you are still in the game, you are not taking a risk of being Whammed by reading this post.  I swear on my reproduction first edition of A Christmas Carol, so help me Dickens!

It all began when we saw Christmas appearing everywhere on November 1st.  The remnants of Halloween candy wrappers still played in the breeze on Musket Court when the sounds of Christmas music began to assault our ears.  It was more than I could deal with.  We were not even through the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas was pushing in the door.

WHAMMy sons take part in an annual game that is lovingly referred to as “Whamageddon“.  It is an international sensation with a huge following.   (It must be legit if it has its own website and a Facebook page!) I am convinced this is an international attempt to hold off Christmas until mid-December, where it belongs. The concept is simple.  You do whatever you have to in order to avoid hearing the song, “Last Christmas” by Wham. That is not an easy thing to do if you are paying attention. The contest runs from 1- 24 December. Once you recognize the music as the original version by Wham, you are out.  You have gone to Whamhalla. You self report and you are done.  It is just a matter of time before those who you love join you.  Covers of the song don’t count!  It has to be the original, by Wham (George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley).

I was all in on November 30th as I boarded a flight to Savannah.  My first year in the competition and I was ready to go, my Wham senses on full alert.  On December 1st, the first day of the competition, Jeanne wanted to go get wreaths for her house and pick up her decorations from her storage unit.  We set out down the Harry S Truman Parkway with her “to do” list.  At the first Christmas Tree tent by the Home Depot, she ran into a friend and they started chatting.  I was lost in my thoughts and mindlessly humming the barely audible Christmas tune playing above the din of holiday shopping, tree selecting and parking space jousting nearby when, on the second verse, it hit me.

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance
But you still catch my eye
Tell me, baby
Do you recognize me?

Yeah, I recognize you… Damn it! At just before 11 a.m., Eastern Standard Time in Savannah Georgia, I had been Whammed.  Done, out, game over.  I had made it barely eleven hours into the competition.  Jeanne apologized for putting me in Wham’s way with a sly grin on her face.  It was over almost before it started.  I texted the boys with the bad news.   I returned to Virginia a few days later knowing that I could listen to any station on my satellite radio without fear of a Wham induced incidence of road rage.

Alex, who initially thought he was eliminated over Thanksgiving weekend, actually was Whammed by Pearl Harbor Day when some Zeros from the 1980s took him out.  Within my Whamily (I stole that from Nancy) my sons Matt and Scott, Nancy (Matt’s wife) and my ex were still in it to win it.

Scott was powering through the home stretch of exams and papers for his final semester at Old Dominion University.  Because of this I was delaying decorating the house and getting a tree. Setting off the Christmas bomb, as we call it in our house.  With his last paper submitted and his final exams in the books on Friday, 14 December we decided to go get a tree.  Alex, Scott and I piled into my Cherokee to head out into a light mist to find a tree.  As I started the car, Scott immediately questioned my choice of Sirius stations.  It was on a contemporary Christmas Channel.  He glared at me and uttered one word, “REALLY?!” I pressed the button on the steering wheel and landed on the “’80s on 8”.  Another incredulous glare.   “And what song was released in 1986?” is all he had to say. (He knew the year of release, I’m impressed) OK, we may be just a little hardcore about this year’s competition.  Pressing the button on the wheel again to go to “’70s on 7”,  Wham does not exist in that universe. Unfortunately, Disco does. We were able to get in and out of the tree lot on South Battlefield Boulevard without having George Michael as the ghost of Christmas Past appear before us.

Let me say right here that to intentionally play “Last Christmas” (Whamming)  to take out a player or players is considered bad form.  Is it allowed? Yes.  Is it a dick move? Absolutely!  If you can no longer take the pressure of the game (I don’t understand the stress, I was collateral damage at a tree farm stand in Georgia barely into day one), you should commit Whamicide quietly, preferably on sound canceling headphones in the privacy of your own home.  No need to make a big spectacle of it.

On Saturday, December 15th, Scott graduated from ODU, Magna Cum Laude (Yeah, I did that, I just bragged about my son destroying my undergraduate GPA.  I am sorry, not sorry.)   The plan was to have a big family dinner, including my ex, on Sunday evening at The Butcher’s Son in Chesapeake to celebrate my son’s accomplishment.

Around the large round table, clockwise to my left were Scott, Melissa, Nancy, Matt, and Alex.  Somewhere in the lively conversation, between the french dip spring rolls and the main course, I polled those present as to their status in Whamaggedon.  Four hands went up indicated that they were still very much in the mix.  Everyone except for Alex and myself.  The conversation drifted back to Melissa’s new digs, and Matt & Nancy’s planned NYC run on the infamous Chinatown Bus later this week to see the Harry Potter exhibit at a museum in New York.  Under the sultry gaze of the over-sized portrait of Hedy Lamarr on the wall by the bar, we were having a grand old time.  Scott was enjoying himself, which made me a happy papa.

Dinner was served and by the time the plates were cleared, I was ready to declare this a  successful evening.   The waiter pressed once again about dessert and coffee.  Scott was wavering on cheesecake.  Melissa and Nancy were discussing teaming up on a creme brulee. It was settled.  A slice of cheesecake appeared before Scott with “Congratulations” written across the plate in a raspberry reduction.  The girls had their spoons at the ready for the assault on the confection before them.

It was the sudden movement that caught my attention.  Nancy straightened in her chair, shoulders back, eyes widening.  She looked at me, something was amiss.  I scanned the dining room, nothing out of place.  Hedy’s portrait still kept vigil.  Then it hit me, they had changed the music. What was that drifting over the din of diners at nearby tables? Nancy had joined me in Whamhalla.  This was too much fun!  I was about to witness a group whamming.

It doesn’t surprise me
(Merry Christmas!) I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying, “I love you, ” I meant it

Matt had it next. As he realized what he was listening to, his eyes grew wide, an expletive may have passed his lips.  That triggered Scott, dropping his fork.  Finally, Melissa realized that they had been taken out in one Whamtastic swipe of The Butcher’s Son sound system.  Groans, and complaints from all at the realization that all had found Whamhalla.  Except, apparently, from me.  According to a post on Facebook from Nancy, I had a good, heartfelt laugh as the realization washed over the table.   Matt and Alex confirmed that I was not shy about showing my enjoyment.  To be fair, Alex thought it was pretty funny.

I owned it and the check for the evening. It was great fun while it lasted.  A silver lining, as pointed out by the fair Nancy, there is no more stress from listening to Christmas Stations on the radio, walking into Harris Teeter, MacArthur Center or a random 7-Eleven.  If you hear the staccato electric organ lead-in or if you stumble on the YouTube channel you can rest assured that you are already impervious to Wham.

Now that this is all over I can settle down to watch a nice family Christmas movie.  Any takers for Die Hard?

Last Christmas 1

OK, in my youth I was weak for Kathy Hill, the girl in the video. Sue me!

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

I am getting back to work here

I have not posted on the blog since last summer.  In the interim I have been working on my other blog.  If you know about that blog, you know about it. If you don’t,  let’s just say I do not want to cross contaminate between the two blogs.  This is the lighter of the blogs, where I am going to put out family histories or stories that I want to tell.  You can contact me if you want to know about the “dark” blog.  But for now I am going to tell you what I am going to focus on projects here for a while.  I am doing this not only to give you an idea of the things I uncovering or rediscovering, I am also doing it to put myself on the hook to complete the unfinished posts in my queue.

Grow Old

Photo from promo materials from the film “They Shall Not Grow Old” by Peter Jackson

Last night, Matt (the eldest of the “sons”) and I attended a screening of the film “They Shall Not Grow Old”.  One Hundred years have passed since the end of the Great War (World War I).  This film is about the ordinary British/Commonwealth Soldier along the Western Front from 1914-1918.  This was not meant to be a discussion of significant battles or a rehashing of the geopolitical implosion of Europe in the wake of the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Hapsburg heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1914.  This is a story, told through the film archive of the Imperial War Museum in London,  using over 100 hours of film shot along the Western Front from 1914 -1918 and over 600 hours of audio files of Veterans of the Great War telling their stories.  It was not a Ken Burns style documentary, but it was a powerful piece of film making.  I know this is not everyone’s “cup of tea”.  But I was all in.  Thanks to Matt for inviting me to attend one of the screenings here in Norfolk, Virginia with him.

 

At the end of the film, after the credits had run, Peter Jackson discussed the techniques used to restore and make the film more natural to watch.  It was really fascinating.  One of the things he said resonated with me.  He pointed out that as the generations pass these stories are lost.  He encouraged people to preserve those family connections to history.   I am going to do just that.  I have been researching the service of my great-grandfather, Ensign Sidney J Kelly, USN and two of his sons during the war.  His youngest son, my grandfather, was too young to serve in the war.  I have Sidney Kelly’s service record from the National Archives and information on his sons through unit histories that I will share.

I am also working on Bernard Kelly (my maternal grandfather, Sidney’s youngest son),specifically his service with the Fire Department in New York.  I recently acquired a copy of his service record and I am working with sources in New York to get more information on his house assignments throughout his career.  I have completed his chronological list of assignments from 1928 through 1960. I am trying to fill in details.

Finally, I am working on a post about the Baumanns of Red Hook in Brooklyn. I have always been curious about my father’s family so that is a labor of love and curiousity.  Along with all this family history,  I may throw in some funny stories and adventures to Savannah into the mix.

I think I have given myself enough of a homework assignment for the moment.    Stay tuned…

Serendipity, Thy Name is Goat

The text of the email read as follows: “Don’t ask how I got to your page but I may have what you are looking for…”

Sometimes the universe surprises me.  Something incredible happens, and I have no explanation for it.  My father would call that a miracle.  I will call it serendipity.

We all have icons in our lives.  Some are more obvious than others.  Growing up in the largest of the five boroughs in New York City,  I could point to structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bank Building or the Cyclone as being Brooklyn icons.  But, there are more personal icons.  Those are things that may be small and significant to a neighborhood, a block, or a family.  Examples in my life included the letter “F’ on the front end of the subway train that serviced my neighborhood.  The F Train was transportation to adventure. It would take you to Manhattan and, with a change of subway line, would transport you anywhere in the city.

prospect panthers

Panthers of Prospect Park (3rd Street Entrance)

The Panthers at the Third Street entrance to Prospect Park guarded the approach to a different universe in my imagination away from the traffic and buzz of my neighborhood.  (They are not lions! Google it if you don’t believe me. I’ll wait.)

And then there was Fred Goat.  I have been on a mission to find a photo of Fred Goat since last October.  That tasking came from my godmother, my Aunt Anne.  This post is, in fact, my third on the subject.  The other two posts are:

To summarize, Fred Goat was a logo that adorned the side of the turret on the building at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn. It was the home of the Fred Goat Company, a machinery firm.  In the 1940’s and 1950’s, my maternal grandfather would encourage his daughters to say “goodnight” to Fred Goat as they passed by on the journey from my grandmother’s family home on Dean Street to their home in  Park Slope.  The tradition continued with my siblings in the 1960’s as we made a similar journey home from the venerable old brownstone on Dean Street to our home on 4th Street near the park. As a child, I would look at that castle-like structure, and I would imagine it was ruled over by a goat named Fred.

My search for a photo had yielded me various shots of the exterior of the building, but none had an angle I wanted with Fred on the side of the turret. I worked with the Brooklyn Public Library, the NYC Municipal Archives, the New York Times and other potential sources of the holy grail of Fred Goat photos.  But my efforts went unrewarded.

That is until last night. I noticed that an email had arrived in this blog’s admin account as I was working on some old family photos.  The text of the email read as follows: “Don’t ask how I got to your page but I may have what you are looking for…” I took a look at the name of the sender, and I knew the universe might be up to something.  I replied to the email hopeful that I was about to be reunited with an icon from my past.

The email was from the great, great, great granddaughter of  Fred Goat (the entrepreneur, not my mythical goat).  I don’t know how she stumbled on my blog.

Fred Goat2

Courtesy of the Goat Family

Perhaps, one of my 23 subscribers let it slip that I was looking for a photo of her family’s old business in Brooklyn.  My subscribers are, after all, a very exclusive and influential group! I would like to know how she stumbled on me, but I promised not to ask. So this is me, not asking.

Just before ten last night, another email came in with two photos attached.

Ladies, Gentleman, and exclusive and influential subscribers, I give you Fred Goat!

Fred Goat1 (2)

The Fred Goat Company, corner of 3rd Avenue and Dean Street.  Courtesy of the Goat Family

We all have quirky family traditions.  At least I hope and wish we all do. The real Goat family probably never knew what was being whispered from the back seat of a random Ford Country Squire station wagon to the logo on their building. That secret is out now.  Without ever knowing it, there was a connection between the families.  Of course, you didn’t know about us, and the younger members of my family thought you might be real goats.

Aunt Anne, here is your photo courtesy of the Goat Family.  I will start working on quest #2 (that is another story for another evening).

My thanks to K.G. for sending the photos along. Please know that from southern Virginia to coastal Massachusetts, my Mom, siblings, aunts, cousins and maybe some nieces and nephews are going to be saying goodnight to Fred Goat tonight.  Some are doing so for the first time.

Goodnight, Fred Goat!

Brooklyn Tour

It was my youngest sister’s idea. In recognition of our parents’ 60 years of marriage, we would return to where it all started. Brooklyn! The plan was pretty simple, Mom and Dad would come down from their home in Massachusetts with my sister and meet up with the rest of their children in Brooklyn. I cannot remember the last time we (Mom, Dad, and all six children) were together without spouses and grandchildren in tow.

We booked rooms at the Brooklyn Marriott and used that as our starting point for our tour.  My brother had arranged for a tour guide from Brooklyn Unplugged and a large luxury van to take us on a four-hour tour of the significant locations in my parents’ lives. Our tour guide was Jeff Stirewalt, and our van driver was a gentleman named Tito.

IMG_4002We boarded the van in front of the Marriott at 1 p.m. Our first location was the house on Dean Street in the Boerum Hill neighborhood that was the center of my mother’s family for generations.   As we stopped along the street, we, noticed the door open and an arborist coming out of the venerable old brownstone with the owner of the home.  My sister jumped out of the van and introduced herself to the owners, Bob and Carol.  As it turns out, they had purchased it from my great-uncle in IMG_39771989.  To our surprise and delight, they invited us into the house for a quick look around. The house has been restored over the years, but the architectural details, many of the light fixtures and some remnants of my mother’s family remained.   Our hosts talked to us for around 20 minutes.  We were even invited up to the third floor where my great uncle’s study had been converted to closet space for the front and back bedrooms.  It was in this room where my great-uncle had painted a map of a large section of Brooklyn with the Fire Department of New York firehouses, call boxes and equipment. When the closet renovation was done, the new owner could not bring himself to paint over the sections of the map that survived.

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Brooklyn Fire Map painted by my Great Uncle, Edward A. O’Connell

 

After speaking with the owners and reminiscing about our eccentric great-uncle, we offered our appreciation for their incredibly generous invitation to glimpse the house.  We left Boerum Hill and headed to Red Hook, the neighborhood where my father lived as a child. While this part of Brooklyn had gone through a dramatic transformation from the turn of the twentieth century when it was predominantly populated by Irish and Italian immigrants to a mostly Cuban and Dominican neighborhood, some of the places from his childhood remained.  The most emotional location was Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, my father’s family parish when he was a child. (Visitation is located at 98 Richards Street at Verona Street)

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Dad, as a Visitation altar boy, front row, center

DSCN2450

Visitation of the Blessed Virginia Mary, Red Hook, Brooklyn

48.visitation.church-506x380There was a social going on the in the yard next to the church when we pulled up.  The front door was open, so we got out of the van and went inside.  While we were inside the darkened church, a woman from the social came in and asked if she could assist us.   I told her that my father’s family had been members of the parish and that he was an altar boy here in 1940.  A smile came across her face, and she immediately offered to light up the church and illuminate the fresco behind the altar. Tears came to his eyes as he took in the sights of this grand old Gothic church.  I am sure memories of both his parents’ families came to the forefront of his consciousness.

We loaded back into the van and headed to Coney Island to the place where my parents met as summer camp counselors for the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).  I would be remiss if I did not mention our driver, Tito.  He handled that Mercedes Van like he was in a car modified for drifting.  He maneuvered us around Brooklyn as if he was on rails, narrowly missing cars in traffic, pulling U-turns on city streets and squeezing into tight spaces with remarkable ease. His handling of traffic on the Belt Parkway was NASCAR worthy! He was able to turn the transits between stops into a thrill ride. Every time we loaded into the van after a stop I made sure Mom was buckled in.  As we traveled from stop to stop our tour guide, Jeff, filled in with facts about Brooklyn.  My parents, of course,  corrected him a few times! (I know my father is reading this so I will admit to chiming in a few times as well.)  While we were on the Belt Parkway the subject of beer came up, followed by an impressive display of classic beer jingle singing by my brother, Bob, who belted out the tunes for Rheingold, Schaefer and Ballentine Beers, respectively! We were all having a grand time.

Once we made it to Coney Island, we offloaded at the West 28th Street ramp to the boardwalk at Coney Island, this is the place where my parents met and got to know each other while they were working at CYO.

 

Lunch had to be at Nathan’s!  Tito somehow parked right in front of the restaurant.

 

My parents were full of stories about taking their summer camp charges to the pool and to the beach. Stories of their own adventures on the Cyclone, which turned 90 years old the day after we visited.  You could almost see the memories in their eyes as they took in the sights and sounds around them that day.

 

From Coney Island, we traveled to the neighborhood that I remember, Park Slope.  This is the area where my mother grew up in the big limestone on 4th Street, my father lived in an apartment on 9th street with his family, and I grew up in a brownstone down the street from my maternal grandmother.

 

DSCN2482

Liz knocking on the door on 4th Street

Tito, our driver, was able to park the van across the street from the house I grew up in on 4th street.  My youngest sister jumped out of the van and up the stoop to the front door of the brownstone.  Ringing the bell brought the current owner to the door.  I have no idea what she must have thought when she saw the group gathering on the sidewalk.  Liz asked for permission to take a group photo on the stoop.  Isabel surprised us all by inviting us in for a quick look at the house. Amazingly, for the second time today, we were entering into a house that was important to our family, welcomed by people who did not know us but were quick to offer a kind invitation to revisit memories.

 

We finally did get the photo on the stoop as we departed for our last official stop.

 

Tito dropped us at our final tour stop, St. Saviour Church on 8th Avenue. My parents were married here in June 1957.  This is the parish to which both sides of my family belonged in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  It is the parish where my mother went to high school and where I went to elementary school.  My father and older brother sang in the choir here.  At the end of my choir audition when I was a child, the choir master looked at me and announced that they were also looking for altar boys. He pointed me to the front of the church.  This was the center of parochial life for the family.

 

We arrived at the church in time for five o’clock mass, which we had arranged to be said for my parents.  My parents seemed to be deeply moved by the service.  It had been over 40 years since the last time we sat as a family in this church.

Once mass was concluded, and my parents had spoken with the priest on the steps of the church, we made our way to the Stone Park Cafe for dinner.  Seated at a large round table at the front of the restaurant, we enjoyed a meal while talking about our adventure that day and sharing stories.  We could not believe how lucky were to have Bob and Carrol invite us into their house on Dean Street and Isabel welcome us into the brownstone that was our home on 4th Street.  Mom and Dad were ready to call it quits after dinner, so we made our way back to the hotel.  Once we bid them goodnight, the “children” headed for a nearby tequila bar.

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Around midnight, June 24, 2017

After a few drinks, someone came up with the idea to walk up onto the Brooklyn Bridge to check out the skyline.  We had been game for anything all day, so why not?  We ended up on the Brooklyn tower at midnight, taking in the sights of the New York skyline.

While looking at lower Manhattan, I had to wonder how many more times we would be together.  Was this the last time we would be in Brooklyn as a group?  Given how widely scattered we are from Massachusetts to southern Virginia I am afraid I know the answer to that question.  As we packed up the cars on Sunday morning, my brother handed off two big boxes of old photos and slides from my father for me to sort, scan and catalog.  I am sure that will keep me busy through the summer.  After saying our goodbyes, I started my trek south to Virginia.  While the family had moved out of the city years ago, I could not help but think at this moment we had left Brooklyn for good.

 

It was a fantastic day for my parents and my siblings.   It was a celebration of Regina Kelly and Jerry Baumann on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary.  It was a day I will not soon forget.

I want to thank my sister, Liz, for coming up with this idea and bringing my parents down from coastal Massachusetts.  My brother James for arranging the tour and the guide. My sister, Cathy, for finding a fantastic restaurant. My sister, Eileen, for finding parking in Park Slope and staging a car to get my parents back to the hotel after dinner.  I also want to thank Bob, the oldest of the siblings, for capturing the day with his camera and his encyclopedic knowledge of 1960 beer jingles.

For Bob and Carol on Dean Street and Isabel on 4th Street, your own kind invitations to come into your homes was astounding and much appreciated.  I think I speak for all of us in saying that going into the houses again was the biggest thrill of the day. From me,  from my family, thank you so very much!

Thanks to Jeff, our guide, and Tito, our driver, from Brooklyn Unplugged for an incredible afternoon!

 

 

Addressing My Past

If you know anything about me, you will know I like to research and discover things about my ancestors.  I do because, until a few years ago, I did not know all that much about them.  Either side of the family was pretty much a mystery except for the O’Connells. For me, the O’Connells were my maternal grandmother, Regina, and her brothers Edward and James.  Edward was her twin and James was my godfather.

I have spent a lot of time looking through sites like Ancestry.com, FindaGrave.com, and Newspapers.com  for names and dates of family events. I have also researched the family homes in Brooklyn. This week I plugged in an address to see what would turn up. The house at 164 Dean Street is in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn.  During my lifetime it was “Uncle Ed’s house.”

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164 Dean Street, circa 1940, NYC Municipal Archives

It came into my family in March 1907 with the deed going to John Boyle (my third great-grandfather).  With the death of John Boyle, it passed into the hands of the O’Connell family, specifically my great-grandfather, Edward F. O’Connell.  It passed to my Great Uncle, Edward A. O’Connell in 1941 and James O’Connell was added to the deed soon after.

It was common for multiple family units in the Irish immigrant community to fill these venerable old Brownstones. From 1907 through the late 1980’s, 164 Dean Street was the home of many of the Irish names that run in my family; Boyle, Cooke, Mahoney, and O’Connell.

I went into Newspapers.com and found The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the daily paper for Brooklyn for 114 years from 1841 to 1955.  What I found was a little bit of a revelation.  I caught some of my ancestors living their daily lives.  The first thing to catch my eye with the Dean Street address was a letter written by my, then 10-year-old, grandmother to the children’s page published in May 1917 seeking admission to the Humane Club.  It seems to have been a column written by someone who went by “Aunt Jean.”

The newspaper did a lot of society reporting, and it actually reported on parties on Dean Street.  Mary Boyle Cooke (my second great-grandmother) celebrated her 81st birthday:

Mrs Anthony Cooke Birthday

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun, Nov 14, 1937 – Page 18

There were parties for my cousin William “Billy” J. Mahoney, Jr. (1st cousin, 2 X removed)  The first was his 21 birthday party, the second announced his return home on furlough from the army.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun, Dec 14, 1941 – Page 20

With all those “Misses” invited, I think his mother, my second great-aunt “Gertie,” may have been trying to marry Billy off in 1941.

Billy would, like so many young men during that time, join the Army.  He went to boot camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  Either during a break in training or before heading over to the European theater he came home on a furlough, and his mother threw him another party.

Billy Mahoney home on furlough

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thu, Jun 10, 1943 – Page 4

I think the second event was a lot more bittersweet than the 21st birthday celebration.  Billy would go on to fight in Europe where he was wounded in action.  He came home to Dean Street and took care of his mother.  He never did marry.

My great Uncle Ed (Edward A. O’Connell) was an interesting character.  He was a banker,  a talented artist and a bit of an amateur historian of the Fire Department in New York City.  In his study on the third floor of the brownstone on Dean Street he had painted a borough map of Brooklyn with the locations of all the fire houses, call boxes and graphics of some of the equipment.  I don’t know if any photographs of the wall were ever taken.  If there are any out there, I would love a copy.  On 24 October 1948, his work appeared in the Old Timers section of the paper.  Both the graphic and the write-up were his work.

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Text FDNY

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 24 October 1948, page 24

I was originally looking for information on births and deaths. I found the life in between.

Revelation

60 Years

My parents, Regina and Jerry Baumann were married on June 3,  1957. Today is their 60th wedding anniversary. They were married when he was 23, just 2 months shy of his 24th birthday, and she was 2 months past her 19th.

Mom and Dad wedding

Monday is an odd day for a church wedding, and yet there they were at St. Saviour Church on 8th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.  The bride was the daughter of a New York City Fireman. The groom, a young Naval Aviator, was the son of a Brooklyn, shipyard welder.  They were the products of a strong, working class, Irish Catholic upbringing in a world that had recently survived the Great Depression and World War II.  They were of the generation coming of age during the innocence of the 1950’s in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The bride’s parents had great hopes for their eldest daughter, and her choice for a life partner at this age was not immediately embraced by her parents.  They finally relented and gave their blessing.   I guess if my father could land a jet on the rolling deck of an aircraft carrier at sea, he must have shown some potential.  With the blessings of both families, wedding plans were expedited, and they arrived at the church on that Monday to say their vows and start their journey together.

Mom and Dad 3 June 1957

Vows at St. Saviour Church in Brooklyn

The marriage was officiated by Rev. William Scrill, a friend of the bride and groom from their days as CYO counselors at Coney Island. Rosemary McNulty, my mother’s best friend, was the maid of honor. Don Hayes stood up for my Dad. Donald Harper, one of my Dad’s Navy buddies, made a last-minute appearance.

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L to R: Don Hayes, Regina “Kelly” Baumann, Jerry Baumann, Rosemary McNulty and Don Harper

I tend to study old family photos. The one above is my favorite for a few reasons.  First of all, my mother is positively beaming.  My mother has never been comfortable with her appearance. In fact, she has always downplayed her looks. She is, unquestionably,  an American Beauty.  (Anyone who says otherwise is itching for a fight.)  My Aunt Ann, my mother’s sister, is just barely visible photo bombing over Don Harper’s shoulder.  The other story in this photo concerns the two people on the right of the group shot.  Ensign Don Harper met Rosemary McNulty for the first time on May 26, 1957, just 8 days before this photo was taken.  Introduced by the same couple that they are flanking in the photo.  Take a close look and notice that her left arm goes back to Ensign Harper’s side.  If I were a betting man, I would say that they are holding hands.  The smile on her face reveals a great deal.  Sixty years later, Don and Rosemary are still holding hands in South Carolina.

I am not going to give you some fantastic story of my parent’s perfect life together.  There are no fairy tales.  Marriage is work.  Mom and Dad had more than their share of trouble, heartache, triumph, and adventure.    Their union has produced six children, three sons, and three daughters.  All are college graduates, all have families of their own.  There are 13 grandchildren including adopted and step-grandchildren.

Through their lives together they have battled alcoholism, cancer, periods of unemployment and significant financial challenges. They sometimes battled each other.  During some very dark years, my mother held the family together by sheer force of will.   But, they came back to embrace sobriety, beat cancer, succeed in business and travel the world together.  Today they are battling my mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s Disease.  They are still together, honoring the vows they shared sixty years ago today.

S-007

I want to congratulate my parents, Regina and Jerry, on reaching this milestone together. I wish for their continued love and happiness no matter what challenges lie ahead.  Whatever comes, I know you will get through it together.  I love you both!

 

 

 

 

 

What I Found in a Photo

While enrolled in a basic genealogy online course through Boston University I discovered that you can tell a great deal about the lives of people from looking at old photos and analyzing the objects around them.  Nothing is meaningless. To test my research skills I decided to work with a favorite photograph of my maternal grandfather, at the time a young FDNY Lieutenant.   LT Bernard Kelly FDNY

My homework assignment to myself was to find out about the truck and the firehouse.  With only visual clues, architecture of the building and a partial side view of the truck, with the engine company number on driver’s door obscured and an “AF” manufacturer’s emblem on the hood, this is what I found (I did not go to my mother or her siblings for any information that would speed the process):

The FDNY Engine Company in the photo is Engine Company 256 housed in the firehouse at 124 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.  That was a simple matter of researching the ladder companies that drove the Aherns Fox Pumpers in the FDNY.  This was not a common engine.  Once I knew the houses to which these engines were assigned, I searched for photos of the firehouses and matched the architecture cues to identify the house.

Once that was done, it was a fast look through the FDNY equipment listings for Ahrens-Fox fire engines and everything fell into place.  The truck in the photo is a 1938 Ahrens Fox Model HT-1000 GPM Pumper and Hose Car.  Its Ahrens Fox registration number is  AF #3442. That is a match to FDNY Engine 256.  It left the factory on May 18, 1938: Shipped by Ben E. Graf via B&O and Erie railroads to New York, NY on June 25, 1938.

The engine remained in the FDNY inventory until the early 1960’s when it was sold to Paragon-Texaco Oil Co.  It was one of the last remaining in the FDNY inventory.

You can learn a great deal from an old photo!  Now I need to go to the FDNY and see if I can name the firefighters in the photo.

If you are interested in the specifications on the truck, as delivered, here they are:

Model HT 1000-GPM piston pumper and hose car with a two-door enclosed cab. 27’ long, weight 18,300 pounds, frame by Parish Pressed Steel Co. Reading, PA. Brown-Lipe 4-speed transmission #T-297496. 50-gallon copper fuel tank under the seat. Timken HX7 front and HX19 worm-drive rear axle, 5.4 to 1 ratio. 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, 16” hand brake. Budd disk wheels, Goodyear 11.25” x 20” 14-ply balloon tires, single front and rear, spare tire on left running board. Ross 760/770204 steering with horn button. Radiator # 539659 with Brewer-Titchener dash-controlled radiator shutters. Painted NY red lacquer. Hosebed with a slatted floor and adjustable rear windshield with 6 Waugh or Lyons hand straps, loop size to fit man’s full sleeve in turnout coat. Compartments including a waterproof box for 1/4 fold 9’ Atlas life net. Approved wire mesh basket 6” deep x 24” wide at the top front of the hose bed. Suction basket holder on tail step.Hercules HXE motor #321758, 53/4″ bore x 6″ stroke, 200 brake horsepower, high-compression aluminum heads, 935 cubic inch, compression ratio 5.44 to 1. Triple ignition (18 spark plugs), Bosch ZR6 two-spark magneto, Exide 6X6K-25-3-R battery on right running board, Auto-Lite MR-4108 starter with an IGC-4064 distributor, Delco-Remy 1106629 generator with 5821 regulator. 2” Zenith updraft carburetor with Air-Maze air cleaner and flame arrester.  Ahrens-Fox 6-cylinder high-pressure piston pump, rated 1000 gpm @ 160 psi, 500 @ 320, 400 @ 400, 250 @ 600, at maximum 14’ lift and engine speed of 1600 rpm or less. 3” discharge gates. Engine-to-pump gear ratio 14-62 (4.4286 to 1). Pump pistons 31/4” x 6” minor (2.1417 GPR), 41/4” x 6” major (1.2238 GPR). Ross relief valve.12-volt starting, lighting, Sireno type 51 siren on vacuum chamber, 10” chrome-plated Corcoran-Brown 2205 swiveling searchlight at the right of cab atop 12” locomotive bell. Tachometer, revolution counter, speedometer, 1000,000-mile odometer, temperature gauge, fuel gauge, oil-level gauge, ammeter, oil-pressure gauge, and viscometer on the dash. Two 10” chrome-plate Corcoran-Brown 29233 headlights. Two 6” red cowl lights, Guide model 361H. Two red and white chrome-plated Guide 280R tail lights. Two 4” chrome-plated rear hose pickup lights. 6 chrome-plated lights under the hood, with independent switches. Red Mars light atop the center of cab. 2 chrome-plated Dietz King tubular lanterns on sides of body. Homelite model R gasoline-engine driven generator with pilot light and 3 extra outlets. Two 500-watt Crouse-Hinds floodlights, one 250-watt Crouse-Hinds spotlights, with bulbs. Three 100’ lengths of #16 two-conductor mine cable. 3 sets twist-lock connectors.Hiland enclosed cab, V windshield, safety glass, metal floor boards, leather upholstery, 2 rear-view mirrors, 2 Bosch QW12/1 semaphore signals with red lights, warning light atop cab, 2 adjustable sun visors, 2 Bosch NY1851 electric windshield wipers, 2 electric defrosters, bell on right of cowl. F.D.N.Y. in 4” block letters on cab doors.Morse 2000-gpm turret pipe atop cab roof, with 3” and 31/2” connections under each side of hose bed. Two 12’ scaling ladders. One each Elkhart 21/2 gallon soda-and-acid and Foamcrest 21/2 gallon foam fire extinguishers. 6-foot hook. 8-pound flat head axe. McElligott double-female Elkhart clapper valve with 300-pound pressure gauge and ground support. Crow bar. Two 41/2” suction spanner wrenches.1 Zerk high-pressure grease gun. Set of wrenches. 10-ton hydraulic jack. 8-ounce canvas hood cover, and 8-ounce canvas hose bed cover, with securing straps and strap eyes. Weed skid chains for driving wheels.

 

 

The names have been changed to confound the researcher…

It has frustrated me that, while doing genealogical research, I have been unable to make the leap across the pond to Ireland with any of the many family lines in my pedigree that should lead me there.  I have been working the Flood, Kelly (seemingly heading to the Isle of Man), O’Connell, Cooke, and Gaynor lines trying to find that leap back to an actual location in Ireland.

My break came in January with a clue that my Aunt Maureen had in her possession.  She has a certified birth registration for her maternal grandfather, Edward F. O’Connell.  The record, from the General Register Office in Dublin,  was dated 15 May 1940.  We are assuming that the verification of the date of birth was for the purpose of registering for Social Security benefits in 1941.  The most interesting thing about the record was the name on his birth registration was not Edward F. O’Connell.  The name listed was Edmund Connell. I had the reason that my search could not get me across the Atlantic.  There was a name change somewhere along the line.

Edmund Connell, aka Edward F. O’Connell, was born in Earlshill, in the district of Ballingarry, County of Tipperary to Edmond Connell and Mary Connell (formerly Morris) on 23 July 1874.  Mr. Connell, the elder, had his profession listed as a Sawyer.  The informant to the birth was Bridget Connell.  I am still trying to sort out Bridget’s relationship to Edmond and Mary.

Armed with this information I was able to connect with a volunteer at Ireland Reaching Out who provided the following information:

Earlshill townland (place-name database) is in Ballingarry civil parish, and also the Catholic Parish of the same name. The townland is located about 10km (~6 miles) south-east of the town of Littleton Co. Tipperary. The baptism for Edward/Edmond took place in Ballingarry Catholic parish the same day he was born, on the 23rd July 1874 (NLI RC Register images – right hand page near the top).

A warning from the volunteer on searching for references to Ballingarry, there are several parishes named Ballingarry in other counties in Ireland.  Take care, if you are doing research, that you have the correct parish. The civil registration district where the birth registry is entered is Callan, which although based in Co. Kilkenny, also covered part of Co. Tipperary.

Edmund O'Connell

Edmond Connell

Mary O'Connell

Mary (Morris) Connell

As for Edmond and Mary, the parents of young Edmond, there is a promising possible marriage for Edmond and Mary in ‘Gurtnahoe and Glengoole’ Catholic parish (see left hand page), which is immediately north of Ballingarry. The date is 24th October 1858 – unfortunately early Catholic marriage records don’t include as many details as the equivalent civil records, so no father’s name, occupation etc. I am reasonably comfortable that this is my maternal great grandparents’ marriage documentation.

 

All of the children for Edmond and Mary for whom I could find civil documentation are:

Catherine – 22nd February 1866
Richard – 3rd March 1868
John – 6th Jun 1870
Mary – 2nd Jul 1872
Edmond (23rd July 1874)
Anne – 23rd March 1878 
Margaret – 13 Mar 1880

Of these birth registrations, all with parents Edward/Edmond Connell and Mary Morris mention Earlshill with the exception of Anne.  The place of birth on Anne’s birth looks like Ballyphilip.

Edward and Ellen O'Connell June 1934 (Nana and Pa)

Edward F. and Ellen O’Connell

On the U.S. Naturalization Record indexes filed with the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York,  Edward F. O’Connell indicated that he arrived in the United States on July 12, 1880.  The port of arrival is lined through.   He would have arrived here eleven days before his sixth birthday.  If he arrived in New York, he would have come through the immigrant inspection station Castle Garden in lower Manhattan.  Castle Garden was the facility used before Ellis Island opened in 1892.  I have not been able to confirm that date or locate a ship manifest that could give us a clue on when the name was changed to O’Connell through records online for Castle Garden.  

Edward F. O’Connell grew up in New York.  He became a naturalized citizen on 2 August 1895.  He listed his occupation as “bartender”. He married Ellen Cooke and raised his family on Dean Street in what is now called the Boerum Hill Section of Brooklyn.  On his draft registration card in 1918 when he was 44 years of age, he listed his occupation as “chauffeur”.  Edward and Ellen  had four children, Regina and Edward (twins), James, and Helen (who died at age 5 as a result of contracting polio.)

Edward F. O’Connell died in 1959 and is buried in the family plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn.

I will keep researching the name change and try to determine the arrival date of the O’Connells (Connells) in the United States around 1880.

 

A note on Irish surnames…

Irish patronymic surnames often feature the prefix O’ . As surnames developed in Ireland, they were formed by adding the Gaelic words O, Hy or Ui denoting “descendent of” to the original bearer’s grandfather or to that of an earlier ancestor.  The prefix Mc denoted “son of” to the original bearer’s father.