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 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 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 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 waterproof box for 1/4 fold 9’ Atlas life net. Approved wire mesh basket 6” deep x 24” wide at top front of hosebed. Suction basket holder on tailstep.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 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 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 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 hood, with independent switches. Red Mars light atop 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 hosebed. 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 hosebed 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.

 

 

 

Fred Goat Remains Ellusive

Yes, I am still chasing Fred Goat.

In a blog post, In Search of Fred Goat, last November I began the search for a photo of the Fred Goat Company Logo that once adorned the rambling company buildings at the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.

After the NY Municipal archives yielded a photo circa 1940 of the building from an angle that denied us a view of the turret where the “Goat” maintained vigil I adjusted my search and contacted the Brooklyn Historical Society Library at the recommendation of Greg Young from the Bowery Boys: New York City History.

I received a response from Megan Westman, a Public Services Intern at the Library and Archives of the Brooklyn Historical Society, that contained a photo of the building at just the angle I was hoping to find.  Megan, in her email, said the photo is from 1941.

fred-goat

The Fred Goat Company, Dean Street and 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY circa 1941

Alas, the photo does not reveal the logo along the space at the corner between the windows on the turret. You can barely make out some lettering between the third floor window spelling out the word “GOAT”.  That leads me to believe that the logo and name of the company may have been refreshed sometime after this shot was taken, perhaps after the end of World War II.

The hunt continues.  I think I need to somehow track down the descendants of Mr. Fred Goat in the hopes that someone has the shot for which I am looking.

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“Money Cake”- Tales from 4th Street

regina-and-edward-oconnell

Edward and Regina

As a child in Brooklyn, the first notable event in my family that came after the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday was my maternal grandmother’s (and her twin brother’s) birthday. This year will mark the 111th anniversary of their birth on 23 January 1906.

At a family reunion back in October, my mother and her siblings gathered the Kelly  family together for the first time in quite a while.  Old  photos and artifacts from the family were on display, shared with stories about those that went before us.  Many of the stories centered around Nana’s kitchen, cooking and baking in her Park Slope  home. The stories of her old gas stove were legendary.  For years, I think only Nana knew how to coax that old relic to life and then to the right temperature for whatever she was making.   I know in the back of my young head I had a cartoon vision of her lighting the pilot light leading to a small, smokey explosion that would leave her unharmed with the exception of a blackened face and wildly singed hair, smoking from the ends.

Out of that gas oven came countless family meals, holiday feasts and, in her later years, more intimate meals for the occasional grandchild visiting or boarding with her in her ubiquitous brownstone just down the street from Prospect Park West.

Several of my memories center around her baking.  She would bake raisin nut soda bread and, what my siblings and I would call, “pound cake”.  I later learned that my mother’s siblings referred to it as “money cake”, named so by my uncle. The name comes from the expense of the ingredients during the 1940’s.  It was extravagant and it was a treat that appeared on special occasions.

I am one of six children. For some reason I was the only one that would leap for the raisin bread while my brothers and sisters would favor the “money cake”.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved both treats.  But when you are the middle child competing for limited treats, you go for what you like and what is plentiful.

When my grandmother passed in October, 2001, my Aunt Maureen put the recipes together and passed them around so the next generation would have an artifact that they could taste.  Over the years, I have become fairly proficient at the Raisin Nut Bread.  A few years ago I even made a loaf and passed it to my son who sent it overnight to my mother (but that is another story).  But I had never attempted the “Money Cake”.  To be honest, I did not realize I had the recipe because the recipe sheet I had called it “Cream Cake”.  The same product had a different name in each generation of the family. Nana called it “Cream Cake”, my mother’s generation called it “Money Cake” and my siblings and I called it “Pound Cake”.  Confused?  Yeah, sorry!

About a week ago, while discussing some genealogy discoveries with Aunt Maureen, I asked her for the recipe again and she sent it in an email.  The recipe goes as follows:

Nana’s Cream Cake (“Money Cake”)img_3765

4 eggs
1/2 pint heavy cream
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups Presto
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cream, sugar and egg yolks.
Add vanilla and mix well.
Add flour, stir until well blended.
Fold in egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Bake in a deep pan 1 hour at 375.

Presto Cake Flour was very popular in the New York City area.  I live in Southeastern Virginia and this is not an item I can find in the local Harris Teeter.  I ordered a box from Amazon.  If you cannot find Presto, add 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt to every cup of cake flour. Because it was raining yesterday and I had nothing more pressing on my list of things to do, I decided to give it try.   I had all of the ingredient and Aunt Maureen’s email up on my laptop sitting on the kitchen counter.

img_3767

Coming out of the oven at about the 55 minute mark

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The result was surprising. It revived a taste memory I think I had filed away in my brain.  Was it as good as Nana’s?  It was close.  I think I may have left in a minute or two longer than I should have.  My oven temperature in an electric oven may be more stable than Nana’s old dinosaur gas oven.  I recommend you test with a wooden toothpick or bamboo skewer.  If it comes out dry, it is done.  My sons seemed to like it.  They happily helped me taste the result of my successful baking experiment.

This is how I paid tribute to Nana on the day before her 111th birthday.  Maybe later on I will go pick up a Hershey Bar as a nod to her twin, my Great Uncle Ed.  He always seemed to have Hershey Bars for his grandnieces and nephews when we visited him in his brownstone on Dean Street.  But that story can wait for another day.

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Successful

The Perils of Disproving Family Legends

I am knee-deep in genealogy paperwork this weekend.  A package from the National Archives containing the military records of my great-grandfather, Sidney J. Kelly, Sr. spilled over 100 photocopied pages across my table that probably have not been disturbed since the 1920’s at a time when his widow was seeking assistance with pensions and death benefits.  I spent most of Saturday pouring over the documents and creating a transcript of the many handwritten logs contained within.

The danger in the research I have been doing for the past few years comes in when I discover that a family legend is not really true.  We all have them, celebrated skeletons in the closet.  They could also be whispered secrets through the generations or notes in the margins of family histories left to us from those who came before us. The names Baumann, Boyle, Cooke, Flood, Gaynor, Kelly, and O’Connell get tangled in the vines on my family tree.  greetings-from-gowanus-a

Did John Boyle, Jr. drown in the Gowanus Canal in 1875? (If you are not from Brooklyn, you could not possibly understand just how horrible it would be to drown in that body of “water”.) In World War I, was PVT Thomas Kelly of Company “G”, 106th Infantry Regiment gassed by the Germans on the battlefields of Belgium?  Was Michael H. Baumann guilty of manslaughter in the 1910s?  Was his victim, a man with the last name of O’Connell from Brooklyn,  another relative on the other side of my family tree?  It reads like a Penny Dreadful.

sidney-and-emily-kelly

Sidney and Emily Kelly, circa 1918 Courtesy of Norman McDonald

What do I know now that I did not know last Thursday?  I know that Provisional Ensign Sidney J.Kelly, USNRF, died of disease in March of 1919 while on home leave due to illness.  His medical discharge, signed by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels days after his death, had to be revoked so that benefit and pension issues could be dealt with by his widow, Emily.  I also have found that Ens Kelly’s son, Private Thomas M. Kelly, served with the 106th Infantry Regiment in the European theater and most likely did see combat in the 2nd Battle of the Somme in March and April of 1918 fighting alongside the British Third Army.  He returned to the United States in 1919 and was discharged when the 106th was demobilized in June 1919.  His name does not appear on the casualty lists from the battle.  I am still looking into his unit history and am waiting for the National Archives to provide his records.  The story of him being gassed is still unproven.

Whatever I uncover, I think it is best to stick to what I can prove through research and documentation.  The truth will find a way to come out.   Some the legends may continue as legend, others may not stand up to scrutiny.  For now, I will go where the records and,  hopefully, the truth take me.

 

Transcript

Man Cave Formal, 2017

This is an update to my post from yesterday.  At about 12:11 am, just after the New Year’s kisses and hugs were wrapping up, the phone pinged.  The “Man Cave Formal, 2017” arrived.  Because he posted it on FaceBook, I have no issues with putting it here as my first post of the year 2017.  Besides, no one reads this anyway!

From a secret, undisclosed location near the border between New York and Connecticut, my brother, James, in Man Cave Formal , 2017…

james-2017

James, 2017

Happy New Year!

Year

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Looking Forward, 2017

It is once again New Year’s Eve.  I am ending this year in the same place I began it, along the Herb River in Savannah. It is really the place I want to be because She is here.  That is more than enough to make me happy.

We all have rituals that go along with the new year.  Some are very traditional from watching the “Ball” drop on New Year’s Eve, a kiss with just the right someone at the stroke of midnight, or a champagne toast.   In my family, we await a special photo that comes out each year just after midnight on 1 January.  I do not know how or when it started but my brother, no matter where he is or what significant challenge he and his family are facing, will disappear just after 11:30 and reappear in formal attire for the arrival of the new year. Even if everyone else in the house has conked out or a raging snowstorm is going on at his New York home, James will get decked out and take a photo.  Sometimes it is a selfie, sometimes he has co-conspirators.   Every year we all wait for the photo to pop into our email/phones.

I know it is silly, but it is a tradition that I look forward to every year. It makes me hopeful that no matter what comes in the new year, we were stylishly attired at the start!

Hopeful
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In Search of Fred Goat



It all started with a homework assignment from my Aunt/God mother at the Kelly Family Reunion in October.  She wanted a photo of Fred Goat.

I remember Fred Goat from my childhood. We lived in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn  during the 1960’s, just down the street from my maternal  grandmother’s house.  Nana, as we called her,  often hosted major holiday and family dinners at her house. After those dinners, my father would usually end up driving my  great-uncle and a cousin, both bachelors, home to the brownstone that they lived in on Dean Street in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. My mother called the two of them “the Dukes of Dean Street”. On the return trip, after we had dropped off the Dukes, we would wish Fred Goat a good night.

21streets2-popup

Office for Metropolitan History

I really don’t know how the tradition started.  I know that my mother’s sisters would say good night to him when their father would drive them home from Dean Street in the 1940’s and 50’s.  Fred was always at the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue. Day or night, year after year he would be standing silent vigil.  “Fred Goat” was the logo of The Fred Goat Company.  It adorned the top of the turret of the building that once was home to the Federal Brewing Company .  The Fred Goat Company took over the building in 1914 and began manufacturing  and repairing machinery.

You would think that a landmark such as Fred Goat would be a an easy find on the “Google Machine”.  Alas, no photo of the old goat has revealed itself to me on the internet.   So I had to do some detective work.  No easy feat from here in southern Virginia.

The turret of the building was on the corner of 3rd Ave.  I found  a letter in the real estate section of the NY Times on Oct 18, 2012 to Christopher Gray asking for information on the building. It was written by the same aunt who had tasked me to find Fred.   I found the owner of the company’s obituary in the online archive of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Archives from Feb 7, 1939 and confirmed the information on the building.  I next went to the NYC Department of Taxation website.  Between 1939 and 1941, and again in the mid-1980s, the city photographed every house and building in the five boroughs.  I ordered a photo of the building from the 1940 collection. It arrived on 18 November 2016.

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NYC Municipal Archives

As luck would have it, the angle of the photo does not allow a look at the logo on the turret seen in the photo just to the left and above the street light.

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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 4th, 1925 – page 20

The ad from the Brooklyn Eagle shows the logo that was at the top of the turret on the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue.  But a photo of the tower with “Fred” still eludes  me.

The building has gone through a lot of changes since the 1960’s. The top of the turret has been removed, Fred was painted over.   The eight story section of the building shown in the first illustration has had several floors removed.

federal-breweries-of-brooklyn

The search will continue.  I will try to track down the descendants of Mr. Fred Goat, you know, his kids ( I couldn’t resist).  Perhaps one of them has the photo I seek.  Maybe someone reading this will have it and drop me a line.  I may have to go up to Brooklyn to see if I can find any other architectural archives for the City or in the Brooklyn Public Library.  Somewhere out there is a photograph of the turret at the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue with Fred Goat overlooking the traffic below. Someday, I will be able to say “Good Night” to Fred Goat once more.

Sliding through time

IMG_3459It arrived about a week ago.  A box, from my father in Massachusetts, full of rotary slide trays.  Weighing in at about 20 lbs with all the packing and trays.  More importantly, for me, the trays yielded over 1,200 slides covering family subjects from the mid 1950’s through the mid 1990’s. As the unofficial family historian and keeper of the family tree, I was almost giddy at the thought of sorting all of this out.

With my scanner skills honed from watching some YouTube “how to” videos on my particular scanner and fresh batteries in my handheld slide viewer I started tackling the first set of 100 slides.  I was thrilled in my initial finds that included photos of my Mom as a teenager in Central Park, my father on his Navy commissioning day from the mid 1950’s and photos of myself and my five siblings in 1960’s and 1970’s.  Photos emerged of my parents’ wedding that I have no memory of seeing before.  They included photos of relatives long since passed.  My maternal grandfather, who died before I was born in 1960, was there standing with my grandmother and my mother on her wedding day.  Photos emerged of the old neighborhood in Brooklyn where I lived until the end of 7th grade in 1973 and the houses in Pennsylvania that became home through my college days. .

S-078

That’s me in the middle.

Because of a series of traumatic events in 1973/1974 I thought I had lost a lot of memories from my childhood.  I will not go into those events, that is stuff for another blog (and was, in fact, the subject of another blog). Memories flooded back, pouring out of the trays scattered around my home office.

I am trying to limit myself to about 90 minutes of scanning a night.  It takes a while to get things setup and working through the process of getting many of the slides clear of dust and dirt and then previewing and scanning in the files.  It is great fun.  While it may be daunting to some, this is a labor of love for me. I am not at an age where I recover from staying up to the wee small hours of the night looking for my Uncle Ed  and expect to be ready to go for work the next day. So for now, I am setting a timer on my phone.  When it goes off, so does the scanner.

Ultimately, many of the slides will have to go through Photoshop to correct cropping and fix blemishes.  Then it will be on to a website accessible by family where I hope I can tag and catalog the collection for everyone else to enjoy and download.  I am grateful these photos were not lost. I am also grateful for the discovery that many memories were also not lost, they just needed  a nudge.  This has been one of the most cathartic projects I have ever undertaken.