Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hair Do's

Cele in the 1940s with classic upswept hair.

The hair styles during the War years are the best. Everyone is wearing a lot of hair on top of their heads.

Ann, Dorothy and a friend about 1940.

Back row: Cele, Dorothy, Kathryn. Front row, Pat, Ben and Joan, 1944.

I found some funny photographs on the Library of Congress webpage in a group labeled "Safe Clothes for War Work" with hair-do suggestions.

Whether it was patriotic or practical or just a fad the look was quite popular.

Ben's sister Edie and her daughter Cecelia.

A baby shower for me with Ben and the women who worked for him at the phone company, summer, 1945.

Tommy, Patty and Bud, 1941

I remember that my mother in the 1950s still had hair rats (wire and net sausage-like forms) to roll her hair around to get that rolled effect. She also kept a hair saver, a fancy box with a hole in it in which she saved her own hair to make hair rats.
By the 1960s we ratted our hair by backcombing it and spraying it with hairspray to get a lot of height.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Aunt Vera

Veronica Agnes McNally December 27, 1909-May 13 1990

2009 is the 100th anniversary of Aunt Vera's birth. It's hard to believe she would be 100 years old in December.

Peggy 34, Lora 37, Cele 38, Vera 40 and Billie 41 in 1950

Vera was the third child of William and Anna McNally, born when Marie was almost 3 and sister Billie was 16 months old. Cele, Lora and Peggy came along soon after. The group of Billie, Vera, Cele, Lora and Peggy seemed to me to be a gang of five who spent a lot of time together.

Vera, Ben and Cele at a cabin at Eagle Bay in 1935

Cele and Vera in September, 1942 with a lot of guys at Finnegan's in Huntington. Finnegan's Pub, opened in 1913, is still in business. I have heard that the reason everybody left Queens to move to Huntington was to be closer to Finnegan's---and to the golf course there. I recall sitting at the bar drinking Shirley Temples and eating peanut butter sandwiches made from a jar kept behind the bar just for me (and maybe Joan and Pat).

Vera was my godmother and since she never married and had kids of her own, I always thought we had a special relationship in the huge McNally scheme of things. She shocked me when I was about 40 years old by telling me she was also godmother to Nancy Dorr. Up till then I believed I was an only child. I didn't even ask if there were any others.

As a single working woman, a social worker, she always appeared quite glamorous to me. And I wanted to be just like her, which I have indeed become, down to her acerbic tongue (my sister says I might have avoided that role model.)

I used to visit Vera in Queens when I was in my 30s and 40s and remember her watching the Mets games at night with a tumbler of scotch (I hope there was some mixer in there too.) She knew I liked corn toaster muffins, which you could not get in Kansas, so they were always there for breakfast.

Ann and Vera in 1976 at Vera's apartment. Below: Billie and Vera outside the apartment in June, 1978.

I vaguely recall that in the 1940s and 50s Vera ran around with Tom Berry, a friend of my father's from the phone company. Tom Berry was a good looking guy, but my mother told me he drank too much and that's why he and Vera never married. Neither ever married.

When I was young I heard that Tom Berry was from Wichita, a place he hated so much that when he flew across the country he took a route that went north or south so as to avoid visiting the old home town, even at 20,000 feet.
Tom Berry and Cele

I later had cause to spend a lot of time in Wichita and I often thought of Tom Berry.

Vera died when she was 81. She is buried at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Elizabeth Daly Valentine (1861-1951)

Elizabeth Daly Valentine, Christmas, 1946 when she was 85 years old.

Cousin Georgi has shared her genealogical research on our ancestors. Some of the elder cousins can remember our great-grandmother Elizabeth Daly Valentine who lived with her daughter Anna Valentine McNally when we were young.

Her baptismal records indicate she was baptized on July 6th, 1861 at the Church of St. Aidan, in Ferns, County Wexford, Ireland. Because Aunt Kay and I (Barbara) also had a July 6th birthday I was often reminded of the coincidence by my mother Cele. Whether Grandma Valentine was born or christened that day is unknown but that was the birthday we celebrated.

Elizabeth was one of nine children born to William Daly and Anne Daley Daly in County Wexford, Ireland. Like the rest of Ireland, the small medieval town of Ferns had a population explosion in the 1840s. Overpopulation, potato famine and other economic hardships caused ten percent of the townspeople to leave in the 1850s. The Dalys endured until 1872 when her father sailed for America with the older children. Elizabeth was 10 years old. About two and a half years later her mother and the younger children (Mary, Lizzie, Annie & Charles, according to the passenger list) arrived in New York aboard the SS City of Montreal on October 22, 1874. Lizzie was 13.

SS City of Montreal, launched in 1871 and sunk in 1887

William’s occupation was a cooper (barrel maker) according to the 1878 Brooklyn City Directory, which lists the family at 89 Canton Street, Brooklyn. That year his wife Annie died of peritonitis on November 2, 1878, when Lizzie was 17. Two sisters died of scarlet fever, Mary in 1879 at 22 years of age and Annie in 1885 at 21.

Two portraits of a cooper from the Library of Congress website.

At the time of her death Mary was listed as a “general servant,” a typical occupation for a young woman born in Ireland. The older sisters who never married, Bridget (1849-1934) and Margret “Maggie” (1852-1929), followed the same occupation, listed in records as housekeeper or housework. Bridget was also reputed to be a local midwife. Sometime between 1880 census and Annie’s 1885 death, the family moved down the block to 83 Canton Street.

One stereotypical view of an Irish maid in 1908 from the Library of Congress

By then Elizabeth had left home to marry John J. Valentine. Georgi believes they married about 1879 or 1880, a date based on her absence from her father’s household in the 1880 census and the birthdate of their first child Lewis J. Valentine, born on March 19th, 1882. John Valentine, our great-grandfather, was born in Mercer County, New Jersey, on October 21, 1854, so if they married in 1879 he was about 25; she about 18.

The Valentine children attended PS 26, the Gates Avenue School. This photo of the boys in 1899 may include a Valentine or two. Anna was about 14 years old and probably knew many of them.

Elizabeth and John had 5 children between 1882 and 1892. Their eldest, called Uncle Lew in the family, grew up to become Police Commissioner of New York City (see the blog entry dated September 26, 2009.) Their eldest girl was given the poetic name of Anna Marie Colette Valentine, born November 9, 1885 when her parents were 31 and 24 years old. John Valentine seems to have owned a retail fruit store when the young family lived on Troutman Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. He then became a "small commission merchant," according to Lew's biography and the Valentines moved to 142 Adelphi Street. John's business failed about 1898. Lew quit high school to work as a delivery boy at Abraham & Straus department store to help support the family. John's obituary also notes he worked at Abraham & Straus for the last decades of his life.

John Valentine died October 9, 1922 in Brooklyn at the age of 68. He and Elizabeth were living at 225 Adelphi Street with their daughter, Elizabeth "Bess" Valentine Curley, her husband, Frank, and their family in the 1920 census. Georgi also found her in the 1930 census, living next door at 223 with the Curleys and sister Bridget. Bess Curley died in 1940 and Frank Curley in 1946, so Georgi guesses that Elizabeth Daly Valentine didn't move in with our McNally grandparents until after the Curleys died in the 1940s.

Adelphi Street today. The brownstone in the middle #283 is for sale.

Elizabeth Daly Valentine died in Stewart Manor, Nassau County, on February 27, 1951 when she was 89 years old. She is buried at St John’s Cemetery, Middle Village, Queens.

Grandma Valentine (age 85) and William Brackman in March, 1947.

Gisigers 1

Kathryn Jane McNally (July 6, 1922-March 25, 1984)
& Warren E. Gisiger (August 19, 1921 – July 11, 1985)
During the War in 1943
With Pat Bentley

Below: With Stephen in 1946

Below: Visiting Cele and Ben in Cincinnati in April 1954

Below: March 1958. Back row: Warren's mother Emmy holding Gisiger cousin Janet, Kay, Daisy and Norman Gisiger. Front row Cecelia, Warren's sister Jacqueline, Susan, Gisiger cousin Wayne, Schnuffi the German Shepherd and Stephen
Some of these photos are from Ben's family album and some from Cece's who is pictured in 1966 below.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Baby Boom II

Our first authentic Baby Boomer cousin is Nancy Dorr born December 1, 1945. Here she is 24 days old at her first Christmas at the McNally's with parents Ann and George Dorr.

We older cousins are technically of a different generation. There were five of us born between 1936 and the end of World War II. The Baby Boom is defined in several ways. Some say it's people born after the war, which ended September 2, 1945. Others say after January 1, 1946. If you'd like to do your own demographic research email me and I will send you a PDF with a list of the 42 cousins written by Grandma McNally. email: