Saturday, July 31, 2010


Joan, 1945
From Jack's photos

We didn't get air conditioning until we moved to this house in the suburbs of Kansas City in 1959.
With one tree in the neighborhood we needed it.

Before that we relied on fans:


And manual

On porches and patios, and living outside

Betty R. on her patio on Russet Lane

July 1949
Sundresses on Ben and Cele's patio on Russet Lane

On getting out of the city onto or into the water

Ben on left with friends at Fort Salonga on Long Island

Cele (right) and a friend at Eagle Bay in Old Forge, New York

About 1950
Barbara, Ben, Bill and Uncle Eddie

On going to the movies, which were "cooled by refrigeration."

And on ice cream from the Carvel.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Jazz Age

Cele in the center back with friends 1929
She's about 18

It's hard to believe one's mother had a life before three children changed it. But our mother Cecelia used to give us small glimpses of her adolescence in the 1920s.

Same day
Cele is third from left.
These may be her friends from work at the phone company.

Cele on the bottom with friends at Budd Lake, New Jersey, 1930

Born in 1911, Cele was 18 when the stock market crashed in 1929. She'd been working for several years. There seems to have been some Jazz-age fun involved. The photos of her in her teens and twenties in the family album interested us very little. Where were we?

Same vacation at Budd Lake. Cele is 2nd from left.

Budd Lake is an old resort

Cele in the center
Budd Lake

One clue to the past was in the words "Arline Judge."

Arline Judge in the 1930s

This woman was a B-movie star whose giant claim to fame was 8 marriages and divorces. Arline Judge was often in the news due to various civil ceremonies, particularly a union with Yankees' owner Dan Topping. She and Lana Turner competed for the most marriages by a Hollywood star, and seem to have competed for the same men.They both married Daniel Topping's brother Bob Topping but only Arline married both Topping brothers.

Apparently Cele and Arline Judge were acquaintances as girls.

Arline Judge's biographies say she was born in February, 1912, making her six months younger than my mother. They also say she was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This is the "fact" that always made by mother snort. Apparently Arline Judge was born in Brooklyn, and it is very possible that she was not born in 1912.

Arline Judge in the movie George White Scandals.

How my mother came to know a Jazz Baby like Arline Judge I do not know.
Judge's official biographies say she went to an Ursuline Convent in Brooklyn. This probably would have made my mother snort too.

Watch a YouTube video of Arline Judge singing by clicking here:

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Chicken photo from the Library of Congress

Living out here in Kansas I often hear stories about my friends' bucolic childhoods and what an event it was to visit Grandma on the farm. These stories often involve chickens and the wringing of the chickens' necks.

Something sad going on with a chicken.
Photo from the Library of Congress

I've always been pleased to be unable to contribute anything more to the conversation than "Yech!"

However, I have recently been wondering about this photo from the family album.

It's titled Pat, September, 1945
She's in the yard of the house in Queen's Village, I think.
She's five.

Those are chickens in the lovely little chicken house.
(Do note the striped awning matching the house awnings.)
I imagine it was some kind of Victory Garden effort during World War II.

Let's hope our Grandma never had to wring any chickens' necks.
Patty, Grandma and Pat

I like to think they kept them for the eggs.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lawn Giland Accents

Peggy, Ann, Patty, Dot, Kay, Billie
in the 1970s

My aunts (pronounced like ants) were not usually unkind to me, with one grave exception. They often asked me the question:

“What do you call the paper thing you make a dress from?”

I would say, “It’s a pattern." (Pronounced pad-earn.)

Much laughter as they'd say, "It's a pattern." (Pronounced like General Patton's last name.)

Always glad to make people happy, I fell for it many times.

The problem here (Really no problem. I'd fall for it---they'd laugh.) is what linguists call rhoticity.

Not Rotisserie---Rhoticity

"English pronunciation can be divided into two main accent groups: A rhotic speaker pronounces the letter R in the word hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not pronounce it in the word hard…non-rhotic speakers pronounce R only if it is followed by a vowel sound."

There is no vowel after the R in pattern. Growing up in Ohio and then Kansas, I became a rhotic speaker. Apparently one learns one's accent between the ages of 8 and 14 from one's peers. Not from one's horrified mother who insisted there was no such thing as a "warsh rag."

These items are called warsh-rags in Cincinnati, Ohio

I don't know where the R in waRsh rag comes from.

It all must have have grated on my mother's nerves. She was a non-Rhotic speaker.

Cele, Bahbuhruh (or is it Jane?), Ben and Bill
Summer, 1959

She called me Bah-buh-ruh. No R until it's followed by a vowel at the end.

Worse, she called my close friend Linder Tayluh, adding an R to the end of Linda, an R she borrowed from the end of Taylor.

I can't imagine why I pronounce the double TT's in pattern like a D, but I tell you I'm not the only one out here. I'm in the quilt pattern business so it's a word we often use---apparently we all have accents out here on the plains.

P.S. Not only is there a Manhattan, Kansas, there is a Long Island, Kansas (not a drop of water in sight.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Love Stories: Kay and Warren

Girls growing up in the 1950s thought a lot about love, and being a McNally was perfect since there were so many love stories told about all those aunts and uncles. No valentine was better than the story of Kathryn and Warren, teenage sweethearts who absolutely adored each other all their lives.

Warren was a formidable man to us short little kids (even shorter than him, we always teased.) He was brusque and pugnacious, but he wore his love for his wife and kids on his sleeve.

January 1946. Steve is a few weeks old.

His family were Swiss watch manufacturers and importers.

 A watch on eBay with the word Gisiger on it

The business, Fabrique d’Horlogerie B. GISIGER-GREDER (Gisiger-Greder Watchmakers), was located in Selzach, a municipality in the district of Lebern in the canton of Solothurn in Switzerland.

Emma Catherine and a granddaughter in 1958 when Emmy was about 58.

Right after World War I Warren's father Walter and uncle Hans came to New York as watch importers. Emmy---family history says she was Walter's French tutor when she was 16 years old--- followed him here. They were married in 1920 and lived first in Jersey City where Warren was born in 1921. (Jersey City seems to have had a lot more to do with his persona than any Swiss heritage.)

The Gisigers spoke French at home and Emmy did not learn English until Warren went to school. They moved to Jamaica where Warren went to high school and met Kathryn, a year younger than he. That was it.

Kathryn in 1938 when she was about 16.
Poor Warren.

Kay was born on July 6, 1922, her grandmother Elizabeth Valentine's birthday.
This week she'd be 88.

Lorraine found this photo in Jack's things. It may be Kay & Warren's wedding photo.

Another photo from Jack's pictures. It's inscribed:
"Kay's New Feather Cut, 1943"

When the War began Warren enlisted in the Air Force. Kay joined him in Baton Rouge while he was waiting to be shipped out and they married there in January, 1943. Cece says she was told often that when Warren asked permission to marry Grandpa’s ninth daughter, “he said something to the effect of, ‘Oh, you're gonna do whatever you want to anyway, so go ahead….’ " (Grandpa seems to have learned a lesson from his previous futile experiences in marriage prohibition.) Kay was 20 and Warren 21 when they married.

Warren at 22, home on leave in summer, 1943

Warren was a navigator attached to Air Force bombardment groups stationed in England. An online history of the 390th Bombardment Group (H) group mentions him with an accounting of their service:

During 31 months beginning in January, 1943 “the 390th [flew] 301 missions, dropping 18,755 tons of bombs, destroying or damaging 454 enemy planes with another 57 probable destroyed. These war-time achievements come with a price for both men and machines. Only fifteen of the original thirty-five flight crews returned home.”

The planes were B-17s

We were all raised on stories of Warren’s war years---how dangerous the bomber runs were, how frightened the family was for him and Kay, and how he was (fortunately) badly injured in the forearm by a piece of shrapnel, which allowed him to come home before he was killed. Cece wrote: ”He spent some time in an English hospital before being discharged. I have the piece of shrapnel they removed from his arm, and his purple heart.” We really are lucky he survived.

Warren may also have flown with the 569th Squadron

In the history of the 390th they list all the runs each crew member made. Warren’s missions date from October, 1943 through March, 1944 and include flights to Frankfurt, Paris, and Rjuken, Norway. The unit’s

“missions included attacks on marshalling yards at Frankfurt, bridges at Cologne, oil facilities at Zeitz, factories at Mannheim, naval installations at Bremen, and synthetic oil refineries at Merseburg.”

Read more about the 390th here:
And specifically about Warren here:

Read more about B-17's here.

Pat B. in her Uncle Warren's lap
 from Jack's photos, inscribed "Pat's Birthday",
probably when she was 3 in August,  1943

After the War, Warren joined the Gisiger family business, located on Nassau Street in the Wall Street area. Due to the depression and also probably to wartime trade restrictions, his father had switched his focus to stamps, philately. Walter Gisiger became one of the important dealers in the stamp district on Nassau Street. Ten years after the war he died suddenly and Warren took over the business.

Kay after the War on a camping trip to Montauk in 1945.
This is one of my favorite photos.
That woman knew how to camp.

Steve and Susan were born a little over a year apart soon after the war.

Steven's First Communion 1953

Cecelia surprised us all nine years later. Her older cousins  were thrilled (most of the time) with new babies Cece and Kathy B.

Uncle Ben with the three kids in October, 1956

The family moved from Long Island to New Hampshire, building a replica of the Parson Capen house, one of the oldest surviving structures in New England.

The original Parson Capen house

1983 in Palm Springs
Cece's husband Kim, Bill B, Kay, Jane, Barbara, Barbara's ex-husband and Cecelia.

Kay, like some of her sisters and nieces, suffered from an auto-immune disease that affected her lungs. She and Warren spent time in Southern California, where they hoped a climate warmer than New Hampshire would help. They also sought experimental treatment there for scleroderma. Their motives for spending winters in Palm Springs may have been sad, but their presence pleased their California niece and their youngest daughter.

Kathryn, aged 61, died during the treatment in 1984 and Warren a little over a year later. None of us could really imagine him living very long without her.

Below: Kathryn Rosemary, born in 1987, and her grandmother (in 1944) whom she never met.

Like her mother Cecelia Jane, Katy Rose is a singer.