Saturday, October 30, 2010


William McNally  in 1945 at 65

The grandchildren's perspective on Grandpa was a cranky guy with a cigar and a beer.

In 1957 on his way to Lora's wedding, 77 years old

If you had 42 (?) grandchildren you might be cranky too when they showed up. 
You'd be going straight to the Frigidaire to check on the Rheingold situation.
He's always on the sidelines in my memory.
His name was William, but what did people call him?
Maybe his friends call him Mack.
His children called him Pop.

And then in Jack's box of pictures is a whole different view.

1945 in the basement bar
A photo portrait of a happy guy who was probably a lot of fun.

With Buddy and friends in 1944

At Jack and Edna's wedding in 1950. He's about 70.

With Jack in 1939, Jack is about 15, Pop is about 59

An affectionate guy!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Aunt Ann's Birthday

Aunt Ann will be 93 years old on November 5th. She would love it if her nieces and nephews would send her cards. Her vision is poor so something textured might be nice, or a card that plays a tune or a message. She won't be able to read the cards herself (she sees only shadows now), but Bambi can read them to her.

Email me at and I'll send you her street address.

Her daughter Georgi (who used to be Bambi) keeps me posted as to how she's doing. This past year she has moved into a nursing home. She still loves to play the piano. Here's what Bambi wrote in August.

She's slowly adjusting... She likes the staff and they like her (I've been told she's one of their favorite patients).  She's been playing the electric keyboard on a regular basis and "entertaining" the other patients and staff for which she got a certificate of achievement. It's good mental stimulation for her since she can't see to participate in a lot of the other activities they have there, so they encourage her.

Bambi sent a few photos the other day.

When I arrived this afternoon mom was entertaining with Stacy the music therapist (standing). Stacy plays the violin to accompany mom's keyboard. One of the administrative type people told me she would be looking at keyboards this weekend that would be installed permanently on her floor so mom can play anytime she wants. I think it's really nice of them to go to all that to accommodate her.
I still call her Ann because that's what my mother called her,
but I think she uses her full name Anna.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Family Tree

I've been working on my Photoshopping skills. Here's an old family tree lithograph I found at the Library of Congress web site with family portraits dropped in.
That landscape doesn't look much like Brooklyn.

Starting at the bottom and going up chronologically

Buddy, Patty, Tommy
Peggy, Ann, Dorothy, Kay, Jack
Marie, Billie, Cele, Vera, Lora
Grandpa and Grandma

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Messenger Girl

Cele's 8th grade class. Dad drew the arrow.
Dads always draw arrows on photos.

Cele told us that she quit school after eighth grade, a source of embarrassment to her.

She said she earned this set of classics in a spelling bee.
It's one of the few things of hers we still have.
The chrome dog bookend is also hers. I've lost the other.

AT&T Building at 195 Broadway

The story we heard about her leaving school was that she accompanied a friend to a job interview and she got the job instead of the friend. Because the family needed the money (this would be about 1925) she took the job at the American Telephone and Telegraph Company and commuted from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Most remarkably the job description involved roller skates. She delivered the mail on skates.

I remember Ben telling us he noticed her whizzing around the floor (he was about 17 or 18, she 16 or 17) and here we are....*

Rollerskaters in California, the '40s

Like so many of the other stories we can’t corroborate, this one always seemed a bit dubious. We’d heard of roller-skating carhops but mail girls on skates was a little farfetched.

Messenger girls on skates

I looked around on the internet , however, and found a few memoirs mentioning a job category called a messenger girl. It was an entry level job, one of the few thought appropriate for females.

Here's a job description from an employment manual:
Messenger girls at Douglas Aircraft in the early 1940s
"The messenger girl, as her name implies, carries messages from one part of the store to another and runs errands for nearly all persons on her floor, for example, when a check is to be signed, orders are to be certified, or a transfer is to be carried to another department....The nature of the work depends upon the arrangement of the store and the mechanical devices in operation."

In a memoir a woman named Helen Grottola remembered working as a messenger girl in the same building that Cele did:

"My sister and I both worked at AT&T in New York at 195 Broadway as messenger girls. We made fifteen dollars a week and we paid three dollars and fifty cents a week for commuting to the city. We were just surviving..."

195 Broadway Today
Skates were apparently optional.
 It wasn't a good job, but it was a job. I imagine she moved on to better paying jobs before she quit AT&T in the 1940s to have a family. It's hard to remember how few options there were for women---or 14 year old girls.

Cele (second from left) and some of her friends,
 possibly friends she worked with at 195 Broadway, in 1929

*Jane recalls Ben telling her that he noticed Cele in an AT&T talent show strumming the ukulele. Both memories could be right. She was noticeable.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Donohues Married the Valentines

Here's a graphic trying to explain the overlap in the family trees of the Donohues and Valentines. If you click on it you can read it better.

Grandma's brother Lewis J. Valentine with his second wife
Theresa Donohue Valentine

Lew's first wife was Elizabeth Josephine Donohue, Theresa's younger sister.
Elizabeth died when she was about 28 in 1910.

Four years later Lew married Theresa who became stepmother as well as aunt to Elizabeth and Lew's four young children.

Lew and Anna (our Grandma) had a younger brother William, who also married one of the Donohue sisters.

Anna on left, William Valentine standing behind baby John and sister Bess.

This may be another portrait of William taken the same day, about 1895.
It might be Lewis at the same age but, if so, he and William look quite a bit alike.
It's from the photo collection of Lewis's grandson John Sheehan.

The Donohues lived across Clermont Avenue from Lewis and Elizabeth Valentine according to the 1910 census. In the Donohue household lived the girls' mother Mary A. McDermott Donohue who was 54, Theresa, 31 years of age and Jennie, 26. Younger sister Cecelia had been married to William Valentine for about 4 years and was living around the corner on Myrtle Street.

Mother Mary was probably a widow by 1910. Edward Donohue had been born in West Meath, Ireland about 1840 according to the 1880 Brooklyn census. His first wife had also been born in West Meath but she had died sometime between 1871 and 1877, as Edward had two sets of children with different mothers.

We can deduce a few things about the Donohue family from the two census records, 1880 and 1910. His second wife Mary A. McDermott Donohue was 24 years old in the 1880 census, also born in Ireland. When the census taker called she was the mother of two-year-old Theresa and two-month-old Edward. She was stepmother to at least three of the first Mrs. Donohue's daughters: Mary A., who was 13, Bridget 11 and Kate 9. Her brother William McDermott, who was 23, was also living with them, probably helping with the rent if not the children.

Mary McDermott Donohue went on to have Elizabeth, born in 1882, Jane (Jennie), born in 1884 and Cecelia, born in 1885.

Bambi's records indicate the first Mrs. Donohue was a Sweeney. Of her daughters: Mary didn't marry; Bridget married Jack Ward and had two children (Grace and Arnold.) Kate married Ebenezer Allen and had two daughters (Bernadine and Beatrice.)

We recently received an email from Liz looking for information about the Uncle Lew Valentine connection.
Bambi thinks Liz' grandmother would be Grace Ward and her great grandmother was Bridget (Donohue) Ward, who was the half sister of Elizabeth and Theresa (Donohue) Valentines, wives of Lewis J. Valentine, her grandmother's Uncle Lew.

June 1945
Theresa's daughter Miriam married John Sheehan
The church was probably full of Donohues and Valentines as well as Sheehans

Other Donohues did not marry Valentines. Bambi's records indicate Jane (Jennie) never married and Edward married a woman named Gertrude.
And other Valentines married into families other than the Donohues---McNallys and Curleys.
William and Cecelia Valentine had 12 children.
Lewis Valentine had 5 children in all.

Theresa on the left with three of Lewis's daughters
and her mother-in-law Elizabeth Daly Valentine in the center
at Lewis J. Valentine's swearing-in ceremony in 1934.

These girls all had double cousins in the William/Cecelia Valentine family.