Monday, April 26, 2010

Song of The Week - 16

This week's song is one that I cannot hear or think about, without thinking of my mom. She loved this song so much when it came out in 1968 that she got the album. To this day, she still loves it. Also, for some reason, whenever I hear this song or think about it, I get choked up. Maybe it just takes me back to a different time when I was safe and my parents were strong. It is truly haunting and truly a classic. Beautiful lyrics (written by Joni Mitchell) and a beautiful voice (sung by Judy Collins). Both Sides Now. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Big 5-0

Wow. I turned 50 today! Never in a million years did I think this would be so easy and so much fun. This past week has been just amazing. Last Saturday, my friends threw a fabulous and fun birthday party for me. I got tons of wonderful gifts and hysterical birthday cards! Lots of old and new friends came to help celebrate. Great weather, food, company! What more...

Well, since I've been searching for my grandmother, Lola, I've discovered much about her immediate family. As I've mentioned before, she had a baby brother, William, that somehow ended up in Iowa as an 8 year old, ultimately being adopted by another family. Lola and William did manage to remain in contact and when he was a young man of 19, he did live with Lola and Red (my grandfather) in Iowa in 1920. Thanks to a handy feature on, I was able to establish contact with someone who was also searching for William. Wendy is the granddaughter of one of the children also adopted by the family in Iowa that adopted William. I guess that makes us second cousins or something. Well, let me tell you that Wendy is quite the detective and extremely savvy with the ancestry research.

Knowing that my sis and I were looking for information on the death of our dad's brother, Wendy reached out to the community my dad was born in via message boards. Almost immediately a stranger replied. This stranger went out and found information on my dad's brother. I was near tears. Based on what she told us, I knew it was him and so did my sister. He was buried on 8 July 1920, in a cemetery in Mason City, Iowa. There is no headstone (leads me to believe my grandparents couldn't afford one) and the section of cemetery he was buried in indicates that he was either an infant or young child. He was four years and eight months old when he died. My grandfather was listed as living relative. The interesting thing is that we were always of the impression that Raymond had drowned. The cemetery records did not indicate that, but rather mentioned something about the heart. I am truly amazed and thankful that a stranger went out to the cemetery and the genealogy library to check records for a stranger.

For my birthday, my sister and our friend Karen treated me to a fun tour of sixties homes in Brentwood, CA. It was so much fun and one home in particular was calling out to me to move in! It was fabulous. I love the ranch style homes and the four on the tour today, were just that! To me, no design can come close to the atomic ranch style home. I live in Southern California and craftsman style is huge, but ranch is still the best in my opinion!

To top off a really great week, a few of my friends bought me a special birthday gift! This is the one thing I begged for year after year as a kid in the 60s, but never got. I did, however, get the accessory kit one year. My dad thought this "toy" was a waste since we had the real thing in the house. This thought was surely typical of someone growing up during the depression. When I opened it, I looked up towards the sky and said, "Dad, I finally got it!". Woo hoo.

What a great birthday! When I was a teenager, I would have never thought this possible, nor did I imagine being 50. Back then, 50 was something ancient, polyester, bouffanted, dull and old. I think 50 must be the new 30! So, to wrap up one hell of a great birthday week, I thought I should share a favorite childhood song. To this day, I can't hear it without jumping up and doing the pony! I guess the title of this song sort of lends itself to the Easy Bake Oven (Sugar Sugar).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

1910 US Census

When I seriously began to research Lola and her family, I began with the 1900 Census. I learned the names of her parents (George and Effie) and learned that she had siblings - a sister, Bessie, and two younger brothers, Monroe (or Munroe) and George.

This all came as a surprise, having known none of this for so many years. I should mention now that I do recall my dad at some point telling me that Lola's father abandoned his wife and children when Lola was young. Whether true or not, the rumor was that he returned to Germany to fight for "the Kaiser". I have not yet been able to prove that, but based on the information available on-line, I cannot find him in the US in 1910.

When I found Lola in 1910, she was not living with her family, but rather living with a different family in Unity, Illinois as a domestic (housekeeper) for a private family. Knowing how this information was not necessarily provided in the most accurate manner, I was not that surprised to see her age listed as 18. This really makes no sense considering her estimated birth was October of 1894. Finding her in this situation shocked me. I then began to search for her family as I had names. Here is what I discovered:

Her mother Effie was living in a private home in Decatur, Illinois, working as a servant for an elderly woman. Effie was a woman in her prime who was a wife and mother with no occupation, during a time when women had no rights. I suppose many women were oftentimes in horrible situations where they could not care for their children let alone themselves, when their breadwinners left them. I guess society wasn't too terribly concerned back then about keeping families together.

Her sister Bessie was living in Decatur, Illinois, working for board as a cook with a private family. She was listed as 17 years old, yet she was Lola's older sister by one year. I am quite certain that Bessie's age is correct on the census.

Her brother, Monroe was living in Bremen, Illinois, as hired help on a farm. The head of household appeared to be a general farmer with a wife and three young children. Monroe's age was listed as 14 years old, and that is pretty accurate. Also, 14 year old Monroe was the only hired help living at this particular home.

Her brother, George was living in Bloomington, Illinois, working for board, living with a family where the head of household was a farmer and there was also another "hired hand" working the farm. Mind you, George was 11 years old.

Then I found another young brother that wasn't on the 1900 Census. His name was William. He was 8 years old and living in Washington, Iowa as a boarder on a farm. I wonder how and when this young boy, born in Illinois in 1901, ended up as an 8 year old boarder on a farm in Iowa. Since finding William, I have learned about something known as Orphan Trains and am currently researching that as a possibility for his being in a different state as such a young child.

I can't help but feel serious sadness for Effie and her children. What must it have been like for them? I did find Effie's parents living in 1910, and can't help but wonder why they didn't help her keep her children. I am now trying to research this. Who knows? Maybe she never reached out to them. As I was finding all of this, I couldn't help but think about child labor and the Industrial Revolution. I also couldn't help but wonder what kind of long term effect this might have had on these people throughout the remainder of their lives; an effect that may have contributed to the adults they became. I also couldn't help but think about my own childhood and how safe and loved I felt, even though I never got that Easy Bake Oven or the Imperial Margarine crown I always wanted. Man, the times have changed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Song of the Week 15

So, here it is, a Sunday night, and probably most people are dreading this. The weekend is over. Bright and early tomorrow will arrive too soon and the "off to work" feeling and the Monday morning blues will weigh heavy on many.

So many people have jobs that they hate. So many people have jobs that they never in a million years envisioned for themselves. So many people have jobs for whatever reason that they do and that somewhat contribute to their expenses. Some people have jobs that just suck their soul right out of them.

On the other hand, some people have jobs that they love. Some people require the discipline provided by a 9 - 5 lifestyle. Some people truly feel justly compensated for their contributions to the corporation. Some people might feel a little combination of the above, but love their co-workers and do not find pure dread come Monday.

I probably fall into the latter. I do feel that my contributions somewhat count, enjoy my work for the most part and truly love my co-workers. I don't necessarily feel any passion about my 9 - 5 life. I can't even remember as a teenager wishing to be in the corporate world Monday through Friday. I can't even remember knowing the word "corporation" as a teenager. I do remember having dreams that DID consist of contributing something creative that made some sort of difference in the lives of others. I swore I wouldn't be sitting behind a desk in a fluorescent lit office, pushing paper for my pay. Wow. Sometimes, our younger self is either way off or just got the timing wrong. Or possibly we get older and mistakenly push our younger self away.

I am constantly wondering how I ended up where I am and surely others wonder the same. The chain of events and circumstances that lead us to our current place in life fascinate me. I have many theories, yet none are grounded in anything scientific. I am thankful for the opportunities I have to develop, learn and grow, but somehow dream of the opportunity to call my own shots. How cool would it be to make my own schedule and provide a great service that is truly appreciated as well as greatly contributing to my own bank account!

I wonder HOW some people just have it in them to go after their dreams and make them reality. Why is it that they can block out the "voices" that tell them they are not being grounded in reality or that they cannot make a living doing something they love? How do they do just that - make a living doing something they love and absolutely disregard the "voices of reason" (whomever they are) telling them the opposite? Oh, how I'd love to learn from them.

Stepping out of our comfort zone (even if it isn't really that "comfortable") isn't always an easy task. Having confidence in ourselves to provide a service or product that is amazing to others and brings great joy is a gift, and I feel it might be something the masses may wish for. How does one step out of their comfort zone, no matter how secure yet mundane, to reach for the stars, without pure terror? How does one get past the Sunday night insomnia that leads to the Monday blahs? I'm not sure yet, but I do believe it is in reach.

Now that I've left you with something to ponder, you might do so while listening to the chosen song this week. It is a groovy fun tune by the Easybeats. As you listen, contemplating your own situation, feel free to comment. I'm curious to hear how you feel about you own 9 - 5 life with Friday on your mind. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

Please excuse my absence of the past two weeks or so. I have been so completely obsessed with my search for Lola that I've ignored many things - friends, chores, laundry, errands, shopping, blogging, artwork, sleep, the list goes on. Do I really want to leave work and go to Target, or do I really want to leave work and run home to research more on Well, the latter has been my life these past few weeks.

I have made progress though. What I just love about is how it puts you in touch with others searching for people that you are searching for. Thanks to this, I have made contact with two people searching for Lola's family! I was so happy to learn that. I was feeling sad that no one else was looking for them but that has changed. Thanks to these two people, I was able to get information that I didn't have as well as give them information they didn't have. A great exchange, if you will.

I took a trip to the Downtown LA Library to research archives of the LA Times; a trip to the LA Country Registrar's Office to look for vital records (discovered my dad's first wife's maiden name and found their marriage certificate along with Lola's youngest brother's death certificate that listed his final resting place and next of kin) and then a trip to the cemetery to find his grave and the home he lived out his life in; a trip to the Huntington Park, CA, library to research the archived City Directories and the microfilm of the now defunct Huntington Park Daily Signal.

Thanks to the contacts I made, I found Lola's sister's married name, obituary, and discovered that her sister was in a State Hospital (this interests me as I have heard for so long that Lola was as well, yet I cannot find any proof of that at this point); Lola's mother's obituary; and more information about Lola's youngest brother who wasn't born until 1901, explaining why he was not on the 1900 Census, thus putting to rest my confusion about these two young boys that surfaced in 1910. His name was William. I plan to devote posts to the various Census years and to the family members.

While going through the old Huntington Park City Directories, I found where Lola and Red lived up until 1932. Not sure where she was after that. I also found the address for my dad and his first wife shortly after they married. Turns out, it was a block away from the library so I drove by and took pictures of that apartment.

One very exciting factor is that after a day of hard core research, my sis found the obituary of Lola's other younger brother, George. This gave us his daughter's married name and I then searched for her and found her husband's recent obituary and the names of her children. A little deeper searching, and I had a phone number and have now established contact both by phone and email! That was the best Easter present! The daughter of my dad's uncle is still living (his first cousin)! I am now hoping to learn things from her, and hope to get pictures.

I find it odd that in my search for Lola, I'm finding others that I didn't know existed, but not her. I think there are so many possible reasons for that, and it just makes my head spin. I truly believe that someone, somewhere holds the key, and as one of my friends said, I am determined. Stay tuned, and I'm going to try to not go AWOL again.