Sunday, April 13, 2014

Levy Brothers

In honor of National Siblings Day (who knew there was a designated day?) it’s fitting to highlight siblings in my family, starting with the Levy brothers.  These brothers worked together in commercial real estate in Fresno in the early 20th century but, sadly, they didn’t all end up together at the end of their lives.  I hate thinking about the squabble that caused them to separate and I’m saddened that until recently, I wasn’t in touch with some of their descendants.  But I am now and for that I’m grateful!

The brothers were Herb (1884-1952), Leon (1886-1962), Sigmund (my grandfather, 1888-1968), and Ben (1892-1965).  Additionally, there was another brother, Arnold (1890-1890), who I wrote about here

Here are the boys in about 1889, before Ben was born.

Leon, Sigmund, Herbert Levy c. 1889

Here’s the young family in about 1890. 

Levy House Van Ness Avenue Fresno 1890

The family looks so small in this photo – here’s a close up. 

Levy House Van Ness Avenue Fresno 1890 cropped
Goldie and Herman Levy
Herbert, Leon and Sig

And by 1892 Benjamin had joined the family.

Benjamin Levy
Benjamin Levy

The house had sure changed by 1907!

Levy Home 1907

Although I don’t know the date this was taken, the family were all together and posed for a photo.  My best guess would be that this was taken somewhere about 1906-1908 based on the ages of the boys.

Levy Family Leon_Sig_Ben_Herb_Goldie_Herman
Standing – Leon, Sig, Ben, Herb Levy
Seated – Goldie Benas Levy and Herman Levy

By 1920 Levy Brothers was a thriving business and it looks like there were a number of people working there besides the four brothers. 

Levy Bros Office 1920

I can’t make out much in this photo except I do see my grandfather, Sigmund Levy, second from the right. 

The Levy Brothers ventured out for a photo in 1929 – boy do they look dapper!

Levy Brothers Ben_Herb_Sig_Leon 1929
Ben, Herb, Sig, Leon Levy
August 7, 1929

And they were together again in later years.

Levy Brothers Ben_Sig_Herb_Leon
Standing – Ben and Sig Levy
Seated – Herb and Leon Levy

And that’s about where the trail runs cold as the brothers had a falling out and some never talked to each other again.  I didn’t know until recently that my grandparents lived almost around the corner from Herb and his family.  All those years of visiting Grandma and Grandpa and there were my dad’s cousins so close but yet so far.  I’ve reconnected with Herb’s grandson and hope that one day we’ll be able to meet in person (Fresno, here I come!).  These brothers may have stopped communicating in their later years but their descendants will put a stop to that!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

All Aboard!

My great grandfather, Abe Gunzendorfer, was apparently quite a mechanical guy.  I recently ran across some interesting postcards.

Post Card

Now that’s not that interesting but look what’s on the other side!

Station and Power Plant
“Station and Power Plant”
Scene from Miniature Railway System – Window Display 1916
Mechanical and Electrical Construction by A.B. Gunzendorfer

I have a very faint memory of hearing about a railroad train display in The White House, the Gunzendorfer family mercantile.  But now I can see exactly what it looked like.  Or as my Dad would like to say, “now I can visualize it”. 

Here’s some other postcards:

Traffic Scene
“Traffic Scene”
Miniature Railway
Window Display Christmas 1916
Mechanical and Electrical Construction by A.B. Gunzendorfer

Forest Scene
“Forest Scene”
Miniature Railway System
Window Display Xmas 1916
Mechanical and Electrical Construction by A.B. Gunzendorfer

What beautiful work!  And while the next pictures aren’t great, it is interesting to see how the train was displayed in the windows.

Window Display Left Window Display Right

And here’s some other detail – I love how he named it the A.B.G.R.R. for Abe B. Gunzendorfer Railroad.

Abe Gunzendorfer Railroad

I’m not sure the signs above the cars can be read well - the last car says “….Power Plant”, the next car says “Electric Block System – Safety First”, the next car says “Free delivery to all parts of the state”, and the front car says “Train hand-made – Electrified - A.B. Gunzendorfer”.  I can just imagine him working on this train all year long in order to get it ready and on display for the holidays.

A few years ago I wrote about the lawn swing Abe built in 1909 – you can read about it here.   So now not only did Abe build a lawn swing but he also built an entire railroad system.  And one more thing he built – a pigeon house!  Not just any ole pigeon house but a MAMMOTH pigeon house!

Mammoth Pigeon House

Look at that – capacity 600 pigeons!  What in the world could he have done with 600 pigeons?  Or any pigeons, for that matter?  Another question I’m sure I’ll never have the answer to.  Sigh.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nice to meet you, Mr. President

My great grandfather, Abraham B. Gunzendorfer, was one of California’s earliest amateur photographers and I’ve read about him taking photographs of President Benjamin Harrison.  But as I cleaned out box after box of family treasures, I put together a separate box of photographs taken by Abe.  It looks like one of his most exciting photo sessions was in May, 1901 when President William McKinley visited Monterey and San Francisco.

Sounds like the buzz of an impending Presidential visit was big news, as reported in the Pacific Grove Review on March 23, 1901.

President McKinley is coming Pacific Grove Review Mar 23, 1901

I can just imagine people of the area bustling about trying to get things ready.  This must have been a huge event for a state so far from Washington D.C.

And look – they had souvenirs for the event!

Official Souvenir

But that, apparently, wasn’t enough for Abe.  Whether he was paid or just took volunteer photos I’ll never know, but he did take photos! 

First up, the Presidential Cabinet “Special” arrived at Del Monte Depot on May 11, 1901.  It must have been such a sight to see this train chugging into the station.

President Special Del Monte

I don’t know who labeled all of the photos but I have several copies of many of the photos and each one is written in beautiful handwriting.  I like to think it was Abe….. or maybe his wife, Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer.

Next the President addressed the citizens of Monterey – check out this crowd photo!

Addresses Citizens

And because there is so much of interest to me in this photo, here’s a portion of it enlarged.

Addresses Citizens Close up

A few things stand out to me: 

1)  The building in the background, with the photographers standing on the roof, is my family’s mercantile store, The White House.  I wrote about this store here and here.  It must have been a very busy place and what an honor to have the president address the citizens right outside the front door.

2)  Almost everyone in the photo has on a hat.  I know that was the fashion of the era but just look at those hats!

3)  There are other people standing on the roof of the store.  I wonder if these were early Secret Service agents.

And the next day, the Presidential Special left Del Monte Depot to continue on the voyage.

President Special

It looks like the next stop for the President was the University of California, Berkeley, where he was the speaker for the commencement exercises. 

Commencement Exercises

The upcoming event was described in the San Francisco Call, Volume 87, Number 148, on April 27, 1901 and was stated that they had seating planned for 10,000 guests.  And once the free tickets had been distributed, people were ‘hawking’ tickets for up to $5 each. 

From there President McKinley was busy launching the “Ohio” on May, 18, 1901 in San Francisco.

Launch of Ohio

And the next day he went out for a stroll.

President Strolls

What an experience for Abe to travel along with the President and photograph the events.  I’d like to think he was riding along in the train but I’m guessing that probably isn’t quite how it happened. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

And now I’m 3!

Birthday 4_1957

This weekend my blog turns 3.  Three years of blogging (thanks to a nudge from Kerry Scott) and three years of some incredible discoveries.  Three years of some posts I struggled with and three years of some posts I had fun with.  It’s fun to look back at 3 years old both from a blogging perspective and a personal perspective.

Photographs seemed to have slowed down a bit by my 3rd year but I did find a few that were memorable.  Thanks to my dad for captioning them.

Hahahaha 1957
Hahahahaha 1957

Looking behind 1957
Looking Behind 1957

Looks like my sister had a fun party with lots of kids in attendance.

My dad apparently loved this photo and captioned it “The greatest picture ever taken – 1957”  I’m not sure it really qualifies as the GREATEST picture – he may have been a bit biased – but it is pretty cute.

Greatest Photo Ever 1957

My sister has her eyes closed tight as she made that wish!  I wonder what was going through my head?  Maybe “Yikes, there are a lot of candles on that cake”? 

Since my birthday is right before Christmas, this looks to be the closest picture of me near my 3rd birthday.

Christmas Carolers 1957
Christmas Carolers 1957

As I looked back at my blog, I found it interesting which posts were the top five viewed.  I always wonder what draws people to a certain post – maybe they find it by accident, maybe they like it so much they go back to read it, or maybe it’s some auto-generated views.  Whatever draws people here, thanks for stopping by!

And my top 5 posts over the last three years:

Byron Hot Springs – October 23, 2011
My grandmother was a packrat! – July 8, 2012
Sentimental Sunday: Fresno High School – November 6, 2011
Awaiting Shipment – May 12, 2011
My Favorite Page – October 20, 2013

And even though this post wasn’t in my top 5, and not even in my top 10, I have to add it here because it was my all-time favorite.  Not because it was such a great post, but because it was the culmination of one of my greatest discoveries and proudest moments – the story of finally getting my 3rd great grandfather’s grave marked.  At times when I feel like I’m not making any progress I go back and read this post and remind myself that I have made A LOT of progress.

Emery’s “First” Veteran’s Day – November 10, 2011

And now I’m on my way to 4!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mathew Fitzgerald

I recently had an opportunity to search for the homes of some of my ancestors, as well as those of my husband’s, on a recent visit to the Bay Area.  Sadly, the search was unsuccessful and I was a feeling a little dejected as we arrived at the airport to await our flight home.  But as luck would have it, I quickly pulled myself out of it when this beautiful face arrived in an e-mail message from Patti, a cousin I recently connected with.

Matthew Fitzgerald

That, my friends, is my second great grandfather, Mathew William Fitzgerald.  What a handsome man with a mischievous look in his eyes!

Mathew William Fitzgerald, the son of Nicholas and Margaret (Cullen) Fitzgerald, was born 10 September, 1850 in County Kildare, Ireland.  Mathew married Julia Horgan (1849-1885) in Yolo county in 1869 and they had seven children – John (1871-1970), Jeremiah (1873- ), Nicholas (1875-1938), Mary Margaret (1877-1948, my great grandfather Edward (1879-1968), Joseph (1881-1929), and Anna (1883-1950).  Julia was just a young woman when she died in 1885 and left Mathew to care for their children.  Shortly thereafter, Mathew moved his children to Fresno County where he remained for 20 years.

I have a lot more research to do about Mathew’s life, but I know quite a bit about his death on 21 August 1905.  One of the first death certificates I sent away for in 2010 was Mathew’s, which showed the cause of death to be “accidentally falling from wagon”. 

DC Matthew Fitzgerald

That’s an interesting piece of information.  It’s also interesting to note that the place of death was “near Mountain Rest Hotel”.  I wasn’t sure what any of that meant so I put it aside for a few years until I began my subscription to when I found some other related information.

Woodland Daily Democrat, 22 Aug 1905, page 1
Woodland Daily Democrat
Tuesday, August 22, 1905
Page 1

So that doesn’t tell us much other than he was killed on Monday night but the particulars were not known.  But the following day more was known and was reported in the newspaper – Mathew was run over!

Woodland Daily Democrat, 23 Aug 1905, Page 1
Woodland Daily Democrat
Wednesday, August 23, 1905
Page 1

A few items of note in this account:
  • Now the paper says his name was William M. Fitzgerald
  • Why isn’t Jeremiah “Jerry” listed as a surviving child?  I know he was still living at that time – could they have, perhaps, been estranged from each other?
And the next day, even more details were reported.

Woodland Daily Democrat, 24 Aug 1905, Page 4
Woodland Daily Democrat
Thursday, August 24, 1905
Page 4

That’s a pretty detailed account of the final hours of Mathew’s life, hours that must have been excruciating.  In the book “The History of Black’s Station/Zamora – It’s People” by Elaine Hermle, it is noted that he was killed on what was known as Dead Man’s Curve – an appropriate name, it seems.

I’m curious as to who Henry Fitzgerald is – could Jeremiah have been known as Henry?

This is another interesting document.

Removal Permit

How strange to think that this permit had to be posted on the box (casket) to prove what was inside.  Information tells me that Mathew is buried next to his wife, Julia Horgan Fitzgerald, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Woodland, California.  I’ve set up memorials on findagrave for Mathew and Julia and requested photos – I’d like to see the headstones to see what other clues there might be.  I’d also like to learn more about Mathew and Julia’s lives rather than focusing on Mathew’s death.

So that’s what I know about my 2nd great grandfather.  Thanks again to my ‘new’ cousin, Patti, for sharing this beautiful photo of Mathew with me!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I’ve got the music in me!

I’ll admit it – I took piano lessons for years as I child and I’m pretty sure the only song I could play today would be Chopsticks.  Why did my parents force us to play?  And why didn’t I take advantage of all those years of practicing and do something with it?

Playing a musical instrument has, apparently, been passed on for several generations in my family.  My dad not only played the piano and the organ but he also played the accordion.  I know he took piano lessons as a kid, probably why we were made to carry on the tradition.  I can just imagine him practicing on this piano that was in the living room of my grandparents’ home.  I remember after Grandma passed away there was a lot of discussion about what to do with the piano – I think it ended up being sold since no one had room for it.

Loraine Piano

My dad took organ lessons his entire adult life until just a few years before he died.  I remember on lesson nights we’d be banished to our rooms – or at least away from the organ – while he worked through all of his musical pieces with the instructor.

Here’s his beloved organ – it broke my heart to know it sold for just $300 at the estate sale last year.  I am happy, however, to know that a couple with two young children took it home so now I can visualize (as my dad loved to say) a new generation of organ players.

My daughters loved to sit with Grandpa while he played and they have so many wonderful memories of the sounds filling the house.  I’m sure they wished they could grow taller so they could work the pedals themselves.

Gordon playing organ

Sometimes the piano or organ was used for something other than music – often times it was a seat used to pose for pictures!  Here’s me with my dad in the late 1980’s.


We were so happy that our life long friends, and Mom and Dad’s next door neighbors, took the piano for their daughter and her family after Mom passed away.  Now their grandchildren will learn to play on the same piano I sat at for all of those years.

And who else in my family played a musical instrument?  My second great grandmother, Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer.  I’m sure you’re wondering how I can know that?  Because look what I found!

Look at this treasure!  This is the first page you see when you open the book.

I can’t quite figure this book out – this looks like a Table of Contents but when I look further into the book, nothing corresponds with this.  I’m wondering if she bought different sheet music and compiled them in a book.

I found this one very interesting.  Not that I can read any of this language but if you look real closely, the stamp at the bottom says “A. Waldteufel Music Store, First & Fountain Street, San Jose”.  That may not be too exciting to anyone else but since I was born and raised in San Jose, this little tidbit is newsworthy!

There are many pages of music included in the book – here’s an example.

I can just imagine Bertha (aka Birdie) sitting at a piano (or other musical instrument) practicing her music. 

Bertha Schwartz c 1878
Bertha Schwartz, c. 1878

Sadly, I think the music gene has ceased to exist in me.  My girls both played the flute as they were growing up but that, too, has ended.  Maybe one day one of my descendants will take Birdie’s book, practice for hours and fill their home with music.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

And that was that!

I don’t have a ton of memories of my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy, but I do remember her using the expression “and that was that” many times.  And as I turn to the last page of her scrapbook, I can’t get that expression out of my head. 

Of course, the last page is filled with dance cards.  Grandma must have saved them and put them in the scrapbook together but after pages and pages of them, all I can think about is how much she must have loved to dance.  And from the look of her dance cards, many suitable young men must have loved dancing with her!

First was the Junior Guild Dance held at the Del Monte Hotel.  I wish I knew the date as there is no sign of Earle Norton on this dance card.

Junior Guild Cover
Junior Guild Inside 1 Junior Guild Inside 2
Looks like George (AKA Geo) might have been a special friend – he got two dances!

Grandma must have been busy with all of the dancing at the Alumni Dance on 
January 1, 1915!

Alumni Dance 1915

I love what she wrote at the bottom - “my card speaks for itself in this instance”.  Why yes it does, Grandma!  And just who do we see as her partner for dance 3, 7, and 8?  None other than Norton, who I assume is Earle Norton.  I love on dance #8 where someone else’s name was crossed out and Norton was written in.  Did he have to fight “Tom” for her?  Now I can tell that #8 Norton is different handwriting than #3 & #7 and just could be Grandma’s handwriting.  What’s the story behind that?  And our friend Mr. Lacy is back as her partner for dance #12 and #15, although I can tell that the writing for dance #15 was Grandma’s.  Her feet must have been tired that night!

And then came the dance given by the Brotherhood of American Yeomen.  Another full night of dancing!

Old Capitol

No sign of Earle Norton :-(

And on May 14, 1915, just weeks before she graduated from high school, Loraine attended a dance given by the Monterey Ladies Civic Club.

Civic Club

Civic Club Inside

Oh look at that – Earle Norton is back and danced the Three Step with her!  I will say, though, that much of this handwriting is Grandma’s, including Earle Norton’s name.  Does that mean she just hoped to dance with him?  Or did she not dance at all and just filled in names?  Or, was she so busy dancing that she forgot to have her card signed?

And last but not least was the dance given by the Monterey High School Alumni in 1916 at the Masonic Temple.

Alumni Dance 1916

No dance card, no evidence of how much she danced or hoped to dance.  Just an invitation.  Did she attend?  I laugh that a ‘couple’ was 50 cents and an ‘extra lady’ was 25 cents.  Did that mean a man could bring two ladies with him and pay 75 cents?

So I’ve come to the end of the scrapbook.  Thank you, Grandma, for sharing your young adult life with me 100 years later.  I would have loved to have had the opportunity to sit with you and have you describe it all to me.  I swear I would have listened, taken good notes, and even recorded your voice.  I know there is so much left to know about the story but I feel so fortunate to have had this glimpse into your life.  I’ve gotten to know you in a way that most granddaughters never know their grandmothers – I’m so glad you were a packrat and shared this information with me.  It truly is a gift and will be loved by your descendants for generations to come.

And that was that!