Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Happy birthday, Aunt Marion!

I wish I had a good picture of my Aunt Marion to show you, but apparently the ones I remember have all gone with the wind. Marion Silberman, my mother's eldest sibling, was born on this day in 1899. She was vain about her age and began fibbing and telling people she was born in 1900 so that she wouldn't be associated in any way with the nineteenth century. She continued to lie about her age, and as the years went by, my mother, who was 11 years younger than her sister, actually passed her somewhere along the way. My aunt kept getting younger and younger. This is not to criticize her, I just find it interesting and vaguely amusing. One reason she fibbed about her true age was that as a divorced woman raising a young son in the 1940s she needed to stay in the work force as long as possible. She worked as a legal secretary in suburban Philadelphia.

Marion was born and raised in Jenkintown where her grandfather Max Silberman had opened a dry goods store in the 1870s. Max's parents and his wife Sarah Nusbaum's parents had both come to America from Germany when Max and Sarah were youngsters, and both families had settled in the Philadelphia area. After Max and Sarah married, they attended the same synagogue as Solomon and Rachael (nee DeWolf) Aarons. In the 1890s Max's and Sarah's son Nathan, an only child, married Rosetta Aarons, one of Solomon's and Rachael's daughters. Thus it was that my Aunt Marion was born in 1899, my Uncle Sol in 1903, my Uncle Jack in 1907, and my mother, Ruth, in 1910. All four of the children graduated from Jenkintown High School and eventually three of Nathan's and Rosetta's five grandchilren graduated from Jenkintown High School as well. The Silberman family lived in Jenkintown for more than a hundred years, but today none are left.

Marion, the oldest, moved to New York City to make her fortune (translation: find a job) and eventually married a Spaniard, Fernando Caracena (kara-thayna) who claimed to be descended from Ponce de Leon. Although they produced a son, my cousin Philip, it was a rocky marriage and eventually Uncle Ferdy and Aunt Marion were divorced in 1946, at which time she and Philip returned to Jenkintown. Philip went to Lafayette College in Easton and then to Michigan State for his masters and doctoral degrees. He met his wife, Virginia Burquest, while at Michigan State. She was from Sarasota, Florida. For a while Philip taught at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, then opened a practice in Hammond, Indiana, then in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, then in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and finally in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he died in 2016 at the age of 81. Philip and Virginia had three children, Christopher (who lives in Atlanta), Kurt (who lives in Colorado Springs), and Elise (who lives in Tampa). They all have college-aged children of their own now who are my first cousins, twice removed.

I apologize for the disjointed way in which I am describing my family. It's sort of a "stream of consciousness" style today. I'm writing as things occur to me. I may go back and try to straighten out what may be confusing, but then again I may not.

Genealogy is often a hit-and-miss endeavor, and sometimes Google simply cannot be trusted. One thing that muddies the waters where my Uncle Ferdy and Aunt Marion are concerned is that after they divorced he married another woman named Marian (with an a, not an o). She was Anna Marian Hesson but online searches being what they are, she is sometimes called Anna Marion Hesson (with an o, not an a). I assure you that Marion and Marian were two different people. Marion was Philip's mother. Marian was not.

I was able to look back into my post archives and find two old photographs.

Here, from left to right, are Ruth, Rosetta, and Marion (that is, my mother, my grandmother, and my aunt) around 1930: :

Here is my mother with her sister, probably in New York, before 1940:

Aunt Marion gave me my first camera (a Brownie Hawkeye) and my first portable record player (in a burgundy faux alligator case) when she and Philip visited us in Texas in 1948 and again in 1950, when I was 7 and 9, respectively. Every year on New Year's Eve at 11 pm Texas time, Aunt Marion would call from Pennsylvania to wish us a happy new year. My mother and I visited her family in Pennsylvania in 1954, and on that trip I met my grandfather and my two uncles. My aunt was able to come to Texas for a week in September 1957 and spend time with my mother at the hospital. My mother died on October 4th, a week after her sister had returned home. I visited Pennsylvania again in 1958 just after graduating from high school. On that trip I met Philip's fiancee, Virginia, a couple of months before their marriage. In 1984 while on a business trip to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, I took my Aunt Marion out to dinner one evening. She passed away in November 1987 at the age of 88 in Abington Hospital, Abington, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, less than five miles from her birthplace.

Those few occasions were the only times I ever saw my aunt or my cousin, but they occupy places of honor in my memory banks still.

Happy birthday, Aunt Marion!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Don't look now but you just might be somebody's kulak

In a stunningly clear article in this week's National Review, conservative columnist Kevin D Williamson shows how revolution begets revolution which begets even more revolution, and what it all leads to, and it isn't pretty.

I recommend the article, "The Kulaks Must Be Liquidated as a Class", for your reading pleasure and edification. Do not make the mistake of thinking that I necessarily share all of Mr. Williamson's views, but anyone whose credentials include the Mumbai-based Indian Express Group and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (that's in Texas, folks) can't be all bad.

According to our old friend Wikipedia, "In 2018, Williamson briefly joined The Atlantic; his employment was terminated following public criticism focused particularly on a 2014 Twitter discussion in which he suggested hanging as a criminal punishment for abortion and his reiteration of this suggestion on his National Review podcast in 2014. Williamson later wrote that his comments had been intended to "mak[e] a point about the sloppy rhetoric of the abortion debate" rather than promote capital punishment, noting that he had previously expressed strong reservations about capital punishment in general."

Wikipedia went on to tell us that Williamson is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism (2011, Regnery), The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome (2013, HarperCollins/Broadside Books), The Dependency Agenda (2013, Encounter Books), and The Case against Trump (2015, Encounter Books), and has contributed chapters to The New Leviathan: The State Vs. the Individual in the 21st Century (2013, Encounter Books) and Future Tense: The Lessons of Culture in an Age of Upheaval (2013, Encounter Books).

Whew! That's an impressive amount of output in a fairly short amount of time. Whatever you may think of his writing, Mr.Williamson has clearly demonstrated that he is at least one thing: a writer.

That was my goal at one time too, and all I have to show for it are a couple of blogs.

In other news, tomorrow would have been my Aunt Marion's birthday, her 120th had she lived. Unfortunately, she died in 1987.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

He ain't heavy, he's my third cousin eleven times removed

My blogger friend Snowbrush out in Oregon published a very interesting post recently about the result of some of his genealogical research. He mentioned that he includes only direct ancestors in his family tree, and that there are 512 people in it. By my math, if he doesn't include the extended families of his direct ancestors he must know every direct ancestor for nine generations back (2 to the ninth power is 512).

Unlike Snowbrush, I include everybody I can find, not just direct ancestors. Not only do I have siblings of direct ancestors, I have spouses, step-relatives, in-laws, relatives of in-laws and step-relatives who are not really my relatives, lots of people you might not expect. I don't copy from other genealogies except when I receive very reliable information from sources that I trust. I have 3669 people in my file (which I thought was a lot until I learned that Jane C., a woman in our former church, has more than 8000 people in her file), but only about two dozen are direct ancestors and descendants:

  • I have 3 children and 6 grandchildren. That's 9 right there.
  • On my mother's side I know her of course, plus both grandparents, all four great-grandparents, and two of my eight great-great-grandparents. That is 9 more.
  • On my non-bio-dad's side (I don't really know if he adopted me officially, but his name appears on a birth certificate issued when I was six, the only birth certificate I have ever had, even though he didn't meet my mother until I was 5), I know him, his parents (I suppose they are my pseudo-grandparents), and all four great-grandparents. That's 7 more, but I also suppose they don't count at all. It is on this non-bio Brague side, thanks to a treasure trove of information that a distant relative sent me, that I am supposed to be President Grover Cleveland's third cousin, 11 times removed, through Dad's maternal grandmother, Bloomy Jane Cleveland. But it is a fiction since my dad is "non-bio".
  • On the bio-dad front, the one that really counts in genealogy (but in no other way), I know his name, both grandparents, two of the four great-grandparents, and even two of the eight great-great-grandparents.. That's 7 more.

So out of the 3669 names, there are 9 direct descendants and 16 direct ancestors. All the rest of the 3669 stem from the fact that one of my grandmothers was the sixth of nine children and the other one (but she was the non-bio one) was the eighth of ten children, and my stepmother (again, a non-bio person) was second oldest of ten children. I have included their extended families in my tree since we are, after all, somehow related. It may not be, how you say, kosher, but the names have to be somewhere so I included them in my family tree.

The moral of this post is: (vote for as many as apply)

A. RWP is a liar, a cheat, and a charlatan of the worst kind.
B. RWP tries to be thorough.
C. RWP is an extremely needy person.
D. RWP is kidding himself.
E. RWP is pathetic.
E. RWP is a brilliant researcher with an unusual background.
G. RWP is to be pitied.
H. RWP is a pilgrim in search of a city.
I. RWP is _________ (fill in the blank yourself).

I close this post with an assignment for you. Watch and listen to Sister Sledge sing 'We Are Family' (3:26) from 1979 and then try to get that earworm of a chorus out of your head.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Happy birthday, Uncle Jack!

[Editor's note: This post, first published in 2009, has been updated to be current and includes some additional material. --RWP]

My Uncle Jack was born 112 years ago today in 1907. He died in 1987 at the age of 80. He was the third of four children in the family where my mother was the youngest, three years his junior. Born near Philadelphia, he lived his entire life in the state of Pennsylvania. In his later years he also owned a winter home in Tequesta, Florida. He received an M.D. degree from Hahnemann (now the Drexel University College of Medicine) in Philadelphia around 1930 and set up medical practice in the little town of Annville, between Hershey and Lebanon, where I believe he was also the campus doctor at Lebanon Valley College for a time. He ended up marrying his nurse, my Aunt Ruth, who hailed from Pittsburgh.

During my senior year of high school, my mother died at the age of 47 after a long bout with cancer. I was valedictorian of my class that year and received a one-year, tuition-only scholarship from our small school district, but most of the money my parents had tried to save for my college years went to pay for my mother’s hospital bills and funeral expenses. The summer after I graduated, I traveled all the way from Texas to Pennsylvania on a bus to visit various members of my mother’s family. While I was there, Uncle Jack presented me with a check for $750.00 (a lot of money in 1958), enough to pay for the dormitory and cafeteria fees and all of my personal expenses for the whole year. He also gave me a plane ticket so that I could stay a little longer and return home on something other than a bus. (“Now I know why they call it Greyhound,” my mother’s sister said after one trip, “it’s because you feel like a dog when you get off.”) It was my first plane ride, and I traveled on a DC-3 from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, where I changed to a DC-6 and flew on to Fort Worth. It was heady stuff for a kid of seventeen who lived in a house without indoor plumbing.

Years passed.

When our children were small and Mrs. RWP and I were living in south Florida, Uncle Jack and Aunt Ruth flew to Fort Lauderdale to go on a Caribbean cruise out of Port Everglades. They invited us to meet them aboard ship before they embarked so that they could meet their great-niece and two great-nephews, and we went. I presented them with a bottle of champagne I had won in a contest on a big jet plane while returning from a business trip for IBM.

More years passed. Each family is different. Some families live close together and gather frequently. Our family never gathered at all and lived hundreds of miles apart. But if we didn’t see each other for ten years, we still loved one another and were glad it hadn’t been twenty.

A couple of years after my Aunt Ruth died, Uncle Jack married for a second time to Aunt Harriet, the widow of a doctor friend of theirs. Although we had never met, I spoke with her on the telephone after his death and told her how much Uncle Jack had meant to me and what he had done to help me through my first year of college. She said that she had received calls of a similar nature from several other people also, and that she hadn’t known he had helped so many because he never spoke of it. He just did what he thought was right and didn't look for applause.

Here’s Uncle Jack and my mother (his sister) around the time he graduated from medical school.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Ruth had one child, Jack Jr., whom I met when I was in high school and he was a student at Gettysburg College. Jack Jr. married Sylvia F., a local girl from Hershey. They had twin daughters, Lisa Anne and Anne Louise, and three years later another daughter, Linda Sue. Today these ladies, Uncle Jack's grandchildren, are all in their fifties. Lisa lives in Seattle, Anne lives in New Mexico, and Linda has spent the past several months traipsing around Europe. Although I have never met any of them, my first cousins once removed, I am grateful that Facebook can give me a few glimpses into their lives.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Thank you, dear, but you really shouldn't have.

I have not yet been able to take the Nativity set down and pack it away for another year. I can't get to it because of all the swag my true love sent to me during the twelve days of Christmas.

Currently our house is awash in the following clutter tokens of Mrs. RWP's love:

12 drummers drumming
22 pipers piping
30 lords a-leaping
36 ladies dancing
40 maids a-milking
40 cows being milked
42 swans a-swimming
6 rather large swimming pools (luckily they are the inflatable kind)
42 geese a-laying
42 goose eggs
40 golden rings
36 calling birds
30 French hens
22 turtle doves
12 partridges
12 pear trees

The stench alone from all the bird poop is unimaginable and the food bills for all the extra guests have become enormous.

I have devised a plan.

I'm going to pawn some of the rings to get enough money to pay for the clean-up and hauling away of said tokens and the immediate relocation of the additional household members. If there is enough money left over, I will use it to pay for psychiatric sessions for Mrs. RWP. If she reuses to attend the sessions, I will attend them myself.

Divorce is not an option.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Watch your language!

In a comment on the previous post, blogger Neil Theasby mentioned that what is called a thrift store in the U.S. is called a charity shop in the U.K.

Someone once said that England and America are two nations divided by the same language . People argue about whether the someone was Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, or someone else. I really don’t care who said it, but it is definitely true.

For example, here are a few words that people in both countries say but mean different things when they say them:


There are many more examples I could cite but these are enough to prove my point.

I would say that most Americans are aware by now that a lorry is a truck, lift means elevator, flat means apartment, and petrol is gasoline. Hands across the sea and all that.

Australia, however, is in a class by itself. Because of its remoteness, Australian is almost a foreign language. In Australia there are skivvies and billabongs.

I rest my case.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Odds and ends, part #17,643

I was an only child until I was 17, when suddenly -- eight months after my mother's death -- I became the middle one of five children. On June 6, 1958, my dad married a widow with four children of her own. Bobby was 21, Eddie was 20, Patsy was about to turn 17, and Billy was 15. Bobby was not a Robert and Billy was not a William, but Eddie was an Edward. Since there was already a Bob in the family, I was dubbed "Bob Jr." by my new stepmother and am still called that to this day by my step-relatives. Three of the four siblings are gone now (Billy at 54 in 1997, Patsy at 61 in 2002, and Eddie just this past year at 80. Only the eldest, Bob, is left now, and today is his 82nd birthday. He lives in Texas. I will call him later today. Another example of four siblings where only the eldest is left is President Jimmy Carter. His brother Billy and his sisters Gloria and Ruth all went first. You may consider this your trivia fact of the day.

Tomorrow, January 6th, is Twelfth Night, Epiphany, Three Kings Day, the official end of the Christmas season. This will come as a shock to people who think Christmas is over on December 25th. No, my friends, Christmas starts on December 25th. I will take down the Nativity set from the credenza in the foyer and put it away for another year.

Mrs. RWP and I still have not had our flu shots. Last winter we were sniffly in the fall and didn't get them until January. Both of us came down with the flu (Type A) in March. This year we were sniffly again and delayed getting the shots until we were "better" but so far we have not been. Mrs. RWP's sniffles morphed into a lot of sneezing and coughing, and when she finally consented to see a doctor he diagnosed her malady as the beginnings of bronchitis (which she used to get annually but hasn't had in a few years) and put her on amoxicillin. Now that she is beginning to get better, my runny nose is getting worse. Did you know that if your feet smell and your nose runs, you are built upside down? Be that as it may, I hope we both get well enough soon enough to have our flu shots and avoid getting the flu this year, which happens to be the one hundredth anniversary of the worldwide influenza epidemic that killed millions in 1918, unless that was last year.

Do you guys (an inclusive archaic term that covered gals as well) get the Animal Planet channel on your cable or satellite TV sets? Our little dog Abby loves it. It's what we turn on on Saturday mornings. Abby is absolutely transfixed by veterinarian shows and Crikey! It’s the Irwins.

If it seems to you that I am wandering, grasping for thoughts, struggling for words, not up to par, you are a very discerning individual.

So I will stop now while I am still ahead.

I'm sure I am still ahead.

I'm definitely a legend in my own mind.

What about you?

Who is this man and why is his picture in this post? More importantly, who picks out his clothes?

kylie and sue, and helsie too, and even carol in cairns who hasn't been heard from in ages, this one's for you:

Friday, January 4, 2019

Doggie baby talk

You read that correctly. This post is going to be about talking baby talk (or should that be babytalk?) to dogs. Maybe people also do it to cats and parakeets and iguanas and ferrets and pythons and other critters, but I wouldn't know as I don't have any of those. Feel free to think of species of choice as we continue.

I catch myself talking baby talk to Abby, and the question is "Why?"

I don't know. It just seems like the natural thing to do to say "Her idda good girl" and sometimes even "Him idda good girl" in case she has gender identity issues.

We don't go to the bathroom, we "Doe tooda baffoom."

And when she gets there, which means anywhere out of doors, she doesn't defecate or urinate or their four-letter Anglo-Saxon counterparts, she "goes potty", which consists of making "poo-poo" and "pee-pee".

When she has completed her toilet, we "go back in see Mama".

I notice that I'm beginning to put ending quotation marks inside the period, British-style, instead of outside the period, American-style. It seems more correct somehow, except of course to magazine editors and teachers of English, make that American English. But that is a topic for another day.

I give Abby "bekfiss” in the morning and "din-din" in the afternoon. Some people make up new words entirely. Our niece Rhonda who died in September always asked her dog, Simone, if she wanted "oom-na". Somehow, Simone knew exactly what Rhonda meant.

Simone is a rather large dog, too, so the phenomenon doesn't apply just to small dogs.

Abby doesn't get a drink of water, she gets a "dinky wawa".

We don’t speak that way to our human friends. We say things like “Nigel, old chap, would you like something to drink?” or “Margaret, dear, may I get you a beverage?” —- we would never offer either of them a dinky wawa.

Sometimes I find myself singing songs to Abby as we make our rounds. "Mairzy Doats" and "Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Carolina In The Morning" are special favorites/favourites.

Abby wags her tail, but sometimes she looks at me like I am crazy.

Having a pet is rather like having a child. Warm-blooded pets, I mean. Mammals. I don't know whether the same can be said for tarantulas and turtles. Maybe some of you can enlighten me.

Mrs. RWP told me once that she learned in her psychiatric training that there is a fine line between sanity and insanity that people cross back and forth over all the time, every day, and it's not how much time a person spends on either side of the hair-fine line that matters, it's where one winds up at the end of the day.

I often wind up talking to you.

Make of that what you will.

Before you go, listen to Patsy Cline singing "Crazy" (2:37) from 1961.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Is there an echo echo echo in here here here?

I've had this thought rattling around in my noggin (actually in my hippocampus according to Dr.Christine Blasey Ford) for a while now to blog about echo songs, and I may have blogged about them already. I can't remember. It's too tedious to wade through all the previous posts and labels to find out, so if you have encountered the subject before in these parts, my most sincere apologies but you are about to encounter it again.

Some songs were written with echoes and some have acquired them through the years. Here's one of the classics:

Bill Grogan's goat (Bill Grogan's goat)
Was feeling fine (was feeling fine),
Ate three red shirts (ate three red shirts)
From off the line (from off the line).
Bill took a stick (Bill took a stick),
Gave him a whack (gave him a whack)
And tied him to (and tied him to)
The railroad track (the railroad track).

The whistle blew (the whistle blew),
The train grew nigh (the train grew nigh);
Bill Grogan's goat (Bill Grogan's goat)
Was doomed to die (was doomed to die.)
It gave three groans (it gave three groans)
Of awful pain (of awful pain),
Coughed up the shirts (coughed up the shirts)
And flagged the train (and flagged the train)!

There are others of that type, I am sure, but that's the best one, in my opinion. Here's one of the not-in-the-original-version type. Kids everywhere have been singing it this way for decades:

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer (reindeer)
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it (saw it)
You would even say it glows (like a light bulb).
All of the other reindeer (reindeer)
Used to laugh and call him names (like Pinocchio);
They never let poor Rudolph (Rudolph)
Join in any reindeer games (like Monopoly).

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say,
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then how the reindeer loved him (loved him)
As they shouted out with glee (ha ha ha),
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer (reindeer),
You'll go down in history (like Columbus)!

A song I remember from my own childhood has to be one of the most boring songs ever written:

Little Sir Echo
How yo you do?

Little Sir Echo
We'll answer you


Won't you come over and play?
(And play)
You're a nice little fellow
I know by your voice
But you're always so far away

Little Sir Echo
Is very shy

Little Sir Echo
Will make reply


Won't you come over and play?
(And play)
You're a nice little fellow
I know by your voice
But you're always so far away

Tell me about other echo songs that you love or hate. It will be as therapeutic as testifying before Congress. I just know it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Are we there yet?

No, we are not. Most decidedly, most emphatically, not. In fact, we have only begun. 584,000,000 miles is a long trip, so do not be asking me every ten minutes if we are there yet, do you understand? And do not cry, or I will stop this blog and give you something to cry about.

I am sounding more and more like my father every day.

Moving on, I want to wish each and every one of you out there a very happy, prosperous, peaceful, and safe 2019, including the newest of commenters, Red in Alberta, Canada!

All I know about Alberta, Canada without looking anything up is that it is between British Columbia and Saskatchewan, and that two of its cities are Edmonton (home of what at one time was the world's largest shopping mall or maybe it was North America's largest shopping mall -- take that, Minneapolis) and Calgary (home of the annual Stampede rodeo and the late Winter Olympics). All I know about Red after perusing his profile and a few of his posts is that he just observed his 79th Christmas (it was my 77th), that he is a retired educator, and that he was born in Saskatchewan. Everybody say hi to Red.

Hi, Red!

Your bit of trivia for the first day of the new year follows, and after that we will speak no more of latitude or longitude henceforth, even forever.

One degree of latitude equals 60 nautical miles. A nautical mile is 6000 feet as opposed to a regular land mile of 5280 feet. The figure I keep reading on the computer is that a nautical mile is 1.15 land miles even though when I use a calculator to divide 6000 by 5280 the answer I get is 1.136363636363636 and I'm not even kidding. Nevertheless, let us proceed with 1.15 (because it produces round figures, I think). In regular land miles, then, a degree of latitude equals 69 land miles (111km). Each degree is composed of 60 minutes, indicated by a single quote or apostrophe ('), and it follows as the night the day, one minute of latitude equals one nautical mile or 6000 feet (0.71km) or 1.15 larger than a regular land mile (0.62km). Even more astonishingly or predictably (pick one), each minute is composed of 60 seconds, indicated by double quotes or apostrophes ("). When you do the math, you find that a second is equal to 100 feet (that is, 6000 feet divided by 60). Isn't math wonderful?

Degrees of longitude, to change the subject, are also 60 nautical miles apart at the equator, to which they are perpendicular, but they gradually become closer together as one progresses north or south, until all the longitudinal lines meet at the poles.

It is therefore true, as French philosopher/Jesuit priest/paleontologist/geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955) said, everything that rises must converge.

You heard it here first, or maybe not.

Your last item of trivia for today is that although we have used the term "oblate spheroid" in the last couple of posts, I have learned that it is an outdated term. Everyone in the know says "oblate ellipsoid" nowadays.

Here is a pretty map for you to look at and ponder over. It shows the intersection of the equator and the prime meridian, which passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England. How convenient for them.

If I made New Year's resolutions, I might attempt to be less snarky in the coming twelve months, but I just can't bring myself to commit to it.

Here are some examples of red:

<b> Mundane is also a word</b>

My blogger friend Rachel Phillips is currently in the midst of a series of posts (three so far) about a trip she took with her friends Liz...