Thursday, September 30, 2010

Five Generations

I've always thought that the Zarges men looked alike when they were little boys. Here is our chance to find out, as we are lucky enough to have photos of five generations.

We start with Christopher (Little Chris) Zarges:



Little Chris' father: 

"Big Chris," 1980

"Big Chris," his wife, Aimee, and children (l. to r.) Emily, Isabella, and Little Chris, 2000

Little Chris' grandfather:

Bill Zarges, Jr., born in 1948

Bill Zarges in 1982

Little Chris' great-grandfather:

William Zarges, Sr. as a child, on the right, 1922 (?)
(Shown with his father, John Zarges, and sister, Trudy)

William Zarges, Sr. in France in 1945

Little Chris' great-great-grandfather:

I'm pretty sure that this is John Zarges (1877-1954), as a boy in Germany

John Zarges as a young man (you can see him with his children, a few photos above)

Do you think that there is a family resemblance?

The boys, left to right:
John's son, William, on the right;
William's son, William, Jr.;
William, Jr.'s son Chris

The men (left to right):
John's son, William;
William's son, William, Jr.;
William Jr.'s son, Chris, who is with daughter Isabella and son Little Chris

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Family Stew

When we lived in eastern New Mexico we met quite a number of very conservative folks. Because New Mexico shares a border with (old) Mexico, border issues are always of interest. In discussions about the border, many of the people we talked to seemed to be angry at any immigrants, whether legal or illegal.

In their minds, I believe, there was a clear separation between us (those of us who have been in this country for a while) and them (those people who have very recently arrived, or who want to come here)I found it a fascinating distinction, since we are truly a nation of immigrants, and there must be only a rare few among us, if any, who can claim a pure native American background. Of course, that means that we are all immigrants, or the children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren of immigrants; many of us were born outside of this country, and many more are just one or two generations removed from a beginning in some other faraway place.

Our family is a case in point. I was born in the U.S., as was my father. My mother was born in Canada and became a naturalized U.S. citizen when she was an adult. My mother's family came from early English Loyalist settlers who left America to go to Canada during the Revolutionary War. On my father's side, his fairly mysterious and unknown family came mostly from Ireland, and I believe that his paternal grandfather was an immigrant.

America, Canada, England, Ireland: My parents, Daniel and Elva Crabtree Harris

After those generations, however, the family stew thickens and gets ever more flavorful. There are infusions through marriage of Italians (Mallozzi), Germans (Zarges, Goldsmith), Dutch (van den Boom/VandenBoom, the spelling variations are legion), Mexicans (Rodriguez), and Cape Verdeans (de Sena). No longer is English the only language spoken at extended family gatherings. One might hear Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, or the Creole that is spoken in Cape Verde.

America, Germany: Ellen and John Zarges (my husband Bill's paternal grandparents) with their daughter, June

America, Italy, Germany: Uncle Gene Mallozzi, holding little Bill Zarges at age one year

America, Canada, The Netherlands, England, Ireland:
Dutch boy with tulips, Ben VandenBoom
America, Mexico, England, Canada: Ernesto and Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez (Elva had been a widow
for over 10 years when she met Ernie)
Here is one of the most wonderful benefits of all this mixing and stirring of our family stew: The newest generation of children are a lovely coffee color, so beautiful!

America, England, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Cape Verde: Rafa and Paloma

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Love of a Dog

I have mentioned before that most of the photos of me as a child contained my dog, Pete. She was a cocker spaniel that my parents had gotten before I was born. When our family traveled cross-country from Maine to California in early 1945, Pete came along with us. 

She was my guardian and faithful friend. 

Always by my side

This is such an historical photo, documenting the times when people used the old wooden play pens
and still hung their laundry out to dry. 

I am looking up to where Pete is still on guard. Look at that groovy old stroller!

Here we are with my dad and a neighbor girl named Laurie.  All of these photos were taken at Hunter's Point in San Francisco. The housing there, strictly utilitarian, was built for shipyard workers during World War II and was pretty new when we lived there. It looks like they were just getting the landscaping going.  

Pete loved me and I loved her

Pete was my first and best friend until the time I was ten years old. One day, while I was playing with her on the stairs of our house, she snapped at me. I couldn't understand why my friend would turn on me like that, and I cried and cried. It turned out that she was in great pain from cancerous tumors, the only reason that she would ever behave like that. She had to be "put to sleep"--the first time I had ever heard that phrase, and my first experience with death and grief and loss. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Dangerous Childhood

I first posted this on The Zees Go West, way back in 2007, but it really belongs here on the Remember blog. I've added a few photos from the family archives. 


When I was a child in the 1940s and 1950s, our neighborhood in San Francisco was noisy with the shouts and cries of the children who lived there. We rode our bikes, we roller-skated, we played dodgeball, and we played jump rope. We raced on foot, on bikes, on scooters, and on skates. We took our skates apart and used the wheels on various invented riding vehicles.

When we moved to San Francisco in 1945, we lived at Hunter's Point. My father worked at the shipyards and my parents saved up money to buy the house on 48th Avenue. Here I am, playing outside with my faithful companion, Pete. When no one was watching me, I ate dirt. 

In quieter moments, we sat on stoops and played jacks and pickup sticks. We collected rocks and cracked them open on the sidewalk, always searching for that elusive geode.

We played every sort of game of “pretend” that we could dream up, most memorably something called Covered Wagon, where we used a sturdy wooden gate as a wagon seat for the lucky wagon-driver-of-the-day, while the rest of us hunched down behind him in the “wagon” bed as we traveled west. We took turns playing good guys and bad guys, riding pretend horses and shooting at each other with our cap guns.

Playing in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, probably around 1947

We ran, we skipped, we hopped, we jumped, and we turned cartwheels. We fell off our bikes, my sister’s foot got caught in the spokes of my bike when I gave her a highly illegal ride on the back fender, my friend Skippy broke his arm roller-skating, and Trudy’s little brother broke several things when he discovered that he couldn’t fly off a second story porch. It was an exuberant, vigorous, and yes, somewhat dangerous life, at least by today’s standards. 

In those days it was just what kids did all day until called in for supper.

My first bike. This was taken at our house in the Sunset District of San Francisco, at 1323 48th Avenue. We lived just a block from the beach, but we kids weren't allowed to cross the street.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Funniest Wedding Photo Ever

Okay, it was the Eighties. What a weird time, what weird styles, what funny hair. At the time, it seemed perfectly normal that we both had perms. It also seemed somehow right that I should wear a red dress to my own wedding. Who knew what we were thinking?

Bill and Clair get married, never realizing until decades later that
they looked like they were wearing matching clown wigs
Our wedding was a very homemade affair with a budget that would have driven one of today's wedding planners right out the door. These kids today are spending more on their weddings than we spent on our little Craftsman cottage! We sprung for new outfits, made our own cake, and had the reception at our house with flowers from the garden. We weren't much on details--my neighbor and friend, Joan, was the one who scurried around to find a table to hold the cake, bless her heart!

The wedding program was typed up by the church secretary on an old-fashioned typewriter, which was all any of us had at the time. Here is the pronouncement made by Pastor Wert at the end of the ceremony (I've cleaned up the typos!):
May the vows you have mutually exchanged this day be for both of you, again and again, a source of happiness and life-giving strength. I now proclaim that Bill and Clair are husband and wife, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let all people here and everywhere recognize and respect this holy union, now and forevermore!

We have enjoyed happiness and have been strong for each other, and people have, indeed, respected our holy union these past 29 years. But no one could respect those 80s hairstyles!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Family Trips in New York

As I sort through our family photos, I love to gather up small collections. These three are from various trips made by Bill's family. The first was from the honeymoon trip made by his parents, Bill and Delia. The photo is on a postcard that was mailed home to the family in July of 1946. Although the falls look pretty fake and the photo was probably done in a studio, they were visiting the real Niagara Falls at the time.

Bill and Delia Zarges

The second photo comes from a family vacation to the Adirondacks. Delia now has two boys, so that would put the date at around 1956-57.  

Delia, Ronnie, and Billy (I love that they all seem to be reading!)

The third item is scanned from a large chalk drawing of the two boys, back at Niagara Falls. Do you remember when sidewalk artists were available at vacation spots to make a quick sketch of the kids? I have some crumbling ones done of my sister and myself at Knott's Berry Farm that I would like to get scanned. This one has survived pretty well, given all the family moves it has been through, but I am glad that it is now in digital format and free from harm. 

Ronnie and Billy, Niagara Falls, 1956

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another Little Ballerina

My little sister, Lee (actually Jean Lee) was born when I was five years old. I don't remember that she ever took dancing lessons, but she liked being a ballerina as much as I did so my mother always made sure that she was included in all the dance business that went on around our house. 

It looks like Lee is wearing my ballet shoes--they look huge on her. My mother must have bought a special little leotard for her ballet "practice." Look at that curly hair! This picture wasn't just taken on the spur of the moment. There was a great deal of planning (pincurls, for example) that went into it. 

Dancing girls.
What we wouldn't give to have those figures now!

I really can't get over the work my mother put into our costumes. Suzanne and I tap danced a Sailor''s Hornpipe, and little Lee got a tiny costume of her own to match. The dresses were made of white taffeta with dark blue taffeta trim printed with gold stars. Suzanne and I had hats to match--good thing little Lee didn't catch that detail! I love the expression on her face.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dancing Lessons

In the 1950s in San Francisco, little girls in our neighborhood took dancing lessons. I have no idea how much they must have cost, but they were held weekly in the Sunset District (on Judah St.? Irving St.?) at Miss Perkova's dance studio.

This would have been at the beginning of my dancing "career"--the dress was made of aqua organza. It took a lot of pincurls to achieve that curly hair--it certainly wasn't natural!

We were a two-income family, a rarity back then, I believe. My father, Dan, drove a tow truck at night; my mother, Elva, was an elementary teacher. Neither job probably brought in much money, but they managed to pay for the dance lessons and all the different types of dance shoes. I remember that we bought Capezio brand shoes at a store downtown, which meant getting dressed up (hats and gloves) and taking the streetcar.
I am surprised at how well I can remember each costume. This one was pale blue. I'm sure that whenever given a choice, I would always pick blue, my favorite color. This was still in my pre-toe shoe days.

My mother made all my costumes, which sometimes included matching gloves or mitts, hats, and decorations on the shoes. When I eventually acquired a dancing partner, Suzanne, my mother made her costumes as well.

Suzanne and I had so much fun being cowgirls, of course. These little lariats were reinforced with wire, so we looked all ready to rodeo! We tapped and twirled, and I remember dropping my rope in the middle of the routine at our dance recital.  

When asked what kind of lessons I was taking, I would rattle off, "Ballet, acrobatics, tap, and toe." I differentiated between ballet and toe because we had to take ballet for a long time wearing either regular ballet slippers or some flat, soft, suede shoes; once we had mastered the ballet positions and learned routines that we performed at recitals, we were able graduate to toe shoes. Did you know that the toes of these shoes are stuffed with lamb's wool that is first wrapped around the toes?

I can't remember a thing about this costume except that it looks like it was a lot of work to make, and that the little vest was made of black velvet

This one was red velvet with silver stars, and was made for my solo, Winter Wonderland. Toe shoes, at last! Notice the matching mitts and cap. My mother was making these things while working during the day as a teacher and taking classes at night at San Francisco State College. She sure had a lot of energy, and provided me with the model (working and taking classes) that I later followed. 

This must have been toward the end of my dancing years. The costume was blue satin with a red satin lining, and the tap dance was performed to the song, The Sidewalks of New York. I can still do the step we started with (or would be able to if my old knees cooperated) because I practiced it so much back then--stamp, hop, back, shuffle, step, and stamp...

As you will see in the next post, my mother even made costumes for someone who didn't take dance lessons at all.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

About Those Family Photos

If you are reading this blog, you probably have some interest in family history. You may even be the person in the family, like me, who is responsible for generations of photographs. 

Here is what you should do right away: First, get your old photos out of the basement, attic, or garage, and into some kind of acid-free storage in a dry, cool place. My sister and I put a lot of my mother's old photos into new acid-free boxes and I thought they were safe for generations.  However, someone at the historical archive where I volunteer pointed out that the photos themselves are acidic and need to be separated by acid-free paper. An inexpensive solution, suggested by the archive staff, is to use cut-up printer paper (just check the packaging to be sure that it is acid-free) and put it in between the photos. For more information about storage, see the article from Family Tree Magazine, Preserve Family Photographs

Next, get out a soft-lead pencil and carefully label every single picture that you know about--who, when, where, and anything else you might know. See Safely Marking Your Photos from the same magazine, for the best tools for marking. 

Gosh, I sound bossy this morning, but when you see the following precious and unidentified photos from our families, you will understand the need for labeling.  

The first two are from a beautiful little doeskin-bound album of photos that were taken "back home" in New Brunswick by my mother. They are presumably friends and Crabtree relatives. We wish we knew. 

Relative? Friend?

Great Auntie? Neighbor? On the home farm, or ?

The next batch are real heartbreakers. They come from Beez's (okay, his real name is Bill) family on the German side, and we would love to know more about them. Fortunately, the first one contains enough hints that I was able to determine that this uniform was worn by members of the German Imperial Navy before and during World War I, that the cap was that of an NCO in the I. Werft Division, and that "sailors of the Werft Divisions were used to guard naval bases and as marine infantry on board ships." (Information from Imperial German Naval Uniforms, part of the amazing German Colonial Uniforms website). 

A grandfather, perhaps? A great-uncle? Look at that incredible bag he is holding!

This is the back of the German sailor's photo. Note that the marking in pencil has lasted, so far, for almost a hundred years! From the information here, we learn that the photo was taken in Dortmund, Germany. We still don't know the identity of the sailor, though.

She's lovely! Who is she? How sad that someone went to all the trouble of getting a professional photographer to take the picture, and then failed to tell us the name of the lady.

Even though this boy is unidentified, this photo makes me smile. I have a series of photos of little blond boys with sticky-outy ears from Bill's family, all taken around the time the boys of each generation were 7 or 8: Grandfather, father, son, and grandson. You would swear that they were all the same little boy, and this photo, although the boy is a little older, would fit right into the series.