Monumental: Part II

Last week, in Part I, I wrote about finishing a project I began over six years ago. This week you get the rest of the photographs, and an attempt at a wrap-up.

Jacob and Hannah were my great-grandparents, my grandmother’s parents.

jacob_hannah_rounded

Their kids were Bessie (not pictured, I went down a rabbit hole and discovered she is buried in Queens), Henrietta (not pictured, buried in Providence), Dorothy (not pictured, died in San Diego), Matilda, Evelyn (not pictured, died elsewhere), Jesse (not pictured, died elsewhere), and my grandmother, Mabel:

 

Morris and Polena were my grandfather’s parents.

morris_polena_s_rounded

Their kids were Marion, Minnie, Nathan, Bessie, Julia, Ida, my grandfather, Philip, and David.

Notice that Bessie and Ida are both Zwillingers. Bessie became a widow in the 20s, and Jacob became a widower in 1931. Subsequently, they got married. But what really cuts down on the relatives at Thanksgiving is that my grandmother and her niece Ruth (the daughter of Mabel’s sister Henrietta) married brothers Philip and David. Hard to tell in this pic, but here are David and Ruth together:

ruth_david_rounded

This project was a combination of doing the research, wondering what else I could find, and exploring the area around me. There are so many news articles, census forms, city directory listings, and Sanford maps I haven’t included here. I was also looking for destination bike rides, and affordable entertainment. Cemeteries are quiet, outdoor museums. They have art, history, low-traffic pathways, and I have yet to see a gift shop.

When I started the project, I remarked on how close by the cemeteries were, and I had never stopped before. As the crow flies, none of these cemeteries is more than 10 miles from me. I’ve driven farther than that for good ice cream. One of the cemeteries was even…wait for it…over the mountain!

For those unfamiliar, we here in Connecticut have an obsession with boundaries. The mountain separating West Hartford and Bloomfield on the east, and Avon on the west, is mostly a mountain in our collective psyche. A former co-worker laughs at the Connecticut River. She grew up near the Mississippi, and considers the Connecticut to be an overgrown stream. But heaven forbid if I’d had to cross it to reach one of the cemeteries (having grown up East of the River, it doesn’t stop me much). I joke that anything that’s a 45 minute drive from Hartford is a day trip; clear your schedule. Longer than that? Pack an overnight bag. Heaven knows what you’ll find when you cross the New York, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island border.

All of this is to say, I still believe the cemeteries are close by. And being able to bike to all of them reinforces how close by, and how much you miss when you’re car-dependent. Walkers may even glimpse more.

There was no prize for finishing this, just the satisfaction of knowing I did it. And in case you’re wondering, I have crossed a state line to visit another set of (grandparents and) great-grandparents. I made it back the same day, too!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Monumental: Part I

Once upon a time, in a galaxy quite nearby, I started a project. It was Fall 2012, and I really anticipated I would wrap it up in fewer than 6 1/4 years. Alas.

If you haven’t read the old post, it contains photos of the graves of my maternal great-grandparents, and a few great-aunts and uncles. At some point, I made a list of the aforementioned, as well as the rest of my maternal ‘greats,’ and decided to bike to all the sites.

Since the initial visits to Zion Hill and F.D. Oates Ave. in Hartford, I have pedaled to The Emmanuel Synagogue’s cemetery in Wethersfield, Beth El’s cemetery in Avon, Veterans Cemetery in Windsor, and finally, today, to Rose Hill in Rocky Hill. A couple of years ago I also threw in a visit to Beth Jacob Cemetery (extra bonus points if you know where that one is before I talk about it below).

Rose Hill proved the most difficult. When I first researched it, I couldn’t find any indication online as to where the specific graves would be. This didn’t really phase me, and one day last year I rode over to see if I could locate them. What I had not taken into consideration, on that fine March day, was there was more snow on the ground at that spot in Rocky Hill than in my yard in West Hartford. Further complicating the matter, all the graves in that cemetery are flat. Pancake flat, and under said snow. I’m willing to visit cemeteries, but I choose to keep my digging metaphorical.

I felt confident today that the ground would be clear. And in my research this morning, I found a new (or new-to-me) Rose Hill website providing the section and plot numbers! It was like finding a clearly marked treasure map. It was a nice, sunny, warm day, and since Sundays are for relaxing, I decided to go on an almost 22 mile ride.

(Turns out 32° was not warm enough, at all, for a ride of this length, and it was hard work defrosting my toes when I got home. A little more than three hours after returning, I’m starting to feel warm again.)

Mission accomplished! There they were, my mom’s aunts/my grandfather’s sisters, Marion, Minnie, and Julia.

 

Jhu5677ZT7a1F1cERVNpoQ
Group shot

The family lived for many years on Wayland Street, in the south end of Hartford (landmark: Modern Pastry is on the corner…so hard not to stop for a baked good). I rode by as I made my way home. I believe it had a front porch in its early years [update: it didn’t], but otherwise, still there.

IMG_2546
“The house on Wayland Street”

 

I was also able to ride by the Dwight School, where Minnie was a teacher.

My plan back in 2012 was to put all the photos together, family tree style. Look for that post in the next week to 6 1/4 years 😂. The most amazing part is that I have managed to locate all of the photos I’ve taken. The cobbler’s child goes without shoes, and the archivist’s personal digital files go without metadata…

Regarding Beth Jacob Cemetery…somehow I found out that my great-grandmother/my grandmother’s mother had a brother, who had a few children. These folks are buried in Beth Jacob. If you did a Google Maps search, it most likely came up fruitless. In West Hartford, if you stand in the parking lot of the Shield Street Post Office, and look across the road, there’s a small parcel of land where you will find the forever-stamps of my cousins (I think they’re cousins…) Bernard, Henry, and William Glaubman; their father, Isadore; and his second wife, Rose (his first wife, well, read all about it 😳).

 

Perhaps some day I will go back and take photos with the sunlight at a better angle. In the meantime, I’m very excited to have finally visited all the locations on my list, and to have all the photographs. After more than six years, three smartphones, and two hybrid bikes, I have one more post to go before I put this project to rest.

How I planned a bike ride and ended up with an adventure (or, Bike-cation 2012: Waterside Edition)

Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT

I tend to ride the same roads repeatedly and, having a break from my usual group ride, decided to embrace change. At the same time, having a week off from the group ride is a great time to get some culture. High on my culture-to-do list of late has been visiting Gillette’s Castle. As I do not usually ride the roads surrounding the Castle, it seemed like a match made in cycling-culture heaven. All I planned was the route. The rest of it fell into place, making it a fabulous, full day adventure.

Posted in every stall, Visitor’s Center, Gillette Castle State Park

Not having any desire to ride a century, I decided to put the bike in the car and drive to Gillette Castle State Park. They do not charge for parking, and have restrooms, making it that much more attractive to the Cycling Archivist. Well, I’m not really sure “attractive” and “restrooms” should be in the same sentence.

Moving along, my route took me over the East Haddam swing bridge (cool article from 2007), along Rt. 154 to Essex, and down to Old Saybrook. Though my aunt recently sold her cottage at Chalker Beach, I asked the guard/attendant if it would be ok for me to dip my toes.

The dip, Chalker Beach, Old Saybrook

The water temperature was fabulous; I could have gone all the way in. Next it was over to Indiantown, where I sat in the shade and had snacks with friends. I continued along Rt. 154, through Katharine Hepburn’s part of town. I have to go cliche here and say that if you haven’t biked this stretch, you are missing out. My phone’s camera wouldn’t really capture most of the beauty, so I took few photographs. Heading north, I had an impromptu watermelon stop with cousins before reaching the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry (as my ride last Sunday also included watermelon, I am now completely convinced all summer rides should include this treat). Being a native of Glastonbury, my ferry of preference tends to be the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill, but after the budget woes of late, it is so great both ferries are still running. From the ferry ($1 for bicyclists), my final destination was in clear view.

Gillette’s Castle, as viewed from Chester-Hadlyme Ferry

Being in the business, I can be rather critical of house museum tours. This one ($6 adult) was self guided, with story telling docents in the rooms. On a scale of yes or no, I would say that yes, it was worth it. The castle interior has incredible woodwork and you get to hear stories about the practical jokes William Gillette, “America’s Sherlock Holmes,” would play on his guests.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, as viewed from Gillette’s Castle

With both cycling and culture achieved, the only thing left to really make this an adventure was the requisite ice cream stop. I had thought about the James Gallery and Soda Fountain earlier in the day, but ended up at Hillside Sweet Shoppe ($2.75, single scoop, Gifford’s Mint Chocolate Chip, sugar cone). Though lunch mysteriously disappeared from the agenda, I was rather pleased to have a full day of close-to-home fun for less than $10. It was truly a full day. I left my house at 9:00 AM and didn’t get back till 6:00 PM.

I saw the Essex Steam Train go by twice. I passed sheep along one road, and there were egrets and swans in the water as I pedaled over the causeway. Even though I was cycling alone, I spent enough time with other people to make it a social event. I’m amazed at how, with so little planning and effort, I ended up with such a wonderful bike-cation.

“How can you be half Jewish?”

I’m sure my grandmother had more than one book in her house. The only one I remember, the only one that made a distinct impression on me, was Rabbi Morris Silverman’s Hartford Jews. A yellowing piece of paper, folded lengthwise, bookmarked the entry for her father and my great-grandfather, Jacob M. Richman.

An Orthodox Jew, Jacob Richman had immigrated to the United States before the pogroms were fully underway in the Pale of Jewish Settlement. After living for a short time in Colorado, he and his family settled in Hartford. He was a business owner and involved with the community.

After marrying, my grandmother did not maintain an Orthodox lifestyle. Especially by the time my mother was born, my grandparents were barely observant. As a child, my mother even hung a Christmas stocking each year. I’m not really sure what their reaction was to my mother marrying a non-Jew, but it certainly didn’t cause any permanent damage. I don’t remember my grandfather, who died when I was a little over two, but my grandmother was a constant presence in my life until she died about two months before my 14th birthday.

Most likely my grandmother and I never discussed religion. We certainly didn’t attend any services together. Displaying Silverman’s book, though, was her quiet way of saying, this is who I am.

It is possible that at this point in time I have romanticized the memory. But I don’t think that really matters. Who my grandmother was is also who I am. The biggest difference is that I was raised attending a Protestant church.

I met up with some friends the other night, and in the course of conversation, mentioned a job I’d recently applied to at a Christian school.

“Are you Christian?” asked Friend 1.

“Probably not as much as they’d prefer,” I replied.

“I thought you were Jewish?” Friend 2 interjected.

“I’m half Jewish.”

“How can you be half Jewish?” was Friend 1’s next question.

Friend 1 and I agreed that any given person can not have two completely different belief systems. It is impossible to be a devout member of two religious groups in pretty much the same way you can’t be a vegetarian who eats beef.

Mathematically speaking, though, being half Jewish is possible. My mother is Jewish, my father is not. There you go, half Jewish. Calculators aside, it gets a bit more complicated. Having a Jewish mother, I am, according to Jewish law, Jewish. The fact of the matter, though, is that my siblings and I were baptized and confirmed in the church. I do not know any Hebrew and did not have a Bat Mitzvah. Each spring I go to my aunt’s house for a Passover Seder. And these days I am enjoying my membership at the local Jewish Community Center.

Even before the conversation with my friends, I had been thinking about this topic. A couple of weeks ago I attended an event at which Judy Blume was speaking. Before the event, I reread Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I found it easy to identify with Margaret’s journey to understand some of the religious options available to her. During the program, someone asked Blume about her own religious identification. She pretty much skirted the issue, but did refer the audience to Daniel Klein and Freke Vuijst’s The Half-Jewish Book. One inter-library loan request later, the book was in my hands.

If anyone has read the book, I would love to get your opinion. It wasn’t for me. Basing their hypotheses on the lives of half Jewish celebrities, the book reads as a justification of Klein and Vuijst’s own parenting style. Few of us – Jewish, Christian, Flying Spaghetti Monster, whatever – live lives bearing even the slightest resemblance to the pop culture figures the couple wrote about. I raised my eyebrows at chapter titles such as “The Half-Jewish Drinking Dilemma, or Is the Wineglass Half-Empty of Half-Jewish.” I was also in complete disagreement with most of the introduction, including the following.

To take this position – and to revel in the celebration that follows from it – we stand in clear opposition to those who insist “You are either Jewish or you are not; there’s nothing in between.” And we compound this blasphemy by suggesting that there is something unique, remarkable, and downright dazzling about the half-Jewish mind and the half-Jewish face, in the art and wit created by half-Jewish sensibilities, and in the the ethical, literary, and political ideas produced from the half-Jewish perspective.

I think I am supposed to be flattered. However, haven’t we, as members of the human race, learned the dangers of saying someone is smarter, prettier, funnier than another because of their genetic makeup? If I am reading this incorrectly, please let me know. One point in which I do agree with Klein and Vuijst is that there is no need for anyone to deny any part of their heritage if they do not want to.

That, I believe, is the subtle lesson my grandmother taught me by displaying Hartford Jews. No matter how we choose to live our lives, the past is important. Be proud of your family, even if you stray a bit. And that is how I can be half Jewish, by acknowledging my cultural heritage even if I have not subscribed to the religious heritage.

I have struggled with an appropriate ending to this piece. It feels, well, half finished. Perhaps someday, if I continue to explore this topic, there will be more to write.

changing of the guard

What makes for an exciting Friday night at Chez Cycling Archivist? Yup, you guessed it, changing the photo in one of my frames.

I know, this is a rather mundane task. What surprised me was the emotion it invoked. I switched from this photograph of my grandfather,

Fishing at the Wausaukee Club's Pond 2, August 2005

fly fishing at one of our favorite spots, to this one of myself cuddling with my nephew.

Auntie Jennifer and Daniel, February 2012

I realized during the process that the first photo is from 2005, the year Grandpa turned 90. My nephew, Daniel, was 9 days old when the second photo was taken. For a reason I am unable to put into words, the numbers 90 and 9 struck me, as if it were Grandpa’s way of approving the switch.

In 2005 I sold my condo, quit my job, and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to study Archives and Records Management. Quite simply, it was a year of change for me. One that allowed me to spend more time with my grandfather than I ordinarily did. Before classes started, we spent some time at the lake. I took the train to Chicago and celebrated Thanksgiving with Grandpa and other family members. That December we threw him a spectacular birthday party.

During my spring break I visited the Field Museum of Natural History, or as it is still known in my family, simply “the museum.” Grandpa spent his entire professional career at the museum (Melvin A. Traylor, Jr. – scroll down a bit) and on this particular visit, I got to look through his papers. In case this needs extra emphasis, I, an archivist-in-training, had the tremendous joy of  looking through my grandfather’s professional papers.

He taught me to fish. His museum work influenced my career. Since his death in 2008, keeping the photo in sight has been such a small representation of all the influence he had, and continues to have, in my life.

But there’s a new man in my life.

A little guy  who will bring new excitement to Thanksgiving and who has yet to cast a rod. Time will tell if Daniel has any interest in ornithology and/or museums. I realize that the influence of an aunt differs from that of a grandfather. Regardless, if to no one other than myself, the changing of these photographs represents a changing of the family order.

I have been promoted from student to teacher.