Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Grandfather & My Brother, 1956

My paternal grandfather, age 71, and my little brother, about 8 months old, circa April 1956.

I love this tender study of my grandfather holding my baby brother. I remember this corner of the dining room very well. Usually there was a rocking chair at this spot, where both grandparents would rock the babies of the family.

My grandmother would sing "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" or "We are Marching to Pretoria" or "Are you an angel, my glad heart sings, are you an angel, where are your wings? Are you an angel, are you an angel? Tell me, dear."

My grandmother's indoor plants are visible on the little side table. Her glass-front china cabinet was in the opposite corner, and the sideboard that held the cookie jar was just to my grandfather's right.

I loved exploring the contents of that sideboard reverentially. In addition to the cookie jar and lovely embroidered linen scarf beneath it, the drawers and cubbies of the sideboard held many treasures. I recall thumbing through my grandmother's yellowed copy of The White House Cook Book which she kept on an inside shelf.

Above and behind my grandfather was a photographic portrait in an oval frame of my grandmother in high-button shoes at about age six--lost to posterity as far as I know.

My grandfather's preeminent realm, however, was the basement (in my child's mind, at least). He had an old-time crank Victrola and an extensive collection of 78 rpm records. We played a lot of foxtrots, as I recall, and danced around.

Every year he made sauerkraut in huge crocks, following a tradition that I'm sure he learned from his grandfather. I have a vivid memory of going with him and my parents to Trax farmstand in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to buy bushels full of cabbage in preparation for this ritual.

He made potent red wine that aged in the cellar where my grandmother kept her canned tomatoes and piccalilli and homemade ketchup. He, alongside my father, built a cabin in the Pennsylvania woods that served as a hunting and fishing camp and family gathering place.

He and my grandmother cultivated flower and vegetable gardens and five strapping boys and lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, a grand fest which was documented on 8mm film by my uncle.

I'm still trying to solve a family mystery about the identity of my grandfather's father. I have a few clues, but no hard primary data. The genealogical research continues.

I know I have mentioned this just recently, but I reiterate: please conduct oral history interviews with significant people in your life. Future generations will thank you.

My Sister in My Grandparents' Rocking Chair, 1957

My Paternal Grandparents


  1. Thats a lovely set of memories! Wow, how things have changed. My grandad also made wine and my granny made all sorts of jams from their fruit and vegetable patch in the back garden. I also loved looking through one particular chest of draws.. it was the presents draw.. little treasures my granny would find and buy and keep, ready for a gift for someone one day

  2. Thanks for documenting everything for our family in such a lovely way, Cheryl. BTW, Linda, you are too cute in that rocking chair . . . !!!! I don't ever recall seeing that picture!