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Archive for the ‘Dad and his family’ Category

Although I started this blog five years ago next month, and that sounds like a long time, I’ve been working (on and off–mainly off while raising my kids and teaching) on family history, family photos, and genealogy since I was just out of college and beginning a master’s in history (which I did not complete and ultimately switched to English and creative writing).

I was blessed with many antique and vintage photographs and a grandfather with a great memory and a talent for storytelling.

But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I got the idea of putting my research and knowledge of our family history together with my creative writing. Then I began to write lyric poems, prose poems, and a few pieces in a genre that was new to me–flash nonfiction, which is a form of very short prose–based on individuals from my family’s past.

Ultimately, I pulled these pieces together into a chapbook (44 pages) which has been published by Finishing Line Press and is now available, not only on their website, but also on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

Kin Types looks at what the lives of my ancestors were like. The locales are mainly Kalamazoo (and other towns in southwestern Michigan), Elmhurst (Illinois), and the Netherlands. Using the fruits of my research, which included studying newspaper articles, documents, and the details of antique photos, I tried to “inhabit” the lives of some of the people who have come before me.

If you click through the link to the Amazon page, the book can be ordered for $14.99. To order through Barnes & Noble, try this link.

Here is a sample poem from the collection:

Genealogy

 

Tigers die and leave their skins;

people die and leave their names.  ~Japanese Proverb

 

The more relatives I unearthed,

the more Franks rose to the surface

like deer bones after a storm.

On the trails I could follow,

I found seven named Frank,

three Franz, three Francis.

Frans, Francois, and Franciscus.

Frances and Francisca,

the women peeking out

from under their fathers’ names.

The name passed forward

like a cross polished by many hands.

The verb frank means to allow free passage

for man or post. But these Franks

and Franciskas paid with their labor

and their babes buried along the way.

If you read this blog, some of the characters of the book might be familiar to you. And because the project is quite unique I think people passionate about family history, genealogy, history, and local history will probably be particularly interested. Some of the pieces have been published in literary magazines. Combined together, they tell a story of the history of “forgotten” women.

So what are you waiting for? 😉 Go to one of the links and place your order!  And thank you very much.

 

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This isn’t Kalamazoo history, unless you consider that Kalamazoo is pretty darn close to Chicago. My paternal grandmother, Marie Klein Hanson Wakefield, was from Elmhurst and Chicago, Illinois, and for much of her work life she was the head fitter at the 28 Shop at Marshall Field & Company at the corner of State and Washington in Chicago.

That was a job that took a lot of talent, and it was a pretty cool job. She fitted celebrities, as well as other wealthy customers of the store. She designed clothing for some, and she was asked to move to Hollywood to work for the movies as a costume designer (which she turned down).

When she retired, Grandma was given a pittance (IMO) monthly retirement and a book about the story of Marshall Field & Company.

The book was on our bookshelves when I was a kid, and I devoured the history of department stores in Chicago, which is a subject I still find fascinating.

And I still have the book today.

Is it just me or do you think that this generic inscription is a little too little for the years my grandmother gave away her talents to the company?

It’s fitting that my first real job (outside of family business) was with a department store in Kalamazoo–Jacobson’s, where I (what else?) fitted gloves (see the image on the book cover). Yes, pun intended.

 

 

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On 23 February 1931, my father’s uncle, Frank Anthony Klein, had some sort of possibly epileptic seizure and crashed his automobile into a tree. He died from his injuries, and his mother grieved deeply for him. She had already lost her oldest daughter and Frank was her only son.

A little over a year after that tragic event, his mother, Margarethe Wendel Klein, died of cancer, or so my father told me, in her home in Elmhurst, Illinois. I think these photos are of her grave at the cemetery because I don’t see her sitting next to her husband, my great-grandfather, Frank Klein. He is wearing glasses and has a mustache.

Here’s a close-up of the grave with its flowers.

The family is buried at Elm Lawn Cemetery in Elmhurst. Margarethe would have had a Catholic funeral service.

One twist (isn’t there always a twist or a mystery?): Margarethe’s death certificate says she died of Diabetic Coma. And that she had had Myocarditis for 10 years and Nephritis (institial) for 6 years. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall, and apparently it can be caused by a virus and may resolve. Interstitial nephritis is a kidney disorder. So she had diabetes. So did her daughter, my grandmother.

Why did my father think she died of cancer? He and his siblings and mother lived with his grandparents at the time, and he remembers his grandmother “lying in the library dying, while we played outside.”

Margarethe Wendel Klein

Helen, Marie, Elizabeth, Margarethe, Peter (SIL)

Frank Sr. on the ground with his grandkids

Uncle Frank and Grandma Marie Klein c. 1920

Uncle Frank and Grandma Marie Klein c. 1920

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When I was in an antique mall, I picked up a clown doll. I do have a doll collection, but this clown didn’t fit the collection. I had no idea why I wanted it.

I’m not afraid of clowns, although some of these recent clown news stories could unnerve me if I experienced them. But when I got in the car with my “new” doll, I looked at it and said to myself, “Why did I want you?”

A week later, I was going through some old photos (as you know I do that a lot) and discovered this photo of myself at age two with my grandmother, my cousin Michael, and a doll.

Although it’s not the exact doll, it’s pretty close–even with the same markings. The one I found has a younger, sweeter face, whereas the one in the photo has a more mature face.

Did I have some memory of this doll that made me buy the one at the antique mall? Or did the experience of the earlier clown prepare me for a sense of familiarity when I saw the one for sale?

Was that my cousin’s doll–or mine? And who bought it?

Photos can be a mystery years later, even when you’re in the picture!

This post was inspired by Mary Louise Eklund’s post on Wednesday last week.

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My great-grandmother, Margarethe Wendel Klein, born in 1869 in Budesheim, Hessen, Germany. She died in 1932 in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Is there a name for this sort of hat? Would you call this a suit? I’m not sure about the year, but I guess it to be in the 1920s.

I am going to take a little blogging break to recharge the brain batteries.

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Sunday is Father’s Day, and it will be the 2nd one without my father. If he were here he might like if I shared some photos from his time in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

These are all from a fishing trip he was able to make, probably to the Yukon, in Canada, when he was stationed in Colorado or Alaska. I chose these photos because of all the times I went fishing with my father when I was a kid. We would take the rowboat out on the lake and fish for perch and (often) sunfish. Not like these fish!

 

Here is his permit from September 1, 1949. Notice it says Dad is a resident of Colorado, but that was his army address–he was actually from Chicago. Was he really living in Colorado at the time–or was it Alaska? I say that because I know he was in Alaska from the stories he used to tell me.

Apparently he took time out to see the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, too.

Fish experts: what kind of fish did Dad catch?

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My father’s mother used to love Christmas. She celebrated it on Christmas Eve, in the German tradition. Her favorite Christmas carol was “Silent Night,” also from the German tradition.

In this photo, Grandma sits with Aunt Marge.

And here Aunt Marge is with a silly young man. (Yup, that looks like Dad!)

 

In Chicago, she kept a traditional Christmas tree (yes, also the German tradition) that she decorated with glass ornaments (mainly made in, wait for it, Germany) and strands of tinsel. In this photo, I must be around five and stand between Grandma and my mother.

Look what I got from Grandma!

 

When I was still young, Grandma changed her tree to a silver aluminum that changed color when a light wheel shone different colors on the tree. She decorated it in all pink balls. That’s the tree I remember from her duplex in Michigan. I looked, but couldn’t find a photo of it.

Another German tradition Grandma continued was putting electric candles in the window. I wish you could see the candles in this pic, but they might have been in the kitchen window. This is the picture window in Grandma’s duplex. She has a wreath up, and the nativity scene with the gifts below. It looks as if she didn’t have a tree this year. Judging by this fabulous hair (Mom, you let me go out like this?!), I was in junior high.

I think she gave my parents at least some of her old ornaments.

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