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Archive for the ‘family heirloom’ Category

When my grandparents, Adrian and L. Edna (Mulder) Zuidweg got married on 21 May 1932, Grandpa’s mother, Cora DeKorn Zuidweg, was dying of cancer. He was staying home to take care of her because his father had died in 1929 and he was an only child.

In 1931, Grandpa had asked Grandma to marry him as he drove her in  the car from Kalamazoo to her parents’ farm in Caledonia. But Grandma had to wait a year to teach and give the money to her family who were struggling financially because of the Great Depression.

So there was no big celebration for my grandparents. Aunt Jen, Cora’s sister stayed with Cora while they got married. They drove to South Bend, Indiana, although Grandpa was from Kalamazoo and Grandma from Caledonia, two southwestern Michigan towns. They could get a marriage license and marry immediately in South Bend.

Traveling with them were Grandma’s sister Vena and her boyfriend Al Stimson’s cousin, Herb Thorpe. They had forgotten to get flowers, so they plucked spirea along the way.

On the way back, they ate dinner at a restaurant in Cassopolis.

Grandma immediately moved into the house at 1520 S. Burdick Street. She helped take care of her mother-in-law who died on 16 September 1932.

When the school year began, Grandma continued to teach that first year and would come home on the weekend. So that Grandpa wouldn’t be alone, Al Stimson moved in with him. Al was a student at WMU. His job was to help Grandpa with the housework. His way of handling the dishes was to load the dirty ones under the sink all week and then just before Grandma was due home for the weekend he would wash them all.

I imagine Grandma was happy to quit teaching and get rid of living in the “frat boy” atmosphere haha.

I’m happy they managed to send out some engraved wedding announcements.

And their portrait, too.

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This is the best image I have ever seen of my great-great grandfather Richard DeKorn, Kalamazoo mason and building contractor.

Notice that this portrait is signed. It seems to say L. C. Robinson ’27.

So who was L. C. Robinson? From a directory of early Michigan photographers:

Robinson, Leo Carey
Dowagiac student …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1900
Grand Rapids student ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1910
Grand Rapids manufacturer of studio furniture for photographers ………………………………………………………… 1910-1911
Grand Rapids photographer for Carey B. Robinson ……………………………………………………………………………………..1912
Grand Rapids PHOTOGRAPHER at 115 ½ Monroe av ……………………………………………………………………… 1913-1921
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 414 Main st west ………………………………………………………………………….. 1923-1925
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 426 Main st west ………………………………………………………………………….. 1926-1927
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 426 Michigan av west …………………………………………………………………… 1929-1931
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 346 Burdick st south …………………………………………………………………….. 1939-1942
Leo was the elder son of photographer Carey B. Robinson and Lettie Alena (Lewis) Robinson, was born on February
25, 1893, at Delton, Michigan, and became a tall man with light brown eyes and brown hair. Her father came from
Indiana and Alta was born at Plainwell, Michigan, in June of 1893, sixth of the nine children of Charles C. and Frances
Ardella (Nichols) West. She grew up on an Allegan County farm, and she married Leo in 1914. Their children were
born in Michigan: Chester in 1915, Doris in 1916, Rueben (later Richard) in July of 1919, Jack about 1924, Avis in
May of 1926, and Eileen in February of 1928. The furniture manufactured by C. B. Robinson & Sons was sold across
the nation and in several other countries. Though Leo, along with his brother Ralph and his father, was a principal of
this company through 1911, Leo and his mother operated the photograph studio while his father supervised the
furniture factory. Leo became the nominal proprietor of the Grand Rapids studio about 1913, though his mother and
father still were involved with its operation and finances. He called it Robinson’s Art Loft in 1917. Late in 1923 he
purchased the Spaeth Studio, located in its own building on West Main Street, and within a couple of years had
developed one of the largest portrait trades in Kalamazoo. Leo died at Kalamazoo in 1942.

This photograph has a strange sheen to it and a pattern that overlays it all–visible in certain formats on my computer screen. This must be a certain type of photography, but I don’t know what it is.

I do know that I am grateful for this photograph dated three years before Richard’s death.

Dated. But taken? Richard was born in 1851 in Kapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands. In 1927, he would have been 76 years old.

Did he dye his hair? Could those moderate “living lines” be from 76 years of living? I find this photo a little confusing if it’s meant to be from 1927.

What do YOU think?

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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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