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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Let’s take a short break from my mother’s family and jump over to my father’s family.  My father’s mother Marie was the Head Fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago for years and an artist with a needle.

From the time I was born, Grandma sewed me beautiful dresses. But I first paid attention to her sewing on Christmas the year I was four. As we opened gifts, Grandma leaned down toward me, with her pearls swinging, and handed me a huge box.  The blue eyes of a doll my size stared back at me when I pulled up the lid.  I named her Bonnie, after one of my favorite records, “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”

Grandma handed me another large, but more beautifully wrapped, box.  I untied the grosgrain ribbon and discovered she had sewn an array of beautiful dresses trimmed in selfsame bows and flowered beads.  The beret Grandma created for Bonnie matched the pink satin-lined pale blue velvet coat.

Bow on back of Bonnie's velvet coat
Bow on back of Bonnie’s velvet coat
Pearl button closures on Bonnie's velvet coat
Pearl button closures on Bonnie’s velvet coat

When I was eight, Grandma sewed me a glorious trousseau of clothes for the imitation Barbie (Miss Suzette) my parents had given me.  My doll didn’t have the requisite zebra-striped swimsuit or the Enchanted Evening gown and fur stole, but she had a copper satin cocktail sheath covered with a copper rose point lace outer skirt.  Both were trimmed in copper seed beads.  The wedding dress of white satin was heavily beaded with real seed pearls. A lace trimmed slip fit underneath and the veil was matching lace and beaded with the pearls.  I looked for stitches to see Grandma’s tricks, but they were invisible as all good magic.

When I was away at college, my mother gave the Barbie clothes away. While Bonnie has always sat on a chair in my bedroom, for a long time I kept Bonnie’s clothes in a small suitcase in my closet, away from dust and sunlight, and reveled in the knowledge that I had preserved these treasures.  After moving to my last house, I decided to put them away more securely.

Then I forgot where I put them! For years I thought they were lost. Finally, last year, I found the clothing. The only piece missing is the velvet beret.  All I have left of the Barbie clothes are the memories as I don’t have a photo of them.

All these years later, my parents have given me my grandmother’s German porcelain doll and the clothing Grandma made for her.

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These doll clothes represent all the beautiful clothing my grandmother designed and sewed over the years. Clothing, Art really, which is long gone.

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I’ll pick up Grandpa’s story again in my next post.

Today I’m doing a little detour away from Kalamazoo, heading toward Japan, Chicago, and Elmhurst, Illinois.

My parents gave me a pair of matching and beautiful Japanese vases which are family heirlooms. I used to see them in my paternal grandmother’s home when I was little. In later years, my parents displayed them in their home. I had assumed (you know about that word, right?) that my father or my uncle had brought them back from Korea or Japan when they were in the military.

Look closely at the fine gold leaf design in the solid black. Vase is hand-painted.

In my birthday card was a note which explained that these vases had belonged to my grandmother’s mother. Her son, my father’s Uncle Frank, had brought them back from Japan in 1920 and given them to his mother.

Frank Klein was a merchant mariner who travelled the world, including to Japan, during the years right after WWI.  Maybe this is where my Uncle Frank, Great Uncle Frank’s namesake, got his idea of sailing when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

I believe Great Uncle Frank may have been on a ship called the Eastern Queen as we have several family photos of that ship. This ship does show up in online lists of ships.

I also have information that he travelled on a ship called the Altamahan in 1922. I tried to find this ship, but all I could find was the Altamaha, which was built in 1941.

Until I saw his picture a few years ago, I didn’t realize Great Uncle Frank existed. After I learned about him, I wanted to know more, so I wrote to both the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Archives and Records Administration, searching for his Merchant Marines record. The Coast Guard couldn’t help, but the NARA found a record for Frank. They gave me some preliminary information and then suggested I do more research on the premises in Washington D.C. Here are a few things I learned from the records they sent me:

  • He was issued a license for “steam. 2d Ass’t.Eng.,3000 G.T., 3d Ass’t.Eng., any tons, condg.” at Cleveland, Ohio, on September 5, 1918, for “Ocean” waters.
  • He was issued another on September 5, 1919.
  • He was 22 on June 14, 1918.
  • I have a headshot and thumbprint of Uncle Frank.
  • He was a citizen and born in the U.S.
  • A vessel he was on was the “Altamahan” with a U.S. Flag, which arrived on 3/5/19. His next vessel wasn’t yet known.
  • He was 5’9 with a dark complexion, brown hair, and gray eyes.
  • He had a physical mark: “Sc palm rt hd”–I take this to be that he had a scar on the palm of his right hand. On another page it is noted as 1/2 inch.
  • He was a 2d Engr.
  • On his application he marked his mother “Mrs. F. Klein” as his nearest kin. He gave 3 references, and one was his brother-in-law, Peter Van Gessel.
  • Best of all, he gave a work history for himself, which I will post here. Several jobs were as an “oiler.” According to Wikpedia, an oiler is a worker whose job is to oil machinery.

Here is a picture of Great Uncle Frank when he was home on leave:

Uncle Frank and Grandma Marie Klein c. 1920

Uncle Frank and Grandma Marie Klein c. 1920

Frank Anthony Klein on born in Chicago on June 14, 1896.  He grew up in Elmhurst and was the only boy. He had four sisters, including my grandmother.  Frank never married, but he was living with my grandmother and her family in Chicago when he was killed in a car accident in 1931.

According to his death certificate, this is how he died: “Fractured left mandible, compound fracture of left tibia and fibula, hemorrhage and shock  Deceased was driving his auto and suffered an attack of epilepsy seizure and struck a tree.” I suspect his parents were devastated by his death as he was the only boy and the second youngest. He was 34 years old. Fifteen months later, his mother passed away from cancer.

His death date is noted in official records as February 24, 1931, but his gravestone is marked with the date February 23, 1931.  Because he was buried in Elmhurst on February 25, I would deduce that February 23 was the correct date of death.

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