Sunday, December 30, 2007

Former National Park Seminary, Forest Glen, MD

After the Scottish Xmas Walk in Alexandria a few weeks ago, we went over to what my friend described as a "castle" in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington, DC. Our plan was get more mileage from our Scottish attire and take pictures of ourselves in a medieval setting. I was raised in Bethesda, Maryland, and only now am I learning of the various historical places and events of my old neighborhood.

The castle turned out to be the former campus of the National Park Seminary, and it does indeed have a formidable history. Back in the late 1870s, a developer decided that Forest Glen would be a nice place for Washingtonians to visit and perhaps move to in order to escape the muggy and buggy environs of the District of Columbia. Forest Glen is a few hundred feet higher than the drained swampland of DC. In the Glen, a cool, shaded ravine runs from Carroll Springs to Rock Creek in the National Park of the same name. The traffic from the ever-present Beltway hums somewhere over the rims of the Glen. A hotel was build first to lure potential, 19th century clients to visit and ponder the possibility of purchasing a lot in the community. When the buyers balked, casinos were added to the hotel to make it more attractive. Nevertheless, the idea of "moving out" to Forest Glen failed.

Eventually the hotel was sold to a couple of educators who were teaching at an urban school in Norfolk., VA, but wanted to start a school in the countryside to propose their unique educational philosophy. Essentially they emphasized the Social development rather than the intellectual training of young ladies, in particular rich young ladies, with family names like Boyardee, Chyrsler, Heinz, Swift, and Hershey. So, they built rich archetectual buildings to become sororities in which the girls did not reside but attended balls, dances, and festivals- and to form secret literary clubs.

Incidentally, four of the five wealthy families just mentioned made their fortunes in the food industry. I believe I would have enjoyed knowing my fellow comrades.

After this heyday, the Seminary changed hands and changed educational philosophies toward more utilitarian means during the Great Depression. They also changed its name from Seminary to College. Finally, the complex was taken over by nearby Walter Reed Army Hospital to be used as a hospice for convalescing soldiers during WW II.

The Army let the property run down after the war. Though the complex was declared an Historic Site in 1972, it continued to deteriorate. Fortunately, a grass roots organization was formed to make the public aware of the community's history and to save the buildings from being demolished.

Recently, the property was bought by another developer who will, as was the original intention a century ago, develop the property into condominiums and single family homes. Read more here. Montgomery County has restricted the contractor to preserve at least the shells of the previously elegant buildings. The picture above shows one of the future residents who came by to check on the construction. His computer room will be in one of the turrets at the end of the covered walkways in the background of the photo.

We got our pictures playing bagpipes on the premises of the former National Park Seminary, turned college, turned convalescent home for soldiers, turned condominiums. After all, it was a place to become aware of other cultures. A Japanese Pagoda was one of the first building on the campus to be renovated. By the way, Ben was standing on top of a concrete drain pipe which was ready to be installed.

A Dutch windmill, which has lost its arms, was used as the house for the Kappa Delta Pi Sorority. Across from it was the Swiss Chalet. The bag pipers were removed to show more detail.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fröhliche Weihnacht- my German heritage

The above images were sent to me by my friend and fellow genealogist, Rudolf Kerbitz, who lives in Wesel, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. They were created by his talented mother, the late Mrs. Charlotte Kerbitz, nee. Nürnberger. The artistic craft is called handschnitte or scherenschnitte. The artist cuts out a silhouette by hand with nothing other than scissors and paper. Rudolf recalls his mother did not use a pattern or template, but rather, whittled out the design immediately from her imagination. The craft is unbelievably detailed as seen in larger resolution images.

The image on left is captioned, written in Sutterlein, which means in English, "cheerful or merry Advent Season". The picture is of 7 cherubs dancing around a candle which Rudolf suggested reminded him of the 7 great grandchildren that surrounded my mother in the picture I posted earlier on my blog.

Read more, in German, in Rudolf's article on his mother's art- or go there for the images. Scherenschnitte was brought to America by German and Swiss immigrants, and you can Google many English language sites for more information, such as this one.

Another fantastic "gift" which Rudolf gave me this Christmas is information which will apparently push my pedigree back another generation. My great, great grandfather, Anton Gailliot, who was a Master Shoemaker in Wesel, the town where Rudolf Kerbitz now resides, was the son of JOHANN GAILLIOT and ELISABETH PEIRNE or Pierre. The data are from a marriage record in a just-published transcription: Marriages of St. Mariae Himmelfahrt, Wesel, 1835-1849. The Transcripton recently became available in a limited edition print in Wesel. How wonderful will this Weihnacht be remembered. Danke schön, Herr Rudolf Kerbitz.

My Scottish Heritage

One of these days I hope I can afford a Scottish kilt made from Russell Tartan material. More than likely, used ones will not appear on eBay. I might just have to be satisfied with wrapping myself in a long piece of Tartan-like material as the Scottish Highlanders did generations ago. I tried this means of dress awhile back when I participated in the festivities at Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina. Then, I marched in the Parade of Tartans and carried a banner which my friend had painted with the words, "Russell Sept"- meaning the Russell family- in other words, not a full-fledged Clan.

There is an official Russell tartan which has been approved by Lord Lyon, King of Arms. His office, or his Court actually, is a branch of the Scottish judiciary which has taken on jurisdiction over tartans (Thank you Jon vonBriesen).

And there has been several attempts to form a Russell Clan in America, but so far, these attempts have largely failed probably because, historically, there never was a Russell Clan. If you browse through some of the more popular books on Scottish clans, for instance, Scottish Tartans with Historical Sketches of the Clans and Families of Scotland, by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Emeritus Lord Lyon of Arms, you will find that the Russell's are a sept (prounounce the "p") of Clan Cummings, also spelled Cummins or Comyn. Unfortunately, you will not find much more information on even the Russell Sept of Clan Cummings. Under the clan system a sept which is a term meaning family or blood kin was often less prominent and less powerful than the clan, and therefore, would often associate itself politically, economically and defensively with the neighboring clan. Thus, the sept is bound to the clan by territory rather than by blood, or in some cases, by marriage.

About 15 years ago, I contacted a Dr. Robert Russell of Plantation, Florida, who was collecting the names of individuals who were interested in forming a Clan Russell. He told me then he had obtained permission to incorporate such a Clan in America. Professor Robert Russell's address and intentions appeared in two popular Scottish newletters, The Scottish Banner and The Clansman. However, I have not heard any updates on Clan Russell in the last decade; so, I suppose the movement lost its momentum.

But for now, I write with pride that my great grandfather, Thomas W. Russell, was indeed born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, in the parish of Bothwell, in the village of Holytown- about 10 miles east of Glasgow. It was all in his obituary. Far from being a clan chief or other sort of royalty, Thomas was a humble coal miner. But he was a proud Scotsman and enjoyed quoting by heart whole verses of Robert Burns' poetry.

My genealogical research uncovered that Thomas Russell had several siblings, some of whom immigrated to American in the 1880s, and several siblings whose whereabouts were unknown. Then, in the Spring of 2005, I received an email from a Geoffrey Parkinson in Australia who, after surfing onto my genealogical web site, suggested that we had common ancestors. Turns out Geoffrey's great grandmother was Janet Russell, younger sister of my Thomas W. Russell. We worked out several details in subsequent emails- the wonder of the Internet. Geoffrey told me that Janet Russell married a Thomas Parkinson and had a large family. Children in the first generation eventually immigrated to Australia, America, and some remained in the British Isles.

One family member of whom I became particularly enamored was Janet Russell Parkinson's youngest son Harry Parkinson. Harry migrated to Australia and died there, but early in his life, he remained loyal to England. During the First World War, he returned to northern England, CHANGED his surname to his mother's maiden surname of RUSSELL, and enlisted in the Tyneside Scottish Regiment (see picture above). He maintained the Russell surname the remainder of his life.

Now, on the left in the picture, your blogger is wearing an outfit which was quickly put together for the Alexandria Scottish Xmas Walk. I'm wearing a borrowed Glen Gerry and leisure pants with the "Black Watch" design. When you are old and on fixed income, you adjust. As my kilt-clad friend and I walked into that fine Scottish establishment- MacDonalds- for breakfast the next day, a clerk asked my friend where he found the "dress". He responded, "I'm not sure, but ask the guy in the pajamas".

Source for Harry Russell portrait: Goeffrey Parkinson, Port Macquarie, Australia.

The place where I was born, Alexandria, VA

I was happy to participate for the first time in the Scottish Christmas Walk in Alexandria this year. Because, not far from the parade route is the Stoneleigh Apartments where my parents lived when I was born in the early 1940s. The address is 409 Cameron Street. I wonder if they will put up an historical marker here someday: "Born near here was Bob Kramp who wrote extensive genealogies of nearly all his Family Lines which nobody ever read (and an unread blog too)". Oh well.

However, on the south side of old town Alexandria, at St. Mary's Cemetery, oldest Catholic Cemetery in Virgina, are buried my great grandfather, Henry Caspar Gailliot, his wife, Franceska, nee. Dumoulin, and my grandparents, Charles Anthony Gailliot and Margaret, nee. Austel, and several other members of the Gailliot family. Incidentally, our first president, George Washington, donated funds for the cemetery in honor of one of his officers, Fitzgerald. See the historical marker.

Scottish Christmas Walk, Alexandria, VA

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I participated in the Scottish Christmas Walk in Alexandria. I marched with members of the Celtic Society of Southern Maryland and also the Anthropology Club of Calvert High School (see above). It was a cold and crisp day but sunny- great for wearing wool. The sounds of Bag Pipes and drums filled the air. In front of us in the parade, a couple of ladies played their fiddles and marched at the same time. The Honorable John Warner (Rep), senior senator from Virginia marched down the same street with us in his Scottish kilt and tartan.

Afterwards, our group of marchers retired to the Fish Market for some hot clam chowder.

An ol' time tune by Uncle Mudd (sitting)

You might tell by the little cartoon character gracing my profile that I enjoy playing a tune on the banjo- old time clawhammer or frailing to be specific. The banjo playing style preceeds the 3-finger picking style of Earl Scruggs. So during Thanksgiving weekend this year, my friend invited me to play a tune called "Soldier's Joy", a.k.a. "The Kings Head" with a local band at the Royal Mile Pub, Wheaton, MD. The band, sans Uncle Mudd, is called the Gross National Product. Why the name? I don't know, but I loved their blend of bluegrass and folk music.

Tradition indicates that a condemned man was allow a last request before he was to be executed by losing his head. The man asked for his fiddle and played a tune so well and so rousing that the King spared the fiddler's head. I wished to play well enough to get a free pint, but just playing with the band turned out to be good enough. Thanks guys.

Family Recipe: Scord's Apple Cake

Well, you can tell by the picture this is a popular treat. My mother visited Mrs. Ruth Scord, nee. Strike (my father's biological sister) in the 1960s and came home with this family recipe. This particular cake was enjoyed on Thanksgiving this year at my sister's home.

2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups corn oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Table spoons Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups peeled apples, diced
1 cup Chopped pecans

Beat eggs, add next four ingredients & cinnamon. Beat in flour, salt, soda. Add apples and pecans. Bake in greased and floured tube pan at 325 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours. Let stand 15 min before removing from pan. Optional: While cake is still warm, frost with 1 cup of powdered sugar and juice of one orange.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Trip to Washington DC with the grandkids

With the nation's capital in the background, pawpaw Kramp stands on the DC Mall with four of his grandchildren. Afterwards, we walked over to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and toured the dinosaur, fossil, and gem collections. I believe the kids enjoyed most the ride down on the Metro train.

As a kid myself years ago, I spent many hours in the Smithsonian museums- including the National Zoo. I particularly liked the collections of postage stamps from all over the world, which then was housed in the Smithsonian "castle".

Thanksgiving: counting our blessings.

My mother, the former Mary Margaret Gailliot, age 87, is certainly counting her blessings- seven great grandchildren. A rare picture is when we can get all the blessings together at one time on the couch.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Streich surnames on the Immigrant Wall of Honor, Ellis Island

Looks like I'm holding my finger in a dike to keep the island from being flooded. But no, I'm pointing to the Streich surnames on the Immigrant Wall of Honor on Ellis Island. When I visited the Wall in 1997, there were about 500,000 or about half a million former immigrants inscribed. I remember the number being about 10 times higher than the inscriptions on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. There were only 4 Streich surnames, but no Kramp, Gailliot, or Gutgsell surnames from my other family branches whose names are rather unique. Inside the restored immigrant processing station, there were computers on which you could look up your surnames of interest and also find the panel number on the Wall where you could find your name inscribed.

One could donate $100 to the Ellis Island Foundation to put a surname on the Wall, but at the time, I thought it would be a better use of my money to further research my genealogy. Birth certificates and other legal documents are not free for the asking. I'm still looking for that rich, new-found cousin to help financially with some of the research. However, genealogy is not everybody's cup of tea. Furthermore, we could use some of that money to inscribe our Gailliot surname on the corner stone of the townhall (Rathaus) in Wesel, Germany, which is currently being restored to its original splendor.

I obtained the donors and their addresses of some of the Streich surnames on the Wall. I then traced one of those persons to a Streich medical doctor someplace in Pennsylvania. I telephoned the individual's office; talked to the receptionist; and later dropped the side trail. That particular Streich individual was not immediately known to be a member of our family line.

Incidentally, when our Streich ancestors came to America in the early 1880s, they were processed at Castle Garden on the mainland of Manhatten, rather than Ellis Island- which wasn't opened until 1892.

A few days ago, a lady stumbled onto my web site, and being descended from a Streich family line, asked me if I had any connection to her family. The surname is rather unique and I have found a few nests of people bearing the Streich surname. I even started a separate database to keep up with these unrelated families. But in this case, there didn't SEEM to be a connection. Nevertheless, I promised her I would post here a photo of the Streich names which I found on the Immigrant Wall of Honor:

P.S. Thought I better write down the names of the immigrants so that search engines could find the text and hopefully a descendent might get in touch with me:

Kaspar Streich

Margaret Cewe Striech

Maria Isabel Pozo Streich

Reinhold Streich

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Savage Gulf Natural Area, Tennessee, 1977

Looking through my photo albums, I found a suitable image to put on a DVD cover for a slide show I recently created. The slide show includes pictures I took between 1975 and 1983. This photo was taken in a wilderness area called The Stone Dor, in middle Tennessee. "Dor" is a geological term for a large crack in a cliff in which one can bodily pass through. This particular Stone Dor was used by indians for many years to pass from the top of the Cumberland escarpment to hunting areas below the rim. The low-land area in this location are called "gulfs".

Since I hiked in the Savage Gulf over 30 years ago, I wondered how the place had changed and of course hoped that the primitive nature of the wilderness had been preserved. Actually I had forgotten the names of towns and markers in the area. Fortunately, there were several references to the Stone Dor and Savage Gulf on the Internet, and I stuffed the web sites into my Favorites. It was interesting to see how the images on the Internet matched my own photos taken many years ago- even to the tree that somehow grew up in shadows of the Dor (see below).

For more on Savage Gulf, go here and here. The last site will probably change one day, but it concerns a hiker, Jeffrey Hunter, who led a group of Chattanooga Hikers to the Savage. From Jeffrey's web entry, I surfed to another interesting web site for Appalachian Trail hikers.

Back in 1977, I was teaching a Sunday School class of teenagers at Bellvue Methodist Church in Nashville. Everyone knows most teenagers need a challenge to stay interested in anything. Nearby the Savage Gulf area, in Beersheba Springs, there were some retreat cabins owned by the Methodist Conference. The Sunday School class decided to hold a weekend retreat at Savage Gulf. I forget the details, but I will never forget the thrills and chills of the teenagers when we climbed down through the Stone Dor; walked under a waterfall; and truely experienced God's country. One morning we met near the ridge of the Gulf and opened our day singing Cat Steven's "Morning has Broken". I wish I could start everyday like that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Windows Vista

I just took at least 5 years off my life. I bought a new Hewlett-Packard lap top with the new Windows Home Premium Vista operating system. My purpose for purchasing the newer, faster computer, was to be able to run some of the more complex software which creates digital slide shows; for example, Adobe's Premier Elements (which would not load on my 2 year-old system without SSE2- huh?). I wish I could have stayed with Windows XP, since I'm finally becoming comfortable with it. However, I didn't have that choice when I bought a new computer. It's either Windows Vista or MacIntosh, or nothing. Unfortunately, only one genealogical computer program is made for the Macs. Most of the programs I use require Windows- at least that's the way I see it.

In any case, several of the wonderful programs which ran perfectly well, or nearly so, on XP, are not compatible with Vista. Also Vista has a lot of problems as you can tell by your first visit to the communal help groups online. The Vista "Help" section has just as many meaningless answers as any of the previous versions. And if you don't understand their answers, you can always contact your Administrator (I guess that's me) or the manufacturer of your hardware or software. Yea, right. Thanks a lot.

So, if your planning to buy a new computer with Windows Vista, plan also on purchasing several hundred dollars worth of new, "Vista ready" software, including the 2007 version of Microsoft's Office- sorry your M/S Office from last year won't work.

Incidentally, Vista comes with about four photographic slide show creators. Two of them send you to web sites to purchase the upgrades. The others are bare bones. Signed, Sour Grapes.

First Baptist in Monroe, NC, on a Fall day

I can upload this image from my cell phone camera but can't edit it beforehand. I'll have to crop it later. I just dropped off my car at the garage in Monroe to be fixed. I piggy-backed my bicycle so that I wouldn't have to wait for the job to be done. So now, I'm biking back home stopping to take a picture and passing by Jule's for cup of java on the way. And also praying that it won't cost an arm and leg to get my car fixed. The brake light on the control panel stays on, blinking red danger, and yelling, "this is going to cost you". Well ... there is always the bicycle. Though it would take a little while to bike from NC to PA in time for Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Experiment with Smilebox program

The following video was created at an Internet site called The reference is from a bibliography put together by our local librarian for an upcoming seminar, entitled, "Put your genealogy and family on TV". We plan to interest the attendees in several software applications which one can use to present slide shows of vintage, family photographs and simple genealogy charts- sort of like electronic scrapbooks. I will also present some of the hardware needed to "play" the slide shows; for example DVD players and video iPods. The following was a free creation. For a couple of dollars, I could create a video free of advertisements- which I may choose to do later on.

It will take a minute or two to load the buffer after you click on "play" button- watch the grow bar. To escape the video, click on "x" in upper right to close the window.

Fall 2007
Slide shows and scrapbooks - Powered by Smilebox
Make a slide show, scrapbook or ecard

Update: I went back to Smilebox and the bought the creation for $1.93. I believe it was worth it, because now the creation is free of advertisements, and thus, loads more rapidly, and can be seen full screen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

View from Point Park Lookout Mountain TN

The years-old, traditional tourist attractions of Lookout Mountain have been Rock City and Ruby Falls. Both stem from the natural geologic formations formed underground in the limestone of the Cumberland Mountains. The "Ruby" in Ruby Falls was created by colored lights shining through a high underground waterfall. For two or more generations, motorists saw barns or rooves emblazoned with the words "See Rock City" or "See Ruby Falls". Many artists used these "bill boards" in their paintings of pastoral scenes of the South. Tourist brochures hyped that you could see seven states from Lookout Mountain. Perhaps they meant you could see that many if you were in an airplane flying over the mountain. Nevertheless, I had a fantastic view of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River Valley from atop the mountain as seen in the image above. Right above the cannon's barrel, against the blue horizon, I could barely see the whitish cooling towers of Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant. Click on image to enlarge.

If you think this is a fantastic view, just think of the view that the Confederate Artillery had of the Union Army of Tennessee when it was laying siege to Chattanooga during the Civil War in 1863. Eventually the Confederates withdrew from the ridge and traveled eastward to Missionary Ridge. It was Lookout Mountain that was referred to in the Battle above the Clouds.

Senior benefits and consequences

Besides having gained great wisdom, there are a few other benefits of aging. One of these is the Senior Discount. We get discounts at Kohl's Department Store, fast food restaurants, and cinemas for a few examples. A particularly good deal for seniors is the National Parks Pass, formerly known as the Golden Passport. For a lifetime cost of only $10, I now have admission for myself and up to 3 companions (such as grand kids) to nearly 400 national parks and monuments. Here, I'm holding up my recently purchased Parks Pass in front of the entrance to Point Park National Park, a military park memorializing the Civil War battle of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
After the picture was taken, I spun around, stepped off a curb, and promptly fell, causing a severe impact to my knee caps. I wiped off the blood and kept going, but later that evening an apple-sized swelling of blood and fluid collected over my knee and made it so stiff I couldn't bend my leg or walk. I wound up taking an ambulance to the local emergency room. The doctor said I would be on crutches for few days but I only took one day. I believe the fall is also a senior citizen, age-related thing. Maybe I should have applied for my Park Pass several decades earlier and USED it. I hear so many people say, "when I retire ...". Take it now pal.

Or, as Billy Crystal once put it: By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he's too old to go anywhere.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Walnut St. Pedestrian Bridge Chattanooga

At the southern terminus of the Riverpark trail, I walked my bicycle across the plaza of the Hunter Museum; and then proceeded to the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. Bicyclists take the middle of the wooden planks and strollers take the sidewalks. I had a clear view up and down the Tennessee River which is called the Nickojack Reservoir at this point. A reproduction of a paddle wheel riverboat carrying tourists passed below me on the river. Up river I could see an island which is a refuge for wildlife. I crossed over the bridge to the left bank and bought a banana split ice cream cone at the Subway Shop.
Down river from Walnut St Bridge is the recently opened and re-built Market St. Bridge. As I discovered later, the bridge is a relatively rare class of draw bridge known as a Bascule bridge. Large concrete blocks act as counter weights and help raise the leaves of the bridge like a seesaw. Another example of a Bascule, but smaller, is the Route 1 bridge at Mystic Harbor in Connecticut. I biked across that particular bridge on one of my days off while working at Millstone Nuclear Plant, located on the shores of Long Island Sound, Connecticut.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cincinnati Southern Railroad Bridge Chattanooga

Cincinnati Southern Railroad Bridge as seen from the Riverpark Trail near Chattanooga, TN. The bridge is owned by the city of Cincinnati and was built to carry passengers and goods from Cincinnati to Chattanooga as that city was then a hub for railways fanning out to the southern states. A reporter riding out of Cincinnati on the new line in 1880s called it the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The alliteration was made famous in tune by Glenn Miller's swing band orchestra in 1941.

River Park Trail along Tennessee River Chattanooga

I brought along my bicycle on this trip to a job contract at Sequoyah nuke plant. Glad I did because I discovered a nice hard-surface trail which follows the left bank of the Tennessee River about 8 miles from Chickamauga dam near Hixson, Tennessee, to the cultural center of Chattanooga. By cultural center, I mean the trail ends at the Hunter Museum of American Art. Picture was taken along a section of the trail on which the rider can see the river and Lookout Mountain in the distance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sequoyah Nuclear Plant Soddy Daisy Tenn.

From genealogic research in PA, to a nuke worker at Sequoyah Plant on the banks of Tennessee River. For 5 wks beginning mid-Sep, I will be working as a radiation safety technician- sometimes called Radcon Tech or Health Physicist. I swing a meter which measures dose rates so that workers can be advised of dose rates in their work area and therefore keep their acculumlated doses as low as possible.

The work is intense and we will be working 6 x 12 hrs per week while the plant is being refueled. The utility doesn't make any money when the plant isn't producing electricity. However, I did pack my bicycle in case the weather is nice on Bob's One Day Off.

Sequoyah Nuclear Station was named after a Cherokee Chief and Philosopher who developed a Cherokee alphabet which was then used to translate the Bible and other books- which the indians called "talking leaves". I'm looking forward to being layed-off, so I can get back to indulging myself in "talking leaves" or maybe even "writing leaves". Darn it all, I think we all need more leisure time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tombstone Remembrances

Bumper sticker on the car of a genealogist: "Warning: this car stops at all cemeteries.

Yes, genealogists believe that cemeteries can be pretty interesting. Because of maintenance efficiency, however, many cemeteries won't even allow fresh flowers to be placed on the grave (plastic is usually OK). Then again, some of the more remote cemeteries not only allow live plantings, but some, as in the example above, allow the display of trinkets which may represent the deceased. You can tell this deceased fellow loved his old truck and perhaps a favorite tractor. Didn't the Egyptian Royalty arrange to have many of their life's treasures buried with them- such as gold, jewelry, and maybe a wife or two?

I think, if I have a tombstone with an unlimited display area, I would place there: a pair of old hiking boots, my vintage Raleigh bicycle with its chrome handle bar brakes, my 1969 VW bus which I converted into a camper (a modified toy version might do), copies of several genealogy reports, maybe my old wedding ring from my ex, my wooden hiking stick I carved myself, a picture of the yurt I built, and a small wooden banjo that I also made. On the back of the banjo's resonator I carved a logo of the Appalachian Trail. I believe that about covers my dreams- those accomplished and those unfinished.

If I could ever get the poll feature working at his blog site, I would love to know what YOU would place on your grave stone. In the meantime, write it in the comments section. Sorry, only one or two items allowed. Your stone is smaller than mine.

Curators and Genealogists at E.O. Austin Historical Society, PA

Meet Denise and John who are curators and genealogists at the E.O. Austin Home and Historical Society on the town square in Austin, Potter Co., PA. They were very helpful and generous in providing information on the town where my Lininger and Lentz families resided since the late 1920s. Fortunately my families of interest were not living in Austin in 1911, when the Bayliss Papermill Dam broke and torrents of water inundated the town killing about 78 people. Denise has been researching and interviewing relatives and townspeople who knew of those who died in the tragedy. Behind the couple are bricks salvaged from the destroyed town. Inscribed on the bricks are those persons known to have died in the flood; but many more were probably never known or recovered. Note brick to left of Denise (click image to enlarge) which reads, "Zella Lockwood died of shock the following day [after the flood]. The disaster occurred at a time when many single, recent immigrants were in town working in the paper mills, and whose families and friends just stopped hearing from them.

For example, my grandfather's brother Julius Strike abandoned his wife and child in the early 1900s and was never heard from again. He never turned up in subsequent censuses or other documents. Did Julius also meet a similar fate as these Austin flood victims? What is known is that Julius' abandoned wife, the former Leah Lewis, re-married a Delbert Lininger and was living in Austin when she died in 1929. Leah and Delbert's daughter, Marcia Gretchen Lininger, grew up in the town and married Richard E. Lentz, Jr, in 1940. They are buried in Austin's Forest Hills Cemetery. A complete transcription of the cemetery is available at the Austin Historical Home.

By the way, as I entered town on this day, I read a sign which read, "Welcome to Austin, Judy Bolton Country". The curators told me that a town native, Rachel Beebe, wife of William Sutton, was the author of several, well-known children's mysteries. She wrote under the pen name of Margaret Sutton. The protagonist in Margaret's books was a girl named Judy Bolton and the setting of her books of course was a rural, mountainous town like Austin. The museum's collections carried several of Margaret Sutton's books. Margaret's husband, William, was an author himself and wrote the History of Potter County.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Potter County Courthouse in Coudersport PA

Here, I recorded marriages of Lininger and Lentz families. Interesting data to import into my genealogical database ... on the next update. But in the meantime, I can tell you that the courthouse had one volume of deaths and one volume of births which were recorded between 1893 and 1905, inclusive. Like most counties in PA, one must contact the Bureau of Vital Statistics in New Castle, PA, for births after 1905. The cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have their own offices for vital statics.

Marriage records were indexed on computer. In marriage volume 13, no. 1940-07327, I recorded one couple of interest:

RICHARD FRALEY LENTZ, JR, laborer, 21, born in Austin, s/o Richard, of Nenova, PA, and Ruth, nee. VAN WHY, of Gardeau, PA; and MARCIA GRETCHEN LININGER, 18, born Costello, PA, d/o Delbert Lininger, deceased, of Keating, PA, and Leah, nee. LEWIS, deceased, of Phillipsburg, PA; married 2 Sep 1940, by Rev. Harry W. Richey. Consent for bride's marriage given by Mrs. Ada Lininger AUSTIN, sister of the bride and legal guardian.

While I was in town, I also drove by the Potter County Historical Society which is just a block down the street from the courthouse, in front of the post office. Unfortunately, the Society's home office was closed. Hours: Mon and Fri, 1-4 p.m. and Thurs, 6:30-8:30. I hope I can return on another day. It's only a two-day drive ;-(

Potter County is also part of a regional 6 county organization called the Painted Hills Genealogical Society (four counties in NY and two in PA).

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ligonier Scottish Highland Games 2007 PA

Hot and humid but having a great time. After a week of gathering family history in PA, I drove over to Ligonier, near Pittsburgh, for the Scottish Games. We camped out at Forbe's Trail campground and gathered for a ceilidh that night. Ceilidh is the Gaelic word for "visit" indicating that the event started out as an informal gathering at people's homes usually with lively music and dancing. And that's what we did. Ben called a reel and we danced around the flying embers of huge bonfire which Jack had prepared earlier in the day. At some point the McRowdies came marching down the side of the mountain, led by a boy holding a lantern. Bagpipes echoed off the hillside. It was an event that my grandchildren and I will never forget.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Austin Dam Disaster Memorial State Park PA

On the way north from Austin to Coudersport, Potter Co., Pennsylvania, I passed a state park which is still being developed to memorialize Pennsylvania's second worst disaster due to a dam failure.

An Historical marker at side of Hwy states: "Austin Flood Disaster: On Sep 30, 1911, the Bayless Pulp and Paper Company dam broke here. This concrete dam, built 1909, was nearly 50 ft high; 534 ft long. It's failure sent torrents of water and debris down Freedom Run into Austin and Costello, causing great distruction and killing at least 78 people. This second worst single-dam disaster in PA inspired legislation in 1913 to regulate dam construction in the state".

In the 1930 census, Delbert Lininger, last husband of the former Leah Lewis (previously married to Julius Strike) and his sons worked for Austin paper mills.

History Museum, Austin, Potter Co., PA

My goal for gathering family history on this year's late August trip to Pennsylvania, was to determine the fate of Leah, nee. Lewis the former wife of Julius Strike. Julius was the brother of my biological grandfather, Otto Strike, and my father's adoptive mother, Martha (Streich) Kramp.

According to Leah's obituary, she died in Austin, Potter Co., PA, in 1929. She was survived by her last husband, Delbert Lininger; a daugter and son by previous marriages; and a 6 yr old daughter named Marcia Lininger.

I had previously uncovered the facts that the children of Leah's former marriages were Martha Strike (with Julius) and Gilbert Rook (with ___ Rook).

I thought the History and Genealogical Society for Potter County located in Coudersport might be able to provide more information on the Lininger family. On the way to Coudersport, I stopped in Austin to take pictures of the Methodist Church in which Leah's funeral service was reportedly conducted. Across the street from the church was Austin's Historical Society (see image above). They have a lot of information and memorabilia of Austin's Flood in 1911. I asked the curaotor if he knew anything about a Lininger family who used to live in the town at least in 1930. His gave me an affirmative answer; turned around and made a phone call, and within a few minutes I was talking to a living relative, a granddaughter of Delbert Lininger, who was visiting her daughter in town. Bingo! I never made it to the genealogical society in Coudersport this day. I was busy mining our family's genealogy right here in Austin.

Turns out Rita was the daughter of George Lininger who was Delbert Lininger's oldest son from his first marrieage to Carrie Morris. He was therefore a half brother to Leah and Delbert's only child, Marcia, and step-brother to Leah other children, Martha and Gilbert. As you can imagine, the genealogy is a little complicated to explain here, and I will have to put it in my database when I return home and then post it to my father's genealogical web site. To get the genealogy started, the 7 year old Marcia Gretchen Leninger mentioned in Leah's 1929 obituary grew up in Austin and married Richard "Bud" Lentz, and they had two children: Ruth and Gilbert- who I believe are still living.

Marcia G. Lininger (1921-1970) and Richard Lentz (1919-2002) are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, just south of Austin, PA. And I also recorded with my digital camera several other family members buried at Forest Hill.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kreis Wesel: homeland of Gailliot & Dissel Family Lines

Digital picture of front cover of a tourist brochure for Kreis Wesel in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany. It was mailed to me by our family friend, Rudolf, who lives in Wesel. In the center is the dominant landmark of Wesel City- The Willibrordi Cathedral or Dom. The communal and ancient Gross Markt lies beneath its spires. Around 1843 and bordering the market square was the first residence of the married couple, Anton Gailliot and Maria Dissel. About a year later, the family moved to a flat on Stone Street (Stein Str) but still within sight of the Dom. In 1848, Maria died of cancer leaving two small children, Lawrence and Karl. Anton then re-married Helena Schlebusch and they had at least 4 more children- the youngest of whom was my great grandfather, Henry Caspar Gailliot.

Last year at this time I celebrated Augustoberfest held in Wesel's "sister city" in America- Hagerstown, Maryland.

The tourist brochure also mentions a "sister district" for Kreis Wesel, which is County Durham in northern England. Amazing coincidence: My father's maternal grandfather was baptised and resided for over 30 years in County Durham, before he immigrated to America with his family in about 1881.

Review of Free Internet Photo Albums

This month ends the free photo album feature at For several years I have posted pictures to two Yahoo albums, one for each of my two Yahoo accounts. I linked the albums to my personal web page, this blog, and also to a couple of genealogical web sites I maintain. A nice feature at Yahoo Photos was that visitors did not have to register a user name or password to access my Albums, and thus, guests could link to my pictures directly. Now, I must move my photos from Yahoo to another Internet photo service by the end of the month and visitors will probably have to go through the hassle of registering to see my photos. Realize that most of these sites gather their revenue by on-site advertisements or by selling reprints and other photo products to the user. So, I have been shopping at some of the more popular sites to see the basic features of each. Most sites require registration- which is free. Also, one can do the most common edits of their photos: crop, red-eye fix, rotate, flip, instant fix, and add captions and borders. Also, one can tag and organize photos and albums Other unique features or information include: is partnered with Yahoo. One can use the same user name and password for both accounts. is the site for Kodak EasyShare. Up to sixty images can be uploaded at a time. More marketing than other sites. One can invite friends without having them register. is partnered with Target Stores. Users can order and go to their local Target stores and obtain "shopping cart" items, such as prints, calendars, and photo books. is a service of Hewlett Packard and is powered by Earthlink (whew!). Users can order and pickup photos at Walgreen Drug stores. Uploading photos from my MOBILE phone was an easy set-up, but there is a time lag of a day or two between uploading photos and their actual appearance on-line. On the other hand, I can upload photos from my computer almost instantly I haven't registered here yet. Can anybody add comments? I registered at this site with the same user name and password that I use for my The site is sponsored by Google. I have a choice of keeping my photo albums private or opening them to the pubic (at ). Visitors do NOT have to register. Also, I can view my Picasa Alums on my mobile phone but can't upload them. Images are automatically resized to fit my phone's screen. is great for creating slide shows with a running commentary which the user can add by dialing up on the phone. The site is supported by one of the largest Internet sites for genealogical research- by subscription. and are good sites for presenting one's genealogy and family photos. Footnote is partnered with the National Archives and is being used as a public reference and resource site. Geni is private for the user but can be shared with selected family members.

I will be adding more sites and comments as I do more shopping.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Linotype Operators: A Dead Occupation

Took picture of this Linotype machine on display in a front window of the Clearfield Progess Newspaper building, Clearfield Co., PA. The poster reads: "For many years, the linotype was an integral part of the newspaper business. With growth of the offset printing process and the change from hot metal type to computers and other complicated machinery, the linotype machine is, as the Model T Ford, a museum piece. The Linotype is a Comet 300 model built by Mergenthalen Linotype Company, NY.

Several of my ancestors were or became coal miners after they immigrated to America and settled in western PA. None of their descendants are coal miners today. Mining was and still is a dangerous occupation, and I can understand why my ancestors wanted to get out of the industry.

In the early 1930s, my father's biological brother, Russell Stryke, nee. Strike, was a composing room foreman at the Alexandria Gazette in Virginia. He traveled to Ramey, Clearfield Co, PA, and convinced his aunt, Martha Streich Kramp, who was fostering his younger brother, Robert, that he could apprentice him to the printing trade. So, my father, at the age of 16, learned to be a linotype operator at the Alexandria Gazette, and later at The Washington Evening Star, and finally at the Government Printing Office, Patent Section.

As a young boy, I remember going downtown in the District of Columbia (Washington, DC), to the Evening Star building and meeting my father at his job in a room full of Linotype machines. All the surfaces were black with ink and the room smelled of ink. I can understand why it is said that a printer has ink in his blood. Dad showed me how he sat at the keyboard and clinked the keys so that individual letters made out of hot lead fell into a tray at his side. Eventually a mold of the composition would be formed and taken to the presses where it was inked and pressed into the rolls of newsprint.

Incidentally, I was at the Clearfield Progress to obtain the recent obituary of Thomas H. HAAS, son of John G. Haas and Cora Mae EMIGH. Thomas died earlier this year at the age of 79 years.

Family History is where you find it.

Stempfly Descendants peruse Photo Album

Beverly Stempfly Myers (left), daughter of William Carl Stempfly and Verna E. Barger, looks over the Stemfly family photo album with her nieces, Sue Foust (right) and Carol. The latter sisters are the daughters of William Carl Stempfly, Jr, and Leneta (Perna). We gathered at the Centre County Grange Fair, PA, on last weekend of August and shared genealogical notes and photos.

Reminder Note: Click on the picture to enlarge; click on your browser's back arrow to return to blog.

Friday, August 31, 2007

How to live on just Social Security ?

Answer: You can't. However, on the western border of Potter Co, PA, lies Sizerville State Park. I pulled in and looked around. Absolutely God's country. Unfortunately though, my pop-up camper is still in need of repair and I left it at home on this trip. The cost of a campsite is $13 per night for seniors >65. Let's do some math. The cost per month would be abt $390, or $1200 per quarter year. The property taxes on my house alone in NC will be about the same, $1200. It makes me wonder.

Another genealogical puzzler

At the end of May this year, I entered into my blog that I found the obituary of Leah Lewis, the former wife of Julius Streich (Strike), the run-a-way and elusive brother of my grandfather, Otto Strike. Leah's obit stated she died in 1929, at Austin, Potter Co, PA, but was buried about 17 miles further southwest in Emporium, Cameron Co. Also, she was survived by her husband, Delbert Lininger. Here, in Newton Cemetery in Emporium, I located the tombstone of Leah, Delbert Lininger, AND his first wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Clara. Unfortunately, there are NO DATES on the stone. I know approximate birth dates from censuses, and I know Leah died 2 Feb 1929, at age 43 yrs, according to her obit. To further compound the mystery, I heard from a still-living granddaughter of Delbert's that daughter, Clara, never married and reportedly commited suicide. Another story is that she was murdered by a member of the family's in-laws. Incidentally, the granddaughter could not recall any of the death dates of persons on this stone.

Emporium Cameron Co PA

Well, what do think- the ultimate Lovers Lane?

Actually, the area does have its high moments. For another view go here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cabin Kitchen Emporium Cameron Co PA

Having coupla eggs and home fries while wild animals look down on my plate. Wish I could show you what's on the other walls. Maybe I will on another day. Tables are covered with plate glass and littered under the glass are all sorts of vintage ephemera: a 5 cent coupon good for one shoe shine at City Shoe Store; pix of American soldier sitting on propellar engine, rifle in hand with penned caption, "June 1944 Saipan" and another of boat plane, "Huangpu River" Nov 1945"; newspaper clipping announcing one billionth vacuum radio tube made at Emporium's Sylvania plant. One could read right through breakfast & dinner here. I'm in town to take pix of tombstones for Delbert Lininger and his family at Newton Cemetery. Incidentally, this region hosts probably the only free roaming herds of wild elk east of the Mississippi. Yea, there's an elk head mounted on the wall too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hohnke Memorials Part 2

I was surprised to see this fairly recent addition at the foot of the TURNQUEIST monument at Allport Cemetery, Clearfield Co, PA. It was NOT there several years ago. The smaller monument was inscribed Justin, 1859-1906, Lars, 1859-1921, and Bertha, 1869-1946. Justin was Lars' first wife, and Bertha was his second. Bertha was the daughter of Julius HOHNKE and Matilda SUNBERG. Under Bertha's name "Cenotaph" is inscribed. Ceno, from the Greek "keno" means empty. Thus, a cenotaph is a sepulcral monument erected in memory of a deceased person who is buried elswhere, or whose remaines can not be recovered, esp. memorials of soldiers killed elswhere. In northern England I saw cenotaphs memorializing miners killed in explosions. But in this case, I know that Bertha was buried 3 miles further south on Rte 53 at St. Agnes Cemetery, Morrisdale, beside her first husband, George HAAS. The real question however is which still-living relative erected this monument? And can they tell me more of the family's history??

Hohnke Families at Allport & St. Agnes Cemeteries PART 1

I printed out 3-generation descendant charts for three of the children of Fredrich Hohnke and Augusta (maiden surname unknown), who were: Julius, Henrietta, and Wilhelmina. The middle child, Henrietta HOHNKE, married Karl STREICH, and they had at least four children: Amelia, Otto, Julius, and Martha. I brought the charts to the Stempfly Reunion last weekend, but decided it was a little too much- too overwhelming to exhibit at our encampment at the Centre Co (PA) Grange Fair. Instead, I showed a photo album of the descendants of just Joseph Stempfly and Amelia Streich. Yesterday, as I passed Allport Cemetery in Clearfield Co, PA, I decided to take this picture of all the charts leaning against the impressive monument for Julius Hohnke and Matilda "Tillie" (Sunburg). Maybe just to honor them with their many decendants. Julius Hohnke was the oldest child of the progenitors Fredrich and August. Two daughters of Julius and Matilda are memorialized in the shadow of the Hohnke tombstone: Bertha, who married HAAS, and secondly to TURNQUEIST; and Alberta, who married LORENZEN.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Red Moshannon Creek at Peale Clearfield Co PA

Now Daddy won't you take me down Moshannon Valley/ Down by the Red River where paradise lay/ Well I'm sorry my son but you're too late in asking/ the Beech Creek Railroad has hauled it away ....(end). I substituted the words to a popular song sung by John Prine regarding Muhlenberg Co, West Virginia, so that it fits into my own family history and ancestral homelands. The Red Moshannon forms part of the boundry between Clearfield and Centre counties. its waters are tainted by the iron ore from surrounding mountains. And the abondoned Beech Creek Railway hauled tons of bituminous (soft) coal to Steamships waiting to refuel at New York port in the 1880s. And the ships brought thousands of immigrants to this region to mine for more coal until the land was "forsaken". But as you can see Mother nature always has the last word. Take me back again.

Monday, August 27, 2007

John Hartley Line, Philipsburg Cem, Centre Co, PA

There was surely a genealogist in the family when this tombstone was inscribed. Look, full dates and even a maiden surname: Ann WILSON. I've surmised for some time that John HARTLEY was related to my 2X great grandfather, William HARTLEY, who was buried at nearby Brisbin Cem, and who does NOT have a tombstone. So, as I started to follow the individuals back in time thru the British censuses (thanks to, I discovered that William was born in 1823 in a small (~140 persons), rural village called Summerhouse, in Gainford Parish, County Durham, ENG. Then, in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, both William and John could be placed into the family of a William Hartley and Ann; indeed, VERY common names. But fortunately, Ann's mother, Elizabeth Langstaff, was also enumerated in the household. So, my pedigree jumped back another generation for the Hartley Line. Now, I can document that my 3X great grandparents were William Hartley, the Elder, and Ann LANGSTAFF. And of course, 2 of their 11 children were the confirmed brothers William and John Hartley, who immigrated to Houtzdale, Clearfield Co (William) or Philipsburg, Centre Co (John W.), PA. The challenge now is to learn the fate of the other nine children.

For a neat trip, go to Google Maps, satellite view, and zero in on England> County Durham in the north> and finally, Summerhouse. One can see the rural nature of the village, the old post office, and the old Methodist Chapel. See if this link will take you to Summerhouse hybid map at Google.

Or go to "Keys to the Past" which displays vintage and modern maps of Summerhouse, Gainford Parish, County Durham, England

The Last Building in Peale Ghost Town Gone

This is the site of the former Company Store of Clearfield Bituminous Coal Co in ghost town of Peale, Clearfield Co., PA. The town was dismantled in early 1900s after coal mines were depleted; and houses re-located. However, the old company store survived for decades as a hunting camp until it was burned down a year ago. Finally, Peale, the birth place of my Dad's adopted mother (and aunt), Martha Streich, who married Robert William Kramp, is no longer in the picture. However, it survives in our written history and the note you are now reading.

Attended Stempfly clan Reunion in Centre Hall, of same Co. PA. Pix is James "Jamie" Bigelow, grandson of Betty (Stempfly) Bigelow and son of Patricia Bigelow. His mom married four times and had total of nine children. Genealogists can only get that sort of complex information in person. I'm in PA for Family History gathering trip. So, let's get-r done.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Freedom Writers

Image: Nineteenth century journal of my great grandfather, Thomas W. Russell

I like a book or movie which puts into words and pictures something that I have difficulty expressing myself. And that is why I really enjoyed the recent video, "The Freedom Writers". An idealistic, young teacher, who grew up in a gated communty, puts on her pearl necklace and begins her first day trying to teach an ethnically diverse class of students in Los Angeles. A black kid comes into the classroom dribbling a basketball and boisterously takes a seat. The troubles start from here and proceed to the students expressing their anger and disrespect for the white teacher who could not possibly relate to their life in the hood- particularly during the racial tensions which followed the beating of Rodney King. But the teacher, who is Erin Gruel in real life, pulls her energy and enthusiasm together to get the students to write out their anger and frustration in diaries. She purchases the blank notebooks out of her own pocket. Eventually, she takes on a second job to pay for field trips and noncurriculum books, like "The Diary of Anne Frank. The roudy students, who have intolerance problems of their own, had never heard of the Holocaust. The video also presents a second, ancillary story. The teacher strives and succeeds but she has little time and energy to give to her marriage. In a tearful confrontation with her husband, she says "I really liked the idea [of marriage]". The marriage fails. Which begs the question: Can one have both a busy, successful career and a good marriage. That would be a another story. Incidentally, I was married to a teacher and was also a teacher myself for a few years.

At the end of the movie the vastly changed and inspired students not only want to stay in school and graduate, but they publish their diaries as a class project- and the Freedom Writers Project begins and continues to this day.

However, this is the passage that really spoke to me: "[Our teacher] told us we had something to say to people. We weren't just kids in a class anymore. We were writers with our own voices, our own stories; and even if nobody else read it, the book would be something to leave behind us that says we were here. THIS is what happened. WE mattered even if was just to each other. And we won't forget."

Often, I feel very lonely and ineffective and just throwing words into the air when I write about our family history. Afterall, I am trying to interest somebody, anybody, my own family, in knowing a little about our family history. How we came to be here in America. The fact that I find our history interesting does not mean that others will. Genealogy, especially, is not everybody's bag, as I've been told in no uncertain terms- by my own relatives, distant though they were. But this is not just dates and names or who descended from who, it's about real lives of real people.

My great grandfather, Thomas W. Russell, born in the coal mining fields of Scotland, was so grateful that he could purchase a book of blank pages to write a few sentences sporadically over a 5 year period, but he brought the journal to America and kept it for another 40 years until his death. He wrote about the deaths of his two first-born daughers, probably of typhoid (meaning unsanitary living conditions):

"... we ware idel [out of work] 8 months and that was a sorryful year to me. We lost our daughter Jane Ann. Bliss hir. She was a fine daughter to us and loving one but we hope to met hir again, God bing willing."

He wrote about the News items of the day which interested him- collapse of the Tay bridge in Scotland; a suicide in the coal fields; Giant Trees in America:

"... The largest tree in the world there is at present on exhibition in New York a section of tree which has been brought form California. ..."

Did Thomas immigrate to America just so he could see such giant trees? I doubt if he saw them, but he did see similar wild forests when he first settled in Pennsylvania.

More on Thomas W. Russell's journal.

So, as the Freedom Writers finally realized, my great grandfather had something to say. I have something to say. You have something to say. And we will write it down because we are (were) here ... and this is how it happened.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Baby Steps to the ...

Took some time off since my last post to apply for my Social Security Retirement Benefits. Only took me about 3 hours to complete online and an hour on the phone a coupla days later to fill in the holes. I worked with a very helpful and knowledgable lady at the regional SS office in Birmingham, Alabama. I was a little nervous about applying- realizing that the process would affect my income for the rest of my life. Fortunately, this lady made the process a little less painful. I still have to make some decisions about Medicare. Retirement benefits and Medicare Parts A and B were straight forward, but Medicare Part D and Supplemental insurance are a lot more complicated. I believe they call it "medi-gap" for it's supposed to fill in the gaps in medical coverage that are not covered by the first parts- which is substantial. I spent an afternoon at Border's reading "Medicare for Idiots" which helped me understand a little more- but I'm still undecided. Idiot.

The reason I'm bringing up this mundane subject is because this weblog and musings are about Life's Journey, and Social Security is very much a part of my Journey- especially the latter part of it.

And here's another "beni" about The Age of Retirement: Most states waive the fishing license requirement after age 65 years. And I believe camping fees might be discounted. I will be adding to this beni list as I proceed along The Journey.

I interrupt this web log for an important message: HELP!

Everything is broke: my tooth fell out; the electric outlets in the kitchen don't function; and my genealogy wagon and sometimes fiddler's convention camper won't pop-up anymore.

I haven't used my camper since last October. So, as I started to crank up the the roof to air it out, I heard a dull thumb. The steel cable snapped. And now I'm faced with a pop-up camper that won't pop up. Thinking literally outside of the box, I tried to construct a lift device with 2x4's, rachets, ropes, and hooks. However, the telescoping posts inside the camper got into a tight bind before I could get the roof to its normal height. When I tried to put the roof down, one corner froze and I couldn't get the darn thing collapsed. So, now the camper stands in my driveway, three corners down and one corner half-way up (see image above). Well, back to the drawing boards. I wonder if a camping dealer could fix this problem for less the one of my Social Security Benefit checks. I'd take it.

I will save the missing tooth and electrical problems for later. One baby step at a time, as the overwhelmed Bill Murry said in the movie "What About Bob".

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pssst, Wanna few good genealogy tips?

My friend, genealogist, and Monroe librarian. The Dickinson Room at our local library is filled with genealogy books, files and local history. Patricia keeps the room well-stocked with the latest journals on the subject and schedules interesting speakers and workshops. Not content to sit just sit at the desk, she also prowls the county looking for old, historical grave yards; transcribes inscriptions; and takes pictures of some of the more interesting tombstones. Check out her blog at: Update: Pat's blog was removed. To see some of her tombstone pictures, go HERE.

Incidentally, our library allows patrons to access the national Proquest database of genealogical data at their home computers. All one has to do is obtain a library card, ask Patricia for a password, and then log onto the library's web page. Patrons can also access some of the major databases at But, you will have to visit the library and use their computers for that particular feature.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Merlin's Coffee Haus Hanover PA

Merlin's Coffee House, Hanover, PA

I'm sitting at an outside table contemplating the 90+ degree temperatures looming ahead for the day. I'm glad this coffee house is only a few blocks away from my mother's new senior community which she moved into last summer. Hanover in the morning is just a small Pennsylvania village. Lots of locals come by to have a cup of java and chat with each other. I've only been a few times, but each time I have bumped into one of the regular customers who also likes to ride bicycles. He biked to the cafe one morning.

Though I am not very fond of cats, the cafe owner is. He is a sort of a local clearing house for cat adoptions. Inside, one can find picture albums of potential adoptees.

Bring your own cup; it's only 50 cents a fill.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

In memory and celebration of loved Father's everywhere. Robert Carl Kramp, born Strike, 1918-1974. And Rascal.