Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Wild and Crazy Guy

I called my mothers father, "Maga".   In reality, his name was Edward Arthur Krings.  I remember a few things about him that are worth sharing.  I know that he was a "clerk" for Oppenheimer on Wall Street in the early 30's before the infamous stock market crash.  He may have had some anxiety because he was unable to travel into the city by bus, subway or train.  A driver would pick him up every morning and take him to work.  I have a photo of him at his desk in his Wall Street office. 

He was very kind to me but according to my mother, he had been a drinker in his earlier years and was known to have been physically abusive towards my very sweet grand-mother whom I referred to as "Nanny". 

Maga played the piano by ear.  He was very talented musically.  He smoked "like a chimney".  I thought he resembled Jimmy Durante. 

My mother told me that Maga had a habit of taking home the salt and pepper shakers from any restaurant they visited.  I remember opening a cabinet in their home one day and seeing what seemed to be hundreds of these glass salt and pepper shakers.  If there are any "kleptomaniacs" in the family, it must be in the one had any use for that much salt and pepper!  I have a pepper shaker that I'm sure came from my grand-parents.  It is made of cut glass.  I use it as a small flower vase now.  You may find it in the family chest one day. 

I loved my grand-father.  He danced with me at my wedding.   I have a picture of him holding my first child, his first great grand-child, Alex.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Status Report

Wow - time does fly!  Here we are in the middle of October and I haven't posted a blog since mid-September.  Well, actually I have - several in fact.  They are, however, in the "edit" phase meaning that I need to check some dates and other facts before printing them. 

I've been knee deep in photos and census records and passenger lists and other paraphenalia for months now, putting together my book.  My goal was to have it finished in time to distribute as a Christmas gift to family members.  Not surprisingly, and thankfully so, My Publisher decided to have a 50% off sale this month - most likely to prod people like me who have projects "hanging" to finish them off so that they won't be slammed in December.  Well, I took the hint and moved into "sprint" mode to finish.

I know there are some errors and certainly some things I wish I had gotten in, and some things I totally forgot to get in, etc. etc.  It's done though and happily, off to the publisher.  I'm very happy with the result.
Technology has enabled my generation to do what no other generation before us has been able to do....preserve our history.  All the boxes of photographs, birth, baptismal and marriage certificates, newspaper clipppings, letters....all these can be put together in one book that can be handed down for generations.  Genealogy has become very popular - it seems that Alex Haley set off an avalanche of interest when he published Roots. 

I've never traveled to Germany - my ancestral home - but if I did, I would want to know where my family lived, maybe go to that spot, maybe even to the cemetary where they are buried.  How would I know how to do that if it weren't recorded somewhere?  Now it is....or a lot of it anyway.  I may never get to go, but my children may.  My brother or his kids may.  Or maybe their kids....or theirs.  I want to rest assured that I did what I could to facilitate their interest - if they have any - in finding their ancestors. 

I would like my mother to know that I cared for her photographs and that I respected her efforts and sacrifices to keep her family afloat during those awful years of the depression.  I would like my dad to know that I cared enough about him to find things out about his biological mother that I'll bet even he didn't know. 
I was blessed during this process to meet a number of family members I didn't know before - some I didn't even know about!  I am thankful that I was able to make these connections and strengthen bonds. 

I'll keep posting here as I remember stories or vignettes about my own life.  I want to post the stories that my parents told me about their own lives.  I don't remember them all right now but they come back to me now and again. 

I hope that you find some value in reading all of this.  I couldn't fit these details into the book but perhaps I can print these out and they will serve as a sort of "appendix".  Stories are best when told aloud but you have to know them in order to tell them.  Here they are - read them, remember them and tell them to your own children.


Just a little addition that may be of some amusement. 
My mother told me several times that my grand-mother, Rose, had been "kidnapped" by gypsies!  According to her story, my grand-mother was missing for at least a week.  When she was "returned", her mother, Elsie, was not sure that they returned the right child.  No details were ever provided but there is no doubt that Rose was document that. 
Truly a "crazy" story that I wish I had listened to more carefully! 
Maybe that is the lesson she was trying to teach listen carefully to your elders....they know and hold the family secrets.  Now that they are all gone, it pains me to think of what I might know now if I had only paid more attention.  If I weren't writing this all done, none of you would know half of all of this.  And it's really interesting, don't you think?

Found! Facts about the Red-Headed Girl!

So, now I'm able to provide an update on the "red-headed" girl! 
My brother sent me a package last week.  It contained, among other things, an old address book that had been our mothers.  While looking through it, I came upon the name "Rita Turpin"....Aunt Rita!  Aunt Rita was the red headed woman that I remember from when my grandmother Auer lived in a "brownstone" apartment on 88th Street in Manhatten.  This was very near to Gracie Mansion - the home of the Governor right on the edge of the East River.  My mother and grandmother often took me for walks in the park along the river there when we visited.  I didn't put it together until just recently, but my mothers parents lived right above Grandma Auer.  Rita lived in the apartment across the hall. 

Next to Aunt Rita's name in the address book,  "Mary Wade-daughter", was written along with a phone number.  It is not uncommon for people who are ageing to record the names and phone numbers of their friends children in order to have a contact should the person they are trying to contact, not respond.  I must admit, I do it myself now. 

Anyway, I waited a few days and dialed the number having no idea what state I was calling.  Turns out, Mary Wade of Middlesex, New Jersey answered.  She seemed to recognize my name immediately and most graciously talked with me a good hour or so.  Mary and her brother had also been working on a geneology project and while they have information I need, I have some that they need as well.  How nice that I can be of some help to them too!  And I've found and gained some new cousins!

Mary explained that Rita had been her mother and was one of two children born to Josef and Marguerite Auer.  When Rita was only 9, Marguerite had been hit and killed by a car while leaving church.  Mary said that this was about 1923 but that doesn't fit with the 1920 census.  I have to find an obituary or some other record.   Marguerite was of Irish descent and sported red hair- hence the mysterious red hair inherited by Rita, herself!

After Marguerites death, Josef sent his two children, Rita and John to live with other family for awhile - presumably while he recovered from the loss of his wife.  According to the 1920 census, Josef moved in with Charlie Chaplin who is listed as an "in law".  Shortly after, he returned to claim his children and introduced them to his new wife and their new step-mother, Marie Boehm Krings Auer.  Marie, AKA Anna Marie, had been married to William Krings and the two had had three sons; Eddie, William and Walter.  Marie and Josef set about to merge their families.  Mary told me that Rita had told her at some point that she (Rita) had treated Marie poorly and that as she matured, she had felt terrible about the way she had treated her step mother.  Who would expect a nine year old to understand a father's re-marriage and tolerate a new step-mother as she continued to mourn the loss of her mother?  What is important is that as Marie aged, Rita, although by now married with children of her own, was there to provide care for my great grand-mother, Anna Marie Boehm Krings Auer.

Two Degrees of Separation

How much credence do you give old family legends?  You know, the kind that you've been told over and over for years but that always seemed a little too hard to believe.  But if the story never changed, could there be some truth to it?

Take the legend of Arthur Flegenheimer.  He was a German-Jew born in 1902.  Could he have known my maternal grand-father?  Could he really have been close friends with the family?  Was he really God-father to my mother at her baptism as she claimed?
Arthur was well known at the time but not in the best of circles.  A "rum-runner" and a "gangster", he served time in prison, was accused of tax evasion, was a feared mob boss and was murdered in cold blood at the age of about 35. 
Never heard of Arthur Flegenheimer?  He was AKA "Dutch Schultz". 

How about the tale of Charlie Chaplin?  Why are there several pictures of him with family members?
Who was he?  What did he have to do with the family?
According to the 1920  census, Joseph Auer - second husband of my maternal great-grandmother, Anna Marie Boehm Krings Auer, lived with Charlie Chaplin and his family, listing himself as "brother in law" to Mr. Chaplin.  So, if Charlie was his brother in law, would that make Grandpa Auers wife, Charlie Chaplins sister?  Had she died?  I know his first wife was from Ireland and named Marguerite and she did die - or was killed actually, hit by a car while leaving church.  Have more work to do on this one.