Saturday, July 21, 2012

The 1920's in Brooklyn & Beyond

     I always thought my maternal grandmother Eleanor was born in 1920.  MaMa's death certificate shows 1920 and that's what the family thought but the 1930 census has her listed as 12 years old and living with her grandmother in Brooklyn.  At first I thought MaMa's grandmother wasn't sure of her own granddaughter's age but then I checked the 1920 U.S. Federal Census.  In 1920, my grandmother was a 2 1/2 year old girl living with her parents, Samuel and Josephine Davis and five month old brother, Daniel in Brooklyn, NY.  So, my 2nd great-grandmother was correct and my grandmother was actually born in 1918.
     Welcome to the Roaring Twenties.  World War I ended two years ago, the year of my grandmother's birth and the times are changing...  you are not partaking of any alcoholic beverages unless you know where a speakeasy is located.  it is the prohibition era and the ban on brewing and selling alcohol officially began January 16, 14920 when the 18th amendment went into effect.  The music these days is jazzy and the women are modern.  With their short hair and short dresses, cigarettes and sassiness; the flapper is born.
     In 1920, Warren G. Harding was elected president of the United States.  A loaf of bread cost 12 cents and a bottle of milk was 33 cents and was delivered by the milkman.  A train ride to Coney Island was only a nickel where you could buy a Nathan's Famous hot dog for just 5 cents.  Samuel George Davis was a chauffeur for a gas engine factory.
     Within the next few years, Calvin Coolidge took over as president following the death of Warren G. Harding in August of 1923 and he served until the end of the decade.  Meanwhile, the Davis family moved from their apartment in Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie which in up in Dutchess county, NY.  The city directories for 1923, 1924, and 1925 show Samuel living at his parents' address on South Cherry Street and his occupation is listed as auto mechanic.
     The 1925 New York State Census has Samuel Davis living with his wife Josephine and four children: my maternal grandmother Eleanor, Daniel, Samuel, and Dorothy.  Samuel is head of household yet this home was actually owned by his parents Daniel J. and Flora and their names are last on the list.
     Josephine Davis, who was listed with her husband Samuel and living in Poughkeepsie according to the 1925 NY State Census is also listed with her parents and younger siblings in Brooklyn.  Why?  Was she visiting her parents at the time the census was taken and therefore was included on that household?  Was she included with her husband because she was his wife and Poughkeepsie was the primary residence?  I had heard that she and her husband had a troubled marriage so was she staying with her parents?  I can't imagine her leaving her children behind.
     In 1927, Josie was back in Brooklyn.  I don't know if she was visiting again or still there but that's where she was when her youngest child, Dorothy died from severe burns caused by the kerosene heater.  Dorothy died at the age of 3 in Kingston Avenue Hospital in Brooklyn on the 28th of January and her baby brother, William was born the very next day.
     The Davis family was divided by the end of the decade.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

MaMa's Kitchen

     I just returned from a week long visit with my parents down in South Carolina.  My parents are retired and had moved from New York three years ago.  Frank and I dropped our son off to spend the summer with his grandparents.  Gregory loves my parents but he's not too fond of the heat.  It was very hot last week with temperatures reaching 105.

"If you can't stand the heat then get out of the kitchen"  (I know, this doesn't make sense but I like quotes, and I'm talking about heat then Kitchens.....)

     Last week, while sitting on the back deck with my father, Aunt Carol (my mother's sister) and frank, the conversation turned to kitchens;  my maternal grandmother's kitchen in particular.  I don't remember what started the talk about kitchens but I told Frank that my grandmother's kitchen was the same shade of orange as his parents' kitchen.  Remember the funky (ugly) colors of the 1970's?  Aunt Carol said "it was not!"  "MaMa's kitchen was yellow"  "she always had yellow kitchens because yellow was her favorite color."
     So, the big discussion of MaMa's kitchen had started.  I insisted it was orange.  I was always at her house,  sat at the kitchen table and ate more delicious meals than I can count (when I wasn't being too finicky).  I was only 14 when MaMa died.  She died six days after my birthday and that was thirty years ago.  I'm sure that my aunt remembers her mother's kitchen better than I but I still debated this.  My father had nothing to offer.  He's color blind so either he didn't know or didn't remember.  Then again, he probably just didn't care and was waiting for the conversation to end.  Frank never met my grandmother and my mother wasn't home so it was just me and Aunt Carol each talking about the kitchen we last saw so many years ago.  I insisted that the kitchen was orange.  Aunt Carol said that it was yellow.  The walls were yellow with wallpaper going halfway up the wall and the curtains were a yellow/white gingham pattern.  I admitted that I didn't remember the curtains.  Frank asked what 'gingham' was.  Aunt Carol was headed home but before she left head told me to ask my mother what color the kitchen was.  She told me again that I was wrong then she went home.
     While I was waiting for my mother to return from her book club at the library,  I sent a text message on my cellphone to my best friend.  My father had gone back inside and it was just Frank and me sitting there.  I told Frank that Lillian would know because she lived across the street from my grandparents and was often there for lunch and sometimes dinner.  Lillian's reply to my text:  "wasn't it like yellow?"
     My mother returned and agreed with my aunt.  She said that MaMa's kitchen was yellow because that was her favorite color.  I told Frank that Lillian's answer doesn't count because she's younger than I am (only 9 months but Still younger) and she really didn't have that many meals there.
     I told my mother and Frank that I think I have a picture of a birthday party with me standing on the chair at one end of my grandmother's kitchen table.  I think I was 3 years old, maybe 4.  I have to look for that photo.  I think it's in the album with my baby pictures.  I told Frank that a picture is worth a thousand words and I'll show him the orange kitchen.  Well now I hope I have a picture.
     I write my blog on paper.  This is my draft copy then I edit, edit, edit before finally posting to the computer.  This morning I sent Lillian another text telling her that I mentioned her in my blog which would be posted later.  She replied: "Good stuff I hope."  I told her that she, my mother, and my aunt all agree that my grandmother's kitchen was yellow but I thought it was orange.  Lillian wrote back "well it was yellow."  I asked "how the hell do you remember this? do you remember the curtains? Carol described the curtains, let's see if you agree."  Lillian wrote: "Green, yellow and white."  Well, people do take their curtains down for washing so MaMa might have had both sets of curtains as described by my aunt and my friend.
     Have I gotten desperate for tales to tell that I had to resort to writing about the color of my grandmother's kitchen?  So, was it orange or yellow?  Does anyone care?  Probably not, but now I need to find a picture.  I'm curious.  I want to revisit her kitchen.  I wish I could go back for another meal.  I wish I could smell and taste the yumminess that is MaMa's cooking.  I miss MaMa and I miss her kitchen.