One Postcard Saturday: Uncle Vin

When I think of Christmastime, from years gone by, it surely brings to mind my Aunt May and Uncle Vin.

For several years, that I can remember, my family would visit their house around the holiday. My memories of these visits include watching “home movies” which was a pretty cool thing when I was a kid.

As I got a little older, we no longer made these regular visits; however, they continued to send us each a gift every year. It always made me feel “special” to open their gift and mom would make sure we wrote thank-you notes of appreciation. I saved some of these gifts for many years and thought of them each time I came across one.

Of course, there were times other than holidays that I was fortunate enough to visit their home. One time, I remember being there when a solar eclipse was happening, mid-day, and it got really dark and eerie outside. As time went on, I feel there should have been more effort on my part to visit on a regular basis–I always feel badly about that.

Aunt May was always a very gracious hostess. They had a finished basement area where they commonly held gatherings. I can remember being there with Gra Gra on a few occasions, downstairs, watching Aunt May as she arranged her floral display. It seems that she really enjoyed arranging flowers as that is something that really sticks out in my mind. I remember her as a very kind and gentle person.

May Clare was born in 1903 and married Vincent C. James on Oct. 28, 1926. She died in 1984. I remember that she had been in a nursing facility for quite a while prior to her death.

Vincent C. James was born on Nov. 30, 1901 and was half brother to Gra Gra (Bertha James Watts). He died early March of 1997, at age 95. My dad died in the same month. My dad had been basically housebound for several months, not really able to walk, but he insisted we get him to Uncle Vin’s funeral. That tells the content story of Uncle Vin’s character.

The picture below was taken in 1948, at my parents wedding. Uncle Vin is the one shown between my mom and dad. His brother Lester is shown between my dad and their sister Bertha (Gra Gra).

His parents were George L.P. James (1869-1926) and Susan Mary Henrich (1876-1956). Vincent lived in the Riverpoint area of West Warwick, Rhode Island, for most all of his life. Shown in the picture below with their mother, Vincent is the taller boy on the right and his brother Lester is on the left.

My featured postcard was sent to Vincent in 1915 so he would have been 14 years old at the time. He looks close to that age in the photo above. The sender of the postcard was Cousin Frances. She was the daughter of Helen (Lena) Henrich Strople-Roessler and Leon Strople. Lena and Francis are in the picture below.

Frances was born on Nov. 11, 1911, so she was only four years old when the postcard was sent.

By looking at the handwriting on the postcard, I believe that it was actually completed by the grandmother Frances (Schlosstein) Henrich because it is not Lena’s handwriting. Lena and Leon were married in 1910 and were living in Wrentham. They later divorced. Lena and baby Frances moved back to Plainville and was living with Lena’s mother Frances at Bacon Square. I believe they were living there at the time this postcard was written. To learn more about Lena, please read my previous post: What’s in a Name, Lena Henrich? and for a few more Christmas postcards within the James Family, please read post: James Family Christmas Postcards, Early 1900s.

Shown above is a sample of Lena’s handwriting from a different postcard. It is very different compared to the actual card that was sent to Vincent, shown below. The message reads: “I wish you a very Merry Xmas. Your Loving Cousin Frances.”

This postcard was published by the Stecher Lithographic Co. (1887-1936), of Rochester, NY. Around the turn of the century, they were producing artist-drawn holiday postcards. On the front of my featured postcard are the artists’ initials of M.E.P. which I believe to be that of illustrator and artist Margaret Evans Price (1888-1973). She went on to co-found the Fisher-Price Toys in 1930 with her husband, Irving Price and partner Herman Fisher.

Often, Uncle Vin would share a piece of his wisdom with us. One time, I can remember he was sitting in a chair in Gra Gra’s living room–maybe, after a family funeral, not sure–he made a remark to me that I would never have to worry about going hungry, that my parents would make sure of it.

Throughout his years, Uncle Vin would often write a “Letter to the Editor” piece that would appear in the local paper, including during the WWII era. On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was attacked by Japanese forces, at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The day after the attack, the U.S. entered into World War II.

In support of our soldiers, Uncle Vin wrote the following poem, in 1942, for the Remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day.

CHRISTMAS — 1942
Written by the late Vincent C. James

The smoke of war is in the air,
Our boys are marching everywhere,
Old Hirohito sneaked a crack,
And shoved a dagger in our back.

Our Coffee, Gas, and Sugar is short
We lie like hell, but all for naught
Our houses cold at sixty five
We watch in dread for Mercury’s dive.

We can’t get tires to save our steps,
Our meat is scarce, we’re in the depths,
We’ve signed a thousand questionnaires
They come in singles, threes, and pairs.

We worry about the money we earn
‘Cause next year’s tax will be tough we learn
We can’t drink gin our worries to drown
‘Cause the price is way, way up–not down.

In spite of this long tale of woe
And as time flies we know ’twill grow
We know we’re still Americans yet
With a love for Country that’s real, you bet

And so we find the cash for Bonds,
To buy the boats that cross the ponds,
We work long hours and slave and sweat,
And we’ll lick the damned old Axis yet.

But bigger yet is the job we’ll do
When we turn to God when we’re feeling blue
And His blessings will shower on all of us here
As we look to the start of another New Year.

So let’s build up cheer for this Christmas to come
And keep up morale while our factories hum
We don’t want to let all our Service men down
So turn on the smiles, tho’ bad news bids us frown.

And we’ll find that this year, more than ever before
That the Spirit of Christmas to our boys will mean more
If we keep our chins up, those of us over here,
Bringing true Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Until next time…

What’s in a Name, Lena Henrich?

There are no straight roads to follow on the genealogy trail, just endless twists and turns. What I thought would be a pretty straight-forward introduction to the sender of this featured postcard, turned out to be quite a lengthy scratch ‘n’ dig session to bring proper clarity. As a result, I have uncovered enough information that has brought me to decide that I will break it down into two separate blogs.

The following resources have used to generate the information which I am sharing with you: Family Bible records, family clues given via handwritten photo identifications, vital records (births, marriages, deaths), church records, Immigration and Naturalization records, and US Census records.

This particular blog will primarily outline “Lena” the sender of my featured postcard. At the moment, my unanswered question remains…was her real name Lena, Helen or Helena? Over the course of my digging, I managed to find documentation under each name. My grandmother’s handwriting on the back of family photos seems to favor the name “Helen”.

Correspondence side of postcard

This postcard, addressed to Mrs. George James, was sent to my grandmother’s step-mother (my mom always referred to her as Gramma James) by her sister “Lena”. It was postmarked October 13, 1911 from Wrentham, Mass. My great-grandfather, George L. P. James (1869-1926) and Susan Mary Henrich (1878-1956) were married on October 12, 1899 in Plainville, Mass.

Pictured in this photo, starting at far left is my grandmother Bertha (James) Watts, next to her is my great-grandfather George L.P. James, his wife (Gramma James) Susan Mary (Henrich) James, and then my grandfather T. William Watts. I would make an estimate for this photo to be taken between the years of 1915 and 1920.

The message on the postcard reveals that Lena was sending this greeting to recognize their anniversary. Seemingly, Susie (Henrich) James fondly knew her sister as Lena. The members of this Henrich family commonly changed names from one document to the other so it took me some sorting to come to the best conclusions I could and there is still room for further research on my part.

There are more postcards that Susan received from other siblings and they also have “pet” names that differ from what is found within official records. In the future, I may share some of these other postcards.

Their parents, Fritz C. Henrich (sometimes found as Frederick) and Frances C. Schlosstein  (sometimes found as Fanny) were married in 1872, in Newark, New Jersey. The maiden name for Frances has a different spelling for every record that I found, no two had it spelled the same way, but the best conclusion seems to be the name Schlosstein.

Fritz was born May 17, 1848 in Germany and immigrated from Hamburg to New York in 1866. He became a Naturalized citizen of the US in 1896. He worked in the jewelry field.

His wife, Frances, was born in October 1854, in Newark, New Jersey. According to US Census records, her parents were both born in Germany.

This picture was taken about 1891 at the family home, Bacon Square, in Plainville, Mass. Siblings: Tillie (standing) about age 11, Lena (Helen) sitting on the step at about age 4 and the boy in the horse rocker is Frank a little over a year old.

According to the 1910 Census record, Fritz and Frances had six children born but only five of whom were living in 1910–I need to conduct more research to determine any information about the additional child. In 1910, the family was living in Plainville, Mass., on Bacon Square.

By this time their daughter, Susan Mary Henrich (Gramma James), was no longer living in the home as she was married by then to my great-grandfather. Susan was born in 1878, in Providence, RI and died on May 3, 1956, in West Warwick, RI. Prior to marrying, she had been a jeweler in Plainville, Mass.

The remaining Henrich children are listed below, all living at home in 1910.

  • Ottillie Henrich (also known as Aunt Tillie), was born on April 23, 1880 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In 1910, she was a chain maker in a jewelry shop. She died at the age of 84, in December 1964.
  • Helen Ernestine Henrich (also known as Helena or Lena, she was the sender of the postcard), was born on June 17, 1887 in Attleborough, Mass. The birth record lists her name as Lena. In 1910, she was a chain maker in a jewelry shop.
  • Frank Vincent Henrich, was born in June 1890, in Mass. He was a bench hand in a jewelry shop in 1910.
  • Christian F. Henrich (also known as Christie), was born in July 1892 in Mass. In 1910, at the age of 17, he was a driver for a butcher shop.

The top photo is of Lena (Helen) as a child and the lower photo is Lena and brother Christie (Christian) probably taken soon after 1900.

In the next blog post I will explore these siblings further but as of now will turn my attention to “Lena”.

In researching marriage information for Lena, my grandmother (Gra Gra) left me great clues written on the back of a photo. Most pictures Gra Gra had of “Lena” were listed as Helen Henrich on the back with an additional note saying “mom’s sister Helen”. One of the latest pictures I have, identifies her as Helen Henrich Strople-Roessler. This lead me to believe that she had been married twice, which was correct.

According to her first marriage record, on June 16, 1910, Helena Ernestine Henrich married Leon Edward Strople, in Plainville, Mass. Leon was listed as a painter, living in Wrentham, and was born in 1885, North Derby, Vermont. His parents were Robert B. Strople and Ella J. Persons.

Of this marriage, one daughter was born on November 11, 1911, her name was Frances Ella Strople.

This is Lena (Helen) on left, with her daughter Frances probably taken around 1920.

By the 1920 US Census, Lena was listed as divorced. She and daughter Frances were living at Bacon Square, Plainville, in a home with her mother Frances Henrich age 65 and her sister Tillie age 39. Both Lena and Tillie, at the time, were working in a jewelry shop. Their mother, Frances, was listed as widowed, so it is assumed that Fritz Henrich died sometime between 1910 and 1920 (more research needed on this).

Pictured in this photo is my own mother, Marian Watts as a baby and Lena (Helen) standing and holding her. It looks like the photo was taken in winter 1921-1922.

By 1930, Lena had married for the second time to Albert C. Roessler and they were living at 28 Elm Ave. in Plainville, Mass. He was a bench hand in a jewelry factory. According to his WWII draft registration, he was born in New York City on June 18, 1889. Albert’s father was born in Germany and his mother was born in New York. In 1942, Albert’s employer was listed as McNally News Bureau, in North Attleborough, Mass.

One of the latest pictures I have of Lena (Helen)–this is the one my grandmother had handwritten on the back, Helen Henrich Strople-Roessler.

At the moment, this is what I have to share about Lena. In the next blog, I will continue with this family and give a few more details about the other siblings and anything else I might be able to find in the meantime for Lena and this family. If you wish to read more about my grandmother’s background (Gra Gra) please read my previous blog entry Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital.

Postcard publisher

In keeping with this month’s Halloween theme, my featured postcard is “A Hallowe’en Castrophe” No. 860. The card was published by the F.A. Owen Publishing Company, of Dansville, New York.

My source used for the following information was the website for the Dansville Area Historical Society.

This publishing company was founded by Frederick Augustus Owen (1867-1935). He was a teacher that started off publishing a small magazine and grew into a large company that over time published many books and postcards.

Mr. Owen married Grace Fenstermaker and they had two daughters, Helen and Mary.

Summary

In researching family history, genealogy, things do not always turn out to be as simple as they appear to be at first glance. So it was, for me, after taking a little time to explore deeper into the correspondence between Lena and Susie, I found that the complications of their family ties began to unfold–more to follow in the near future.

Until next time…