Poem to Helen Written by Bertha L. Watts

At the age of eighty-eight, my adoptive grandmother, Bertha L. Watts (Gra Gra) wrote a poem about her dear friend Helen L. (Sykes) Woolsey (1907-1998). I have mentioned in previous blog postings that Gra Gra was a poet. Her mind was sharp as a tack right up to the end. To be able to write such a poem at an advanced age shows how clear her mind was. However, she was legally blind well before that point; so, it meant that she would have had to dictate the poem to someone else and then someone typed it up for her.

Bertha was born on September 12th, 1891 so I thought it would be a fitting tribute to display her poem on this day. My featured postcard was one given to Bertha for her birthday in 1908. The card was blank on the message side but I think it may be from her cousin Martin James as he commonly sent postcards with the glitter writing. The postcard is embossed and was copyrighted in 1907 by R. Sander, in N.Y.

I remember Helen very well. She was a kind and gentle soul and always seemed to have a calm demeanor. I have spent some time researching a little bit of her genealogy and had originally intended to incorporate that into this writing. But, I was able to find out some interesting things particularly about her father and have decided to break that information into one or more additional postings.

One of the church groups that both Helen and Bertha belonged to was the Congregational Church Club at Riverpoint Congregational Church, in West Warwick, RI. I have included a photo of that group taken between 1970-80, shown at the end of this blog following the poem. I possess two separate written histories of Riverpoint Cong’l Church. One of them was written by Wilton Hudson who was the editor for many years at the Pawtuxet Valley Times–his wife is also in the photo. There is information in that history that includes Helen and her mother, as they were both involved with the church at various points. I want to include some of that information in my future stories.

Here is the poem, shown below in image form taken from a scanning of the original sheets. I worked on typing the poem into the body of the blog but I was having issues with the technical end of things and I could not get it to present correctly in the form of a poem and I was getting too tired to figure it out. That said, I hope the words in the images are large enough to read or can be zoomed in to make large enough to read.

To HELEN

Below is the photo of the CC Club. Helen Woolsey is the second from the right, in blue.

Shown left to right, Ruth Rose, Marian Allen, Edith Hudson, Bertha Watts, May James, Helen Woolsey, unsure of far right

The information I have on the reserve side of the above photo says that the lady on the far right is Elizabeth James. Aunt Elizabeth was sister-in-law to Bertha–wife of Uncle Lionel but she died in 1971 and I don’t think this photo is quite that old. And it is very difficult to tell in this picture if it is her for sure, I think it is possibly someone else but I am not sure. The reverse of the photo is stamped as developed in May 1980 but that was back in the day of film which was not always developed right after a picture was taken. Or, it could have been a copy made from a negative. That is why in the early part of the blog above I said the photo was some time between 1970-80.

I hope that you have found the poem interesting.

Until next time…

Silent Film Star Mary Pickford

Over a morning cup of tea–which I was only allowed during my weekend visits with my grandmother (Gra Gra)–the stories were learned of the “old” days when they had dishware give-aways at the movie theaters. She had quite the dish collection from these weekly movie shows, including many from the days of silent films.

Gra Gra was quite theatrical at heart. She directed Minstrel shows prior to the second World War. They ended those show productions because so many of the young men had to go off to war. A large trunk in the basement contained costume items which she would go through with me from time-to-time, reminiscing all the while of which costume belonged to which show. Although I no longer have the costumes, somewhere within all the old stuff that I do have are some posters from a few of those shows. My mom had appeared in some of those productions and I remember seeing her listed on the posters as a singer. When I eventually uncover those posters, again, they would be something nice to share within this blog.

LOCAL THEATERS

Over the years, there have been three old theaters in the West Warwick area of Rhode Island, that I know of anyway. I am not certain which movie theater Gra Gra attended most often during that time she collected all the “free” dishware. Nor, do I know which theater held those minstrel shows she directed (at least until I find those posters again). However, the oldest theater in town was called Thornton’s and was located in the Riverpoint section of town. This theater opened in 1895 and was destroyed by fire in 1910. The original building was replaced by a new theater but then was demolished in 1968.

In the Arctic section of town, the Majestic Theatre opened in 1901. It replaced a previous theater which was destroyed by fire. The theater was part of the Majestic Building, which is pictured on the postcard shown below and I remember as a hardware store. The theater portion of the building closed in the late-1920s and the entire building was demolished in the late 1990s.

The third old theater in West Warwick was also in the Arctic section of town, it was called the Palace Theater and was located at 85 Washington Street. This 1000-seat theater opened in 1921 and had been demolished by the end of the 1980’s.

MOTION PICTURE CAMERA AND SILENT FILM

The motion picture camera was invented by Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931). He made a patent application in 1891 for what was called a Kinetograph and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture peephole viewer. He went on to adopt a projector developed by Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins and called it the Vitascope, which premiered on April 23, 1896.

Although the Silent film era is usually noted as occurring from 1910 to 1929, the first silent film was actually made in 1903 (with multiple-reel films appearing in the US as early as 1907). This first silent film was titled: The Great Train Robbery and was produced by Edwin Porter and published by the Edison Manufacturing Co.

By 1916, in the US, there were more than 21,000 movie theaters.

MARY PICKFORD

My featured postcard today is a real photo style card showing Silent film star, Mary Pickford. By 1914, Mary became “the world’s highest-paid actress” and was soon afterward referred to as “The Queen of the Movies”.

Mary Pickford, was named Gladys Louise Smith at birth. She was born in Toronto, Canada, on April 8, 1892 and died on May 29, 1979, in California. Gladys was the daughter of John Charles and Charlotte (Hennessey) Smith.

Her middle name was changed to Marie in 1896 by a Catholic priest when Gladys became sick with diphtheria. She had two siblings: a sister Charlotte Smith, also known as, Lottie Pickford and a brother John Charles Smith, Jr., also known as, Jack Pickford.

Their father, John Charles Smith died in 1898 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1900, Gladys made her stage debut at the Princess Theatre, in Toronto.

It was in 1907 that theatrical producer David Belasco suggested Gladys change her name to Mary Pickford. The last name being inspired from her maternal grandfather’s name, John Pickford Hennessey. Her mother and siblings took the last name of Pickford, as well.

In 1909, Mary performed in her first film, Her First Biscuits. It was during this time that she met her future husband, actor Owen Moore (1911-1920). They married on January 7th, 1911 in a secret ceremony, in Jersey City, New Jersey.

In 1912, the Famous Players Company was started by Adolph Zukor and in 1913, Mary played the role of Julia in her first feature-length film, A Good Little Devil for this new company. The film was actually released in 1914.

Notice along the bottom section of the front side of the postcard shown above, (as well as on the postcard shown below) the words printed: “MARY PICKFORD Appearing Exclusively in Famous Players Film Co. Productions”. The Famous Players Company formed a merger, in July 1916, with Jesse L. Lasky’s Feature Play Company, becoming Famous Players-Lasky. So, that would lead me to assume that both of these postcards would date prior to 1916, most likely sometime between 1913 to 1916. Both postcards were “unused”–no postmarks and no writing.

The back side of my featured postcard (shown first above) has the publisher printed as Kraus Manufacturing Co. (1912-1930), New York, NY. The second card (shown just above) does not show a publisher on the back. Kraus was known to publish halftone lithographic view-cards and cards related to the theater.

Both postcards have some fine print on the front indicating that each photo had been taken by the Otto Sarony Co and each are numbered. My featured card is numbered 10 and the second card is numbered 20.

Otto Sarony (1850-1903) was a photographer during the timeframe of 1875 to 1903. Although his name appears on the postcards they were most likely taken by a different photographer. In 1902, Otto sold the right to his name to Theodore C. Marceau. Otto died in September of 1903 and afterward the Otto Sarony label issued photographs taken by other photographers. In 1906, the Marceau Studio merged with the Otto Sarony Studio.

In August 1916, Mary formed the Mary Pickford Film Corporation and produced only Pickford films.

On March 28, 1920 Mary married Douglas Fairbanks (1920-1936), in California. They were the first stars to get their hands and feet imprinted in cement at the Grauman’s Theater, in 1927, in Hollywood. They were among the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Doug being the first elected president.

Mary’s mother Charlotte died on March 21, 1928 of breast cancer.

Mary’s first “talking picture” feature Coquette premiered on April 12, 1929, which would earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress the following year.

Her brother, Jack, died on January 3, 1933, at age 36, in Paris and her sister, Lottie, died on December 9, 1936, of a heart attack.

On June 24, 1937, Mary married Charles “Buddy” Rogers (1937-1979). They adopted a son in May of 1943, Ronald Charles Pickford Rogers and a daughter, Roxanne Pickford Rogers, in 1944.

Her autobiography Sunshine and Shadow was published in 1955.

In 1956, the Mary Pickford Charitable Trust began and was later renamed the Mary Pickford Foundation.

Her films are housed at the Library of Congress, she hoped they would be of interest for future generations. In January of 1979, Mary placed her memorabilia collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library to establish “The Mary Pickford Collection”, allowing for use by students and scholars.

Mary Pickford passed away on May 29, 1979 after having suffered a stroke.

During my research, I did find where there have been several years of an event called the “Annual Mary Pickford Celebration of Silent Film” with some years in collaboration with other entertainment-related organizations. Due to all the restrictions of this past year, I don’t think that it took place this time around. The event may be something to watch for in the future if that is of your interest.

If you would like to learn more about Mary or the Mary Pickford Foundation, see their website at: marypickford.org

Until next time…

RELATED BLOG STORY LINKS:

Intro to my blog

Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital

Radio Star Bess Johnson: Fan Letter

RESOURCES:

Britannica; History of Film; britannica.com/art/history-of-the-motion-picture/The-silent-years-1910-27; Accessed 21 March 2021.

Cinema Treasures; cinematreasures.org/theaters/united-states/rhode-island/west-warwick;
Accessed 21 March 2021.

Library of Congress; Film, Video; Barnes, J. D. , Cast, et al. The Great Train Robbery. prod by Porter, Edwin S. Uction, Camera United States: Edison Manufacturing Co, 1903. Video; loc.gov/item/00694220/; Accessed 20 March 2021.

Library of Congress. Life of Thomas Alva Edison; Biography; Articles and Essays; loc.gov/collections/edison-company-motion-pictures-and-sound-recordings/articles-and-essays/biography/life-of-thomas-alva-edison/; Accessed 21 March 2021.

Mary Pickford Foundation; marypickford.org/mary-pickford-chronology/; Accessed 19 and 20 March 2021.

The MetroPostcard; Metropostcard.com/publishersk.html; Accessed 20 March 2021.

Photography & The American Stage; broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/otto-sarony; Accessed 20 March 2021.

One Postcard Saturdays: New Year!

As this new year begins, I feel a large dimension of hope for both myself and our community at-large. It is my sincere hope that better times are in store for us all, that these current pandemic days will soon be in the rearview mirror.

Early on in this unfolding new year, I have a good deal of hope for making progress in my family research, especially in determining ties to my mother’s biological family. In addition, I hope to further my research on my paternal side, adding to my genealogical tree.

As for my blog writings, I hope to complete posts more often than I have in the past. The content focus of each writing may vary and probably will not go in a sequential order; however, I will put links to previous posts that are related in nature, as needed.

There are many stories I have yet to tell. There are so many things I have yet to learn.

Last time, I spoke of Grammy Alice (link posted below) and her travel journals. My plan is to cover some of these travel stories in upcoming posts. Also, I need to complete further research on her family tree and would like to share some of that on this blog.

If I should be so fortunate as to make a definite determination on my mother’s biological parents and family, I will be sharing that, as well.

There are many stories still harboring in the ancestral tree of my adoptive grandmother (Gra Gra). Recently, I read a statement from someone online that indicated the importance of telling the family stories on behalf of those like Gra Gra that have no blood offspring. After many years of research, I have uncovered a few untold stories and some of the passed-down stories I have yet to prove.

For today’s posting, I have chosen two different New Year greeting postcards. I believe both were given or sent to Aunt Etta (Henrietta James Hooper). The sender’s of these cards are not members of her family, but after a little research I have been able to correctly identify them and provide a limited amount of their family background.

My featured postcard is repeated below, it contains a verse on the front as follows:

Happy New Year.

This year, next year, every year

I wish you all of life’s good cheer.

This postcard was published by the Owen Card Publishing Co. (1915-1927), of Elmira, NY. They published greeting and holiday postcards. On the front of the card is series number 534B.

The card is signed as sent by Mr. and Mrs. Orestes T. Doe. There is no postmark on the card.

In 1897, Orestes T. Doe, of Franklin, Mass., was named as Trial Justice for Norfolk County. Born in Parsonfield, Maine, Orestes died on January 5th, 1930 at the age of 65. He had presided on the District Court level for 31 years. At the time of death, his residence was listed as 29 School St., in Franklin. He had been a graduate of Boston Law School and belonged to fraternities including the Masons and Odd Fellows. At one time he had served as a town clerk.

Orestes T. Doe was married to Mabel P. Dow and they had three sons: Kenneth, Robert and D.B. Doe.

Their son, Kenneth married Lila Winchester, of Rutland, Vermont, on August 12th, 1930. Lila was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Winchester. Lila had a sister named Ada. Kenneth died at age 81, on March 20, 1983, in Portland, Maine. At that time he was living at Gooserocks Beach, Kennebunkport but was listed as formerly living in Franklin, Mass. Kenneth and Lila had one daughter and two grandchildren.

With my limited research time spent, the only additional information I uncovered regarding the other sons of Orestes and Mabel were that they had all been residents of Franklin at one time and were all lawyers.

The second New Year greeting postcard for this blog posting is shown below. It has a verse on the front as follows:

I wish you all good fortune,

Which twelve long months may give;

With loyal friends to cheer you,–

And a long, long life to live!

A Happy New Year

This postcard was published by Stecher Litho Co. (1887-1936), it has a series number 1605A. It was postmarked December 29, 1916, from Milford, Mass. The card was sent to Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Hooper (Aunt Etta and her husband) and the sender was Mrs. L. L. Milliken.

After a little research, I have uncovered the sender as Mrs. Lloyd L. Milliken. Her maiden name was Mary Evelyn Cahoon and she married Lloyd on April 14th, 1904, in Taunton, Mass. She was the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George P. Cahoon. Her father was the former superintendent of the Taunton Wire Nail Co.

Mary Milliken was prominent in social circles and had been a stenographer and had an office in the Crocker Building. Lloyd Milliken, at the time of marriage, was in charge of the Hartshorn Farm, on Dean Street, in Taunton.

My research found that there was a historic house located at 68 Dean St., in Taunton, originally built in 1798 for Abiezar Dean. In 1905, the house was purchased by George Hartshorn. It was placed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1984, known as the Dean-Hartshorn House. In the current day, the home exists as a senior nursing facility.

So, my curiosity is somewhat cured to have learned a little bit about the senders of each of these two postcards. It also speaks to genealogy clues that might be found on old postal items such as postcards or letters.

Happy New Year!

Until next time…

Links to related posts:

Happy Birthday Grammy Alice!

Born 100 Years Ago: Mom

Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital

Intro to Aunt Etta And Her Great Adventures

Sources:

Boston Globe, 07 October 1897. Newspapers.com. Accessed 01 January 2021.

Boston Globe, 12 December 1904. Newspapers.com. Accessed 01 January 2021.

Boston Globe, 06 January 1930. Newspapers.com. Accessed 01 January 2021.

Boston Globe, 21 March 1983. Newspapers.com. Accessed 01 January 2021.

Fall River Daily Globe, 18 April 1904. Newspapers.com. Accessed 01 January 2021.

Metropostcard. Publishers, metropostcard.com/metropcpublishers.html. Accessed 02 January 2021.

Rutland Daily Herald, 13 August 1930. Newspapers.com. Accessed 01 January 2021.

Wikipedia. Dean-Hartshorn House, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/dean-hartshorn.house. Accessed 01 January 2021.

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…

Thanksgiving Greetings: Lionel and Bertha!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

I am grateful for the memories of holidays past and glad that I am able to share my family stories with you, including the one that follows. In today’s blog, I share a Thanksgiving Greetings postcard that was sent by Gra Gra (Bertha) and her brother Lionel to their grandmother (Grandma Julia), in Plainville, Mass.

The publisher of this postcard is not clearly identified, so I am not sure on that but it was postmarked in 1909 from Riverpoint (West Warwick), R.I. At the time this card was sent, Bertha would have been 18 years old and Lionel age 17. To me, it looks like Lionel’s handwriting on the card.

His handwritten message reads:

Love from your two big grandchildren. Lionel & Bertha.

Julia Ann Moore James (1836-1914) was a nurse as shown in the picture below. I have not yet identified who the other lady might be, whether it was a co-worker or a family member, I am not certain at this time.

Bertha Lillian (1891-1983) and Lionel Henry (1892-1969) were two of five children born to George Lang Parkhurst James (1869-1926). In addition to Bertha and Lionel, their sibling Howard Allan James (1894-1963) was the third child born to Martha Ella Carr James Cady (1873-1920). George and Martha were divorced in 1894. Since Martha had limited means, the two older children were placed with George and the baby Howard was allowed to remain with his mother.

The below pictures are identified, as follows: the top larger block is Bertha at 8 years old and is the earliest picture of her that I have found to this point, she is also in the picture just to the right of that at age 16 with the hair bow; the lady with the bangs is Martha and George next to her with Julia on the right which is a tin-type photo. I will show some pictures of Lionel further on in this story as I do not readily have a young picture of him.

George remarried to Susan Mary Henrich (1876-1956) and they had two sons together: Vincent Charles James (1901-1997) and Lester Hill James (1905-1996). Susan and the two younger boys are pictured below.

Bertha and Lionel remained close throughout their lives and he used to come to her house to help with things like shoveling snow or little handy tasks that needed tending to. Below is a picture of him after a winter snowstorm standing next to his car.

In my last blog, I mentioned about the summer cottage we had when I was young and we frequently had visitors including Gra Gra and Uncle Lionel. There is a picture below with myself, my brothers, my parents (my dad is hardly visible standing in back) and Bertha and Lionel. In my last blog, I mentioned about the back addition to the cottage and I thought it was about 1968 but this picture is from 1966 and I can see that the addition is already on the back by this point, so it was at least started by 1966.

In my last blog, I also mentioned a swimming area, in the Charlestown Beach area, called “Danger Deep” located at the shack. Below is a picture of Uncle Lionel swimming with us there. I am the blonde-headed kid in the water on the left side of the picture.

Although I am not able to gather with my children and grandchildren on this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful to spend some time sharing my family memories with you. There are previous blogs that I have written that tie into the family members listed here today and I will make a list of those links below.

Uncle Lionel military service: Uncle Lionel: Fort Greble, RI; Vet of WWI

Other Links: Turkey Day Memories

Thanks Mom for the Effort!

A Thanksgiving Greeting from 1908!

Intro to Grandma Julia and the Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory

Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital

Wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time…

One Postcard Saturdays: Charlestown Bridge in Boston

Timing is everything!

Much to my surprise today, when I randomly picked my featured postcard, I learned that in less than two weeks demolition will begin on the historic Charlestown Bridge. It is also known as the North Washington Street Bridge located in Boston, Massachusetts.

This very rare steel, swing drawbridge (center pier) structure was built between 1898-1900 by the Boston Transit Commission. Their Chief Engineer was William Jackson (1848-1910) and it was constructed by the Pennsylvania Steel Company, of Steelton, PA.

Several years ago, I developed a greater appreciation for the various types of bridges that are constructed. One of my children had an extensive segment in school learning about bridge history with all the different types and specific designs so they could learn to recognize such differences–the assignments included projects such as detailed drawings. Before that point, I really had little realization of such wide differences in bridges.

Bridge Details-

The Charlestown Bridge was 100-foot wide and about 1000-feet long. Being located on North Washington Street and going over the Charles River it connected the historic Boston neighborhoods of Charlestown and the North End.

This double-decked bridge was designed to carry the Charlestown Elevated Railway, as well as, vehicle traffic. There was an overhead structure built on the center lane of the bridge for the Elevated mainline tracks, with the lower deck for two 28-foot carriageways on either side of a 22-foot right-of-way for electric streetcars.

The draw span was about 240-foot in length and consisted of four pin-connected trusses. The turntable motors of this bridge were electrically operated and took about two minutes to open or close the span. The draw was last used in 1956 and was permanently closed in 1961.

The Elevated and surface tracks were eliminated on the bridge in 1975.

In August of 2018, construction began on a replacement bridge and is expected to continue until Spring of 2023.

A temporary bridge has been installed and will be used starting in less than a week, on July 17th, until the permanent one is ready. Sadly, demolition of the old historic bridge is set to begin on July 20th.

The new bridge being constructed is being called a “street over water” and it will include: two vehicle lanes in each direction; one inbound bus lane; cycle tracks in each direction; and sidewalks on both sides with an overlook and seating area.

Postmark Info-

My actual featured postcard, with message shown below, was postmarked from Franklin, Mass., and was sent to Mrs. Henrietta J. Hooper (1861-1943), in Plainville, Mass. If you would like to learn more about Aunt Etta, please see my previous blog post: Intro to Aunt Etta And Her Great Adventures.

Postcard Message-

As best that I can make out, the message reads as follows:

Dear Etta, Hope you area feeling well. Am sorry I got so behind with the papers (?) but since inspection was over I have been cleaning house and for the last two days have been in the attic. I get so tired by night I can’t write or do much of anything but go to bed. All you can do is to scold me when you see me. It seemed like old times to see Mrs. Stewart and Mrs. Wood at the Corps meeting. Don’t work any harder than you have to. Goodbye with love, Winnie

One of the organizations that Aunt Etta belonged to was the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC), which was the Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). So, I am assuming that is the Corps meeting referred to by the postcard sender. There are other postcards in Aunt Etta’s collection signed by Mrs. Stewart so I recognize that name but I don’t recall seeing a Mrs. Wood at the moment.

Postcard Publisher-

This postcard was published by the Tichnor Brothers, Inc. (1908-1987), Cambridge, Mass. They published a wide variety of postcard types.

If you are new to my blog, my posting today is part of a series I call “One Postcard Saturdays” where I feature a postcard that usually has some type of landmark picture. In turn, I explore the landmark with a little research and try to give a few details about it.

Until next time…

 

Reference Sources:

Webpages

Commonwealth of Massachusetts. North Washington Street Bridge Replacement, mass.gov/north-washington-street-bridge-replacement. Accessed 11 July 2020.

Historic Bridges. North Washington Street Bridge; Charlestown Bridge, historicbridges.org. Accessed 11 July 2020.

Metropostcard. Publishers, metropostcard.com/publisherst.html. Accessed 11 July 2020.

Wikipedia. Charlestown Bridge, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlestown_Bridge. Accessed 11 July 2020.

 

One Postcard Saturdays: Hotel Gerald

Hotel Gerald, Main Street, Fairfield, Maine

Businessman and longtime resident of Fairfield, Maine, Amos F. Gerald (1841-1913) was an investor in electric trolley systems, industrial mills and amusement parks. From 1899 to 1900 he built a Renaissance Revival-style hotel that was designed by architect William R. Miller.

Located at 151 Main Street, in Fairfield, Maine, the Gerald Hotel operated for 35 years with storefronts being on the ground level, including Lawrie Furniture that was in operation until 1963.

The Gerald building still exists but the original rooftop pavilion and dome pieces were removed in the mid-20th century. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. There are no longer any buildings on either side of it and the three prominent buildings, across the street,  still exist with slight changes from the originals shown in the postcard.

Fairfield, Maine, Main Street showing Hotel Gerald

In 2013, the old Gerald Hotel building saw its first tenant in 76 years, providing affordable senior housing and is now known as Gerald Senior Residence. The building had undergone $6.5 million in renovations.

The town of Fairfield was incorporated in 1788 and currently covers nearly 55 square miles.

Miss Sarah Potter, St. John’s Church

My featured postcard was postmarked in 1905 from Stark, Maine and was sent to Miss Sarah Potter, 271 North Main Street, in Providence, Rhode Island. This address is the location of the Cathedral of St. John, Episcopal Church. It was known as St. John’s Church at the time of this postcard.

The parish was organized in 1722 as King’s Church and was renamed St. John’s Church in 1794. The original building was wooden. In 1810, work began on the Cathedral. In 1929, St. John’s Church became the Cathedral of St. John.

I believe the receiver of this postcard, Sarah Potter, was a friend of Aunt Etta’s, not a family member. In case you are new to my blog, Aunt Etta’s full name was Henrietta Jane (James) Hooper. I am uncertain about her personal history involving St. John’s Church; however, I have other postcards that were addressed to Sarah and also cards that were addressed to Aunt Etta at this location in care of the church. I don’t know if Etta had worked there for a while or if there was a residence there where she lived (and perhaps met Sarah in the process). It is still an unsolved mystery, at this time, and research for another day.

Postcard Publisher Leighton

This postcard was published by the Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers (1904-1909), Portland, Maine and was printed in Frankfort, Germany; No. 4523. They printed and published national view-cards, most were tinted halftones and numbered. Also, most were manufactured in Frankfort, Germany although some were printed in their US location. This publisher merged with Valentine & Sons in 1909.

Until next time…

Reference Sources

Websites:

Centralmaine.com; article dated Nov 16, 2013; Accessed 30 May 2020.

En.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Hotel; Accessed 30 May 2020.

Episcopalri.org/about/the-cathedral-of-st-john; Accessed 30 May 2020.

Fairfieldme.com/town/pages/history; Accessed 30 May 2020.

Metropostcard.com; Accessed 30 May 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

One Postcard Saturdays: Worcester Market

My series, One Postcard Saturdays, ran for a few weeks last year when I focused on providing background highlights on the subject pictured on each postcard. Once again, while sorting through some of my family collection, I have set aside a few postcards to feature another round of this series.

Not to be forgotten, I will at some point in the near future complete my three-part series based on old-time Radio Actress Bess Johnson. If you would like to read the first part of that series, please see my previous posting: Radio Star Bess Johnson: Fan Letter.

My featured postcard this time around is of the Worcester Market, in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was published by Henry Freeman & Co., in Worcester, Mass.

The City of Worcester occupies an area of about eight-square miles and is located midway between Boston and Springfield.

In the early 1900’s, Worcester’s commerce was centered around Main Street, between Lincoln Square and the Common.

The last period of growth for Worcester happened during the time frame of 1891 to 1930 when corporate enterprise became a major influence on the commercial district. In early times, there were smaller row buildings and they were replaced by larger office buildings.

Thought to be the largest grocery supply building in the nation, the Worcester Market was built in 1914. It handled all aspects of food retailing–replacing many of the city’s small suppliers.

The Worcester Market Building still exists in the present time as leased office space. It is located at 627 Main Street. It was designed by architect Oreste Ziroli.

This building was part of approximately 1,200 buildings that were researched in great detail between March 1977 and March 1978 for the submission of the nomination form to the National Register. The area was listed on March 5, 1980 as the Worcester Multiple Resource Area, National Register of Historic Places Inventory; US Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service.

Originally, there was a building located next door to the Worcester Market that is shown on the top left portion of the postcard and this was the Worcester Royal Hotel which no longer exists.

This featured postcard was postmarked on October 30, 1916 from Worcester, Mass., and was sent to Aunt Etta’s husband William Thomas Hooper (born 1860). They were living in Franklin, Mass., at that time. William was a son of Ephraim (1813-1885) and Isabella (Giddings) Hooper who were the parents of eight children.

William Hooper married Henrietta Jane James (Aunt Etta) on July 10, 1878.

The postcard was sent by William’s sister Sarah. She was born about 1856 and died on August 15, 1927, in Worcester, Mass.

Sarah’s message: Dear Brother and Sister. Got home all right. Will write soon. With love, Sarah

Sarah was married to Stinson William Hodgdon (1853-1930). “Stin” was one of nine children born to: Mary P. (Hurmant) (1831-1888) and David Stinson Hodgdon (1831-1894). David and Mary were married in 1852 in Wiscasset, Maine.

Stin and Sarah resided in Worcester for many years. There are many other postcard correspondence from them in Aunt Etta’s collection, some of them being real photo postcards taken by Stin. Hopefully, I will be able share more of them in future postings.

There is still more research to be done on the Hooper branch; however, if you would like to learn a bit more you might check out my previous blog posting: Don’t Jump Too Fast To Conclusions.

To learn more about Aunt Etta, you might like to read my previous posting: Intro to Aunt Etta And Her Great Adventures.

Until next time…

Reference Source:

Website: npgallery.nps.gov; Accessed 02 May 2020.

Radio Star Bess Johnson: Fan Letter

For the first fifteen years of my life, until we moved, I was able to admire a certain 8″x10″ framed photograph on a daily basis.  This photo was of radio actress Bess Johnson and it always sat on my mother’s sewing machine, which resided in the corner nook of our dining space. The picture of Bess, shown below, is not the same one referred to above, which I still possess but could not locate it in time for this posting.

Radio Actress Bess Johnson

This blog piece will be the first part of a three-part series focused on Bess Johnson. I will begin the series with some background on the friendship that developed between Bess and my family. The second piece will provide more details about her own family history background and the final piece will focus on her career highlights. Unfortunately, I cannot pinpoint exactly when the other two pieces will be written, but I will try my best to complete them in the very near future.

Bess was born in Keyser, West Virginia, in 1901, and grew up in Elkins, West Virginia. She died in 1975, in New York City. She had attended drama school in New York. Her radio work began in 1930 and she became known as the “Queen of Daytime Radio” on serial soap opera’s such as the Hilltop House and Lady Esther. In my third part of this series, I will explore her career in greater detail.

Bess was married in 1923 to Dr. Solomon Perry. They had a daughter, Jane Orr Perry. They were divorced in 1936. Bess was granted custody of their daughter Jane and she waived alimony, stating she earned more than her husband.

Bess with daughter Jane

Though not blood related, in our home she was fondly known as Aunt Bess. Through the years, I had been told that she was my eldest brother’s Godmother. To the best of my determination, it was about 1932 when my grandmother “Gra Gra” had sent a fan letter and it began a warm friendship between she and Bess. The letter had been sent to Bess via the National Broadcasting Company in New York City. In the letter, Gra Gra had expressed concern of why Bess had not been making her daily appearances on the Hilltop House program–for which she was known at the time. Bess had been confined by illness in her apartment when the letter reached her.

To learn more background about Gra Gra, you might like to read my previous post: Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital.

Bess Johnson and Bertha Watts

Around 1940, Bess invited Gra Gra to be her guest in New York, which she immediately accepted. My grandmother was not a traveler, only doing so on a couple of occasions–this weekend visit to New York being one of them. Many times, as we sat at the breakfast table during my weekend visits, I would hear Gra Gra tell the story about her visit to see Bess and the lasting friendship that developed.

Bess with daughter Jane, sitting is Pop Pop and Gra Gra standing behind him

On June 24, 1940, my grandparents (T. Wm. and Bertha Watts) celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. At the time, they were still living in the Carr-LeValley homestead on Fairview Avenue, in the Phenix section of West Warwick, RI. According to a later newspaper article, Bess had been among those who attended the celebration. The picture shown above I believe was from a different occasion at a later date. To read more about the Carr-LeValley homestead, please see my previous post: LeValley Homestead, Fairview Ave and Moore’s Motor Service Postcard.

The Carr-LeValley homestead in 1939, Fairview Avenue

My grandparents moved from Fairview Avenue shortly after they celebrated that anniversary and lived for a short time on Maple Avenue before purchasing their home on South Street.

In 1941, while residing on Maple Avenue, Pop Pop got a surprise phone call on his birthday which would have been February 20th. At the other end of the line he heard a birthday-greeting song that Bess had recorded for him via a special disc. At first, he thought someone was playing a joke on him.

Headline from a local newspaper article telling the story of Pop Pop getting a birthday greeting from Bess Johnson

Over the years, Bess and Gra Gra continued corresponding and I have found some of the postcards that Bess had sent while traveling. For each of the three pieces I write in this Bess Johnson series, I will feature a different postcard received.

In March of 1941, Bess sent this featured postcard to Gra Gra when she traveled to Indian River Ranch, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. This linen postcard was published by Curteich, Chicago, it is a “C.T. Art Colortone” and was distributed by Doubleday & Co., Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The handwritten message reads: “Dear Bert, Will try to write a letter soon. Its lovely here. Jane and I are having a grand time. Its been so nice and warm. We came by train and were sore all the way. Give my best to the family. Bess.”

Later in 1941, my grandparents purchased their home on South Street, in West Warwick, where they would live out the rest of their years–pictured below, before there was a garage addition.

Bess would come to visit them at the South Street home at least twice that I have found documented, possibly more. When daughter Jane was gearing up to graduate from school in Norton, Mass., they spent several days. My mom, Marian, was noted to have accompanied them while attending a play presentation “Twelfth Night” at the school in which Jane appeared in the role of “Sir Toby”.

Headline from a local newspaper article outlining their visit from 1942

Here are some pictures taken during that visit, showing the large backyard garden and goldfish pool. Gra Gra and Jane are looking at the pool and Bess is relaxing in a chair for one photo while picking flowers in the other.

 

Below are pictures taken during a later visit, about 1952, showing my eldest brother, Mark, with the two poodles that belonged to Bess.

 

My mom, Marian and Jane (with the flower in her hair) are pictured below.

More pictures will be shared in the next two postings. Please be on the lookout for my second-part in this Bess Johnson series, when I explore a bit of her family history.

Until next time…

 

One Postcard Saturdays – Killarney

County Kerry, Ireland, is the setting for this “One Postcard Saturdays” feature card showing Serpent Lake, Gap of Dunloe, Killarney. This St. Patrick’s Day holiday greeting postcard was published by John O. Winsch, of Stapleton, N.Y., with design copyrighted 1911.

The sender of the card was Mary Elizabeth (Moore) Elliott, it was postmarked March 18, 1912 from Foxboro, Mass. She sent the card to her sister Julia Ann (Moore) James (1836-1914), also known within my blog postings as “Grandma Julia”. To learn more about Julia, you might want to see my posting: Intro to Grandma Julia and the Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory.

Mary Elizabeth was married to Joel A. Elliott, they had a daughter Ida Mae Elliott and she married Mr. Pretz, I am uncertain of his first name. Mary died on June 20, 1913, in Foxboro, Mass.

The parents of Mary and Julia were George Martin Royal Van Buren Moore and Harriett Otis Daniels Moore, they had eleven children. In previous and future postings, I have and will explore correspondence from some of the other siblings.

The message from Mary was challenging to figure out but I think it is pretty close; however, there is still one word that I am not sure of where I have used question marks, her message follows:

Dear Sister,
Glad you arrived home all right. I am quite sick with grip cold. What a dreadful storm this is. NW wind blows like ???  Hope this will find you much
better.

With love, Sister Mary

The card was addressed to Mrs. Julia A. James in Franklin, Mass., in care of William Hooper (Aunt Etta’s husband William). So it would appear that Grandma Julia was staying with Aunt Etta (Julia’s daughter) at that time and I know that Julia had some health issues during her last couple of years. To learn more about Aunt Etta, you might want to read my post: Intro to Aunt Etta And Her Great Adventures.

This may be my last “One Postcard Saturdays” series posting, since I have had an adjustment to my work schedule. It just means that my postings might appear on any day, not just on Saturdays, and not necessarily weekly. With the Saturday series I have tried to keep the posts relatively brief, but I do have the intention of getting some longer blog postings put together or maybe a few series of shorter blogs focused on a related topic or specific family branch and so forth.

The extensive amount of postcards that have been passed down to me have contained many research clues and have provided some interesting stories. However, I have had access to the postcard collections only during the past few years; whereas, I have been collecting my family research notes for several decades.

For me, the time is really now to put some focus on tying together my many years of note-taking from various town halls, historical societies, libraries and archive locations and sharing what I have learned along the way. This blog serves as a way for me to start making that effort–one small piece at a time.

Until next time…