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…