Saturday, February 28, 2015

1970's Technology - Peg Boards and Peg Sheets

In one of my jobs in the early 1970’s, I was amazed that a large corporation could close their books every month by the middle of the 2nd workday of the month.  Here’s how they did it.

First – they had a 4/4/5 accounting calendar.  Rather than use the normal monthly calendar (31 days in January, 28/29 in February, etc.), every “month” had only complete weeks and were either four or five weeks long.  Every 5-6 years one of the months would have five weeks instead of four to account for the fact that 365 days is one more than 52 weeks and leap year adds yet another day.  But the advantage of this type of accounting calendar is that every accounting month ends on a weekend.

Second – the accountants all knew in advance that they would be putting in some overtime on the last weekend of each month.  Depending on what part of the finances they worked, some of them worked on Saturday, some on Sunday, and others put in extra time on Monday.

All the major financial systems (Payroll, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, etc.) ran over that weekend and generated their month-end reports.  Since salaried people were paid every two weeks, either the payroll cycle coincided with the end of the month, or it was very simple to take the prior payroll and accrue the unpaid week by taking exactly half of the prior bi-weekly payroll.  So by Monday morning, every location, every division that had financial responsibility had their results for the month.  During Monday morning the accountants at that location consolidated their results and put them on special sheets and sent them to the head office by courier (email and other electronic communication did not yet exist).

Finally – the accounting folks in the head office needed to put everything together for the entire company by no later than mid-day on Tuesday.  For this they used a special technology known as a pegboard and “peg sheets”.  The pegboard was a piece of equipment with a large flat surface and a row of spaced pegs across the top for hanging the individual peg sheets (see http://www.freepatentsonline.com/2061532.html for a patent from 1936).  Each location sent in two sheets, one for their income and expenses and one for their assets and liabilities.  Each type of sheet had identical rows for the various elements, two columns (name of the rows and dollar amount), and holes across the top that lined up with the pegs on the pegboard.

The head accountants would put a blank summary peg sheet on the left, then underlap all the individual ones from each location so that only the dollar amounts were showing.  Then with a built in ruler they would add across each row (using an electric calculator) and enter the totals in the summary peg sheet.  They could check their math by doing the appropriate calculations on the summary sheet to see if the totals were proper.

If this sounds a lot like a spreadsheet, it is.  But remember that this was the early 1970’s.  Personal computers had not yet been invented.  The first computer spreadsheet, VisiCalc, was not invented until 1979 and the IBM-PC was not available until 1980.  But VisiCalc was essentially designed to mimic the rows and columns of the accounting pegboard as well as include the math formulas such as those used by the accountants to add all the columns and put the results in the first blank sheet.  (An aside, a friend of mine from college was the president of VisiCorp from 1980 to 1984.)


But this was the technology of the day.  And combined with the 4/4/5 accounting calendar which gave the accountants the weekend time to get everything done, it enabled a large corporation to close their books every month by mid-morning on the 2nd workday – something that even today many companies are unable to do. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Working in the computing field in the 1960's

In my autobiography I briefly mentioned the first summer that I worked in the computer field and the job I had working for Uniroyal.  I’d like to expand on that and give some perspective of what the industry was like back in 1968.

The prior two years I had worked for Service Tire, recapping truck tires.  It was hot, dirty work.  By working 55 hours a week, with time-and-a-half for overtime, I made $100 a week (before taxes) at the princely sum of $1.50/hour.  While $100 a week certainly helped with earning money for college, I needed to do better the next summer as my funds were running low.

A friend from my parents’ church, Fred Benedict, had a job as a systems analyst for Uniroyal at their Eastern Management Information Center (EMIC) in Naugatuck – adjacent to the US Rubber and US Chemical plants (two of Uniroyal’s divisions).  Fred’s position was at the top of the chain for non-managerial positions as he actually had a degree.  Although they had never had a summer student work at EMIC, upon his recommendation they agreed to give me a try.

Degrees actually in Computer Science were quite rare in those days.  Most people working in the field had come from some other area and if they had degrees, which most did not, they were in other disciplines.  Fred and the department manager, Roy Peterson, were the exception.  Roy’s degree was in math and I believe Fred’s was in business.  The other people in the department had come from other areas in the company and had experience in that part of the business.  For example, the fellow who supported the payroll systems had been a “tab operator” [more on that later] in the department and the fellow who supported their production systems had been a production scheduler previously.  The latter had just earned his associate degree and was working on a degree in the evening (something that he was justly proud of as he also was a married man with several kids).

In order to see if people had what it took to work in the field you couldn’t rely on education or past experience, as so few people had that.  Instead IBM had developed a test, the IBM Programming Aptitude Test (IBM-PAT) that tested reasoning ability, logical thinking, etc.  Since everyone else in the department at Uniroyal had taken it, it was reasonable that they gave it to me before offering me a job.

The IBM-PAT was like a mini-SAT in that there were a number of timed sections.  The questions were all multiple choice.  I remember some of the sections were math-type word problems (that could be worked out in your head or in the margins), choose the next item in a series, choose the one that didn’t belong, etc.  Roy’s secretary set me up in a vacant office, gave me one section, checked her watch, and said she’d back when my time was up for that section.  However, these kinds of tests have always been easy for me and I breezed through them very quickly.  I was back at her desk almost before she had a chance to sit down, asking for the next section.

After I finished the last section, I went in to Roy’s office so he could interview me while his secretary graded all the sections.  I not only shocked him with how fast I finished the test, but I had outscored everyone else in the department who had ever taken the test.  There was no question that he wanted to hire me for the summer.  My pay was going to be $500 a month.  That worked out to about $3.00 an hour, double what I had been making at Service Tire.  But of course I wasn’t going to be working 55 hour weeks so it was only about 25% more total income.  That was fine with me as I was also planning on taking two evening classes at Central Connecticut State College so I could stay on track to graduate in three years instead of four.

I estimate that starting salaries in the Computer Department at Uniroyal began at $8000/year or less for a programmer up to $10,000+ for a systems analyst (there were three job titles – programmer, programmer/analyst, and systems analyst).  I know that when I started full-time with them a few years later that with two master’s degrees I was making $12,000 a year.  So my summer salary at the equivalent of $6000/year was about ¾ of a regular employee – pretty good I thought.

I won’t go into what my programming job was for the summer (if you want to see, you’ll have to buy my autobiography), but I want to discuss a little of what the computing profession was back then.

Prior to the introduction of computers in business, companies had what were called “tab” (short for tabulation) departments that operated using punched cards and equipment that processed them.  IBM (or International Business Machines back then) sold keypunches (IBM-026), interpreters, sorters, and accounting machines.  The IBM-401 accounting machine was introduced in the 1930’s and the latest one, the IBM-407, was introduced in 1949 and continued to be sold until the mid-1970’s (I used one in college).  IBM first business computer, the IBM-1401 came out in the late 1950’s.  The printer for this unit, the IBM-1403 continued to be used for a couple of decades.  The 1401 only ran a single program at a time and it was used primarily for “unit record” processing, i.e. reading in decks of cards and outputting either cards or printed reports.  They also had tape drives.  Memory maximum was 16K.  Programming was either using Autocoder or COBOL.  (The job that Uniroyal originally intended for me that summer was converting their remaining Autocoder programs to COBOL.)

In 1964, IBM introduced the IBM-360 line of computers.  Although this was only four years later, in the summer of 1968, Uniroyal had several of these computers in their computer room.  The computer room occupied the center of the building and had a glass wall on the south end of the room so visitors could see into the room and be impressed by it.  The executive offices were on that end of the building as well.  The computer department itself was on the north end.  As a major corporation, Uniroyal had three computers, all IBM-360’s, a model 30, a model 40, and a model 50.  EMIC was probably one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of IBM-360’s in the city.  The model 50 had 256K – a massive amount of memory at the time, since main memory was approximately $1MM a megabyte.  So the memory alone on their model 50 was $250,000 – or the equivalent of 25 systems analysts!

For the first two weeks of my new job, I went through their standard training program.  That meant that I spent the time in the computer room as an operator assistant – loading in cards, separating printed output, retrieving the appropriate tapes from the tape library and loading them onto the tape drives when required, etc.  They also had four IBM-2311 disk drives.  These had removable disk packs.  The drives were slightly smaller than a washing machine and cost about $25k each.  The disk packs were 14” in diameter, weighed 10 pounds each, and held the magnificent total of 7 megabytes of data.  When you compare that to computers today those were large in size, small in capacity, and VERY pricy!

In later years I came to appreciate that training program.  By seeing how an operator needed to interact with a program, how one could save time by having an output tape from one program remain on the same tape drive for the next program to read, etc., it meant that I could design my programs and systems for ease of running – making the operators my friends. 

I remember one day I had just loaded a new box of paper in the printer and the cover was still up as I walked toward the other end of the room.  The operator the prior shift had made a replacement tape for the printer (they had a loop of heavy paper with the channel punches in it that was made special for different kinds of forms (invoices, checks, etc.)).  The specifications for that tape noted which channels were used and how far apart they were to be spaced.  The operator had not put any holes in the channels that were not used by that form.  But the programmer had made a change and forgot to tell us.  When the program started printing and it gave a command to jump to the new channel, there was no hole in the tape anywhere on that loop, so the printer just kept spewing paper as the loop went around and around searching for a hole in the column.  Since I had just loaded a new box, the first page went sailing straight up and hit the ceiling before coming back down and making a pile of paper on the floor.  Before we could get to the printer and turn it off, we had a half a box of paper spewed on the floor.  We just gathered it up and carried it to the dumpster.  We also made a new operational procedure that all printer tape loops would have a hole punched for EVERY channel at the bottom of the page to avoid future mishaps of this type!


After my training weeks, I began the real work of programming on the assignment I was given for the summer.  But working in a real business environment instead of the academic environment of the university was quite a change – and one that helped prepare me for the next several decades in the computing field.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stories from my mother #7 - Open House

I started thinking one day about how our home was always open to others. The first one we had was Elizabeth Moody. She was a friend of Dad’s family. In fact he had visited her when he was in Seattle with the Navy. She had retired and decided to come back East. I’m not sure if she expected to live with his mother, but she started out there. They couldn’t get along, so I invited her stay with us until she decided where she was going to settle. She finally moved to Maine where she lived with a niece. We kept in touch until she passed on.

The next ones were Uncle Harold and Aunt Gloria. They had gotten married  and were buying a house, but it wasn’t ready to move into, so they stayed with us until it was.

Once I stopped working, we had Carolyn here most of the summers, and Bobby occasionally. When Bruce was 2 ½  Aunt Gloria left him here and went off to stay with  a sister in another city, leaving Harold a note that she was doing that.  She took Debby with her. We decided that I would keep him here while his Dad worked. I had lots of fun dressing him and Alan alike and treated them like twins. Aunt Gloria eventually came back so he went back home. All through the years, Bruce spent most of his week vacations here. When he was 16, he tried to commit suicide, and Debby told me when they came here to celebrate Christmas. I told his Dad and we talked to him. The problem he seemed to have was their relationship, so he stayed here for several weeks while he had psychological counseling. There was always room for him. Debby stayed here for lots of vacation weeks, as she and Beth were close. Craig only came occasionally.

One summer we took in 2 eight year old boys from the inner city; Michael and Kenny.They were the same age as Eddie. We took a liking to Kenny and had him back a couple of years, even bringing his little sister one time.

The longest stays were the AFS students, Ingrid and Rosita.  What a privilege that was. They became part of the family. We would also host students as part of a bus stop at the end of the year.

When the Girl Scout Council had International Camps, we hosted girls or leaders here for before and after camp. We’re still in touch with some of them.

One year when Jennifer was at Daycroft and her family was in Florida, we were bringing her here for Thanksgiving week. She called and said there were 2 sisters from India who needed a place to go for the week, so of course we welcomed them with open arms.

One summer, Billy Hewitt, a college student whose family had belonged to our church before they moved away, had an opportunity to work in New Britain for a man who was a member of the Board at Principia, the school he attended, and he called and asked if he could stay with us. Of course the answer was, “yes”.

From the time Chris and Kim were 4 and 5, they spent 2 weeks every summer with us. We had such a good time taking them places that we wouldn’t have gone to by ourselves.

After Dot and Bob moved to Florida, they came here for 3 weeks every fall. They would visit all their friends they had left behind. Now that Bob is in Florida, he comes every year for a visit. Carolyn and her family are now regular visitors. I still keep toys on hand for little ones.

Open Hearts, Open Arms




Stories from my mother #6 - Memories of Dawn

Dawn was always sensitive from the very beginning. I remember when she was very little and her cousin wasn’t feeling well. She just stayed by her side comforting her.

One of my favorite memories was when we took a plane ride to Arizona when she  was 
3 ½. On the  plane we ran into rough weather and she got air sick. She would throw up and then sing “Mary had a little lamb”. We went travel camping in AZ and  CA. We only stayed a couple of nights in each place. When we would be at a campsite and Dawn would disappear, we could always find her in the car. That was the only thing that remained the same. We went to Disneyland and she fell and cut her lip. She kept crying, “I want a bandaid., I want a bandaid”. Bandaids would cure anything. Kind of hard to put one on a lip! She was so good on the whole trip. Her favorite  toy was a stuffed duck. It went everywhere with her, even at camp. She  wore it out and I remade it. 

 One of the memories was told to me by Eddie’s first grade teacher. In size, he passed her out when he was about 4. Dawn took him to school the first day and holding his hand she looked up at him and said, “This is my ‘little’ brother, Eddie.
When she started school, she started throwing up at the busstop. Apparently something about the bus trip was frightening her, so I started driving her to school. Then she started throwing up during lunch. A teacher from across the hall supervised the brown baggers who stayed in the classroom. She often yelled at the students, and  Dawn wasn’t used to hearing that, so she was  getting upset, so I got permission to bring her home for lunch.    After a while she got settled down and was able to handle both of those issues.

Before she started school, she played with 2 girls who lived nearby, but they were a year younger than her, and at school she met a girl, Pammy, who lived a little further away, but within walking distance. Pammy spent most of her time here. They stayed real close up to about 8th grade.

In high school, the special ed kids were mainstreamed for some of the extra curricular activities and Dawn  didn’t like the way other kids made fun of them. She always said she wasn’t going to go to college. Twelve years was long enough to go to school but said she’d like to work with them and asked what kind of training it would take, so I said it depended  on what you wanted to do for them. She saw an ad for a CS facility, Twelveacres in California. I suggested she write to them and ask. Her reply came in a telephone call from the administrator, who said they had a volunteer program for the summer, and she could go there and find out if that’s what she really wanted to do. So off she went. We watched our ’little’ girl go out to get on a big 747 to meet an unknown person at the airport and spend the summer. Now she knew she would go to college. She went to Southern CT U  and stayed in an off-campus student apartment . At the end of her first semester, she was asked by the landlord to be the ass’t house manager. Even though she was the youngest one there, he saw something in her that was right for the job. It resulted in getting free rent for one semester each year. She went back to Twelveacres every summer, and then permanently after graduation. 
When Dawn turned 18, she sent her Dad and me 18 roses. She was always thinking of others.

When we decided to sponsor another AFS students; Rosita, from Barbados, came to live with us for a year. Dawn went out  of her way to make her feel comfortable,  which wasn’t easy as Rosita was very quiet , but they got along well.

Even though she lived across the country, she always kept in touch and we were close in thought.

Stories from my mother #5 - Memories of camping

Our first experience of camping was in 1960, when we flew to AZ to visit Alie and Joe. We left Edd home with Aunt Babs as he was only 2 ½. They borrowed  a car for us and also sleeping bags. Alie and Jo had their 2 younger boys. So between  us there were 6 children between 3 and 12. Alie had stocked up  on canned foods and prepared the first 2 days meals. We had a 6 sq. foot tent  to change clothes in and a  big tarp to spread on the ground to put our sleeping bags on. We were assured that it  didn’t rain at that time of year. One concession we made was to put Dawn to sleep in the car.

The first day we started in the late afternoon so it wouldn’t be too hot traveling across the desert. We didn’t have air conditioning in either car. We drove into a campsite in San Diego at midnight and just spread the sleeping bags on the ground  and went right to sleep. The next day we went to the San Diego zoo. After that we met up with some of Joe’s relatives and went to the Pacific beach. It was a lot colder and had bigger waves than we were used to in the Atlantic.

After that we headed up the coast, stopping at Disney Land and Knott’s Berry Farm, staying at different campgrounds. We had no reservations anywhere, but had no trouble getting space. We went as far north as Big Basin Park. There we slept under the magnificent redwood trees. The wild animals were quite friendly and we hand fed a raccoon green grapes.

Then we headed inland and camped at Yosemite National Park. It had been a hot drive and we couldn’t wait to go in the river to get cooled off. The Merced River is a runoff of mountain snow  and we got cooled off fast. I could only get in up to my knees; it was so cold! At that time the bears fed on the garbage  and we could go watch them. Also, at night they built a big fire at the top of Halfdome, then pushed it over the edge, making a big firefall. After seeing the sights in the valley, we drove up to the top, stopping so the kids could play in the snow.

Next we headed for Nevada. We couldn’t find a campground and it was getting late so we took a side road in the desert and just put our tarp down and went to sleep. In the morning we stopped at a gas station to freshen up, then went into Las Vegas where we ate the  only meal out on our whole trip. It was part of our plan to go to The Silver Slipper for a 99cent English Hunt Breakfast. The only gambling we did was Joe put a quarter in a slot machine and made a few dollars.

We camped that night at Lake Mead. We went in the lake to cool off , but the water was  like bath water .After that we went to Hoover Dam, then down to The Grand Canyon. As  we headed  south we stopped at a few Indian Ruins and Sunset Crater.

The trip was altogether 2 weeks. Camping made it an inexpensive way to travel and see the natural wonders of our country.

After that experience we decided that camping was a very inexpensive way to travel so decided to get a tent. We bought a 9 ft. tent with an extension that fit onto the back of the station wagon. For our first trip we went to Cape Cod and did primitive camping, [I.e. digging our own latrine] in the woods of Ranft’s camp. We stayed there a few days, then went to N.H. and found a nice family campground where we stayed for the week. There were plenty of kids to play with and we all had a great time. We also camped in the tent at Kettletown State Park and upper NY state. Of course everything had to be packed on the roof rack, but even though we covered it with a tarp, we found that the water bounced up from underneath and got things wet when we drove through a heavy storm.

There  must be a better way; so we bought a Nimrod popup trailer. On one side there were bunk beds, so the youngest ones slept there, we slept on the other side and  Alan slept on the floor in the middle. It was just an empty box, so Vernon made a kitchen that fit into the back of the wagon, and we put the cooler and water jug in the trailer. We had to take out the third seat, so when we traveled we had to keep room for one child to sit on the floor in the rear.[ Noone ever heard of seatbelts.] Our shakedown trip was down the Skyline Drive and Blueridge Parkway. Everything went very smoothly.

1965 - Now for the real test; a month long trip across the U.S. We took  a  map and put in all of the places we’d like to visit, then planned a route that covered as many of them as we could in a logical way. We started going south, stopping  to camp at Endless Caverns, then Cloudland State Park GA and down to New Orleans to visit Friends, the Lovetts. From there we went west across Texas, camping twice in Texas, that’s a big state. At one of the camps there was a family traveling in a converted bus. Under the bed in the back they had a little car that the kids rode around in chasing armadillos. Our routine was to get up at about 6. Vernon would supervise breakfast while I packed the trailer. The kids were responsible for rolling up their sleeping bags. Then I would eat breakfast and prepare things for lunch and close up the kitchen while the rest closed up the camper. Each one would take a corner and take it down. Our meals were very simple; cereal and Tang for breakfast, sandwiches and fruit for lunch. I kept a gallon of drink always made with a concentrated mix. For dinner- one pot meals.

We never made reservations, just checked a campground guide and headed for the most convenient one. If possible we stayed in National or State  parks which are less expensive but also  have wonderful campfire programs where you learn about the area and  also have fun. We were never turned away. Of course we tried to stop at around 4 o’clock.
One of the advantages of camping is meeting interesting people from all walks of life. Often someone would have a campfire and invite  other campers to join them.
We camped at Carlsbad Caverns, where we watched the bats come  out at night, Yosemite, where we  took several walks to see the beautiful sights; Yellowstone  where there was a bear in the campground they were trying to capture. He was enjoying the garbage in the cans, Devil’s tower where we watched people climbing, Mt. Rushmore and other natural wonders.

Camping made it possible to see some of our magnificent country. I always said that if we could travel for a month in close contact with riding and camping in close quarters and still be talking to each other, we had a good family.
  
One of the most memorable camping experiences was at Prince Edward Island. It was like going back in time. We watched  a woolen mill, from the raw wool, through washing, dying, made into yarn and the yarn woven into blankets. We watched the people gathering algae by lowering a contraption made with the hood of a car and chicken wire over the cliff into the water. After that it was brought to a huge drier.. We learned that we could make pudding by adding it to milk . We watched the local blacksmith making parts to repair machinery,  and  a man making candlesticks on a lathe. We were welcomed into any place to see the work being done and the workers would stop to talk to us about their work. The campground was on the water and we caught some small crabs. One of the maintenance men was a teacher and he showed us that any crabs we caught had a missing leg- as they came into shallow water while a new appendage would be grown.  We also happened to be when there was solar eclipse and one of the campers had a telescope that he shared with us.

Stories from my mother #4 - Camping

Our first camping experience was in 1960 when we flew out to Arizona to my sister’s.  We had the 4 oldest children with us from ages 12 to 3-1/2. We left the youngest back home with relatives. My sister, Alice, had borrowed a car for us and also sleeping bags. She had her husband, Joe and 2 children, 7 and 12 with her. We had a 6 ft. tent for changing clothes and a big tarp for sleeping on. She had prepared some food in a cooler and had been buying canned food .

The first day we set off in late afternoon, as neither  car was air-conditioned, and we had to drive across the desert. We arrived at a campground about midnight outside of San Diego, spread the tarp on the ground, unrolled our sleeping bags on it and went to sleep. The next day we went o San Diego Zoo and  then the Pacific Coast. There we met some of Joe’s relatives and went swimming in the ocean. It was fun in the big breakers, but there was a big undertow. From there we headed up the West coast, finding convenient campgrounds where we could camp and see the sights, starting with Disneyland which was quite new, then Knott’s Berry Farm. When we drove, the kids would ride in different cars, wherever they decided to.  One campground we stayed at was in San Simeon, planning to visit Hearst Castle. When we found out how much it would cost for all of us, we decided it wasn’t in the budget. We prepared all of our meals to save money. We drove up further on the coast and camped at Big Basin State Park. There we camped under the big Redwood trees. The wildlife were quite friendly. We could feed the deer by the visitor’s building.  We fed a raccoon grapes out of our hands in  our campsite. I put Dawn to bed in one of the  cars. I had difficulty sleeping as I thought a deer might try to lick the salt off my face.

From there we headed inland for Yosemite. We camped right in the valley. The campsites were very close together. We stayed there a couple of days to see all the sights. At that time they had a garbage dump nearby and everyone would go watch the bears feed at it. Also they had a firefall. At Halfdome they lit  a bonfire on top of the mountain, and then pushed the embers off the top; it was quite a sight. Common sense prevailed soon and they stopped doing both of those things. We drove up to the top of valley and headed out the East entrance. We drove down toward Las Vegas. Alice thought she knew of  a campground, but it got later and later and we didn’t find it, so we finally took a sideroad  in desert, threw the tarp on the ground and unrolled our sleeping bags. In the morning we went until we found a gas station where we washed up, then headed into town. We found the Silver Slipper where we ate an  English Hunt breakfast for 99 cents each, the only meal we purchased on our whole 2 week trip.

From there we headed south, stopping at Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, then at several early Indian settlements on the way back to Casa Grande.
  
After  finding out that camping was the way to go, the next year we bought a 9x9 umbrella tent with an extension to fit over the back of the station wagon. The 5 kids could sleep in the tent and Vernon and I could sleep in the back of the wagon. We couldn’t depend on it not raining in the northeast. We went to Cape Cod  and primitive camped on the property of friends for a few days, then went north and camped in the backyard of a friends house one night on our way to NH. There we found a family campground and stayed for a week. Everything went along fine.

The next  trip we went to upper NY state and camped at Howe Caverns. We didn’t attach the tent to the car, we just slept in the back  of the car with the tailgate down. We put all our supplies on the picnic table. During the night we heard noises and turned the flashlight on the table to see a small  bear with his paws up trying to get at the food. We noises an scared him away.

There had to be a better way to travel-camp, so we bought a pop-up camper; that was much easier. It was just an empty box, that had extensions that pulled out to make a bed. It had bunks on one side, so the 4 youngest slept on that side, and Vernon and I slept on the other. Alan slept on the floor in the middle. Vernon made a kitchen that fit in the back of the car, and the cooler went in the trailer when we traveled. Since we had to take out the third seat of the car to fit things in it, one child sat on the floor of the back when we traveled. 

Our first trip was down the Skyline Drive.  When we would stop for lunch, we just pulled the cooler out of the trailer and pulled down the tail gate do get at the kitchen and every thing was handy.



Stories from my mother #3 - After High School

I spent the summer just having fun. Aunt Edna had a friend who was co-owner of a beauty school in Hartford and Aunt Edna said I could stay with her. She even paid my tuition and gave me a weekly allowance. So off I went to Hartford for a year. She belonged to The Central Baptist Church so I went there and enrolled in the youth Sunday School class, then went to the Youth group. Our youth director, Mrs. Peaslee, saw that I tried out for the choir which had a noted director. My social life revolved around the church. On Sundays I went to SS, then church. At night I went to the youth group, then evening church service, then the youth group would go to someone’s house for a social time. Mrs. Peaslee pointed out the boys with cars and said to ask someone for a ride to it. I looked at this nice looking guy and asked him. His name was Art. We also had activity night every Tues. In the winter we played volleyball or bowled in the church. (Yes, many churches had bowling alleys.) Then in the spring we went to Elizabeth Park and played tennis. It was war time and many people came to Hartford to work in the factories. We had boys from NH, VT, GA, AL and MS. There was also a girl from VT. I started a tradition of always going with Art, and soon we were also going out every Fri. night. Once in a while one of the other boys would ask me out Sat. night. Aunt Edna didn’t have a phone so it had to be an understanding. On Tues., when we had recreation, and Thurs. when we had choir practice, I would stay downtown and have a grilled sandwich and lime rickey for supper before going to the church. It was the cheapest meal, $.15 for the sandwich and $.10 for the soda. It was a half hour walk to the school and church from Aunt Edna’s.
During that year, 1941, Dec. 7th changed everyone’s way of life as America entered the World War. Young men were subject to be drafted into the military. If they had a job in a factory where products were made that were important for the war, at first they were exempt, but as more military units were needed, the exemptions were canceled.
I had a wonderful year there. I finished my required hours of hairdressing school at the end of August, but had to wait until October to take the exam for a license. A boy, (the only boy in the school) who had already gotten his license was called up for service. He worked in The Milon Beauty salon that was in downtown Hartford. He asked Mr. Milon if I could take his place. Until I got my license, I could only do manicures and shampoos and receptionist, but Mr. Milon took me anyway. There were 3 other girls there. I got my license and stayed on, but in Feb. my then steady boyfriend, Art , was transferred to Wallingford and moved there, so I decided to come back to Waterbury. I was getting off the bus one day and met a girl who had gone to hairdressing school with me. She was just changing jobs and asked me if I wanted her old one. Henri took me on right away. Soon Art was also drafted. By now all the boys our age had gone into the service except ones who couldn’t pass the physical. The girls who were left behind did everything to keep the military boys morale up,- endless letters and packages. Our youth group took the names of all the boys in the church who were in the service and corresponded with them. I was always looking for fun stationary and enclosing cartoons. I wrote to a lot of boys, some of whom I didn’t really know.
I was very active in the church. I became president of the Christian Endeavor and was advisor to the Junior CE. I was president of the choir and superintendent of the Junior Dept. of the SS. We started a teen canteen on Sat. nights at the church for all the youth in the area.  I ran it, and we were supposed to have chaperones assigned, but they often didn’t show up. When it was over at 11 pm, I walked home. It was a little over a mile. I was never afraid. I was also active in the state CE, first as secretary, then pres. I held that job until I got married.

Our YTC kept going  during the war and we used to write group letters to some of the boys. One night one of the boys wrote to Vernon, who, by then , was in the Navy, that I was knitting ‘little things’. I was; they were for friends. When Vernon got the letter, he questioned me about that. To have some fun, I told him, “You should know, you’re the father”  We kept up this  repartee via letters. I told him I had quadruplets, named Abigail, Buster, Carmen and Dudley.. Then I complained that I needed money to take care of them, so he made a $1,000,000 bill and sent it to me. Then  I told him we really should get married for the sake of the children, so he sent me a marriage certificate. I would come home from work and the rest of the family was already at the table. My mail would be at my place, and when there was a letter from Vernon, I would read it aloud. Everyone got a kick out of it. He said his buddies used to wonder what he was laughing about when he read mine. In the meantime I had broken up with Art, although Vernon didn’t know it, but he began to get interested in me and I was in him, but I didn’t let him know it. But 10 days after he came home, he proposed and I accepted. That was in April. We were married in  Sept.

Stories from my mother #2 - After 8th Grade

In the fall I started high school. I went to Crosby and the other 3 graduates went to Leavenworth. There were 3 high schools in Waterbury. Crosby was academic, Leavenworth was Industrial  Arts, Nursing and Homemaking. The third high school was Wilby,  for Commercial Arts. All of the High Schools were in the center of Waterbury. Crosby and Leavenworth were across the street from each other, and Wilby was a few blocks away. There were only public buses for transportation. After graduating with a class of 4, I was now in a class of about 250. Opening day, the Freshman had to hang around outside waiting for the assembly of the sophomores to finish so we could go in. There I was, not knowing anyone. Then another girl, noticing I was alone, came over to speak to me. She had just moved into town and didn’t know anyone, either. After the assembly we were assigned to our home rooms, and there was a girl I knew from Girl Scouts there. She was also in some of my classes. I was assigned to top classes with all the other valedictorians and salutatorians, and even though they were from larger schools, I held my own. I took vocal music and gym all 4 years, besides the required academic subjects. I didn’t join the Glee Club because they had dues and I didn’t have the money. In my 3rd year I took German because I heard the teacher was an easy marker. (she was, too). I’m glad I took it as it was a help in my singing.
 I joined the Girl’s Athletic Association which met after school. We played different sports during the year. I made the National Honor Society, but I can’t say I really worked hard. The fad in clothes was skirts and sweaters. in the fall and winter. I had 2 skirts and 3 sweaters which I rotated. The only shoes to wear were saddle shoes; brown and white. No one ever polished the white part, except one girl that I remember. We also wore a group of small pins on the bottom of our sweaters. I had one from grade school graduation, a small girl scout pin, a YTC pin etc. I never got to socialize with my classmates, but I had my neighborhood friends. I was with them all of my free time. Broomstick skirts became a fashion. They were material gathered on a waistband  that were rolled around a broomstick to dry. Three of us made matching skirts. One summer, 4 of us, Marty, Dot, and Elinor and I, met every afternoon to play pinochle. That fall we made dried bouquets from weeds we found in the fields and woods and dipped in paint. One of the girls even sold a couple of big bouquets to a store downtown for their windows.
The boys and girls all hung around together. When I turned 16, the kids had a birthday party for me, the first one I ever had. It was in a garage across the street that belonged to one of the girls, Billie..
When I turned 14, I was old enough to join the Youth Temperance Council; YTC. My older brother and sister  had already joined. The motto was,” A good time with a purpose” We all had to sign a pledge not to drink alcohol beverages and the girls had to also sign not to smoke. We had lots of great times, including state conferences. A number of the members ended up getting married to each other. My brother married a girl he met there who was from the Meriden group. This boy, Vernon, belonged to our group. He was a friend of my brother, but since he was 18 and I was only 14, he never even noticed me. He always said the first time he remembered me was when some of my friends and I dressed for Halloween as characters from The Wizard of Oz. I was the green witch , and he thought I looked pretty ugly! Our social life revolved around that organization. We also had the Christian Endeavor at church. I never really dated boys while I was in HS, just groups that included both boys and girls. When it came time for the Senior Prom, I invited George, who was our paper boy and used to pick up his papers at our house, so I had gotten to know him well. Our graduation was held in The Palace, a movie theater. I sang in the octet that performed. After graduation my parents took me to dinner, a real treat.
When I started high school, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. The usual options for girls were teaching, nursing and office work. I knew I didn’t want to work at a desk all day, and I wasn’t interested in nursing. My mother had said I didn’t have the patience to teach young children and I liked English, so I thought about doing that in a high school, but when I started to study English in high school, I found that  the teachers didn’t always agree. as I had a homeroom teacher, and would ask her for help, but the teacher I had didn’t always agree with her on the meaning of literature. I liked subjects that followed rules, so I changed my mind about wanting to teach it.  I knew I wanted to do something where I worked with people. In my senior class we had a newspaper that discussed different careers. I looked at social work, but found that it required 5 years of college and there was no way I could see that I could get the money for that. Then one week it mentioned hairdressing as a career for working with people, so I looked into that.. I had never even been in a beauty parlor until I managed to save enough money to get a permanent . A friend, Billie, took me to a beauty parlor. There was no such things as home perms, as they were done by machines. Aunt Edna knew a woman from a club she belonged to who, along with her  husband, owned the Hartford Academy of Hairdressing, and she arranged for me to go there. She even paid my tuition. So, after a summer of hanging around with my friends, off I went. I lived with Aunt Edna, and she even gave me an allowance.

Stories from my mother #1 - My Dad

When my mother was in her 80's she decided to document some aspects of her life.  She didn't know what a blog was, but these seven stories are the equivalent of one.  So that they may be preserved and others may have the advantage of reading them, I'm going to reproduce them here in this blog.  The titles are the ones that she chose for them.
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Harold Granger Pierpont was born in 1898. The story was that his mother had to leave a Grange meeting to go home and give birth to him, hence the middle name Granger. His mother died shortly after his birth and his father gave him to foster parents, who were childless. There were 5 brothers and a sister at home with his Dad. Although his Dad remarried, he continued to live with his foster parents, who lived on a farm in Prospect. His family maintained some contact with him, but it was a long wagon ride from Waterbury. There was no high school in Prospect and students had to find their own transportation to Waterbury, so he and most of  his friends only went through 8th grade in a one room school. There were social activities for the young people in the church and there was a very active Grange. The young people paired up with each other and at 18 he became engaged to Sara Blackman. They married at 21.

They rented apartments before buying their home just before I was born. I was the third child. He had a milk route of his own and even had bottles with his name printed on them, but then went to work as a milk peddler for Maple Hill Dairy.  He had a love of the outdoors and was self taught about plants and other nature things. He enrolled my sister in a Girl Scout troop when she was 10 and then I started when I turned 10. The meetings were at night over a mile from our house, so he walked us down there and played checkers with the janitor while he waited to walk us home. The Captain (as they were then called) found out that he knew about electricity, (he had taken a correspondence course). She asked him to teach girls to earn their electricity badge. That led to his teaching badge requirements in flowers and trees. Eventually he also became a badge consultant for the Boy Scouts, too. Not very many families owned cars, so when the troop wanted to go anywhere, the Captain rented the dairy’s rack body truck  and my Dad drove it as a volunteer.

One time we went on  a hike in Wolcott,  and he drove the truck  so he also went on the hike on the Blue Trail. It  went over the dam to the New Britain reservoir and the caretaker came after us for trespassing. So Dad contacted the Blue Trail organization and ended up as a member. He spent many happy hours maintaining some of the trails and even developing new ones.

He became an active member of the Applachian Mountain Club and  the Naturalist Club. He was an active member of the Mill Plain Union Church and was a Sunday School teacher and then the Superintendent of it. He didn’t preach religion, but lived it.

He loved music and had learned to play the reed organ when he was a child. He had my older sister and me take piano lessons. We only took for about a year and weren’t good about practicing , but then he had my younger sister take them and eventually she studied organ. He was very proud of her. 

Genealogy Story – The Nomadic Life of Vernon Russell

In my autobiography, I noted that my father, Vernon Russell, had a somewhat nomadic life when growing up.  This story attempts to piece together that part of his life, using census records, city directories, and school report cards.

My father’s parents, Erskine Russell and Vera [Levvy] Russell married in 1914.  It is not known how they met, as he was from Sherman, CT, a town to the NE of New Milford, CT, and she was from New York City.  They were only 20 and 19 respectively when they married.  They had a daughter, Dorothy, in 1916, and a son, my father, in 1920.  When my father was born they lived at 754 Norman St. in Bridgeport, CT, but that was their third address on Norman St in the past few years (they evidently rented and moved frequently). 

While my father was still a preschooler, his parents separated.  Erskine went to live with his parents in Waterbury where his father had moved a few years earlier.  Vera remained in Bridgeport.

After a few years of separation, and possibly for the benefit of their children, they decided to get back together and for two years (mid-1926 to mid-1928) they rented a home at 521 Wolcott Rd. in Waterbury.  During this time my father started school, so his first two years of school were in Waterbury.  That trial period did not work out, and in May they separated again and eventually divorced.  Erskine moved back in with his parents (actually his father and step-mother) and Vera went back to Bridgeport.  The last two months of 2nd grade my father attended school in Bridgeport.  My father did not see his father again for the next 9+ years.

The next two years were ones of constantly moving.  During 3rd and 4th grade, while staying in the same school in Bridgeport (Maplewood School) for two years, the family had six different addresses.  Finally in early June 1930, Vera married again, to Charles Rogers, a man 30 years her senior.  The family moved to Danbury which is where Charles lived.  When they moved on June 6th that meant that starting a new school for just the last few weeks of the school year – a bit traumatic for a nine-year-old.

The family remained in Danbury for only a year, then during the summer of 1931 they moved to New Milford.  This was the time of greatest stability in my father’s life as he was able to stay in the New Milford school system from the beginning of 6th grade until midway through 11th grade.  During these years in New Milford my father often worked on farms in the area on the weekend for extra income.  In addition, he spent his summers with his Uncle Joe and Aunt Irene (Vera's sister) on their farm in Roxbury, CT.

Meanwhile, Erskine also remarried in 1933, to Elizabeth Evans, an English immigrant who was 10 years his senior.  Thus, at the age of 39, he was finally able to move out from his parents’ home for the last time.

By 11th grade, Vernon’s step-father was 70 years old (even though his mother was only 40).  For reasons unknown, he (and his sister) left that home and moved to Waterbury to live with his grandparents, Louis and Helen Russell.  Since Vera and Charles were still living together in New Milford and my father barely knew his grandfather (not having seen him since he moved back to Bridgeport toward the end of 2nd grade), one can only speculate why the change in families.  His sister, Dorothy, had just finished high school and got a job in Waterbury, so perhaps that was the best place to look for employment in the depression and she just brought her brother along with her?  

He finished the 11th grade and also his senior year at Leavenworth High School (the technical high school in Waterbury) where he received training as a draftsman.  After graduation, he remained living with his grandparents.  He had also started working in March of that year (probably as an intern) and upon graduation went to work in the same company that Louis and Erskine were working at – Scovill Manufacturing Company.  Meanwhile, his sister married a man who lived right around the corner from her grandparents.

(Louis worked for Scovill from August 1918 until his retirement in August 1945 – at age 74 and just a few months before his passing.  Erskine worked there from 1924 until 1945.  My father worked there from March 1939 for 42 years until he took early retirement at the age of 60 and went to work elsewhere for several years.)

Things remained that way, even as the US became involved in WWII a few years later.  My father was initially exempt from the draft because he was working for a defense contractor – their brass manufacturing being utilized for making military equipment and artillery shells.  But in 1944 he was drafted into the US Navy.  He left for training in May 1944.

After training, my father served in the South Pacific.  During that time he was corresponding with my mother, although they were not officially dating or engaged.  When his ship was finally decommissioned in April, 1946, he came home on leave and within a few days asked my mother to marry him.  But meanwhile his home situation had changed.  His step-grandmother, Helen, had passed away in January, 1945 at the age of 76, and his grandfather, Louis, had passed away in January 1946, just a few months before my father came on leave. 

It is not known where my father made his home for that short period of time in 1946 while he was finishing his military service in Brooklyn and visiting my mother in Waterbury.  He had many relatives in Waterbury (his father and step-mother, his sister and her family, and other friends from his years of living on Radcliffe Ave.)  He was finally released from the service at the end of May.  That summer he bought a home and land and when they married in September of that year that’s where they began their married life.  After all those years of a nomadic existence, and never knowing where “home” was going to be next, my parents lived in the same home for the next 60 years together!  They both passed away in the house in Wolcott – he in 2006 and she in 2012.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Genealogy Story – Adolph Cincush

As mentioned in part one, Mathus and Wilhelmina were married around 1848 and had four children before Mathus passed away around 1858.  Since most records from the mid-19th century Prussia have either been destroyed during the World Wars or are not accessible to me, we have to look other places to verify Mathus’ last name.

When Wilhelmina and her second husband, Michael Kowalske, came to the US, most people asking for family information would record the name of the husband, and simply write “do” (for “ditto”) on the subsequent lines for the wife and children.  Thus, the ship’s manifest and all census records about the family listed Wilhelmina’s children from her first marriage as “Kowalske” as well.  But Michael had never formally adopted those four children.  Thus it was not until the children became of age that they would be able to list their “real” family name.

Amelia married her step-father’s brother around July, 1870, thus changing her last name to Kowalske.  I was unable to locate any marriage record, so there are no records showing what her former last name was.

Emil died before he became of age, so there are no records for him.

Minnie’s marriage record in 1871 has her listed as “Mina E. Cynkush”.  However, since she would have still had a strong German accent, this is what the recorder wrote down.  Since he got the “Minnie” as “Mina” (or perhaps she gave “Mina” as yet another diminutive for “Wilhelmina”) and the “C.” as “E.”, one cannot trust the “Cynkush” either.  But it at least sounded like that.

The best records would have come from Adolph as he kept his last name throughout his life and passed it on to his children.  But he was only two years old when his father died so had no first-hand knowledge of it.  He fairly consistently used the spelling “Cincush” in the census records from 1900 and following, and his children also used this spelling consistently.  However, the last name of Cincush appears nowhere else – no other individuals in the US, none in Germany or Poland, nowhere!  So it is obviously an “Americanization” of the original Prussian name.

After much searching, I have come to the conclusion that the original name was spelled “Czenkusch”.  There are other individuals with that name, including others who came to the US from Prussia around the same time.  Certainly the name Cincush is a bit easier for people to spell than Czenkusch, and they sound nearly the same – especially with the appropriate accent. 


Genealogy Story – Reinhold Louis Kowalske

As mentioned in the previous story, when Michael and Wilhelmina sailed from Prussia to the US in 1862, they had five children with them and Wilhelmina was pregnant.  Reinhold was born at sea on October 13, 1862 – three days before their ship docked in New York on the 16th.  However, the “facts” behind his birth were very confusing as the family gave conflicting information to various census takers over the years.

Reinhold was not listed in the ship’s manifest when they docked in New York.  While the captain was careful to list anyone who had died during the voyage, he apparently did not list any births.  Part of the purpose of the manifest was to prove to the ship owners the basis for the amount of money he had collected as fare.  The manifest also listed the amount of luggage each passenger had with him/her as that needed to be paid for as well.  Since a newborn had not paid any fare, and had no luggage, it was apparently not necessary to list them on the manifest either.

The next record was the 1870 census – but here Reinhold’s mother listed him as having been born in Illinois.  This was certainly a point along the voyage from New York, where they docked, to Wisconsin.  Perhaps this was an attempt to have him treated as a US citizen?

In the 1880 census, information also given by Reinhold’s mother, he is listed as having been born in New York.  Why the inconsistency?  Who knows what was going through her mind at the time.

When Reinhold married in 1888, he gave his place of birth as “on the Atlantic Ocean, coming from Germany”.  He was also consistent in from that point on as giving his place of birth as “at sea,” although he would have had no personal recollection of it himself.

In a letter written in the mid-1980’s by his nephew, Lawrence Cincush, he wrote, “They finally got passage on a French Sailing vessel on the way to America there first child was born Lewis Kowlski.  The name Lewis was for the king of France at that time.  I seem to been quite a special ocacion to be born at sea.  One thing by being born at sea he was a born citizen of any Nation in the World.”  While there are several spelling and grammar errors in this statement, there are also factual errors.  Being born at sea does not make you a citizen of “any Nation in the World”.  Also, while it is true that Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was the emperor of France in 1862, he was more likely given the middle name of Louis after the name of the ship on which he was born – the Louis Napoleon.


So, while there was much misinformation in the “facts,” including the ship manifest, the information in the census records given by Reinhold’s mother, and the much later letter by his nephew where he documented all the “family stories,” it does seem true that Reinhold was born at sea, three days before the ship carrying his family arrived in New York.

Genealogy Story – Wilhelmina Luptke

This is the first of three stories about some of my wife’s ancestors.  Wilhelmina was my wife’s great-great-grandmother.  She was born in Prussia in 1828.   Sometime around 1848 she married a man by the name of Mathus (the Prussian equivalent of Matthew).  [His last name is the subject of part 3 of this story.]  They had four children, Emilie [Amelia] born in 1849, Emil born around 1851, Minnie [Wilhelmina Caroline] born in 1854, and Adolph born in 1856. 

The family lived near Posen, Prussia – a province about midway between Warsaw and Berlin.  At this time Prussia was a separate kingdom.  In 1871, as part of the first unification of Germany, Prussia was absorbed by Germany.  In 1918, following WWI, it became part of the country of Poland.

In 1858 Mathus died of some kind of illness.  With four young children to support, Wilhelmina needed to have a husband, so she shortly thereafter married a man by the name of Michael Kowalske.  Over the next several years she would have another four children by her new husband: Emma born in 1860, Reinhold Louis born in 1862 [his birth is the subject of part 2 of this story], Rudolph [Rhudy] born in 1867, and a still-born daughter in 1872.

In 1862, when Emma was just two years old and Wilhelmina was well advanced in her pregnancy with Reinhold, the family left Prussia and sailed to the United States.  Their destination was Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where Michael’s younger brother, Frederick, had moved four years earlier.  They arrived in NY on 10/16/1862 and immediately traveled to Wisconsin via train.

The early 1860’s were the time of the US Civil War.  Although neither Frederick nor Michael were US citizens, the laws at that time allowed men who were eligible for war service to pay someone else to serve in their place.  For these two men from Prussia, that meant not only a payment of $600 for their time of service, but the granting of citizenship.  Both men took advantage of this.

Following the war, the brothers moved to Michigan and bought adjoining farms in what was then called South Arm Township (later part of East Jordan, MI).  Michigan was a very new state at the time and so settlers were welcome in the upper part of the Lower Peninsula.  Wilhelmina passed away in 1897, having been in the US for 35 years.  Michael lived to be over 100.  Their children lived as follows:

Amelia married her step-father’s brother, Frederick in 1870.  This led to an interesting anomaly in the 1870 census.  When the census taker stopped at the farm of Michael and Wilhelmina in August of 1870, he asked about all the children who had lived there as of June and Wilhelmina included Amelia in the count.  At the next farm, when 21 year old Amelia answered the door, she included herself and her husband in the count.  So Amelia appears twice on the same page of the census – once as a daughter and once as a wife.  She and Frederick had 10 children.

Emil passed away some time before 1870.  Nothing more is known of him.  Minnie married a local businessman, Solomon Isaman and had four children.  Adolph married and had four children, then divorced and remarried twice more, having one more child with his second wife.  (Adolph was my wife’s great-grandfather.)  Emma married and had four children.  Reinhold married and had one child.  Rudolph married and had seven children.  That gave Michael 31 grandchildren before he passed away.

Much of the family history was passed on in a letter written by Adolph’s youngest son, Lawrence.  Lawrence was born in 1897, and so had personal knowledge of much of the above since he knew all these individuals.  However, by the time he wrote this letter in the mid-1980’s, some of it was a bit muddled in his memory.  He made several errors, including mistakes about the birth order of his father’s siblings, so it required a bit of fact checking against other sources.


Nonetheless, this is a story of a family who emigrated from Prussia, fought in the Civil War in service to their new country, settled in what was then a new state, and gave their many children and grandchildren a new place in which to live.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Genealogy Story - Unraveling the VanDeCar Family Tree

Whenever a family has divorces and re-marriages, trying to sort out who is related to whom and how can be a bit confusing.  That certainly is the case in the family of Charles VanDeCar.  This paper will try to make some sense of it all.

Charles VanDeCar

Let’s start with Charles and his “siblings”.  Charles’ parents were Archibald VanDeCar and Gertrude [Duba] VanDeCar.  They married in 1920 and had two children – Louise VanDeCar and Charles VanDeCar.  So Louise is Charles’ sister.  Not too many years later Archibald and Gertrude divorced, leaving Charles and Louise to be raised by Gertrude’s father and his wife (more on that later).

Gertrude remarried a man by the name of J.D. Hicks (that was his legal name, just the initials, J.D.).  They had one daughter, Mary Salina Hicks.  Mary is thus the half-sister of Charles and Louise since they share a common mother.  I’ll pick up the story of Mary later on.

Archibald also remarried, to a woman by the name of Helen [Loomis].  She had three children by a former marriage – Nelda, Ray, and Del[bert].  That made Helen the step-mother of Charles and Louise and her children their step-sister and step-brothers.  Archibald and Helen had two children together, Jane and Arden – so they are also half-sister and half-brother to Charles and Louise.

Archibald and Helen later divorced, thus making Helen Charles’ and Louise’s ex-step-mother and the Loomis children ex-step-sister and ex-step-brothers.

So, in summary, Charles has one sister – Louise, three half-siblings – Mary, Jane, and Arden, and three ex-step-siblings – Nelda, Ray, and Del.

Archibald VanDeCar

It was a similar situation with Charles’ father, Archibald.  His parents were Dennis Birley VanDeCar and Alta [Larrow] VanDeCar.  They had two children, Archibald and his brother Frank.  Then they divorced.

Archibald remarried to a woman by the name of Mary Provney.  They had five children, Clarence, Lawrence, Pearl, Helen, and Clarabell – these would be the half-siblings of Archibald and the half-uncles and half-aunts of Charles.

Alta also remarried, first to a man named [unknown] Mitchell, then she divorced again and married a man by the name of George Trombley.  In the 1910 census she is shown as a servant in the home of George, his wife, and four children (Mary, Laura, Lawrence, and Margaret [known as Hattie]).  So when George divorced his wife and married his servant Alta, those four children became the half-step-siblings of Archibald and Frank and the half-step-uncles/aunts of Charles and Louise.  (Are you confused yet?)

In the 1920 census, Dennis and Alta’s son, Frank, is living with Alta and her new husband George, but Dennis and Alta’s son Archibald is living with Alta’s brother, Frank Larrow.

In summary, Archibald had one brother, five half-siblings, and four half-step-siblings.

Gertrude Duba

Of course, it would have to be just a confusing for Charles’ mother, Gertrude.  Her parents were William Duba and Rachel [Swaney] Duba.  They had three children, Gertrude, Beulah (who died young), and Allen.  So Allen is the uncle of Charles and Louise.  William and Rachel then divorced.

William remarried a woman by the name of Mary Ann Nestell – who just happened to be a servant in their house (much like George Trombley who married Alta).  They did not have any other children.  But that made Mary [Nestell] Duba the step-mother of Charles and Louise.  William and his second wife were the ones who raised Charles and Louise when Archibald and Gertrude divorced and remarried.

Rachel also remarried, first to a man named William Hoagland, then, when she divorced him, to a man by the name of Alfred Stafford.  They had one child, Leroy Stafford.  He would have been the step-brother to Gertrude and the step-uncle to Charles and Louise.

Other Divorce/Re-marriage Complications

Mary Salina Hicks first married Joseph Manning and had three children – [James] David, [Joseph] Ray, and [William] Bradley – just to be more confusing, they all went by their middle names.  Mary then divorced Joseph Manning and married Milton Andrews [known as Andy] and had four more children – Beverly, Theresa [Terry], Milton, and Tracy.  Since Mary was the half-sister of Charles, then her children are all half-cousins of Charles’ children, even though the two sets of her children are half-siblings to each other.

Louise VanDeCar first married Guy Holmes and had two children – Elgie and James.  She then divorced and married Frank Pop and had two more children – Terry and Larry.  Since Louise is a [full] sister to Charles, all four of these children are cousins to Charles’ children, but the two sets of her children are half-siblings to each other.

The above are only the divorces/remarriages of two generations.  With this kind of family history, it should come as no surprise that many of the next generation also had divorces/remarriages.  There are at least 13 other divorces among the various children in the next generation.

One of the difficulties with these types of situations is “what do you call someone?”  It’s hard enough with siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings, and ex-step-siblings.  But when you factor in the generational differences, how do you refer to half-uncles, step-uncles, ex-step-uncles, and half-grandparents, step-great-grandparents, etc., etc.?  The easy way is just to drop all the half-, step-, ex-, and great- prefixes and just call people aunt/uncle/grandparent, etc.  Since many of the above individuals had fairly long lives, the children of Charles grew up with six “grandmothers” just on his side of the family – even though they were actually a grandmother, a step-grandmother, two great-grandmothers, and two step-great-grandmothers.  And trying to sort out the uncle/aunt/cousin situation was even more confusing.


There is a Bible verse which reads [in part] “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.”  At least in this situation, the consequences of divorce and remarriage have certainly caused difficulty for the children of the next generations.