Canada Vacation and Steamship Keewatin, 1946

Christine (Szerejko) Shenette Aboard the Steamship Keewatin
( Digital Images.  Photographs Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2016 Cynthia Shenette) Well, it's vacation time again!  At least it was back in August when I started this post.  Alas, it's only taken me four months to write it, but better late than never I guess.

Once again I am dipping into my mom's vacation photo album from the 1940s.  Three years ago I found my mom's vacation album, and I've posted her vacation photos annually since. Her photos from her Canada trip will make this the fourth year running.  I have to admit, I look forward to writing my annual vacation post--it's my favorite post of the year!  I guess it's kind of like going on vacation.  You wait for it for so long, and then it's over in the blink of an eye.

After going to the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch in the Catskills for three years in a row--1943, 1944, 1945--my mom, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, and her sister, Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, decided to branch out and and take a cruise through the Great Lakes to Canada on the Canadian Pacific steamship Keewatin with a couple of friends.

The back of a lunch menu from the steamship Keewatin
Their trip took them from Niagara Falls in Ontario, through Lake Huron, the Sault (shortened and anglicized so as to be pronounced Soo) Sainte Marie locks between the twin cities of Sault Sainte Marie in Ontario and Saulte Sainte Marie in Michigan, through Lake Superior to the Kakabeka Falls near Port Arthur / Fort William, now Thunder Bay.

"The 'Kee' "
According to a lunch menu from the Keewatin, the Kee was Clyde Built, 3880 gross tons, 350 in length, 43 feet 8 inches in breadth, with a depth of 26 fee 9 inches and traveled at a speed of 15 knots. The crew at the time was Joseph Bishop, Commander (1941-1946); W.F. Irvine, Chief Engineer; William H. Kirwood, First Officer; William A. Paxton, Purser; George H. Fisk, Chief Steward; and Alvin Gallagher, Superintendent.

According to Wikipedia, the Keewatin was launched 6 July 1906, ran almost continuously for 60 seasons and was retired in 1966.  For the last 20 years of her existence the Kee ran under strict regulations for wooden cabin steamships.  In 1949 (three years after my mother's trip on the Keewatin) another ship on the line, the Noronic, burned, resulting in the loss of 118 lives.  You can read the Wikipedia article on the Noronic disaster here.  My mother saved a souvenir booklet from her trip that shows the other ships on the line--the S.S. Huronic, the S.S. Assiniboia (the Keewatin's sister ship), the S.S. Manitoba, and the S.S. Noronic.

Luncheon Menu from the Keewatin, 1946
I love the lunch menu!  Sardines on toast, green onions, puree of green peas, fried lake fish tartare, luncheon tongue, with raisin pie and cream cheese for dessert!  Yum!  What to have, what to have?  I suspect mom more likely leaned toward the lettuce, cucumber or tomato salads with French dressing, the hot dishes of braised lamb with vegetables or grilled loin steak and potatoes, and probably the cake or ice cream for dessert.

"Dining Saloon ss. Keewatin"
The dining saloon looks lovely!  While the Keewatin was retired from service in 1966 it has been preserved as a museum ship in Port McNicoll, Ontario Canada.  You can see photos of the way is currently looks here, including photos of the restored dining saloon.

"Formal Gardens
 Niagra (sic) Falls
From what I can tell my mom's vacation started out in Niagara Falls.  I remember she told me that she and her friends stayed at an old hotel there that had questionable fire safety measures.  Apparently, the fire escape was a long rope bolted to the floor in their hotel room.  My mom said she and her friends dropped the rope out the window to see how far it would go, and the rope didn't even get close to the ground!  I think of how things were back then, especially in relation to the Noronic disaster, and while things aren't perfect we are lucky to have the safety measures we do.

The photo looks to have been taken at Oaks Garden Theatre.  There is a lovely contemporary shot here.

"Our favorite crew
'nautical but nice' "  
I did a little newspaper research on the Keewatin and found a number of articles written around the time my mom took her trip.  According to a Boston Globe article the cruise took "two water-born nights and most of two days between Port McNicoll and the Lakehead, at rail fare plus $20 for an outside cabin and meals."  Deluxe accommodations were available and automobiles could be transported as well.

The ship set sail every Wednesday and Saturday from early June through mid September.  I know my mom took her vacation 1946, but I didn't exactly know when, but now I know it was probably sometime between June and mid September.  Given the clothes that she and her traveling companions were wearing it was kind of hard to tell.  I figured it could have been any time from spring through early fall. Return trips left Fort William on Saturdays and Tuesdays and arrived back in Port McNicoll early on Mondays and Thursdays.

"K. {Kakabeka] Falls
Helene + Kris."
Kakabeka Falls is located in the village of Kakabeka Falls in Ontario 19 miles west of Thunder Bay. You can read more about the falls here.

"Shuffle board (or a
reasonable facsimile thereof)"
Shipboard  life was similar to that of an ocean voyage.  Passengers could relax or participate in a variety of on-board activities.  There were deck activities, such as shuffleboard, bull board, deck quoits, and sunbathing, as well as table tennis inside.  The Kee also boasted a spacious dancing saloon.  Passengers enjoyed meals in the dining saloon, as well as morning bouillon, afternoon tea, impromptu parties and midnight snacks.  A barber, a hairdresser, and valet service were available.

"Up -- for a
sniff of fresh air."
My mom took a lot of photos of their trip.  Clearly, the war and the film shortage of the previous year's vacation was over.  In 1945 they only had enough film to take one photograph to remember their vacation.  My mom's travelling companion, Phyl also has a camera on this trip.

"Kris, Laura, Helene, Phyl.
at the 'sharp end'
of the boat"
I don't know who Laura and Phyl [Phyllis] are.  I know Phyl is in some of my mom's other photos from the 1940s, so clearly they were good friends.  I looked through my mother's yearbook for the Class of 1940 from the High School of Commerce in Worcester, MA to see if I could find photos of either Laura or Phyl, but no luck.  If you recognize Laura or Phyl I'd love to hear from you!

'Miss North Pole of 1946' "
According to the Globe articles I read, one night of the voyage was spent crossing Lake Huron to St. Mary's River, for a 55 mile trip up the river. When the ship reached Sault Ste. Marie it went through the locks which lifted the ship up 18 feet from Lake Huron to Lake Superior.The ship's voyage took them across Lake Superior, and the world's largest inland waterways. The ship traveled close to some of the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay.  The route traveled near the Bruce Peninsula and the Christian Islands.  From one end to the other the the ship traveled 544 miles.

"Ve yust come over"
If my post and the presentation of the photographs seems a bit disjointed it's because I am presenting the photos in the order in which they appeared in my mother's album.  I'm trying to preserve the original order of the images to present her story in context.  I am also using her captions which show her sense of humor and the language they used, like calling the Keewatin, the Kee.

The photo above kind of cracks me up, but also makes me a bit sad.  Given that it was 1946 I bet they saw way too many people coming to the States from the old country.  My aunt Helen Bulak worked with an organization to help Polish refugees once they got to Worcester, so I bet my mom and her sister saw way too many people, especially women wearing babushkas, saying, "Ve yust come over."

"Jerry + Helen
(Gerald Allen Fullerton)"
According to articles from the Boston Globe special boat trains provided connections from Toronto to Fort McNicoll to serve  the ship on sailing and arrival days.  Passengers stepped from the train aboard the ship.  In the photo above, my mom's sister Helene is standing next to a train.  Before I read the newspaper article I wondered how they got from the train to the ship.  I could tell the young man pictured above, Gerald Allen Fullerton, was from the Kee because of his uniform, but I couldn't figure out how he would also be at the train.  Now I know!

"Bill + Kris
(William Murry Doyle)"
I love that my mom took the time to write the names of some of the crew in her album.  Besides Gerald Allen Fullerton in the photo above with Helene, my mom is standing with a young man named William Murray Doyle.  If you are related to either Jerry or Bill I would love to hear from you!  I'd love to hear about their experiences on the Keewatin.

"Smoke stack Lou Lou
(I don't want to set the world on fire, I just want to set a flame in your heart)"
Well, another vacation has come to a close.  This is the last vacation covered in my mom's album.  I do have more of her vacation pictures from the 1940s and 1950s in slides, so one of my projects next year, maybe over the winter, is to organize the slides to see if I can put together a story about where she traveled and what she did in 1947.

It's been a long journey across the lakes, and time to say goodbye for now.  The boat train is waiting at the station, and I'm ready to go home,

Bon Voyage, until next year!

Other Posts You Might Like:

Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1945
Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1944
Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, August 1943
An Interview with My Grandmother

Military Monday: Frank (Francois) Chenette, Civil War Pension File

Surgeon's Certificate for Frank Chenette

(Digital Image; Documents Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Image and Text Copyright (c) 2016 Cynthia Shenette)  A couple of years ago I ordered my great-grandfather, Francois Chenet's (1813-1886), Civil War pension file from the National Archives.  I didn't really know what or how much to expect for my 80 bucks, but I thought what the heck, and purchased the file for myself for a birthday gift.  Well, didn't I hit pay-dirt!  The file contained over a hundred pages and provides an interesting insight into a number of members of the family.  

Francois and his son Francois (1845-1864) volunteered on the same day on 10 December 1863, and Francois Jr. died of disease in Virginia on 3 November 1864.  Lucky for me Francois Sr.'s pension file includes information on Francois Jr., Francois Sr., Francois Sr.'s fourth wife, Lucie Touchette (my great-grandmother), and a number of other family members, friends and acquaintances who were deposed after my great-grandmother Lucie was caught collecting Francois Sr.'s pension after she married for a second time.

The handwriting in the documents is somewhat hard to read, and while I've skimmed through them over the last couple of years I really think I need to transcribe some of the documents to really take in the details and the whole of what they are trying to tell me about my great-grandfather's family.  My hope is to post some my transcriptions on my blog.  Unfortunately, my scanner is not able to scan the full size of the documents in the file.  I've included a portion of the document for a visual at the beginning of this blog post.  If you are related to Francois and would like to see the full document, please feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to scan the document as best I can and send it to you.  

If you are related to Francois (and given that he had four wives and 24 children, who isn't) I suggest you also take a look at the blog posts I've listed below.  He was an interesting character.  While you read the text of the surgeon's certificate keep in mind that at the time of the doctor's visit in September of 1884 Francois had seven children, ages 14 and under, including a two year old daughter.  Francois died at the age of 72 on 22 March 1886.  He left his fourth wife, Lucie, and 14 living children ranging in age from three to 46.

Claim No. 310,290

State: Vermont, County: Orleans
Post Office: Coventry, Sept 27th, 1884.
I HEREBY CERTIFY That I have carefully examined Frank Chenette, father of Frank Chenette, Jr who claims a pension as the dependent Father of Frank Chenette, Jr. who is alleged to have died Date not stated, and that in my opinion, based on such examination and a personal acquaintance with him for ----- years, the said Frank Chenette  - father is and has been physically incapacitated  for the support of himself and family, the nature, degree, and duration of his disability as follows: 
Age 73 - Weight. 130. Pulse 56. Respiration 16 Temp 97.5 Claims to be disabled by reason of partial blindness. and also by reason of Rheumatism which was incurred while in the service as Private in Co. K 11th Vermont Vols., in front of Petersburgh, Va in April 1865. - both of these disabilities have troubled him ever since he was in the service. constantly. Says now all the work he can see to do is to turn a crank in a printing office at Waterloo,, PQ. (formerly a laborer.) I find upon careful inspection of his eyes that there is an opacity of the vitreous humor of the R eye - which totally destroys the sight of  the R eye.  There is a like condition of the L eye - but of less opacity - He can see a little with it - cannot read half inch type in any position.  cannot see to pick up a large white beam from the floor except in a very strong light.  He is totally blind in R eye and partially blind in L eye. 
I rate for total loss of R eye 1/2 total }                     3/4 total 
Rating for partial loss of sight of L eye 1/4 total }
I also find the applicant has Rheumatism.  The positive signs being crepitus in shoulder or knee joints - enlargement of joints of great toes and joints of fingers of R hand - also a contraction of flexor tendons of 2d -3d - 4th fingers of R hand. 

Dr. C. F. Branch
Examining Surgeon.

There appears to be no cardiac complications from Rheumati [paper tear] His heart is acting very slowly - with five intermissions, each minute.  He uses no tobacco or liquors, he says, - His general appearance indicates that he was once a strong man , yet today aged + infirm, his disabilities are sufficient to entitle him to a rating. The facts  are not within any knowledge I simply find from his history and symptoms, and positive evidence of disease.  In my opinion the Rheumatism has existed about twenty years, the blindness may have begun as early and has been progressive - Probably he will be totally blind in a few years if he lives. - He is entitled to a pension of himself for service as a soldier, but prefers to ask for a Fathers pension.  His tongue is large and red, liver + spleen + Abdomen + Rectum normal. Muscles small + shrunken with age.  I should rate him for Rheumatism - one half tota [paper tear].

[Stamped: US PENSION OFFICE OCT 8 1884]

Other Posts You Might Like:

Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Sightseeing Around Civil War Richmond, Virginia
Four Wives and 24 Children: A Demographic Study
Flash Back! The Life and Times of Francois Chenet (Greatly Abridged)

Business Profile: Grove Gardens, Grove St., Worcester, MA

My grandmothr's sister, Helen Bulak

(Digital Images, Photographs Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text Copyright (c) 2016 Cynthia Shenette.) My grandparents, Adolf Szerejko and Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko, immigrated to the United States from Poland in the early part of the 20th century, and from the early 1900s until 1940 they lived in the predominantly Polish Vernon Hill section of the city.

My grandparents were fantastic gardeners and gardened extensively in the small backyard of their three-decker on Fairfax Rd.  You can see their garden here.  While they loved their home on Fairfax Rd. they dreamt of living someplace where they could expand their garden, possibly into a business they would both enjoy after my grandfather retired from his job as a machinist at Leland-Gifford.

Peach tree blossoms, spring 1949

In 1940 my grandparents purchased a home on Grove St. in Worcester.  It's hard to imagine today, but in 1940 Grove St. was a narrower, tree-lined thoroughfare on the rural outskirts of the city.  The house was situated on four acres of land adjacent to the small pond on the opposite side of the road to Indian Lake. The land and the house were previously owned by descendants of the Horace Thayer family, and in 1940 Horace's son Charles still owned and operated the dairy farm next door..  

My grandmother, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko, spring 1949?

My grandparents' vision was long-range.  The plan was to build and work their business over time, so it would be a viable business once my grandfather retired at age 65.  They planted apple trees and cherry trees and peach trees.  In the spring there were lilacs and forsythia bushes and pussy willows. In the summer there were zinnias and peonies and gladiolas.  In the fall there were chrysanthemums. They grew their own vegetables and my grandmother canned the produce.  They sold flowers to friends, neighbors, and anyone else who wanted flowers.  According to the Worcester city directories, Grove Gardens was listed in the city directories from 1941 to 1959 in the individual listings and sometimes under florists in the business section of the directory.

Auntie Helen Bulak, spring 1949

It's kind of amazing when you look at the color in these photos. They were taken in the 1949 and 1950.  I scanned Kodachrome slides and did a wee bit of retouching, but the color is essentially in the original condition.  Compared to other types of film there's nothing like the staying power of Kodachrome.  I also have some slides of Grove Gardens in Anscochrome, but they can't compare in brilliance and color clarity to the Kodachrome.

My grandfather, Adolf Szerejko, spring 1949

My grandparents did the work themselves with occasional help from their kids--son Robert, daughter (and my mom) Christine, and daughter Helene.  Once my parents were married and visiting from where they lived when my dad was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, my dad would help my grandfather with some of the work around the property.  When my dad retired after 20 plus years in the military he decided to go to the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and eventually became a well regarded Worcester area landscaper.  I can't help but believe a large part of that was due to his time helping out around Grove Gardens.

My grandmother was incredibly proud of her rock garden which was behind the fireplace in the photo above.  She use to tell me about when she raised tiny alpine flowers that she ordered specially through the mail. When I was a kid much of the rock garden was past it's prime and overgrown, but I still loved picking the red, yellow, and pink tulips and the purple grape hyacinth and bright blue glory of the snow and scilla.  I also use to love sitting in the crook of the apple tree to the right reading a book.

Spring 1949

I love the photo above.  It's interesting to see the construction of the stone wall which created kind of a sunken garden appearance with the rock garden in back.

My grandmother specialized in perennials and knew the Latin name for every plant.  She was something of a plant expert and even the garden columnist from the local paper would occasionally call to ask for information regarding a plant she was knowledgeable about when he needed information for his column.

September 1949

My grandmother use to joke that people referred to her as "the perennial lady" and my grandfather as the "glad man."  My grandfather use to raise and sell gladiolas.  The photo below is one of my favorite photos of my grandparents.

My grandparents, Adolf Szerejko and Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko and their gladiolas, August 1950

Unfortunately, their dream retirement business was not to be.  My grandfather died unexpectedly four months before his 65th birthday.  After he died my grandmother couldn't maintain the property by herself, so she eventually sold three of the four acres and most of the plants.

By the time I remember the property what was once the main part of the garden was an overgrown field. The lilacs were still there.  So were the cherry trees and a poplar tree and the apple trees. Peonies popped up in the field grass where carefully tended rows once lined the garden.  The rock garden remained, but wasn't tended with the same careful precision. We had a large veggie garden on our property, but by the time I remember my grandmother her canning days were over.  She never lost the gardening bug even into her 80s. She was the person who instilled a love of gardening in me.

When I cleaned out my mother's house I found the sign for Grove Gardens in the basement. It ended up in a dumpster, though I do have my grandparents' log books and some letterhead stationary and business cards.  And the photos.  The log books are interesting, because they document the expenditures and income for the business from March 1941 through December 1972.  I feel fortunate to have my  photos, and a local historic preservation society is working on a project researching lost gardens of Worcester, and I plan to contribute copies of my photos and images of materials for their files.  

If you drive by today our old house it's still there, though it doesn't look anything like it use to look. The garden is long gone, and there is a new house on the back property.  No one would ever know that Grove Gardens once existed.  I figure I'm honoring my grandparents and the business they loved so much by writing about them and their garden.  They loved their garden and they loved each other, so I kind of feel that by writing this post some 76 year after they started I'm  keeping the dream alive.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Flower Girls - Wordless Wednessday
Wordless Wednesday: Fuller Rose Garden, Circa 1966
My Garden 2012 - Wordless Wednesday
Celebrating Spring! - Wordless Wednesday

The Life of a Laundress: Steam Laundry Work in 1908

(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) One of my tasks at my library job is to put away closed stack material.  I love it, because I often find interesting stuff that I would never come across otherwise.  Last week I was putting away some closed stack material and came across a volume of the journal Charities, published by The Charity Organization Society, 105 East 22nd St., New York, NY.  Charities was published from 1897-1952 with several name changes over the course of its publication. 

The volume that I looked at had sections on a number of different topics I think might be of interest to genealogists and family historians.  Topics included articles on the following: civic improvement; child labor; communications and conferences; "defectives" and dependents; delinquents; housing; immigration; industrial education; juvenile courts and probation; milk; organized charity; play, playgrounds, and parks; saloons and prohibition; schools; schools of philanthropy; settlements; social forces; tuberculosis; and unemployment. 

While there were a number of articles that I found interesting one in particular caught my eye. "Pittsburgh's Steam Laundry Workers" by Elizabeth Beardsley Butler.  My grandfather's sister, Lena (Chenette / Shenette) Potvin (1882-1961) spent time working in a steam laundry in Worcester, MA from 1909 to 1913.  While the article I read in Charities was specific to Pittsburgh, I'm sure many things about the Pittsburgh article also applied to the way steam laundries were run outside of Pittsburgh as well.

"The modern steam laundry is the latest instance of the routing of a home industry."

Laundry was, as it still is, a constant of everyday life.  Commercial laundries processed laundry from hotels and factories, from railroads and from private homes, with the majority of laundry workers being women. Most laundry workers were young and unskilled and the ones who flourished in the laundry business, if one could possibly flourish in such an environment, had a knack for speed within their assigned task.

Steam laundries had several departments--checking and sorting, washing, mangling, starching, and ironing.  The working conditions varied from department to department, and differences in mental and physical demands called for differences in personnel.

Checkers received a batch of linens and marked each article with the owner's name and sorted into baskets items to be washed separately--colored goods, flat work, shirts, collars, fancy articles, etc. Checkers were the lucky ones in a commercial steam laundry environment.  The job was easier, and they were able to dress better because they didn't need to slave over hot, steamy laundry all day.  A checker was considered to be an "aristocrat" among laundry workers.

"At the preliminary processes of washing, mangling, and starching, place is found for the beginners and the girls of the lowest grade."

The washroom was generally the men's part of the laundry.  Strong men were needed to operate the washing machines which were huge cylinders full of hot water and steaming clothes, though some women were used in the washing room for pieces better done by hand, such as flannel.  Laundry was put in extractors which twisted the clothes and flung the water out of the wet material by centrifugal force, then garments were moved into trucks and wheeled to metal wringers.

Before laundry could be fed into the mangle "shakers-out" untwisted and unknotted the laundry to be fed into the mangle.  Shakers-out tended to be new female workers, young girls, and older women not physically capable of other jobs.  Once the laundry was shaken out, feeders stood at one end of the mangle and pushed the flat goods over the metal apron until the rolls caught them.  Steam heat heated the metal mangle rolls.  

Feeders had the most dangerous job.  By 1908 the mangle had a "guard," small rolls that were hot at the beginning of the mangle to catch the feeder's attention before the feeder's hand was caught in the mangle.  In the past hands and arms were caught, crushed, and maimed in the mangle. Sometimes several girls were needed to feed larger pieces of cloth into the mangle.  Mangle girls were the youngest as the work required the least amount of training.  As a result the pay rates for mangle girls were the lowest.

In the starching room trays of boiling starch were ready for collars, cuffs, and anything else that needed to be starched.  There were three groups of machines--a collar starcher, a shirt bosom starcher, and a band starcher.  The collar girl fed collars or cuffs into the machine that carried the linen by a conyeyor to make contact with rolls immersed in hot starch.  Wipers wiped in starch with their hands.  The starch room machines were largely automatic, with little skill or experience needed.

"No American can stand this.  We have to use Hungarians or other foreigners."

In the ironing room there were long rows of machines.  Each girl was a specialist at her own machine.  She did not iron a whole article, instead she ironed a sleeve or a cuff or a yoke, or perhaps one side of a collar.  There were two different kinds of machines--steam presses and rolls.  A "body ironer" was so difficult one man said he would not hire a girl for the body ironer unless she weighed 180lbs because of the strength and size needed to operate the machine.  With the cuff press machine the whole body of the girl shook with the force she needed to use the machine.  Cuff pressers ironed at the rate of three cuffs a minute which meant twelve of the violent motions each minute for a total of 7,200 treadle pressures a day.  Fancy ironer's worked almost exclusively in women's wear.

"The work's too hard, and you simply can't stand the heat."

Most workers didn't last in a commercial laundry too long.  The emphasis was on speed.  Washroom floors were wet.  Gutters ran under the washing machines to carry off waste, but water still could stand in pools where the floor had sunk in places. There were clouds of steam, inadequate ventilation, and the heat was intolerable, with steam rising from the boilers ten hours a day.  Windows were small, ceilings were low, and fans were few.  In Pittsburgh women made a dollar a day for a ten hour work day.  Laundry owners preferred hiring women, because they could hire two women for the same money they would spend on one man.  Laundry workers had a tendency to get tuberculosis.  All in all, workers generally didn't last long in the industry, four years on average though many didn't make it to two.

So tonight when you go home and decide to toss a load of laundry in before bed, don't complain about having to haul your laundry up and down from the basement or wherever your washer and dryer are located.  Think about how easy you have it compared to your ancestors.  Thankfully, for my dad's Aunt Lena she didn't work in the laundry business all that long.  Eventually, Lena married Joseph Potvin and moved to St. Albans, VT where she operated a beauty shop.  While it probably wasn't exactly picnic cutting ladies' hair and giving perms all day every day, I bet it was still a lot easier than her time working as a "laundress."

Source: Butler, Elizabeth Beardsly. "Pittsburgh's Steam Laundry Workers,"  Charities, 20 (1908): 549-63.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Business Profile: Helen's, 39/41 Millbury St., Worcester, MA
Four Wives and 24 Children: A Demographic Study
Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving
PhotoStory: Dad and a Mystery Solved

Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1945

"The one + only snap
Film shortage"
Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, second on the right; Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, far right
Mason Halstead?, fourth from the right

(Digital Images. Photographs Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette)  Well, Dear Reader, it's the time of year when the hot days of late summer end in cool nights, and a chorus of crickets sing their nightly song of summer's end.  And once again it's time for our annual visit to the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch.

Two years ago I wrote about finding my mother's vacation album from the 1940s.  A large part of my mom's album was devoted to summer vacations spent at the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch in Westkill, New York.  Mom and her sister, Helene, vacationed at Tumbleweed during the war years of 1943, 1944, and 1945.  I'm grateful my mom and her sister took the time to write captions to all of the photos in the album, and unlike 1943 and 1944 when she and her sister took dozens of photos, 1945 only yielded one snap due to a wartime film shortage. Still, one photo is better than none.

Why did Mom and Helene stop going to Tumbleweed?  Who knows.  I suspect that after World War II other vacation opportunities simply presented themselves.  Rationing was lifted; gas and tires were no longer in short supply. In general, Americans were ready for a change and vacationers were now able to travel farther afield by car or bus or train, or even plane.  For the post World War II traveler the world was a smaller place.

While dude or guest ranches existed before and after, their popularity peaked between the 1920s and the 1950s.  Dude ranch started out west, but the idea caught on back east, and dude ranches started popping up in the Catskills, Adirondacks, the Poconos, and the Berkshires.  There is a great website on the evolution of the eastern dude ranch, Eastward, Ho!  by Emily Zimmerman, and Emily's website has a great "works consulted" page if you are looking for more sources of information on dude ranches in the east.

Mom, dressing the part
(Tumbleweed, 1944)
I also found dozens of articles on dude or guest ranches, as they were sometimes called, indexed in the Reader's Guide Retrospective database which indexes popular general interest periodicals, 1890-1982.  I found articles in Ladies Home Journal, Travel, Independent Woman, Better Homes and Gardens, and even the Catholic Digest.  The New York Times Historical Archive, 1851-2009, the Old Fulton Postcards database, and GenealogyBank were also great sources for newspaper articles and advertisements about dude ranches in general, and Tumbleweed in particular.

My favorite article, "Dressing the Dude," from the May 1, 1936 issue of Vogue, encourages dudettes, as the lady dudes were often called, not to dress like a "Madison Square trick-roper, nor like a Long Island horsewoman."  When packing for a visit to a dude ranch dudettes should consider packing the following as part of their wardrobe: blue jeans, boy's or men's type cotton and lightweight flannel or woolen shirts, a leather jacket, practical underwear, lisle or wool socks high enough to come above boot tops, silk neckerchiefs, riding gloves, and most importantly Western boots and a Stetson hat "both of which should certainly be purchased out West." Evening clothes were appropriate depending on the ranch visited, a "simple evening gown" should suffice.

I ordered several articles through interlibrary loan from The Dude Rancher, the journal of the Dude Ranchers Association, which was published from 1932 to 1965.  One article from 1954 discussed the important traits for a "Model Dude Rancher."  He "...must be a man of charm, warmth and agility. He must be terrific with his feminine guests but not quite so terrific as to get dirty looks from his own wife."  He must also, " a ladies' man, a man's man, a prince of a good fellow; a Democrat, a Republican, a new dealer, an old dealer, a fast dealer; an authority on women, the weather, wildlife, game fish and fowl; an expert on horses, cows, cats, dogs, sheep, brunettes, blondes, redheads and wild flowers."  His wife on the other hand "...must be at all times be tolerant and sweet.  Every week is 'Be Kind to Visitors Week' on a dude ranch, so she must have the tact of Pricilla, the patience of Ghandi, the tranquility of Socrates and the endurance of Eleanor."  Sounds like a tall order for both the Mr. and the Mrs.

Jack Franks, owner of Tumbleweed (1943)
According to a 1941 article with the title "Dude Ranch Horses" in The Cattleman, dude ranch horses are "...horses of all sizes and types suitable for 'dudes' to ride in range or mountain country...When I say safe, I mean safe, not for just a good rider but a dude ranch horse has to be as safe as it is possible to make one for all kinds of riders under a wide variety of circumstances."  The author also comments on seeing "everything imaginable" tied to saddle horses, "...from  large bundlesome cameras to portable radios, elk antlers...and shovels, axes, etc..."

An article from a 1959 issue of Travel magazine all about "New York's Dude Ranches" declare's "Reasonable prices, informality and accessibility from all points by any mode of travel are key selling points of ranches in this region, and most of the reported full or near-full capacities last year during July and August." Daily rates for one resort were $10.00 per person a day for a comfortable room and three meals served ranch style, horseback riding, swimming, boating, and free use of all recreational facilities."  The article also points out that horseback riding is a tremendous bonus as some regular resorts "...charge upward from $2.00 per hour for use of horses" which probably made Tumbleweed's motto "No time clock on our horses tails" so appealing.  Many ranches also entertained guests with rodeos and square dances, and pack trips were the norm.

I'm one of those people who always wants to know more about whatever I am researching, and if you are too I strongly suggest that you not overlook magazine articles.  While the articles will most likely not be specific to your ancestor, they are still a great source for fleshing out a topic and putting your ancestor's life in context.  I love the Reader's Guide Retrospective, because I can search for articles that are specific or within a few years of the time period I am researching, like articles about dude ranches published in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.  Many libraries offer access to Reader's Guide, so be sure to inquire at your library.  Locally, the Boston Public Library offers remote access to Reader's Guide, and you can apply for an e-card if you live or go to school in Massachusetts.

I'm amazed that my Tumbleweed posts have generated such interest from my readers over the years. My Tumbleweed posts have been among my most heavy hitters.  I've been contacted by people who remember Tumbleweed, who lived and worked at Tumbleweed, and members of the families that owned Tumbleweed.  If you have memories to share about Tumbleweed I'd love to hear from you.

Well, it's time to settle in for one last campfire.  My nose is twitching from the wood smoke, and those crickets are at it again. Twilight is upon us; the sky is awash in pink and purple as the sun sinks slowly into the West.  It's time to say our goodbyes.

Happy trails, friends.  Until we meet again.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1944
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...
The Rope Pull - Wordless Wednesday
Chopin Rising

Extra! Extra! Finding Info in Unindexed Newspapers - Tuesday's Tip

Paper Boy clip art
(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) One of my ongoing frustrations and difficulties is in finding family history and genealogy information in unindexed newspapers.  Thank goodness for existing newspaper databases like GenealogyBank, Old Fulton Postcards, and Chronicling America that provide searchable access to newspapers.  Unfortunately, many newspapers still do not have sufficient electronic access which is the case with my local newspaper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  While the Telegram is indexed online indexing doesn't start until 1989 leaving a major gap in coverage from the beginning of publication (1884 for the Sunday edition and 1886 for the daily) until 1989.

My grandmother was a saver and clipped every newspaper article that came her way--marriages, graduations, performances, retirements--but I'm sure there is plenty of stuff that she missed.  I'm also sure there were plenty of things that didn't occur to her to clip.  I am convinced there is a treasure trove of family history information in the Telegram in the years prior to 1989.  But how to find it?  I've come up with a few techniques that sometimes help in locating information.

Start with the Date of an Event, and Look at the Newspapers Before and After the Event

I think most genealogists are familiar with scrolling through microfilm looking for family obits.  I use the same technique when for looking for information about performances and events.  Last year I wrote a post about a program I have from a 1926 dance recital.  After my post I decided to try to see if I could find some information about Miss Mae Gleeson's dance recital in the newspaper.  I used the date on the program, May 12, 1926 and scrolled through the microfilm of the Telegram for the days around the date of the recital.  Clearly, May was recital month in Worcester in 1926.  I found numerous articles on recitals.  I scrolled through the microfilm for the days before the recital and the day after.  The day after the recital I found a short article about the event!

Learn the History of an Event, and Place Your Family In Context Within the Bigger Picture

According to a family story my grandmother adopted sister's parents both died the same day during the 1918 flu pandemic, leaving my grandmother's adopted sister, my "Aunt Rose" and several siblings orphaned.  I did a little research online and discovered that the majority of flu deaths in Massachusetts occurred during the fall of 1918.  Armed with that knowledge I decided to use the October 1, 1918 issue of the Telegram as a starting place for my research.  I could go back to the September issues or forward to the November issues from there if need be.  I figured if two parents died on the same day and left several children orphaned that might be newsworthy.  I started scrolling through the October issues of the newspaper--I didn't have to scroll long.  On page six of the Telegram for October 1, 1918 I found the story I was looking for.

Check to See if Your Public Library Has a Vertical File or a Clipping File

I am fortunate in that the Worcester Public Library has incredible clipping files.  Does your public library have a vertical file?  While the more recent issues of the Worcester Telegram are the only ones indexed online the clipping files provide some newspaper coverage prior to 1989.  A while back I was trying to find out when St. Mary's School opened, and there was a file on Our Lady of Czestochowa (St. Mary's) in the church section of the Worcester files which led me to an approximate date in the Telegram. From there I was able to scroll through the microfilm for additional information. I also discovered there was a file on my Aunt Rose's business, Cadet Industries.  You never know what you might find, so it behooves you to take a look.

A Database Might Lead You Back to Your Unindexed Hometown Newspaper

I have access to the Boston Globe Historical Archive (1872-1982) through work.  A few weeks ago I decided to do a search on a person involved in a crime in Worcester.  I didn't know exactly when the crime or the court case took place, other than it probably took place sometime in the 1920s.  To my surprise the criminal's name came up in the Globe archive.  I used the date given in the Globe article to find an article in the microfilm around the same date in the Telegram.  I discovered the person was sentenced to seven to 10 years in state prison.  Now I can do further research into criminal records related to the case.  

Don't Assume Your Family Didn't Make News in Other Parts of the Country

We all know what happens when we assume....  

I have GenealogyBank which I love.  When I first started subscribing I searched on Szerejko which is a fairly unique name.  I was surprised to discover my grandmother was mentioned in the Boston Daily Record, the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), and the Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois).  My grandmother witnessed a plane crash in our neighborhood in 1957, and newspapers across the country carried the story. I had completely forgotten about my grandmother's plane crash story until I saw the articles in GenealogyBank.  I was able to get the date from the GenealogyBank articles and search the microfilm of the Telegram for the same date.

Use a Database from a Neighboring Geographic Area

I was looking for information on the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch in West Kill, New York for background info for my post, Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, August 1943.  Since the ranch was in New York, I decided to search Old Fulton Postcards, a newspaper database, to see if I could find info on the ranch.  I found the info I was looking for, and I also found advertisements for the ranch.  I decided to use some of the wording that appeared in the advertisements to see if I could find the same advertisement in other newspaper databases, and voila, I did!  The same advertisement appeared in other newspapers along the East Coast--in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.  I wondered how my mom found out about Tumbleweed, given it was located in the Catskills.  Now that I know the dates the advertisement ran in other papers I bet I could go to my local paper, check the same dates, and find a Tumbleweed advertisement in the Worcester Telegram.

Know Which Way Your Local Newspaper Leans

Is there more than one newspaper in town?  If yes, which way does each paper lean? Right or left?  Blue collar or white collar?  Worcester currently only has one daily paper, but it use to have more than one. Back in the day the Worcester Telegram was more the white collar workers' paper (i.e. the paper for the people who owned or ran the factories).  The Worcester Post which is no longer published was the blue collar workers' paper (i.e. the paper for the people who worked in the factories).  I was looking for information on when my grandfather left for camp to be shipped overseas during World War I.  I looked in the Worcester Telegram, and there were general articles talking about young men leaving for war.  When I looked in the Post there were multiple lists of the names of young men heading off to war!  It's important to know what newspaper your ancestors were reading at the time they were alive.

If you haven't tried some of these newspaper search techniques already I hope you do.  While newspaper databases are a great source of information, don't forget or neglect to check those unindexed newspapers as well. Searching them takes a little more time and effort, but the rewards are great and may provide that one tidbit of information that you can't find anywhere else.  

If you have any special techniques for searching unindexed newspapers I'd love to hear from you. Or if  you've written your own blog post about how a particular technique has worked for you feel free to link to your post in the comments section below.

Happy searching!

Other Posts You Might Like:

Reading the Classifieds - Amanuensis Monday
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...
Visiting the Tenement Museum in NYC - Follow Friday
Picnic! - Wordless Wednesday