Happy Birthday, Grandma - Wordless Wednesday

Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko, 30 May 1896-22 Sep 1990

(Digital Image. Photograph Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Original Text (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Happy Birthday, Gram.  You were one of a kind.  We miss you...

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My Trip to Ellis Island - Those Places Thursday

(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  Ellis Island is one of those places that I've wanted to visit for years.  I read an article in Americana magazine (defunct since 1993) that talked about the anticipated opening of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 1990.  Before I even read the article my grandmother intrigued me with her talk of the place. When she came to America she was too little to remember anything about it--she was only 18 months old when she made the trip--but it intrigued her as well.  I remember seeing images of Ellis Island before the station's renovation, an abandoned ark of a place that time forgot.  I was thrilled when I heard it was to be fixed up and restored as a museum.  I waited a long time to visit Ellis Island.

I've been so busy lately with a variety of activities I've had little time for much of anything, but when I found out my local chapter of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists was taking a bus trip for the day to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the 9-11 Memorial I knew I had to go.  It was lucky happenstance that the trip was scheduled the day before Mother's Day, so it was kind of a special treat to myself for the holiday!  I also bought myself an SLR camera to capture images from the trip!

It was amazing passing the Statue of Liberty and reaching the island by ferry.  What a beautiful, sunny, warm spring day!  I wondered how many thousands of immigrants passed by the Statue on a similar warm spring day, in fear or anticipation about their new new lives in America.  Who did all of those people leave behind?   Mothers?  Fathers?  Siblings?  Or no one. Were they escaping war or economic hardship?  I don't want to sound overly sentimental, but it's awe inspiring to think about the millions of people, my family included, who traveled to Ellis Island by ship, boat, or ferry in just this way.

Several people on my trip recommended the audio tour of the museum.  I didn't take because I wanted to go at my own pace, so for two and a half hours I wandered around the museum, checking out the exhibits and taking pictures as I went along.

The first thing that you see when you walk in the door is the exhibit with piles of luggage stacked in a long line.  I don't know how they did it, but I wonder how the people at Ellis Island managed to keep track of all of that luggage!  Every time my family and I fly somewhere I keep my fingers crossed and hope our luggage meets us at the other end!  The other thing that struck me was the noise--a cacophony of voices echoing in the large room.  I can only imagine what it was like in my grandparents' day with the multitude of languages being spoken--Polish, German, Yiddish, Russian, Dutch--all trying to hear or be heard over the din.

After I checked out the exhibits downstairs I walked upstairs to the Great Hall.  I was kind of surprised that the Great Hall was upstairs, but I guess it makes sense that it would be.  The Great Hall was smaller than I expected. I'm so use to seeing all of those vintage Ellis Island photos with people waiting in lines, that I expected it to be bigger.  There's a great vintage photo here.  It really doesn't look much different today.  They even use similar flags with 48 stars!

How many people waited on those benches and what were they thinking about while they waited?  Again, I could only imagine the sound all of those people must have created--the men, the women, and especially the children--crowded together in that relatively small place.

What was it like to look out those windows and see New York City and America, the land of so many dreams.  I loved the exhibit that talked about the chalk marks immigration officials made on people's clothing to indicate further inspection was in order--CT for trachoma, PG for pregnancy, SC for scalp, X for suspected mental defect, X inside a circle for definite signs of a mental defect, as well as others.  How many women and young girls were mortified by the inspectors medical examinations?  There was a button hook in the display that talked about the examination for trachoma.  How many people's dreams were shattered and ended with a return trip back to their country of origin?

My mom told me that my grandfather use to talk about how Ellis Island was the first place he had ever tried a banana.  It was interesting to read one of the exhibits that talked about the food served to the people passing through the island.  Bananas were mentioned as one of those foods.  I've heard other people mention trying bananas at Ellis Island for the first time as well. Bananas must have made quite an impression on our ancestors to be such a common topic of conversation!

It was interesting just walking through the warren of rooms and looking out the windows.  I loved the exhibit that showed the various types of clothing that people wore.   There was a mosaic of photographs of the faces of different people from different countries.  I saw a man with what looked to be blue eyes in one of the photographs.  He was dressed in eastern European clothing and reminded me of a photo I have of one of my husband's Ukrainian ancestors from back in the old country.  I also loved the exhibit that showed a collection of (for lack of a better word) junk that filled the Ellis Island facility before the renovation.

It was a long day but well worth the four hour bus ride and the security checks and screening at the ferry. Before I went I wondered if I would be disappointed. Ellis Island is someplace that I've wanted to visit for such a long time, could my high expectations possibly live up to the reality?  Well, they did live up and then some.  Ellis Island was a trip worth the wait.

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The Parade Passes By - Wordless Wednesday

(Digital Image. Photographs Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Photograph and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) I don't know what the occasion or holiday was, but I love these photographs! I think the parade route traveled down Main St. in Worcester, MA.  Even if I don't know the occasion I do know the time of day.  The clock on the top photo says 12:15!

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At Liberty! - Wordless Wednesday

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Can you guess where I tried out my new SLR camera on Saturday?  Yep, you're right!  I went to New York for the day with the Worcester Chapter of the Massachusetts Society of  Genealogists.  We visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the 9-11 Memorial.  I was mainly interested in visiting Ellis Island which has always been a dream of mine, but I will admit that seeing the Statue of Liberty was super cool.  What a day!

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Celebrating Spring - Wordless Wednesday

(Digital Image; Photograph Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Photograph and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  I think this photograph of my grandmother, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko (second woman standing on the right), and her friends was taken at a St. Mary's Church (Our Lady of Czestochowa) picnic, probably in the late 1910s.

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A Window in Time, April 11, 1940

The Szerejko Family, Circa 1940
(Digital Image.  Photograph Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Years ago I read and loved Jack Finney's time travel classic, Time and Again.  In the story, the main character looks out his apartment window at The Dakota, and over a period of time the landscape changes from contemporary New York to the New York City of 1882. It's kind of like how I feel when I look at a census record. Except now I'm the time traveler. The window opens, and I get a glimpse of my ancestors' lives on one particular day in time.

On Thursday, April 11, 1940 my grandparents lived in a relatively new (built in 1925) three-decker in Worcester's Vernon Hill neighborhood.  The weather was cloudy with a light easterly wind.  Rain was predicted for Friday.  Spring bulbs peaked through the ground.  The smell of spring was in the air.  For two cents the Worcester Telegram was a good deal, but the news was discouraging, full of the war raging in Europe.

To Bomb City Unless Nazis Surrender
F.D.R. Bans Gold Withdrawals

Allied-German Naval Battle Continues of Norway Coast

English Warships Force Way Into Harbor After Long Battle With German Fleet
Reich Cruiser Emden Reported Sunk

And a little closer to home:

WALL STREET: Markets Swayed by War News

Newsprint Prices Hold: Canada Furnishing Supply Cut Off From Scandinavia

Thankfully the local news was a bit more positive:

Journalism Classes of High School of Commerce Visited T-G Plant

South Worcester Branch Library Gets New Books

Layouts advertised that Sherer's department store was wrapping up its fur sale.  Furs regularly $119 to $189 were on sale for $55!  Teens could shop for saddle Oxfords at Barnard's for $4.19, while their parents ran over to Denholm's to check out new Hotpoint refrigerators for $114.95 on the 5th floor.  Brockelman's Worcester Market enticed shoppers with sales on pork and beans (3 for .22¢), a dozen eggs (.23¢), a peck of potatoes (.27¢), cube steak (.21¢ a pound) and two rye breads for .11¢!

In entertainment news Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, was held over at the Warner Theater.  The kiddos could look forward to Walt Disney's Pinocchio which was starting on Wednesday.

There was joy in Mudville!


When census enumerator, a Mr. William F. Foster, finished talking to the Samuel Alpert family at 27 Fairfax Rd. he knocked on my grandparent's door.  He was probably in a rush.  Or was he just careless?  In his haste he wrote down the wrong house number in column two on the census form. Mr. Foster also forgot to write down who answered the door. Was it my grandmother or my grandfather?  We'll never know.  Glenn Miller's In The Mood was the number one song on April 11, 1940.  Was it playing on the mahogany cabinet radio in the living room that day?  Mr. Foster quickly filled in the columns on the census form, eager to move on to the next house on his route.

Do you own or rent your home?  Own.  What is the value of home? $8,500.  What's your name? Adolf Szerejko? (Pause)  How do you spell that? Shzeregko, Adolth.  Age? 45.  Highest grade of school completed? Eighth.  Where were you born?  Poland.  Occupation?  Machinist. Industry? (Illegible.)  What was your residence on April 1, 1935?  Same place. Income in 1939?  $1456.  Who else lives here?  Anna.  Wife.  Age? 43. What is her highest grade of school completed? Eighth. What's her place of birth? Poland.  Occupation? None. Anyone else? Christine.  Daughter. Age? 18. Highest grade of school completed?  Four years of high school. Anyone else?  Coleen.  Daughter.  Age?  17.  Highest grade of school completed? Three years of high school.  Is that it?  Robert.  A son.  Ten.  Highest grade completed? Fourth.  I need to ask you a few supplemental questions. Name, again.  Szireko, Adolth.  Where was your father born?  Poland.  Where was your mother born?  Poland.  Mother tongue?  Polish.  Are you a veteran? No.  Social Security number?  Yes.  Usual occupation?  Machinist.  Usual industry?  (Illegible, again.).  Thanks for your time...

By New Year's Eve of that year much would change.  Mom would graduate from the High School of Commerce in June of 1940 and be attending Becker College by the fall of 1940.  My grandparents and their children would leave their old home and Vernon Hill behind to move to their new home on Grove St., to the neighborhood where my family would live for the next sixty years and to the house where I would later grow up.  By New Year's Eve Pearl Harbor would be less than a year away.  But no one knew it.  In November of 1941 Glenn Miller would still be playing on the mahogany cabinet radio, but life would be different.

Have you looked at the 1940 United States Census yet?  Push back the curtains, and take a look.  What do you see?  Is that Glenn Miller I hear playing on your living room radio?  I think it is...

A Note on Errors:  Much of the information on the 1940 United States Census record is either incomplete or wrong.  The house number is wrong.  The 1940 census lists the Szerejko family house as 33 Fairfax Rd.  The Szerejko family actually lived at 31 Fairfax Rd.  My grandfather's name looks as if it is spelled Adolth Shzeregko, and their daughter Helene's name is given as Coleen.   Also, the enumerator did not note who furnished the information  per the instructions (by circling an X) for my family, or for any of the people enumerated on the page.  In the "Supplementary Questions" section my grandfather's name is spelled Adolth Szireko, and he WAS a veteran of World War I.  "Industry" is illegible on both sections of the form.

Submitted for the 117th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

(This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Robert A. Szerejko (05 May 1929-04 May 2012).  He has joined his parents and sisters.  We will miss you.)

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