A Rose is a Rose Gladys



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Well, well, well…


The subject of “names” is a rather touchy one in some factions of the family…around here anyway.  I was named “Kathryn” as a political move.  I had enough Grandmothers on all sides with that name, in various spellings, and at various positions (first, middle, patron saint, baptismal) to make most of them happy.  I was not the first grandchild on either side of my family, but I was the first granddaughter on both sides!  Another of my illustrious firsts.

When I went to school, there were 7 little girls in 1st grade at Perry Elementary named Kathryn in some form or another.  So, probably, their families had the same sort of “thing” going on.  If this had been a big school, then Cathy, Kathy, Kathryn, Cathleen, Katherine, Katy, and other Kathryn would have been insignificant.  However, this was a farming community.  The schools were small.  The 4 feeder grade schools that lead to my high school produced a grand total of 265 in my senior class.  By the time we all converged in the spiffy new Middle School, I had lost count (and interest) in how many other girls had “my” name.

My brother though, had it a bit rougher with family names.  Ours is a long line of “traditional” men’s names.  The first born pretty much was going to be a Junior, and if not a Junior (or 3rd, or 4th) then perhaps would be named after the other Grandpa, or a middle name.  My brother didn’t get a chance at something modernish…like Scott or Brian… point of his birth, the options available were Frank, George, Earl, Henry/Harry or the scandal of picking a meaningless name out of the air…like Bobby.  They did not choose Bobby.

Darling Gramcracker, ever sensitive to my needs as an individual in this sea of Kathryns, gave me a unique and extended name to claim as my own.  Or, possibly, she told me this was my full name because she also had a wicked sense of humor and loved having me say it and seeing the reaction of strangers.

She crowned me:  Kathryn Elaine Martha Elizabeth Gladiolus Rose Mousy Get-Along Johnson.  Gramcracker always called me Goldie for short.

Until I got in trouble for “fibbing” in Kindergarten  I was convinced and unquestioning of my full name.  As a matter of fact, I wondered why the other kids had such common and plain middle names. Being “cut down” to the reality of Kathryn Elaine was a real bummer.

Surnames though, can be a whole different matter.  My Balkan grandparents brought their old country name along when they crossed the pond.  Those who I refer to as the Urbanski clan, are actually owners of an unspeakable (literally, no one can pronounce it) name which when translated from Slovene to English means “putrid smell.” With hopes that this was just another example of the family sense of humor, I quietly wondered if this wasn’t a joke.  I had visions of my “huddled masses” Granddad standing before the man at Ellis Island and when asked for his name…making a smart- assed remark back at him in Slovene~ only to be countered in hilarity by the immigrations agent who made it official.  No such luck.  The international white pages online lists a handful of families both here in the US and back in the Balkans living with the exact same surname…spelling and all.  No denying it.  Sigh (or would a “sniff” be a more accurate expression here?).

Sadly, they buckled to the mounting pressures of anti-German and anti-immigrant sentiments that swept our area around WWI and “Americanized” their name ~ neutralized it actually.  I see myself writing “sadly” but under my breath I am saying “thank God they changed it!” I can’t imagine writing that 5th grade report for school about my heraldry, and revealing to my prepubescent peer group that I was not the glamorous K.E.M.E.G.R.M.G. Johnson, but in fact Miss Kathryn Elaine Pukesmell.

Ask around your family, are there any naming patterns, revisions, or scandalous translations out there?  Maybe take a few minutes and run down one or two nicknames of relatives.  These can be as commonly used as Kassie for Kathryn, or as ornery as a brother who called a sister “Twin Piggies” for an entire lifetime…that’s another story :)

Uncle Joe



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   untitled-holytrinity According to Parish records from Holy Trinity Church, John and Mary Urbanski had 10 children.  Of  10, only 2 girls and 2 boys survived to adulthood. Francis, Joe, Annie and Mitz were born , christened,communed, confessed and confirmed as Urbanskis.  Suddenly, around 1915, they all became “Casters” an Americanized name, and a generic term describing John’s occupation at the time.    The ugliness of anti-German sentiment had overtaken people’s everyday lives and had crept  along the National Road  and deep into Indianapolis.  Suddenly, old street names like Germania were changed from German words and towns-names to  more “appropriately” American ones like Belmont Avenue.   Coinciding with the German hysteria, the KKK was recording its biggest membership surge since the days of the old South.  Thus being Catholic, being immigrants, sounding German (colloquially called Hunkies ) while speaking their Slovene native tongue all became rather lowly and dangerous.   Our  family was among many who changed their surname to blend in.  In those early years of the 20th century, being different or being “less” was both a social hindrance and potentially treacherous.

Mom note: somethings just never change…

Neighborhood assimilation centers were set up to help all children and adults learn to be more American and to turn their backs on the lives they had left behind in “the Old Country”. The Ku Klux Klan was deeply entrenched in the small counties ringing the big city of Indianapolis, and there was a simmering contempt for anyone or anything that may have been in allegiance with the Kaiser.

John and Mary were raising their children in between the country folk to the west, and the eastward cultured city dwellers just across the White River bridge. Considered West Indianapolis at one time, their small neighborhood was now called Haughville named after the metals manufacturers plant located there by Haugh Brothers in the 1880’s.    Soon Haugh’s foundry was joined by the modern refrigerated packing business Kingans and the immigrant workers flooded in to take the jobs and simple frame housing.  They had been recruited and imported from their bergs and villages in places like Slovenia, Serbia, and Croatia. That’s how the Urbanskis had come to Indianapolis and that’s how they earned their daily wage too.

 Grandmother Mary saved every penny she could spare to buy up boarding houses.  For years  the parlor floor in the family’s own house was  “bedded up” for newly arrived workers who needed temporary lodging.  They had taken the long transatlantic ocean liner trip, paid in full by “the Company”,  made a connection by train and found themselves in Haughville on John and Mary’s floor…working in the mill, or the packing house, renting a space on the floor to sleep on, and in turn,  saving every penny they didn’t drink to bring their families over too.

Joe wasn’t the oldest of the children, but he was probably the tallest at about 6′. He was athletic and tough,a simple and hard-working man who chain smoked and stirred cream and sugar into his coffee in ritualistic trance-like manner. He played bush league baseball and was the big hitter on Holy Trinity’s men’s team. When he was 18, Joe was drafted into the army. When his hitch was up he joined again to serve in the place of his brother who was about be wed. I often wonder if he didn’t rejoin just for something bigger to do than spend his life running gutted pig carcasses from the slaughter hooks into the cold lockers at Kingans. After all, being big and strong, that’s likely where he would be headed for life.

Note: he is the tallest in the center of the back row in the photo. 

I’ve heard a tale or two of Joe in his younger rougher days.  Especially one about him and some buddies getting into a fist fight with some men from “somewhere else” passing by the corner tavern. All was regular Saturday night fun, when one of the outsiders added a 2×4 into the fray and started swinging. In Haughville it was considered “off-limits” to use weapons in a fist fight…a real sign of ungentlemanly behavior.   By the time the cops arrived, the crowd had disbursed and a half-dozen guys were laid out neatly along the gutter.  Bloody and semi-conscience the “strangers” were helped to their feet and sent on their way back toward the bridge.  To the frustration of the officers,  the tavern was filled with only law-abiding citizens enjoying an evening out. As a matter of fact, they were all having such a lovely time singing and carrying on, none had even noticed a ruckus outside on the steps.  The interlopers never bothered to visit Haughville again… with or without their 2x4s .

 Joe discharged from the army after a couple of tours.  He had spent most of his time driving big supply trucks across the swampy roads of the Philippine islands.  Sometimes, at Grandpa’s he would start stirring his coffee and speaking about the giant black snakes… hundreds of them that would be all over the lonely roads at night when he was driving convoy.  He talked of how they must have needed the heat left in the road to warm their cold blood at night. Sometimes he described the thumping sounds of them hitting the bottom of the big trucks.  ” The sound never let up some nights, like all the snakes in the world were there in the Philippines.” I hung on every one of Joe’s words, and had the nightmares to prove it!

Headed home, Joe had saved up some money and following the wisdom of his  mother began buying rental properties.  He had small homes and duplexes and eventually bought a couple of small neighborhood apartment houses built-in the old style of shops below and rooms above.  One of the buildings was home to the laundry and dry cleaning store his sister Mitz ran.  Being in a good location (between the businessman’s downtown and the upscale homes of the Indianapolis old North Side) Mitz’s shop cleaned and starched clothing for local celebs and politicians.  After actress Frances Farmer was “treated” for her nervous breakdown (famously via a frontal lobotomy) she came to Indianapolis and hosted a television program on one of the local stations.  Aunt Mitz did the movie star’s alterations and cleaned her delicates for years from her shop in Uncle Joe’s building.  I’ve never been clear on whether it was Mitz or Joe who owned the business.  I would speculate that it was there when he bought the building and he let Mitz run it as a way to support herself.  I couldn’t even say whether or not she paid a dime in rent.  Uncle Joe rarely talked about such things

Joe kept all the rentals as his investments.  All of John and Mary’s kids were desperately frightened of being poor.  Saving money and saving stuff (anything that could some day be useful to someone in the family) was always top priority for them. But he also worked for the Indiana University Medical School as a night watchman until he retired.  A family joke (or maybe it was truer than others wanted to admit) went that Joe guarded the cadaver room for 30 years and didn’t have a clue what was in there.

I mostly remember him as generally very quiet and reclusive.  We saw him at Grandpa’s occasionally on weekends before he went in for a night shift.  He would pull into the drive in his massive dirty ivory Plymouth Fury. His car windows were legendarily coated in an amberish vaseline-thick goo from years of collected cigarette smoke.   If I saw him coming, I would run to the kitchen drawer where Grandpa kept Joe’s ashtray (it was like a beanbag on the bottom) and scurry to get a spoon out for his stirring.  I delighted in watching him swirl the pale sugary coffee and cream soup he made in his cup.  I listened to the funny old world way that he spoke (he held the accent and manner of speech of the old country that my Grandpa had worked so hard to erase from his own speech) and watched him punctuate sentences with his hands.  Uncle Joe also had the largest nose I had ever seen on a person.  It was just like Jimmy Durante…but since Jimmy was on tv and in movies he really didn’t count as a real person.  Uncle Joe had a real-live Schnazola that was mercifully never passed on to the next generation.

When he died years ago, it was as a “confirmed” bachelor.  He is buried at the Catholic Cemetery,but I do  not recall a mass for his funeral. After his retirement from the night watchman’s job, he really had little to do and fell into the staid habits of a reclusive old man.  He must have had a heart attack and died without much suffering.  He was found after lying dead alone in his home days later. Only his German Shepard dog was with him.

I think of him whenever I stir my coffee :)

Photo at top of page from the Holy Trinity Parish Diamond Jubilee celebration book:

Slaves To No One, written by James J. Divita

White Gloves and a Fight to the Death


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Oh we're going toward the light!!!

We’re going towards the “Light” in this one!  Do you ever have a dream sequence where you feel like a cross between ~ well~ let’s say Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones ?  

 I posted about my sister’s big-find Bonanza in a post named “Sis hits the Jackpot.”  My oh my, what a chord this one struck.  I have some requests out to various  academic, professional and highly opinionated experts to “chime in” on many of the points raised in the story.  Further inspired by the INCREDIBLE collection of Judy of http://www.Greatestgenerationlessons.wordpress.com I decided that I probably needed a new “category” on my blog.  One where we would have a center ring, and the “experts” could fight it out…

Maybe then we could find accurate and reliable answers to some of the conundrums we all experience.   This would be an on-going event so all would be free to throw any controversies in the middle for topic explorations and fisticuffs if need be.

One of the nagging conundrums that I wanted to address has to do with the fantasy and daydream tangents that I am prone to…

…I am busily engrossed in being the curator of my own little treasure trove of familial goodies.  In this delusion, I generally see myself dressed in a  Jessica McClintock frock mixed with a Ralph Lauren and Downton Abbey-esque “get up.”  I sip tea (though in real life I don’t really care for it much) and I peruse my hoard of treasures with my highly decorative, yet functional, magnifying glass.  I have special acid free wrappers and storage boxes.  A heady aroma of fresh cut Peonies and Lavender wafts in the air.  As an unspoken testament to my professionalism I wear white cotton curators’ gloves…wait…what?

I never see people wearing these on the History Channel…what gives?

If I am truly to be the caretaker of all this excellent family history and memorabilia, I really should have a clue how to properly handle and care for it…

So, off I went searching, and this fascinating article is what I found.  Now, in true Mom fashion ~ Truth be damned ~ I will continue to wear these gloves in my fantasy world…but the reason that real-live curators no-longer wear them sure does make sense.  Read on:

THE LINK BELOW IS THE UPDATED / REVISED ONE.  As Genealogy Lady pointed out, the originally posted link wasn’t working correctly…This is what I love about blog readers who care :)

http://archive.ifla.org/VI/4/news/ipnn37.pdf  please note this is a pdf link to the original document, you will have to scroll to page #4 to read it.  The authors seem pretty legit.  However, since this subject has stirred it’s own bit of “choosin’ sides” I will continue to research it and let everyone know.  I think I’ll do some face to face interviews instead of believing that everyone on the internet is a french model.  

Meanwhile, if you would like to learn the ways of Jessica McClintock and her fabulous world and lifestyle check out her book “Simply Romantic Decorating ~ Creating  Elegance and Intimacy Throughout Your Home” by Jessica Mc Clintock and Karen Kelly

Since I already own a copy of that book and have Ralph’s website “favorited” on my desktop, I will be trolling ebay and Amazon for real white cotton curator’s gloves and maybe some more “fancy” ones…wonder if I can type in those babies?


Thanks to OldDesignShop dot com for this inspiring and authentic Lady’s Fashion sketch from a 1915 holding in her collection

Some of you who have been hanging around with Mom for a while may recognize this revised edition of a post originally added a while back.  As I am working this month to categorize and organize all the info to make the site more user friendly, I am also “resurrecting” some of the oldies but goodies



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