Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Well, it’s that time of year when folks make New Year’s r
esolutions and we genealogy bloggers are busy making our lists.

So here’s mine.

One, to break that John Cutter West brick wall.

Two, to spend more time on my maternal line. I’ve found so
much lately about Dad’s side of the family that I feel like I’ve
neglected the Whites and McFarlands. So I’ll research more and
blog more about them and try to break down those brick walls
as well.

Three, to get my files better organized and correctly cite my

Four, try to make it out to Ohio some time next year to visit
with my Aunt Dorothy and my cousins, including Diana and

Five, try to get OUT to do research at the BPL main branch, the
NEGHS, the Massachusetts State Archives and the Hingham
Family Search Center.

Six, get all the pictures scanned. I am considering rearranging
my work station. At present, the printer is on the top shelf and
getting up and down to place or remove pictures may be good for
my health but it sure slows down the process. I may swap the
printer/scanner with the cpu.

Seven, come up with more genealogy related uses for flutaphones!

So, we’ll see how well I’ve done by next New Years!


I’m getting spoiled! Another day of sleeping in late.

So as I usually do on days off, I started the day with breakfast at
the computer and browsed the genealogy blogs, but I think many
are taking the holidays off or have been rendered hors d’ combat
aftertheir Christmas celebrations!

The weekly NEGHS enews email had a link to a story in the
Boston Globe concerning the naming of the John Alden House
Historic Site as a national historic landmark.

Then I tried googling a few family members and found a few
bits of information at two sites others with Maine relatives might
not know about.

First, at the Andover, Maine website I found the obituary of 2x
great granduncle Asa Atwood West and then a transcription of
his family gravestone at the Old Woodlawn Cemetery in Andover.

Then I found a site with an 1840 Census of Pensioners
Revolutionary or Military Services and found among others
Benjamin Barker, the brother of my ancestor Jonathan Barker,
was living with Moses Coburn, Jr, the son of my ancestor
Moses Coburn, another war veteran. The younger Moses
Coburn was married to a Hannah Barker but I’m not sure as yet
if she was a daughter of Benjamin or a niece.

So it was a productive cup of coffee, at least genealogy wise!


Well, Christmas is over and calm settles upon the land.

Or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. More like exhaustion?

I worked at the bookstore from 9 to 6 Christmas Eve and then
went to my sister’s house after a quick stop here at the hobbit
hole to pick up the gifts. The adults all got gift cards and my two
youngest nephews got radio controlled cars and a transformer
type toy each, but my two older nephews had so much fun
assembling them I might have to get them some too next year!

My sister and my brother in law Pete gave me a digital camera
and once I get the controls figured out there’ll be more pictures

Dinner was the traditional lasagna, meatballs, and salad with
pastries for dessert and enough other munchies to fill us up and
make me sleepy. So I left at 10:30 for the drive home and
eventually found my way to bed.

Today…well… I think I was more tired than I thought. I slept
into the mid afternoon and woke with a stuffed up nose. There’s
been a cold going around at work, so I decided to just stay in
here today and relax. I have the next two days off from work as
well as part of my usual work schedule so hopefully by Friday
I’ll have licked this. I surfed the web a little to see what I might
buy with the gift cards I got as presents and then did a little
genealogy work, copying some files from my PAF5 file to the
Family Tree Legends file and doing some editing in the process.

Anyway, I hope everyone reading this has had a quiet, peaceful
and wonderful holiday!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Christmas Eve was sometimes hectic in our family, especially
those years when we lived in Dorchester, because Mom and Dad
would drive around to Mom’s cousins’ houses to drop off gifts for
the kids. Sometimes my sister and I went along but as we got
older and more responsible we’d stay home while the gifts run
was made.

Then there where Christmas Eves where we were all home
and spent the night wrapping presents for each other or other
relatives. I think I liked those quieter nights best.

The past two decades or so Christmas Eve is spent at my sister
and brother-in-law’s house. Gifts are given out and opened and
my sister’s youngest son Mike(now in his twenties) often ends
up with the handing out the gifts duties since he’s the youngest
family member. Then there’s food served buffet style. At that
point, I am just trying to stay awake because I’ve been dealing
with the last minute shoppers at the store all day and a good
meal on top of that makes me want to take a nap. And next
day I go back over for dinner.

All in all Christmas Eves over the years have been good ones,
sometimes saddened by losses of loved ones but we all enjoy
being together and relaxing after the end of the Christmas rush.

This post was written for Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar
of Christmas Memories over at destination:Austin Family. Be
sure to go over there and check out the links to other posts
from my fellow genealogy bloggers!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Janice over at Cow Hampshire has up funny videos starring some
of the genealogy blogging community. I’m in the middle of a
snowball fight with Janice, Terry from Hill Country of Monroe
County Mississippi
, and fM of Footnote Maven. Three other
videos feature more geneabloggers, so go on over and check
them out and have a good laugh!


Every Christmas Mom would break out the Andy Williams
Christmas Album to play on the stereo. There was also a Nat
King Cole album and a Mitch Miller “Sing Along With Mitch”
Christmas edition. But for me, even rock and roll dinosaur
that I am, it’s the Andy Williams album that “feels” like
Christmas to me.

As I’ve gotten older and my musical tastes expanded, I find
myself listening to New Age and Celtic Christmas music. And
Josh Groban just put out a holiday album that we’ve played at
the bookstore since Thanksgiving and it’s easy on the ears.

As for caroling, well, there are some things that one should
never do in public and in my case, singing is one of them!

This post was written for Thomas MacEntee's Advent
Calendar of Christmas Memories over at destination:Austin
Family on the topic of Christmas Music.

Be sure to go over there and check out the links to other posts
from my fellow genealogy bloggers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


The 38th Carnival of Genealogy is up over at Jasia’s Creative
Gene blog and the topic is Y2k. Between the Cog and Tom
MacEntee’s Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories at
Destination: Austin Family there’s a lot of good reading out
there from my fellow genealogy bloggers. I’m falling behind on
reading all the ACCM posts but luckily the Christmas season in
my family when I was a kid lasted through January, so I can
catch up with it all!

I’ve been made part of footnoteMaven’s Choir of GeneaAngels
over on her blog. I’m amazed by the things we can do with
computers these days and I’m honored to be included
with such an interesting group of people.

Meanwhile, back in the genealogy forest of family trees, I’m doing
a bit of research for a follow up about Camp Devens and the
influenza outbreak. I’ve been backing up my PAF file and
other documents to that flash drive I purchased and I brought it
to work the other day where it’s now stored in my locker. I also
share whatever I find with relatives and here in my blog
since it’s not just my genealogy, it’s theirs as well!


My earlier post was on the Enlistment document of my
grandfather Floyd Earl West Sr. Thanks to my Aunt Dot I have
a copy of it and also his Discharge. The second line with his rank
is smudged but by holding the paper up before a light I could
make out most of the writing. Also, I’m not sure if the
commandant’s last name is correct but it is the best guess I
could come up with in trying to read it.

I’m grateful my to Aunt Dot for giving me these copies and for
all the other items she’s sent along! I don’t know how difficult it
might be to obtain these elsewhere, but the information on them
is invaluable to someone researching their family history and

In my grandfather’s case, I googled the “Camp Devens” (which
eventually became Fort Devens) and then looked at the dates
on Pop’s papers. That along with the email that Pop had
contracted double pneumonia during his enlistment, told me
that he’d been at Camp Devens during an outbreak of the
Spanish Influenza in the fall of 1918. Quite probably he became
ill because of his duties as a hospital orderly during that time.

I’ll have more on that later.

“Honorable Discharge from the United States Army
This is to certify that Floyd E. West
Private First Class Hospital Detachment

DISCHARGED from the military service of the United States by
reason of Pursuant to W. D. Cir.I77 A.G. O. Nov.21/1918.

Said Floyd E. West was born in South Paris, in the State of
Maine. When enlisted he was 25 years of age and by occupation
a Farmer. He had Blue eyes, Brown hair, Medium complexion,
and was 5 feet 5 1/2 inches in height.

Given under my hand at Camp Devens Mass. this twelfth day of
March, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen.
A. O. Davis(?)
Lt. Col. M.C. U.S.A.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I mentioned back in July that Aunt Dot and I exchanged some
family research at my nephew Paul’s wedding. One of the items
she gave me was her childhood memories of my Dad. Another
item was a photocopy of my Grandfather West’s WW1 discharge
and his enlistment record as shown above.

I think the two papers were folded together which would explain
the dark lines across the pages. In the transcription below, I’ve
put a question mark after any entry I’m not certain about. I’ve
also italicized the handwritten information.

I received an email from my cousin Diana tonight as I was typing
this and in it she passed along information from Aunt Dot that
Pop was an orderly at the Camp Devens base hospital, that he
was only in for a short period before contracting double
pneumonia and that he was shipped home after his recovery.

I’ll have more to say on that after I’ve posted the transcription
of his discharge form.

In my reply to Diana, I remarked that today I realized that
between the service records and the memoir that Aunt Dot
gave me earlier this year I have learned more about Pop than
I ever knew before, and much more than I know about my
other grandfather!

Name: West, Floyd E. #2722093 Grade: Private First Class

Enlisted, or Inducted, Apr.29, 1918 , at So. Paris, Me.

Serving in First enlistment period at date of discharge.

Prior service:* none

Noncommissioned officer: none(?)

Marksmanship, gunner qualification or rating: not armed

Horsemanship: not mounted(?)

Battles, engagements, skirmishes, expeditions: (left blank)

Knowledge of any vocation: Farmer

Wounds received in service: none

Physical condition when discharged: Good

Typhoid prophylaxis completed: ---------------

Paratyphoid prophylaxis completed: June 27/18

Married or single : Single

Character: Excellent

Remarks: No A.W.O.L. or absences under G.O. 45/1914.
This soldier entitled to travel pay.

Signature of soldier: Floyd E. West

John Burnette (?)
1st St. M.C. U.S.A.
Commanding Detachment


It’s been a long time since the last time my Christmas stocking
was hung up for Santa.

When I was small we didn’t have a fireplace so I’m not sure
where we hung them. Perhaps stuck to a doorframe with
thumbtacks? Although one year we had a cardboard red brick
light-up fireplace that I hadn’t thought about in years until just
now. And on Capen St. in Dorchester I think we hung them on
the “windowsill” of the wall mural my Dad made. Mom picked
out some large picture of Cypress Gardens and it was hung on
the wall, framed by a wooden fake picture window frame so it
looked as if you were looking out at all those flowers!

The house in Abington had a real fireplace (and a real picture
window) so the stockings were hung by the chimney, etc. and a
new one was added for my kid brother. A year or so after that
we hung one for the pets as well. But over the years as we
moved one place or another there would be Christmases where
no stockings were hung at all when we couldn’t figure out which
box they’d been packed away in.

As for what was inside, as I mentioned once before, there was
one year I got a lump of coal, but for the most part it would be
candy canes and an orange or apple. One year there was the new
wristwatch my folks bought me.

I’m not sure where those stockings are these days. My best guess
is that they are downstairs in my storage bin packed away with
the few Christmas tree ornaments that have survived!

This post was written for Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar
of Christmas Memories over at destination:Austin Family
Be sure to go over there and check out the links to other posts
from my fellow genealogy bloggers!


Here’s the other two parts of my grandfather Floyd E. West Sr.’s
WW1 furlough papers for Nov.30th-Dec 10th, 1918 to visit his
family back up in Upton, Maine. Pop was a good soldier. He was
back in Camp Devens by Dec. 8th!

This document confirms what I’d been told by my folks about
Pop serving in some sort of capacity in a military base hospital.
If I’m reading it correctly, it says he held the rank of Private
First Class detached at the Medical Department at the Fort
Devens Base Hospital.

Never having been in the military myself, I don’t know if the
forms have changed much over the years but I’ve never seen a
reference to furlough papers in genealogy books and certainly not
of any from WW1.

Of course, I don’t imagine many would have survived. After all,
it was just paperwork. It was the furlough itself, the time away
from camp that was spent in relaxation or in visiting your loved
ones that was the most important thing to a soldier!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


These are images of the WWI furlough papers issued to my
grandfather, Floyd E. West Sr. that were sent to me from my
Aunt (Dot)Dorothy and Cousin Diana. I'll have more to say
about them after I post the second part tomorrow night.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


As I mentioned in an earlier post, I once worked several years
for a New England based toy store chain. At the end of the
Christmas Party my first year there(this would be the year before
the incident with the car and the tractor trailer box)I was called
into the warehouse office and told that they didn’t need me there
after the holiday but they could use me at the Dedham
warehouse where they stored all the returned damaged toys.

So the week after Christmas I found myself in a small warehouse
amidst stacks of Chatty Kathy’s and See and Say’s and Barbie
dolls. Sleds that just needed to have a screw or bolt replaced
were broken up with sledge hammers.

It seemed like such a waste when I found out the other toys
would be returned to the toy company for credit. Couldn’t they
be repaired and given to kids?

No, I was told. I won’t tell you the reason I was given because it’s
pretty disgusting but given the nature of retail it’s not surprising.

So I went from being a Santa’s helper to being the Grinch’s

Eventually I was sent back to the main warehouse. A year later I
left the company and found another job.

And the toy store chain? It went out of business a year or so

I like to think of that as a cosmic lump of coal in their corporate


Ah, fruitcake! The food. The Myth. The Legend.

We’ve never had any of the perpetual fruitcakes hanging about
for weeks or months in our family. We’re a practical bunch. If it
tastes good, we eat it. If it doesn’t, well, out it goes!

I have however invented a mythical fruitcake named Margaret.

Like distant cousin Tim Abbot over at Walking the Berkshires I
have been a role-player for years although mine has been online
instead of tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. One of my characters
is an eccentric Scotsman and last Christmas he gave another
character Margaret the Fruitcake as a Christmas gift.

It seems it was baked by a female relative who passed away
while doing so and the Scotsman believes (he says) that her spirit
inhabits her final fruitcake. Margaret has been exchanged
between family members each Christmas but last year it was
given to a young squire. Various adventures ensued including a
jailbreak where Margaret was used as a weapon and the
disappearance of the haunted fruitcake sometime around

Yeah, I know.

I’m nutty as a fruitcake

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories
at Thomas MacEntee's Destination:Austin Family.Visit it for
links to the Christmas memories of other genealogy bloggers!


Randy Seaver’s post about the databases at the LDS Family
Search Record Search site prompted me to make a return trip
over there. I ran searches on the names of a few relatives and
came up with images from the 1900 census for Asa Ellingwood,
Frank Barker, Amos Hastings Barker and John Phelps West and
their families.

I also came up with two errors, one correctable, the other not.

The first one is the correctable one. I originally searched for my
great grandfather Philip Jonathan West and when I found the
index entry for him it listed his father as a “Jonathan D. West”.
Looking at the image of the census page I can understand how
that “P” could be mistaken for a “D”. So I clicked on the Feedback
tab and sent an email to the FamilySearch Lab to point at the
mistake and explain how I knew it should read “Jonathan P.
West”. I also thanked them for making it possible for me to even
see that image!

The other error…well, this is something that can’t be fixed and
it certainly isn’t the fault of Family Search. I think it instead
might be my ancestor Asa Freeman(or Freeland) Ellingwood
playing some some sort of prank.

You see, on the 1900 Census he gives his father’s birthplace as
England. Since it’s pretty well documented that John Ellingwood
Jr. was born in Maine I can only guess as to how or why “England”
would be entered.Perhaps Asa was tired of answering questions
and made that answer up to see if the census taker would accept

At any rate, it’s there on the census to confound his descendants
and creat a genealogy mystery!


footnoteMaven started a round of blog caroling so I thought
I'd be the first genealogy blogger (I hope) to take up the

Here's one of my favorites:

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Back in the 1980’s I began thinking about the approaching
millennium. It was cool that barring the unforeseen I was going
to enter a new century with my family. I wondered what it would
feel like, what we’d all be doing when 1999 left and 2000 began.

By the end of 1999, all I wanted was for that year and century to
be done and gone. 1999 has to have been the worst year of my
life so far.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer and was gone by mid-year.

The bookstore chain I worked went out of business and the
store I managed closed within a few weeks of my mother’s death.
I can’t recall if it was before or after because compared to Mom
the store was insignificant.

I had to find a new job and move to a new apartment. I took a
position with a video store chain and between working and
moving managed to put myself in the hospital for 2 days. By the
end of the year it was becoming clear the job had been a mistake
and I would leave it by the following February.

The apartment hunting turned out better than the job hunting
and I’ve been here for 8 years now.

As New Years Eve drew closer I worried over whether my
computer was going to survive. My online friend Diana was also
my computer guru and helped me find and install a patch that
was supposed to help.

I’ve had to work on New Years Day for many years so I spent
the night before the usual way. I stayed home and counted down
the clock with the tv on and chatting online with friends. Midnight
came, the century turned and both civilization and my computer
continued to function. Either I called my sister or she called me,
we exchanged “Happy New Years!” and after I waited up to see
in the Millennium with Diana(she lived in Missouri at the time) I
went to bed and then got up for work the next day. This
will be the first New Year in ten years without that vigil with

So, the worst year of my life ended and I did what millions of
people all around the world do when faced with hard times.

I got on with my life.


As far as I can recall, none of the family ever attended a
professional entertainment event during the holidays.

I’m sure there were school events for my sister and brother but
the only one I recall that I was involved in was in the first or
second grade. It was some sort of Christmas lights event at the
Linden Elementary School in Malden that was held outside the
main entrance at night. We sang carols and yes, played some on
our flutaphones.

The next year we had moved to Dorchester and I was at the
Frank V. Thompson School. I don’t remember any holiday shows
there and I certainly didn’t go around playing a flutaphone in
that neighborhood!

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories
at Thomas MacEntee's Destination:Austin Family.Visit it for
links to the Christmas memories of other genealogy bloggers!


Alright, as promised, here's the article about my 3x great grandfather
John Cutter West and two friends being lost in the woods. Double
click on the image to enlarge it to read.


I had to take a break from the Advent Calendar of Christmas
Memories Carnival because to be completely honest, I didn’t
have anything to post. Our family didn’t have the wherewithal to
take Christmas vacations or trips. In later years my folks
were active in the VFW and often visited the vets at the Brockton
V.A. Hospital but my younger brother Phil was the only one of us
kids who ever went along with them. My entry for the next topic
will be short but there will be others after that which hopefully
will have a bit more substance to them.

Meanwhile, I found a nice surprise in my mailbox tonight when I
got home from work, a large manila envelope from my cousin
Diana out in Ohio. She and her Mom, my Aunt Dorothy (or Dot),
sent along some copies of things I haven’t seen before:

Copies of the Family Births, Death, and Marriages recorded in the
bible of my ancestress, Louisa Almata(Richardson) West.

Copies of WW1 furlough papers issued to my grandfather, Floyd
E. West, Sr.

A copy of a document granting my grandfather “permission to
hunt and trap fur-bearing animals” on land owned by David
Pingree and the estate of David Upham Coe. It is dated October
8, 1925 .

A copy of a newspaper clipping of an article from the Oxford
County Advertiser dated Friday February 8,1905 entitled “The
Value of A Compass”. It tells the story of how Enoch Abbott,
Joseph Chase, and John West(my 3x great grandfather John
Cutter West) became lost in the woods and how John West used
his head to find shelter in 1845.

I’ll be scanning (and making back up copies of all of these) and sharing
them here soon!

Saturday, December 08, 2007


It’s funny how some Christmas memories fade and some endure,
especially when it comes to gifts.

We weren’t poor but we weren’t exactly well off either when I
was young. Santa’s gifts were often determined by budget
concerns but he always managed to leave us clothes and some
toys. (although one year I got a note with the other gifts:
“Dear Bill, I owe you one telescope. Santa Claus”)

Ads for a forthcoming movie bring back more memories. One
Christmas eve my sister and I could hear the Alvin and the
Chipmunks “Christmas Song” play over and over while our
parents laughed. When we asked why the song kept playing we
were told it was the radio and to get to sleep before Santa came.
(of course by now I already knew the Awful Truth). It turned
out Santa had left us a portable record player along with a copy
of the record!

I still have the gift my sister gave me one year: a wooden chess
set, the kind that doubles as a box to hold the chessmen. It’s
over thirty years old now.

As I grew older I learned that giving gifts was as much fun as
getting them. We didn’t have a color tv so one year when I was
working at the toy warehouse I put a portable Magnavox color
tv on layaway and gave it to my folks for Christmas. That tv lasted
for years, even after my folks got a larger console set. It migrated
from bedroom to bedroom passing from my kid brother to my
sister’s kids back to my brother’s kids until it finally gave up the

And then last year, I got a gift from a group of great friends, the
computer that I’m using right now to preserve these memories.

Oh, yeah! I got the telescope!

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories
at Thomas MacEntee's Destination:Austin Family.Visit it for
links to the Christmas memories of other genealogy bloggers!


I don’t recall many holiday parties from my earlier childhood. In
our family folks were too busy working or shopping at Christmas
time. And when we lived in Dorchester the apartments weren’t
really big enough to hold large parties in, although there might
have been one or two. If so, they would have followed the rules of
other adult parties my folks had: after saying hello to the adults,
my sister and I would be sent off to our beds to eventually fall
asleep while listening to the adults in the other room laughing
at Rusty Warren records. We wondered what "roll me over
in the clover" meant.

As an adult, most of my Christmas party experience has been at
work, including one at a now defunct toy chain warehouse(more
on that job later) when I was in my early twenties. It snowed
when I left for home, my car at the time was an Olds 98 and
being in a hurry to get home, I didn’t completely clean the rear
windshield. I backed up, turning the car around….

….and smashed my rear windshield by backing the car up under
a tractor trailer box front end as if it were a big rig hooking up.

The good news was, my Dad worked in the auto glass repair

The bad news was I had to call him and tell him what I’d done.

It was an …umm…interesting conversation.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories
at Thomas MacEntee's Destination:Austin Family. Visit it for
links to the Christmas memories of other genealogy bloggers!

Friday, December 07, 2007


This post is for the Christmas Advent Calendar of Memories at
Tom's Destination:Austin Family and it's about Christmas cookies.

My Mom was a working mother for much of her life so she wasn’t
one for major cooking projects except on weekends. Except for a
few times cookies were created with the help of the Pillsbury
Dough Boy although I do recall some forays into Christmas tree
shaped sugar cookies.

Cookies at Christmas time usually meant the Italian cookies
served at my aunt Emily’s with that light frosting and the red and
green sprinkles. As an adult I buy them at the supermarket only
around this time of year.

But while my mom wasn’t really into cookie baking, she did like to
make coffee cake and sponge cakes. And when we were living in
Dorchester she learned how to bake mundel bread from our
Jewish neighbors. She also made cupcakes and cornbread.

There was one other dessert dish Mom made and I’m not sure
if it was something that her mom Aggie had done during the
Depression. Mom would send me down the street to the store
on Milton Ave to buy a box of Jiffy Bake Mix and she’d make
biscuits, then would top them with strawberries and whipped
cream. I didn’t care for the taste of the biscuit so I’d make sure
the strawberries had really soaked it before I ate it!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


As you can see from the picture I posted earlier, I had a very
formal relationship with Santa. No laps for me. A simple solemn
pose would do, thank you, for the photo-op.

Formal attire was also worn when visiting Santa’s Village up in
New Hampshire. A sports jacket was de rigeur for the feeding of
reindeer but one was allowed to be more casual when posing with
the sled and full team. The girls are my cousin Terry and my
sister Cheryl.

Actually, I think we might have been there on a Sunday. We’d
have attended Mass in Berlin and probably continued on home
with a stop to visit the Village.

But by the time those pictures were taken, I’d fallen from grace.
Yes, I no longer believed in Santa Claus. I’m not sure how I
figured it out but I do know I must have been around six or seven
years old because we were still living in Malden in the two family
house that my folks and my aunt and uncle co-owned. I know this
because when I found out there was no Santa Claus, I shared my
knowledge and heard about it for years afterwards.

Yes, I told my cousins who lived downstairs. I think that was the
year I got a lump of coal in my stocking (but there were still
presents under the tree.)

I’m not sure if I told my sister the awful truth later or if she
found out some other way. I do know I didn’t tell my kid brother.
After all, I was an adult by then and I had a greater appreciation
for what Santa meant to little kids by then!

But there it is.

I squealed on Santa.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories
at Thomas MacEntee's Destination:Austin Family. Visit it for
links to the Christmas memories of other genealogy bloggers!


...these are the rules I'd make.

Christmas sales and advertising would be banned until the day
before Thanksgiving.

BlackFriday would start at 9am local time sharp. No midnight
madness. No lines at store doors at dawn. People would instead
spend more time at home with their families and store personnel
would not have to leave Thanksgiving gatherings early because
they need to go prep the store for opening.

Shoppers would behave in a mature, civilized and orderly fashion.
If the store has run out of some item the shoppers would not
treat the salespeople as if they have suddenly become the spawn
of Satan but instead would move on to the next items on their
shopping list.

No national chain stores open on Christmas Day. Christmas is
Christmas, period. Forget about sales for one day and let your
employees enjoy the day with their families. Mom & Pop stores
can open but half the day only so that folks who run out of milk or
butter can get some quickly and easily.

People would hold doors open for other shoppers and give up
their bus seats to senior citizens. Young children would not throw
temper tantrums and older children would not curse at their

Everyone would have someplace to go to and someone to be with
on Christmas Day. No one would be alone and no one would be
cold or hungry.

Drunk drivers would be unable to start their cars and so have to
take cabs or other means of transportation.

All our Armed Forces would be home to safely celebrate the
holidays with their loved ones.

There’s much more that could be added, I’m sure. But I’d be
happy with these for starters.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


My family was fortunate in that we never lived in the sort of place
where Christmas outdoor decorations becomes a blood sport.
Yes, people strung lights in their shrubbery or along their house
gutters but there was never anyone determined to turn their
front yard into the Norh Pole’s Southern Branch Office.

Now for light shows back then you went to someplace religious,
like Our Lady of La Sallette Shrine in North Attleboro or the local
cemetery with it’s entrance lit up, or even just cruised a stretch
of highway to look at the neighborhood lights that might be seen
from a distance as you drove by.

We didn’t really have outside lights ourselves until we left Boston
for Abington. Up until then the only lights other than on our
Christmas tree were the electric candles we put on windowsills.
But at the house Dad did the obligatory shrubbery and gutter
displays as well as one other spot: the apple tree in the front yard.

Dad had experience both with wiring and tree climbing so putting
a string of lights up in a small apple tree was a piece of cake. It
was the taking down part that didn’t seem to work at least for
the tree. One year, long after the other outside lights were down
and packed away, the lights still were hanging in the apple tree.
I’m not sure exactly when he took them down but I do know it
was well after Spring had sprung. I think they were even plugged
in once or two nights. I don’t know the reasons why they were
still there: my Dad’s sense of humor, perhaps? Or maybe an
instance where Dad’s Maine stubbornness and the Irish
stubbornness of my Mom brought about some impasse on the issue?

On my way home the other night from work I noticed at least
three of those large hot air snow globe scenes on front lawns.

Those families must have big electricity bills!

Sunday, December 02, 2007


The astute reader will have noted that the previous two posts
deal with Christmas memories and this post will as well. That’s
because I’m one of many genealogy bloggers taking part in
Thomas MacEntee’s Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories
at his Destination: Austin Family blog.
There’s a lot of great posts so take a look and enjoy!

Today’s topic is Christmas cards.

I don’t get a lot of Christmas cards, mostly because I don’t send
out a lot myself to begin with. I get some from the family and a
few from friends but since I’m not much of a social animal there’s
no more than perhaps a half dozen each year sitting atop my tv.

In years past the amount of umm…cardage…fluctuated. When I
was a kid there were a lot of cards, usually taped to the
doorframes much the same way that Terry’s Mom did at their
house or sitting atop tables.

When we moved to Abington they were displayed across the
mantel piece or taped around the edges of the mirror above it.
The years when my folks were actively involved in the VFW
brought the highest number of season’s greetings. Mom would
spend a few hours herself signing and addressing cards to be
sent out. But as she and her generation of family and friends
grew older the flood of Christmas cards dwindled. Several years
Mom even had some unused cards left when she finished.

I tend not to like sending “mushy” cards so I usually try to find
something funny. Although this year I may be giving people a
look at a certain dancing elf via e-mail!


When I was a kid the holiday dinners rotated between our place
and my Uncle Ed’s and Aunt Emily’s. If Thanksgiving was at our
house, then Christmas would be at theirs. Since Emily is Italian
the holiday had an extra element for the dinner. We’d eat all the
traditional food: turkey, stuffing, veggies, and then after that was
cleared, Aunt Emily’s mom Nonnie Cappadano would bring out
the Italian food: lasagna, meatballs, stuffed sausages, and other
great dishes. To this day at Thanksgiving there is usually lasagna
served along with the turkey and I had leftovers of both sent
home with me here afterwards.

Since we now usually gather at my sister’s for Christmas Eve to
open gifts and eat, the food is a bit less formal, sometimes buffet
style with meatballs, cold cuts, and salad. Then Christmas Day
comes another big meal.

And that’s how an Irish Catholic family eats a lot of Italian at
holiday time.

In Nonnie’s words…“Manga!”