Showing posts with label Uncle John. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Uncle John. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Uncle John's wallet

Aunt Jinx and Uncle John in 1974
In 2009 after Aunt Jinx died and we had her home to clear and sell, we found Uncle John's last wallet.  He died in 1994 but as I have mentioned before, my family were the original savers, recyclers and never tossed anything that "you just might need to use someday."  The wallet, a magnificent  tooled leather piece, was still usable, so no way would it be discarded.  What is perhaps more comical is that we merely had it shipped to MN in the drawer of the antique dresser where it resided.  Uncle John's wallet is still there today along with my Granpap Teofil's wallet and several others. that Jinx saved.  To the mix, I have added a few of my purse style wallets and check book holders that I no longer use but, well, true to my genes, "might want it someday." 

Wallets in the drawer
Surely, "maybe someone will need a wallet someday and these are all like new."  The way things are going, if  our government keeps taxing us and taking our money, maybe wallets will become the next rare collectibles, antiques.  I am almost at that point myself, regarding a wallet as an antique.  I  seldom carry cash, only a few dollars that fit neatly into a small what used to be a "coin purse" into which I can slip my driver's license and ATM/debit card.   I don"t like the purse size wallets that hold  checkbook and all the cards.  I do not carry a checkbook with me at all; who needs that when we have our debit card?  Who writes checks?  We write few now a days.  We do most of our bill paying direct on line and Jerry, still a man with cash, withdraws and spends his money while there is nothing I need that will not be bought with debit card.  When we travel I do tote that along, but it has become passe.  I don't even like to carry much of a purse and find around home less and less need to, so I have a very small shoulder sling, although I do own a wide collection of purses too.  But this is about wallets, and this one of Uncle John's.

Uncle John's last wallet
I can visualize people in  2112 sitting wherever their congregating places might be and discussing this, (if they are still talking then and not texting each other or sticking their fingers in the air and merely exchanging brain waves), "Wow, you have a wallet!  Let me see that!"  To which another would comment, "A wallet---what was that?  What did they do with such things?"  And the eldest in the group might say, "I have read that once men and women carried wallets in which they kept their money and credit cards.." "Money?"  and to all this exchange of wonder, my future descendants could say, "I got this from the estate of my great great Aunt Pat who said it belonged to her uncle who died in 1994, that makes this wallet at least 118 years old.  It is made of something they called leather and the men carried them in their pockets."   Concepts like wallets, money, and even credit cards will be ancient to them and maybe they will not even know what a pocket is.  After all if one has nothing to carry along but an implanted earbud plugged in why would clothing have pockets?  You can continue this conversation along in your imagination and perhaps I am on the breaking edge of a new short story.  But all this thought comes from Uncle John's Wallet.

Somehing else was saved in his wallet that I have been waiting for the appropriate time to share here on the blog.  This is a newspaper clipping from what was the Daily Dispatch in my old hometown of New Kensington, PA in 1951.  Neither the gentleman nor the boy were identified.  I know it was none of my family because of the ages.  Uncle John may have known  the culprits or more likely he  found this amusing.  We laughed at this and thought of several things, first that the man is referred to as "elderly."  Really?  Hey that's not that old! And that would not have been so easily resolved today--the parents would have been litigious and so it would have gone.  But here is the 1951 newspaper clipping--say, that's another thing that is going the way of the wild goose, printed newspapers.  Many of us read online and no longer subscribe to home delivery.  We are hold outs here because Jerry likes the morning paper, sparse as it is, with his morning coffee, but I confess to going online and some days never touching the paper.  Nevertheless, here is what happened in 1951 in Arnold, PA. 

And all this is brought to you today courtesy of Uncle John's wallet in the antique dresser. 
Upper right drawer hold wallets
This dresser came from England and was owned by John's grandfather, the wealthy John R Irwin.  It is stunning and one of four huge heavy pieces to that bedroom set. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sepia Saturday 93 sleepers

I've been really attempting to get the extra room uncluttered from all the stacks of photos and memorabilia this week and what I happened on fits right in with the theme--I love it when a theme comes together!  Actually if I  spent more time rummaging photos I am sure I could have found even more Sleepers. And this has also distracted me from another task paper work on financials, but I am willingly ignoring that.  Not a pleasant task these days.  


First I begin  January 1, 1943, Springfield IL, my father, Lt. Lewis S Ball,  pilot, sound asleep on his US Army cot, sleeping bag  pulled snug, with Mom's photo on top;  one of the guys grabbed his camera and took this.  I still have that 8 x 10  photo of her today, it survived through the years and is a beautiful Sepia itself.  I also have the gold and amethyst necklace that she is wearing in the photo, a gift from him to her, her birthstone and just as beautiful today as it was then, so many years later.  This photo is   in his scrapbook but I scanned it for this post. This is my oldest sleeper photo.


Next forward to 1969 and my uncle John Irwin, asleep on the couch, in exile from the bedroom,  in Pennsylvania.  I don't know the particulars but my aunt Virginia likely snapped this Polaroid of her  wayward husband to preserve the memory. On the back side she wrote, "John  being punished." He doesn't appear to be bothered by much here.  Perhaps he'd imbibed a few too many,  perhaps there were too many words exchanged, never the less it does not appear to be interrupting his sleep. 


Now to the right is a 1980 pose captured by my Uncle Carl of "Joe" one of his friends on one of their many hunting trips, where the men gathered in a cabin at the end of the day.  I don't know  who this fellow is, but Uncle Carl was quite the photographer of their events and so he is in the cyber world for all to see.  I was sorting photos this week and found this and when Alan put the Sleepers as the theme for the week, I knew I was in business.   Was this the end of a long day in the woods?  Too much to eat at the evening meal?  You can speculate with me.  

1984, to the left here are my in laws about whom I have recently blogged--that is Lyman to the left and Florence to the right.  They have made themselves  at home and comfortable in our living room in Newcastle, CA.  As I have mentioned before,  our home was their vacation site.  I suppose it was a compliment that they felt so "at home there" but I often wondered why they did not stay with their daughter, Barbara who lived 30 minutes away.  As I recall this particular day, I arrived  home from work  and there they were, awaiting when I would prepare the meal for everyone.  The newspaper on the table has a headline, something about "retirement." 

Well the photo to the right is 1986, Jerry's cousin, Milo (actually  his cousin's husband) who was catching up on some rest after a rough day at the work for the city on its maintenance  crew.  We were back in  La Crescent on  a trip we took across the country from  California to Minnesota, to Pennsylvania and then swinging back westward through the south.  So we stopped at Milo and Jeanette's.  We had come in from visiting, camera in hand and got this pose. These days, Milo does sleep a lot in his recliner, he has aged and tends to nap away the afternoons.  It is not the same as Jeanette passed away years ago, and although he has a live in companion, he misses her as do we.


1989 another one to the left,  from Uncle Carl's photos.  This man is Fred Hemming and he was in the Army, 809th Tank Destroyers in WWII with Uncle Carl.  Each year the men and families gathered to reminisce and usually to tour some site.  This time they were in Altoona, PA, I believe which meant that Uncle Carl and Aunt Marge had likely made arrangements for the group.  As we have seen, no one was safe when Carl, the photographer was around.  



For my finale I could not resist this one, also from Uncle Carl's collection.  This is Punkin, his last pet and beloved "pal."  After Aunt Marge passed in 1997 Punkin and Carl went everywhere together.  He  had many photos of Punkin.  I have to say, I have shared an array of sleepers and to end this post, let sleeping dogs lie.  (Groan.....)
1988 Punkin
As usual, click on the title to get to the Sepia host site and see what others are sharing this week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Our Red Dragon


I drew a blank slate looking at the weight that was our Magpie prompt for this Tuesday, so instead I have gone out on my own. I have more than enough material around the house to write about and today I give you the Red Dragon Chair. It is 28 inches in height,, width and depth at its largest part, with only one barely visible point of assembly on the bottom it appears to be mostly one piece of carving.


I inherited this chair from my Uncle John R Irwin whose grandfather was a millionaire, made his fortune on railroad work and hauling iron ore on the Great Lakes in the late 1800’s in PA. Uncle John called this the Chinese Emperor’s chair so I assumed it was Chinese. I know it came from the Glen Irwin mansion in Clinton and although the exact date of purchase is unknown, I was told that they bought it on one of their many trips to England.

All the years this chair occupied the corner of my aunt and uncle's home I never remember anyone being brazen enough to sit in it, except Uncle John who would laugh at Virginia when she said, "John get out of that chair before you scratch it!"  This scolding would delight him into taunting, "too late I already did that when I was about 3 years old!" Uncle John is the only one I know who ever sat in it; and according to the story this was when he was a very little boy and his grandfather would proudly sit him in the Emperor's chair!  His royal red seat shows some two inches of wear of the lacquer across the front where Uncle John claims his feet would dangle and his shoes scuffed the chair seat. Otherwise this chair is in perfect condition. My aunt Virginia was a meticulous obsessive housekeeper who never tolerated  a speck of dust or a bit of dirt in her home. She not only dusted daily, once a week she used q-tips to give this chair the royal treatment it deserved, carefully going over each crevice. We have this chair in a corner in our formal living room where it is a conversation piece. So far no one has attempted to sit in it, but I discourage that by usually having something displayed on it. Over Christmas it provided backdrop to my hundreds of angels. I thought that was a good combo Angels and Dragons--- is that a game and where have we heard that? Oh is that dungeons and dragons, well perhaps I’m on to something here.

Uncle John came into our family by marrying my aunt when she was in her 30’s. They met at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory where they both worked in Creighton, PA. Aunt Jinx had a prospering career and expected to remain the old maid, living at home with her parents and providing for them in their old age. But then along came John who was a handsome cad, resembling Clark Gable and who always wore a shirt , tie and hat to go to town even if it was our town! Here is his WWII Army photo. They married to the consternation of my grandparents and for a short time all lived together in the house in Arnold that Virginia and her parents bought together. All was not well because John had a habit that the family could not accept, a love of alcohol. He just enjoyed his shots of whiskey and always had a bottle nearby. He was not a nasty or falling down drunk, nor one who could not function, but as I recall the more he drank the funnier he became! I thought Uncle John the funniest person I knew, always laughing, at least that’s the way I saw him and remember laughing so hard around him and his stories that I would get sick in the stomach. This annoyed my grandmother who disliked John’s “foolishness.” Well his own mother, the grand Mrs. Irwin, felt the same about her son and detested his drinking.

I have to suspect that his entertainment value might have been an attraction to my aunt Virginia because where there was John there was laughter, though later on she complained about his “carrying on” and would tell him to “shut up!” Aunt Virginia seldom spoke harshly so this was quite an utterance. My granpap had no use for John and called him “Chicken Head” among other names. John found this hysterically funny which aggravated my granpap more. I remember granpap swinging his cane at John which would bring more bursts of laughter. Looking back now I am surprised this did not agitate Pap to another stroke! At Granpap's funeral Uncle John had gone down the streeet to a tavern to "replenish", before they closed the casket, Uncle John spoke to  Granpap, "Pap, now there is no one around to call me chicken head no more!  But I will keep that name to honor your!"  He did too; every so often he would tell someone or his wife, "Don't you go messing with this old Chicken Head now!"  The conglomerate house was sold and they went their separate ways; my grandparents rented a small duplex up the hill and John and Virginia moved to Freeport where John became landscaper and groundskeeper in charge over the Irwin acres and had a free small house across the road from Mrs. Irwin’s home. On another Sepia Saturday I’ll relate more of my Aunt and Uncle’s history. They never had children and she was my favorite aunt, who died last year. Here they are in 1974, but I will have more of the family stories another time!

Uncle John told me when I was young  and would stand and admire the chair where he would allow me to place my dolls, “someday Patty when I am gone, I want you to have this red chair and the camel.” (The camel is another marvelous piece which is on our mantel.) He had determined this because I so admired the chair and he said, “Red is good luck!  It has been in the Irwin family since forever, I’d like to see all their faces when it is no longer part of the Irwin’s!” This was usually followed by his tale of “I’ll outlive them all!” And the truth was he did! John wasn’t treated kindly by the last surviving Irwin, his mother, Jessie who lived in the big house across the road. She often told John that she would leave him nothing in her will unless he would give up his drinking; she was a tea totaled and could not understand how my Aunt Virginia could put up with him!

I thought this red chair was one of the most magnificent things I had ever seen. I still feel that way about it as does Jerry. By the way red is considered good fengshui to have in the home! I prepared to become its owner by researching carefully for years, looking in every museum I visited. I never found anything like it. Arrival of the internet was not much more help but I carefully looked at websites and any auction with antique Chinese furniture.

Uncle John died in 1994 but I never asked my aunt for the chair. I would not have dreamt of doing so. She often reminded me that she was keeping it for me and it was to be with me ultimately. In 2004, we started our moved to our retirement home here in MN. That year we went to PA to spend Thanksgiving with my aunt Virginia and she had determined that we should take the red chair and camel and some other antiques home with us to MN. Besides she said she was tired dusting them. That same year an article appeared in the Sunday Parade magazine about the Johnny Cash estate and there was something very similar to our red chair, only in black. It was one of the estate items that were to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s and referred to as an ebonized, Chinese chair. Our red chair has dragons on the ends of the arms and the ebonized Cash chair had Fu Dogs. This is ironic in that Uncle John loved Johnny Cash because he had triumphed over addictions!  Uncle John enjoyed his music as we did, Jerry more than me because I'm not a real country western fan.  I smiled when I saw this article and thought about how Uncle John would have enjoyed this and added it to his repetoire. Maybe he had a hand in this from the beyond.

I continued my research by sending photos and letters off to Kovels and to the Antiques Roadshow. The only response from Kovels was an offer to buy some of their books! I did not renew my subscription to their magazine. Finally in 2005 I hit pay dirt! A Canadian appraiser from the Antiques Road Show online, accepted many photos and advised me that the chair and its history were almost correct. However he was certain that “…it is in fact Japanese, not Chinese and dates from the late 1800’s. This type of exotic furniture was very popular in the UK and the USA at that time and it was made specifically for those markets.” The appraised value was higher than we expected. So it occupies its corner here, evoking admiration of all. A local friend who is an antiques buff admits to never having seen the likes of the Red Dragon Chair. I continue to look in museums, in my antique magazines, and on line and have not yet found anything else like it. My cousin who helped Jerry load this in to the trailer for our transport to MN said he expects to see us on Antiques Road show! A magnificent chair. I have assembled a huge red scrapbook, about the wealthy Irwins, Uncle John, the mansions. We keep the book beside the chair so visitors can learn about the Irwins, the chair, and other antiques we have in our home.