Showing posts with label Frank Ball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frank Ball. Show all posts

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frank Ball Sepia Saturday 58 (Click here to get to the Sepia Sat site)

Frank and his dog, Pouch
Frank Ball was my paternal Grandfather, but I knew little about him, due to limited contact with the Ball family as I have mentioned before on this blog. He was born in 1893 in Jaszojka, Poland according to documents, but I believe this may be Jaszkowo a small village in west central Poland. All I remember about him is a vague recollection of his death in 1951 and the huge funeral for the small town, but I was only 6 years old then. Aunt Pearl who married Uncle Henry, the youngest son, told me that it was indeed a huge funeral, because Frank was well liked and mourned by many.

He was quite young by today’s standards, only 58 when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Strange to know that I am older now than my grandfather was when he died.  Grandma Anna later told me, “He was too fat!” Heart disease seems genetic in the Ball family;  of the three sons, only Uncle Henry, the youngest survived to be 80; but Uncle Henry had heart ailments as well and cautioned his son Larry to “watch out for your heart, it’s in the family.” Uncle Edward, the eldest son died suddenly at 57, heart condition.  Of course my father, Lewis was the Army Air Corp pilot killed at 22 in World War II, missed that part of his heritage.  

Another genetic trait in the Ball family is the dimple in the chin, evident here in father youngest and middle son.  This distressed me for years, but now has become far less distinctive though the cheek dimples remain.  My son, Steve bore this mark as well. 
Frank appx. 1943 with youngest son
Henry and my Father, Lewis
Polish American Club in 2009 in Harwick, PA
 where Frank and Anna tended bar and ran tabs
In his spare time Frank tended bar and allowed folks to run a tab which was to be paid promptly on pay day, or else. The “or else” meant that Anna, his wife, my grandmother “cut them off.” She worked at the same tavern and would absolutely not allow further drinks and so the accounts were kept timely and the bar business prospered. Or else, the unpaid went elsewhere to imbibe and there were not many options in the small town of Harwick. When we were in PA in fall, 2009 we visited the town, found the tavern which was not opened and may likely be only for private meetings.    

Ball home in Frazer Township, PA
Year unknown, Anna Ball to the far left
Although Frank was a coal miner he managed to save money and buy land where he and Anna raised their sons and improved their standard of living.   She lived in the home after he passed and expected her sons to remain there.  Uncle Henry did not but departed for better employment in CA with his wife, incurring the wrath of Anna.  Only Edward, the eldest son, stayed behind, content to live on the land. 

The few times I visited the Ball homestead the home was overpowering and dreary to me with a mysterious cellar and rooms that led who knows where. I always felt haunted by what my young mind  felt to be the ghost of my father in his younger days, and since no one talked about that I stuffed it.   No one knew the trauma I felt with the few visits; I never felt at ease there, always longing to go back home to my maternal grandmother. They had a chicken pen behind the home and I dreaded those birds.  I remember eating a plate of cookies with my cousin at one visit, being well amused by stuffing ourselves. 

The house was the equivalent of the house that Jack built and seemed always to be in process. 
Ball home in Frazer Township, PA
A cousin provided these two photos of the Ball home; I believe these may have been taken back in the  40's  Eventually it was all sold off  by Esther, Edward's wife who inherited everything, manipulating the elderly Anna into disinheriting everyone but herself.  She provided  for her daughters and herself and lives in a nearby town;  the land  is part of where a big Pittsburgh Valley Mills Mall stands.  Now Edward and  Esther's 3  daughters, Henry's son and daughter and myself are all that remain of Frank  Ball's legacy.  Uncle Henry and Aunt Pearl maintained contact with Mom and me all my life, not so with Esther and Edward, but that is another story.  The petty jealousies of the family are water under the bridge and the survivors  have to live with themselves.  Esther's daughters, my cousins, have been in touch with me but we share limited memories.  

Frank Ball with Bessie
Year unknown
 Another story is that Frank was unsure what to do with the paycheck and when so paid by the mine, set them aside in a box until industrious Anna investigated. By that time they had accumulated some funds and were able to purchase land, a dream come true for Polish immigrants. I cannot verify the veracity but  speculate it could  be as he was not that literate, however I question how they lived in the coal community without funds.  Another mystique of my roots I'll never know.  

I have written before how the names of my Polish ancestors changed depending on which census taker, official, immigration agent recorded their names.  I  almost understand that dilemma with the  difficult Polish spellings, however I am told that Frank's last name was actually Bal and that officials changed it to Ball.  Now how much easier could it have been! Being  a compliant immigrant he adopted that spelling.  I never could understand growing up how we had the name Ball from Polish and suspected it must have been shortened from something.  But years ago, Uncle Henry revealed that it was Bal and changed to suit the officials; I have not found any research into the spelling Bal.  I did not like Ball as my last name because it rhymed with many things and I was teased; my mother had remarried leaving me the only one with that last name.  Often teachers thought my heritage to be English as Ball is a well known name back to Colonial times.  Somewhere about the age of 10 or so, I overcame peevishness to my last name and whenever someone made fun of my name I was quick to retort rhyming theirs to the absurd and or resorting to some sort of physical activity in  retaliation.  

I have hit brick walls trying to learn anything about this paternal side but recently on my research I struck gold, finding Frank’s petition for Naturalization in 1926. So little by little my investigative skills took over and I have traced his arrival in the United States into New York in 1913, when he was 20 aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm III. So far I have not found him on the ship’s manifests. I find no information about his having any other relatives anywhere in the country.  Nor do I know how he met Anna or the date of their marriage. Such questions might not have been had my father lived. 

By 1920 Frank and Anna met, married, had their first son, Edward,  and are living in Jenner, Somerset, PA according to the 1920 census. By 1926 he and Anna  had moved to Harwick or Springdale, PA when Frank applied for Naturalization in PIttsburgh; I find it interesting that the miners were encouraged to do so by the Unions who of course wanted votes for their candidates. Nothing has changed today, different immigrant groups but the same strategies continue. The 1930 census shows them living in Harwick, PA where he worked the mines and bought his land.
This is the only picture I have of both grandparents and I know little about it, not the place, not the date, not all the people in the photo.  Frank looks the same in all his photos, but Anna appears almost Oriental looking here. 
Left to right, Anna Kudzia Ball, her sister Mary Wojnar (aka Wagner) , Frank Ball,
 below, unknown  man and woman to the right   Unknown place or date
As always,click on the title to this post to get to the Sepia Site where others show  their fascinating photos and stories.