Showing posts with label Rose Ostroski. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rose Ostroski. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Give it up for Lent, the four letter word

Baba Rose
I was raised Polish Roman Catholic and my grandma (Baba) Rose was a stickler about Lent and all it's traditions of deprivation and denial proclaiming it a very old practice.  Yes, Lent as a 40 day season began sometime in the  4th century, legalized by the church at the Council of Nicea in 313 AD, that's ancient.  As a toddler I could not comprehend why in the world I had  to do without whatever I wanted at the moment and it was a shock to hear that four letter word, "lent."   As I recall, I was between three and four when I was told the first time  that I couldn't have what I wanted  for Lent,  a long time.  It was likely something sweet to eat. Baba Rose said, "Patty, it's Lent and  we give up something we like to sacrifice, no more until Easter." 

What?  That must have been the first time something was denied me because my grandparents  made it their business to ensure that  whatever I wanted I had. I did not make sense of the time span, "until Easter" but I went about my business with a frown and  then forgot all about it until the next time I was denied. Still I did not dwell on these things and yet the lesson continued.  "Someday you will be glad you did without...."  

Granpap Teofil
It wasn't just me, either; granpap Teofil had to give up too; I remember asking him to conspire with me,  to buy something at the store when Baba wasn't looking, candy maybe.  But he laughed and just shook his head while saying, "oh no not while it's Lent, those are the rules." Granpap never had much to say about church or rules, so I well knew this was Baba's doing but for him to comply it must have been important without any way out.  
Me about 4 years old
Nevertheless, I absorbed my disappointment but again  not let it sink in  because  I  recall hearing  what I called the "not for Lent" words repeatedly. To me, Lent was not good, something to be avoided; in my child's mind Lent became a four letter word, don't say it.   Baba assured me that I would learn all about this when I went to Catechism and I would always be glad after the giving up.   Later as a child  I would offer to give up something I didn't care all that much about but that would not do while Rose or the nuns inquired about my Lenten sacrifice, "it has to be something you like." 

Although I  left the Catholic religion which today beckons me for the spiritual comfort, a Lenten tradition of deprivation became my annual ritual.  I used to be a chocoholic, there was not a place I did not stash chocolate, it went where I did; my co-workers could always find a supply in my office. While I am unsure of the exact year, sometime in  the early 1990's  I decided to make the ultimate Lenten sacrifice and give up chocolate; Roberta, who was most devout and my closest friend questioned me about the severity of my choice, would I be able to do that.,really?   It certainly was one of the most difficult deprivations I ever experienced but a miracle emerged just like Easter, I lost my extreme fondness for chocolate; not something I was looking for but something I  have now recognized as a blessing. I have never again been consumed by chocolate.  Today I enjoy some  dark chocolate now and then but I can take it or leave it.  It's not something that I crave or need and I am amazed thinking back to how I had to eat chocolate at least once a day then.  Lent the four letter word rewarded me at the end of it all, just as promised by my grandma so long ago.  

Today it is really difficult for me to think of giving up something I would miss eating; I am not a
Me today leaner and healthier
sweet eater and really not much for snacking a lot either.  If I do it is usually an apple, some pretzels, something healthy.  .My recent  weight loss and healthy  eating lifestyle leave nothing I can identify to offer as a sacrifice.  Well I suppose I could offer my almost  daily glass of wine but even Jesus had wine with meals and I attribute a glass of wine to healthy practices.  My doctor agrees.  Besides I do not drink every day and Lenten sacrifice is to make us mindful so the occasional will not do..   

So what to give up  for Lent in 2014?   Something that will be a daily reminder in denial.  I have determined it is another four letter word, one I've been  saying out loud in response to annoyance, rubbish, or other non likable things that happen.  No, it's not that "f" word although I admit to evoking it in absolute frustration, for especially bad news like death, cancers, etc.  I was unaware that I used this other word so frequently until Jerry mentioned something one day and then I attempted to disguise it using the Polish for it. Bad habits start with such unawareness.   This  word is not pleasant and not nice and not something I recall saying much in the past,  it starts with "s" may be preceded with another 4 letters, "bull."     So for Lent, the cuss jar appears.  When ever I say that word it's $1 to the jar; further, each time I think it it's 50 cents.  If I am dutiful and persevere, this bad habit will be gone in 40 days when the joy of Easter returns.  The money will go to the Salvation Army, one of my favorite charities and one that I support financially all the time.   

What are you giving up for Lent or do you?  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe reverie, blogger acts out

Yesterday's all day snow coating more with continuous whiteness added another  four inches to what has been steadily accumulating this winter.  It  must have affected this blogspot where  I thought I posted this and  yet today I see it had been reverted to a draft...daft why? Blame it on the winter weather.   So here another attempt to publish, winter is getting the best of us and the cyber waves.  

All the descriptive adjectives--pretty, sparkling, fluffy have been exhausted this winter, enough already.  I feel like we are living in a shake 'em up snow globe, no sooner does it settle than Mama Nature sends another blast our way.   I am tired of white and annoyed when it sidelines my plans as it did, confining me to home and hearth.  I did not venture out to drive in the winds with limited visibility nor was I tempted as there were reports of the potential to slide along the roads if the plows had not already been through.. 

 It was a day to stay home and a good day to cook. It has been quite some time since I stuffed and roasted a chicken because for the two of us, it's preferable to stick with chicken parts, breasts or thighs and occasional drumsticks although wings are a great snack.  However the market had these chickens on sale, very cheap and with my purchase of two bottles of wine I got $2 off any poultry, bringing the cost to $1.  So I picked up a whole chicken Friday intending to do something with it over the weekend.  Those intentions did not materialize but Monday's snow day  was an opportune time to stuff and roast this bird.  Jerry is not a fan of what he refers to as "sea gull" although he grudgingly eats the day's menu; I am a big fan of chicken, amd roasting filled the house with wonderful scents.  

My bargain chicken stuffed and ready to roast
As I prepared  thestuffing with lots of sage, big bread hunks, broth, butter, sauteed onions and celery I thought about my maternal grandmother Rose, my Polish Baba, with whom I spent a lot of time and stayed most weekends.    I have written about her  many times on this blog. Roast chicken was one of her special favorite Sunday afternoon meals, with all the fixings after we went to morning mass.  She had none of the kitchen conveniences like deep freezers nor microwaves and she did insist on fresh chickens; she did not want those from the  grocery market that would have been sitting for "you don't know how long."  No,  Rose insisted chickens must they be just bled, fresh; , to her that was the only way to ensure a tasty chicken, kill , drain and cook.  They lived in town so while she did not raise her own chickens, she did walk to the local  butcher for a fresh just killed bird on Saturdays.  It was Sarniac's, the  Polish butcher shop where  my grandpap hung out, helped make Polish sausage and played cards and they knew to have a fresh chicken ready for Rose. Sometimes it would still have it's feet attached but she would tell them to leave the feet, which she would remove at home, herself. 

Baba, my grandma Rose about mid 1940"s
Once she brought it home, the ordeal of cleaning it meticulously began, I cannot remember how many times she rinsed and rinsed that chicken and then soaked it in a brine though it seems that hours and hours were involved. I once remarked in childlike wonder that it was clean already to which she said, "oh no Patty, we don't want any dirt or feathers.  Chickens are dirty and you don't want to eat anything like that."  Finally by late Saturday afternoon, she had her fresh chicken ready for  Sunday roasting.  Her oven had no timer so that bird did not get into the oven to begin until after we returned from church and then she would carefully watch and baste it from time to time.  I wish I had a picture of those feasts, they were a meal which she served with pride and a smile.  So today stuffing and roasting a cheap chicken brought the reverie of childhood.  And I thought of how I will not buy  frozen chicken parts in mass bags, and certainly not  those that are processed in Asia.  My chicken choice is fresh, locally Amish grown and processed....I am Rose's grand daughter after all.  It's my legacy, You don't want a chicken that's been sitting around for you don't know how long."  Recipes can stir up our memories..    

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sepia Saturday 204 Life changing times

The week's prompt brings many thoughts and having been around the planet for 68 years, I have experienced many life changing events, some  heart warming, some tragic.  Here in the States we are marking 50 years post John F Kennedy's assassination; he was the first president I ever paid attention to and my generation's most loved politician.  Up until then it was innocence of beliefs, faith in all being right and no doubts about what might come next.  JFK's murder, for that's what it was is an event that cut a wide swath through my beliefs as a Catholic and girl of the 60's.  That particular day I was prone on a sofa in  the apartment in Sacramento, CA, fighting the most horrid morning sickness ever suffered by a pregnant woman, and yet stirred with the TV reporting what could not be happening in front of me.  As if it were not bad enough now that I knew I was in a big dilemma, across the country from all family and wondering WTH I could have been thinking to get myself into that pitiful, dreadful marriage anyway, my President was killed.   Ahhhh life twisted along from there some uphills, some flat times and some joy, some scathing downhill jolts. 

I did get out of that mess but found myself a young single Mom, determined to stay in CA and not to return to Pennsylvania and readily admit that my mother was right.  Oh I was 20, didn't I know everything?  Not so by a long way.   To my rescue then by rail road, journeyed my maternal grandmother aka Baba Rose alone across the country from Pennsylvania,  to stay with me, help me with the baby, get me on my feet  and provide  the love she had all my life. She did not scold nor say "we all told you so....." No none of that, she was absolute strength and support.  I regret that perhaps I did not appreciate her as much as I should have although she knew I loved her very much.   

Here she is in December 1965 with Steve who is  18 months old.  We were all surviving on very tight finances; I was working two shifts at McClellan AFB and she was encouraging me to go back to school, to finish college because she knew I was too smart to stay below what I could achieve.  Above all, she told me, "you will marry again, but next time be careful, don't jump into anything and choose a good man; you learned a lesson, don't  ever forget it."  Very prophetic as Jerry would come along shortly after she left.  Wish she could have met him.   

Rose was already only 70 years old here but looks much older.  She was the grandmother who raised me; she and the family helped Mom, her daughter who was a WWII widow pregnant with me.  Rose had experience in spades with us young Moms.  She stayed less than a year before returning home to Pennsylvania.  She helped me get my head on straight and never criticized my decision to stay there in California, on my own.  She said, "You'll make it, you are smart and pretty and headstrong, don't look back, look ahead."  Before she departed for home, she found another grandmotherly woman who would babysit Steve for pittances when I worked, and who would adopt us like family.  I don't know what would have happened without her, my grandma Rose who helped me in the crisis of a lifetime.    I did a lot of growing up then, fast, through a life changing time. 
1965 Steve at 18 months with his great grandmother,
my grandma Baba,  Rose Ostrowski Kochanowski
This has been just one life changing event for me.  To see what others in the Sepia community have to say this Saturday, click here to the site

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sepia Saturday 200 Rerun from Week 13 Frank Ostrowski

So here I sit at keyboard in Minnesota, USA looking back oh so fondly at how many years it has been since I first learned of and participated in Sepia posts. Sepia got me to blogging and researching my roots and afforded the way to use so many old photos. Now as we are celebrating our 200th week of Sepia posts, I have chosen my contribution from Week 13,  February 27, 2010.  I am excited about Alan's proposal to publish our collection into a volume for week 200. Here with very slight updating is  my Sepia Week 13 post about my great grandfather, Frank ( Francis) Ostrowski. 
Frank Ostrowski
Frank Ostrowski is my maternal great grandfather who was a coal  and sometimes iron ore miner in Poland, Prussia and in the United States. I knew my family was entirely Polish on all sides, (2013 note:but after submitting my DNA to for analysis in 2012, I learned there is a very slight trace of Ireland or the British Isles as well, proof that the British Navy was everywhere in the world once.   I have found no connection to that Brit ancestry yet, despite periodic suggestions of 8th or so cousins however many times removed).  However, I have learned a lot more since 2010 and my research indicates German, Prussian, and  Polish heritage matching with my study of  Poland's history that reveals how often it was invaded, conquered and annexed to another country.  Those Poles are a hearty stock though and do not go down without a  strong fight.

My grandmother and her sisters spoke Polish as did my mother and aunt; it was especially annoying to me as a child because I could not understand what they were saying. I know that was the reason they spoke it around me! But little by little I learned enough to eaves drop and discern the secrets.  I discovered Frank in 1977 when my great aunt Francie gave me the photo of the Ostrowski (aka Ostroskie) gathering which I posted last week on Sepia Saturday. I spent most of my childhood with my grandmother, Rose, Frank’s daughter from his second wife. How I wish I had known about him back then and could have asked my Baba (babacis in Polish) about her father. She talked very little about her family or else I paid little attention, but said that her father died of stomach cancer as did several others in the family; she feared that and sadly she died of pancreatic cancer and  diabetes; perhaps that was Frank’s diagnosis too.

Frank Ostrowski my maternal great grandfather
Coal miner, pick axe,  lantern hat and white shirt
After Aunt Francie gave me the gathering photo she also found this snapshot of Frank in his miner’s hat which I had copied and enlarged into a 5 x 7 Sepia print that has been prominently displayed in our home ever since.  It is a good conversation piece. My grandmother’s hand writing is on the back so at one time she had the photo but there is no date. I adore the old coal miner hat. Those were the most dangerous days of the mines and many Europeans flocked to the states to do the dangerous dirty work. My mother and aunt were of no help in verifying dates, saying that they never knew any grandparents but lots of aunts and uncles. Notice the clean shirt and the pick axe over his shoulder, arm crossed and holding hands with someone.  Likely this was not what he wore into the mine, but there must have been some special occasion to pose.  Someone really had to work at keeping that shirt clean and starched, back then, without today's automatic  washers and dryers.

Frank married three times and outlived two wives. By his photo he does not appear to be that handsome, but staunch, determined and I suppose an employed coal miner in America was a good catch for the times. If the historical fiction “A Coal Miner’s Bride “by Susan Campbell Bartoletti has any truth, the old miners wanted a woman to care for them. Frank fathered many children so that would also account for his need to remarry when one wife passed on. I notice he has one eyelid that droops and my grandmother had the same affliction; I in 2013 notice the same has happened to my right eyelid so that ultimately I will have to have that "fixed" or lifted..

The spelling of the name Ostrowski changes depending on who recorded it, Ostrowski, Ostroski, Ostroskie, etc.  I have two different years for his birth 1855 and 1857 and have been unable to confirm which is correct. However, the date of November 11 is certain making him my fellow Scorpio. Perhaps on our next trip to PA I can visit the Union cemetery in Arnold where he is buried and that may clarify date of his death. I should hope it will not add yet another date. (2013:  Note several years ago we visited the Union cemetery; the office building was not open but there was a note on the door that if one wished to locate a grave submit a letter in writing and pay a fee of $15 or more and allow several months.  We tried roaming and found some  caretakers who directed us to the area known as Polish hill, far in the back, with few gravestones, quite over grown with shrubs, etc.  No luck finding Frank's grave.  I suppose one of these days I will send that letter and the fee and wait and wait.  This is a strange thing as most older cemeteries are very helpful at no cost and willingly look in their records.) 

Frank was born in Prussia, Poland or Germany to Franz Ostrowski and Katazinea (Kor Catherine) Biegonski. who likely immigrated to America with the children, but the records of when and where they arrived are sketchy. His sisters were Kate, Mary and Pauline who is recorded to have been born in Cleveland, and a brother Maryn John. It is possible that they came through Canada, but I have hit a block wall with that as well.

Information shows Franz was buried in Detroit, Michigan in 1893 and Catherine died in 1910 and is buried in Cleveland, Ohio.  That date makes me wonder if the mystery Ostrowski photo taken in Ohio which I dated at about 1910 could have been for Frank’s mother’s funeral; perhaps confirming some of what my mother alluded to of a funeral in Ohio. ( I used that photo last week for my Sepia contribution; here is the link  )While some of her research is flawed, I am grateful to my 2nd cousin who attempted to piece all this together with infrequent trips to PA. Maxine lives in Utah today is in poor health but as a member of the LDS church had access to many records. Still, I know she had some errors in the lineage and names and am skeptical of some of the information where dates show as "appx."   Maxine spent some time interviewing my grandmother in the 1960’s, but I know that my grandmother could be evasive as  were many of the Polish.  Whether they were untruthful to avoid attention or sometimes could not understand the questions,  I cannot determine. I know that they feared and respected government authority and as immigrants escaping tyrants or worse in Poland, or the old country, they kept quiet about many things. Someone usually knew someone back in “the old country” though and kept in touch, frequently sending some  cash along to help out.

Frank married his first wife Frances appx. 1877. Her last name is incorrectly recorded as my maternal grandfather’s last name on the documents so I know that is wrong. She was born in Poland and died appx 1888 in PA. They had three children Joseph (born 1878 with a twin John who did not survive the birth), John (the second son to be so named born appx. 1882), and Benjamin Frank who was distinctly given the middle name (born 1883 appx.) Years ago Sharon, a cousin I had not previously known, granddaughter of Benjamin contacted me. When I asked my mother and aunt about this, they shrugged their shoulders. While they knew nothing about a grandfather they recalled their aunts and uncles and made no distinction of their being half brothers and sisters.

Frank’s second wife who was my grandmother’s mother was Frances Swartz (aka Schwartz) whom he married about 1889. Frances came from Poland, was born in 1869, died in 1902 in PA. Sometime during this marriage they dropped the “w” from Ostrowski off and on. They had five children although I recall my grandmother mentioning that some of her brothers died when very young; there is no record of others. These were Walter  (born 1889 in Detroit, MI who went by Bill and changed the family name to Austin), Mary (born 1891 in Salamanca New York), Veronica Bernice (born 1892 in PA), and Rose (my grandmother born 1894) and Adam Maryan who died at birth in 1899 or shortly thereafter. My grandmother said he was her mother’s last child and did not live. I never referred to any of her sisters or brothers as "Great" they were all aunt and uncle to me; I  called them the Polish word for aunt, “czotczhe”.
Helen Sajikowski aka Sekoski, Frank's 3rd
and last wife

Frank married his third wife, Helen Sajowksi (aka Sekoski) in 1905. Their only child was Frances born in 1906 and was always known as the baby sister. Helen is seated next to Frank in the Ostrowski Ohio gathering, the photo I shared last week.  Helen would survive Frank who died April 19, 1915 making him either 60 or 62 depending on which birth year is correct.  My grandmother was fond of her step mother Helen and spoke well of her.   Whether Frank fathered more than nine children is unknown but each wife seemed to give birth annually. How they traveled around from Michigan, to Ohio, to New York and to Pennsylvania is a mystery; I suspect it was by rail car. They certainly did not own vehicles to drive. Tracing the different places the Ostrowski's moved from Salamanca area of New York, Michigan and Ohio before settling in Pennsylvania,  it appears Frank was following the mines in the heyday of coal mining; some how Pennsylvania must have offered him steady employment because he set roots there and his children did so as well. It was hard dirty work that the immigrants took on.  Today, his descendants are all over the eastern United States, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and on to Michigan and Ohio into Newfoundland, Canada as well as some in California. All my years living in California I was never aware of any Ostrowski relatives there. (2013 note:  A few years ago another contacted me from southern California where she still resides.  They spell the last name Ostroskie).  When I see the Ostrowski (Ostroski) name today I wonder if that is a shirt tail relation. Writing this piece I googled and found many; one example is Frank, a "falsely accused murderer in Canada" released on bail to his daughter. 

Coalfield in Pennsylvania, father,  Frank and son , John
Finally here is the last photo I have of Frank with his son, John. I found this in a drawer after my mother died in 2004. The back has the names and says "coalfield", but no date. My grandmother told that she learned to cook as a very young girl because her father was skinny but ate like a horse and said that her daughter, my aunt, Virginia took after him. Not all Frank’s progeny were as lean as this photo where Frank is poking John’s belly! John who was born in 1882 must be at least  20 years old here which would date this to 1902. I can only imagine what was being said.  But there he is my great grandfather, Frank Ostrowski, I wish I could have known him or learned more when my grandmother was alive. 
Click here to travel across the pond to the   Sepia website and visit other posts from shared stories.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sepia Saturday 110 Movie Theaters and how we were

About 1954 me and my Grandma
ready to go to the movies
 A challenge this week with Theater as our theme, but I think back to growing up in New Kensingon, PA in it's glory days when we had 3 movie theaters in a town that is all ashambles to the dregs today. Stroll along my memories with me to back before televisions became  a standard home furnishing, many Sundays, after mass and family dinner, from as early as I can remember, my grandmother,  Rose and I went to the matinee movies downtown and would stop for a big ice cream cone on our way home.  She enjoyed her movie theaters which she always referred to as just that, "movie theaters".  Some Sundays we'd  catch  two, a musical or drama  for her and cowboys and Indians  in technicolor for me.

Baba which I called her all my life, from the Polish word for Grandmother, made her money for our day out and about by playing the numbers at the local bookie who took bets at the butcher shop.  She was quite lucky most times and kept her stash for our treats, saying that was for us to have fun.  I spent lots of my time at their house and each morning when I awoke she'd ask me about my dreams and then get a small black book from the cupboard drawer.  I learned years later from her that was her Dream Book which translated the subject of dreams into numbers and those were the bets she placed,  always winning when she played Patty's dreams.  How I wish I knew what became of that book, imagine if  today I could use it for the lottery.

 I  learned that the reason we could afford two movies was we frequently got in free at the Liberty where her brother Bill worked as a projectionist, when movies came on the big reels.  I have shared photos of Bill before, here's a newspaper clipping she  saved of the  man at work.  Notice the name Walter Austin, somehow Bill came from Walter and he'd changed the  Polish Ostroski aka Ostrowski to Austin, generating much  fuss and disdain from his sisters.   But today's theater theme  showed photos of the buildings and I  had to dig and  search to find any photographs of the big time days in New Kensington when we had the Liberty, the Dattola, the Circle and the Ritz theaters.  I was amazed to find a Library of Congress photo of our own old Liberty theater which was demolished.   These movie theaters were grand seating from 700 to 1000 with more balcony seating, plush carpets, draperies, gilded to the max.  Wish I had photos of the insides, they sure don't make 'em like that anymore.  Todays movie theaters  use a sardine pack seating system,  superior technology does not make up for lack of grandeur and class. 

Downstairs  where I watch movies today
Back of my recliner looking toward the big screen
Today, I wait for DVD's and the latest Netflix offerings and take my self downstairs to our own big screen, surround sound put my feet up in the recliner and enjoy the movies, I often think how Baba would have loved this.   

A Westmoreland county historical site shows  that:  On May 2, 1921, the first of the new theaters, the Liberty Theater (demolished 1996) opened on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street and the Ritz Theater (958 Fifth Avenue) opened the next year.

The Liberty courtesy of the Library of Congress

Dowtown  Fifth Avenue as it looked when we walked to the movies
The old Liberty  is on the left

From a historic website the Dattola theater

The Dattola movie Theater on the other end of Fifth Avenue
Photo from 1969 coverage in the Valley Dispatch,
taken sometime in the  1960's.

The newspaper article tells the sad tale of the Dattola.

I have no photos of the Circle nor the Ritz.  At one time they had both become bingo halls and today that is likely gone as well.  Will New Kensington ever  be revivied to it's glory days when  we grew up in the  50's and 60's.  Who knows

To see more wonderful Sepia posts go to the Sepi site here:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sepia Saturday Week 18 Ostrowski Sisters (Click here to view others' posts)

Today I share the oldest photo I have of my beloved maternal Grandma, Rose Ostrowski Kochanowski (1895-1970) with her sisters and brothers, some of Frank Ostrowski’s children. I found this torn and ragged at the bottom of an old suitcase when I cleared my mother’s house in 2004; Mom had written the names on the photo who knows when. I was amazed to discover this and so wish I could have known about it when my grandmother was alive to tell where and when, etc.

This was the wedding of Rose’s brother Joseph to Catherine Buhl (Buehl) in New York. Date unknown. Joseph (1878-1957) is the oldest of Frank’s children from the first wife and appears to have migrated from Poland with his parents. I have not been able to identify the three young girls seated in front. The others are, seated left to right, my Grandma Rose, brother and the groom Joseph Ostrowski, the bride Catherine Buhl (sp?) and brother Ben Ostrowski (1883-1959). Standing are her sister Veronica (Vernie 1892-1961) who married Alex Roginski, brother Walter F known as Bill (1889-1956)who changed his name to Austin, and sister Mary (1891-1964) who married Thomas Janosky.

Rose, Mary, Veronica and Bill were Frank Ostrowski’s children from his second wife, Frances Swartz who was from either Germany or a German occupied part of Poland (1869- 1902). My grandma never distinguished half brothers or sisters; they were all family, all Ostrowskis and that was all that mattered.  By the way my line of Ostrowski's spelled their names with or without the "w" and several other variations... The sisters remained very close throughout their lives. Rose outlived them all except for the baby, Francie whom we saw on previous Sepia. Many Sundays I accompanied my grandma on the bus ride across the river so she could see her sisters Mary and Vernie. Sometimes they made the journey to my grandma’s house, but Aunt Mary’s house was bigger with a formal dining room so most gatherings were there. But my grandma would haul pastries and pies along that she had carefully made the day before. All the sisters could cook, but Rose was the best baker and so these treats were often  her  contribution to most gatherings.

Here are the sisters and their husbands in 1945 during one of Francie Mroz’s visits.

Seated left to right, Mary, Rose, Francie and Vernie; behind them their husbands ( left to right) Tommy Janosky, Teofil Kochanowski, Al Mroz, Alex Roginski.  This is the only photo I have of all the girls and guys together. Notice those old  cars to the side.

I recall little about Great Aunt Vernie except that she became very ill and bedbound at the last; I think she suffered stokes. Aunt Mary remains very vivid in my memories; she was always in a good mood and always smiling. Somehow she found the good and the humorous in everything. Whenever I would act silly or burst out into uncontrollable laughter as a child my grandma would say, “you are just like Mary she thinks everything is funny too!”

Actually whenever I would act out or up as in this photo of me with a purple costume wig and my Grandma Rose in 1961 after Granpap died, she would say, "just like my sister Mary!"  I had decided that we had enough of being sad and that  Granpap would not want us sitting and mourning.  My poor Grandma didn't find a lot to laugh about at the time, so I tried to cheer her up being silly. 

Aunt Mary’s laughter was so contagious that people caught it quickly just being around her. I remember Mary and my grandma washing dishes after a big family dinner and holding their sides doubling over with laughter at the sink. Rose threw her wet dish rag at Mary telling her to “stop making me laugh I am going to wet myself!” That only brought more laughter and my grandma’s mad dash to the bathroom. Today when I get an attack of the giggles I think of my great aunt Mary.

 I don't know how she kept a straight face for this snapshot of their 60th something wedding anniversary, Mary and Tommy Janosky. But he looks like he is about to laugh, maybe expecting something from Mary soon.   Rose kept this photo which featured the cake she had made for them and all the  pink roses.  

In that same suitcase was this old photo of a mystery girl, whom I believe is posed for Communion and who must be one of the Ostrowski's though no one could identify her.  She is certainly serious.   

As a result of these Sepia Saturday posts I have been contacted by some previously unknown relatives in PA, FL and OK; all part of the Ostrowski lineage. They were Googling and found me here. I hope that the same good luck continues so I can resolve more of this puzzle of my family.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sepia Saturday Week 16 Click here to link to other Sepia Saturday posters

Teofil Kochanowski 1887--1961    

 This week I jump to another side of my family, my grandfather, Teofil Kochanowski , my mother’s father.

This 1943  photo is my grandmother, Rose, my mother, Helen, and my grandfather, Teofil. 

While there are few photos of Teofil I have lots of memories.

To me he was Granpap and to the rest of the family, Pap.

“Never you mind” was his frequent response. And he always hummed or whistled a Polish tune. 

His favorite Polish saying, which I give you in English, is "where there are people there are troubles." 
 To him it meant, no worries, it is all just life!

 The spelling of the last name changed considerably depending on who wrote it. Uncle Carl, his son, Americanized it to Konesky in 1941 and the rest of the family used that spelling. But not my Granpap , he knew what his name was and he insisted it be that way! He was not an educated man through schooling, but he was very wise and shrewd. He knew how to read and write and I can still hear him say in Polish to his son, “Never you mind, I show you! You no change how spell my name!” Here they are in 1942, Teofil, is the shorter one and Carl.

Though he proudly claimed to be full Polish, his baptismal certificate indicates he was baptized in Zarsryn, Austria, born April 27, 1887 to Thecla Kochanecka (the spelling is hard to read in the Latin script) daughter of Adalberti Kochanecki and another name hard to decipher, Sunwae de Cictro Ober. He was baptized Theophilus; the Latin clearly includes a reference “illegitimus”. I wish I’d known about this when Granpap was alive, because he would have had a good story to tell. He had a brother, Charles ‘Krolicki” who died in Illinois in and a sister Nellie Buczek who lived in PA. I do not remember either of them.

 He enjoyed his "piwa" (beer) as this photo from 1945 shows him (left) with his visitng brother-in-law, Al Mroz. Teofil danced a wild polka and the "Russian" dance where he squatted and did the  kicks while shouting and raising arms.  I tried to do that but never could.  He would laugh and tell me that was the man's dance and I could not do it because I was a girl.  The proudest moment of his life was when he became a US citizen; he would shake his head in wonder that a boy who stole a cow could be a citizen of this great country. My aunt and mother said they remember him sitting on the stairs practicing English and studying US history for his citizenship test. When they laughed at his pronunciation of something, he would become very annoyed with them and shout, “go to bed! Never you mind, someday I’m gonna be a citizen and you no laugh from me no more."

My love of gardening stems from hanging out with Granpap. Among my favorite memories is sitting in the dirt smack dab in the garden with Granpap. I loved scraping up the dirt. He would hoe or shovel and I would crawl around with my own tiny shovel, spoons or my hands, sifting the dirt that he worked up into fine mulch. I developed my love of hot peppers right there in the dirt in Granpaps garden! I remember pulling peppers off the plants and biting into each one until we found the right taste of hot. This was to my grandmother’s horror! “PAP, DON’T YOU FEED THOSE PEPPERS TO Patty!” He’d laugh, “Never you mind, Rose, she’s help me find the hottest.” Oh we were a pair, Granpap and me. Grandma would scoop me up, scrub me clean and redirect my attention to my dolls inside the house. I remember when I was about five years old and she had me sparkling clean. Off I went because Granpap was outside in the garden, dragging Dolly along, both of us were back in the dirt.  Granpap warned me, “Oooh Parujcka (Polish for my name) you gonna get it for sure now….never you mind, go on over there by the wood shed.” He then decided he was done stirring the dirt for the day, wiped me off as good as he could with his handkerchief and then said, “Well what I gonna tell Rose now? You gonna make lotsa trouble for us two!” And of course it was the funniest thing in the world to him.
Here he is in 1943 with one of his hunting dogs.  Granpap would tell me stories about the mines, the strikes, hunting, but my Grandmother was always cautious about these. I can hear her yelling, “Pap don’t you tell her that!” He would laugh and point his finger to his lips to be quiet and then go on in a hushed tone. I remember sitting on the front porch swing with him and asking him how to say phrases in Polish, like, “you’re crazy” or “get away”, etc.  He told me that he had stolen a cow and sold it so he could get money to come to America. After he began to earn money he sent it to the farmer in Poland, he said, to his mother to pay for the cow.  When he arrived in America he hopped the freight trains and headed for Chicago, where he knew someone and which was a magnet for  Polish immigrants. He was a young man, an immigrant who spoke no English but knew he could make a living in America. For the rest of his life, he had a soft spot in his heart for railroad bums and he and my grandmother fed them whenever they wandered up from the tracks to their home. I suppose their home was known as a place where a bum could get a good hot meal. I don’t know for sure, but I think my Granpap snuck them some spare change too. My grandparents were not wealthy, but they believed someone else was always worse off and would share what they had.

Granpap was my salvation at church. We attended a Polish parish and in those days if the priests were not speaking Latin, it was Polish. As a child I understood neither and would get fidgety sitting there, bur Granpap would smile and tell me “just a little bit longer then we go home, and we gonna get ice cream on the way” which bought my quiet attention.

Teofil found his wife, my grandmother, Rose, in a bakery where she was working. They were married September 25, 1915 in New Kensington, PA. I found it strange that there was no Catholic wedding, but that could have been because of his past. I do recall my grandmother saying that they had gone to the priest later on that year to be really married. She was devout Catholic; Teofil was also Catholic but not as concerned. They had five children, Frank who died of the Spanish flu epidemic, Francis, Carl, Virginia and Helen, my mother. I never saw a wedding portrait, but I have a huge oil portrait of their faces which hangs in my study; my uncle said it was for an anniversary.

Granpap was a coal miner and he shared stories of working at the mines and being very grateful to the unions. He was proud that when the “scabs” came by to take their jobs when the miners went out on strike that he would knock them down and bloody their noses if they did not leave right away. This was amazing because Granpap was a small man and so kind. I could hardly imagine him in a fight, but I suppose he did that to defend his livelihood and the union. His miner’s papers taken out in 1913 note that he entered the country through New York on the Hamburg and record his weight at 145 pounds, height at 5 ‘5” blonde hair and blue eyes. Granpap told me that his hair had turned black working in the mines. I always remember him with dark hair and little silver or grey hair even when he died in 1961. I guess that mine coal dust stayed with him all his life! Now that my hair turns darker with each year, I wonder if I somehow have the strain of coal dust from Granpap.

Granpap suffered many strokes and was always told he would not walk again. But he always outwitted the doctors. He would be up hobbling about with his cane to the surprise and delight of all. With a grin and poking his cane, “never you mind, I not gonna lay in no bed!” He had no intention of spending the rest of his life in bed, because Rose had enough to do without having to wait on him. I remember him walking all over town and up the hills to our home.

Often his walks ended up at the butcher shop where they always had a card game going on in the back and he often won. My grandmother walked to the butcher shop almost every day to buy meat. Looking back now, I wonder why she just didn’t have Granpap pick it up, but then I supposed she never knew how long he might be staying there. I remember a big to do one late summer afternoon when Granpap did not return home from his walk. I was staying at my grandparents, which I did often. So after calling around and finding out that he had left the butcher shop hours ago, my Grandmother got worried. She called Uncle Carl who came and called the police. A search was on for Teofil…This is one of the few times I ever saw my grandma cry. Later before it was fully dark, Grandpap came up the sidewalk, with his cane, whistling and humming, which he always did as he walked along. There were many anxious Polish words spoken and Teofil began to laugh and then scold them all,,,,,”Hmph! Never you mind! I come home you all crazy or what!” He’d been down near the river, got interested in digging around in the woods…lost track of time….

Family called him the “junkman” because on his walks, he would invariably find something discarded by someone, which he would drag home. He was the original recycler before the term was ever invented.  Later he would drag these treasures to our home to my mother’s consternation. Granpap’s retort to criticism of his hauls were always the same short words, “Listen to me, this no cost you nothing, you no gotta feed it, someday you gonna want it and here it is…never you mind!” Today when I ponder whether or not to toss something, I recall Granpap’s advice, “well it costs nothing, don’t have to feed it, might be handy someday…”  He left a legacy, prone to packrat.

He always had dogs which were well trained whether they were a hunting dog or a pet. My uncle told how Granpap was so crazy about animals, and even when times were very lean in their lives Granpap always had dogs.  I found this 1956 photo where Granpap has a woodchuck on a leash. He’d once brought a woodchuck into the house, leaving it in a box overnight in the kitchen. The next morning it and the box were gone! I am sure my grandmother who kept an immaculate house came into the kitchen, saw that and out it went. Uncle Carl said, Granpap was annoyed but shrugged it off, “I no have proof, Rose, but I know you did something and I wanted that woodchuck for a pet!” He tried to snare birds to tame them without too much success; my Uncle Carl said he would sit in wait near a bush to snare birds that would come up to feed on crumbs he had set out. My grandparents always had a canary or two in a cage; he loved canaries likely associating them with use in the mines. I suspect that my love of Tweety bird today stems back to my granpap and his canaries. Canaries were used by the coal miners to gauge air quality in the mines but granpap would not sacrifice his birds for that. He would not sell them to miners whom he knew they only wanted the birds to test the air.

He died in November 29, 1961 the way we would all like to go. After they ate lunch he told my Grandma that he felt a little bit tired and was going to go take a nap. He never awoke. I was in my senior year of high school and still remember my grandmother’s voice of grief when she called our home after she found him. She moved to our house immediately after that. Teofil was the love of her life.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sepia Saturday February 20

Ostrowski (aka Ostroski) my maternal grandmother’s family appx. 1910 Mystery gathering

Preparing this for Sepia Saturday reminded me how difficult my genealogical research has been. I must get some of this organized to share with whoever from the next generation might be interested. I have been asked to send what I have to the Mroz adult children of my cousin Roland who died in Madison in October. My Polish history becomes complicated due to the various spellings of the names. This happened all too commonly with the immigrants. It was Ostrowski, also spelled as Ostroski, Ostroskie, depending on who singed and wrote their name. In addition many changed their names to a more accepted Americanized version as my uncle did by changing Kochanowski to Konesky; some even changed their first names to something very different, for example, Walter became known as Bill. I suppose part of this was by reason of wanting to be accepted, to fit in.  Yet life was extrememly segregated by ethnic heritage.  Another curious name game in my family is the repetitive use of the same name within families. This happened with Helen, Frank and Francis, Frances, and John. It must have been comical at a family event when they called for John and three boys responded!

In about 1977, before she died, my Great Aunt Frances, my (maternal) grandmother’s baby sister gave me this photo. She is seated on the ground, in this photo, between the two boys, second person from the left with a big bow or flower in her hair. I knew that she was the youngest of my grandma’s family of sisters and brothers. But until she began to talk about the photo, I did not know that her father, my great grandfather, Frank Ostrowski had three wives two of whom he outlived. She knew nothing about where it was taken or why. But this photo is the only such of a gathering of the Ostrowski clan to my knowledge.

Great Aunt Frances was born in 1906, which makes me guess that her age is about four in the photo which then dates this to about 1910. She married a Mroz. I tried for years to identify all the relatives. Neither my mother nor my aunts were able to identify all the people or why the photo was taken. I know which ones are my grandmother and her sisters and brothers, all standing in the back, young folks, some forcing a straight face. My grandmother’s sister, Mary has such a twinkle in her eye that it appears hard for her to look grim. I always remember this about Great Aunt Mary; she was a happy soul, full of laughter. Actually most of my grandmother’s relatives were jovial people, who enjoyed what little they had and certainly reveled in each other’s company.

My mother speculated this photo was taken in Ohio at a funeral that was a family scandal, something no one talked about. I don’t know how she knew that if she knew little else. It was the end of the conversation in her kitchen in PA during one of my visits home, as she walked away leaving me to my thoughts and to accept her explanation. My mother died of Alzheimer’s in 2004 and I believe that she had early symptoms which we did not recognize. So who knows if her comment was from dementia or truth? I accepted that as closed conversation. That was a prevalent way to deal with questions in my family, no one talked about anything. If they didn’t speak it or repeat it, it didn’t happen. I don’t know if all immigrant families had this same way of dealing with life, but my Polish family kept things to themselves. There is a Polish proverb about not speaking of misfortune so that the devil does not gain an open door to enter and bring in more trouble. I suspect the immigrants were cautious of discussions and suspicious as most of them had fled Poland to escape oppression. I am different and want to know and tell our stories. Too bad that as a child I didn’t pay more attention. I wonder what might have been the scandal worthy of stoic silence in this mystery photo. By the time I received this photo, my grandmother and all her sisters and brothers were long gone so there is no one to ask.

Great Grandfather Frank Ostrowski is seated in the middle row, third from the left. His third wife who is Great Aunt Fran’s mother, Helen Sekoski (aka Sajikowski) is 2nd from the left next to him. Frank (aka Franz) Francis Ostrowski is a story unto himself what I have learned about him in research. He immigrated from Poland and made his living as a coal miner in PA.

Here are the folks I know for sure:

Seated on the ground on what appears to be carpet, the front row: 2nd from left between 2 unidentified boys, Great Aunt Fran Ostrowski Mroz; after the 2nd boy, in a plaid dress with her hair parted in the middle is Annie Ostrowski Kaluzney and Gorleski, my grandmother’s cousin, unknown child next to her. Notice that none of these kids look very happy!

Second row from the left: Unknown woman, next to her, 2nd woman is Helen Sekoski, then Great Grandfather Frank, unknown couple, the people in the rest of the row are unidentified but I suspect Annie’s mother may be seated right behind her.

Third (Back) row from the left: (most are my grandmother Rose’s sisters, brothers, full or half siblings; progeny of Franks first two wives)  I have included the married names of the women.

Joseph John Ostrowski (surviving Twin whose brother died shortly after birth), unknown woman, we speculate that might be Katherine Buhl whom Joseph married; she resembles the woman at the end left in the second row, John Martin Ostrowski; Bill (nee Walter F) Ostrowski who changed his last name to Austin, unknown man, Mary Ostrowski Janosky, unknown man with his arm through my grandmother’s arm, My grandmother Rose Ostrowski Kochanowski, unknown man, Veronica (aka Vernie) Ostrowski Roginski, Ben (nee Bernard John) Ostrowski, Ben’s wife-Anna Boguzinska Ostrowski and their first born Walter (Louie).

There you have it the Mystery gathering. In 2002, my research led a previously unknown cousin to me. That was interesting as we pieced together different pieces of the puzzle of the Ostrowski clan. Today I have not heard from Sharon in months as she has not returned emails or answered her phone when we are in PA. Not sure what is going on with her. I have genealogy which traces Frank Ostrowski’s line to Poland in the 1300’s supplied by another 2nd cousin, Maxine, in Utah. Complicated strings of Polish links.

& here is link to the Sepia Sat site, I hope, if you would like to see others tales and  photos   

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Defying omens in spite of myself.

I have recognized for a long time that I do should not ignore the providentially predictive omens from “my people” and their direction to me. But today was one of those days when I defied that which I know.

The sun shined off and on making today less winter like than other days. I did not need my heavy coat and could wear only my faux fur vest over a sweat shirt, more than adequate for running in and out of car to places inside. First venture this morning was to the local Farmer’s Market at the community center room, advertised to chase the blahs. I was not expecting farm fresh produce at this time of year, but just wanted to assuage my curiosity. Who knows what would be for sale. Jerry declined to accompany me saying it might be just a flea market or produce from Chile or Mexico. I am pleased to report that was not so, our local farmers do not have the CA crassness; they only sell what they grow.

The offerings were sparse, as expected but included jewelelry, cards, buffalo jerky, honey, canned goods, lots of baked items and apples. I visited with several acquaintances, visited with Esther, a local grower and purchased some wonderful morning glorious muffins which saved me from spending some time baking. I also purchased pints of homemade (and home grown) pickled beets and sauerkraut. I love pickled beets but being the sole consumer of these in this household, there is no need for me to attempt them. The venue was as limited as expected, but worth the diversion.

Yesterday’s missed mall visit beckons me. This was a big mistake. I have no need to shop on weekends and certainly not to visit the mall. I know better, but there I went. It took me a long time to find a parking space, up and down the aisles I drove becoming more and more determined to get into Herberger’s. Once parked and inside I barely browsed the 70% off racks, same junk that has been hanging around the racks all season. I didn’t like, want need it at full or reoccurring sale price and even at 70% off another sale price it was not appealing. Finally I made my way to the Clinique counter the original object of my intention. The PA system had been avidly enticing shoppers to visit the Clinique counter for a free gift with purchase.  Is that a misnomer or what, free after spending $25! I believe it must be extra incentive commission on sales day because I have never seen so many so eager to wait on so few…although the parking lots were full, evidently everyone is browsing, mall walking, in the food court  or who knows where. They are not at this counter which I consider a good thing. After I am approached for the third time by an eager sales girl, I surrender my effort to circle and see the products. I succumb and tell her I want the black honey lipstick and something else that will qualify me for the gift. I do not know what that something else is for sure. I had inventoried my cosmetics and creams, etc. that I occasionally use and found my supplies adequate. Maybe a small bottle of Happy cologne; it smells good and who doesn’t want to spray self with Happy. My overly solicitous salesclerk says in her saddest dramatic voice “Oh No! I am so so so so very very sorry. I just sold the very last tube of Black Honey! We had 25 tubes and they are all gone…” I am truly amazed and respond, “The last tube in existence? Really there will be no more? Ever?” To which she now pouts, “Well I really could not say, but let me show you…” But I beat her at it, “no thanks, that is all I really wanted I can wait or do without, not critical at all,,, Thank you for saving me $$.” I am now free to walk back out to the car and depart, having spent not a cent. This is a good thing, but I feel foolish for wasting an hour and effort at driving to the mall to be amidst a crowd, a task that amuses me not at all.
Made by my grandmother sometime in the  1930's
Sewing by Great Aunt Francie Mroz
The next time I have the urge to do so I will remember today’s experience. Here in retirement mode, I tend to forget lessons or think things will be different? I don’t know but I do know I can amuse myself readily in my own house for free. So I return home and begin to sort out more paperwork that I brought from PA. After spending an hour at that I migrate to rearrange two drawers with my treasures of handmade doilies, and dresser scarves from my aunt, my grandma and my great aunt. This is a productive effort that produces a great feeling of accomplishment. Besides I enjoy the memories and really appreciate the intricate handwork. These were all made with love long ago.   I recognize I am truly blessed to have these things. And I don't have to shop for them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Different worlds of communication

I've just spent several hours tidying up my project room, which is the big downstairs bedroom that is off the study and that also serves as my work out room. I love being able to just leave my projects in process out in what may appear disarray in that room. That way when, the mood strikes me I can go in there and start to work on sorting photos, scrap booking or whatever the pending project may be. I don't have to pack it back into a box and put it away because that room doesn't get any other use. And it's downstairs and not visible to guests when we entertain upstairs. Lucky me!

But, something needs to be done sometime soon, so I chose today. Janine, one and only grand daughter is coming for a week in April. She will be here the same week that Jerry's brother, Rod and family will be here. Rod & Katie are teachers in So. Calif. and Janine is a college student in No. Calif. but every one's spring break is at the same time. So we will have a houseful for that week.

This bothers no one least of all, Janine, who announced she would be taking over the downstairs--this is our finished basement. I agreed she could have the bedroom down there but Grandma would have to tidy up her projects--some of which are strung across the bed. Janine likes the big screen TV & the rec-room and so fancies herself to be in charge of the lower floor. While I can keep my sewing strewed across the coffee table in the study I could not leave the bedroom in it's mess. So now things are packed up and into the closet. Trouble is, I won't likely get to doing anything with those photos, etc. for who knows how long now--out of sight out of mind.

Today while tidying I sorted and threw out some things. I started with a small box of photos and trinkets from my grandmother. She had saved these and I brought them from PA in 2004 when mom died. I did toss out photos of people no one knows. I have asked the only two who might--Aunt Jinx and Uncle Carl and they could not identify the people, so no need to keep these. Old black and white photos from how long ago. I found wedding photos of my cousin Roland who lives in Madison, WI and will mail those off to him. Another treasure which I'll pass along to him are photos of my aunt and 2nd cousin, Stella's, trip to visit them when they lived in Milwaukee. These show he and his folks and his brother and he should enjoy them. It was always a big deal to the Polacks in PA to take the train to Milwaukie...I made that trip every other summer with my grandparents. Rollie can pass them along to his daughter or one of his son's. Those are in an old black and white photo book, remember how the old photos were developed into these spiral photo books? They'd charge us who knows how much for such a thing today!

What I find very strange is how well the old black and white photos have lasted. Some of the photos are from the 1940's and 1950's, yet they are just as clear and certainly better than the color photos we took in the 1970's.

What brings me to the blog now is a telegram that I found. My grandmother had saved a Western Union telegram which Uncle Carl sent her in maybe 1944 or so, when he was in the Army. And there it is today in 2009! A telegram wishing her and all Happy Valentine's Day. Way before cell phones, texting, Facebook and/or email. Hey, this must even be prior to Hallmark cards in all their glory which are used to celebrate and greet today!

I wondered if it scared her when she opened it, because telegrams were not a good thing in World War II. She kept it a long time, so I cannot part with it in 2009. It will go into the Ostroski-Kochanowski Family scrapbook. That is when I get back to the projects! A historical relic of communication from the past. How different it is today.

So here it is, the scan of the telegram and photo of my grandparents and me. That's Teofil Kochanowski (Grandpap) and Rose Ostroski-Kochanowski (Baba to me) , me and Carl Konesky, their son and my uncle. He changed the Polish spelling to something more Americanized Konesky then he and the siblings all began to use Konesky.

I was the star of every photo. On the right, is Uncle Carl home on leave from the Army. There was no date on this photo, but I guess it about 1945 sometime. The clothes were out on the line which shows in another photo taken the same time, and yet in another there I am in the wash tub outside. So it must have been nice weather. And I know this was when they still lived on 2nd Avenue in the old row houses. They and Mom bought the house on Catalpa St. when I was about 2 years old, so here we are prior to that.

I just noticed that an old factory smokestack which would have been across the river looks like it's coming right out from my grandmother's head. Funny. The 2nd street row house was near the river and I know they were all too happy to move up the hill onto Catalpa St.