My, my…how fancy and devilish!
‘John Dillinger Drinks Here’ could be the subtitle on this old business card. My Grandparents owned this bar, reportedly frequented by gangster John and his band of guys and their ‘Molls’ who were “Wild and Woolly and Full of Fleas.”
So who lives in your family tree? Most of us don’t really have a famous relative, but you can bet that every branch has had a little brush with fame or scandalous rogues somewhere along the line! Think about that “one” story always itching to be retold. You know, the one that gets passed around the Thanksgiving Dinner table each year. Once the heavy carbohydrates and Turkey-tranquility begin to take effect, the stage is set for storytelling time. Waistbands get loosened, dessert is served with a second (or 5th) glass of wine. Guards are lowered and tongues start wagging…Have your pencil sharpened and in ready position!
The movie star Frances Farmer used to come into my Aunt’s dry cleaning store. Imagine that–right here in the heartland of farm crops and auto racing. I wrote a bit about how Aunt Mitz did Movie Star cleaning and pressing in another post written about my Uncle Joe. Frances had her own whale of a tale in general. If you aren’t familiar with what this poor woman suffered in the wake of Hollywood glitz, read her biography. It’ll rival most nightmares Tinsel-Town could ever conjure.
And if it be nightmares you seek~ are there any connections between your family and a famous crime…
…or unsolved “doing”
that went on near enough to your world giving you all the heebie-jeebies?
A lot of my dad’s family was out working the carnival and county fair circuit with Sylvia Liken’s parents the summer the teen was brutally tortured to death by a woman they paid to watch over their daughter while they were working out-of-state. Oh, and the real “kicker” if you aren’t familiar with the sad, sick tale was that Sylvia’s “caretaker” Gertrude also included a bunch of the neighborhood kids in the crime. Gertrude invited them in to practice judo moves, do cigarette branding and urinate on the poor girl.
Mr Penney (as in J. C. himself) once stepped in during a busy lunch time shopping rush and helped my aunt ring up customers. When Steve McQueen was a kid he lived with his mom and grandparents around the corner from some of my kin. And yes, John Dillinger hung out at and loved Granny Kate’s hot stew from her Wooden Shoe Tavern.
Abraham Lincoln and my Great Uncle Jimmy were law partners, or at least classmates in “lawyering school.” Well, that’s how the story went for years until I started doing some math and blew that tall tale all the way to China. The truth can be a bitter, bitter pill for some. And of course, my husband’s birth-brood (along with every other old South family) is related to Daniel Boone AND Davy Crockett 🙂
Then there are the ones I haven’t chased down yet–Like our familial claim to Warwick Castle. Or the one about some sort of half Royal love child with Franz Josef Hapsburg, or maybe it was his heir Franz Ferdinand, you know, the guy with the whole Sarajevo/1st shot fired in WWI thing.
Why not shake up your Family Tree with a little something spicy and exciting? Take some time this week to recall the lore and to tell about the famous and the famous near-by. Those who you may claim as your own or those who may be mingled-in-with your ancestors can be a very juicy spit of a story. Big connection, made up, misinformed or one heck of a stretch, all of them are a thread in the tapestry of our own family story
Maybe someone should write that down…
Finally, after years, and I do mean YEARS of poking, searching and poodling around–I finally found my Weisz relatives on the other side of the pond! Yeah Baby! And they come from…where else?…the proclaimed Geographical Center of Europe!
Yes, we’re talking Kunesov (or Blaufuss) Slovakia. Although if that’s all I had to go on during my exhausting search, this whole “middle of the world thing,” I could also have searched for them in about a dozen other places with similar central claims. Yes, per Wikipedia and a few other sources I have consulted, there are roughly 15 places with claim to being the center of the world and/or the center of Europe geographically. There’s also a “Center of the World” town in the state of Ohio. But my bunch came from a small gold-mining region of Slovakia, where there isn’t much more than a Church plunked on a plot in the middle of nowhere. Kunesov is said to be the place where both the Black and the Baltic Sea basins rise up to form the hill. Said hill, or “crest” is responsible for officially dividing the entire continent! That makes Kunesov rather like an out-y-bellybutton for all of Europe. The church was built in the 14th century and is named for St John the Baptist. Poor St John is also famous for his point of “division” in another way. The lonesome little building is adorned with white stone walls and a green onion dome silently adding a touch of East meets West.
Oddly, GGGrand-Papa is sporting a commonly Jewish surname while being christened there at St John’s Roman Catholic Church.
I mention the surname twist, not only because it adds to what I consider the crazy ironic stew that I am made of, but also because of the implications. Health implications. In researching the spelling of this name (translated it means “White”) I find that it was a common surname given to Ashkenazim Jews who were fair haired and fair complected (ala “Mom”). Health-wise, the BRCA genes which give one a high predisposition to breast cancers and some other cancers are commonly found in people who have an Ashkenazim Jewish linked heritage. I have always said there was no way I would have that gene, my family is all Catholic or Protestant. Looks like I was pretty much wrong, so maybe yes there was a reason I had breast cancer after all!
Nobody get sappy, I’m fine and dandy now…”only the Good die young…” the rest of us stick around forever tormenting our heirs 😉
Well how’s about them apples? So, the thrill of finally pinning down Grandpa White was quickly tossed to the side. Now I am obsessed with finding HIS parentage. I can’t wait to see why a nice Jewish boy (at some point in the history of “us”) jumped sides and became a nice Catholic boy (from there continuing the history of “us”). I really cannot imagine that his parents were amused! I’m going to bet that “her” parents were equally “un-jubilant” over the whole pairing.
Juicy! Can’t wait to find that one!
So, poor GGGrand-Papa White and his lovely wife Marija from Kunesov, Slovakia have been celebrated briefly (a quick Happy Dance around my ironically “Mid-West” family room) and I am on to “Next.”
Isn’t that always the way though? As soon as one is found and solved, the door to another volume of questions cracks open…and we the Family History Hounds are Off! Sniffing out the next empty lines on the chart, anxious to find the next fascinating story to write.
So how about you? Have you ever bumped into a surprise like this one? Are any of your relatives from somewhere as exciting as the Center of the Civilized World? Dish it up and share the story please!
You can take your time if you would like…I’m off to the backyard to erect a monument stating that my driveway is the official Center of the Universe 🙂