The Whole darn Bunch

Opa never told me about his drawings.

I found one in a box with a stack of his and Oma’s old photographs. A small rectangle of cardstock – measuring about 6″ x 2 1/4.”  Drawn in ink, perhaps with a fountain pen. My mother had written on the back…identifying it as Opa’s handiwork.

 

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circa 1926

Who are these people? I recognized two names: “Hank” is Opa and “Ruth” is Oma.  The details make me smile. Cowlicks. Curly hair. Twelve friends holding hands and grinning. Each person just a bit different from the next. Whimsical and sweet and young and happy.

And then I found these photos tucked in with the drawing.

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Labor Day 1926 Loveland Park, Ohio

I can match two of them…Hank and Ruth are second from the right. The rest – I can only guess; although “Andy” in the tank top could be a close bet on the far left.

Oma was 19 and Opa was 20 years old in September, 1926; as I imagine most of these young people probably were too. Were they all childhood friends? I have no idea. All the photos tell me is they were enjoying the day and each other. Celebrating a day off from work together.

How Opa & Oma loved their friends! They traveled with them. Exchanged letters for many years. Went out to eat. Visited both near and far. Opa went on numerous hunting and fishing trips with his buddies. Oma went along on at least one hunting trip that I know of, but I think the black flies put an end to that. They traveled to Florida for deep sea fishing trips with lifelong friends. They both made friends most everywhere they went.  Opa was an open, gregarious man who relished the art of conversation. Oma was a bit quieter, but ever present with a twinkle in her eye and a sly comeback.

Opa traveled in Europe quite often in the 1940’s and 1950’s for business. He once struck up a conversation with a man sitting next to him on a long distance train in Switzerland. Opa’s soon-to-be new friend happened to have twin daughters who were the same age as his daughter (my mother). The twins became penpals with my mother and eventually emigrated to the United States a decade later. Fast forward to my childhood — they became like family and shared many holiday celebrations with us. One twin became my sister’s godmother. I am still close friends with the surviving elderly sister, who now lives back in Switzerland. Look what a chance meeting on a train led to.

I wonder what happened to my grandparents’ friends after this Labor Day in 1926. Their friends from before marriage and children and, in a few years, the Great Depression.  When everything changed.

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Labor Day 1926 Loveland Park, Ohio

I am glad they had each other…The Whole darn Bunch.

 

 

 

 

school pictures

My Opa and Oma grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was aware of that from a very early age. We traveled many miles by car and by train to visit various relatives there when I was young. It’s where my parents grew up too. Baseball meant the Cincinnati Reds – Opa’s favorite team. Both my brothers wore the requisite Reds baseball hats and jackets, even though we all lived on the east coast. Oma sometimes reminisced about the sales job she held (until she married) at the Wurlitzer Company in downtown Cincinnati. I remember stories about riding streetcars and shopping at Kroger’s.

Opa and Oma were very proud of their childhood beginnings…and the schools they went to. I’m not sure if they attended the same grammar schools. I wish I had asked more questions about their earliest years. Opa did mention some hijinks involving a piano in the music room which I won’t go into here; but suffice it to say he was a prankster. And proud of it. Which doesn’t surprise me at all.  The class pictures I found – some over 100 years old – make me wonder…what happened to all those children? What were their lives like? What were their stories?

Below is Opa’s kindergarten class (he is identified by the arrow).  I wonder how long those 5 year olds had to stand or sit still for the photographer. First or last day of school? Was that one class or 2 together? What a group…all those hats!

 

Opa age 5
1911 – 23rd District Kindergarten – Cincinnati, Ohio

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Below is (what I assume to be) Oma’s Kindergarten class. Unfortunately this photo has deteriorated and there is no mention of what school it was (although I suspect it might be the Kirby Road School – it seems similar to her 8th grade location in the next photo). She is 4th from the right in the second row (black mark pointing her out). Oma told me how much she loved the big bows she wore in her hair as a child.

1911? oma
circa 1911 Kindergarten? Cincinnati, Ohio

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Next is Oma’s 8th grade class photo. There she is in the front row, still wearing a big bow in her hair.  She went to the Kirby Road School, which is now listed on the “National Register of Historic Places” in Cincinnati, Ohio. It has been (or is planning to be) converted into apartments – 50,000 square feet of them; most complete with original chalkboards and wood floors & trim! I can just imagine her reaction to hearing that news. Perhaps a sly grin and a shake of the head….

1920 oma 8th grade
1920 – 8th grade – Kirby Rd. School – Cincinnati, Ohio

 

Another Kirby Road School class picture is in the form of a postcard. It is not dated, but appears to be 1914 or 1915 judging from how old the children look. Oma would have been in the 3rd or 4th grade; still wearing the bow, but not looking too pleased this time. She had written the note on the back of the postcard, shown below.

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Kirby Road School – circa 1914 – 1915?
Kirby Road School – circa 1914 – 1915?

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This is my favorite.

Opa’s grammar school class – not sure exactly which grade. Look at all the children carefully posed at their desks. Holding books open as if the photographer was interrupting a reading lesson. Library books are listed on the blackboard, so perhaps that explains the reason for the photo…promoting library books? Something new for the school? The flag draped on one desk – which seems odd, but there may have been some tie-in to the book theme.

They all look so serious…except Opa sitting in the back with a big grin on his face.

Opa at school
date unknown (1915-1916?) Cincinnati, Ohio

Opa

He made me laugh.

He loved me unconditionally.

My maternal grandfather was a character. In the real sense of the word. I called him Opa; the German version of Grandpa. He was very proud of his German ancestry. I called my grandmother Oma, in deference to his wishes I imagine. I saw Opa and Oma frequently throughout my childhood. They only lived an hour or so away.  [My paternal grandparents lived farther away & unfortunately I rarely saw them]1956 opa and me copy

We “clicked” – Opa and I – from my earliest memories of him. He “got” me in ways no one else did. He embraced the tomboy in me and loved to boast about my supposed skills on the softball field. “How’s my favorite shortstop?” he would greet me when I was 13. He encouraged me in all my interests. He did not, however, always approve of my choices of television shows and later…my politics. The thing is, we could always agree to disagree. I could speak up to him and it was okay. Never any love lost.  More on that in the future…

He called me his “#1 Granddaughter” (I was the oldest), but he would always be sure to add…”but I love all my grandchildren the same.”

He was smart, funny, strong-willed but fair. As a child, that’s how I knew him. He could also be difficult, abrupt and demanding. But never with me. More on that in the future as well… His sense of humor bordered on the – shall we say – inappropriate at times, but I always loved feeling like I was in on the joke.

Opa and I became “pen pals” when I was about 10 years old.  I still treasure those letters, so carefully written in his distinctive script. Sometimes on fancy stationary from fancy hotels when he was on a business trip or vacation. They always made me feel more grown up than I was…

1964 opa letter pg 1 edit
page 1 – November, 1964

 

1964 opa letter pg 2 edit
page 2 – November, 1964

He died over 25 years ago and I miss him still.

He believed in reincarnation.

He left me with so many unique memories – along with his letters, home movies and photographs. So many stories!

Stay tuned.

 

 

slides

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The bright color caught my eye. The trademark yellow-with-red-lettering Kodachrome logo. Empty boxes that once held carousels of slides. I didn’t notice any slides or carousels; obviously not recyclable. The boxes had tumbled out of a recycling container that I passed on a recent walk. Put to the curb. Recycling day.  But I wondered about their contents. What happened to the slides? Did they get scanned? Printed? Or handed down to the next generation (I wondered hopefully…). I recognized those boxes and that logo because that was me a few years ago. My late grandfather photographed with slide film. He took pictures everywhere: on fishing trips, hunting trips, trips to Europe, Asia and around the USA. He also photographed his family, especially his grandchildren when they were young. Anyone who is still familiar with slides knows the quality is superior to film. To view 50-plus year old slide images is to step back in time.

My grandfather, who we called Opa, loved his grandchildren and loved to take slides, polaroids and 8mm home movies of us. I remember the bright pop of the flashbulb, which he licked before inserting in the flash unit of his camera. Usually while balancing a cigarette in one hand or while it hung from the corner of his mouth. (Throughout my childhood, I always held my breath waiting for the cigarette to fall out and set him or the house on fire. Fortunately it never did). Now I have those slides.

slide sorter

He also took hundreds of photos on his many trips with my grandmother Oma. A few years ago I went through the large box of slide boxes and “magazines” (for slide projectors pre-carousel) that had been handed down to me. Opa had sorted them but only labeled sporadically. Venice – Paris – Zurich – Florence – Pompeii – Naples – Rome – Switzerland – Madrid – India – Germany – ???                                               IMG_2759 copy

I looked at every slide, curious and fascinated by the people and places he framed and preserved. I estimate the time frame to be in the 1940’s – 1960’s. I wonder if he ever loaded the magazines into a slide projector, sat back and watched the images one by one.  I sure hope so.

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…a few samples of his work…