Monday, November 12, 2018

The Uncle Johnny Files: Tonawanda Trove, Part Two

Never Forget
Uncle George
Today we are observing Veteran's Day and I thought it fitting to write about my Uncle George Keleher, an Army veteran of World War II. When his brother, John Keleher, died in October, my cousins sent me photos and letters that John had kept. I received two photos of George and some letters that mentioned his time in the Army.
George C. Keleher

My parents, Sam and Mary Markel, were just married in 1942. George was in Europe fighting the Germans. This was a time fraught with anxiety. I was born in 1944 when Mary wrote to her brother John. 
"Doubtless you will wonder what has happened here in Bayside. Right now, Carol is on the floor having a great time. We expect to go to Tonawanda around July 10th. We are waiting until Sam has his tires recapped. Can only have one done at a time as he has no extra tire."
 "What did you think of the invasion? Good news, eh. At this writing. Have you heard anything from George? I haven't heard anything in about two or three weeks. Am afraid he has gone out of the country...I think they have almost captured Cherbourg. Hope this means that it will be over soon."
The battle of Cherbourg was part of the Battle of Normandy and was fought after the Allied landing on June 6, 1944. American troops isolated and captured the fortified port of Cherbourg. It was a hard-fought, month-long battle.

 Mary by a tree.

"The garden is coming along fine although the rabbits ate all our string beans. The baby keeps me jumping most of the time now. Believe me, she is the boss in our family. Sam has been singing her to sleep lately. I put her in a playpen now where she's outside and she loves it. No doubt, she will be sitting up in another month."

  Uncle George with his mother and my grandmother, Kate Keleher.

 Happy Times.
Left to right: Uncle George, Cousin Kathleen, Jack Wedge,
Mary Markel and Jeanne Markel, at Mary's condo in
Southold, New York.

A Bientot!

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Uncle Johnny Files: Tonawanda Trove, Part One

The Newlyweds
In September, Uncle Johnny died days before his 98th birthday. Johnny was our mother's brother, the second of 10 children. Mary was the oldest. Over the years, we were close with Johnny who was a bachelor and who lived in the family homestead in the upstate New York city of Tonawanda. A modest house, on the corner of Fuller and Highland Avenues, the dwelling was across the street from train tracks. When, as kids, we visited Tonawanda, the freight trains would pass in endless progression with a clickity-clack sound. It is safe to say that nary a nail was hammered to keep the house at 63 Fuller Avenue from falling down. So when Johnny died, my upstate cousins has their work cut out for them in clearing the place. He was a bit of a hoarder.
Uncle Johnny was a party guy who loved to wear funny hats.
 He skied with a team of retired American Airlines 
employees until a few years ago. There is a story that he once skied
with an oxygen tank. He was a veteran of the Army Air Corps and served
in World War II and Korea. He retired as chief mechanic from American
Airlines in Buffalo.

Fortunately, the cousins recognized the importance of the many photos and letters that Johnny had saved. They were kind enough to send us a box of these mementos. In going through the pictures, it occurred to me that there were some touching family stories within. One was the marriage of my parents, Mary and Sam.
Mary and Sam Markel on their wedding day,
September 28, 1942. Grandpa John is to Mary's left and Grandma Kate
to Sam's right. A mighty wind is blowing Mary's veil in a cloud of ghostly white.
Aunt Peggy, then a little girl, stands in front. 

"The bride wore a white net gown, the close fitting bodice of lace with sweetheart neckline and the bouffant skirt trimmed with lace, the sleeves bracelet length. Her finger tip length veil, edged with with lace to match the dress, was caught with a spray of orange blossoms. Her arm bouquet was of white baby chrysanthemums and bridal roses.... Her younger sister, Margaret, wore a rose-colored taffeta frock, with matching hair bow and corsage of baby chrysanthemums in blending colors."
Miss Mary Katherine Keleher Wed this Morning to Mr. Markel
From the Society Column of a Tonawanda newspaper.
"Immediately after the ceremony, the wedding breakfast was
served to members of the family and some fifty friends. The bride's
table with covers for twelve, was centered with a three-tiered 
wedding cake, surmounted by a miniature bride and groom,
and decorated with pink and white streamers."
"The couple left on a short wedding trip, the bride wearing
a royal blue, velveteen two-piece costume, with dubonnet hat
and accessories. Her corsage was of gardenias. They will
be at home after October 1st in Camden, N..J."

Mary and Sam. They look so happy.
Mary, from a large, Irish Catholic family from upstate New York,
 and Sam, a Jewish man from Brooklyn.
Together they forged a good life with success and happiness.
They provided their four children with wonderful life 
experiences and opportunities.

I would like to thank my sister, Jeanne, for copying these photos.
Also, thank you to my cousins, Mary Linda and
Kathleen, for sending the photos to us.

A Bientot!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Elegant North Fork Dinner Party

When there's a dinner party on
the agenda, the Markel girls are 
cooking in Orient
Time for a time-out on the North Fork of Long Island. This August the Markel sisters (Carol, Susan and Jeanne) got together at Jeanne's house for a few days of relaxing, shopping, scrabble with our brother, David, and preparing a dinner party.
 The most important part of the visit,
seeing Jeanne's wonderful dog, Fern.
 Jeanne planned an activity.
A visit to the North Fork Flower Farm.
Susan stands amid a field of Zinnias.
 This is the bunch we brought home.
 On our first night we dined at Caci in Southold.
Joining us were David and his daughter, Samantha.
This is Caci's heirloom tomato salad with basil sorbet.
It is heavenly.
 No sister time is complete without shopping.
We spent a day in Sag Harbor on the South Fork.
 Susan and Jeanne in a Sag Harbor shop.
 Shopping for berries at a Southold farm stand.
 The table is set for our dinner party 
at Jeanne's house.
 The chefs are busy preparing the night's menu.
Classic Gougeres
Chicken Soutine with Black Olives
Local Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
Corn, Feta Cheese and Tomato Salad
Blueberry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream
 A tranquil evening on Peconic Bay
with our guests, Ekta and Mark. We are enjoying
 our gougeres and Ekta's tuna tartare.
Jeanne made us Negronis.
Dinner is served Chez Markel.

A Bientot

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Inside the Outside. David Markel in Southold

Inside the Red Barn:
The Eccentric Art of
David Markel
It's been a few years since I visited my brother, David Markel, at his barn in Southold, New York. Set amid vineyards and potato fields, David's barn, with it's car-stopping display of combines and assemblage sculptures set amid the surrounding fields, has been transformed into a live-work space.

David has taken a small section of his huge barn and made a comfortable studio and apartment.
 David at his table with a vase of sunflowers.
 On the etagere, David's small objects,
a vase of zinnias, a photo of our parents and a squash.
 Two of David's works.
He often uses found objects like this shaped piece
of wood, as painting surfaces.
 Two-faced Alien with No Arms.
 The opposite side of the Alien.
 A table with objects
 David's dog, Cookie, on a corner
of the couch. David got him at a yard sale.
 Creatures in a cityscape.
 A bust of a man wearing, what I believe, is our
father, Sam's, fez.
 Elvis and brushes.
 A view of the studio with David's painting table
which is also a work of art.
 The non-living space of the barn.
Our father, Sam, and David used to hold auctions on
this stage.

 A funny cabinet painted by David.
 Bye Dave. 

A Bientot!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Phoenicia and Woodstock on the Catskill Journey

Hippie Towns
On our recent trip through the Catskills, we blew through two fun towns, Phoenicia and Woodstock.
They are both small and heavy on restaurants and antique shops.

In Phoenicia we saw this beautiful, little church.
Lady of Salette. 
Roughly translated,
Lady of the Salad.
 Here's the Lady of the Salad worrying
about getting tossed.
 We stopped at Sue's Pancakes for lunch.
Left to right: Michael Miller, Rick Janke, Sue Markel,
Dianna Cramer, Carol and Richard
 These were all the pancake choices.
 Behind the counter at Sue's.
 Making the pancakes in the kitchen.
 Adorable, old-fashioned booths.
 Richard and his peach pancakes!
 Sue in Woodstock.
 We got a delicious Mexican dinner
here in Tannersville and took
it back to Scribner's Lodge.
The road back to Scribner's.

A Bientot!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Lazy Girl Stays at a Hipster Lodge

A mountain lodge where dogs as
accessories are de rigueur.
If Brooklyn was in the Catskills, then ground zero for its hipsters would be the hotel where we stayed on our recent trip upstate. I am talking about Scribner's Catskill Lodge in Hunter, New York. A 1960s motor lodge, Scribner's was re-imagined by a Brooklyn-based firm, Studio Tack, as a hip, homey mountain retreat. It was also one of the only hotels in the area which had accessible rooms for Richard reachable by a simple lift, as was the dining room on the ground level.

We got there on a Sunday afternoon and waiting for us in our room were the fixins for s'mores and two granny smith apples. A s'more is a treat made with Graham crackers, a chocolate bar and marshmallows. Our queen-size room was fine, but as is common these days in minimalist hotels where the designer knows best, no tables or shelves for you clothes unless you count the top of the in-room fireplace. They did have a pipe with a few hangers for coats and things you needed to keep neat.
On the road to Scribner's, Richard's daughter, Dianna Cramer,
had scoped out a road named Cramer.
 Fortunately, our room was steps away from the Library,
 which is what they call the great room at Scribner's.
 Richard would say, "I am going to the living room now",
 and sit in his favorite armchair to watch the action.
The action included pool and board games.
 Mid-century modern and lots of wood contribute
to a warm environment. The fireplace would be welcome
in the winter skiing season when the Lodge is at its busiest.
 Books in the library have been displayed according to color.
 In the blue section, I found this fascinating volume.
It kept me occupied for hours.
A game of pool with Michael Miller, Richard's 
son-in-law. He was a patient teacher.
The night that we arrived, there was a private party
in the restaurant and no bar for lodge guests.
But you could buy a bottle of wine at the
front desk, which I did.
 After a swim in the pool, making
s'mores in the outdoor fireplace.
 Did I mention dogs?
Everyone had one.
 We had a delightful swim in the pool.
The majestic Catskill Mountains are in the distance.
 A beautiful dog reclines by the table 
where his tech-savvy master works on his laptop.
 The deck at dusk.
 The dark mountains provide an abstract foil to the spectacular sky.
 We had torrents of rain on the trip but the blue sky appeared
 as if on cue when we needed it.

Fires burning, fires burning,
draw nearer, draw nearer
in the gloaming, in the gloaming,
come sing and be merry.

Old Girl Scout Song

A Bientot!