Oldest-Known Holocaust Survivor Dies; Pianist Was 110

This blog would be incomplete if I failed to include references about the good, the bad, and the uglies of this world. So when I came upon this story of Alice Herz-Sommer, I realized it had all of those features and many more. Alice’s spirit, in only moments, touched my heart. I believe she survived two years in Nazi camp and so many more so she could tell her poignant story–one of a survivor! Thank you Alice and thank you film director Malcolm Clark and producer Nick Reed for your Oscar-nominated documentary The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

NPR Logo

the Two-Way  Breaking News from NPR


February 24, 201411:44 AM
Alice Herz-Sommer in July 2010.

Alice Herz-Sommer in July 2010.

‘The Lady in Number 6’/AP

There are many remarkable things to say about Alice Herz-Sommer, who until her death in London on Sunday was thought to be the world’s oldest survivor of the Nazi Holocaust.

To start with, there’s her age: Herz-Sommer was 110.

Then there are the people she knew, including writer Franz Kafka — who died in 1924.

But what has particularly touched us as we’ve read about her this morning is her amazingly positive view of the world.

From the documentary ‘The Lady in Number 6’: Alice Herz-Sommer says whether life is good or not ‘depends on me.’

Bear in mind: In 1943, Herz-Sommer and her husband, Leopold Sommer, and their son, Raphael, were sent from Prague to a Nazi camp for Jews in the Czech city of Terezin. According to The Guardian, “she never saw her husband again after he was moved to Auschwitz in 1944 and many in her extended family and most of the friends she had grown up with were also lost in the Holocaust.”

According to the BBC, Herz-Sommer and her son “were among fewer than 20,000 people who were freed when Terezin was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945. An estimated 140,000 Jews were sent there and 33,430 died there. About 88,000 were transported on to Auschwitz and other death camps, where most were killed.”

Still, when the Guardian spoke with her in 2006, Herz-Sommer had this to say:

“Life is beautiful, extremely beautiful. And when you are old you appreciate it more. When you are older you think, you remember, you care and you appreciate. You are thankful for everything. For everything.”

Film director Malcolm Clark and producer Nick Reed — whose Oscar-nominated documentaryThe Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life tells the story of the concerts that Herz-Sommer, a pianist, and others performed in concentration camps to lift the spirits of prisoners — say in a statement that:

“Even as her energy slowly diminished, her bright spirit never faltered. Her life force was so strong, we could never imagine her not being around. We can all learn so much from this most amazing woman.”

On the film’s website, Herz-Sommer was quoted about the role music played in her life:

“She speaks with great pride and passion of playing more than 100 concerts inside the concentration camp and she likens that experience, both for the performers and their imprisoned audience, as being close to the divine. Alice is unequivocal in stating that music preserved her sanity and her life — while bringing hope into the lives of countless others. To this day Alice never tires of saying ‘music saved my life and music saves me still.’ ”

The film’s creators added that:

“Despite all that has befallen her, Alice insists that she has never, ever hated the Nazis, and she never will. Some see in her tolerance and compassion a secular saint who has been blessed with the gift of forgiveness, but Alice is far more pragmatic — she has seen enough in her life to know all too well that hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated.”

According to the Guardian, after the war Herz-Sommer “went to Israel in 1949 with her sisters and taught music in Tel Aviv before moving to London at the prompting of her son, who had grown up to become a concert cellist but who died suddenly in 2001 while on tour.”

In the 2006 interview, she shared with the Guardian her secret to a long life:

“My temperament. This optimism and this discipline. Punctually, at 10 a.m., I am sitting there at the piano, with everything in order around me. For 30 years, I have eaten the same — fish or chicken. Good soup, and this is all. I don’t drink — not tea, not coffee, not alcohol. Hot water. I walk a lot with terrible pains, but after 20 minutes it is much better. Sitting or lying is not good.”

All Things Considered is due to have more about Herz-Sommer and her life later today. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.


How Well Does Your Family Know It’s History?

How well do you think you know your family’s history?

Story Telling2More importantly to me, I’d like to confirm that there is practical value in my documenting and sharing my family’s story.    I sure hope so, because this blog site, as my legacy to future generations of my family, is intended to provide accurate reflections from my family’s past and to hopefully create mirrors to future generations that instill in them a sense of pride, well-being, self esteem, a true belonging to a greater and more in depth personal family history that inspires them in their life’s pursuits.

brucerfeilerI have been looking into and compiling our family’s history since 1980.  I have been writing posts on this blog from this genealogical research since 2011. Family history and genealogical research fascinate me—but beyond just being interesting, exploring family history is an activity that can be traced back to both the Old and New Testament eras. (If you have read the New Testament, you may recall that the story of Jesus opens with a lengthy genealogy that traces all of his human ancestors–not the famous Christmas story that you may have expected.)

I mention this because Bruce Feiler, (New York Times columnist and author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers), published a new book in January 2014,  The Secrets of Happy Families.   In it, is a section on the value of passing on family stories to children. This section gets at the heart of why I started this blog.  And, when Bible Gateway shared an excerpt from it on their blog, I felt compelled to also share it with you:

Guest Post by:   NY Times Best Selling Author, Bruce Feiler

Adapted from The Secrets of Happy Families.

I hit the breaking point as a parent a few years ago. It was the week of my extended family’s annual gathering in August. My parents were aging; my wife and I were straining under the chaos of young children; my sister was bracing to prepare her preteens for bullying, sex and cyber stalking.

Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I asked him to stop.

Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.

That night I began to wonder: What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?

I spent the last few years trying to answer that question, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers. After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990’s, Dr. Duke and colleague Robyn Fivush developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions. Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests. Their overwhelming conclusion: The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. …”

Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “inter-generational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Religious traditions do a particularly good job at conveying this message. Many Bible stories including overcoming suffering and bouncing back from difficult times. One reason religious communities are so tight is that they understand one of their roles is to help people who are experiencing pain and hardship.

Dr. Duke recommends that parents convey similar messages to their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this feeling: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. “These traditions become part of your family,” he said.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

For more information, please visit www.brucefeiler.com.

What’s in a Name…

As Shakespeare so eloquently wrote:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet…


Were you aware that there is statistical information even about your surname or first name that you can use to have some fun or interesting discussions?  (And, yes, you also can use freely available statistics to help you make even the important decisions in your life or business!)  But on the lighter side for example, in 1995, the U.S. Census Bureau published a list of surnames occurring 100 times or more from the 1990 Decennial Census. The 1990 List contained 88,799 names that matched the above criteria. When the Census Bureau published the list following the 2000 Census, the list had increased to 151,671 names.  The bad news, due to budget constraints, the Census Bureau did not have resources to publish a similar list of surnames from the 2010 Census.

Below, from the American Last Names page are the Top 10 Most Popular Surnames from both Censuses mentioned above:

10 most popular surnames in the USA:

Most Common Last Names

  • Although Smith remains the most common surname in America in 2000, six Hispanic names ranked in the top 25 most common surnames in the nation.
    • In addition, from the latest 2010 Census statistics, I found that the number of Hispanics living in the U.S. increased 43% from 2000 to 2010.
  • The surname Lee also made the top 25—ranking number 22 in the country in 2000—indicating a continuing rise in the Asian American population.
Biggest Gainers and Losers:

Growing diversity in the U.S. population is reflected in the two lists, with traditionally Caucasian surnames decreasing, and Latino and Asian names increasing. Among the top 100 surnames in America, these are the names with the biggest advances and declines from 1990 to 2000.

BIGGEST GAINERS, 1990 — 2000

1990 RANK
2000 RANK
+ 172
+ 106
+ 60
+ 53
+ 46
+ 36
+ 34
+ 28
+ 26
+ 26

BIGGEST LOSERS, 1990 — 2000

1990 RANK
2000 RANK
1. BARNES 79 99 – 20
2. SANDERS 75 88 – 13
3. PERRY 84 97 – 13
4. JENKINS 83 95 – 12
5. RICHARDSON 63 74 – 11
6. REED 55 65 – 10
7. GRAY 69 79 – 10
8. HARRIS 15 24 – 9
9. BELL 58 67 – 9
10. JAMES 71 80 – 9
11. ROSS 80 89 – 9

But, what about your surname?

If you didn’t see your surname in the lists above, you can find out if it made the lists of ranked surnames just by entering it into a searchable database of more than 150,000 last names.  Enter your last name in the Popularity Index database, and see its rank among the most common names in the United States according to 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census data — the two years for which these data were available when the original article and application were made available by the Social Security Administration.  For example, one of my family’s branch’s last name is Taylor.

Here’s what the app told me:
  • <Taylor was ranked #10
  • In 2000, Taylor was ranked #13.
  • The name Taylor has been searched 1651 times out of 2,285,965 total searches on the Popularity Index.

According to the 2000 data, although the entire list of 151,671 surnames covers about 90 percent of the population, it accounts for only about 3 percent of surnames in the United States!

The 2000 census found over 6 million surnames total, the vast majority (about 65%) held by just one person. So please don’t be discouraged if your surname was not on the list. Ninety-seven percent of all surnames in the United States didn’t make the list.

On the other hand, if you want to see the popularity of first names, try the Social Security office’s http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/

I understand most parents put a lot of thought in choosing first names for their children. Some believe their baby’s name could impact his or her future success.  High-end recruiter The Ladders analyzed data around first names from its nearly 6 million members against variables such as industry, salary level, and location to prove a null hypothesis that what your mother names you makes a difference:

Top five baby names, by gender, in ratio to their overall frequency:

Top five highest-paid names:

Both lists were normalized for frequency (not just absolute counts) giving a ratio of [C-level first names]/[all first names]. Here are a few quick takeaways:

  • Christine was the only name that showed up on both the top five C-level and highest paid lists
  • The top 10, highest-paid, C-level executive names earn, on average, 10% more than other names
  • The top 25 most-popular names make about $7,000 more, on average, than the rest of the list
  • Females make, on average, 22% less than their male counterparts in all comparisons

Their overarching theory, based on their 6 million members

The shorter the name, the better! People who went by three-letter monikers (like BobTom and Rob) made the most money—and every additional letter in your name cost you $3,600 in annual salary. And that held true for both men and women—as most of the top earning names in the ladies’ category were short and sweet like LynnDana and Cathy.  One notable exception for the ladies was Christine, which ranked as the top C-level executive name for women, and was also on the top 5 high earners’names.

In 1913, “Thomas” was the 10th most popular name, “Richard” was 19th, and “Harry” was 13th. And, most of us can easily remember notables from history who were given these names. In 2012, however, these names ranked 63rd, 124th, and 718th, respectively.

The most popular names in 2012 (taken from the Social Security Administration’s web site):

Top 10 Baby Names For 2012

Baby Names

Rank Male name Female name
1 Jacob Sophia
2 Mason Emma
3 Ethan Isabella
4 Noah Olivia
5 William Ava
6 Liam Emily
7 Jayden Abigail
8 Michael Mia
9 Alexander Madison
10 Aiden Elizabeth

Note that the top 5 male names totaled only 4 percent of all males.  Similarly, the top 5 female names total only 5 percent of all females.

In contrast, the table 100 Years of Top Names shows the five most frequent given names for male and female babies born in each year 1913-2012.  And, over the last 100 years, the male name Michael has held the top spot most often (44 times), while the female name Mary has been ranked number one 43 times over those years.

I don’t know about you, but, whatever the popularity or rankings of our given and surnames, I’ve had mine too long and am too connected to my ancestral lineage to want to change them now.  I will say, though, that in my personal genealogical research of my tree and its branches proved my given name, Joanne, is unique with the exception of a 15th great grand aunt born in 1439, who was the daughter of my 16th great grandfather, Sir Thomas Carew of Devonshire, England.

My Surname ReportAnd, here’s my final table from my genealogical research.  It shows the top 20 surnames of the 18 pages of ranked surnames in my family tree.

ISO Family Athletes and Olympians

Origin of the Olympic Games

Greek Olympic GamesThe Olympic Games began in ancient Greece about 3,000 years ago.   From the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D., the Games were held every four years in Olympia, in Southern Greece’s western peninsula, Peloponnese.  The Games honored the Greek God Zeus, who was the god of the sky and ruler of the Olympian Gods.  After the Roman Empire conquered Greece in the mid-2nd century B.C., the Games continued, but their standards and quality declined.

Emperor Theodosius I Bans all “Pagan” Festivals

In A.D. 393, Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, called for a ban on all “pagan” festivals, ending the ancient Olympic tradition after nearly 12 centuries.  In November 1892 (about 1,500 years after the end of the ancient Greek Olympics,  Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) of France (dedicated to promoting physical education), at a meeting of the Union des Sports Athlétiques in Paris, revived the idea of the Olympics as an international athletic competition held every four years. Upon approval two years later, he founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which would become the governing body of the modern Olympic Games.

The First Modern Day Olympics

The first modern-day Olympics took place in 1896 in Athens, and featured 280 participants from 13 nations, competing in 43 events. Since 1994, the Summer and Winter Olympic Games have been held separately and have alternated every two years.

By the time the 8th Olympic Games were held in Paris in the summer of 1924, more than 3,000 athletes from 44 nations (including 100+ women), competed and for the first time the Games featured a closing ceremony. And, included among the competitors was Frederick “Morgan” Taylor of Sioux City, Iowa, who went on the win the Olympic Gold Medal in the 400 Metre Hurdle Competition.

Where are My Family’s Athletes?

F_Morgan_TaylorMedal RecordNow, if you have followed my blog posts, here’s where you might ask about whether Morgan Taylor might have been one of my paternal Taylor ancestors from my great grandmother “Lottie Taylor Chamber’s” branch.  Obviously, I would like to think so, but I have not uncovered any facts to prove such a statement at this time.  However, this does beg the question; “Did I descend from any ancestors who may have been athletes or even Olympians?” Our Bolling, Taylor, Chambers, and Ford ancestors were prominent within their society’s times for many reasons.  For example, they were freedom fighters, ministers, musicians, artists, writers, scholars, academicians, local and national government leaders, founders of cities, universities, and leaders among farmers and businesses.

As the televised ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics Games comes to a close this Sunday, February 23, at the symbolic hour of 20:14 local time, I am hopeful that I might have heard from some of my followers about family members who are or were athletes during their lives.  And, if I do, you can count on me to update you.  Meanwhile, Hooray to all America’s Olympians!

My Father Was Like Philip Seymour Hoffman

John T StasserI happened upon the post linked to below on John T. Strasser’s blog (http://johntstrasser.com/) and had to share it.  If you go to “About” on his blog page, I fear his story got even sadder before it got better. He’s definitely a writer and I pray that he continues his life as a survivor and not a victim of his family and environs…

My Father Was Like Philip Seymour Hoffman.

See more:  From Homeless to USF Grad:  http://www.cas.usf.edu/news/s/337 http://johntstrasser.com/

From “Baby Boomer” to “Sandwich Generation”

The Baby Boomer Generation

Baby Boomer GenerationI am proud to be a part of the “Baby Boomer” Generation, whose moniker is changing to the “Sandwich Generation.”

The happenings of our Baby Boomer generation were a mix of exciting and melancholy times. The number of historic events which took place in the last 60 years is unprecedented.

Take a look at the timelines from the Baby Boomer Era below  (from Boomerbaggage.com):




The conditions of the economy, the state of the world, technology, and social trends all impact the overall behaviors of any generation.  Yet, how many other generations can boast of all the technological advances that changed our lives more than in any other generation before us? Individual freedoms increased exponentially across society by: age, gender, race, ethnicity.

So now, why the name change to the “Sandwich Generation,” you say?

Because baby boomers’ days of play, concerts, fights for freedoms (international and personal), party times, yuppie-hood, and even parenting have now turned into days of caring for their elderly parent and grandparents who most often are plagued with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other medical and economic conditions that are negatively impacting their quality of life at a time when baby boomers are entering their own retirement years.

Meanwhile, our  “Generation X”  and “Generation Y” children, aka “Millennials,” are still living at home with us or have added their families to our living arrangements.  If not, we are helping them financially with their struggles to live on their own as we all slowly emerge from the recent years of economic crisis.  And this is why the Baby Boomer Generation is now being called the Sandwich Generation.

Yes, we baby boomers are caring for the elderly and the younger generations in our families.   I tell you, we have our tasks set out before us.  And the big question is how will we manage a quality of life where we are productive, can enjoy ourselves in our autumn years, care for those family members who need it, and keep our relationships strong across all generations?

More to my point about just how difficult juggling this phase of our lives may be, please take a look at the 2010 lifestyle comparisons between us, the Baby Boomers (1946-1964), our children Generation X (1965-1976/1981), and our children/grandchildren Generation Y (1977/1982-1995/2001) that was published online by  the Echo Boom (theechoboom.com):

Level of trust toward authority

  • Boomers are confident of self, not authority.
  • Gen Xers have a low level of trust toward authority.
  • Millennials have a high level of trust toward authority. Yet they are less trustworthy of individual people. Perhaps it’s from being born into an age of terrorism or maybe it’s their overprotective parents or the danger-obsessed media.

What do they view as the ultimate reward?

  • Boomers want a prestigious title and the corner office.
  • Gen Xers want the freedom not to have to do something.
  • Millennials prefer meaningful work.

How were their parents with them?

  • Boomers had parents who were controlling.
  • Gen Xers parents were distant.
  • Millennials? Their parents were intruding. Or, as my Millennial-age intern tells me, they have “helicopter parents”—they’re always hovering.

What are their views toward having children?

  • Boomers are controlled, their children were planned.
  • Gen Xer’s are doubtful about the possibility of becoming parents.
  • Millennials are definite about parenthood. In fact, they view marriage and parenthood as more important than careers and success.

And overall family life?

  • Boomers were indulged as children.
  • Gen Xers were alienated as children.
  • Millennials were protected as children.

Views toward education?

  • Boomers want freedom of expression.
  • Gen Xers are pragmatic.
  • Millennials need the structure of accountability.

Political orientation

  • Thankfully, boomers want to attack oppression. Without those views we might not have had civil rights or protested Vietnam.
  • Gen Xers are apathetic and more worried about the individual.
  • And the Millennials, the facebookers and Tweeters? It should be no surprise that they crave community.

Last but not least, the views on the big question...

  • Boomers want to know, “What does it mean?”
  • Gen Xers need to know, “Does it work?”
  • Millennials are curious to know, “How do we build it?”

I encourage your comments since we’re all on this planet and in this life and times together.  

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

100 Year Old BFFs

Best Friends Forever (BFFs)

Last week I wrote a post on this blog, “Our Kent Island Experience,” that was a story about my best friend of about 20 years (at that time) and our husbands’ day of “boating.” Some of the events of the day tested our relationship. Yet, nearly 40 years have since past and we still remain close friends, (BFFs), although we live nearly 400 miles/7 hours driving distance apart and only write occasional letters to each other.

The Heart of Our Relationship Never Skips a Beat

bffsWe were infants living next door to each other when our parents first got us together.  For our first 13 years we were inseparable.  I was the brains, she was the brawn.  I did her cleaning and helped her with her school work.  She showed me how she could walk on her toes with them curled under and how to carry a pregnant cat around in a paper bag. (Little did we know that when we opened the bag there would be a litter of kittens inside with their mom.)  In 2011 we spent the day together lunching and shopping in Providence, Rhode Island.  In 2013, we grabbed another day in Maryland and visited her older sisters. My husband drove us from place to place and we just caught up on old times.  Whenever we talk or meet, regardless of the circumstances, we haven’t skipped a beat in our relationship.  It’s always like time has stood still and we still share the same interests and have the same closeness and understanding of each other  we had when we were so very young.

BFFs for 94 Years!

So earlier this week, I sat down in the mid afternoon and turned on the TV to add some noise to the all too quiet house.  I happened upon the Steve Harvey Show in progress. He was just introducing two 100-year-old women who have been best friends for 94 years. They captured my attention, my heart, and reminded me of just how special relationships with close friends can be.   I hope my relationship with my friend will always be as special as theirs seems.  I thought you might like to see the two 100 Year Old BFFs, so here they are in two different segments on the Steve Harvey Show:

Pop Culture Questions Posed to Irene and Alice

“A Sad Mistake”

NewspaperslogoEach January I renew my subscription to Ancestry.com.  This year my annual fee increased by nearly 30 percent.  However, two additional tools were incorporated into my Worldwide subscription: full access to Fold3.com (the web’s premier collection of original military records) and also newspapers.com (digital access to 2,200 U.S. Newspapers dating from 1700 to current day).  And, I really liked the integration of features, options, and navigation across all of the tools now at my fingertips. The user experience was consistently good, so little to no learning curve needed to adapt to and navigate between applications. So naturally, with these new tools and toys in my research and documentation wheelhouse–along with Findagrave and Family Tree Maker at my disposal–I set out to see what I could discover and ultimately produce into a new and interesting story for this blog post.

The silly story spoke to me…

After creating a search and browsing its results for a few minutes I came across an article from an 1886 Greenville, Pennsylvania Newspaper.  The names of the people in the article initially got my interest, then the silly story that unfolded spoke to me and I surmised…”Regardless of the age or era, people will always be people–some rich, some poor, some fashioning their lives through clever and creative choices–and some just making stupid or sad mistakes that prohibit them from moving forward.”  The article follows:

A Newspaper Clipping from The Greenville AdvanceArgus, Greenville, PA,
11 March 1886Page 1

Greenville Advance Argus

A Sad Mistake

Why Gus Snobberly Failed to Negotiate a Loan

gentleman attire 1886Gus Snobberly make a good appearance on the streets of New York, but most of the time he is really hard up.  He often has to borrow a few hundred dollars from his friends to help him pull through, although none of his friends are aware of his distress.  He has been in the habit of sending flowers to his lady friends, and this has been a heavy tax on his feeble finances.  He mentioned his embarrassment to the florist from whom he has been purchasing his floral tributes.  The latter said:

“Mr. Snobberly, I think I can suggest a plan to help you over the difficulty.  You can get your flowers regularly and not pay any cash for them.”

“Let’s have it.”

“You wear a good many fine clothes, but you don’t wear them entirely out– We are about of a size.  Don’t you catch on?”

“Well, no.”

“You give me your clothes when you are through with them, and I’ll let you have a bouquet every week.  I’ll send it to your room.”vintage floral bouquet

“That’s a splendid idea.  You will save money and so will I.”

The arrangement was kept up from some time to the mutual satisfaction of both the contracting parties.

One day Gus sent a beautiful bouquet which he had just received from the florist to a married lady living on Fifth avenue, Mrs. Montgomery Chamwhooper, with whose husband, Sam Clamwhooper, he was on very friendly terms.  Gus’ object was to take Clamwhooper for a hundred dollars or so, hence the floral tribute to Mrs.Clamwhooper.

That same evening Gus called at the Clamwhooper mansion.  Mr. Clamwhooper was at home, but he received Gus with freezing dignity.

“What’s the matter” asked Gus, “got the toothache?”

“No sire, I’ve not got the toothache; but I’m very much disgusted, to say nauseated, with your conduct in sending my wife the bouquet.”

“But, my dear fellow, I’ve often sent your wife bouquets, and you never raised any objections.”

“I don’t object to any gentleman, who is my friend, sending my wife a bouquet, but I do object to you sending her notes in the bouquet.”

“Note!  I didn’t put a note in the bouquet.  “Twasn’t me.”  “I’ll swear to goodness it wasn’t me!” howled Gus.

“Here, sir, is the note that was in the bouquet,” said Clamwhooper, holding a note under the nose of the bewildered dude.  It was in the handwriting of the accommodating florist.

“Please send me that pair of stockings you promised me.  How do you like these flowers?”

“That’s a pretty note to send a lady.  If I didn’t think you were drunk when you wrote it, I’d twist your nose for you.”

Mrs. Clamwhooper stuffed her handkerchief in her mouth and turned away to conceal her emotion.

Gus got out into the street, but how he got there he doesn’t know.  He left his hat and cane in the house.

Next day he called at the office of Clamwhooper and explained the matter in strict confidence, but the latter was never afterwards sufficiently affectionate to justify Gus in attempting to borrow the hundred dollars.

What’s All This Fuss About a Groundhog Named Phil and Punx’a’what?

From my May 26, 2013 blog post, Busted “Brick Wall” Reveals More “Chambers”

“…So again yesterday morning, I decided to start over once more with basic research techniques for the elusive Chambers within our family’s ancestors. Among my review of earlier research and findings about Frank Maynard Chambers, through my contacts with the Las Vegas Bunker Memorial Cemetery I had noted the names of Frank Chambers’ parents: John L. Chambers (1861-1917), from Pleasant Unity, and Maude Johnston, (1861-1941) from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania:”

Within a distance of 55 or 60 miles my 2nd paternal great grand father, John Latta Chambers and his bride to be Maude Johnston discovered each other and I had and I had found discovered documentation about them and this small but now infamous “Punxsutawney,” Pennsylvania town, (although a place most people cannot spell). At this moment, Groundhog Day became more meaningful to me than ever before. Even before, I always had mused about groundhog day and its importance to adults and children alike—and its celebrity was even before Bill Murray’s starring role in the 1990’s movie. After the December-January holidays, people naturally waited with great anticipation just to see if the groundhog would see his shadow—which, of course, if he did, guaranteed another six more weeks of winter before Spring would arrive—DUH!–How silly is this?

And then I asked myself if my 2nd great grandparents during their days in Pennsylvania had experienced the same thoughts and emotions that I have been having ever since I can remember. Low and behold, the various meanings and beliefs that surround groundhog day date back to the early 1700’s and the 1st groundhog day actually was celebrated on February 2, 1886 when my GG Grandparents would have been in their mid-twenties when they both were still living in Pennsylvania according to census documents.

The full history of Punxsutawney that follows was taken directly from Stormfax.com. It tells of the significance of the various associated names and celebrations from the 1700’s to today and about the Delaware Indians, the German and Scottish Settlers traditions and rituals. I hope you enjoy it.

n 1723, the Delaware Indians settled Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania as a campsite halfway between the Allegheny and the Susquehanna Rivers.  The town is 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, at the intersection of Route 36 and Route 119.  The Delawares considered groundhogs honorable ancestors.  According to the original creation beliefs of the Delaware Indians, their forebears began life as animals in “Mother Earth” and emerged centuries later to hunt and live as men.

The name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location “ponksad-uteney” which means “the town of the sandflies.” The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of “Wojak, the groundhog” considered by them to be their ancestral grandfather.

When German settlers arrived in the 1700s, they brought a tradition known as Candlemas Day, which has an early origin in the pagan celebration of Imbolc.  It came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Superstition held that if the weather was fair, the second half of Winter would be stormy and cold.  For the early Christians in Europe, it was the custom on Candlemas Day for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to the people in the dark of Winter.  A lighted candle was placed in each window of the home.  The day’s weather continued to be important.  If the sun came out February 2, halfway between Winter and Spring, it meant six more weeks of wintry weather.

The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

February 4, 1841 – from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris’ diary…”Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

According to the old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

From Scotland:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be two winters in the year.

From Germany:

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

And from America:

If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.

If the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of Winter.  Germans watched a badger for the shadow.  In Pennsylvania, the groundhog, upon waking from mid-Winter hibernation, was selected as the replacement.

Pennsylvania’s official celebration of Groundhog Day began on February 2nd, 1886 with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper’s editor, Clymer Freas: “Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.”  The groundhog was given the name “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary” and his hometown thus called the “Weather Capital of the World.”  His debut performance: no shadow – early Spring.

The legendary first trip to Gobbler’s Knob was made the following year.

ince the 1993 release of the film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as a TV weatherman (who wakes up and it’s Groundhog Day over and over again!) and Andie MacDowell as his puzzled producer, attendance at the real event has expanded.  In 1997, there were 35,000 visitors in Punxsutawney, five times the Jefferson County town’s 6,700 population.

The Groundhog Day festivities on February 2, 1992 were joined by Bill Murray studying for his role in the movie.  Then, Columbia Pictures set out to recreate the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day down to the smallest detail.  There were, however, many changes made.

Columbia Pictures decided to film the movie in a location more accessible to a major metropolitan center.  The highways in and around Punxsutawney were few, so Woodstock, Illinois was chosen as the site.  Unfortunately, Woodstock’s landscape doesn’t have Pennsylvania’s scenic rolling hills.  Nevertheless, adjustments were made for the production.  The actual Gobbler’s Knob is a wooded hill with a beautiful view; the Gobbler’s Knob in the movie is moved to the town square.  The Punxsutawney Gobbler’s Knob was recreated to scale in Woodstock’s town square based on detailed notes and videos the crew made on it’s visit to Punxsutawney.    [Photo: © Columbia Pictures]

The movie’s script was changed to include the elaborate ceremony of the Inner Circle on Groundhog Day.  The original groundhog cast for the movie was considered to be too small.

Some of the store names in Punxsutawney were used in the movie, such as The Smart Shop and Stewart’s Drug Store.  Punxsutawney’s police cars were also recreated for the movie.  The groundhog-head trash cans and Groundhog Festival flags that line the streets of Punxsutawney were displayed.  Folks traveling to Punxsutawney to see the “Punxsutawney” they saw in the movie wonder why it looks “so different, yet seems so similar.”

he groundhog, also known as a woodchuck (Marmota monax), is a member of the squirrel family.  Groundhogs in the wild eat succulent green plants, such as dandelion, clover, and grasses.

According to handlers John Griffiths and Ben Hughes, Phil weighs 15 pounds and thrives on dog food and ice cream in his climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library.

Up on Gobbler’s Knob, Phil is placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 a.m. to make his prediction.