Sister Marcia and her contribution to the genealogy talk

Even though she hasn’t been to our hometown of Binghamton, NY in over a decade, my sister Marcia has contributed mightily to the genealogy talk our cousin Lisa presented recently.

Lisa spoke at the Broome County Area History Conference on April 21 at the Bundy Museum. She came all the way from Washington, DC to introduce two families, one Black and one Jewish, which my wife, daughter and I attended.

As she wrote in the precis, our “second great grandfather, James A. Archer, a free Black man who, along with two other family members, fought in the Civil War. They survived and returned to Binghamton to raise families and start businesses.” In part because of other photos Marcia put online, Lisa was able to ascertain that the post-Civil War photo I’ve posted to this blog included not only James Archer, but the brothers of his wife, Harriet Bell Archer.

“In the late 1800’s the Archer family purchased a house on Maple Street, which became a hub of family activity for several generations to come.” That was the house my grandmother and mother grew up in.”

She also told about her great grandparents, Isaac and Sarah Berman, who were born in Latvia and Lithuania, emigrated, first to Denmark then to the US in 1913 and settled in Binghamton. Isaac “started an egg business that eventually turned into a trucking company that was the first to offer overnight service from the Triple Cities to Boston.

“Both families grew and in 1937, the two came together with the marriage of Ernest Archer Yates and Charlotte Berman, my grandparents, who faced their own challenges as an interracial couple.” Ernie was my grandma’s brother and Charlotte the third child of Isaac and Sarah.

This picture also came from Marcia’s collection, with Ernie and Charlotte together in the back row, my mother’s arm on Ernie’s shoulder. Given the presence of three of their four children, I peg the photo in 1945 or 1946. Someone in the audience knew Charlotte from her time in Binghamton before 1954, when she and the children moved to Queens, NYC after Ernie died unexpectedly.

When Lisa came to Binghamton, she had to take a detour off Front Street onto Gaines Street and pass another Archer property at 5 Gaines Street, where MY nuclear family lived in the 1950s and 1960s.

So Marcia, even though she was far away, was an important part of Lisa’s presentation. Happy birthday, baby sister.

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Music: There Will Never Be Another You

Marcia, the younger sister, in very many ways, has become the keeper of the flame, not only for the history of the nuclear family in which we grew up back in Binghamton, NY in the 1950s and ’60s, but for the extended tribe as well.

It’s logical. She was the only one who moved to Charlotte, NC with the parents. Leslie and I were already ensconced in college, though of us lived down there for brief periods in the late 1970s.

After my father died in 2000, Mom and Marcia took care of Marcia’s daughter Alex and each other, though as time marched on, Marcia and her daughter were tending more to Mom until she died in 2011.

She still is tending to our parents’ memory, as she has access to decades worth of photos and other material.

As all three of her kids knew, my mom LOVED Nat King Cole. She had a whole bunch of 78s of his, but I have no idea whatever became of them. There were some items in my maternal grandmother’s house, the house my grandma and mom grew up in, and where my sisters and I spent a lot of time. The stuff went into storage and ultimately disappeared long ago, including some photographs of mine.

Marcia was musing about my mother back in November, just before Mom’s birthday. Our mother particularly loved Nature Boy and other familiar tunes by Cole. But neither Marcia nor I had heard him perform There Will Never Be Another You. It’s become one of Marcia’s favorite Nat King Cole songs. And I can hear why.

BTW, neither she nor I ever really learned to play the guitar, though Dad and Leslie did. The painting in the background with the guitar was by our father.

LISTEN to There Will Never Be Another You

Arturo Sandoval

Nat Cole

Doris Day

Happy birthday, Marcia!

Grandparents Day: my grandmas, and one of my daughter’s

One of those holidays I think WAS created by Hallmark is Grandparents Day. Well, technically not, but it FEELS that way.

Here’s another picture my sister Marcia found, taken at some point in the 1940s; no idea where, when or why. The woman in the top row, second from the right is my great aunt Charlotte and the guy next to her in the sweater is her husband, Ernie Yates. Ernie died while his kids Raymond (directly in front of Charlotte), Frances (sitting on the floor), and Donald (on the blonde girl’s lap) were still young, but Charlotte had grandchildren, as Fran, Donald, and Robert (either not yet born, or an infant) all had children. Fran and Donald now have grandchildren.

The woman behind the blonde girl, partially obscured, is my grandma Continue reading

As Illya Kuryakin, the baby sister

As I perused the pictures my baby sister Marcia sent me this spring via Facebook, I noted only one of just her and me. That’s not that surprising; I have not a lot of memories of things she and I did alone together. There were many things the THREE of us did together: Leslie, 16 months younger, and Marcia, five years my junior. Also, Leslie and I sang together, and Leslie and Marcia shared a room.

Still, there was one thing Marcia and I did together that was just ours, without Leslie or my parents Continue reading

I is for I

Lacking any INSPIRATION for topic, I defaulted to writing about me this week. It is I, during my significant birthday week. But what to write about that I haven’t addressed before?

I spent the first 18 years of my life in the same house, at 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton, NY. Gaines was a very short street between Oak Street and Front Street, with only 16 possible addresses, and actually fewer buildings than that.

At the corner of Gaines and Front was O’Leary’s convenience store. I went there and bought packs of baseball cards, but I also had to buy my father’s Winston cigarettes, which irritated me greatly.

In the yard at 1 Gaines Street was a huge gnarled tree which terrified me. Continue reading

F is for Family

Rose wrote, in response to my post P is for (Helicopter) Parenting, that it was the first time I had written about family. This surprised me, initially, because I’ve gone on about my daughter every month on the 26th of the month, without fail. In fact, it was one of the two purported reasons I STARTED this blog back in 2005, the other being to tell the JEOPARDY! story.

I’ve written about my wife at least twice a year, on our anniversary and her birthday. My late parents I’ve discussed on the anniversaries of their births and deaths, and my sisters on their respective birthdays.

It’s true, though, that I’ve seldom written about them for ABC Wednesday. Here, then, a summary.

My parents both grew up in Binghamton, New York, a small city near the Pennsylvania border. They were both only children, no I have no direct aunts, uncles or first cousins. Anyone I have called cousins are either my parents’ cousins, or their children. So we have a very small tribe.

My parents met cute Continue reading

The baby sister as caretaker

Back in the mid-1980s, my “baby” sister Marcia, who was in her mid-20s , was living at home home with our parents in Charlotte, NC. I said to her at the time, “You’d better get out of there. You’re going to get stuck taking care of our aging parents,” who were approaching 60 (in other words, about my current age – yeesh.)

After my father died in 2000, my mother, my sister and her daughter lived together. Continue reading

40 Years Ago: March 5, 1972 – did not see that coming

In the Scudder Hall dorm, at the State University College of New Paltz, my room was B-2. I had a roommate named Ron, who was a graduate student; an odd pairing, a freshman and someone doing post-graduate work. But he was a pretty easy-going guy, and I guess I didn’t drive him too crazy.

It was surprising, though, that one day, Ron decided that we really needed to thoroughly clean the room. I didn’t think it looked that bad, but I admit I would not have been the gold standard for that kind of thing.

A couple days later, which was a Sunday, my friend Uthaclena were over at one of the dining halls playing billiards. Continue reading

Marcia’s birthday

One of the things I guess I’ve decided to do – I didn’t think about it, it just evolved – is to note the birthdays of my sisters each year, not just on the ones divisible by 5 or 10. And no, it is not one of the “big” birthdays this year for any of us, actually.

Marcia, the “baby” sister, quite possibly had a tougher Mother’s Day than either Leslie or I did. After all, she lived with our mom for much of her life; first my mom was taking care of her, then in the later years, her taking care of Mom. Whereas Leslie and I would visit Mom one to three times a year for a few days, Marcia would see her daily. Continue reading