About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Of bands, instruments, and kids: keep the music playing

For nearly as many years as I have been alive (at least, once we got a television set in about 1956), I have spent a part of Thanksgiving morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. It's as much a part of tradition (for me, that is) as turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Even though I am "under the weather" (a euphemism for "sick as a dog," or, in this case, "sick as a pig"), I still watched most of the parade yesterday morning.

I am not a huge parade lover, per se, but I am a sucker for marching bands. The Macy's parade has, as I see it, 4 primary elements: floats, enormous balloons, performing groups, and Santa (who, once I see him on the screen, tells me I now have official sanctioning to program my stereo to non-stop Christmas music and to haul out the ornaments and lights for official decorating - this year, the former applied, but I am holding off on the latter due to the illness). I enjoy watching the baton twirlers, love the drill teams (oh, yes, indeed), but the bands are amazing. I am mesmerized by a marching band.

My husband was on the Navy drill team at Great Lakes (IL) and he marched in our local parades in the area where I grew up. We tracked our personal histories to discover that he & I marched in a parade together in 1959 - he in the drill team and I in the Brownies. He was awaiting the birth of his first daughter, I was awaiting the chance to "fly up" to become a Girl Scout (after which I deserted the organization, but that's another story). My father, who of course was present for the parade, filmed (8mm, black & white, no sound) the event but only filmed 2 of the groups: the scouts (of course ... and there I was, clumsily trying to carry the flag in proper form) and the Navy drill team! When we saw that on the film a few years back, we were amazed! Was Dad astute enough to realize that was his future son-in-law he was filming? (No, you couldn't recognize him ... the shot was way too distant to differentiate the people, it was just, obviously, the drill team from Great Lakes.) Butch & I like to joke about our first date occurring when I was just 8 years old!

But back to the bands. I taught at Riverside Community College for a time and loved to listen to their Marching Tigers rehearse. They marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade on more than one occasion. And a few years ago, my friend Susan invited us to come to Yucca Valley to hear a concert by the Marine Corps Band from 29 Palms. Oh, I think I cried throughout the entire performance! And my favorite scene from Mr Holland's Opus is where he leads the high school band in the parade and they break into "Louis, Louis." I even like the part in The Music Man where the kids finally get their instruments and put on their first public "performance," as it were. But I also love bagpipe bands and even ukulele bands.

But band musicians are not easily located. I mean, it takes a lot of practice, solo and group, to be a band musician. When kids were in school, when I was growing up, they had the option to be part of "band" - the class where, for credit, they got to play music together for an hour 2 or 3 times a week. I did not opt for that as I knew I had problems with reading music and was terrified that it would be a major embarrassment for me. But I envied the kids in band. You knew who had "band" on a particular day because the kids would come to school with their little black cases, holding trumpets, flutes, saxophones, etc. Some kids had to get rides on band day because they had elected to play tuba. Well, every choice has its price! (I have a dear friend who played tuba in high school, back in the 1940s, and says that his relationship with the band and his band leader were more influential in his early development than his relationship with anyone else at that time. He went on to play the instrument in the Marine Band. He still has that tuba - it has a lot of "dings" in it, but he keeps it polished and treasures it, even though he doesn't play it any more.)

My Dad, though principally and organist & pianist, played flute at Princeton where he worked at the Institute for Advanced Study (1938-1939). It was a great stress-reliever, he told me. Back then the flutes were wooden and were harder to keep in tune as the wood would swell or shrink. But playing in the Princeton Orchestra was a high point of his time there (he talked more about that than the fact that he was doing work with Von Neumann and Einstein!). (FYI, the flute had been purchased from Sears & Roebuck Co. for, as I recall, about $15; I still have that insrument, though it is cracked and dried out and sounds pretty bad.)

I'm getting to my point (finally). What happens to those instruments and that talent when the kids graduate from high school and move on? A few (very few) manage to get music scholarships to colleges. Some (even fewer) go on to be part of community orchestras (if they play a cross-over instrument). My friend Susan, who was an outstanding flute player in high school, continues to maintain her instrument and plays it in church programs and Sunday services. But most of those instruments, if rented, go back to the music store. If they were owned, they end up in closets, attics, sold on eBay, or passed down to a younger sibling or cousin. I was given a trombone once (have no idea where it is today) by one of my grandfather's neighbors who knew I liked music. I got frustrated by it on many levels, but it was one that the neighbor's child no longer played. Many of our grandkids have played instruments in their school bands and/or orchestras: Kirbi and Emily both played violin (one that had been in our family for years, in fact) and Kirbi went on to play viola (we have both of those instruments, waiting for someone to love them again). Louis played trumpet, if I remember correctly. Jeni played oboe. Our son Max tried the flute for a year (his CP and being left-handed made it more of a challenge than an enjoyment, however).

These opportunities to play instruments with groups give kids a number of benefits in life: they learn to work with a group, they gain a new and valued mentor in their band or orchestra leader, and they get a break from the rigors of traditional school work. Playing an instrument can become an escape as well as an emotional outlet. Now that so many schools are taking this option away in their budget cuts - "band" is hardly an academic necessity - kids are needing to find other ways to develop their creative genes and learn the teamwork they get from the music programs; some such developments never happen and some occur in less than socially acceptable ways. I know that playing the flute or oboe or piccolo may not become a child's life goal, but, at least for those years in school, that can provide the stress-relief that we all seek when the demands of life are closing in. And, without the music programs in the schools, where will our future bands and orchestras come from? Most of those musicians I watched in yesterday's parade have been playing their instruments for nearly half their lives (or they wouldn't be good enough to "make it" into such a prestigious event). Without the training for the youth, who will be in those marching bands in 20 years? 15 years? 10 years? or maybe even 5 years in the future? I could not bear a parade without the bands.

Finally, I have friends who are music teachers in their respective school districts. One of those has seen the music program completed dissolved in her district. Thankfully, her educational background is broad enough that she found another teaching position. The other's music classes have been so reduced that her work hours hardly constitute a living wage. While this is a shame for these people whose passion has been to teach music to children, it is also a devastating blow to the children who are now deprived of the lessons learned in music classes. Support music programs in your children's and grandchildren's schools! Let's keep music alive for the generations to come, just as it has been part of the lives of our ancestors before us. Check out SupportMusic.com for more information.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Teddy

My mother, Virginia Marie JOHNSON, with her treasured friend, "Teddy," who dwells with me these days . . . patched many times over, but still loved (under glass at this point in time).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The home my father was born and lived in for his earliest years on Kildare St., Chicago, Cook, Illinois:

My brother (kneeling) and me (Jean Wilcox Hibben) among the remains of the Kildare house, about 1955):

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - 24 November 2009

Pioneer Cemetery, Dallas, Dallas, Texas
Where graves were moved from Young Cemetery
Suspected to be the area where of the relocated grave of Irene Freeman Wilcox, died 28 November 1893 (116 years ago this coming Saturday), Dallas, Dallas, Texas
No stone remains to mark her final resting place

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - 19 November 2009

Hair and wigmaking products from Hollander's Human Hair Emporium, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, owned and operated by John Adam Hollander from 1868-early 1900s. (The curl of hair is a watch fob made from human hair and woven by one of the daughters: Hattie, Emma, or Mamie.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 17 November 2009

My granduncle, brother of my grandmother:
Francis Adam (Frank) HOLLANDER, born: 18 May 1875, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
christened: 4 July 1875, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Valhalla Cemetery (photo taken 1 June 2006)

Frank A. HOLLANDER, died: 16 November 1926 (83 years ago yesterday); buried 19 November 1926, Valhalla Cemetery, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Friday, November 13, 2009

Songs and Their Back-Stories

I have entered into an agreement to begin a new music series on songs and ancestors: "Songs of Yesterday." This will be printed in the on-line e-publication, GenWeekly. The first 2 (one in Nov., one in Dec.) will address a couple of Christmas songs and their history. I just finished writing the one for Nov. on "Good King Wenceslaus" and I will get the one for Dec., on "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," "in the can" sometime in the next couple of weeks. These will be followed, in 2010, by discussions of other songs and, as I understand it, accompanied by MP3 recordings from my CDs. I am very excited about this as it is a project that I have dabbled in for most of my life (seriously, dating back to my earliest experiences with music when I was a pre-teen; I would go to the library to research the histories of songs while flunking my history classes in school . . . go figure). Now I get to do this for an audience! And it's also exciting to find that others are interested in the "back stories" behind some of these songs.

Speaking of "back stories," I had a fun experience this past week doing a podcast with Susan E. King where we discussed the use of songs to connect to each other, both as individuals and as cultures. This is certainly an aspect of the backgrounds behind the songs that we often sing without realizing what emotions and experiences went into the creations. When I wrote the song about my father being a ham radio operator for an archaelogical research project in 1928, but where he was really the communications expert for a bootlegging operation, I knew the little "sidebars" my father had told me, but they couldn't be included in the song, both for lack of time/space in the song and because of the many details involved. When I sing the song live, I can include, in my introduction, the interesting "additions" to the story the song tells, but when people hear just the song, they miss a great deal.

The songs of bygone eras are not any different. We get a few short verses that tell about an event, but all the details leading up to that event are usually left out. Or we hear about an emotional reaction to a particular experience, but "the rest of the story" is usually omitted. What happened before the song was written to inspire the author? What happened after the events of the song occurred? Did they live happily ever after? Were people punished for wrong-doings mentioned in the song? These are the things I look forward to discussing in this series of articles for GenWeekly and I hope that some of my blog readers will consider subscribing (for that and the many other valuable genealogical articles that are produced weekly).

Now that I have advertised for this genealogy resource, let me address one of the songs that I have pondered about, especially this week after viewing a History Channel special on the Search for Jesse James (both his treasure and his alleged identity). There are those who believe that Jesse James was not killed by Robert Ford after all. I'm not going to debate this (though I will admit that the evidence is quite compelling), but I find that my musician self has a big problem: I love the song "Jesse James," in which the chorus states "Jesse had a wife to mourn for his life, three children they were brave, but that dirty little coward, who shot down Mr. Howard, has went and laid poor Jesse in his grave." An alternate chorus (the one I prefer) says, "Oh, I wonder where my poor old Jesse's gone, I wonder where my poor old Jesse's gone; I will meet him in that land where I've never been before, and I wonder where my poor old Jesse's gone." Both of these do not allow for the possibility that Bob Ford "missed" or that the death was staged. Do we need a new song now? Or was the song part of the conspiracy to convince the world that Jesse had been killed? So many questions. Maybe it's time for a new verse . . . any takers? Oh, OK, I'll add that to my "to do" list!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Great-grandmother's brooch, 2

The brooch great-grandmother Mary S. JENSEN JOHNSON is wearing is now in my collection. Reportedly, she was a bitter woman, having lost loved ones early in her life. The family story is that on her death bed, she expressed regret in having been disagreeable as a result of her own misfortune. I try to keep that as a reminder for my daily life. And I think of that whenever I wear her jewelry.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 11 November 2009 - Veteran's Day

Some of the Vets in my Family Tree . . .

grandfather, Seaman Lee Alfred Wilcox, USN
cousin, Robert C. Trapschuh, USN
great-grandfather, Private J. Adam Hollander, Union Army, Co. I, Wisconsin 24th Inf.

great-great=grandfather Capt. Nathan W. Wilcox, Bissell's Engineering Regiment of the West, MO

husband, Lynn A. Hibben, E6, USN

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Evergreen Cemetery, Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin

Johnson plot, Evergreen Cemetery
Johnson monument, Evergreen Cemetery

John JOHNSON, AKA Hans HANSEN, born 10 February 1851, Denmark; died 14 November 1892 (158 years ago this coming weekend), Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin; married about 1876 in Wisconsin to Mary S. JENSEN, born 2 February 1854, Denmark; died 26 April 1914, Kenosha, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Friday, November 6, 2009

Instrument Inventory

On Sat., 17 October, Butch & I participated in the Corona Genealogical Society's annual Family History month event, "Stones, Bones, & Ancient Tomes," where we displayed many old (and some replica) instruments. It seems that every time we put up such a display, we end up getting more. People see that we have old instruments and immediately think that they have found a repository for their old instruments, some in much need of love and care. This was no exception. One of our friends immediately said, "I have an old mandolin and dulcimer that I know you would like!" (Why do people think that I would like more of what I already have so many of?) Well, of course he was right! He brought them to me on Monday of this week and they are, indeed, beautiful instruments (though neither has strings . . . yet). As I juggled them out to my car, I started to think about how many times this scene has repeated itself . . .

Many, many years ago, when my collection was rather minimal, we set up a small display at a family history fair and one of the people who was walking through the exhibit hall was thrilled. He said he had something we would love (there's that assessment again). He ran off and returned a short while later with a zither-like instrument, created by National probably around 1900. The back was split, the strings were rusty, but we accepted the gift with smiles. We displayed it in our living room.

As could be expected, someone coming to our home saw the zither on the shelf and said that he had one like it and had no idea what to do with it! A few weeks later it was gracing the same shelf . . . now we have 2 of these things, neither of which we play. But that same person also gave me a Cittern - a guitar-like instrument with 10 strings and a body like a pear-shaped mandolin. I understand it is to be tuned to open C . . . maybe someday I'll try it. Meanwhile, it hangs on the wall.

Another friend, visiting our home, was impressed with the many instruments and, within a few days, had placed an autoharp in our hands. The autoharp (an Oscar Schmidt, no less) had been in her possession for years and "lived" in her garage (oh, don't do that!!). But it was in good condition. We changed the strings, fixed the felts (the part of the button bars that damp the non-playing strings . . . I guess you have to be there), and I play it in some of my programs.

Then there is the very homemade dulcimer (I say "very" because this one has no scroll work, fancy decorative sound holes, or anything that is common with homemade dulcimers). But it works (sort of) and hangs over our front door (that was one we paid for because someone had bought it at a second hand shop - for $35 I think - believing that we would love it . . . we figured that it would make a nice wall hanging and so it has).

Then there are the banjos. I think they multiply when we leave the house (usually people worry about people stealing their instruments; I worry about banjos reproducing when we turn our backs). These are 4-string instruments and Butch loves them. And he plays them . . . well, some of them. One he made into a clock (very effective in that role!) and another into a sign for me to hang in our instrument booth. We still have extras, though.

Then there's the Dobro, but that's a story in itself and I'll save it for next week's blog.

So, if you have something that appears to be a musical instrument and you want to get rid of it . . . (here's where I give my address . . . NOT!). Consider Ebay!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Great-grandmother's brooch

Great-grandmother Caroline Maria TRAPSCHUH HOLLANDER. The cameo brooch she is wearing is now in my possession and I wear it when I do a program where I impersonate her. I treasure that piece of jewelry.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Anna Estell TRAPSCHUH was born 3 February 1879 in Ohio. She married(1) Mr. CLARK about 1898 and divorced him. They had two children. She married(2) John HERMAN about 1904 and they had two children. She died 4 November 1956, at age 77 (53 years ago tomorrow), in Spokane, Spokane, Washington, where she is buried in the TRAPSCHUH plot.

Her offspring are Hazel and Helene CLARK and Elaine and Russell HERMAN. They would be my second cousins, once removed and their children (if any of them had any) would be my third cousins. I would love to locate them!