Author Archives: Tina

12

My Secret Spot

(144 Words)

Growing up in the country has special treasures,

City boys couldn’t appreciate country boy pleasures.

Like roaming the woods, the fields and the brooks,

Hunting, exploring, as in frontiersmen books.

 *

We played cowboys and Indians, and built a stockade,

We had tents, a tree house, and a fort that we made.

When I reflect on those times gone by,

I lament my boyhood with a lingering sigh.

 *

Like most of us guys I had a secret spot,

My place in the country I never forgot.

Where I went fishing at my own fishing hole,

With a hook and a string on a long bamboo pole.

 *

I shared this secret with some best buddies then,

And we fished there together time and again.

Going back there once more is this old man’s dream,

To my secret spot, by the Old Mill Stream.

11

Mika and Helga: die Schwestern (the sisters)

(reading time approx. 7 minutes)

Mika and Helga Goldman were sisters, age 12 and 11.  Music was their first love. Their mother taught them to play the piano and concertina. The girls played at Plotsky’s sidewalk café in Berlin, for tips.  The time was September 1939.  Hitler was sending Jews to concentration camps. Jews were required to identify themselves by sewing the letter “J” on their clothing, all part of Hitler’s history in World War II.  Since the sisters were Jewish, this almost eliminated any tips at Plotsky’s.

These two beautiful little girls, Mika and Helga, originally came from Poland with their family to live in Berlin. Mika and Helga were removed from their school because they were Jews and the teacher was a Nazi. The girls and their family were forcibly taken from their homes during the Nazi ethnic purge. All of them were sent to concentration camps where most Jews were executed.  Pretty young girls however, were sometimes spared for Nazi officers’ entertainment, as were Mika and Helga.  Dreadfully, they were separated.  The sisters were put in different boxcars and shipped to different concentration camps.

October 1939 was the last time they saw each other. Word spread throughout the camps that all Jewish prisoners in the other groups were dead.  Most were.  The wartime treatment of Jews in the miserable concentration death camps is a story that continues to be told.  It’s part of history.  This is a different story.  Twelve-year-old Mika escaped the gas chambers by singing and playing the piano, to entertain the German troops.  She managed to survive the war.

When the Americans liberated her camp in 1946, Mika was a survivor. At 19 years old she focused on making her way to America alone, not with her family. They were all dead. At least she made it, sad as it was.  Mika headed straight for Philadelphia where she hoped to find friends or relatives.

When Mika and Helga were together, as little girls, they shared dreams of going to America. They often delighted in viewing pictures of a village in America sent by relatives who lived there.  It was a section of Philadelphia called Manayunk.  Houses were built into the hillside in a Polish community there.  It reminded the sisters of their family’s hillside home in Poland.  They promised each other that when they grew up, they would go to Philadelphia to start a new life.  They treasured the post card pictures of Manayunk, and kept them in what they called a dream box. Manayunk’s unusual homes, much like their childhood enclave in Poland, were called trinity houses. The construction layout was a three-floor house with one room on each floor, and an outhouse behind the home.

Now in America, Mika rented a room from a widow, and got a job at the Philco refrigerator factory almost immediately.  That’s where she met Michael Szumicki, a close friend of mine, and a wonderful caring man. Just a few months after meeting in 1948, they got married. They bought a hillside house in Manayunk, on Michael’s G.I. bill.  The little house had been up dated with heat, plumbing, bathroom and running water.  It was a fulfillment of her little girl’s dreams, in her dream box. Mika also played the piano in the Polish Club on weekends.  Things were getting better, but one thing was missing. Helga was not there to share the dream.

It was a mild and warm Christmas Eve in 1953.  After several year of living in Manayunk, Mika and Michael had their own family of two children. The village houses were brightly decorated for Christmas in the mostly Catholic neighborhood.  Folks traditionally gathered and sang Christmas carols in the narrow streets.  Even though Mika was of Jewish heritage, she often played and sang carols for the mainly Catholic neighbors. Michael was a Polish Catholic and their children were, too.  This year, it was an unusually warm December night.  Mika and Michael opened the window and front door to their tiny trinity house. Together they moved the piano right under the window. Mika played Christmas carols, amplified by a portable amplifier.  She used the equipment frequently to entertain in local taverns, the Polish club and restaurants.  It was a joyful gathering. The street was filled with neighbors from nearby streets throughout the community. Caroling neighbors were wall to wall as Mika played. Many held candles to light the night.

Suddenly, between the songs, she could hear a woman’s voice from the rear of the crowd calling in German. “Mika, Mika, ist diese Mika?  Ist diese Mika?“ “Ja”, said Mika, “Wer ist das?” The lady pushed her way from the rear of the crowd to the front steps crying, “Oh mein Gott”, she cried.  “Ist die meine Mika, ist die meine schwester? I am Helga.  I am Helga.  Oh, mein Gott, mein Schwester, mein Schwester!“ (my sister) They leaped into each other’s arms, sobbing with joy. They held each other and couldn’t let go until they tired from tearful exhaustion. This moment needs little more description.  The irony of this reunion is almost unbelievable.  Mika and Helga had been living just two blocks from each other in the same community of Manayunk, the village of their dreams.  It was an unknown promise kept, over 4000 miles from where they were forcibly separated, a dozen years before.  This was the beginning of new lives for Helga and Mika.

Both sisters were now happily married with children.  The joyful reunion was also a happy time for their respective families. There was only one bitter daily reminders of life under the Nazis that would never to be erased. The girls had tattoos on their forearms, just one serial number apart. The sisters found a way to use this to their advantage.  Both became storytellers of their experiences, and musical entertainers, as they were in Plotsky’s Berlin sidewalk café before the war.  They freely displayed their tattoos. They were asked to speak in the community service clubs and churches around the city.  They called themselves the “Goldman Schwestern”.

A few blocks away, they found an empty store building for rent on the main street.  They reasoned that many of the men who did not return from the war, left musical instruments behind.  Selling the instruments could help the families.  Since both sisters were musicians, with little money, they seized the opportunity to open a consignment music shop.  Music was still their first love. They offered lessons on piano, accordion, guitar and most other musical instruments. They named their shop: “Die Schwestern Music Shop”.  It was the only music shop offering lessons in the area. They were almost an instant success.   Und, das war gut, sehr gut, sehr, sehr gut! Ja!

5

ONE GOOD FRIEND

 I have always been careful, about selecting my friends.

There are scores of candidates, who may pretend to be.

It reminds me of my Granddad, who warned ‘It depends,

If you are accepted as you are, completely, condition free.”

 *

Who are my true friends, I remember a few in my time.

Some who required no conditions that I must to accept.

A “comfortable feeling buddy”, no special reason or rhyme,

From handshake to now, a friendship unmarred and kept.

 *

A true friend is one, unconditionally trusting of me,

Like accepting my relationship, with a beloved daughter.

Such displays a trust, of the highest degree.

 Indeed a real friend, of an extraordinary order.

 *

Few people can say with absolute certainty, “I have a friend.”

The word is used loosely, for an acquaintance or a crony.

But when push comes to shove, friends stand by ‘til the end,

When I know you would, then I would too, that’s no baloney!

4

The Irish Girls’ Weddings

(reading time approx. 4 minutes)

It was Irish “they were”, the Manion sisters from County Mayo, in the green country of Ireland,  “don’t you know.” They came to the states in 1910 to find themselves husbands, then live in America and make it their new home, “they did, indeed”.

After arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the sisters found themselves two handsome, over six foot high, blue eyed, German twin brothers.  The twins were unmarried and just right size and ages to take care of the pretty, almost five foot high, little Irish lasses, who were looking “don’t you know” for handsome “big guy” husbands.  All four fell in love and after a respectable courtship of a couple of weeks, agreed to marry. (Now wasn’t that convenient!) However, there was one condition; the weddings had to be back in County Mayo Ireland, so the Manion girls could show off the “big guys” (as they called them), whom they found in America.

Their family, neighbors and relatives would be delighted to see their girls get married.  The two grand specimens of men, that measured over 6 feet 4 in their socks, and could tuck the Manion girls safely under their arms, “I’ll have you know”. The two German brothers agreed to the Irish wedding, and off they went.  Now engaged and on a steamer to County Mayo, Ireland, the sisters shared a room, and so too the brothers, just to be wed as proper Irish lasses would do, (so they said).

In Ireland, they would have a horse drawn wagon for their wedding, in typical Irish tradition. At the wedding, everyone had pint after pint of Guinness, with all the trimmings. There was singing, dancing and drinking, as any self respecting Irishmen would expect.  Of course, with new men to take care of their daughters for life, mother and father were as proud as Patty’s pig rollin’ in mud.  They had two 6 foot 4 German “big guys” as their new sons-in-law.

It was planned that the couples would honeymoon on their way back to the United States, in a new giant four-stacker ocean liner. Now they would share their staterooms as husband and wife, dep

arting from Belfast.  There was much celebration for their maiden voyage and the maiden voyage for the ship to America.  They would set sail on April 2, 1912, with many notables on the same cruise.  This would be a honeymoon to remember and brag about for life.  Who wouldn’t be proud to tell children and grandchildren of such an exciting journey?

After all of the goodbyes and family tears that were shed in County Mayo, the two couples raced away to catch their honeymoon ship waiting at the docks in Belfast. After setting port in Southampton, the ship would cross the Atlantic to New York for the first time. They boarded a small launch to ferry them to the docks in Belfast, but half way there, the launch broke down and the boat lay still in the water for a whole day until they could get help and a tow.

Meanwhile the big new liner did not wait and departed for America.  The four newlyweds watched the ship sail away from the harbor, leaving them behind.  The sisters cried out, “Our ship is sailing away without us.  There goes our voyage! There goes our luggage! There goes our honeymoon! THERE GOES THE TITANIC!”

3

Who were they? They were the lady and gentleman destined to be my mother and father-in-law, Sabina and Charlie Koenig, late of Philadelphia, PA.  If this event had not happened, I never would have married their daughter, who never would have been the mother of my children. It’s called the trickle down consequence, “don’t ya know”.

 

2

15

Helping Some Marines in Trouble

(reading time 5 minutes)

“Hey, how’d you get that medal?” a patron at the bar asked Marine Captain Ryan Carpenter of Buffalo, New York. “Oh I just helped out some Marines in trouble, when I was in Iraq.”  “Oh”, said the guy at the bar. “Musta’ been rough over there.” “Sorta”, he replied. The medal happened to be the Navy Cross.  There was a lot more to this story than “just helping some Marines in trouble”.  The patron was a writer for a local newspaper and radio station, so before he left, he wanted the whole story.  Ryan didn’t seem to be much of a conversationalist.  As luck would have it, the patron had his lap top computer with him, and knew just how to conduct an interview.  It was like pulling teeth, however he got most of the story.

Joe, the patron at the bar, later went to the Internet and searched under Navy Cross recipients, and there he was indeed, Ryan Carpenter.  There’s quite a bit more to the story.  The medal Captain Carpenter was wearing was less noticeable that it should have been, since all of the other ribbons he was wearing emblazoned his uniform were almost overpowering. The Navy Cross is the second highest award for Marines and Navy heroes.

Captain Carpenter was right in his comment, albeit humble.  He did help some Marines in trouble, and here’s how: As a platoon leader for his company, they were rolling up Iraq Highway #1, in a Humvee, when all hell broke loose.  Young Marines all around him were being cut to ribbons with mortars, rocket propelled grenades and machine guns.  This was a do or die situation, and it was up to the Captain to do something. Do or die alternatives generate adrenaline, like nothing else.  It must have been what Sergeant Alvin York and Audie Murphy experienced when they encountered similar situations in the First and Second World Wars, earning them the Congressional medals of Honor.  Do or die encounters will help most anyone make heroic decisions, and so it did in this case. The “die” alternative is not an acceptable option.

Without a blow by blow description of all the action, here are a few things that earned Bryan that Navy Cross: He was leading his men to safety, who were being picked off like fish in a barrel. Captain Carpenter gave the order to attack the enemy, and told the Humvee driver to floor the vehicle directly towards the machine gun emplacement, which was firing at them.

The Captain manned a 50-caliber weapon, mounted on the Humvee which he fired until he exhausted the ammo into the emplacement. Within minutes, dead and wounded enemy were slumped all over the trench by their guns. He then ordered the Humvee driver to drive into the trench which was hiding the Iraqis, and who were attacking his Marines. Now, the 50-caliber machine gun was empty. Captain Carpenter resorted to his M16 rifle, which he was carrying until that too was out of ammunition. After emptying his rifle, he fired his sidearm 45 until once again, no ammo left.  As he ran along the enemy’s trench, ducking bullets all the way, he took the guns and ammunition from the dead Iraqis.  With their own mortars, rifles, machine guns and grenades, he managed to kill all he encountered. It was almost like a John Wayne movie, where the bullets seem to miss the good guys.  At one point, he stumbled on a cluster of hostile fighters.  With an AK47, that he picked up on the way, he proceeded to kill or disable them all, after which he rounded up his surviving and wounded men, and headed back to Highway #1.

I guess you could say, yes, the Captain did help some Marines who were in trouble when he was in Iraq. Not to mention an outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of enemy fire, and an utmost devotion to duty, disregarding his own safety. That is what earned him the Navy Cross.  It’s a shame someone could not give the full story to the guy in the bar who asked, “Hey, how’d you get that medal?”

1

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”  Said John Wayne.

Names have been changed to prevent embarrassment due to inaccuracies.

21

Look Ma, I’m Flying

Days come and go and some we recall,

The one day I remember as most exciting of all.

My flight instructor climbed out,

And then there was no doubt,

This was my solo, and the day I stood tall.

*

 I think that most people would like to fly,

It’s a real challenge to any gal or guy.

There’s small room for error,

And some moments of terror,

But one of the greatest thrills money can buy.

 

Cowboys-at-church

Getting God in Our Hearts

There are all kinds of men and everyone’s different.

Given that as truth, it’s a rare kind of gent,

Who has your same values and thinks like you,

And seeks salvation just as you do.

*

Nobody knows what is the absolute truth,

Finding right trails to a hereafter takes a real sleuth.

Going alone sampling all, is questionable study,

It’s better with a partner or a real good buddy.

 *

You must make a choice before it’s too late,

If you want to see Saint Pete at a Pearly Gate.

 Be spiritually packed, ready to go anytime,

The Stairway to Paradise is a long steep climb.

*

Whichever path you follow, one lesson is the same,

Being kind to brothers and neighbors is everyone’s aim.

Stand by a window, hear a sermon and a hymn,

If you like what you hear, hobble your horse and go on in.

 

 

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The Journey Begins

Beneath the celestial clock, babies are headed for earth,

Waiting for their guides to deliver them for birth.

An Angel checks the coordinates and positions of the stars,

Plus relationship of sun and moon, and celestial calen-dars.

 *

The readiness or un-readiness of the parents to be,

Gets little regard by the Angels, you see.

For such unimportant and minor things,

Mean nothing compared to blessings a baby brings.

 *

The whole wide world may be changed by one baby,

It happened before and will again, not just maybe.

Sparked by flame of hope, babies are sent and thence,

They can alter time and universe for earthly recipients.

Typists-1940-007

Victoria Hamilton: The Scrivener

(reading time approx. 8 minutes)

In the 1940s, Victoria Hamilton was a former secretary for a real estate lawyer.  She found herself without a job when her employer unexpectedly died. She was his scrivener and particularly excellent at preparing beautiful documents. She had also prepared them for other lawyer friends of her former employer. In the profession, she was considered an “artist of documents”.  We, who were in the profession, became aware of her work in preparing deeds and other related official paperwork used in real estate. When we saw her work at settlements, we knew only one person could make such a document.  She prepared these forms on genuine parchment. It made them beautiful enough to frame.  She used large silver dollar sized gold seals on the documents for the notary seal and small dime sized blue and red seals for the signatures of the sellers, witnesses, and the recorder of deeds.  Each uncompleted line was filled in with red lines. The names were underscored with double red lines.  Extra large parchment, gold, red, and blue seals, red lining – wow – masterpieces.

Before typewriters, real estate documents were hand written in script, just like the Declaration of Independence. Lawyers who specialized in preparing these legal records for real estate were called “conveyancers”.  Even though the lawyer or REALTOR was engaged for this service, they didn’t personally type the documents. They were typed by their secretaries, called “scriveners” or “scribes”.

Most REALTORS and lawyers knew the name Victoria Hamilton. She was a celebrity as a professional scrivener. What made Victoria stand out from the other typists was the frame worthy beauty of her finished documents.

When Victoria’s employer died, she was out of a job, so she worked for her lawyer friends from her home as a scrivener.  She got busy and decided to rent space in the rear of a store in the center of downtown Philadelphia.  There, she could continue accommodating her clients. She set up tables and rented a few typewriters. The word spread about her services. She became so busy with work that she had to hire a few skilled typists.  She found them by calling the nuns at a local convent and high school for exceptional students. In a matter of a year or so, her reputation grew to where professionals from all over the area used her services.  She hired handicapped, homebound women typists, widows and shut-ins. Then, she rented more space for her growing staff.  By the 1960s, Victoria employed over 100 expert typists, stenographers, and proofreaders. Her office now took up the entire second floor of an office building on Chestnut Street, in center city Philadelphia. The shut-in ladies worked from their homes, and a runner on a bicycle picked up and delivered their assigned documents daily.  She shared her fees with the typists’ pool. Everyone was happy, and hours were flexible.

One such client was Judge Simon Sommerville.  The Judge asked Victoria to hire his unemployed daughter as a typist in her office.  Victoria said, “Have her call me. We’ll give her a typing test to see how she does.”  The daughter did not call.  The Judge called again, making excuses for his daughter and arranged another interview and a typing test.  Once again, the girl did not show up, nor did she call. The Judge called a third time and made excuses and another appointment.  The girl did show up this time, but wandered in three hours late for the interview. Victoria called the Judge and remarked that apparently the girl was not dependable or matured enough for this job right now.  The Judge became very irritated with Victoria. He made some unpleasant remarks and hung up.

Victoria was recognized by everyone as an expert scrivener and very generous about hiring qualified women with problems or disabilities that were keeping them out of the work force. She was her own charitable organization employer. Her fees in the 1960s, per document, were very reasonable – enough that the lawyer or REALTOR could then add on profit to the scrivener fee. Everybody was happy.  I know because I was one of her many satisfied clients. They were a work of art.

One day, Victoria was served a summons.  She was being sued to cease and desist engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The plaintiff on the lawsuit was named as the County Bar Association. Ironically, most of the members of the Bar were Victoria’s clients.  They would never initiate such a case.  They loved Victoria and they needed her.  She was always an honored guest at all of the Bar Association and Real Estate Board social activities. Her clients were in disbelief and shocked. What is happening? Why the law suit, and of all people, from the Bar Association?

The word spread that Judge Sommerville was the motivator behind the lawsuit.  Apparently, this was his way of getting even, since Victoria did not hire his daughter.  The word spread of the Judge’s vindictive influence on the Bar Association.  However, the law was very specific.   Only a lawyer could prepare such documents, as a licensed conveyancer.  I never really knew a lawyer who actually, and physically, did prepare any of these documents. Their secretaries typed them.   Victoria’s defense was that she was a scrivener, working under the direction of her lawyer and REALTOR clients, not a conveyancer. A perfect defense!  Nevertheless, the case was stacked against her.  She had to comply, close down and was out of business.   Even if she could afford an appeal in the interim, she had to lay off all of her employees.  Hundreds of her clients now had to prepare their own documents, but couldn’t produce like Victoria’s staff of scriveners.

Before Victoria could arrange for an appeal, she died within a year of being closed down, heartbroken! Judge Sommerville coincidentally died that same year, his vendetta satisfied.  Victoria is dead, the Judge is dead, and over 100 typists were out of a job, and the Judge’s daughter never got hired.

It’s not a happy ending, but Victoria and her beautiful documents will be remembered for years, maybe even centuries to come.  No one discards deeds. Her work is immortal.

Names, dates and places have been changed, but the story is real.  Many of Victoria’s clients are still living, as I am.  We’ll never forget Victoria, nor will we ever forget Judge Sommerville.

*

On a personal note:  My late wife Winnie was a great admirer of Victoria Hamilton’s quality parchments. Winnie trained herself to prepare these beautiful artistic documents.  She proudly mastered the technique, or “ART” I should say.  She became an especially respected talented scrivener in our County, by those people who knew her work.

The word of Winnie’s skill spread among lawyers and REALTORS, from settlements made with other real estate offices.  Winnie learned to prepare the same quality beautiful documents for many of our lawyer and REALTOR friends as a scrivener, but it was her secret. Just before Winnie passed away, I discovered that she had a bank account with an appreciable sum.  She saved all of her scrivener fees. I never knew about the account until she became ill, but that’s another story for another time.

 

 

Crimson-Cowboy-300x225

The Crimson Cowboy

(reading time under 3 minutes)

*

 Just take a gander at that pretty picture, it’s for real.

Makes you think a cowboy’s life is like a movie, ideal.

Pretty skies, gentle horses, a nice evening breeze,

But it ain’t nothin’ like that, you’re either melt’n or ya freeze.

 *

Cattle don’t take days off, neither do cowhands that tends them,

If’n it rains or snows, you gotta stick it out, a.m. and p.m.

No matter what the weather you gotta’ eat or die,

You rustle up victuals your ownself, and there ain’t no apple pie.

*

When I watched cowboys in them wild-west movie show’ns,

I wanted to be just like ‘em when I got big and done with my grow’ns.

I wanted a horse just like Hop-along Cassidy’s, and a cowboy hat,

Fancy saddle, shiny boots, and a real six-shooter, how ‘bout that.

 *

It sure looked good to me as a little kid dreamin’ of the west,

The stories and movies I saw seemed that cowboys was the best.

But when I was all growed-up and took as trip out there,

I felt what the cowboys felt, heat and cold I could hardly bare.

 *

But ya’ know as I think is over, and if’n I had my druthers,

It ain’t no place for bein’ alone, you need a family and brothers.

When I was a boy them Injuns were still pretty scrappy,

Unless you carried gifts for them they weren’t all that happy.

 *

I remember ‘bout them pioneers that explored the west,

Came back and told stories ‘bout enduring their quest.

It sure weren’t easy, fight’n wild things n’weather all the way,

But I still get excited just dreamin’ that I’d do it some day.

 *

Everybody has dreams of things, they ain’t done,

I sure ain’t no exception, I do it every day but to me it’s fun.

 Dreamin’ of places I ain’t never seen, n‘spect I never will,

I’m and old timer now, but it still gives me a thrill.

 *

My dreams won’t never come true, if’n it were to be it was up to me,

I sure had my chances to be where I wanted to be.

But I chose other things that was easiest to get,

‘N I done right well as an old timer now, ‘n I ain’t got no regret.