Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween, 1960

If you're offended by this photo, please read my last post, A Case of Race. I wanted to put this photo in context so I posted a story about my parents and the lengths to which they went to fight racism. Though black face was losing it's popularity mid-century due to the civil rights movement, it was still showing up in mainstream America in 1960. I searched online for photos of black face during that time and found several, including a Cub Scout group in black face.

I remember finding these photos many years ago and asking my parents what they were thinking. My father was upset that I insinuated it had anything to do with race. My mother said it was a different time then, it was just a costume, and it was no big deal. Granted, growing up in the 60's was totally different than it is now – it was not uncommon to see black jockeys on neighborhood lawns. I can also be certain that my parents would not have thought this was a good costume choice for Halloween, 2011. Knowing them as I did, and knowing where their hearts were then, and where their hearts continued to be until their death, I can't condemn their choice of costume here, nor can I pretend the photo doesn't exist.

If there's one thing I've learned by writing this blog: you can't rewrite history.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Case of Race

The house that made history. 

My parents were not racists, bigots, or anti-Semites. In fact, Nancy and Ed Ambrose were quite liberal in their politics and eagerly embraced diversity and different cultures. Though occasionally I would have to remind my father that it was no longer politically correct to refer to the waiter at the local Chinese restaurant as a Chinaman (and he would never call him that to his face, thank goodness), it may have had more to do with his old age and dementia than anything else. That said, they both grew up in a dramatically different time than we do now – where Tom Sawyer and Al Jolson were embraced as sources of entertainment. I remember when I was eleven years old my mother told me it was fine with her if I wanted to marry a black man. It hadn’t crossed my mind, at eleven, to marry anyone, but I never forgot that comment. It made an imprint on me for life. 

My father was working for Abex Company when he was transferred to Ohio in 1968; we lived there for four years in the desirable city of Upper Arlington (UA). We lived in the area north of West Lane Avenue, where the developments resembled a checkerboard of ranch houses built on flat, generous lots on street grids that accommodated adjoining recreational areas. Jack Nicklaus lived on my street, one block down – not that we ever saw him out mowing his lawn or handing out Halloween candy.

My mother would probably say those four years were the worst of her life. She had left her friends and volunteer work behind in Connecticut, moving to within five miles of Michigan’s rival football team, Ohio State. That would have been enough for me. Add to that, though, my mother was now living in a red city in a red state – near Woody Hayes of all people – and just 140 miles away from Kent State when the political protestors were massacred in 1970. However, I think her dislike of Ohio was more personal than that.

In 1970, my parents were two of the four white plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Northwest Arlington Association (NWAA) and it’s trustees. An African-American family wanted to buy the house next to us and they were blocked by the NWAA. This lawsuit was an attempt to unravel the association and the racist deed covenants that had been in place since these houses were built. It’s an interesting story about my parent’s views on race that I wanted to share with you. 

A little history: Ben and King Thompson were major real estate developers of Upper Arlington and the surrounding neighborhoods. According to Patricia Burgess in her book Planning for the Private Interest, “Written into the deeds were restrictions, made to be in effect until 1999, stating that no home could be sold or occupied by ‘any person or persons in whole or part of the Negro race or blood’ but people not of the white race could be employed as servants.” 

Upper Arlington has an online archives, UA-Archives, which I found mildly amusing when I searched for "African American" and came up with one article and one image. It referenced several African Americans in UA history, most notably the mailman, Alfred Holt. It then goes on to list gardeners, hired hands, farmers, and chauffers, and identified the white families for whom they worked. This blog post wasn't meant to be about the UA necessarily, but I did research the most recent census taken in 2010 and was struck by how much hasn't changed in the city in the last 40 years: 92.1% White, 5% Asian, 1.6% Hispanic or Latino, 0.8% African American, 0.1% American Indian, 0.2% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races.

Back to the history part. After 1948, when such deed restrictions were no longer legally enforceable, the Thompsons went about circumventing that law by mandating membership in a community or association as a condition of purchase of sale. Potential house buyers had to gain approval of membership by the association in order to purchase the property. In addition, the association retained first right of purchase on all lots or homes offered for sale. 

Pace, one of the defendants in the suit, suggested Ashley didn't buy the house because he couldn't get the financing. Pace was currently serving a term on the Ohio Real Estate Commission, a group that was/is responsible for monitoring unlawful practices by realtors.

Sample of a deed in 1966, with Association language.
Close up of NWAA language in the deed.
In 1970, our next-door neighbors were selling their home. The Ashleys were an African-American family from New Jersey who wanted to buy the house. The NWAA, referencing the restrictive deed covenant, bought the house instead, nullifying the sale with the Ashleys. Soon afterward, my parents, our neighbors down the street, the Andersons, and the Ashleys filed a lawsuit hoping to end this xenophobic practice in UA. It was not a popular act, and I remember the harassing phone calls and my mother being worried that a cross would be burned on our lawn. She was always a worrier, but since the newspapers printed our address in the paper, she had good reason to worry.

Well, they won! My mother might say it was a fitting end to her four years in Ohio. I would have to agree.

 Sample of a deed in 1976 with no Association language!

Arlington Home Owners Group Dissolved
(clipping from family archives,newspaper unknown)

An association of Upper Arlington home owners has been ordered dissolved, and a Negro from Camden, N.J., has been paid $1,500 from the association's treasury in settlement of a housing discrimination suit filed last March.

The suit in Franklin County Common Please Court charged the Northwest Arlington Association and its trustees – including John H. Pace, chairman of the Ohio Real Estate Commission – prevented Alfred C. Ashley, the New Jersey man, from buying a house.

Because Ashley is black, the suit said, the association exercised its option under a restrictive deed and purchased a house at 2760 Leeds Rd. in the Canterbury Place Addition for $63,500 in June, 1970, after Ashley had offered the same amount for the house.

The suit, filed by Ashley and four white residents of the subdivision requested the dissolution of the association, the award of $15,000 in damages to Ashley, and the removal of the restrictive covenants from all deeds.

Judge Clifford Rader approved the dissolution of the association Monday and declared all of the restrictive covenants null and void.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life in Botswana: African Skies

Red skies at night, sailor's delight. Red skies in morning, sailors take warning. These are words I have lived by all my life, thanks to my father's interest in sailing. I would like to share some of the amazing sunrises and sunsets my parents took during their four years in Botswana. The first was taken from their front yard in Gaborone. Other shots were taken in other parts of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Malawi, and South Africa.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Uncle Marty

Martin Peter Ambrose was the youngest of Edwin and Frida's three children, and named after his grandfather, my great-grandfather, Martinius Ambrosiussen. He was born 11 years after my father Ed, and nine years after my aunt Marion. Marty was a Halloween baby, born on October 31, 1940. Sadly, I never knew that until after his death (Halloween is my favorite holiday). Even though he was the youngest sibling, he was not the last one to leave us. He died five days before my mother. His life ended much too early, in June 2010, at age 69, of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS.

Edwin, Frida, Marion, and little Marty Ambrose. 
Mother Frida and baby Marty.
Eddie, Martinius, Frida, and big boy Marty. 
Marty was a local celebrity in Houston, Texas, also known as the "Dean of Houston Traffic Reporters," where his soothing, warm, and deep voice entertained thousands of people for over three decades. As an adult, wherever I lived, if I met someone from Houston, they were sure to know Marty. It was fun to have a celebrity uncle!

My uncle also liked the theater arts, first performing in high school and in local theaters throughout his adult life. He also was an accomplished bass singer, lending his voice voice to such groups as the Houston Symphony Chorus and the Sons of Orpheus.

Marty visited us a few times in Darien, one of the highlights being when he wrote a short play for us to perform together as a family. The Lone Ranger was a popular television show at the time, so this skit he called The Lone Stranger. I remember playing Griselda, a young girl with a toothy New England accent (not intentional by the way). It was a fun experience, which we relived more than 20 years later when we went to a family reunion at a dude ranch in Michigan. Again, Marty wrote another play for us, the sequel, Son of Lone Stranger. Thanks to Marty, my family has these moments on tape so we can listen to them whenever we want and play them for our families.

Marty began working on the radio in the mid-1970s, when, as a salesman for AAA, he volunteered to sit in for the resident traffic reporter on occasion. His emergency broadcasts after the 1977 crash of an ammonia tanker – where six people were killed and 78 seriously injured – launched his career. He co-founded the area's first network traffic reporting service using spotters, CB radios, and binoculars. He provided timely traffic reporting for up to 21 stations at one point. Marty was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame shortly after his death.

After Marty died, much was written and said about him in the news. My aunt, Mary Kramer Ambrose, was kind enough to send me a plethora of DVDs to watch and share with my brothers. All of them, touching tributes to a wonderful man.

John G. Winder of The Cypress Times wrote: You knew his name, and his smooth soothing voice. Marty Ambrose was the dean of Houston traffic reporters.  Over the years his calm voice shepherded millions of Houston drivers safely through the calamity of congestion that is Houston’s rush hour traffic.  What you may not know about Marty is that his voice and his demeanor matched in real life, too. He was a gentleman and a gentle man who dedicated his time, talent and gifts to numerous Houston charities and causes both on and off-the-air. 

As you can tell by these photos, it's true, Marty was always a gentleman. After all, who looks sweeter in this photo, Marty in the sailor suit or the tough looking girl next to him? Is that a black eye she's sporting?

Another article by Fayza A. Elmostehi of Culturemap Houston, was especially touching: We certainly hope that wherever Ambrose is now, the highways are conveniently congested and the drivers are beyond irate. After all, traffic was what he loved, and for his sake, we hope there's a whole lot of it.

By the time my father died from frontal-temporal lobe dementia, FTLD, Marty had already been suffering from symptoms from ALS, but didn't know what was wrong with him. Some of the symptoms are actually the same. He was understandably worried that he too had FTLD. Marty sent a recording to my dad a few weeks before his death, which I played for him in the nursing home. Marty's soothing, familiar voice spoke to my dad, reminiscing about personal memories he had of his older brother, clips of the Marine Corps hymn, the fight song for the Univ. of Michigan, and Norwegian classical music.

Here's an excerpt of Marty's recording to my father Ed:

Reflections On My Older Brother

When I was born you were already 12 years old. And by the time I was four you were in high school. My brother Ed – handsome and smart – 135 IQ somebody wrote. By the time I was eight, you were already out of high school and in the Marines, stationed at Cherry Point, NC, and every time you came home, how smart you looked in your dress blues.

You were always a role model for me. You used to send things to me from all over the world. You brought me bongo drums, rattan stools from India, and a live alligator from Florida. You even brought me back a piece of the goal post from the Rose Bowl when Michigan won. And, on my 16th birthday, I stood outside and watched you drive up the street in a 1948 Nash, which you presented to me, warts and all.

After I graduated from Luther in 1962 you invited me to come and stay with you in Darien for the summer. And what a summer it was! I went into the city with you every morning on the 7:25 and you introduced me to your friends at advertising agencies and other companies. I had a good time sailing, clam digging, and exploring the canyons of the city. A few years later, in 1967, I stopped in and we wrote and produced “The Lone Stranger”.

The next time we saw each other was in 1979 at our one and only family reunion in Brevort, Michigan, at the Double H Ranch. We all cavorted for a whole week with campfires on the beach and saluting Pop on his 80th. How fortunate that we were all able to congregate for this wonderful week – when just a few years later we lost Pop and then Mom, and then Stacy. Who knew that this would be our last and only chance to be together? And do you remember when we decided to do a rewrite of “The Lone Stranger”? I went up to my room to write it, and an hour or so later I gave everybody their scripts and then we presented it at the talent show. Well, needless to say, we won first prize in the Family Talent Contest.

Thank you for being such a great big brother. You were always there for me. I knew I could always call you if I needed a helping hand or a word of support. You never tried to run my life but you were always there if I ever needed you. Fortunately we all had those Norse genes in our bodies that gave us whatever it took to get by in the world and I’m still proud of you big brother, and I appreciate you, and for the family you made, the kids you raised, and the life you led. And I love you as only a little brother can. And thanks for a lifetime of sweet memories.

Your little brother Martin

Happy birthday Uncle Marty.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Artistic Man

My grandfather Eddie Ambrose, my dad Ed,
and my aunt, Marion Ambrose Benedict, in the baby stroller.

My grandfather, Edwin Ambrose, was a draftsman for many years so I knew he was a creative person; I just never knew he had an interest and talent for advertising. It appears he entered a Whirlpool washer slogan contest when he was living in Syracuse... and won! I found this clipping in their family scrapbook. Do you think the $20.00 scrawled on the ad was his reward for winning? Or maybe it was the cost of the washer? 

The 1900 Washer Company opened in 1899, and in 1920 it merged forces with another washing machine company to become the Nineteen Hundred Corporation. In the late 1920’s the company introduced its new line of washers called the Whirlpool. The 1900 Washer Company at 389 West Onondaga Street in Syracuse was the exclusive sales and service headquarters for this "new-day" washer. 

Other ads in newspapers at the time read like news articles, claiming the washer was "preferred by housewives" or "approved by Good Housekeeping Institute." Want to know another special feature with this "new" washing machine? It was equipped with a gasoline powered engine "which brings to the housewife in the country and the suburban districts the same relief from drudgery of wash day as comes to the housewife who has electric power to assist her in eliminating much of the unnecessary drudgery of the laundry work." The gas engine was 1/2 horse power and 4 cycle and the company promoted the fact that it could also be utilized for other purposes on the farm. Imagine that. A gift for the woman and the man in the family!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fingerprints and Family

This is a great gift idea. I found a store on Etsy called Lovli Day, where artist Jessie Steury creates posters with a bare tree trunk and branches and then customizes it with your name. She then sends it to you with a couple of ink pads for stamping family fingerprints. She even makes a version for celebrating events such as weddings, reunions, or birthdays, so you can capture the fingerprints of those who attend your special event. So, unless you're friends and family are in the mob or witness protection, this is a pretty cool idea. At your next holiday gathering, think about passing the stuffing and the ink pads and create your own handmade family tree. 

This fingerprint tree made me think about the history of fingerprinting. Presently, most children are fingerprinted for security reasons, with their prints held at their local police station. But do you think it was common practice that a family in the 1930's would be fingerprinted? I haven't been able to find references to that fact in my research, for it was mostly being used for criminals or the military back then. I don't think I've ever been fingerprinted. Footprints at birth, but not fingers, right?

In March, 1932, the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped from his home in New Jersey. In 1935, nine-year old George Weyerhaeuser (of paper company fame) was kidnapped in Washington state. Was America becoming obsessed with the possibility of kidnapping that people rushed out to fingerprint their families and children? In 1936, my grandfather had his whole family fingerprinted, as you can see below. Finding these prints made me wonder...why?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Vintage Summer Recipe

Here’s another interesting scrap of paper I found in the Voegtly family scrapbook. I’m not sure I understand the reason for keeping it, now that I've learned what it really is. Can you guess?

Let milk stand 12 hours after milking. Rerun (or remove) all the cream.

Cream, 2 parts, 14 oz.
Udder(?) Milk, 1 part, 7 oz.
Water, 2-1/2 parts, 17-1/2 oz.
Lime Water, 1/2 part, 3-1/2 oz.

Divide among 6 bottles. To each add 2 heaping teaspoons sugar of milk.

My research began with only a few clues:

Clue: it is written on apothecary paper

Fact: it’s medicine

Clue: the ingredients are to be split into six bottles

Fact: it’s for babies

Clue: it was with my great-grandmother’s papers

Fact: it’s from the early 1900’s

I can’t quite read all the ingredients, but the one that solved the mystery for me was lime water. Lime water is the common name for saturated calcium hydroxide solution (didn't know I was a chemist did you?). The term lime refers to the mineral, not the sour fruit. And, when exposed with carbon dioxide, lime water turns into a milky solution.

Have you figured it out yet?

This is a recipe to treat infants affected by Summer Diarrhea, as it was commonly known, around the turn of the 20th century. I read from the source below that in the summer of 1904 in New York City, there were 3,800 deaths from diarrhea. I presume that this statistic wasn’t isolated to NYC and that other towns and cities were also stricken with this “preventable” food disorder. According to MSCNY Medical News, NYC registered more deaths in 1904 from diarrhea than from any other infection.

Children were most susceptible to getting sick. “The anomalous death-rate of infants from diarrhea last summer was due to the unjustifiable use of cereals at a time when nature had not supplied the digestive juices necessary for the proper preparation of such material.”

One ounce of this mixture was to be given every four hours to children under three months of age. Filtered, un-boiled water was used, and if at the end of twenty-four hours the child continued to improve, then an ounce of this liquid would have been given every two hours.

So if you've run out of Imodium, now you can mix up your very own homemade remedy using this century-old recipe. Maybe this is the only remaining copy of this recipe and now I've just shared it with all of you. Consider this post a public service.

Okay, seriously, it's time for me to go home. I'm pooped.

Information (not photos) obtained from Medical News, Medical Society of the County of New York, Sept. 9, 1905

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Life in Botswana: Safari, August 1991

More excerpts from my parent's journal: Life in Botswana. I just want to add that the little towhead (or maybe bald head would be a better description) pictured in this post is my niece Emily, who's currently spending a semester in Ghana – without her parents! How time flies.

Bill, Amy and Emily (then 10 months) arrived in August. We all drove to Zimbabwe, to Bulawayo and the Matopos National Park. We stayed and cooked in a Park chalet and were pestered by vervet monkeys. We saw many animals while driving, including zebra, impala, warthog, secretary birds, giraffes, rock dassie (hyrax), duiker, klipspringer, ostrich and wildebeest. Amy encountered baboon and sable and roan antelope while jogging in the morning. We had our first sighting of beautiful and rare black eagles, common only to this area.

We drove to Gwai River Lodge, close to Hwange, which is an old and quaint lodge. From there we drove the short distance to Hwange where we saw large numbers of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, some elephant, sable antelope, big crocodiles, and a trace of a lion.

Victoria Falls had less water than we had ever seen, which allowed us to see the bottom of the gorge for the first time. Bill and Amy were able to walk to the end of the point without getting wet – another first!

At Chobe we saw hundreds of elephant, close up, and many other animals. We also loved the birds, including fish eagles, groups of storks, and hundreds of guinea fowl. Bill and Amy went on a small boat on the Chobe River and got very close to hippo. They saw more elephant and many birds. As we left the park to return home we saw 600 to 800 buffalo on the flood plain.