Monday, November 25, 2013

1930s What life was like the year our grandmother was born

Our grandmother Lillian  was born January 20,1930
we thought we would look around and see what life was like that year, that she made her debut in to the world.  
Life In the 1930's After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the largest stock market crash in American history, most of the decade was consumed by an economic downfall called the Great Depression that had a traumatic effect worldwide. In response,authoritarian regimes emerged in several countries in Europe and South America, in particular the Third Reich inGermany. Weaker states such as Ethiopia, China, and Poland were invaded by expansionist world powers, the last of these attacks leading to the outbreak of the Second World War a few months before the end of the decade. The 1930s also saw a proliferation of new technologies, especially in the fields of intercontinental aviation, radio, andfilm.
Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Worker's Party (Nazi Party) rise to power in Germany in 1933, forming a fascist regime committed to repudiating the Treaty of Versailles, persecuting and removing Jews and other minorities from German society, expanding Germany's territory, and opposing the spread ofcommunism.
Hitler pulls Germany out of the League of Nations, but hosts the 1936 Summer Olympics to show his new reich to the world as well as the supposed superior athleticism of his Aryan troops/athletes.
Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1937–1940), attempts the appeasement of Hitler in hope of avoiding war by allowing the dictator to annex the Sudetenland (the western regions of Czechoslovakia). Later signing the Munich Agreement and promising constituents "Peace for our time". He was ousted in favor of Winston Churchill in May 1940, after the Invasion of Norway.
The assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a German-born Polish Jew triggers the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) which occurred between 9 and 10 November 1938, carried out by the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo, and the SS, during which much of the Jewish population living in Nazi Germany and Austria was attacked – 91 Jews were murdered, and between 25,000 and 30,000 more were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Some 267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked. Kristallnacht also served as the pretext for the wholesale confiscation of firearms from German Jews.
Germany and Italy pursue territorial expansionist agendas. Germany demands the annexation of the Federal State of Austria and of other German-speaking territories in Europe. Between 1935 to 1936, Germany recovers the Saar and remilitarizes the Rhineland. Italy initially opposes Germany's aims for Austria, but in 1936 the two countries resolve their differences in the aftermath of Italy's diplomatic isolation following the start of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Germany becoming Italy's only remaining ally. Germany and Italy improve relations by forming an alliance against communism in 1936 with the signing of theAnti-Comintern Pact. Germany annexes Austria in the event known as the Anschluss. The annexation of the Sudetenland followed negotiations which resulted in the Munich Agreement of 1938. The Italian invasion of Albania in 1939 succeeds in turning the Kingdom of Albania into an Italian protectorate. The vacant Albanian throne was claimed by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. Germany receives the Memel territory from Lithuania, occupies what remains ofCzechoslovakia, and finally invades the Second Polish Republic, the last of these events resulting in the outbreak of World War II.
In 1939, several countries of the Americas, including Canada, Cuba, and the United States, controversially deny asylum to hundreds of German Jewish refugees on board the MS St. Louiswho are fleeing the Nazi regime's racist agenda of anti-Semitic persecution in Germany. In the end, no country accepts the refugees, and the ship returns to Germany with most of its passengers on board. Some commit suicide, rather than return to Nazi Germany.
United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, 18 May 1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected President of the United States in November 1932. Roosevelt initiates a widespread social welfare strategy called the "New Deal" to combat the economic and social devastation of the Great Depression. The economic agenda of the "New Deal" was a radical departure from previouslaissez-faire economics.
The lighthearted, forward-looking attitude and fashions of the late 1920s lingered through most of 1930, but by the end of that year the effects of the Great Depression began to affect the public, and a more conservative approach to fashion displaced that of the 1920s. For women, skirts became longer and the waist-line was returned up to its normal position in an attempt to bring back the traditional "womanly" look. Other aspects of fashion from the 1920s took longer to phase out. Cloche hats remained popular until about 1933 while short hair remained popular for many women until late in the 1930s and even in the early 1940s
Throughout the 1930s and early '40s, a second influence vied with the Paris couturiers as a wellspring for ideas: the American cinema. Paris designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Lucien Lelong acknowledged the impact of film costumes on their work. LeLong said "We, the couturiers, can no longer live without the cinema any more than the cinema can live without us. We corroborate each others' instinct
The 1890s leg-o-mutton sleeves designed by Walter Plunkett for Irene Dunne in 1931's Cimarron helped to launch the broad-shouldered look,and Adrian's little velvet hat worn tipped over one eye by Greta Garbo inRomance (1930) became the "Empress Eugenie hat ... Universally copied in a wide price range, it influenced how women wore their hats for the rest of the decade." Movie costumes were covered not only in film fan magazines, but in influential fashion magazines such as Women's Wear Daily, Harper's Bazaar, and Vogue.
Adrian's puff-sleeved gown for Joan Crawford Letty Lynton was copied by Macy's in 1932 and sold over 500,000 copies nationwide
The most influential film of all was 1939's Gone with the Wind.

 Plunkett's "barbecue dress" for Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara was the most widely copied dress after
 the Duchess of Windsor's wedding costume,

 and Vogue credited the "Scarlett O'Hara" look with bringing full skirts worn over crinolines back into wedding fashion after a decade of sleek, figure-hugging styles.[5]
Lana Turner's 1937 film They Won't Forget made her the first Sweater girl, an informal look for young women relying on large breasts pushed up and out by brassieres, which continued to be influential into the 1950s, and was arguably the first major style of youth fashion.
Retail clothing and accessories inspired by the period costumes of Adrian, Plunkett, Travis Banton, Howard Greer, and others influenced what women wore until war-time restrictions on fabric stopped the flow of lavish costumes from Hollywood.[5]Jean Patou, who had first raised hemlines to 18" off the floor with his "flapper" dresses of 1924, had begun lowering them again in 1927, using Vionnet'shandkerchief hemline to disguise the change. By 1930, longer skirts and natural waists were shown everywhere.[7]
But it is Schiaparelli who is credited with "changing the outline of fashion from soft to hard, from vague to definite."[7] She introduced the zipper, synthetic fabrics, simple suits with bold color accents, tailored evening gowns with matching jackets, wide shoulders, and the color shocking pink to the fashion world. By 1933, the trend toward wide shoulders and narrow waists had eclipsed the emphasis on the hips of the later 1920s.[7] Wide shoulders would remain a staple of fashion until after the war.
In contrast with the hard chic worn by the "international set".
 designers such as Britain's Norman Hartnell made soft, pretty dresses with fluttering or puffed sleeves and loose calf-length skirts suited to a feminine figure. His "white mourning"[8] wardrobe for the new Queen Elizabeth's 1938 state visit to Paris started a brief rage for all-white clothing[9]

What did things Cost in 1930's:
 average new house cost $7,145.00 and by 1939 was $3,800.00 
  the average income per year was $1,970.00 and by 1939 was $1,730.00 
 a gallon of gas was 10 cents and by 1939 was 10 cents 
 the average cost of new car was $640.00 and by 1939 was $700.00
Firestone Tyre 1932 from $3.69 , Single Vision Glasses 1938 $3.85 , Complete Modern 10 piece bedroom Suite $79.85 , 
Steak 1938 1LB 20 cents ,
 New Emerson Bedroom Radio 1938 $9.95
 Shaefer Pens 1933 from $3.35 ,
 Plymouth Roadking Car 1938 $685 ,
 Emmerson 5 tube bedroom radio $9.95 
, Howard Deluxe Quality silk lined hat $2.85 ,
 Cotton Chiffon Volle Girls Frock $2.98
The wearing of Sunglasses became popular in the 30's
Music 1930s
Big band or swing music becomes popular (from 1935 onward)
Popular Culture
The Film Wizard of OZ 
Gone with the Wind 
Action Comics continued to grow and Superman is seen in a comic for the first time
Some of the Most Well Known Movie Stars of the Thirties
Clark Gable couple of his films from the 30's 
Gone with the Wind and Mutiny on the Bounty
Shirley Temple couple of her films from the 30's 
Stand Up and Cheer! and Bright Eyes 
Joan Crawford couple of her films from the 30's
Forsaking All Others and Possessed 
Will Rogers couple of his films from the 30's
Judge Priest and Life Begins At Forty 
Fred Astaire couple of his films from the 30's
Swing Time and Follow the Fleet 
Ginger Rogers couple of her films from the 30's
42nd Street and Flying Down to Rio 
Tea Bags Are introduced and sold Commercially 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

African American Research -The Vandegrift line-a starting point

In our journey to uncover or roots we seem to have reached a difficult spot in the road. There are many variant paths that one can end up on in attempting to find information on black ancestors. My great-great grandfather Samuel Vandegrift is an example. It wasn’t too difficult to find him in census records but before post civil war era it seems impossible. I have found that an invaluable source for  African American heritage research is the National Archives website listed below. The site outlines some of the issues with conducting the research and aides in pointing out some alternative methods.
The unfortunate reality of a divided nation before the civil war is one fact that we must contend with. I was fairly certain that my ancestors were free people of color because they lived in the north. I came to find out that this conclusion may be an error. The Vandegrift name is Dutch and the historical fact is that the Dutch brought slavery, albeit unsanctioned, to Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
What has further convoluted the task is the fact that there is an entire town in Pennsylvania named Vandegrift.and is located on the furthest opposite side of the state from the residences of my ancestors Samuel and his son James.
I have decided the best way to find pre civil war information is to start with specific records after 1870 then work backwards. A few starting points are these agencies that were setup after the civil war:
  • the Commissioners of Claims (Southern Claims Commission)
  • the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company
  • the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen's Bureau)
My ardent hope is that with these resources we can go further back and find out who the Vandegrifts were.
African American Research

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Portriats of Beauty:

Finding beautiful portraits of your loved ones can bring a lot of joy and excitement .Which is the case for myself. In 2008 a  uncle was scanning family photos and came across  a "Glamour shot" style photo of our grandmother Lillian. We already knew about the one of our Mother Angela that was taken in the early 70's and grandmas matched hers. While I was In Pennsylvania in 2008 I came across  a "Glamour Shot" style photo of  our grandmother McGee. All these photos show the women in our family in a very beautiful way they are more than Grandma or Mother they are shown has individuals. When I look at these beautiful photos I am reminded that I come from a line of real beauty both inside and out. When I had my portrait done I had no idea about these three photos of my grandmothers and mother other wise I would have followed suit with the fur wrap in stead of the sequin jacket, But my grandmother Lillian loved the photo of me when I presented it to her. One day these will all be framed together and given to my daughter  as a family heirloom.


Alice May

Danielle ( Me)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

To Texas

In the early 1970's our grandparents, Lillian and Francis Bennett and his sister Marie as well as our parents Gerhard and Angela McGee moved to Houston, Texas. In my life here in Texas I have met many other people my parent's generation who also were from Pennsylvania. That has caused me to ask why? Is it just a fluke that I tend to meet people in Texas who are from Pennsylvania or is there a history there that has a story.What little I have read has told me an interesting tale of economics, human ambition and the pursuit of the American dream. I understood immediately a few contrasts between what living was like in Philadelphia and what my family came to live in Houston.

My grandmother often spoke of living in apartments as a single mother with 4 kids in Philly.She described them as converted row homes , often into 4 apartments in what at one time was a home. She told me that they lived in one place that the largest room was the bathroom. It was as if it was an after thought;a footed bathtub stuck in the middle of the room, pale green tiled floors and far across the room was a toilet and a sink squeezed into a corner. The bedrooms were small and the thought of any child having their own room was a dream only. Air conditioning was not unheard of but was definitely out of reach for them. Contrast that image with my grandmother's home on Forestburg drive in Houston. A 3 bedroom ranch home, central air and heat, two bathrooms and a large yard.

As I researched further I read about the identity crisis that Pennsylvania begin to find itself in beginning in the 1970's. Steel began to decline and the state was seeking to find new industry. The population of Pitsburgh for example had been over 700,000 in the 1950's yet by 1980 had fallen to 380,000. This type of statistic was repeated in various measure throughout Pennsylvania. Alternately, Houston in the 1970's was seeing a boom due to the oil crisis. Texas was pumping out oil, cities were growing and they needing contractors, builders, skilled men. My grandfather Francis was a glass man by trade and found himself as foreman of many of the skyscrapers still standing in downtown Houston today. My father Gerhard found employment as an electrical engineer as well as a second job as a salesman. In one letter to his parents, my father wrote the prices of a few items in Texas as he couldn't believe how low the cost of living was in comparison to Philadelphia.

The prices for the most part are a bit cheaper  he wrote.. Milk $1.25 a gal, Gas .45 a gal, eggs-1 dzn .85

  I came to understand that Texas represented the American Dream to my family. A way to better ones self and in a way pioneer a new way of life for the future generations. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gerhard T McGee II

Our father was Gerhard T McGee II he was the second child of our McGee grandparents . He was the brother of our beloved Aunt Alice who has so graciously over the years shared her childhood stories of our father. Today's post is meant to honor him as person rather than a memory that is to his children today. "Geary" as he is known to his father was quite the rascal as a little boy and Tom Swift.  He was very much the
apple of his parents eye he
was often pampered  by our grandparents because he had allergies and asthma  and would often use this to his advantage, Aunt Alice jokingly tells us stories of him running around when he wasn't suppose to cause him self to wheeze just to get attention sometimes. Geary had a few hobbies as a young boy. He was a Boy Scout, built model cars and read avidly. His favorite fiction series was Tom Swift.

 It seems that the story goes when he reached the age of 16  he grew tired of being showered with love and affection from his parents that he decided to join the Marines. Geary fibbed about his age and his father later signed the papers. We do not know what our grandmother's reaction to this was but I am sure she was terrified as our country was gearing up for some major wars.  Our father was on his way to becoming a man  by serving his country.  While he was in the USMC he learned skills that would later help him as an electrical engineer in earning a living.

Info from Wikipedia:
During our father's service to his country he was a part of the  Bay of Pigs invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion, known in Hispanic America as Invasión de Bahía de Cochinos (or Invasión de Playa Girón or Batalla de Girón), was an unsuccessful military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on 17 April 1961. A counter-revolutionary military trained and funded by the United States government's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) and intended to overthrow the revolutionary left wing government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban armed forces, under the direct command of Prime Minister Fidel Castro.
The Cuban Revolution of 1953 to 1959 had seen President Fulgencio Batista, a right-wing ally of the U.S., ousted. He was replaced by a new left wing administration dominated by Castro, which had severed the country's formerly strong links with the U.S. by expropriating their economic assets and developing links with the Soviet Union, with whom the U.S. was then embroiled in the Cold War. The U.S. government of President Dwight D. Eisenhower was concerned at the direction which Castro's government was taking, and in March 1960, Eisenhower allocated $13.1 million to the CIA in order to plan Castro's overthrow. The CIA proceeded to organize the operation with the aid of the Mafia and various Cuban counter-revolutionary forces, training Brigade 2506 in Mexico. Following his election in 1960, president John F. Kennedy was informed of the invasion plan and gave his consent.
Over 1,400 paramilitaries, divided into five infantry battalions and one paratrooper battalion, assembled in Guatemala before setting out for Cuba by boat on 13 April. On 15 April, eight CIA-supplied B-26 bombers attacked Cuban air fields and returned to the U.S. On the night of 16 April, the main invasion landed at a beach named Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs. It initially overwhelmed a local revolutionary militia. The Cuban Army's counter-offensive was led by Captain José Ramón Fernández, before Castro decided to take personal control of the operation. On 20 April, the invaders finally surrendered, with the majority of troops being publicly interrogated and then sent back to the U.S.
Geary sent this snapshot home to our grandfather for father's day
The failed invasion strengthened the position of Castro's administration, who proceeded to openly proclaim their intention to adopt socialism and strengthen ties with the Soviet Union. This led eventually to the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The invasion was a major embarrassment for U.S. foreign policy. John Kennedy ordered a number of internal investigations. Across much of Latin America, it was celebrated as evidence of the fallibility of U.S. imperialism.

Geary also served during the Vietnam war  for a short time.

Geary with a kimono dragon
Geary loved Animals even though he was allergic to them
here he making friends with some animal pals during his time in service.
The Vietnam War was a long, costly armed conflict that pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. The war began in 1954 (though conflict in the region stretched back to the mid-1940s), after the rise to power of Ho Chi Minh and his communist Viet Minh party in North Vietnam, and continued against the backdrop of an intense Cold War between two global superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union.  More than 3 million people (including 58,000 Americans) were killed in the Vietnam War; more than half were Vietnamese civilians. By 1969, at the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in the Vietnam conflict. Growing opposition to the war in the United States led to bitter divisions among Americans, both before and after President Richard Nixon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973. In 1975, communist forces seized control of Saigon, ending the Vietnam War, and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year.


After his time in the service Geary was ready to settle down  he married his sweetheart Gail and they had a son Ross.  Like many young couples they struggled  and eventually separated and divorced . Geary did his best to keep in contact with his son picking him up on weekends and spending time with him.  he eventually got himself a apartment  where he met a young lady by the name of Angela Moser She also recently divorced and had a young son Bobby. Geary and Angela would often get together and take their sons on outings together .


Photos courtesy of Ross McGee:
Geary with Bobby L and Ross R
Photo Right: Angie with the boys

During this time in 1971 Angie became pregnant  with Geary's second child and on June  13,1972  She gave birth to a daughter ,Geary chose her name  and named her Danielle. In order to please both grandmothers he added  Lillian  (Angie's mother) and Alice  for his own. Bobby and Ross now had a little sister.  
Ross with his Little Sister

 Jobs were scarce in the early 70's and another energy boom was getting ready to the erupt in Texas  where Angie's family had relocated.  Geary decided at this time that maybe it would be best for Angie to be near her family due to her illness Type 1 Diabetes. He made the decision to leave Philadelphia for Houston. He planned that once he was there he would continue to fight for custody of his son Ross and bring him to Houston in the future.  Once in Houston he set out to find a decent job that would allow him to provide for his growing family. Geary did some odd jobs and even sold steak knives door to door to provide for his family.
  In a letter to his parents in 1974  he seems to have found a  good job  in Houston  and  was finally getting things together. In  1976 Angie was pregnant with his  3rd child  which was due in September of that year. Geary had seemed to find some sort of meaning to his life and remarked at this time to his sister Alice that he was studying the Bible. He seemed to have found some peace and joined a Baptist church . 

On August 7, 1976  Angie was cooking in the little apartment on Valverde St and it was time to serve dinner;Geary was in the apartment parking lot working on the family car and some how cut the break shaft and the car rolled atop him.  He was  just 33  and Angie only had a few more weeks to go  before giving  birth to his second son. Angie went out to get him for dinner and was soon surrounded by witnesses who had witnesses what had just occurred. Geary was pronounced dead moments later. 

 Gerhard T McGee II is buried in the Veteran's National Cemetery in Houston Texas. His death would change the course of his family's life forever .  Angie never really got over it and passed away 8 years later at the age of 35. Ross was never reunited with his father, Geary III, the child born one month after his fathers death, never met his father and  I have very few snippets of memories of  daddy. His death has hit me the hardest I guess because I was there when the accident happened. For many years  I blamed my self  even though now I know I was only 4 years old at the time. His parents never really got over his death they did how ever find some solace and peace in the fact that he left three  children 
to carry on his name and legacy.  Today his children have formed a bond that only we can understand. Our Aunt Alice was very instrumental in helping us  come to terms with our father's loss she has given us the chance to get to know each other during our summers in Pennsylvania. She once shared with me that she felt it was her duty to her brother's memory to help his children come together and form some sort of a relationship.

Geary with his Sister Alicemae

Danielle, Ross, Geary III, Bob Irwin and Alice (McGee) Irwin

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Today in our family History: November 5, 1984

Today our family history marks the anniversary of the death of Angela Mcgee
 She was the Daughter of Lillian Bennett . She passed away at the age of 36
She was the Mother of Danielle & Geary Mcgee and Robert Moser.
She passed the following day after her father in law
Gerhard Mcgee II.

Angela was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of 16. Her life was cut short by this very terrible disease. We choose to never forget the high cost that type 1 diabetes takes on families even today. One thing that distinguishes type one diabetes from type two are the many facts which dispel the myths about it . Type one diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Type one diabetes is caused by genetics and yet unknown causes. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it... For more information or to donate and learn more about juvenile diabetes/type one research please follow the link below:

Monday, November 4, 2013