2021 – Scraps of Life (Personal)
(ignore April 30, 2017 publish date – this was published on March 1, 2021)
This was not the easiest post to write and it would really only have some meaning for my siblings and extended family, but I’ve also heard from a few non-family members who say they enjoy reading family stories (hello, A.R.), so I’ll give it a shot.
Through the years, I’ve found a few packed-away, thick family photo albums – the ones with big, black pages with many photos on each page that are trying desperately to stay attached. Because I had gone through them every decade or two, I pretty much knew what they contained and – to this point – have ignored them.
But as I started going through the most recent bag of family goodies, I saw the top of something that – while still packed tightly (and vertically) in the bag – resembled a smaller version (10” x 13.5”) of our old photo albums. Its visibly flaking page-edges were not black, but rather brownish-yellow from old age.
It simply said “Scrap Book” on the front and showed the outline of what appeared to be a dog’s head in the middle of the embossed cover.
I had never seen this book before!
Its covers and content were bound by a string that ran through everything at two points that were equidistant from the top and bottom.
The book contains no photos, but instead shows event greeting cards and even a couple of telegrams from four events that took place over an almost-two-year period from early 1946 to very-late 1947 – a time when life changed dramatically for my mother, who put the book together.
The first couple of pages show NOTHING, which is just as well because they’ve separated from the rest of the book:
The 1946 segment begins with some engagement congratulation cards in February, continues with a LOT of wedding cards in July and ends with a couple of “Best Wishes In Your New Home” ones in August.
Because I have never seen this book before, I have to assume that my brother and two sisters have not either, so I’m showing EVERY page in the book. Many of the senders are either unfamiliar to me or not in the cast of relatives that were ever a part of our lives, so I’m only going to zoom in on the senders who were.
Here’s the first page:
TWO of the signatures were worth featuring:
Aunt Edie lived in Teaneck when we did. I’m really not sure who “Dick and Diddy” were, but I seem to remember the sound of that pair of names (but I’m probably thinking of Dick & Dee Dee and their 1961 hit “The Mountain’s High” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU2rjoSXI34).
The next four pages:
“Joanie” and Catherine were Mom’s two sisters – our beloved aunts and Joe was Mom’s (and J & C’s) brother………….and my godfuncle.
Two more pages:
Why is that last card bent weirdly? Here’$ the answer:
It’s dated “July 13, 1946” – the date of the wedding. “Dad & Mother” are Grandpa and Grandma Kibbe…………and they and Mom were from Williston Park. Maybe this was their first chance to write Mom’s new name AND the last chance to place it before Dad’s, since that situation would reverse later that day.
I was wondering why Mom never cashed it, but then noticed the not-exactly-legal “Dad & Mother” signatures, so maybe it was a home-made memento of the day.
Next two pages:
What the two cards on the right page said:
Terese and Jack were sister and brother (and our beloved aunt and uncle). Jack lived in Teaneck on the street behind ours. Rose Cobb was a good friend and co-worker of Mom’s at IBM. I remember visiting “Aunt Rose” in Poughkeepsie a few times when I was a kid (she was NOT related).
I have no idea who sent either telegram. “172 Capitol Ave” was her (and her parents’) old address. “Mrs Lease” is the first of many name-bungles you’ll see here by Western Union.
The card at the top of the left page:
It’s from two of our Teaneck relatives. Their son, Larry Jr, and I share a birthday, but he’s two years older.
Eight more pages that end this segment:
The telegram in the first pic says “Noar Lease” (not even close, Western Union).
The last card on the 8th page is from Aunt Terese and Uncle Jack. If you look closely on the left, you’ll see a “Dorothy” signature. I’m guessing that was our Nana, Dorothy Kavrik:
No entries for another year, until……….The 1947 Segment of the book: What This All Leads To (he says, modestly)
All the embarrassing details you never asked to see:
Two VERY interesting cards from an unexpected source:
The first one:
I got a card on the day I was born………….from my father!
So did Mom:
I’ll get to the “Koiby” thing later. As for “O’Levy”, I have no idea about the “O” part. As for the rest of it, the only thing I can think of happened when I was a very young, smart-ass pre-teen. I went to a Catholic school in neighboring Hackensack, where I heard a couple of “Jew jokes” (sorry – that’s what they were called). I repeated one to my father. Let’s just say he wasn’t laughing, but rather than yell at me, he said something that I had already learned in school: how immigrants had their last names changed when they arrived at Ellis Island by whoever processed them, if that person didn’t like their name.
He told me our last name was originally “Levy” and it got changed to “Leafe”. It wasn’t true, but I didn’t know that then and was duly chastened. He never heard another “joke” like that from me again.
He handled things the right way back then. Unfortunately, teenage me was not so easy for him.
Lastly, “Aristocrat” must have been the manufacturer of my true first set of wheels.
Back to the loving cards: This is a side of my father that I’d never seen before.
The next two pages:
Every two days while we were still in the hospital, Dad would write us love notes:
“Pop”? We never called him that, but HIS father – Norman S, Leafe, Sr – was referred to as “Pop Leafe”, so maybe Dad was trying to create a tradition. BTW – Pop Leafe died on the same day as that second “Pop” usage: August 20, 1947. As I’ve mentioned before, Dad used to tell me that after I was born, his father took one look at me and keeled over. Not that I’d remember it, but the truth is, we never got a chance to meet.
In that same 8-20-47 card, Dad’s “I loves ya both” sounded very familiar. I realized it sounded like Jimmy Durante talking. Then I remembered that Dad once interviewed Jimmy at a Broadway theater one afternoon when he was on assignment from the Teaneck High School newspaper, where he was the editor in his senior year. “Hot Cha Cha!” (https://tinyurl.com/Schnozolla – read it!)
And speaking of “I loves ya”, look what I just found online:
Jimmy signed it that way.
In the last card – “Koiby & the Doiby”? OY!
OK – I think I can figure out “Koiby”. Both of my maternal grandparents AND Jimmy Durante had the New York (Brooklyn?) accent where “ir” and “ur” had the sound of “oi” and where things that were supposed to have the “oi” sound came out as “er” – kind of the exact reverse of what they were supposed to be.
My father used to recite the following to me in that dialect: “A doity boid sat on the corner of toity-toid ‘n toid, choipin’ an’ boiping an’ eatin’ doity woims, but then he fell off the corner into some erl.” (Be sure to read that out loud when other people are around.)
OK – that knowledge reduces “Koiby” to “Kirby”, which sounds like “Kibbe”. “The Doiby” might not be so easy. I never knew my father to favor hats, let alone derbies. So, the only thing I can think of is that his father, who was born in England, emigrated to the US from a town called Derby, so maybe “Kirby and the Derby” got tongue-lashed by Grandma and Grandpa (with an assist from a Mr. Durante) into “Koiby & the Doiby”.
Better explanations will be gratefully accepted.
Mrs. Norman S. Leafe got mis-initialed and had her new last name misspelled TWICE by Western Union, but who cares? The nice messages from Grandma & Grandpa Kibbe and her sisters Joan and Catherine were all that mattered:
Onward to the next two pages: First page – Western Union finally got Mom’s new name right and I got something nice from Grandma and Grandpa, as Mom noted on the inside of the card:
Second page – Two cards from neighbors:
(note to sibs: Mrs. Aiken was pre-Cimini)
The Augustines were our next-door neighbors.
Two more pages:
From the first of those pages:
“Helen” was Helen Downs – Mom’s best friend (I think) since their teens and Terese and Jack = Sis/Bro, Aunt/Uncle
The second of those two pages:
“Edith” was Aunt Edie and “Mother & Dad” were Grams and Gramps – terms we never used.
Four MORE pages (does it ever end?):
That last card comes from Grandma:
To the left of that card you can see one with a letter tucked behind it. It’s from a Mrs. Ruesing who lived on the street where my mother grew up and where her parents lived. When we used to visit there, I was kind of bored and mopey, so they introduced me to a boy who lived down the street, her son – Eugene Ruesing, who was the same age as me.
We’d go to the schoolyard a block away and play catch. One time, he was hitting grounders to a supposedly slick-fielding Little League infielder from Teaneck. On its last bounce close to me, one of the hard-hit balls hit a pebble, which changed its trajectory and smacked me right in the eye before I could react. The eye swelled shut immediately and I had a black eye for 2 weeks. It wasn’t his fault by any means, but……….OUCH! (the things you remember……………).
Oh……….and the card right above Mrs. Ruesing’s was from Grandma Ruesing.
SIX more pages (yawn!):
Wait……did anyone notice this card from that next-to-last page?
So I’m a young movie ACTRESS? Well, at least there’s no “a” added to my first name:
Maybe you should get a snack or hit the head before tackling these next TEN pages:
Fortunately, they only generated one name I recognized:
George Skelton was Mom’s boss at IBM.
LAST FOUR PAGES (I promise!):
Another first! Apparently, I SENT my first card to my parents. I was 4 months old and had perfect printing abilities, except I couldn’t get the hang of the letter “S”, which someone tried to transpose to signify a youthful writing deficiency, but it came out looking like either a 2 or a Z.
Luckily for me, as soon as I dropped the “-by” from my first name, perfect “S”s ensued.
DONE! FINITO!! IT’S OVER!!!
It took me a whole day to do all the photography, picture editing and file-size shrinking from 18.2MB to 7.3MB (thank you, https://compressjpeg.com/) and another 2 days to assemble the picture order, write this up and create this post.
It also turned out to be more emotional than all my other posts so far because I discovered a lot about my parents – especially my father – that I never knew before and never really saw as I grew up. I hope it has a similar effect on my siblings.
I really can’t believe that I’ve never come across this scrapbook in my entire life until now.
And speaking of scraps, this is what my trash can looked like after LEAFEing through the book once to take the pictures (it was MUCH too crumbly to scan):
Thanks to all of you non-family members – if any – who made it all the way through. I hope you enjoyed it.
ON TO THE SILLIER HALF OF THE GOODIE BAG!