August 20th – The {annual} Day of Doughnuts

August 20th is a special day in the Ology household.  It’s a food holiday tradition of sorts – on par with other such food holidays like Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day. Ms. Jeannie’s holiday is called The Day of Doughnuts – in honor of her grandfather Herbert, who was born on August 20th, 1908.

You may remember Herbert, or Herbie, as Ms. Jeannie sometimes liked to call him, from a previous post about the long line of Chicago firemen in Ms. Jeannie’s family.  Here’s a picture of him to refresh your memory…

Grandpa Herbert holding Ms. Jeannie's dad.
Grandpa Herbert holding Ms. Jeannie’s dad.

Of German – American descent, Herbert loved lots of foods, particularly ones that were part of his heritage: beer, sauerkraut, bratwurst. But if Ms. Jeannie had to pick one food that was most synonymous with him – it would be the doughnut. Grandpa Herb adored them. So much so, in fact,  he’d enjoy one almost  every morning with his coffee and his crossword puzzle.  He liked them in all their vast variety from the simple round old-fashioned rings  to their fancier counterparts – the crullers and the danishes.

Doughnut Wall Art by DianaPappas
Doughnut Wall Art by DianaPappas (click for more info)

Technically, fried dough has been around for centuries in many different cultures,  but the round “traditional doughnut shape” and size is wholly American.  The writer, Washington Irving, was the first person to refer to the word “doughnut” in his writing’s in the early 1800’s, where he noted ‘flour dough balls mixed with sugar and fried in hog lard.’ Sound tasty?! !

Vintage Washington Irving portrait from dogsbodysalvage (click for more info)
Vintage Washington Irving portrait from dogsbodysalvage (click for more info)

According to Ms. Jeannie’s grandfather, a cup of strong, black coffee and a doughnut was the perfect way to begin the day. While he ate his breakfast, he’d work a crossword puzzle from the daily newspaper.  When half of the squares were filled in, he’d set the puzzle aside and go about his daily activities.  In the late afternoon, he would carry a fresh cup of coffee out to the sun porch, along with a cigar, and while he smoked, he would complete the rest of the puzzle.

In Ms. Jeannie's shop! A view of the crossword section of an original  1969 Virginian Pilot newspaper.
A view of the crossword section of an original 1969 Virginian Pilot newspaper from Ms. Jeannie’s shop. (click for more info)

Ms. Jeannie once asked him why he never worked the whole puzzle all at once and he said it was because it gave him something to look forward to every afternoon.  That was Grandpa Herbert in a nutshell. Delighting in the simplest of activities in the simplest of ways.

If Ms. Jeannie was lucky on those porch days,  and the crossword was an easy one,  Grandpa Herbert would sit back with his coffee and his cigar, in the shade of the giant hibiscus bush, and tell her stories about life in the firehouse.

Herbert with his fire company Engine 33 - Chicago, 1940's
Herbert with his fire company Engine 33 – Chicago, 1940’s

Her favorite stories were always the ones where he rescued pets and babies. He had this one story in-particular about a residential building fire and a woman hysterical, down on the street, because her baby was in the apartment. Up went Herbert into the flames, listening for a crying voice.  He broke down the apartment door to discover a giant dog in the room. The fire was too hot and the flames too high to go back down the stairs, so he wrangled the dog up in his arms and out they went through a window and down the ladder.  The “baby” made it to safety! Ms. Jeannie cheered every time!

Perhaps,  because Grandpa Herbert had seen so many life and death situations ignite and extinguish for so many years, he felt humbled and satisfied just to be alive. He had a beautiful wife, a smart and driven son, grandchildren who always couldn’t wait to see him, a tidy little house in Florida,  a car, friends, impeccable health clear into his 80’s (even with the doughnut diet!), a great sense of humor and a smile that always quick to appear.   “What do I have to complain about?” he’d often say.

So on the annual Day of Doughnuts, black coffee and breakfast treats are always served. It’s a simple no-fuss homage to a simple no-fuss man who made it a point to always look for and appreciate the small little joys in life.  May we all be equally as aware! Happy Day of Doughnuts dear readers!

The traditional Day of the Doughnuts - August 20th.
Marking the Day of Doughnuts – August 20th, 2013

A Family of Firemen and the Women They Loved

Last week found Ms. Jeannie, unexpectedly, in sunny Florida, helping her father who had fallen and hit his head. It was a scary week involving the Intensive Care Unit, doctors and specialists, prescriptions and timetables and making what felt like a million pots of soup.

In the midst of all the bad, Ms. Jeannie searched for the good. Happily, she found it staring right in front of  her on the walls of her dad’s house….

Ms. Jeannie’s grandfather, Herbert (second from left) and his pals

Family photos she had yet to record in her family history information!

Herbert (pictured above – with the curly hair)  is Ms. Jeannie’s grandfather. He was a firemen in Chicago for over 40 years. His father Joseph, was also a fireman in Chicago, as well as Joseph’s father,  Jacob, who immigrated from Germany.

Herbert and his dad, Joesph

Joseph first became a fireman in the mid-1910’s.  He was an engineer with Engine Number 24 in Chicago.  Here’s a picture of Joseph, in his uniform alongside his wife, Mary. Mary was also from Chicago – not too much is known about her yet (more research to do!).

Mary and Joseph in Chicago
Joseph with his engine company in Chicago. Joseph is in the top row – second from the right. You can just make out the fire truck behind them.

Mary and Joseph had two boys: Herbert & Charles, but Charles died when he was a baby. Joseph eventually found his way to the Army Air Force base in Sarasota in the early 1940’s where he was fire chief.  This is a picture of him with Ms. Jeannie’s dad. She just loves this photo!

Joseph in Sarasota, FL with his grandson.

Tragically, Joseph died after being run over by a cement truck. He was 67 years old. Mary died 20 years later. It must have been hard.

Joseph’s son, Herbert married Cecylia Lucille, whom everyone called Lucy. They were married in 1933 in Chicago.

Herbert and Lucy on their wedding day in 1933

Lucy was born in Buffalo, New York  to parents, Jozef and Jozefa,  who immigrated from the province of Posen in Germany.

Jozef and Jozefa on their wedding day in 1902 in Buffalo.

Jozef was a tailor in Buffalo throughout his life. Together, he and Jozefa had eight children. Four years after the last one was born, Jozefa died from burns sustained when her clothes caught on fire in the kitchen. Jozef wrapped her in a blanket to extinguish the flames but the burns covered over 80% of her body.

Unprepared to raise 8 children on his own and overcome with grief, Jozef had to place his children in the Catholic orphanage in Buffalo. Family members eventually collected all the children again, but most of the 8 grew up at the orphanage – Lucy included. She was 18 when she left there.

This is a picture of Lucy’s first Holy Communion, which must have been taken just about a year before her mother’s death.

Lucy photographed on her First Holy Communion.

Although Herbert was not yet a fireman, when he and Lucy married, Ms. Jeannie thinks it must have been reassuring for Lucy in some way when he became one.  For all the sadness that surrounded Lucy’s childhood, happiness in her adult life with Herbert really made up for it. They were great loves and had a lot of fun together.

Herbert and Lucy
Herbert in his fire uniform.
Lucy was always a very stylish dresser. Ms. Jeannie wishes she inherited her lovely wavy hair. Herbert’s curly genes seemed to be more prevalent though!
Herbert at the the firehouse – Engine 33 in Chicago. Herbert is in the top row, second from right.

In addition to being a fireman, Herbert was also the firehouse cook. Boy could he make a mean bowl of chili! He was great at making big pots of things – but Ms. Jeannie guesses after 40 years of cooking for a company full of firemen, it must be hard to scale down!

Lucy and Herbert

Lucy died when Ms. Jeannie was just a baby so she she doesn’t really remember her, but Grandpa Herbert remains strong and lovable in her memory. He was a marvelous grandfather, full of fun and kindness. He was forever bringing little treats and presents to Ms. Jeannie and her sister. And he told wonderful, exciting stories about life at the firehouse.

He also loved to sing and tell jokes, believed in playing the lottery every week, had a fondness for doughnuts with coffee, and a cigar in the afternoon. He loved crossword puzzles and baseball games. He loved all types of affection and he loved to dance. He taught Ms. Jeannie how to be a card shark when it came to poker, how to love unconditionally and how being pleasant, good-natured and grateful was far nicer then being opinionated and troublesome. Everything about him was just lovely.

Herbert died in his mid 80’s of cancer, having never been sick in his entire life. In his final months,  he gave many of his old family photos to one of the nurses aides that watched over him, simply because she expressed an interest in antique photographs. That was his way, always giving, so we can’t fault him for his generosity,  although this has left Ms. Jeannie with quite a challenging genealogy project on her hands. She thinks one day, that the photos Herbert gave away, will eventually find their way back to the family.  “When the time is right,” as Herbert would’ve said.

In the meantime, Ms. Jeannie likes to keep her eye out for firehouse-related antiques. Etsy has quite a few amazing finds like the ones listed below… maybe one day she’ll find something from Herbert’s or Joseph’s fire companies. Wouldn’t that be spectacular?! (click on each image for more info) 

Antique Fire Hose from 86home
Antique Fire Station Bell Control Box Top from OhioPicker
Antique Brass Fire Extinguisher
Antique Waterbury Fire Department Buttons from stbthreadworks
Antique Booklet – The Great Chicago Fire from MsHuggerNeck
Vintage NY Fire Dept. Collapsible Bucket from LathandPlaster
Antique Fire Chief Insignia
Vintage Fire Hose Nozzle from CopperandTin
Antique Fire Prints from SurrenderDorothy
Antique Icebox from the Willimatic Fire Co. from wearesellingit
Antique Brass Fireman’s Tool from 40thStVarietyStore
Vintage Emergency Telephone Call Box from MoonMayfairVintage
Antique Tintype of Two Firemen from diabolus
Pair of Firemen’s Hooks from 21GristMillLane
Vintage Fire Alarm from LunchLadyVintage
Antique Toy Fire Truck from ChompMonster