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

Retro Swimmers: The Beauty of Water Ballet

Dear readers, Ms. Jeannie has found a new love!

While catching up on her magazine reading this week, Ms. Jeannie was flipping through the pages of the April 2012 issue of Vogue Magazine and came upon an article about the Aqualillies

In Sync – April 2012 Vogue Issue pg. 218 – Beauty Fitness

If you are unfamiliar with them – they are an L.A. based synchronized swim team that performs at parties and private events. They have held special “performances” at fashion shows, celebrity parties, hotel openings and they also made an appearence  on the tv show, Glee.

Aqualillies impressive water ballet. Photo courtesy of Erin Hearts Court

The all-girl team carry the retro theme of their sport through classic swim costumes, 1940s makeup and nostalgic song choices but also combine modern acrobatics and dance movements to their routine, which makes it seem both timeless and contemporary all at the same time.

Here’s a quick clip of the ‘Lillies performing…

Doesn’t this look completely fun? Ms. Jeannie could definitively see this being the next big Vegas act!

In addition to performing the girls also teach classes at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica.  Ms. Jeannie is going to be in L.A. for a friend’s wedding next April so she’s going to take a class while she’s there! She’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

The origins of synchronized swimming are traced back to Berlin, Germany in the the late 1800’s but it wasn’t until the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1930’s that the sport gleamed international attention.


Chicago World Fair Poster – 1933

There Kathryn Curtis organized her show, The Modern Mermaids, which she referred to as rhythmetic swimming. In the 1940’s Esther Williams, a trained swimmer,  brought water ballet to the big screen starring in such films as Bathing Beauty, Million Dollar Mermaids and On An Island with You.

Here’s the trailer for Bathing Beauty, which came out in 1944.  You can see where the Aqualillies got their inspiration!

Synchronized swimming  became an Olympic sport in 1984 and is only open to female qualifiers – no men allowed in this arena (or pool, as the case may be!) yet. With the Olympics scheduled to start in London in just a few days, Ms. Jeannie is excited to see how the US will fare in this category. Here’s a picture of the 2012 team.

2012 US Snychro National Team 1

One of the things Ms. Jeannie loves most about the Aqualillies is their style. They scour old magazine ads, newspapers and movie footage for fun swimsuit ideas and makeup trends. Retro bathing suits are very popular this year too – so if you need to spruce up your beach attire, click on each of the photos below to learn more…

The Natalie – One Piece Bathing Suit from Anthropologie
1940s/1950s Pinup Bathing Suite from MetricMod
Luxe Tortoise Keyhole Tank from JCrew
Vintage 1940s/1950s Swim Suit from SHESABETTIEBoutique
1930s Swimsuit from brerrabbitvintage

Swim caps became popular in the 1920’s as a way for women to protect their hair from the chlorinated water and to keep stray hairs from clogging pool filters. Aviator styles like this one below dominated the 1920’s:

Vintage 1920s Swim Cap from lactoseintolerart

The 1950’s and 60’s brought about more colorful, stylized swim caps adorned with flowers and frillies like these…

Vintage Swim Cap with Flowers from MommaBeeCollections
Vintage 1960s Swim Cap from plattermatter
Vintage 1960s Feathered Swim Cap

Pair any of these with some red lipstick and a classic hair style and you have one spectacular bathing beauty!

Happy swimming:)

Movie Poster for the 1944 film Bathing Beauty starring Esther Williams