Friday, May 4, 2012

Helen Continues Her Story

I always felt a little sorry for my father.  It seemed my mother never warmed to his family, and I only recall two occasions on which she visited any of his family with him.  Dad's sister, Clara, married Uncle Ned.  He had a yacht and Mother and Father went to Long Island once to cruise on his yacht.  Later when he retired, Uncle Ned bought a farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and I believe my parents visited there once.

My father's sister Julia married Uncle Clifford.  They had two sons, Clifford, Jr. and Herbert.  Herbert went to college and was involved in a fraternity hazing incident and had to be committed to a mental hospital where he remained until his death.
Uncle Clifford had an optical supply store1 and after he died Clifford Junior managed his mother's affairs, and my father bought the business of them.  Later, when Father got out of the business, he sold to a gentleman who had been a long-time employee of Uncle Clifford and himself.
Clifford the Younger later ran afoul of the government.  I don't know that he was culpable of any criminal intent, but he committed suicide.  His children, who were our cousins, rather dropped out of sight.  I think one or two of them moved to Michigan and we lost contact.

I knew Uncle Steve quite well as he maintained a room on Grandma's floor in our house where he frequently stayed.  He never divorced his wife, but he had a long-term mistress by whom I believe he had children.  He used to receive mail at our house addressed to Mr. Olsomer.2  I don't know if that was the name of the woman with whom he lived or if it was perhaps just another name he used.
Helen's daughter Ellie remembered Uncle Steve, too, as he boarded with her parents when Ellie was quite young.  This was before Dick was born, and when the baby arrived they needed the extra room for him, and Steve moved out.  Ellie remembered Uncle Steve's little white moustache, his psyllium seed on his cereal which got her into a fine fix once,3 and his magnificent chess set, which he wouldn't let her touch.

1Both the optical supply store and the Knapp family home were located in Harlem.  The time frame is the first two decades of the twentieth century.
2Looking at some family history in later years, I discovered what I believe to be evidence that the woman Steve lived with was named Olsomer.
3Ellie, at breakfast, once insisted that she should have psyllium on her cereal, too.  Her mother assured her she did not want it, that she would not like it; forget it.  The child insisted, mother gave in and sprinkled the stuff on the child's cereal.  Then the real conflict began upon the taking of the first taste.  Ellie was still sitting at table well past lunch time.

Helen is mother of Ellie, my late second wife.  Helen's stories begin here


Shelly said...

Wow- what a tragedy with Herbert! It must have been terrible, whatever they did to him. Also a tragedy with Clifford Jr.

I enjoy family histories, and this is a rich one~

Anonymous said...

Where are the links to previous parts of they story? Are there previous parts to this story? Your family is large and complex and I;m starting to get lost - which I don't want to be
cause I love these. (Harlem in NYC?)

vanilla said...

Shelly, people's memories are so laden with rich stories!

Grace, sorry. Confusing you is the last thing I want to do. I have added a link to the previous "Helen" story at the bottom of the post. Glad you enjoy my family stuff. Harlem in NYC, yes. That is made clearer in next week's post on Friday.

Pearl said...

Now I want to know what happened to Herbert...


vanilla said...

Pearl, so do I. Unfortunately, Helen was probably the last remaining soul who remembered Herbert, and she was not forthcoming with detail.