Category Archives: Charboneau

1948: Liz (Stoutner) Laurence as mother of the bride

Sepia Saturday 394: Eleventh and last in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

Mother of the Bride (1948). My maternal grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence (c.) was eye-catching as Mother of the Bride at my parents’ wedding. With her are  (l.) my dad’s brother and Best Man William Francis Charboneau (Uncle Frannie) and (r.) my maternal grandfather Tony W. Laurence, the Father of the Bride. Scan by Molly Charboneau

In November 1948, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence, 43, appeared at my parents’ wedding as Mother of the Bride in a dress to die for.

Liz never had a bridal gown of her own, since she and my grandfather eloped — so she seems to have compensated by pulling out all the stops for my mom Peg’s wedding with an eye-catching outfit that made her a standout in the wedding party.

My grandmother looked pretty good as a Maid of Honor at her younger sister’s wedding, but Aunt Margaret would have chosen Liz’s dress for that occasion.

This time, the choice was up to Liz — and clearly, she aimed to dazzle from head to toe. She wore a black feathered fascinator hat at a jaunty angle and sported stylish eyeglasses that could be worn today. Subdued accessories — tiny watch, small drop earrings, wedding ring and corsage — meant her dress took center stage.

Stunning in copper and black

Parents of the bride and groom at my Mom and Dad’s wedding (1948). From left: William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau; Norm Charboneau and Peg (Laurence) Charboneau; Liz (Stoutner) and Tony W. Laurence. Scan by Molly Charboneau

And what a dress! Shiny copper-colored stripes alternated with black matte at a bias angle on the sleeves and skirt and horizontally across the torso — so whenever Liz moved, the dress would pick up the light.

Normally, my grandmother wore flats when out with my grandfather since she was several inches taller — but she went ahead and wore strapped heels for this special occasion, which nicely complemented her dress. Long black gloves completed her stunning look.

Not to take away from anyone else in the wedding party. Everyone looked wonderful befitting their own personal styles — and it was my parents’ special day after all. But even among family, my maternal grandmother displayed a certain unique style that was all her own.

A shimmering dream

You may wonder how I know that my grandmother’s dress was copper and black, since the photos are black and white.

The explanation is simple — I actually saw the dress hanging in an attic closet during a visit to her house when I was in my twenties.

I may have asked her about it or recalled the dress from seeing my folks’ wedding photos — but what stays with me is the beautiful iridescence of the copper and the garment’s clean, tailored lines.

Years later, when my family closed out my maternal grandparents’ house after they both passed, I checked in the closet for the dress — but it was gone.

Yet its image still lingers like a shimmering dream — a beloved reminder of my maternal grandmother Liz who set a high bar for family style and lived by it all her life.

Up next: A family holiday get together. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1948: Aunt Rita at nineteen

On 31 Oct. 1948, my mom’s younger sister — Rita Mary Laurence –sat down and penned a letter to a family friend, who recently shared a copy with me.

Although it was Halloween night, Aunt Rita must not have greeted the trick-or-treaters because she didn’t  mention any ghouls or goblins in her missive.

Aunt Rita’s college home

Aunt Rita visited us at Whispering Chimneys, our farm in Altamont, N.Y.  (circa 1953). That’s me as a child sitting on my aunt Rita Mary Laurence’s lap. Next to me is my maternal grandmother Elizabeth and in front of her, on the step, is my maternal grandfather Tony. The others are my grandparents’ friends. Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

What she did write provides a window into her life when she was a 19-year-old college student living at 63 Van Schoick Ave. in Albany, New York.

Dear Alicia, What have you been doing for excitement lately???? As you can see from my address, I’ve changed my residence in Albany again. This place is really wonderful — I’m practically one of the family — more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Training for a medical career

Aunt Rita’s new home was near the college where she was studying to be a blood bank technician. She was clearly excited to be preparing for her professional career.

They’ve really been giving us the business at school this year — I think all the prof’s are going test crazy or at least it seems that way to me.

But truthfully it’s really fun — at the lab we’ve done all kinds of blood tests — we work on each other when we do venipuncture — lose more blood that way — We’ve also fixed, cut , and stained tissue sections for examination…

Wanderlust takes hold

And then came the hint of wanderlust that would send Rita cross-country six years later for a job in San Diego — a move that left my high-strung grandmother beside herself.

Tell your mother to start looking for a job for me — of course I don’t get thru here for 1 1/2 years yet but when I do I don’t want to stay in this next of the woods any longer than necessary — !!!!!!!!!

Alicia’s mother was a childhood friend of my maternal grandmother — Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — from Gloversville, New York. She had moved miles away to Florida and here was Aunt Rita considering doing the same.

But first — about a month after writing this letter — Rita would stand up as maid of honor at my parents’ November 1948 wedding.

We’ve got everything almost set for Peg’s wedding — I’m to be maid of honor — that should be priceless to say the least — Guess that’s all for now…Write soon — don’t follow my example. Love, Rita.

A precious letter in Rita’s voice

For a few years after college Aunt Rita remained geographically close to our family. She was around for my birth (when she stayed with my mom and dad to help out) and my early childhood, as shown above (when I lived at Whispering Chimneys with my parents and maternal grandparents).

I even remember going with my grandmother to visit Aunt Rita’s basement apartment in Albany when I was little. Used to country living, I was scared by the rickety metal doors on the sidewalk near the corner store — until my grandmother explained they covered stairs to the basement, just like at Dorothy’s farmhouse in Wizard of Oz.

But in 1955, Rita finally made the fateful trip to California, got a job, set up house and never looked back — and my later memories of her are from photos, home movies, family stories, presents at Christmas, and her occasional visits back east.

So the gift of this letter — from a young Aunt Rita in her own voice — is precious indeed.

Up next, one more maid of honor: My maternal grandmother in 1938. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Bridesmaids revisited #tbt

Lately I have been writing about family reunions and social gatherings — those landmark events that bring together relatives, in-laws and family friends in celebration of life’s special occasions.

So I was delighted when my sister Amy sent me a photo recently of my dad and me at my youngest sister’s wedding 30 years ago — just in time for #throwbackthursday. Dad was the father of the bride and I was maid of honor.

Father of the bride and maid of honor (1987). My dad Norm Charboneau and I share a relaxed moment at my youngest sister’s wedding 30 years ago. Photo by Norma Tagliaferro

Dad, 63,  was still working but preparing for retirement. On the table in front of him, as always, was his trusty camera — evidence of his lifelong passion for photography.

At 37, I was not yet bitten by the genealogy bug — but  I was becoming nostalgic.  On my left wrist I wore a vintage wind-up dress watch my mom gave me — a gift to her from Dad. And my antique necklace resembled the one my mom’s sister, Rita Mary Laurence, wore as maid of honor at my parents’ 1948 wedding.

Meeting extended family

A new family connection took root that day when I met some of my Welsh-Irish collateral relatives for the first time — my dad’s cousin Jane (Owen) Dukovic, her husband Jim and their son John.

Jane is a daughter of Arthur T. Owen, a brother of my paternal grandmother Mary (Owen) Charboneau. I didn’t know it then, but Jane is also the family historian for the Owen-Dempsey branch of the family.

Several years later, when I began doing genealogy research in earnest, Jane’s knowledge, photos and carefully-crafted family trees proved invaluable. And that family connection has continued to grow — as evidenced by the great turnout at a recent reunion of  Dempsey and Owen descendents.

Aunt Rita as maid of honor

The bride and her maid of honor (1948). My aunt Rita Mary Laurence, right, adjusts my mom Peg’s veil before her November 1948 wedding in Gloversville, N.Y. Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

My Aunt Rita was maid of honor for my mother — her only sibling — wearing an aqua gown with matching jewelry. She was 19 and training for a career as a blood bank technician. My mom, Peg, was 22 and working as a music educator.

On 31 Oct. 1948 — shortly before my parents’ wedding — Rita wrote with her usual wry humor about the upcoming nuptials in a letter to a family friend, who was kind enough to send me a copy.

We’ve got everything almost set for Peg’s wedding — I’m to be maid of honor — this should be priceless to say the least.

The happy couple are center stage at a wedding. But supporting cast is also important — at major events, in a family’s history and in life — as captured in this pair of #throwbackthursday photos and the stories behind them.

Up next: Having introduced Aunt Rita’s letter, let’s hear what else she had to say about her life at the time. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1934: A Charboneau reunion in the news

Third in a series on my Charboneau ancestors in New York’s Adirondack foothills during the summer of 1934.

In August 1934, my paternal grandmother Mary (Owen) Charboneau received a Self Book from a guest at the Otter Lake Hotel. In it she wrote about several happenings that summer — including a reunion of the extended Charboneau family:

http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/list.php?m=a&s=tu&aid=626
Moose River by Levi Wells Prentice (1884). A Charboneau reunion was held in 1934 at Riverside Farm along the Moose River near Otter Lake, N.Y. My great-grandfather Will, 78; grandfather Ray, 46; and Uncle Owen, 23, attended along with my dad Norm, who was 10 years old. Artwork: The Athenaeum

Family reunion of the Charboneau clan was held Sunday, Aug. 12 – 1934 at the home of Wm. Charboneau on the Moose River at Boonville, N.Y. A large gathering were there. Ray, Owen and Norman attended from here. Next year’s reunion is to be held in Prospect Park. Pa Charboneau was the oldest member of the family at the reunion.

I vaguely remembered seeing a news clip about this reunion, so I took another look at the Old Fulton New York Postcards website. Sure enough, there was a write-up of the event in the Aug. 14, 1934, evening edition of the Rome Daily Sentinel.

Write-up of the Charbonneau Reunion in the Aug. 14, 1934. Rome Daily Sentinal. (Click image to enlarge). Source: Old Fulton New York Postcards

Headlined “Boonville: Four Clans Meet In Yearly Events,” the article included a section on the well-attended family get together — spelling Charbonneau with with a double-n (our branch uses just one):

The annual reunion of the Charbonneau family was held on the spacious lawn at Riverside Farm with Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Charbonneau and family. Dinner was served with covers laid for 64.

Oldest attendee and officer elections

My grandmother’s journal entry said my paternal great-grandfather (Pa) was the oldest at the event — and the news clip backed her up.

The oldest member present was William L. Charbonneau, 78, Dolgeville, and the youngest was Clifford Charbonneau, age one and a half years, Old Forge.

The extended Charboneau family was large enough back then to elect officers — though I am still parsing out how they and the other attendees fit into my Charboneau family tree.

Officers as follows were elected: president, Charles Donnelly, Utica; Vice President, Lawrence Charbonneau, Utica; secreatary, Mrs. William F. Karlen, Utica; treasurer, Mrs. Peter Zimmer, Oriskany.

Riverside Farm and the guest list

Curious about the venue, I did a bit of research on Riverside Farm and found a 2003 obituary for Douglas Charbonneau, 86. It said he lived on the farm as a child with his parents Louis and Vera (Jenks) Charbonneau.

According to the 1934 Daily Sentinel clip, all three were at the Charboneau reunion — as was Douglas’s brother Billy. Douglas would have been 12 at the time.

The rest of the guest list — detailed in part in the clipping above — is a roster of Charboneau relatives and in-laws , with the furthest traveling from Albany, N.Y., to attend.

Dad remembered the gathering

When my dad (Norm) and I began researching our family’s history together, he told me he remembered going to a Charboneau reunion near his Otter Lake home town when he was a kid. Perhaps this was the one.

According to my grandmother, my father went from our branch of the family — along with his father Ray, 46, and his oldest brother Owen, 23.  Dad turned 10 in July 1934, so he was old enough to retain memories of such an impressive  gathering — and I regret I never asked him more about it.

Yet my grandmother’s journal and the Rome Daily Sentinal have helped fill in that gap — providing valuable details about the Charboneau reunion that made such an impression on Dad as a boy.

Up next: A recent family reunion of my grandmother’s Dempsey-Owen family. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1934: Summer season in Otter Lake, N.Y.

Second in a series on my Charboneau ancestors in New York’s Adirondack foothills during the summer of 1934.

After my paternal grandmother Mary (Owen) Charboneau received a Self Book from a guest, she used the blank pages to write about events at the Otter Lake Hotel — which she operated with my grandfather William Ray Charboneau in Oneida County’s Town of Forestport.

Otter Lake Hotel (circa 1930). My paternal grandparents Ray and Molly (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the 1930s. To liven up the summer season, they organized social events, musical performances and card parties like the one shown here on the hotel porch.  Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

My dad said the hotel could not have run without her. She handled deliveries, coordinated hotel and kitchen staff and created an enjoyable atmosphere for guests escaping hotter climes to summer near the Adirondacks.

My grandmother’s newsroom style

Reading her entries, I can’t help but think that — with training and editorial help —  she might even have made a good local newspaper reporter. Her first short piece described a birthday party at the hotel.

A very enjoyable party was held in the dining room of the Otter Lake Hotel on Saturday, August 11 – 1934. The occasion being Mrs. P. J. De Vries birthday. A birthday cake and favors for all the guests were enjoyed. Also Mr. James Burrus passed wine to all. Guests were Mr. & Mrs. P. J. De Vires, Mr. James Burrus and Miss Margaret Saum [all from Brooklyn]; Mr. & Mrs. Louis Migurt, Misses Hilda and Adele Migurt, Misses Lillian Hundley and Jennie Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton.

A  cultural gathering place

In a later entry my grandmother reveals that, beyond being a guesthouse, the Otter Lake Hotel served as a cultural gathering place for the lakeside community — spreading goodwill by hosting performances.

A string trio and soloist gave a lovely concert on the evening of August 22 – 1934 in the parlor of the Otter Lake Hotel. The trio was composed of George Wald pianist, Eugene Gantner violinist and Edward Creswell cellist. Symphonic selections and Russian music were much enjoyed. Mr. Creswell gave the Liebestraum and Tarantella as solo numbers. Mr. Gantner gave Ave Maria in a very beautiful manner. Mr. Elliot Stewart sang several selections and rendered Old Man River in a wonderful manner. The concert was much enjoyed by the guests and people from around the lake.

Family on the guest list

A bridge party in full swing on the porch of the Otter Lake Hotel (circa 1930). My paternal grandmother wrote about 1934  hotel events in her journal. My dad said the hotel could not have run without her. Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

My grandmother included herself and my grandfather among the August 22 concert guests (Mr. & Mrs. W. R. Charboneau). And I was surprised to see my Aunt Gig — who later married my dad’s oldest brother Owen — listed as a guest under her maiden name (Aline Des Jardin).

Guests present were Misses Lillian Hundley and Jennie Wilson, Mr. W. R. Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Migurt, Misses Hilda and Adele Migurt, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Miss Irene Hundley, Mr. & Mrs. Stewart George, Mrs. Arthur Logan, Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Reese, Barbara Reese, Mary Berthalman, Aline Des Jardin, Mrs. John White, Mary White, May Mangan, Ed Unser, Sadie Underwood, Marie Sorenson, Mr. & Mrs.  W. R. Charboneau, Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton, Mr. & Mrs. Dan Tanner, Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Tanner and many others.

Roscoe Norton ‘s curtain call

Two other interesting guests at both events were Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton.

Roscoe Norton was the original owner of the Otter Lake Hotel. He was also instrumental in saving and moving St. Trinitatis Church, where my German-Swiss Zinsk ancestors worshipped. Today it stands on land he donated as Otter Lake Community Church.

My dad often told stories about Roscoe, who operated the Whistlestop general store/post office across from the hotel — like how he would put on his official hat when he went to the postal window in his small store, then take it off again in the general-store side, on again, off again all day long.

Dad even patterned a character after Roscoe in his Labor Day Mystery novel — so it was nice to see him listed with his wife among the party goers at the hotel.

Up next: My grandmother’s write-up of a 1934 Charboneau family reunion. Please stop back.

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