Tag Archives: Rita Mary Laurence

1906: My fashionable grandmother at age one

Sepia Saturday 384: Piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

For as far back as I can remember, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was a clothes horse. She followed fashion trends and kept up with the latest in age-appropriate clothing, footwear and accessories.

Me with my stylish grandmother (1950). Even for casual times, like holding me as a baby out on the porch, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was always fashionably dressed and accessorized. Photo by Norman J. Charboneau

A 1950 photo from the day that she and I first met in Gloversville, N.Y., shows her stylishly attired with every hair in place.

Not that she spent inordinate sums on her outfits.

Known in our family as Boom from my childhood rendering of Grandma as “Booma,” my grandmother was a serious sales shopper keen to find quality at reduced prices.

To this end, she frequented garment industry company stores once common in her home town and in the Albany Capital District, where she lived when I was growing up.

Fashionable from a young age

My grandmother at age one in winter hat, coat and bows (1906). Scan by Molly Charboneau

I wondered how far back her fashion sense went — then I discovered two photos of Boom taken in 1906 when she was about one year old.

Clearly, her German-American parents started her on a fashion-forward footing at a young age.

In the first photo, my grandmother’s shiny black hair peeks out from beneath a snug little winter hat.

She is posed for the studio photographer in a light, double-breasted fur coat with a Bishop sleeve. Atop her head and at her neck are full, fashionable bows.

A dress with staying power

In the second picture, my grandmother looks very smart in a crisp, white ankle-length dress and patent leather shoes — accessorized with a chain and pendant, a baby ring and a little bracelet.

My grandmother at age one in eyelet dress, patent leather shoes and accessories (1906). Scan by Molly Charboneau

Her dark hair, gathered up at the top, shines even more brightly in this photo.

The dress features an eyelet hem, eyelet detail and gathered sleeves with eyelet cuffs. Vertical stitching adds interest at the yoke, which falls from a lacy neckline.

As I studied the photo, something about the dress seemed familiar — so I took a look in the closet where I store family heirloom garments.

How wonderful to discover this dress among several recently given to me by my younger sister Amy — saved and passed down through four generations.

A textile legacy

My grandmother’s little eyelet dress at 111 yeas old (2017). Photo by Molly Charboneau

My maternal grandmother Liz was big on family and heritage. She set up “baby boxes” for her daughters (my mom Peg and my Aunt Rita).

Then — starting with their baby shoes — she filled each box with important artifacts and documents from their childhoods.

Boom also maintained a huge collection of family photos, passed on by her parents and my grandfather’s family — which she carefully labeled for future generations.

So is it any wonder that she would save her baby dress from that handsome photo?

The cherished outfit was probably tucked away and passed down by her mother — my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner. Although ivory with age, my grandmother’s little dress has held together for 111 years.

Could this be the quality garment that started my grandmother Liz on a lifetime of carefully dressing for every occasion? If so, what a wonderful textile legacy.

Up next: My fashionable maternal grandmother at age five. Please stop back.

© 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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Sharing the legacy of childless relatives

As I research and write about my family history, I come across collateral relatives on both sides of my family — some single, some married — who had no children to pass on their legacy.

http://frontpagegloversville.squarespace.com/pictoral-history/gloversville-1900-1949/19580616
Gloversville Business School (1900-1949). My great grand-aunt Rosie Curcio, a single career woman born in 1906, trained here and worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70. Photo: Front Page Gloversville

Far from being lonely without offspring, these relatives often led varied and interesting lives while maintaining ties with their families of origin.

During the 2016 A to Z blogging challenge, I wrote about several of them as a way of honoring and remembering their lives, since they have no descendants to take on the task.

Alas, that post received few visits. So here, again, are a few of these relatives who stand out — a couple of whom I have written about before.

Aunt Rita: bloodbank professional

My mother’s sister, Rita Mary Laurence, left New York State for southern California in 1955 for a job as a blood bank technician. She worked in San Diego and Los Angeles, created an independent life for herself far from family, and even met Albert Schweitzer’s daughter when she toured the lab where Aunt Rita worked.

Aunt Rosie: glove factory office worker

Another of my maternal relatives, Rose Curcio, was also a single career woman in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. She was my great grandaunt — a younger sister of my maternal great grandmother Mamie (Curcio) Laurence.

Born into a huge Italian-American family in 1906 — to parents who survived early married life in Manhattan’s notorious Five Points area — Aunt Rosie studied at the Gloversville Business School, then worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70.

Aunt Rosie helped support her family of origin during her working life — and gave money to her union family members when they were forced out on strike by the glove factory owners.

My mom and I interviewed Aunt Rosie in the early 1990s. Still sharp at 95, she shared what she knew about our common ancestors and painted a colorful picture of life in Gloversville’s Italian-American community. She remained close to her siblings and their families and lived to be 105.  There will be more on Aunt Rosie in future posts.

Uncle Fred: WW II veteran

And one holiday season I wrote about my uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau, one of my dad’s brothers, and his lively letters home during his U.S. Army service in WW II — to begin sharing his story since he and his wife had no children.

Who are the childless relatives in your family? What do you know about them? How did they interact with your direct ancestors? Their stories can provide a fuller picture of your ancestral background if you are willing to go look for them.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Including and honoring childless relatives

Letter I: Ninth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Including childless relatives in my family history research is a way of honoring and remembering their lives, since they have no descendants to take on the task.

Yet far from being lonely without offspring, these relatives often led varied and interesting lives while maintaining ties with their families of origin. Here are a few who stand out, a couple of whom I have written about before.

http://frontpagegloversville.squarespace.com/pictoral-history/gloversville-1900-1949/19580616
Gloversville Business School, Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. (1900-1949)  My great grand-aunt Rosie Curcio, a single career woman born in 1906, trained here and worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70. Photo: Front Page Gloversville

My mother’s sister, Rita Mary Laurence, left New York State for southern California in 1955 for a job as a blood bank technician. She worked in San Diego and Los Angeles, created an independent life for herself far from family, and even met Albert Schweitzer’s daughter when she toured the lab where Aunt Rita worked.

Another of my maternal relatives, Rose Curcio — sister of my great grandmother Mamie (Curcio) Laurence — was also a single career woman. Born in 1906, she studied at the Gloversville Business School then worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70. Aunt Rosie remained close to her siblings and their families and lived to be 105.

And one holiday season I wrote about my uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau, one of my dad’s brothers, and his lively letters home during his U.S. Army service in WW II — to begin sharing his story since he and his wife had no children.

Who are the childless relatives in your family? What do you know about them? How did they interact with your direct ancestors? Their stories can provide a fuller picture of your ancestral background if you are willing to go look for them.

Up next: Joseph Mimm’s bucket list. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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