Category Archives: Laurence [Di Lorenzo]

Liz: My modern grandmother- #atozchallenge

Liz: My modern grandmother. Twelfth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!

My maternal grandmother — Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — lived at Whispering Chimneys with us when I was little. Gramps called her Lisbeth and her friends called her Liz.

But I came up with her family nickname — Boom — when I mispronounced Grandma as Booma. The shortened version stuck and seemed to capture her assertive no-nonsense personality.

Boom and me in Gloversville, N.Y., shortly before we moved to Whispering Chimneys. My maternal grandmother Liz was always fashionably dressed and accessorized, with every hair in place. Scan: Molly Charboneau

She was young as grandmothers went — only 45 when I was born — and always kept up with the latest fashions, footwear and accessories. She was modern in other ways, too.

While Grandma Charboneau (my dad’s mother) never learned to drive — Boom loved to get behind the wheel. She wasn’t shy about hitting the gas pedal, either.

Boom even drove cross-country once with my Aunt Rita — Mom’s younger sister. And after we moved to the farm, she wasted no time setting up her business.

Boom’s antique shop

While Gramps got his shop going out in the barn, Boom cleared a building down by the road and opened an antique shop specializing in country and early American antiques and collectibles.

“She absolutely loved that shop,” my mom told me. And I did, too.

I remember the faint smell of powdered ginger when I opened some of the tins — and the old rocking butter churn from the shop that she used as a decoration up by the house.

Whispering Chimneys Antiques, my maternal grandmother’s antiques and collectibles shop at the farm. Scan: Molly Charboneau

Boom named her business Whispering Chimneys Antiques and took full advantage of its location along Route 20 — a major thoroughfare before the New York State Thruway was built.

To stock the shop, Boom and Gramps went to local auctions — and made some fast friends there. They also belonged to the Grange up the road, which helped her network in the local farming community.

Besides all of that, Boom was like a second mother to me. According to my baby book, she was right there alongside my mom for the big events in my young life — like my first word or when I walked for the first time.

A well-matched couple

I didn’t know it then, but my grandmother eloped at 18 to marry my grandfather against her mother’s wishes — which I wrote about in A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes.

Strong-willed and determined, Boom applied that same spirit to her antiques business — and at the farm she and Gramps appeared to be a well matched couple.

When she had ideas, Gramps had the practical skills to assist — building this and that as needed, like a sign for the shop or a bank of windows to let light in.

Together they made a good team. And they were a beloved part of my family team for my first seven years.

Up nextMailbox madnessPlease stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Dandelion wine: An ancestral brew – #atozchallenge

D is for Dandelion wine. Fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck!

Every spring when dandelions pop up their yellow heads, I’m reminded of the Altamont, N.Y., farm where I lived until I was seven with my parents and maternal grandparents — and  eventually two younger brothers.

Later, when we moved to the suburbs, those dandelions would become my dad’s enemy — a signal that he was not taking proper care of his lawn.

But on the farm, dandelions were part of the natural order of things. Their bobbing heads could be enjoyed, picked and smelled — or just mowed down along with the thick, untamed farm grass.

More than that, they were the key ingredient in the homemade dandelion wine that Dad brewed in the unheated room off our kitchen.

Hand harvesting

Dandelions, Aurora, N.Y. (2016). My childhood task of picking flower heads to make dandelion wine turned out to have an ancestral  connection. Photo: Molly Charboneau

“Just pick the yellow flower, nothing else,” Dad would instruct, handing me a little-kid pail.

The he might relax in an Adirondack chair on the farmhouse porch and watch the traffic go by on Route 20 — or putter away at some household repair — while I went to work gathering the blossoms.

I remember racing around the yard looking for dandelions as if I was hunting for gold — seeing how quickly I could fill my pail to the brim with the sunny, warm, fragrant flower heads.

Each time I delivered a pail of flowers to Dad — my hands sticky with their tangy sap — he’d pour my harvest into a larger bin until it was filled with enough dandelions to start brewing the wine.

Ancestral brew

For years I recalled this flower-picking ritual as just a fun time on a spring day. But once I started studying my family’s history, up popped an ancestral connection.

The dandelion wine recipe Dad used came from my Italian-American grandfather Tony Laurence — his last name anglicized from Di Lorenzo. He was my mom’s father who with us on the farm.

Gramps inherited the recipe from his Italian ancestors back in Gloversville, N.Y. — and who knows how long the dandelion wine instructions were passed down in our family before they got to him.

So when the wine was ready and Dad let me taste a spoonful of the bitter brew, I had no idea I was also imbibing a bit of my family heritage.

Up next: E is for Elephants, mastodons and local excursions. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Aunt Rose Curcio: Beauty of the human spirit

Fourth and last in this series on my Italian-American great grandaunt Rose Curcio of Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, who died 15 years ago this month at the age of 105.

Since she is my family’s only centenarian, I have long wondered what there was about Aunt Rose Curcio’s life that contributed to her longevity. Now, if I had to sum up her secret in one word it would be connectedness — the strong social bonds she maintained in her community and with her family, as described in the long version of her obituary.

Rose Curcio (1992). Photo by Molly Charboneau
Rose Curcio (1992). Aunt Rosie, then 95, shared stories about our mutual ancestors and about own her life during an oral history interview with my mom and me. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Miss Curcio was a lifetime member of the Ancient Order of Foresters – Court Mayflower, an avid bridge and bingo player and a communicant of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church. Rose devoted herself to her siblings and their children and will be remembered as an energetic and dedicated woman who contributed to the greater good.

Mutual aid and social gatherings

Her Catholic church affiliation I knew about, but her membership in the Ancient Order of Foresters? This was news to me — and a bit of research turned up a 1973 article in the Gloversville-Johnstown, N.Y., Leader-Herald tracing the fraternal organization back to the days of Robin Hood!

After Robin Hood’s death in 1247, many secret clubs and societies sprang up throughout England. Robin Hood’s rough and rugged philosophy as to the rights of the common man were preached. A number of these clubs banded together at Yorkshire, England, in 1745 to establish what was known as the Royal Order of Foresters…To this day the message of the Foresters is simply, “to strive here on earth for good, to ever keep alive the cause of brotherhood.”

Aunt Rosie belonged to Court Mayflower, founded in 1909 –an auxiliary to the Gloversville Foresters Lodge, which was organized in 1898 by eight Littauer Glove Factor workers.

Part mutual aid society (providing sick pay or covering funeral costs) and part social outlet (holding card parties and dinner dances), the Gloversville Foresters – Mayflower Court gave Aunt Rosie a regular connection to her colleagues and a social gathering place in her community — strong contributors to longevity.

Enduring family ties

Aunt Rosie pursued a career and did not marry or have children. Nevertheless, she was one of 15 children — part of a large, vibrant Italian-American extended family. Rosie was a younger sister of my maternal great grandmother Mary “Mamie” (Curcio) Laurence — and she maintained close ties with her family of origin.

Rosie lived for a time with her widowed mother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio  at 128 East Fulton Street in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Then she shared a home with one of her sisters — eventually residing in the Fulton County Health Care Facility toward the end of her life. Generations of Rosie’s family were always nearby — another important factor in a long life.

Beauty of the human spirit

And finally, from Rosie’s obituary, is this:

She was the embodiment of strength, love for life and beauty of the human spirit. At the time of her death, she was the oldest resident at the Fulton County Health Care Facility. She is survived by numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews [including my mom] and great-great nieces and nephews [including me].

Her love for life and beauty of the human spirit were clearly evident when my mom and I visited Aunt Rosie, then 95, in 1992. She was upbeat, told humorous stories and had nothing but praise for the home and for her family members who regularly visited her. “They’re so good to me,” she said with a smile.

There will be more on Aunt Rosie in future posts, including some of the stories she told Mom and me during our visit.

Up next, a change of pace: November is National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), so please stop back for daily posts on the theme “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Friends and Loved Ones With You.”

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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