One Lovely Blog Award

Last week was very rough. I injured my neck, which made activity of any kind excruciating. After two trips to the chiropractor, some pharmaceutical help, and about 10 days of sheer misery, I am finally on the mend. On one of the crappier days, I got a spirit-lifting email from Jana Last over at Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog.

“You may or may not already know this, but I nominated your blog for the “One Lovely Blog Award.”

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Let me tell you, People, it was just the shot in the arm, er neck, that I needed. Though it took me a few days to feel well enough to sit and type, I am finally able to pay it forward. The One Lovely Blog Award comes with the some strings attached; here’s Jana again:

“Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog (Check. Thanks again, Jana! You really cheered me up.)
  2. Share Seven things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!)
  4. Contact your bloggers to let them know that you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award”

Seven things about myself. Hmmmm. OK, here goes:

1. I am a giant nerd, in the Buzzy Jackson sense:

“Genealogy hobbyists are not just a bunch of well-adjusted funeral attendees, though; they’re also nerds. I love nerds. My definition of a nerd is someone who is extremely interested in … something. Anything. Whether experts on sports scores, Star Wars, or Michael Kors, they’re all nerds to me. These are people of passion, and the object of their fascination is less important than their zeal to know everything about it. With genealogy, there is a lot of “it” to know, from understanding the limits of mitochondrial DNA to locating the long-lost manifest of an ancient schooner, these people demonstrate that learn is the most active verb. My name is Buzzy Jackson and I, too, am a nerd.”

Word, Buzzy. Me too. My eccentric research habits are the butt of many a family joke. When the books in the living room reached a state of particularly advanced disarray, my husband christened my decorating style “Early Debauched English Major.”

2. And, speaking of my husband, I’ve been married to that awesome guy for 22 years. He’s a nerd too, and our interests often overlap. I made a business trip to Italy last year, but we decided to extend the trip a little into a second honeymoon. What do nerds on second honeymoon in Italy do? Why, nerd out over food, of course. Our younger daughter, a Harry Potter fan, dubbed the shot on the left “the Hall of Prophecies” (it’s Parmagiano Reggiano), and my film-crazy husband dubbed the one on the right “The Silence of the Hams” (it’s Prosciutto). Did you know that a needle made of the specially-carved lower leg bone of a horse must be used to judge the maturity and condition of prosciutto? Well, now you do.

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3. My picture is in the April 1986 issue of National Geographic magazine. Let’s play “Where’s Pancho?” Look at the crease. Now look at the dark boat with the white stripe in the top row a little to the right of the crease. Now look at the dark speck behind the orange life preserver. That’s my head. Our 4-person cayuco was the “Mixed Emotions” and we were delighted to finish smack dab in the middle of the pack in the Ocean-to-ocean Cayuco Race of 1985. I had to join the Explorer Scouts to participate in the race, so technically I’m also a boy scout. The race is both a Panama Canal and a family tradition: my stepdad raced in his teens, and some of my little brothers did it many years after I did.

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4. Speaking of my little brothers, I was an only child when I came to the United States for college at age 18. Not long after, my mom and stepdad adopted three boys, my father and stepmother had two boys of their own, plus one from her previous marriage, so by the time I graduated from college four years later, I had six little brothers.

5. My older daughter, when she was 13 and 14,  was a professional touring circus aerialist. As her Momager, I spent a lot of time dragging around oddly-shaped luggage and hanging around the dusty, musty wings of various venues on the West and East coasts. It was fun, but we are both kind of glad it’s over.

Chevron Family Theatre Festival, Walnut Creek, CA

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6. I’ve been best friends with the same person since I was five years old. We met on the school bus to kindergarten in Coco Solo, Canal Zone, Panama, and we haven’t grown up very much.

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7. I am petrified of frogs and toads. It’s totally stupid, but there it is. You would think that a devotee of fairy tales would love all those princes in waiting, but nope. It worked out OK, though. See #2.

With my seven confessions out of the way, it’s on to my nominees. This was hard, because there are so many terrific blogs out there. I settled on “blogs that inspire me” as my theme for choosing, and because inspiration comes in many forms, I didn’t limit the field to genealogy blogs. My 15 favorites are listed in alphabetical order, not preference. Please check them out — they’re all inspiring.

(I realize that not all bloggers will want to add this award to their blogs. That’s okay. I’m nominating you because the purpose of these awards is not only to recognize the bloggers we admire, but also to share their work with others.  So accept it or not, as you please. There are no obligations, and no hard feelings either way. Thank you very heartily for inspiring me in my own blogging adventures.)

  1. Advanced Style – I love this blog because it actually makes me look forward to aging. These women have sass.
  2. Ancestral Paths – A fellow genealogy traveler from whom I glean all sorts of useful information.
  3. Bernfeld Family of Galicia and More – Wonderful family stories and pictures, sprinkled with excellent tips.
  4. Book of Days – I love marking the circle of the year, and this blog helps me do it.
  5. Brain Pickings – This blog is the most wonderful source of things to ponder.
  6. Brotmanblog: a Family Journey – Beautifully told family stories, and a wealth of Jewish Genealogy tips.
  7. The Eluceydator – The “illuminated” theme of this blog is so perfect. Great photographs, too.
  8. Enjoying the Small Things – Exactly what it says. This blog is required reading for human beings.
  9. The Genealogy Girl – Another beautifully done trove of family stories and pictures.
  10. Maybe Someone Should Write That Down – Family stories told with great wit.
  11. Myth and Moor – I’m a mythology and fairy tale nut. This blog makes me happy every time I visit.
  12. Pacificparatrooper – A trove of information about WWII in the Pacific, lovingly and respectfully told.
  13. Persephone Post – Books and Britain, with a focus on women writers. Feel free to send me a care package from Persephone books any time.
  14. Shaking the Tree – Marvelous family stories and photographs, the inspiring work of an artist and fellow traveller.
  15. Silver People Heritage Foundation – The Panama Canal could not have happened without the back-breaking labor of West Indian people who were unjustly paid the “silver” wage (as opposed to whites, who were paid the “gold” wage). This blog pays tribute to their stories and history.

Thanks for hanging in there, People. Now, go on, you have some blog reading to do. I’m going to go rest my neck.

Poems By My Bisabuelo

For the next several weeks I’ll be writing about my Great-grandfather, Franz Georg Leopold Lessiack, or just plain “Leo” to those who knew and loved him. He died when I was only nine years old, but I remember him so fondly and am really enjoying learning more about his life and times. He and my great-grandmother, Margaret Spielmann Lessiack — who died long before I was born — left behind many photographs and papers, some of which I’ve already shared in my explorations of my Spielmann ancestors, and more of which I’ll share in the coming weeks. I have several research tasks in progress with regard to my Spielmann people, but while those are simmering, I want to focus on Great-grandpa Leo.

Here we are in 1967 or ’68, when Leo was in his late 70’s, and I was just a goober. Nowadays, I call that hand gesture a “qui-ote” (rhymes with coyote); the qui-ote is a very shy animal that is terrified of loud noises, so when children see it, they know to become very quiet. I don’t know exactly what Leo meant by the gesture, but I was clearly mesmerized.

Great-grandpa Leo flashes the Qui-ote. 1967 0r 1968. The photographer is probably my mom.

Great-grandpa Leo flashes the qui-ote in 1967 0r 1968. The photo was taken on my grandparents’ back porch in Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, Panama, and the photographer was probably my mom.

The really important detail about this photo, though, is the pipe in Leo’s back pocket. The man loved his pipe, and I loved it right along with him. To this day, if I smell pipe smoke, I am instantly two years old again, helping Great-grandpa Leo pack his tobacco. He lived in New Jersey, but he often came for long visits to the Canal Zone during my early childhood.

Though Leo’s first language was German, he frequently wrote poems in English. Isn’t that amazing? I could no more dash off a poem in my rudimentary second or third languages than I could do back-handsprings. Here are some poems that he wrote for my mom (Susan Lessiack Stabler) and my aunt (Polly Lensch Lessiack Ellner) about me and my younger cousin Jenny. As you will see, my interest in Grandpa Leo’s pipe was rather obsessive — I really did believe that smoke was magic.

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For Susan and Polly:

————————————-

Have talked to my friends

About Pancho and Jennie

The two little girls –

Their likes are not many

To tell you the truth

I like them a lot

And I certainly miss them

Believe it or not.

————————————-

Pancho.

Here’s Pancho who thinks

Is quite a joke

To watch Papa Leo

Enjoying his smoke

She gets all excited when

The time is ripe

For Leo to sit down

And smoke his pipe

She brings the tobacco

Pipe and all

In fact she seems to

Have quite a ball

“Harder-harder” says Pancho

When helping to press

The tobacco into the pipe

Her hands now a mess

She’s not discouraged, however

To her it would seem

Holding smoke in her hands

Will keep them clean

I can’t live without Pancho

Because now in my haste

All the smoke I am blowing

Is going to waste

————————————-

Jennie.

And Jennie, the little one

How well I remember

Her weight and her birthday

The 23rd of November

She’s tiny and cute but

Can’t as yet walk

And making things worse she

Can’t even talk

Down in her crib and

Surrounded by toys

She’s having a good time

Not yet dreaming of boys

However when the time comes

For taking a nap

She’d much rather get up

And sit in your lap

When Leo comes over to

See her a while

She will always greet him

With a great big smile

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As I have quoted before

There are not many

Little girls as sweet as

Pancho and Jennie

Bisabuelo

       Leo.

(“Bisabuelo” is Great-grandfather in Spanish. Many thanks to my mom for transcribing these poems for me — they’re glued into an album that resides with her in Panama. )

The back of the photo says "Early March, 1973." I'm on the left, and Jenny is on the right.

The back of the photo says “Early March, 1973.” I’m on the left, and Jenny is on the right.

Among Leo’s things, I found a beautiful Meerschaum pipe. It’s not the pipe I remember him smoking, but it’s very special, and has clearly seen a lot of use. My daughter Grace, taken with the lovely dragon carved into the bowl, sketched it one afternoon.

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I can’t help but think that Great-grandpa Leo would have gotten a tremendous kick out of that.

A New Puzzle Piece

I discovered a genealogical record today that appears to unlock several mysteries at once. I want to pose the evidence to you, my Genealogy People, to see what you think. Am I barking up the right tree? Am I missing anything obvious?

For those who have been following for a while, you know that I’ve been trying to acquaint myself with the least-documented branch of my family, the Spielmanns, my great-grandmother Margaret Spielmann Lessiack’s family of origin. I inherited a mass of photographs, most of which were unlabeled, and through a careful, two-year-long process of comparing genealogical data with the pile of photographs, I think I’ve got just about everybody identified.

Franz Georg Leopold Lessiack and Margaret Spielmann Lessiack, New Jersey, 1917. Photographer unknown.

My great-grandparents, Franz Georg Leopold Lessiack and Margaret Spielmann Lessiack, New Jersey, 1917. Photographer unknown.

This the Spielmann family, 1917. One son--possibly Erwin--is missing from this picture. Leonor peeks out from behind Fanny. Photographer unknown.

The Spielmann family, 1917. Herman and Franziska (Fanny) Spielmann had eight children. My great-grandmother Margaret (on the right) was the eldest, and the youngest, Leonor, peeks out from behind Lillian. One son — possible Erwin — is missing from this picture. Photographer unknown.

But, some mysteries remain.

Mystery #1:

As I wrote in Meet the Spielmanns:

“At first I thought there were nine children, because the 1900 census also reported a Jennie Spielmann, born in 1882, living with the family in Manhattan. However, examination of the actual document revealed Jennie to be a “sister-in-law.” Though the relationship was supposed to be listed relative to the head of the household, I think that Jennie must have, in fact, been Herman’s sister, and therefore Fanny’s sister-in-law. Otherwise, why would Jennie have the same surname as Herman?”

Why indeed?

Mystery #2:

When my mother and I both did DNA tests through 23andMe, my mother’s results revealed ~25% Jewish ancestry. We were both stunned by this revelation, because neither of us had any idea of Jewish ancestry prior to the DNA results. I pondered this discovery in The Hidden Branch, but the question remains: Where does Judaism reside in my Mom’s family tree? All of her other grandparents are quite well documented going back many generations (did you see that scroll, People?), so Leo and/or Margaret seem like the likely candidates.

Today’s Discovery

Herman and Fanny reported in the 1900 US census that they were married in Vienna, Austria in 1891. While browsing in the GenTeam European database today, I discovered a marriage record from Vienna, Austria from 1891 that I think belongs to them.

Two interesting things:

  • The record was catalogued as part of the “Index of Jewish Records of Vienna.” The Volume was called “Tempelgasse” — at least part of which, Google Translate tells me, means “temple.” (The other part of that word means “alley” which doesn’t make much sense, but there you have it. I seriously need to rustle up some German speakers.)  In any case, I think I just found my Jewish ancestors.
  • The groom was Herman Spielmann. The bride was Franziska Spielmann. Is it possible that they already had the same last name when they got married? That would explain the “Jennie Spielmann as sister-in-law” mystery mentioned above.

What do you think, People? How else might I confirm these conclusions? What am I overlooking?

When Leo and Margaret married, the ceremony was performed in the German Evangelical Lutheran Church — I have the original wedding certificate. This is the same denomination into which Leo was christened as a baby (I have his original baptismal certificate too).

Does this mean that Margaret converted? Did the whole Spielmann family convert at some point?

No shortage of mysteries here. Until next time, dear People.

Mystery Ladies, Part Deux

A few weeks back, I shared some mystery photographs that I found among my great-grandparents’ things. Here are a few more of those lovelies.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the picture are from Hamburg, where Leo grew up, but a few are from New York and New Jersey, where Leo arrived as a young man of 21 in 1912, and where he and Margaret settled. The quality of the images is so exquisite — the paper is creamy, they’re mounted on durable (and seemingly acid-free) board, and they look as if they haven’t faded at all.

If you recognize anyone, please leave a comment.

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I assume that these three women — Hedwig, Else, and Cläre — are sisters because they look rather alike. Hedwig signed the back the photograph.

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I played with Google Translate for a while to understand the inscription from Hedwig. It seems to say something like, “To your happy memories” or “To commemorate happy memories.” This is only a guess, however — alas, I don’t speak German.

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This intense young woman is identified only as “Chris” and the photo was presumably taken in 1945 at Studio Percenel in Brussels.

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“In remembrance of August, 1938, with all my love, Chris.” Now I really wonder what happened in August of 1938!

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There are two shots of this unidentified young lady, both taken at the F. Reimer studio in Hamburg, but at different times, based on her clothing.

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Here’s the second, closer view. That hairdo must have been quite something to achieve every morning, and the eyelet lace she’s wearing is so exquisite.

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This is my favorite of the mystery ladies. She looks as if she’s dressed for an adventure. Alas, there are no clues to her identity or where the photograph was taken.

In other news, I’ve been digging into that genealogy scroll, and I am in awe of what my great-grandmother Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder was able to achieve without benefit of the internet. I have no idea how she did it, but am so very grateful that she did. I’ve begun entering all the data into my own family tree and am discovering many fascinating things along the way — there’s fodder for about a million posts in there. The trick is going to be staying focused and not going off in ten directions at once. Squirrel?!?

Have a great weekend, People.

Easing Back In

Hello, People.

I’ve been on a brief hiatus due to end-of-summer madness, a busy time at work, the start of school, the search for a new vehicle, and a whole bunch of other distractions. (No, I did not overdo it celebrating the Centennial of the Panama Canal, though I did buy a round for my colleagues that day. Silicon Valley folks will celebrate anything if you provide free beer).

Happy Centennial, Panama Canal!

Happy Centennial, Panama Canal!

I’ve also been helping my friend Pauline Picchi launch her blog, which will cover the most amazing array of her Sicilian family recipes. Watch this space for more information about that project in the coming days. It will be genealogy at its most delicious (and, I think I might need new pants).

In other news, my daughter returned from Panama hand-carrying a few more treasures for the archive. The one I am most excited about is this very long, handwritten genealogy scroll prepared by my great-grandmother, Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder, who was a lifelong genealogy addict and a member of the DAR for more than 70 years.

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I can’t wait to dig into the secrets this scroll holds. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, People.

A Personal Panama Canal Centennial

Today, August 15, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.

The entire world is fêting the 8th wonder of the world today (and the internet has lots to offer on the topic), but I’m celebrating in a very personal way because four generations of my family worked on, in, beside, and in support of the Panama Canal. The Big Ditch is truly our family business — one of my People helped build the canal way back in the day, and one of my People still guides ships through the canal today.

This perspective -- facing the wrong way into a chamber at the Pedro Miguel locks -- is not a view of the Panama Canal you get unless you know someone. I know someone. I took this photo in 2011 from the deck of my Dad's tugboat, Cacique.

This perspective — facing the wrong way into a chamber at the Pedro Miguel locks — is not a view of the Panama Canal you get unless you know someone. I know someone. I took this photo in 2011 from the deck of my Dad’s tugboat, Cacique.

I’ll leave coverage of the facts, figures, maps, construction, and politics to the many excellent museums and societies dedicated to the preservation of Panama Canal history — this post is dedicated to my own Panama Canal People.

Here they are, in rough generational order.

Roger H. Adams (1879 – 1930) –  My great-grandfather, and holder of a Roosevelt Medal. Issued by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, the Roosevelt medal recognized American citizens who completed at least two years of service to the Panama Canal construction effort between May of 1904 and December of 1914. For every additional two years of service, a bar was added to the medal. Great-Grandpa Roger’s medal had two bars, for a total of six years of service during the construction era.

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My great-grandfather, Roger H. Adams

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This is not actually his medal, but you can see what it looked like. Photo credit to http://www.coins-of-panama.com/.

Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder (1890-1986) – My great-grandmother, known to the family as Mama Helen, who worked as a secretary in the Finance Bureau of the Panama Canal Company. After my great-grandfather, Roger H. Adams, passed away in 1930, Mama Helen remained in the Canal Zone, raised three children (future Panama Canal employees, all), and eventually remarried.

Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder and her three children, Robert K. Adams, Katherine Adams Lessiack, and Roger W. Adams. All worked on the Panama Canal as adults.

My great-grandmother Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder (third from left) and her three children, Robert K. Adams, Katherine Adams Lessiack, and Roger W. Adams.

Mama Helen's Canal Zone driver's license from TBD.

Mama Helen’s Canal Zone driver’s license from 1922.

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When the Goethals Memorial was dedicated, Mama Helen received special recognition along with the other remaining construction-era Old Timers.

Austin Flagel “Buck” Yoder (1917 – 1982) – Mama Helen’s second husband, and my step-great-grandfather, the one I actually knew. I’ve already written about my Pop Yoder’s extraordinary life as a jazz musician, but he also worked as a property inspector in the Accounting Department of the Panama Canal Company. He and Mama Helen were married in Pedro Miguel Union Church in the Canal Zone in 1945.

Buck Yoder

Buck Yoder, a Panama Canal employee who could also really blow a clarinet.

Robert K. Adams (1912 – 1997) – My grand-uncle, son of Roger H. Adams and Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder. “Bob Adams” as we called him (always one word strung together) was a 2nd-generation Zonian who served as Balboa Harbormaster until he retired and moved to California with my grand-aunt Ruthie.

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Robert K. Adams, my grand uncle, and a 2nd-generation Panama Canal employee.

Roger W. Adams (1918 – 2006) – My grand-uncle, son of Roger H. Adams and Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder. My mom and I both called him “Uncle Roger Sir” for reasons I can’t remember, but the name sure stuck. Uncle Roger Sir was a 2nd-generation Zonian who served as Superintendent of the Motor Transportation Division. He and his wife Katy (below) eventually moved to Sarasota, FL, and later settled in the Seattle, WA area.

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Roger W. Adams, my grand-uncle, and a 2nd-generation Panama Canal employee.

Uncle Roger Sir doing God knows what. The Motor Transportation Division seems pretty fun, no?

Uncle Roger Sir doing God knows what.

Katherine “Katy” Schafer Adams – My grand Aunt, and the wife of Roger W. Adams. Katy taught Biology and Physiology at Balboa High School on the Pacific side of the Canal Zone for many years. Prior to moving to the Canal Zone, Katy was on the faculty of the Zoology department at the University of Florida in Coral Gables, FL.

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Katy Schafer Adams, my grand-aunt, and a science teacher in Canal Zone schools.

Katherine Adams Lessiack (1920 – 2012) – My maternal grandmother, the daughter of Roger H. Adams and Helen Hudelson Adams Yoder. Grandma Kathi was a 2nd-generation Zonian who worked as a secretary for the Panama Canal Executive Planning Staff. I owe a special debt of gratitude to her, because so many of the treasures in my archive came from her.

Katherine Adams Lessiack, a 2nd-generation Panama Canal employee. She holds my mother, Susan Lessiack Stabler, and 3rd-generation Panama Canal employee.

Katherine Adams Lessiack, a 2nd-generation Panama Canal employee. She holds my mother, Susan Lessiack Stabler, a 3rd-generation Panama Canal employee.

Robert Lessiack, Katherine Lessiack, Lew Stabler, Sue Lessiack Stabler, and Moi in the Canal Zone sometime in the early 1970's.

Robert Lessiack, Katherine Lessiack, Lew Stabler (see below), Sue Lessiack Stabler (see below), and Moi in the Canal Zone sometime in the early 1970’s.

Robert Lessiack (1921 – 1984) – My maternal grandfather. Grandpa Bob came through Panama a couple of times before officially becoming a Zonian, once as a child, and again as a USMCR officer during WWII, when he met and married my Grandma Kathi. Grandpa Bob worked in finance in the Panama Canal Administration Building, and he retired as Assistant Financial Vice President of the Panama Canal Company in the early 1970’s. He and Grandma Kathi settled in Kerrville, TX after retirement.

Katherine Adams and Robert Lessiack

Katherine Adams Lessiack and Robert Lessiack in the Balboa Union Church, CZ, on their wedding day, November 29, 1945.

Grandpa Bob and my mother Susan Lessiack Stabler. Palm trees are very special to CZ kids.

Grandpa Bob and my mother, Susan Lessiack Stabler.

Robert Lessiack, as published in The Spillway on the occasion of his retirement.

Grandpa Bob as he appeared in The Spillway on the occasion of his retirement from service to the Panama Canal.

Joseph Stabler (1916 – 1999) – My step-paternal grandfather, and a career fire fighter in the Panama Canal Fire Division at Pedro Miguel. Grandpa Joe arrived in Panama in 1944 as a Chief firefighter with the U.S. Army. Grandma Blanche was a floating receptionist working for the U.S. Army, temporarily assigned to the desk where Grandpa Joe reported for duty. Grandma was dating another fellow at the time, but the rest is history. After WWII, Grandpa Joe joined the Panama Canal Fire Division.

Joseph Stabler, my grandfather, and a Lieutenant fire fighter.

Grandpa Joe Stabler, a Lieutenant and longtime Canal Zone fire fighter.

Grandpa Joe doing community outreach. Don't play with matches, kids!

Grandpa Joe doing community fire education. Don’t play with matches, kids.

Helen “Howie” Adams Laatz – My first-cousin-once-removed, the daughter of Robert K. and Ruth Adams, and a 3rd-generation Zonian. Howie worked as an administrative assistant for the Industrial Division and also as an assistant to the Governor of the Canal Zone.

Helen "Howie" Adams Laatz, a 3rd generation Panama Canal employee.

Helen “Howie” Adams Laatz, a 3rd generation Panama Canal employee.

Gerry Laatz – Husband of Howie Adams Laatz. Gerry worked in both the Motor Transportation Division and the Electrical Division on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal.

Gerry Laatz, who worked in both the Motor Transportation and the Electrical divisions. You can tell Gerry is a Zonian because he's wearing a guayabera.

You can tell Gerry Laatz is a real Zonian because he’s wearing a guayabera.

Susan Lessiack Stabler  – My amazing mother, a 3rd-generation Zonian, and the daughter of Robert Lessiack and Katherine Adams Lessiack. Mom taught English and Life Science at Cristobal Jr. Sr. High School on the Atlantic side; I can personally attest that she was a superb teacher because I actually had her for 8th grade English. She later worked as a journalist  for Panama Canal Public Affairs, where her byline and photographs were familiar to readers of the Canal Zone’s weekly newspaper, The Spillway. She couldn’t stay away from her beloved classroom forever, though, and today she teaches English in the middle school at the International School of Panama, inspiring a whole new generation of kids.

My mom, Susan Lessiack Stabler, a 3rd-generation Panama Canal employee.

My mom, Susan Lessiack Stabler, a 3rd-generation Panama Canal employee.

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Lewis Stabler – My adored stepdad, son of Joseph and Blanche Stabler. Lew completed 40 years of service to the Panama Canal in October of 2013. His long career with the Panama Canal (which isn’t over yet) began as an usher at the Balboa Movie Theater. He later became a schoolteacher at Curundu Jr. High, an electrician with the Electrical Division, and later still, a Tugboat Master, the job he still holds today.

Lew Stabler and Sue Lessiack Stabler at Miraflores locks just after a ceremony recognizing Lew's 40 years of service to the Panama Canal.

Lew Stabler and Sue Lessiack Stabler at Miraflores locks just after a ceremony recognizing Lew’s 40 years of service to the Panama Canal in October of 2013.

Lew Stabler on the tug Morrow in the Gatun Locks.

Lew Stabler on the tug Morrow in the Gatun Locks.

Lew Stabler on the tug Cacique training the next generation of tug masters.

Lew Stabler on the tug Cacique training the next generation of Tug Masters.

Bobby Adams – My first-cousin-once-removed, son of Robert K. and Ruth Adams, and a 3rd-generation Zonian. Bobby served in the Panama Canal Construction division. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of him.

Donnie Adams – My first-cousin-once-removed, son of Robert K. and Ruth Adams, and a 3rd-generation Zonian. Donnie served as a Marine Electrician in the Industrial Division. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of him either.

Lorin Lessiack (1949 – 1974) - My uncle, son of Robert Lessiack and Katherine Adams Lessiack. Lorin was a 3rd-generation Zonian who worked in the Panama Canal Dredging Division. If you read David McCollough’s epic book The Path Between The Seas, you will quickly understand why dredging is an essential part of canal operations. Lorin passed away on August 15, 1974, a sad anniversary we also observe on this day.

Lorin Lessiack, my uncle, and a 3rd-generation Panama Canal employee.

Lorin Lessiack, my uncle, and a 3rd-generation Panama Canal employee.

John Lessiack  – My uncle, son of Robert Lessiack and Katherine Adams Lessiack. John is a 3rd-generation Zonian who worked in the Canal Zone Schools carpentry shop, for a Smithsonian scientist researching Panama core samples, and on Barro Colorado Island at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Station studying frogs, tadpoles, and their predators.

John Lessiack, a 3rd-generation Panama Canal  employee.

John Lessiack, a 3rd-generation Panama Canal employee.

Baby Moi, Lorin Lessiack, Susan Lessiack Stabler, and John Lessiack, Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, 1967.

Here are baby Moi, Lorin Lessiack, Susan Lessiack Stabler, and John Lessiack, in Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, 1967.

Frank Stabler (1941 – 2010) – My uncle, son of Joseph and Blanche Stabler, and 2nd generation Panama Canal employee. Frank worked in Canal Protection.

Frank Stabler, at work in Canal Protection.

Frank Stabler, 2nd generation Panama Canal employee, at work in Canal Protection.

John Stabler – My uncle, son of Joseph and Blanche Stabler, and 2nd generation Panama Canal employee. John worked as a Canal Zone Police officer and continues to do business in Panama today.

John Stabler, 3rd generation Zonian, and a Canal Zone Police officer.

John Stabler, 2nd generation Panama Canal employee, and a Canal Zone Police officer.

Francis Stabler Meyer – My aunt, daughter of Joseph and Blanche Stabler, and a 2nd generation Panama Canal employee. Fran started with Pan Canal as a movie theater usherette, and later worked as a clerk for both the Administration Division and the Transportation Division.

Fran Meyer

Francis Stabler Meyer, 2nd generation Panama Canal employee.

Ron Meyer – My uncle, husband of Fran Stabler Meyer. Uncle Ronnie began his Pan Canal career as a movie theater cashier, and later became an electrician in the Electrical Division. He eventually became Lockmaster at Gatun, Pedro Miguel, and Miraflores locks. No ships got through unless Uncle Ronnie let them through.

Ron Meyer as a young Panama Canal apprentice.

Ron Meyer as a young Panama Canal apprentice.

Craig Meyer – My cousin, son of Ron Meyer and Fran Stabler Meyer, and a 3rd generation Panama Canal employee. As a teenager, Craig held a Student Assistant job at the Tugboat office in Diablo for one summer. Hey, it counts. Like me, Craig now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Craig Meyer, 3rd generation Panama Canal employee.

Craig Meyer, 3rd generation Panama Canal employee. however briefly.

Pancho, aka Leslie Griffin Robertson – Daughter of Susan Lessiack Stabler and stepdad Lewis Stabler, and a 4th generation Panama Canal employee. While it feels a little silly to list myself among all these folks who had long, honorable careers in the service of the Panama Canal, I did hold a Student Assistant job in the Housing Division office prior to college. So, if Craig’s legit, I’m legit.

Also, like any good CZ girl-brat, I put up with having a Pollera portrait taken per my mother's fond wishes. Don't I look happy about it? Traditiooooon...Tradition! Traditiontiooooooooooooooon!

Moi, 4th generation Zonian and Panama Canal employee. Like any good CZ girl, I (barely) tolerated having a Pollera portrait taken per my mother’s fond wishes.  Traditiooooon…Tradition!

And there you have it, my own personal Panama Canal centennial. I leave you with a line from the speech that Theodore Roosevelt made to the assembled Panama Canal force in Colon, Republic of Panama on November 16, 1906. It’s worth noting that Roosevelt’s visit to Panama marked the very first time a U.S. President made an overseas trip while in office. It was that important.

“You are doing a work the like of which has not before been seen in the ages, a work that shall last through the ages to come.”

And the work goes on.

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Here I am with my Dad, Lew Stabler, at the construction site of the new Panama Canal Expansion project in October of 2013. Maybe Lew will get to steer ships through these locks too.

Happy 100th birthday, Panama Canal, and a happy centennial to all of my People who made it sing.

Mystery Ladies, Part One

Here are some beautiful mystery friends of my great-grandparents, Leo and Margaret Lessiack.

Earlier, I published the mystery children’s portraits I found among their things, and later there will be some mystery men’s portraits, along with a few group shots. Some of these picture are from Hamburg, where Leo grew up, but a few are from New York and New Jersey, where Leo arrived as a young man of 21 in 1912, and where he and Margaret settled. The quality of the images is so exquisite — the paper is creamy, they’re mounted on durable (and seemingly acid-free) board, and they look as if they haven’t faded at all.

People, may I present to you… the mystery ladies.

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Although the message is written in German, the photograph is signed E. Hocffle, Bogota NJ (where my great-grandparents lived). I tried running the words in the message through Google Translate but didn’t get anything meaningful. Any German speakers out there who can help?

Ladies 2

This beauty was definitely photographed in Hamburg by the Willy Wilcke studio. Date unknown.

Ladies 3

Here’s another image of the same lovely young woman. Based on the clothing, I assume that this image was taken on the same day as the previous image.

Ladies 4

This image is also from Hamburg, but by Atelier Ideal. The writing on the back indicates that it was taken in 1914. I can’t make out the rest of the handwriting, unfortunately. Can any of you, readers?

Ladies 5

"Xmas 1923 To Gretie - With Love, Eleanor"

This sultry Miss was photographed in New York by the Sarony Inc. studio. The message on the back says “Xmas 1923 to Gretie – With Love, Eleanor.” I suspect that Gretie is actually my great-grandmother, Margaret Spielmann Lessiack.

Ladies 7

Here is the studio mark on the folder in which the image above was stored.

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“Lest you forget me. With all my love, Minna.” There was no studio mark on this image, so I don’t know where or when it was taken. She is wearing quite an elaborate costume, isn’t she?

More mysterious ladies to come. Stay tuned.