Sunday, November 28, 2010


In my last post, I droned on
for a while about how much genealogical data can be gleaned (I love that word) from photographs. And while I was thinking about that, certain photos popped into my head, so I thought I'd better document them before they pop right back out again. That happens with astonishing regularity lately. Something (an image, an invention, a lucrative business venture, my first telephone number, etc.) is right there fully formed and then POOF, it's outta there. Perhaps my synapses are all rusted and clogged up, I understand gin is like WD-40 for your brain. I'm experimenting with that now, so I'll report back when I have viable data.

Wrestling myself back on topic, there's a photo down below of my father, Leon Kleylein and his younger brother Stanford Kleylein who I knew as Uncle Tanny. They're standing on the marble steps of a Baltimore rowhouse in 1909. In those days, the condition of your marble steps was a direct indicator of the quality and status of your household. Whole families would be out front every morning scrubbing them down with a scrub brush until they gleamed in the sun.

The first question I have about this photo is, 'What the hell are they wearing?' Your question was probably about the haircuts, but we'll get to that in a minute. Whatever these things are I don't recognize them. They appear to be one-sies made out of either linen or sackcloth with a built-in belt that has one button. ??? I wonder if this was a popular fashion of the day. Is this what Dagwood Bumstead wore when he was a child?

How do you get into the thing, is the whole back open like a hospital gown? If you double click on the image, it will resolve larger for you and you can see Uncle Tanny's kerfloggit seems to be coming apart in the back. That would have been dangerous in Baltimore even a hundred years ago.

And why are my father's sleeves so short? Did he have to wear it for five years? Was it made of canvas, then? If you look carefully, it appears the bottom part of my father's kerfloggit is wet! Was he stamping barefoot in the open sewers of Baltimore? Or perhaps he just finished scrubbing those marble steps. There are no shoes in sight, so I'm hoping is was summer, but you never know.

Perhaps he wasn't wearing shoes because of what they did to his feet. Man, those toes look like they hurt. A lot. But you can see he was applying a lot of pressure on Uncle Tanny to keep him from floating away. Shoes would have anchored him down a little.

The other interesting tidbit was that my father was wearing a gold (?) ring on the middle finger of his left hand. What's up with that? Is he engaged already?

Which brings us to the hair. It looks a bit like something Moe Howard wore but with a cut out in the front. Ahh, this was my clue. During this era, there was a popular cartoon character named Buster Brown, shown here with his dog Tiege, who went on to shill kids shoes (and apparently cigars).

Buster became so
popular, parents began dressing their children like him and having their hair cut similarly. So, my guess is that that this kerfloggit is a cheap Buster Brown knockoff and the haircut is an at-home, soup-bowl BB cut.

That still doesn't explain who he's engaged to, however. I wonder if my Mom ever knew.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snapshots From the Brink

All this yammering about airport security scans has reminded me how much we owe to the art and science of photography.

Thank GOODNESS for
photography! It is an historical record, a proof statement of what actually happened or what something or someone actually looked like. How would we know if an artist had filtered the image of their subject? 'Improved' it, perhaps, or altered reality to better suit the artist's sensibility. But with a photograph... there's the photograph, there it is, look at it! It will tell you a story if you know which questions to ask. And beside the historical and scientific uses, a good photo is a genealogist's treasure! Tips and leads can pop out of every corner.

Remarkably, photography has been around less that 200 years. Imagine if there were honest-to-goodness images of (insert chosen historical character here). I had always pictured (whomever) as blonde, or taller, or more dignified. Why, such facts could change the course of history. But that is not to be because the earliest known photograph is an eight hour exposure out the window of the Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. It may not be stirring, but that's what it looked like in 1826. Napoleon had only been dead for five years. Thomas Jefferson was still alive. And Abraham Lincoln was seventeen years old!

Now, Lincoln!
Lincoln, we've got! We have lots of photos of Lincoln. You couldn't CAST a better face to emote dignity and courage and honesty and forthrightness. Stephen Spielberg has been agonizing over casting Lincoln for more than ten years and everyone had thought he had settled on Liam Neeson, but NO, it's going to be Daniel Day Lewis!

Spielberg and Long Carbine! Now there's a movie I would go to see. Bill the Butcher is already in Illinois, scoping out history on Lincoln, probably immersing himself as he always does, building himself a log cabin. I can't wait to hear his chosen accent.

That does it, I've been toying with the idea of getting a bust of Lincoln for my office, I'd better hurry up and order it before Daniel Plainview orders them all for his research. I feel close to Lincoln, he married one of my relatives. Yes, he had failings, too.

Speaking of the things you learn from genealogically-oriented photos, check out this one of me when I was three years old. There's a lot to learn here. We were living in Miami and we were 'poor', shoes were still a few years away. But beside the idiotic grin on my face, check out my hands. Are they deformed? They appear larger than my feet, were they run over by a car or something? Are they flat? Perhaps that's a grimace on my face and not a grin.

Love the 'lawn', by the way, but that's my original premise coming back to visit. The lawn (and my fingers) look the way they do in the photograph because that's the way they actually looked.

Nowadays, I suppose I could use some fancy tools and cover up that patch in my overalls (hmm, I should GET some overalls, they look pretty comfy)
or put some shoes on my feet or make my hands look normal. But, nah! I wasn't normal then and that's the way I'm staying.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Part Deux

Haven't seen me for a while, have you? Hmm? No, I've been busy for the last year or so but all that's changed now. You wanna know why? 'Cause I'm OUT, OUT, I say! Out of the work force, stepped away, locomoted out, retired, free at last, free at last!

So, this is really Part Deux. Part Two. Part II. The part of my life that comes after work. If you've been reading this silly blog, you know I've been working full time since I was sixteen. At the last job I had (SAY! I like the sound of that!) I worked for Siemens/SMS for thirty-three years. Well, chronologically anyway, because if you count overtime, I worked there for forty-five work-years at least. There were some years that I worked a year and half, easy.

But that's what we did in those days, I really liked doing my job, it was satisfying and I felt as if I was doing something that mattered. My last job was running a great big data center that served about a thousand hospitals taking care of their data processing needs. I really hope I left the Information Systems Center in a better condition than when I found it. And sure, doing that job felt good, but it feels a lot better now!

So, as of the end of October, the stress began to fall away from my shoulders very much like the autumn leaves are falling from the trees outside. Not all at once, but gradually, gracefully.

Hopefully, once this process is completed, it won't leave a barren, dead, empty stump behind (you maybe guessed I'm not a Fall person) but instead will reveal something nice that was being hidden underneath. Much like what happens when you have a full body scan at your friendly, neighborhood airport nowadays.

Perhaps a normal person is under there somewhere, lurking. Frankly, I wouldn't count on it. By the way, you can invert those body scan images (create a 'negative') and they become quite lifelike. So we can get irradiated AND have the last vestiges of our privacy invaded in one easy step! Hmm, the 'pat-down' is sounding better all the time and I have time for it - I'm retired!