Saturday, February 27, 2010

sepia saturday: family portrait


today's first photo, taken in the mid to late 1910s, is the family portrait of my maternal grandmother's (second girl from the left) family of origin. a few weeks ago I mentioned mary's family, but only in general terms and I didn't post a picture. this week I'd like to flesh out the family a bit more. mary, who is my nana, was the first daughter of julia and josef koszcelnik (later changed to kostelnik). josef and julia, as were all of my great-grandparents, were immigrants from various areas within the austria-hungarian empire. a distant cousin on the kostelnik side of the family is into genealogy and he has traced josef to babin potok, slovakia. I have been told there were six children in josef's family - five boys and one girl. not everyone in josef's family of origin immigrated to the united states, at least one sibling stayed behind in the old country.

josef was born on september 7, 1872, he was 32 years old when he married julia on february 21, 1905. josef was a widower with two children when he married julia pecuch. according to nana, josef had a third child with his first wife, but the child died; as with josef's first wife, this child passed without leaving a much of a trace in terms of family records - no names and no dates.

according to nana, julia was young when she married josef and surprisingly I don't have a record of when she was born but I do know she died in april 1959. when julia married she instantly became both a wife and a mother. josef's sons were young, stephen was not quite four and joseph only two and a half. a couple years passed before julia started bearing children - in february, 1907 mary was born, in 1908, anna, and in 1909 rudolph.

josef and julia married in bethlehem, pennsylvania, but they started their life as a family in coaldale, pennsylvania where all three of josef and julia's children were born. while in coaldale josef worked in the mines; although coaldale's motto was "everybody's goal is mine more coal," coal mining was not josef's goal, after a few years, josef (who we called zedo), julia and the five children moved away from coaldale and the hard life of a coalminer. but that is not to say their new life was free of hardship and hard work - life was plenty hard.

the family first moved to hazleton, compared to coaldale, hazleton was a relatively big town and was a center for both coal and manufacturing; after living in hazleton for some indeterminate length of time the family moved to bethlehem. both josef and julia had family in bethlehem and with five children, the attraction and benefit of having family nearby drew them back. in both of these cities, josef and julia ran a 'saloon.' my mother remembers the saloon in bethlehem quite well. the building that the saloon was in was also the family's home, with the family's bedrooms on the second floor. I asked my mom what the name of the place was, and she said it was simply known as 'kostelnik's,' it was almost exclusively a drinking establishment, however she does remember on special occasions sometimes food was served. I expect both these establishments catered to the 'working man' - be he a miner, factory worker, or a someone from the steel works.

as a child I loved the colorful stories my mother and nana would tell about baba and zedo's saloon. they always referred to it as a saloon, never a bar, so as I child I always had the impression that baba and zedo's place was some kind of immigrant eastern european version of the wild wild west. given some of the stories my impression was probably not too far off the mark. the most infamous of these stories was the one where my mother and her cousin bill were playing cops and robbers. turns out little bill got hold of a gun and actually shot my mom in the chest. the gun was loaded with birdshot, which would have been lethal had my mom been a wee bird! I actually wrote about this incident a couple years ago on the mouse as I believe it help shaped my own attitude toward guns.

the photo above was taken during the mid 1940s - standing from left to right are: mary (my nana), the lovely rita (my mom), josef (who we called zedo), josef's brother andrew (andrew moved to new york where he shortened his name to koss), and george kravitz (my grandfather who we called 'dodo'), and kneeling in front of nana is rose (my aunt)

this third photograph was taken in 1956, and includes yours truly holding baba's (julia kostelnik) hands, the other wee lass is my cousin mary (rose's daughter who is 2 months my senior). the other three individuals, from left to right are rudolf ('uncle rudy'), nana, and anna ('aunt annie). the photo was taken at my grandparent's home in harwood mines. rudy, annie and baba were all up visiting my grandparents from bethlehem.

although baba lived long enough to welcome a few great-grandchildren into the world, including me, I have no recollection of her. quite possibly I only met her that one time in 1956. this photo of me with my grandmother, great-grandmother and my grandmother's siblings is definitely a treasure. although nana was the last of the three to die, both her sister and brother lived long lives - aunt annie was 89 years old when she passed away in 1997 and uncle rudy was 93 when he died in 2002. throughout their long lives the three children of josef and julia remained close.

pink performing family portrait in wembley stadium in london

22 comments:

Lo said...

wonderful....I love family histories...especially when there are grand old photos.

Martin H. said...

Family is so important. In your case, the photographs and words prove it.

subby said...

Simply loved meeting you all here! So many relatives I wish I could remember...

Happy week-end, kimy :)

Barry said...

Wow, he shot your mom in the chest? Guns terrify me and this doesn't make me feel any moe kindly toward them.

You were, by the way, a very cute little thing.

Vicki Lane said...

Thar fist picture is wonderful -- though somber. And in the 40's era pic, your mother is quite glamorous!

Mel said...

Wonderful old photos and such stories! Interestingly, the relatives I've been writing about hail from the hazelton wilkes-barre area too. Wonder if my family ever drank at your family's saloon?

The Silver Fox said...

Great stuff, and yeah, Mom was a beauty!

Betsy said...

Wow...can't believe the gun story! Whew!

And I can tell that is you as a baby...adorable! ;)

Poetikat said...

Kimy, I love how you go way back and work forward with the photos. The oldest photo is magnificent.
You were so cute in your sweet little dress! (And "Lovely Rita" was certainly so.)

Kat

The Clever Pup said...

Another coal story. Maybe there's some synchronicity here.

Megan said...

Aw, lil' Kim! :)

Wonderful progression of photos and story.

willow said...

I am so loving all these families histories! Sweet little wee you in that last pic.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

great clear photos....I loved that you called her Baba, so did I with my grandmothers, but we were Polish...it's close And the coal mining tough work but my family stuck with it! Bethlehem ecame steel industry too!

Stephanie said...

Your post got me to thinking about coal mining - I'm a bit claustrophobic so can't even imagine going into the mines... What a dangerous job. Especially if you're trapped in a mine with a claustrophic crazy woman. Yikes.

Your mother was stunning in that photo!

John Hayes said...

Fascinating family history--Uncle Rudy looks so happy in that bottom picture, & while the story about your mom is frightening, the idea of an east european immigrant wild west saloon is quite delightful.

Alan Burnett said...

What I love about this is that not only is it a history of your family but it also seems to be a history of America itself. This story of fighting to build a new life seems to be so intertwined with the story of your country it is almost impossible to pull them apart.

lettuce said...

I love seeing the generations like this, wonderful - and you know so much about your forebears!

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

It's great to know more about your family and history which is so rich and interesting. I especially love the top photo and it reminds me of why I get irked when people complain that I don't smile in photos. That was not a tradition until after World War II or just a bit before. I don't think people look sad when not smiling, just more natural and meditative. The family portrait is very graceful and serene. No need to see flashing teeth, which in the canine world often is not a happy sign.

The Silver Fox said...

@Junk Thief: You, too? I remember when I was getting my seven or eight photos taken for my high school yearbook. The photographer kept saying, "Smile!" I replied, "I am smiling." "No, I mean a big smile. Show some teeth!" "Big smiles just exaggerate your face." He kept bugging me until I said. "Fine. I'll give you one like that. But it's a waste of your time and mine, because it's not the one I'll eventually choose." "Oh, you'll change your mind, I promise you!"

One guess: Do you think I used the one he insisted I give him?

Barbara said...

Very interesting! Your mother is beautiful...too beautiful to get shot. Just another story that shows how dangerous it is to have guns in the house. What if it hadn't been birdshot? Thanks for telling us your interesting family history.

Meri said...

Lots of great shots and stories. It's so important for us to tell them and write them down.

Angella Lister said...

i find these stories of people who were here, but aren't anymore, so poignant, especially so when accompanied by photos. i'm moved by the simple fact that they are being remembered, which says their time here meant something.