Sepia Saturday: Finding Lost Treasure, Pt. 8

Continuing with excerpts from my great-grandfather David Blumenfeld's diary, which I discovered two years ago.

The emigrant Blumenfeld family is finally reunited in Ludington, Michigan, poised for a rise to success in the new land. But even here life is difficult...

Winter on the Detroit River, c. 1900

Ben-Zion felt acutely the necessity of making a living and a home for eight in a new country. He was a stranger to the customs of the people and without much knowledge of the language. He had no money and was forced to wrestle in a strange environment for a mere subsistence. ...There were Michigan’s severe winter storms to face, drifts that made the roads impassable and peddling out of the question. The boys found some work and the two older girls worked at dressmaking to help tide them over the bitter winter.

Life became almost intolerable for the family. Kosher meat had to be bought in Detroit and delivered by express. In the summer it came by boat from Milwaukee. Sometimes it was delayed and before it was delivered to the home it was not fit for use and had to be thrown out.

...Ben-Zion and Leah could hardly endure ...especially Leah, who ...imagined she had married a man beneath her in dignity. They both felt despondent at their ill fortune in the land of the free and both grew pessimistic. The boys opened a shop of their own and the girls worked with them.

Tailor shop
And now although reunited after all their trials, the unthinkable happens:

Ben-Zion became very arbitrary and insisted that all money earned be handed over to him. The girls wanted some of their money for respectable clothes but Father Ben-Zion could see no need of it and there was much waste of money and he left the family.

According to the Diary, Leah tells David, “There is no need for you to remain here as we are now making a comfortable living and there is enough quarreling without your presence.”

This implies that her eldest son was somehow causing some friction, although it is not explained further. At any rate, after this last straw, David decides “to shift for himself, and he struck out for the ‘wild and woolly west.’ As his money was limited he only went as far as Chicago.”

Chicago, c. 1885
This seems ironically anticlimactic, but considering the alienness of the new country, it perhaps was far enough for the time being. Apparently David gets some work there but soon he is disturbed to find that he is compelled to work on Saturdays, the Sabbath. As soon as he earns enough to be able to continue on, he does, making it to Minneapolis.

After working there (presumably as a tailor) for ten months, he makes enough money to open his own shop! And it is in Minneapolis that he meets one Lena Laser, a Lithuanian girl the same age as him, around 21.

Lena had come to America from Kovno [Kaunas], Lithuania, with her four cousins and [had] lived in St. Louis, Missouri with an older sister, Yette, and her husband. ...Lena was fond of walking with David on Nicollet Avenue or promenading down to Bridge Square and over the old suspension bridge. Occasionally during the summer they took a car ride to Minnehaha Falls where they sat and watched the endless sheet of water pouring over the high crest of the rock with the sun shining and bespangling it with myriads of brilliant colors. Lena used to tell David of her relatives and of an uncle who was a great rabbi and another who was a shochet [a ritual slaughterer, licensed and trained in this religious role], and what great dignified men they were.

Minnehaha Falls
...She was tired of staying with her sister, whose husband was a fanatical and quarrelsome man. She yearned for a home of her own... She was a splendid housekeeper, always neat and tidy. Her aprons, though of the cheapest material, always looked bright and were cleanly starched. Her cooking and preparing of dishes would satisfy the most fastidious epicure. She was clever at dressmaking and her fingers were deft at the finest embroidery. At lacemaking she showed her highest skill. What could David do but propose to such an ideal girl? They were married on May 11, 1887.

The Lacemaker
Perhaps as a married man and removed from the exigencies of his large and troubled family, David would now be able to find success.

To be continued...
And find more fascinating posts at Sepia Saturday blog

Some of these photos were borrowed from the following sites:







Sepia Saturday: Finding Lost Treasure, Pt. 7

Continuing with excerpts from my great-grandfather David Blumenfeld's diary, which I discovered two years ago.

Having pursued his father from Lithuania to New York, David’s train now arrives in Ludington, Michigan on 6 o’clock Sunday morning, 1884.

Typical policeman

He walked up from the depot on Main Street, meeting the night policeman. David asked about Mr. Bloomstock [his father’s friend, with whom he was staying], and the policeman, with due politeness, led him to the house. David marveled as he walked along the wide streets, at the store windows with their marvelous display of merchandise without any iron shutters drawn down as was the case in Russia. He …thought how honest a people the Americans must be.

At Bloomstock’s home David is told that his father is now in Milwaukee! His goal ever receding, David takes the steamer that evening across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin.


Arriving in the morning, David goes to the address he was given – and is told that his father has just left for the train depot.

He hurried to the depot and there he found Ben-Zion sitting inside the train, about to depart. Father Ben-Zion was glad to see David and to learn that Leah and the children all were in New York.

Steam train

It’s unclear where Ben-Zion is headed; possibly one of his peddling trips? He tells David to wait in Milwaukee until Thursday evening and then they both will go back to Ludington. David wires his mother that she’ll receive tickets for the rest of the trip by the end of the week. He then asks his “boarding boss if he could take him to a shop where he could work for the four days while waiting for his father to return.

The landlord was an obliging sort of man and took David to a shop where the foreman gladly accepted him and put him to work. David’s eyes almost popped out of his head at the end of the period when the foreman handed him eight silver dollars, the first real silver money he ever had seen.

In Ludington, they wire money for the train tickets to the Immigration Office. They are finally able to reach Mr. Zigler, who is

…only too glad to do all he could for Yanke Hennes’ daughter and her children. He signed papers at the Immigration Office that the family would not be a public charge and they were released. They were taken to Mr. Zigler’s home and entertained with the hospitality befitting Yanke Hennes’ daughter.

Emigrants at Ellis Island

In the meantime Ben-Zion bought furniture and rented rooms [in Ludington], and the Bloomstocks prepared to receive the “greenhorn’s” family when they arrived in August, 1884.

So, the family is finally reunited and poised for a rise to success in the new land. However, it is not to be that easy...

To be continued...

And find more fascinating posts at Sepia Saturday blog

Some of these photos were borrowed from the following sites:






Went to an outdoor art installation recently whch took place at sunset. There were luminaria and film projections and so on. However I found the minimalist -- well, stark -- setting more interesting.

Overflow parking area behind the Coke distribution center, Bellevue, Washington


Hut of the Week

Brokeback cabin, in what remains of Liberty, Washington. Imagine the sound of cicadas and wind in the aspens, the smell of fir and decaying cedar.


A Hankering

You've seen those vans selling Mexican food by the side of the road?
Here's a spin from Coeur d-Alene, Idaho.

Sometimes you just get a hankering for some dried meat.


Sepia Saturday: Fantasy Family

An evocative patchwork of photos in a shoebox. Starting at upper right and proceeding clockwise:

Aunt Tulip and Uncle Tum (really Tom but baby Pinky couldn't pronounce her short O). They were known collectively as T&T. Here they're standing in front of the remains of their house in Gary, Indiana after the rear of it was crushed by a falling barnstormer.

Upside down: Cousin Elda and her sister Irva in Denver, under the spreading chestnut tree. Irva later fell from the tree, unluckily on inconveniently placed rattlesnake. Much excitement ensued.

Grandpa Estefan's doomed invention for harvesting carrots, parked on the runway at Jones Airforce Base.

Estefan's wife, Grandma M. (she never knew her real name), seated on the primitive log fence in her yard, with an unknown woman. A skilled acrobat and contortionist in her youth, M. never gave up the balance beam, to the extent of sawing the edges off her bed because it was too wide.

"The Tad, at 16 months," says the caption on the back. The Tad was an adopted Moldavian orphan that Estefan and M. brought back from the war. He later became the star pumpkin-eating champion in a tri-state region.

Buddyboy (below) and Star of Bethlehem (otherwise known as SOB), a prize-winning and persnickety quarterhorse owned by Uncle Festus. Buddy had a bit of a crush on the horse, and on the pictured occasion had driven SOB atop a wall in an attempt to avoid Buddyboy's attentions. It was futile and SOB bore a total of 23 puppies over her long life.

Cousin Flotilla. This is the last known picture of her, as she was left behind inadvertently at this rest stop somewhere along Route 66.

Uncle Axel, showing off the freakish "devil horns" that made him a star attraction of his parents' travelling circus.

Aunt Gertie, right, with her lifelong piano accompanist and nurse, "Fuzzy" Cataldo, on their scandalous trip to the Acropolis.


Astronomy Domine

Spotted from our back yard, the rarely seen Arachnid Nebula.

If you dare, click to enlarge.
Happy Halloween...


The Terminator

No, not that Terminator.
"The line that separates the portions of the earth experiencing daylight from the portion of the planet experiencing darkness..."

Sunset across Boyd, Oregon, August 2010


Theme Thursday: Games

One day a travelling carnival appeared in Sansepolcro, Tuscany, near where we were living. It was Carnivale, preceding Easter. After passegiata I brought the kids to check out the rides and games... We arrived a bit early so I got some shots in before it became too crowded.


Rolling Canvases

Sitting in the passenger seat for hours along Interstate 5, I began to see everything as fair game for art.

Try clicking to enlarge and staring at each one for 60 seconds...


Wires in the Blue, Redux

The corpse has been powdered a bit too thoroughly.

Near the tracks, The Dalles, Oregon


Dialectic Electric

Local landmark, at least as far as I'm concerned. It's slim pickin's around here!

Newport Hills