On March 20, 1941, against his own wishes, Phil Giadone was drafted into the United States Army.  It was World War II and he was sent to Hawaii and shipped out to Java just a day or so before Pearl Harbor was attacked on the morning of December 7, 1941.  In the nick of time- a theme in Phil's military life.  In Java, he ran the motor pool, once even driving Doolittle Jr.

He was transferred to the Air Force (I think it was the Air Force...) in Java and ran the motor pool for the artillery division.  Java was part of the Dutch East Indies conquest.  Because it had rubber and oil, it was valuable to Japan, who was cut off from all resources.  Japan has no native source of oil, so once President Franklin Delano Roosevelt froze all of Japan’s assets and embargoed all oil in July of 1941, they needed a new country to get oil.  Japan took control of Java and the other islands early in 1942. 

Phil was part of the last exodus.  Japanese air raids had become morning routine.  Every day at the same time, the sirens would start and the soldiers would run for the jungle.  One day, instead of running to the jungle for cover, Phil ran for the airport and got out before the bombing trapped him.  In the nick of time.  He spent the rest of his time in Australia running a motor pool.

In 1945, his term was up and he thought he was going home but he was shipped to Arizona and had to wait to August 1945 before he was allowed home to California.

Phil is Marc’s first cousin, once removed, although he has always been more like a grandfather to us.  Phil recently had a bout of shingles, which for a 92-year-old is not an easy thing.  But he was released from the hospital yesterday and off to an interim home.  We hope to have him back to his own home within a few weeks- he just has t o get his strength back.  Phil’s a good person, a fun person AND a veteran!  So today, I honor him (as I do all days). 
I woke this morning too early (forgot to change the clock in the bedroom...) and when I checked my emails, I had a CNN breaking news that Joe Frazier had died.  I never liked boxing or followed it one bit, but my cousin Jeff and I spent a lot of time talking about Joe Frazier. 

For a time, we lived with my aunt and uncle and their three boys.  During this time, about 11 years old, I was obsessed with my tape recorder- you know, the old rectangular kind with big buttons.  Pressing PLAY and RECORD at the same time brought magic.  I had signs that said, “Shhhhh.  Taping,” that I’d pin on the door.  I had a microphone that I would interview people with.  My cousins and brother and I would do skits.

Jeff’s specialty was doing the sports casting for our news show.  He was 11 months younger than me and the funniest kid around.  I would do serious news in a manly voice and it would make no sense.  But Jeff would do an impeccable impersonation of Howard Cosell and yet spin it to make it hilarious.  He could also do President Jimmy Carter.  The best was when he did both.

“Ha-i.  I’m President Jimmy Carta.”  “I’m Howard Cosell.”

Then he’d call a fight between Mohamed Ali and Joe Frazier as both and I’d nearly wet my pants laughing.  Once, he had a bird fly in and bite Joe Frazier on the neck.  “And he died.”

Really, can it get any funnier?  Not to an 11-year-old with an amazing cousin.

So thanks, Joe Frazier, for whatever it was you did in boxing AND  for the good times we had with birds biting you on the neck until death.
I asked Grampa about his father-in-law, Peter Felt.  Grampa called him, “Pete,” and described him as a “real nice” guy who loved laughing and jokes.  He worked at the Homestake Mine in Moskee, Wyoming with his brother Lars and possibly another that Grampa called a “shirttail” relation.

The Homestake Gold Mine started in Lead, South Dakota.  Well, actually, the Homestake Gold Mine itself started the town of Lead, in the Black Hills of South Dakota on April 9, 1876.  Two brothers, Moses and Fred Manuel and their partner, Hank Harney, founded their Homestake claim.  Moses found a vein of ore, called a “lead” (pronounced LEED) and staked their claim.  Homestake Mining Company was bought by George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper man.

In about 1921, the Homestake Mining Company developed Moskee, Wyoming, about 30 miles from Lead, to provide wood to the mine.  In 1925 they opened a post office and in 1928, a school.  In the 1930s, the population was about 200.  It closed in the 1940s.

Pete’s wife Inga dominated the family.  She didn’t like Pete or their sons to drink so when Grampa would come around, Pete would tell Inga that he had to take Pierre into Deadwood or Lead.  They’d visit the shady bar and Peter Felt would drink perhaps a bit more than his share of his favorite drink: Schnapps.

Peter and Inga (Auslund/Aslund) Felt
One time, Grampa and Art Felt, Gramma’s brother, drove out to Moskee to visit and they got snowbound for three or four weeks.  They played the card game Pinochle non-stop.  Pete would go to work and they’d pace all day waiting for him to get home so they could resume the game.  I liked this story, because I have many memories, even recent ones, with marathon family Pinochle games. 

Pinochle is a game brought to America by immigrants.  The name is from the mispronounced word, “ Binocle,” meaning eyeglasses.  Pinochle was a favorite of American Jewish community and Irish immigrants, as well as German.
My dad was born in Indiana and I never really thought about why or how they ended up in Indiana.  In fact, as a child, I thought that my dad must be an Indian, since he was born in Indiana.  While visiting Grampa, I finally remembered to ask. 

My grandmother’s sister, Peggy and her husband Bob Burbridge, lived in Booneville, Indiana and worked at the Chrysler factory in Evansville.  This was during the War, so it’d been transformed into a bullet factory.  “Chrysler’s Evansville, Indiana, factory literally produced ‘bullets by the billions,’ including some 485 million cartridges for .30-caliber carbines and nearly 2.8 billion cartridges for .45-caliber carbines. Just as Chrysler prepared for production at its Evansville plant in July 1942, the Ordnance Department ordered the automaker to substitute steel for brass for the cartridge cases. Although this last minute change required Chrysler to retool much of the plant, full-scale production began in October.”  (Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation by Charles K. Hyde,)

Life Magazine advertisement, Feb 7, 1944, p. 27
Both Peggy and Bob worked and needed help with their children.  My grandfather was working in California at Davies Auto, but wasn’t doing what he wanted to be doing.  So when Peggy and Bob asked if Grampa and Gramma could come to Indiana they jumped at the chance.  Gramma took care of the children and Grampa went to work at the factory.  

Grampa, Dad, Auntie Karen

The factory shut down at the end of the war to convert back to cars and Grampa decided to return to California and Davies Automotive where he became a mechanic and worked for several years.
Grampa had a bunch of pictures of Uncle Art and I really wanted to do something with them, but I wasn't sure what.  There are others that I have a bunch of pictures of, too, that I don't really have a "story" for, but a bunch of pictures can MAKE a story.  Then I heard about this website that might be the answer for these "story-less" people.  So today I share with you a link to Uncle Art's 1000Memories page. 


I don't have any idea who reads this site, but I'm asking (begging) you to go to this page and let me know if you can see the pictures.  Let me know if you can add stories (and please add stories).   I made Uncle Art's page "open" so that others can find it.  I can also make it "Closed" so that I have to approve you, but for Uncle Art, I just sorta think he'd be okay with "open".

My great grandmother’s brothers, Clem and Henry, were among other things, very tall- well over 6 feet and racing to 7.  They were farmers and landowners, as well as railroad workers.

Henry Barnard Konst was born on May 24, 1890 in North Washington, Chickasaw County, Iowa.  His brother, Clemens Henry Konst was born on April 10, 1896 also in North Washington.  In the 1900 census they are in Jacksonville, Chickasaw County and in 1905, they are in Alta Vista, Chickasaw County.  In 1908, they moved to Capa, Jones County, South Dakota with their parents and siblings to a homestead.  But that’s a different part of the story…

When Henry and Clem were 23 and 17, respectively, they were “haymaking” in Aberdeen, South Dakota.  In 1920, Clem married Ora Belle Saxton in Philip, South Dakota and in 1921, they experienced both the birth and death of their daughter Clara.  She was born April 10 and died October 10 that year.

In 1922, Clem married Alice Rose Griswold and the next year, their daughter Dorothy was born.  They had a son, Paul William, in 1925 and a daughter Dorris in 1925.

Closed to camera is Tony Konst.  Two other tallest are Henry and Clem, Tony's sons.

Right to left: Lizzie Elizabeth Bauhaus Konst, Clem and/or Henry (not sure which is which), unknown

After the death of their father, Henry and Clem had a falling out over the land and, despite living in the same small area of South Dakota, didn’t speak for years.

I don’t know much about Henry and Clem, but I did have some correspondence with Jim Konst, Clem’s grandson who reported, “Grandpa was a quite serious man who did not want to leave his home to visit people. Once, my aunt Dorothy and her family ‘kidnapped’ grandpa and brought him to our house, a mere  200 miles away. That was the only time he came to our house.  Grandpa had his opinions as well. He never believed that man went to the moon. His simple logic was: ‘How could they go there without knowing the way.’ Grandpa enjoyed fishing in his retirement.”

From Find-A-Grave in the Midland Cemetery, Midland, SD

From Find-A-Grave in the Midland Cemetery, Midland, SD

Grampa’s Uncle Henry Konst used to tease him for being so many ethnicities and called him, “The Duke of Mixager.”

You see, Grampa’s father was half Scottish and the other half was a little bit of a lot.  Grampa’s mom’s family (Uncle Henry's, too) was German.  All German but with a possible hint of illicit Native American.

While I grew up thinking I was Indian because my dad was born in Indiana, I really didn’t know about the whole possible Native American connection.  But apparently on Great Grama’s death bed, she whispered, “There is some Indian in us.”  Coming from California in the 21st Century, it’s difficult to imagine that being anything but awesome, but times were different in the homestead years and some things were apparently not something the family was proud of.

But all I have to go on for this illicit Native American is a death bed statement, a tease from Uncle Henry about Grampa being named Pierre for a French Indian, and a story from Grampa’s childhood.

When he was a boy, his grampa, Tony Konst, took him to the Indian Reservation.  They went into a tee pee and all sat in a circle and the men smoked a peace pipe.  Grampa doesn’t remember where this was, but he remembers thinking that it was important that they were there and that his grampa was important to these Native Americans.

So was Tony’s mom or dad not who we think but actually a Native American?  Or were Tony’s children those to first house the possible Native American DNA?

We may never know.

But it's cool.
At some point during their time in Capa, South Dakota, my great grandfather, Orville Thomas Conner, decided that he was going to be a turkey farmer. They rented a farm outside of Capa near the Badd River and bought 60 baby turkeys. They raised them to adulthood on that farm south of town. One day, a cyclone came through the farmlands.

After they safely emerged from the cellar, they went to check the livestock. The turkeys were nowhere to be found. They searched and searched until they heard an odd noise down by the river. Looking up, my grandfather and his sisters saw the turkeys in the trees. But they looked odd. Something was amiss.

No feathers?

The tornado had plucked their feathers right out. The turkeys were naked.

They finally came down from the trees to eat, but sadly, died in just a few days from sunburn.

Faced with 60 rotting dead turkeys, Great Grampa had to quickly perform a mass burial. But where? He looked around the place and remembered the hole that tended to retain water after the snow melted each year. He decided that if he buried the turkeys there, and covered them with enough dirt… well, two birds with one stone (so to speak…).

He informed Great Gramma (Ann Konst) of the plan and she insisted it would stink. “No, Ann! We’ll bury ‘em deep! It’ll be fine!”

So Grampa and Great Grampa, using a scoop made of a half-barrel looking piece of metal strung up to the horse, dug and dug and dug. When they thought they were done, they dug even further, just to not hear, “I told you so!” from Great Gramma.

And that was that with the turkey farm.
When visiting with Grampa, I learned that he’d had a brother named, Gerald. Gerald was born the just before one summer that my grandfather went to Salem and died while he was gone. Gerald had a very short life, but even though my grandfather hadn’t spent much time with Gerald and it was over 74 years ago, he still talked about, “My brother, Gerald.”

Dear Signa,

Today you are nine years old. Nine. Nine is a big number and while I can’t believe you are already nine, I also cannot believe that you are only nine. You are smart, understanding and beautiful on the inside and out- more-so than I thought possible for one that is only nine years old.

But today you are nine and you are growing up so fast. You have wants and needs of your own and are more and more self-sufficient each day. Sometimes I forget you are only nine until I find something like your Littlest Pet Shop figures all soggy from a long bath with you. You still curl up in our laps, making yourself almost as small as you were nine years ago and you still perch on your chair like a kitten waiting for something fun to happen.

People comment to me so often about how cheerful you are and how smiley you are. Your face is nearly always open and free and smiling. You aren’t shy and you don’t hide in your shell. You are confident and know what you want and don’t want.

When I ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you tell me an astronaut, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that; I don’t want you so far away from me, for you bring me cheer and joy. And you hate talking on the phone, so that wouldn’t even console me while you were gone. So please pick something else to be. Maybe an entomologist since you love bugs so much? Or an archeologist since you like mummies and the idea of digging things up?

Regardless of what you decide to be, I know you will do it perfectly. You are just brilliant and I’m always so proud of you. Yesterday I watched you with your brother and you were resting your head against his while he was playing video games. It was a very sweet gesture and showed me that you really do like that little guy and that you really do know it. As much as I say how awesome you are as a daughter, I think William would argue with me about being a better sister than a daughter even. Because you are wonderful all the way around in all your roles.

Welcome to your last year in single digit ages, Bunches. I hope it’s your best year so far!

When Grampa was a teenager in the tiny town of Capa, South Dakota, the town’s Catholic priest had a car and family in Salem, Massachusetts. What he didn’t have was the knowledge on how to drive the car. But Grampa did…

Priest's garage in Capa, South Dakota

So the summer when he was 15 years old, Grampa and one of his friends, Clarence Petorski, drove the priest the 1,850 miles to Salem, to stay with his family for the summer. They stopped by my grandfather’s grandfather’s house in Russell, Iowa, where this picture was taken.

The next summer they did it again, only this time, using the brilliance that only a 16-year-old can pull off, Grampa talked the priest into letting his friend Pete come along. Pete knows how to fix things, said Grampa. Remember that trouble we had with the car last year? Pete could fix that!

From the 1937 yearbook of Pete, the friend who came along the 2nd summer
So for two summers, a car of teenagers and a Catholic priest road-tripped to Salem, Massachusetts where they stayed at 3 Milk Street.

The priest had a non-priestly brother who worked all day. Grampa and his friends would impatiently wait all day for the brother to get home and then they’d all head to the Salem Willows.

From the Salem Willows website (http://www.salemwillowspark.com/history.html):

This beautiful wooded and hill peninsula jutting out into Salem Harbor became a municipal park in 1858. Graced with majestic, 200-year-old white willow trees, Salem Willows, a public park since 1858, has a special place in amusement park history.

In 1906, Everett Hobbs & William Eaton offered Americans the first ice-cream cone; “Blind Pat” Kenneally introduced Spanish “double-jointed" peanuts to America from his cart at the Willows.

Bavarian woodcarver Joseph Brown created the famous Flying-horse Carousel in 1866. in 1945, the horses were sold to Macy’s Department Store in New York City , where they graced the famous Macy’s Christmas displays. While the original horses have been replaced, the carousel itself still offers a thrilling ride.

A young Duke Ellington played here in 1923; Count Basie and Louis Armstrong performed as well, at the old Charleshurst Ballroom, now the Willows Casino. A tradition of popular summer jazz concerts continues to this day; jazz vocalist Cassandre McKinley performed here in 2003.
I also asked Grampa how he and Gramma met. Grampa’s best friend Harry (who he was friends with for over 70 years) was dating Grampa’s sister Harriet. Harriet was working in a hospital in the Black Hills and my grandmother Signa worked with her. She’d come down to visit and bring Gramma with her. Or Harry and Grampa would go up and visit.

Before Harry went off to the war, he and Harriet were married. That didn’t last beyond the war (Grampa told me several such stories- should be a lesson in there for the future).  But Gramma and Grampa lasted a lifetime.

Harry Ravenscroft

Harriet Conner

Pierre Conner and Signa (Felt) Conner

Pierre Conner and Signa (Felt) Conner
My grandmother, Signa Felt, was an engraver for Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, California for many years. All the HP equipment had plates with writing that was done by my grandmother or her team. She even did the plaque on the front of Mr. Packard’s boat.

For my great grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, my grandmother made this plaque, which I find fascinating, as the reason I began researching family history was for a plaque. I wanted to create one for my grandfather of his descendents for his 75th birthday and couldn’t get the spacing right. I bought a genealogy computer program and now here we are, 14 years later…

I cannot get this iPhone picture to turn right-side-up. Sorry. Just turn your head...

My grandfather also worked at HP for a time. He was in production and then a master scheduler.

My grandfather’s sister, Fern, married a guy named, Johnny. I called him Uncle Johnny and although he was a bit gruff, he was the kind of man that looked you in the eyes (even when you were six) and told it how it was. You believed him and when he smiled at you, you know it was because you were awesome. Or at least he thought you were.

My Grampa told me a story about Uncle Johnny’s Uncle Pierre (Jean Pierre Origer). Uncle Johnny (and Uncle Pierre) were from Illinois. Uncle Pierre was a sort of a hobo in those days, living wherever, doing whatever. He would disappear for months, even years, and then just pop up again.

During this time, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Fern had an orchard in Cupertino, California and one day while my grandfather was visiting, Uncle Pierre just popped in on them in California after months of being gone from Wisconsin. He said he was in San Jose and heard the name “Origer” in “Origer Orchards” and so decided to see if he was related. He stayed awhile and told some tales.

The kid in me finds this tremendously exciting. I think it did to Grampa, too, as he mentioned him a couple of times and then got as excited as I did when we found a picture of Uncle Pierre.

"How did your parents meet?" I asked Grampa.  He told me that my great grandmother, Anne Ellen Konst, was a school teacher for awhile. Her school was halfway between Midland and Capa, South Dakota. Because it was 5 miles in either direction, she lived in a little house behind the school. In rural areas, sometimes the most you had was a few people in each township, so they would get together in the schoolhouses for dances. My grandfather, Orville Thomas Conner, came from his father’s homestead out in Ottumwa (about 10 miles to the train and then another 10 or 12 miles on the train) for a dance at my great grandmother’s school.

Now, Grampa didn’t tell me if it was love at first sight or anything, but look at these two?!?!? Don’t you think it was?

As many of you know, I spent the weekend with Grampa (Pierre Conner) a couple weeks ago and scanned about 500 pictures and wrote down at least as many stories.  I'll be sharing them here over the next couple of months, so please stay tuned!!!

As a family historian, I tend to think of my ancestors by their full names. “William Mason Conner” “Anton William Konst” “Elizabeth Bauhaus” “Petter Eriksson Felt”  So when I hear stories and they are “Bill”, “Tony,” “Lizzie,” and “Pete”, it’s a story and a smile all on its own.

Also, I’d always thought that my great grandfather’s name was Thomas Orville Conner. But it was Orville Thomas Conner. I’d heard stories that he changed it from one to the other because he didn’t like being called “O’Conner” but when I visited my grandfather, he said that his mom and older brother Miles always called him “Orville.” In Grampa’s papers, there was the delayed birth certificate which is listed to “Orville Thomas Conner”. So I guess it’s official. He was an Orville who was called, “Tom.”]

Tom was a true cowboy; he broke horses and herded cattle through the Midwest. When times were tough during the Depression, though, Great Grampa would do just about anything- from odds and ends around town to working on a bridge crew for the railroad. He also was very well-respected in their small town of Capa, South Dakota. Without being asked, he’d walk the 15 miles to Midland to fetch the doctor when someone needed him. He was the first to volunteer to help out with anything anyone needed.

In those days, the baseball town teams were a very big deal. Each town had a team and the kids played all summer. There were two Native American railroad workers who were exceptional baseball players from Fort Pierre. They were named Louis and Franz Franier and as they traveled their rail routes, they would teach the kids all over the Midwest to play baseball. Tom convinced them to come to Capa and they played on the Kleven’s property by the river. Tom was also the organizer, housing the balls and bats and arranging the games.


Until I spent the weekend with my 92-year-old grandfather, I assumed that the epitome of one’s past, present and future was reflected in the children. But after being with Grampa, it’s definitely him more than my two little ones that shows me this.

Grampa reminds me of what I used to be: a little girl drawing pictures of flowers and writing, “I LOV YUO GAMBA” in squiggle crayons. Grampa reminds me of what I am: a 44-year-old woman who needs to remember that being 44 is just a number. Grampa reminds me of my future: if I take care of myself, I’ll hopefully be 92 and working and taking care of a house and running circles around my 44 year old grandchildren.

Grampa taught me so much this weekend about our family history, about him, and even about myself. I think it’s a rare treat for a family historian to come home from a family visit with her 92-year-old Grampa with 485 scans, 602 stories, and a lifetime of memories.

Thanks, Grampa.

Grampa and his sister Harriet


I had a Water entry all planned out where I was going to tell you about family trips to Santa Cruz, swim lessons in Minnesota, and my encounter with a past life regressionist who informed me of my fear of water.  However, since this is about me and I get to choose, I’m going to instead tell you about our recent trip to the beach in Maine.

To begin, I first have to tell you about our dear friends from Ohio.  We met on the internet through a mommies email group of women all pregnant and due the same month as my daughter.  Sheri and I bonded.  When our girls were five, our families met in Chicago one year and it was almost too good to be true that ALL of us got along.  Since then, we’ve shared a family vacation in California, I’ve been to Ohio a couple of times (and brought my daughter with me once!).  In our co-genealogy work, we’ve also discovered that we are cousins.  My 5-year-old son has dubbed us FUZZINS (they are friends who are also cousins).

This year was another co-family vacation, but in Maine.  We rented a beautiful beach house in Kennebunkport, just a short distance from Goose Rocks Beach.  The house itself had a nice third story loft area that we decided would be a nice place to banish allow the kids to play.  The second floor had two baths, 2 bedrooms with twin beds, a master bedroom and another large room with a queen bed.  The bottom floor had a dining room, a kitchen, and living room and a front room.  The perfect amount of space for our two families.  We were afraid by the description that it was going to be too far from the ocean, but it’s literally right around the corner and we could hear the waves while we were sleeping.

Goose Rocks Beach was also perfect.  There were enough people there so that you knew it was fun, but not enough to call it crowded.  At low tide, you can walk out to an island that is inaccessible a high tide.  There were also several of Signa’s favorite areas where she found hermit crabs, sea snails and other living critters.  The waves were gentle enough that Will could play in them, but strong enough that he WOULD play in them.  Marc and I even joined our friends in boogie boarding one hot afternoon.
The water was amazing.  So different from what I’m used to at the Pacific Ocean’s Santa Cruz beach.  It was warmer and clearer.  I had never been in an ocean where I could see my feet through the water.  Some days the water was colder than others, but all in all, it was definitely warmer.  And I definitely liked it that way!  I loved lying on the shore and jumping in when I needed to cool off.  I loved watching Will frolic in the ocean, punching, jumping and screaming at the waves.  I loved seeing Signa run off with Daddy with her empty bucket and come back all smiles with a bucket full of “friends” (that would then die in said bucket throughout the heat of the day…).

But most of all, I loved being with my Fuzzins.

Speaking of airlines, it’s amazing how much they have changed.  I remember flying Pan-Am as a child and getting treated like royalty.  It’s not like this anymore.  Here is the letter I sent to the CEO of Continental after our trip:

Dear Jeffery A. Smisek:

There was a short “movie” at the beginning of the flight today during which you announced that Continental and United are doing a good job merging.  You also note that one of your main priorities is customer service.  I, however, am not sure that your staff shares your priorities or your view of the merger.  From the outset of our flights for this vacation, we’ve had nothing but problems and cranky staff from those of both United and Continental. 

I work in the customer service industry and so I know how difficult it is to maintain professionalism and friendliness in the face of mergers, pay-cuts, and the public in general.  However, I strive to make sure that my customers know they are my priority.  However instead of feeling like we were someone’s priority for this vacation, we were made to feel like we were cattle- a necessary evil with no deserving respect.

In San Francisco, we waited in line for 35 minutes for a kiosk labeled, “Continental”.  Since our tickets were clearly marked “Continental” we had no reason to believe we should be standing anywhere else.  When the kiosk didn’t work, we flagged down a woman in a Continental uniform who was clearly irritated by us and told us we had to see the United representative.  She gestured to “That Guy over There.”  He was, we were told, the only person who could help us.  So my family of four went and stood in another line for 25 minutes for “That Guy over There.” 

“That Guy over There” proceeded to check our baggage only part way through our trip (it stayed in Cleveland while we continued on to Manchester).  He also failed to give us all the boarding passes for the day.  At LAX, we had to run and scramble to get our passes from a gate attendant who treated us like we were stupid.  We asked where our next gate was and he told us to look at the board.  But our flight, a Continental flight, was not listed on the board.  Finally we asked someone else and they told us (with irritation) that we needed to look at the United board.  We now had very little time to make it to our gate for our next flight.

In Manchester, we found that our luggage was lost and would be delivered around 2pm the next day to our hotel.  Our luggage was not delivered until midnight and that was only after making several dozen calls.

On our trip home, the flights were all “over-sold” and the attendants were rude and overworked, rolling their eyes at us constantly.  At every airport we’ve visited this trip (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Manchester) all your staff have been frazzled and rude. I realize that I’m not a frequent leisure traveler, but I’ve not experienced this level of poor customer service with other airlines when I travel for business.  I usually go the cheapest route, regardless of airline.  This was my first United/Continental experience and, in the future, I will keep this experience in mind and choose accordingly, despite costs.  It was extremely disappointing and I hope that your merger straightens out soon so that you can work on the customer service aspect of your flights.

Deborah E. Mascot


I was fast-forwarding through commercials the other evening when I experienced a flashback through my whole body. I felt like I was transported to another time. I quickly pressed replay to see what it was that set me off. It was this:

A commercial for a show called Pan-Am. I hadn't seen that logo since I was a child when Dad worked for them for a decade or so. Back then I saw it on everything. Our duffel bags. Mom and Dad's winter coats. Our toothbrushes. The notepads we drew on. The pens we drew with. Etc. On E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. That logo was more familiar to me than I even could explain in words. And yet, if you asked me to describe it, I wouldn't be able to. It's a logo that is a FEELING more than a THING. And now they are making a show about it. I can’t decide if I should record it or slap my forehead in horror. So I think I’ll do both.

Grampa and the CCCs

“Our greatest task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our national resources.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 4 March 1933

Franklin Roosevelt at CCC  Camp, Shenandoah National Park, 1933

From the spring of 1939 to the summer of 1941, at the age of 20, my grandfather, Pierre Conner, was in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs), working in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The CCCs were part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) New Deal. The most popular of all New Deal programs. The CCCs provided jobs to conserve and develop natural resources in rural government lands. The CCCs began in 1933 and ended in 1942, providing nearly 3 million unemployed men, age 18 to 25, with $30 a month ($25 went to their parents).

Two weekends ago, I got a bug up my you-know-what and had to know more about Grampa and the CCCs. Here is the result of that Butt Bug:

My Grampa and the CCCs.

It was fun to pick Grampa's brain, write up the information, and then send it to him along with a book that I found, titled, "Civilian Conservation Corps: In and Around the Black Hills," by Peggy Sanders. There is a Thanksgiving menu in the book that lists Grampa and his best friend, Harry, who my dad is named for.
July 22, 1971

My Dear Debbie

Today you are four years old. What a happy day it must be for you. I will miss being with you for this birthday, the first one I have missed by it is probably the beginning of many I will miss. But I will think of you on your day.

Honey, I will always remember when I lived with you and how you "took care of me" for Grandpa. Remember you always got me my stool- sat in my chair with me and watched our programs. How we always took a nap together and when I called Grnadpa you always said- "Grandma just tell him the good things". Honey, all I knew were good things to tell him about you.

Now you are a big girl - 4 years old. You are growing up so fast pretty soon maybe you can get on an airplane alone and come and take care of me some more.

I love you very much and hope y our birthday is happy. I miss you too.

Be a good girl.



William lost his second tooth day before yesterday.  I came home from work and he greeted me with all the gory details about the twisting and turning and bloodiness.  He pulled it out himself, which is brave of him since neither Marc nor I have the intention of ever pulling out teeth.  Regardless of how "hangy" they are.  Shiver.  Tooth Fairy came and brought him $1.50.
William finished his 4-week golf class and did great.  He sort of surprised me in how well he listened and follwed directions and stayed focused.  Now that we know he can, there will be more of that expected of him!  I will have video of his golf at some point.  It's not posted quite yet.

Signa started her weekend with a 4-H Dog Field Day where she decided at the last minute to enter the Junior Showmanship competition.  And she won 2nd place!  We were both happy (and surprised).

Then on Sunday, Signa entered her first karate competition in the Forms category.  Here is the video for that:

Dear William,

Tomorrow is Easter and you also turn five years old. The next time you have a birthday on Easter will be when you turn 89 years old and although it’s silly, it makes me sad to know that I won’t be there with you to celebrate that birthday. Tomorrow is my last celebration of your birthday on Easter. And today is last day for me to have a four-year-old.

To say that four has been easy would not be truthful. To say that it’s been equally challenging and wonderful would be. You are an adorable little boy, full of life and energy. You are polite, saying please and thank you, and you are curious, trying out all kinds of things. Even the not-so-smart ones.

You love to be with your friends, but still do a lot of parallel play. You loved our trip to Disneyland and you love our trips to the park. Sometimes I’m not sure which you like more. This year, you played soccer and did very well. You wanted to do it again, so we just finished sign-ups. You also wanted golf, so that starts next week and you are doing a couple of camps this summer. One is a drop off day came and you are a bit nervous, as you haven’t been dropped off before. But I know that you will do very well, as you are mature and capable of listening and following directions. For the most part.

You still think Signa is the bee’s knees and try to emulate her in everything you do. You love to play with her and be with her and when she is apart from you, you just aren’t yourself. This year you lost your Aunt Gin and I think that was harder on you than we yet know. But we love you so much that we are going to love that hurt right out of you.

You are still my cuddly little man and I hope that doesn’t change any time soon. I love getting my morning snuggles and hugs and my afternoon Big Hug greeting. You make my day every day with your joy and energy and silliness.

Thank you for being my delightful big stink.  Who just told me that you are taller today and your feet are longer because you are now five.

I love you.

Civil War

I normally don't really post genealogy here, but I really liked this Civil War study that I did on our family, so I'd like to share it!



William just lost his first tooth, so the sound of the letter F is going to make more of an appearance at Mascot Manor, I'm sure.

Now that my dad has his copy, I can share my first ever book! You may recall the presentation I shared. Well, that was actually part of a book that I was working on. Actually, part of a book that I’m still working on, but I decided to do one part as its own separate book.

I gave a copy to my parents for their birthdays and then sent a copy to my grandfather and a copy to my brother. I also sent a copy to the man I know that is (or was- not sure now) the home owner’s association president for Blue Oaks, the site of the former Mariani Ranch.

I’m actually really proud of it! Here is the link to its very own site. The Mariani Ranch.


WOO HOO! Since the next book is the history of the Mariani family itself, I think I'll use the same exact style and cover. Make it a 2-book set.

Ginger Marie

Today it was with great sadness and pain that I opened my genealogy program to make a new entry: the death date of my beloved sister-in-law Ginger Marie. At 55, Ginger was much too young to go. Her life was filled with beauty and greatness and her family and friends are going to miss her more than mere words can ever express.

Ginger lived in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California at her death on March 10, 2011. She had moved back to Woodland Hills only a few months ago, previously living in San Jose, California with Phil Jarone, her cousin and great friend.

Ginger was born to Kilbourne Eugene Fisher and Millicent Lenore Jarone on February 18, 1956 in San Jose, California. She was the eldest of four, with Melody, Candy and Marc coming later. She always took her job as “big sister” extremely seriously. Although in her early big-sister years she sometimes tested evil tendencies (“Melody, pick up that bee and see what happens,”), her later big sister years were filled with the amazing outpouring of love and patience and even more love for both of her sisters and her brother (and me!). There isn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that her siblings meant the world to her.

She also had a great deal of love for her first cousin, once removed, Phil Jarone. Phil was more than a first cousin, once removed to Ginger (and to all of the family). Phil is a friend, stand-in grandfather, uncle and wonder. Ginger loved Phil immensely and one of the most fun things she ever talked about was their trip to Catalina Island together. Her friend, Jason Barnett, is also someone who cannot be left unmentioned as important in Ginger’s life. Jason has been a part of our family due to his closeness with Ginger for many years and I know that many of Ginger’s happiest of times were when she was with Jason.

Ginger also adored her nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. Her sister Candy’s children, April, Autumn and Carl, are older and have stories of their own to tell of Aunt Gin, but I do know that she spent a lot of time bragging and admiring those three beautiful children/now-adults. As to her “newer” niece and nephew, my children, all I can say is that their Aunt Gin is leaving a great gynormous whole in their little hearts. Their Aunt Gin was a very big part of their lives and they spent a lot of time with her. I think they secretly loved her so very much because she had so much in common with their dad. From monsters to movies to super heroes, Aunt Gin knew all the cool stuff just like Daddy. What they haven’t figured out yet is that Daddy knew it and loved it because his big sister, Ginger, taught him.

I have heard stories about how she used to watch Creature Features with Marc on Friday nights (a tradition which Marc has continued with our daughter). The difference is that Marc doesn’t: a) have Signa brush his hair through it; and, b) Marc doesn’t make Signa sleep on the floor in our room after watching a scary movie like the Exorcist. But the fact remains that in many ways, Marc has tailored his parenting to house some of the “parenting” that his big sister did for him. Ginger was always protective of Marc and showed him so many fun things in life, from music to movies to art. Marc does the same for our children.

For my own memories of Ginger, one of my favorite things was her ability to tell a story. She would get so caught up in the meaning and the ending that she would just make up words that were too troublesome to remember. One of the best occasions of this has lived on for decades and I’m sure will for decades to come. She was telling a story about Macaulay Culkin, the child from the movie Home Alone. She didn’t even try to get his name right and just said, “Corn McCracken.” We all had a good laugh, but in fact we knew exactly what she meant. Just as we always did.

Ginger was the first of Marc’s family that I met 26 years ago. Marc brought me to her house for Thanksgiving and I remember thinking that she was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. She was striking with her beautiful hair and make-up and she was an awesome hostess. I remember her beautiful smile throughout the day as she served up platters of food. Later, as I grew to know her better, I found that there was a difference in Ginger Smiles. When I first met her, she had that classic Ginger fake smile. It was beautiful on her, but if you were really, really lucky, you would get to see her flash a REAL genuine smile. And that would absolutely blow you away.

When Marc and I lived with Ginger, she and I used to watch taped episodes of All My Children together in the mornings while eating breakfast and putting on our makeup on the floor of the living room. I decided that one thing she will miss the most is her AMC, since I know she still watched it religiously. So I set it to tape on the DVR and from now on, I’ll watch it for her. Maybe she can peek over my shoulder as the TV is on and get caught up.

I don’t think there was ever a moment when I was in Ginger’s presence that she didn’t have me smiling. She made me laugh and cry, but most of all, she made me smile. It’s rare for me, but she somehow through the years, without trying, earned a sacred place in my heart where I house those who I unconditionally love. Somehow, no matter what, Ginger had my full love. Always did and always will.

Ginger is survived by her mother, Millie Mascot of Copperopolis, CA, her beloved cousin Phil Jarone of San Jose, CA, her brother, Marc Mascot of Livermore, CA, her sister, Melody Kinnard of Granite Bay, CA, and her sister, Candy Lann of Sacramento, CA, and close friend, Jason Barnett of Burbank, CA. She also has two nephews and three nieces, and eight great nieces and nephews. And a host of other friends and relatives that will miss her.

Ginger is preceded in death by her grandparents and her beloved Kitty Juan Jesus Valdez. Kitty Juan, as he was known, was fed shrimp all his life (called, “Shrimpies!” with the exclamation point) and was a beautiful, wonderful jerk of a cat who lived to be close to 30. He meant the world to Ginger and if there is any good in the afterlife, she is petting Kitty Juan right now and feeding him giant shrimpies in the sky.

As I looked for a quote or poem to end this writing, I couldn’t decide what to exactly look for, so I just browsed. I came across this, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight,” by Kahlil Gibran. This seemed to fit perfectly, as it’s true; I am crying for the delight that was Ginger. I think she’d like that.

But maybe not as much as she’d like this one to excuse her absence from our lives:

“You will, I trust, excuse that I do not join you but I have dined already and I never drink…wine.” –Dracula

Pile o' Cash

Today's headline, "Gaddafi hints he is ready to leave Libya (but 'only if rebel council gives him a pile of cash and promises not to prosecute')" is... hilarious. 

Seriously, what kind of world leader asks for a "pile of cash"?  How important do you need to be to feel that you are actually entitled to a "pile of cash".  And, really, what is a "pile of cash".  Shouldn't he define this more clearly or surely someone will be smart enough to make a small pile of ones and legally call it a "pile of cash". 

"Here is fifty bucks in a pile, Gaddafi.  Now get the hell out." 

Sometimes people just crack me up.
Last Tuesday, I took the day off and took William to the Oakland Zoo. It was a beautiful sunny day and in celebration of a Hitting-Free two weeks (a story for another day...), I decided the little man deserved a reward. We spend the morning with the animals and then after lunch headed over to the ride area. If you haven't been to the Oakland Zoo, you need to understand that the ride area is just a few small carnival rides. In fact, there are two rides there that have NEVER even worked. There is a small roller coaster. Think: up, down, and around twice- just enough to feel sick, but not quiet enough to induce vomit. And no thrills to offset the queeze. There is a carousel with the standards zoo carousel animals to sit on. And go up, down, and around a few times. (yes, more queeze). There is a train ride that is actually pretty cool. And then there are the cars.

Tiny cars going in a circle. There is no gas and no brake, as they are all attached to poles attached to the center. They go MAYBE zero miles per hour. But the attendant on Sunday was extremely serious about his job. I didn’t catch his name, but let’s call him, “Nazi Car Guy” (NCG for short).

We got to the car ride and there were a cluster of kids “lined” up as per the usual. No attendant in sight, but one lady was nervously telling everyone to get in line. In a real line, not a 3-year-old line. “The guy is going to insist, so I’m just sayin’.” She was twitching and looking over her shoulders. Her child was rigid with fright, but I just thought they were weird.

Until NCG showed up. He stood on the other side of the gate. I really think that he saw it as being St. Peter deciding who could go through the pearly gates. Sadly, the gate is all of 2 feet high metal. Not a pearl in sight.


Keep in mind that in order to go on this ride, the children must be between 36 and 42 inches. So it’s for those ages 2-5. It’s not the Tower of Terror or a safari adventure where children could slip out and be eaten by lions. It’s a car ride where cars go around in slow circles.

With the help of startled parents, the children lined up, bewildered, but still sort of plotting which car they were going to maneuver through the intricate circle of fun. NCG would soon take that plotting away, as each child was demanded to STAND AGAINST THE RULERED WALL SO THAT I CAN MAKE SURE YOU ARE THE APPROPRIATE HEIGHT.

Rather than glancing haphazardly with little or no interest at the child next to the ruler as they do in the normal world, NCG opened the gate, walked through, stood next to the ruler wall and then proceeded with The Procedure.

STAND WITH YOU FEET AGAINST THE WALL. YES, LIKE THAT. He would then take his pointer and carefully hold it to the point at which the top of the child’s head reached. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WALL. He would then carefully examine the place where the pointer touched. Sometimes he’d have the child come back to start over.

If the child was approved, he would go back to the gate, open it, let the child through. WALK! DO NOT RUN! REMEMBER WALK, DO NOT RUN.

Then he repeated on the next child.


And then the children gleefully went around in stupid circles ten exact times, smiling and giddy with power.

The parents and grandparents were all swearing to report NCG. Muttering to one another throughout the entire ordeal about how they can’t believe this and spouting expletives when their child was too small at 35.99 inches or too big at 42.01 inches.

I, however, was laughing and making mental notes for writing fodder.