2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 33 (Aug. 12-18): Comedy

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 33 (Aug. 12-18): Comedy

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!



The “Comedy” prompt once again has me scratching my head… I first thought I had nothing on one individual for comedy… but between myself and hubby, I soon discovered that there were family members that might offer a few remembered comedy incidents… so in this post I’ve chosen to write comedy remembrances on both our family members!

I’m starting with my grandfather, Edgar Thomas McKinley… who my mother always said had a dry sense of humor… does that mean comedy? Some of  his shenanigans should have gotten him into trouble, but they somehow always seemed to escape… unharmed! Let’s begin with his days as a young hooligan… pranking his grandfather, Joseph Thomas Sharp, as he snoozed in his comfy chair on the porch. Granddaddy and his brother Joe often stuck matches in grandpa’s shoe while he slept… lighting, and quickly running away… giving grandpa Joe a hotfoot! I’m sure he shook his fists at those hooligans as he called them the “limbcats of the devil.” I searched out that phrase but came up empty, but I’m sure we can all surmise of what it meant!

Granddaddy just always had a bit of devilment in him… it seems in growing up. In as much as he loved my grandmother, he could just never resist a little humor… not sure it was always as funny to her, as it was too him. Any time she walked by, if he’d just struck a match for his cigarette… he couldn’t resist the urge to pop her leg with the still warm head of the matchstick! I’m not sure I would have just jumped as she did without resisting the urge to pay him back… but she jumped each time… and he chuckled each time! He loved her and would have fought the world to protect her… but he never tired in making her jump!

He never lost his dry humor, as mama called it, and while spending time in a veteran’s home, he had no problem in antagonizing the nurses there; it’s a miracle he didn’t get in trouble or actually hurt someone in his joking around. Him having a cane there was dangerous for them… as any nurse who walked by was fair game, and he thought nothing of taking the handle and hooking their leg. Mama always said, “it’s a miracle that he never broke their leg“! I’m sure it didn’t take long before they learned how to do a quick shuffle around Mr. McKinley’s chair… but that was his entertainment… and he always chuckled. No matter how many times mama told him he shouldn’t do that… he paid no attention!

I guess granddaddy was the only one in my family that joked around… as I don’t remember anyone else being comedic!

In hubby’s family, I would say Uncle Frank Cambino had comedy running through his veins… always having a joke to entertain… especially with the young kids… and he loved having them beg as to how it was done. Even if they’d seen the joke before, he always managed to twist it around in a different way to continue entertaining them. There was usually a deck of cards always within arms length… just begging to be used in a trick… and often, even us adults sat there befuddled… wanting to know how he did it.

One of my favorite stories and jokes he told was with a deck of cards about a bank robber… I believe he asked you to pick the card that the robber would steal…and as he told the story, cards shuffled from here to there… and everyone who reads this and has heard the story… you’ll remember what the robber stole, always ended up in his pocket! He amazed us all with this one… every single time!

I bet he learned his way around cards from his father, Joe Cambino… as my husband remembers grandpa showing and amazing him with a card trick when he was only five years old… and he’s never forgotten it. It begins with a deck of cards… put all the suits together in the same order of ace to king or king to ace… just be sure and do each one the same way; stack the suits on top of each other in the same order as you put them together… then cut the deck thirteen times. You can cut it 26 times also… just alway cut it in multiples of 13 times. Lay the cards out face down, one by one, in a circle of thirteen… you’ll discover that they will all lay back together in their own similar groups… with each group consisting of only one “number like” card, consisting of all suits… it will make you smile… and wonder! If you’ve cut them exactly 13 times and laid them out correctly in going around.. when you turn them over, they will all show in the same suit for every number. (Always remember where you laid the first card!)

Are you looking for a deck of cards yet?

Uncle Johnny (Cambino) was comedic… not necessarily in telling jokes, but just in general in his way of talking. He could tell a story… about almost anything… and make it funny! He seemed to always be happy, and enjoyed laughing! It was just his manner as he colored a story… which made you laugh… and always wanting to hear more!

A few of Uncle Jimmy’s puzzles… making them made him smile! The boomerangs he whittled and painted to give to all his favorite waitresses at The Outback… he enjoyed entertaining wherever he went!

And then there was Uncle Jimmy (Donahue), the lone Irishman, in hubby’s almost all Italian family. Now this man could tell a story… although it might take awhile to get around the bush… to get to the end, but it was repeatedly entertaining and funny! Uncle Jimmy always had something lurking in his pocket to entertain young and old alike. If the kids were around, he’d pull out a simple piece of string, and before you knew it, he had their attention. He never came without a new puzzle to amaze you with… and we still have a box full of them today, saved over the years. If he saw a puzzle somewhere… he came home and duplicated it, and then passed dozens around throughout the family. I’m sure whoever is reading here, still have many of these same puzzles tucked away in a drawer.

Uncle Jimmy’s daughter, Diane D. Taylor remembering her father’s comedy ways… “Anytime he would meet a little girl, he’d say “hello little boy”… or “hello little girl” to a boy… and they always got very indignant… which gave him a good chuckle out of it! He also enjoyed making little wooden gadgets and leaving them around in the train station and waiting rooms at the VA… just to watch people pick them up… play.. and become frustrated! (My father was a train conductor for Amtrak Railroad)

His rope tricks were especially entertaining… he’d pull out just a plain string from his pocket and begin looping his finger… you’d think he was tying a knot… then he’d have you loop it on your finger… yours always knotted… while his would come off straight… leaving you befuddled and wondering why his string wasn’t in a knot!” 

I’ll never forget my father saying… “Holy Bootfeet”… it was his words for holy cow or omg!” (Diane D. Taylor)

Even a slice of pie could become a funny moment with Uncle Jimmy. I often baked him his favorite… pecan pie… and he never failed to say after the first piece, “I think there’s something wrong with this pie, I need another slice.” Sometimes it took several slices to discover what was wrong with it! It was comical at its best!

My Son, Steve remembers… “Whenever Uncle Jimmy would first see me, he’d immediately say “how are you little girl?” Naturally I’d say, I’m a boy not a girl… and it would continue on and on, with him smiling and repeating it until one of us gave in. I remember him telling me that he ate milk and sugar sandwiches as a kid”… but I’m pretty sure today that he really didn’t, but as a kid… I probably made a face, thinking he did.”

In asking my husband what he remembered as funny on Uncle Jimmy… “I always thought it funny how he never ate sweets until after retirement… then he suddenly craved all sweets, never turning down anything! When I was young, he was too busy working and building things… everyone in the family had the “over the window cornices” to keep the curtains from gathering dust.”

Stay tuned for Week 34: Tragedy featuring… Uncle Freddie Cambino


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 32 (Aug 5 – Aug 11): Sister

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 32 (Aug 5 – Aug 11): Sister

Week 32_ Sisters

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!

The McKinley “Sisters”

When I wrote a recent story for my 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Large Family, it left me thinking… there’s more to the sisters than I wrote in that post… so I’m continuing here.

Charlie & Lena VanDusen and Emma & Charlie Murray 1930s[10283]

L. to R.: Charlie & Emma (McKinley) Murray, unknown woman, Lena (McKinley) & Charlie Van Dusen

What a classic picture… wonder who took this photograph, and why? It was always known that Aunt Emma took all the family photographs we are thankful to have today… so I bet it was her camera used for this classic shot! Charlie Murray was quite the looker here, as was Emma. Lena still looking stern to me, and Charlie Van Dusen was a tall and distinguished man. The entire lot of them remind me of a Bonnie and Clyde scene… Charlie Murray definitely has the gangster swag! As to the “mystery woman” with them in the photo… could it possibly be Charlie Murray’s mother or sister?

Sister No. 1


Lena C. McKinley Van Dusen

1886 – 1969

Lena (1886-1969) was born on August 4th, 1886 in the Militia District 107 area of Powelton, Hancock County, Georgia…. to parents of Edgar Lawson (1863-1944), and Rossie L. McKinley (1869-1902). She was the first child born in this family… and with Edgar being a dirt farmer… she was not the son needed to help on the farm. Their second child, also a girl, Cora, born 1888 and soon followed by a third daughter, Emma Mae, born 1892. As boys were needed on the farm… their first son, Joseph Lawson was finally born in 1894, followed by Edgar Thomas in 1895 (my grandfather), Richard Everett in 1896, Nevilla C. in 1898, and Lonnie in 1901. I guess as they seemed to be on a streak with boys… they just kept going!

RosieSharp McKinley frame Billy McKinley owns FIX

The sisters mother… Rossie Sharp McKinley (This photo in cast iron frame was shared by cousin Billy McKinley)

My grandfather, Edgar Thomas McKinley (1895 – 1972) was 8 years old when his mother Rossie L. Sharp died… and his oldest sister Lena was only a teenager at age sixteen. The responsibility of all her siblings had just fallen upon her shoulders… maybe that’s why she never had a family… having already felt as if she’d raised enough children. Lena soon became the mother in the family to him, along with the rest of the family… whether she wanted to or not! My mother always talked about how she raised him… and probably why she felt very close to him… visiting and spending two weeks on his farm every summer… even after she married. He also visited her and Charlie (Van Dusen) at their home in Grant Park in Atlanta… driving there by wagon and later by car. Mama remembers those long rides to visit Aunt Lena and spend the day… and how her father would tie the horse in the backyard while visiting… returning home in the same day. I can’t imagine a ride to Atlanta in a wagon… and all in one day. It seems that as soon as you arrived and had your coffee, that it’d be time to untie the horse for the ride home.

Family life changed in the McKinley household for all the sisters and brothers when their mother, Rosie L. (Sharp) died in 1902…. the following year after their brother Lonnie died in 1901. No one has ever said as to why either died, but it was mentioned how Rosie had been very sickly most her life.

I’m sure Lena did what she could for the family and her father Edgar Lawson McKinley, but this country-born girl left for the big city of Atlanta in 1908, and alone as far as I know; that’s the first year I found her living alone on the city census, and single. Lena was 21 years old, single, residing at 75 Rock St. and working as an operator at the Southern Bell Telegraph Company.

Lena had always been thought of as a strong-willed and smart woman… and the first of the family to leave home after her father remarried… as it was known in the family that Lena did not like her stepmother. Aunt Emma soon followed to live with Lena and also found employment at Southern Bell for a short time.

McKinley Lena Atlanta Directory 1908

Lena McKinley first found on Atlanta, Georgia city directory (1908)

Edgar Lawson McKinley remarried in 1908 to Nancy Josephine “Minnie” Askew and became an instant mother to all of Edgar’s children except for Lena… as she appeared on the 1908 city directory in Atlanta. She began in the very company that she would later retire from on September 30, 1942. I had heard that she’d worked there for over 40 years… working her way up from operator, to clerk and finally to supervisor… and well known in the company. As mama always said… “she was a very smart woman, and knowing well how to manage money. When she died she left her will to continue caring for her living brothers and sisters… and after the last one died, she left her estate to all her nieces, nephews and great nieces and great nephews.” 

Lena M VanDusen telephone card Fix2

Aunt Lena’s retirement card from Bell Telephone Company (1942)

Lena M VanDusen telephone card Fix

Lena was made a Life Member of Telephone Pioneers of America on November 7, 1945

Lena met Charles Leonard Van Dusen while living in Atlanta, and possibly while living in the boarding house on Rock St; maybe Charles also lived there. Sometime between 1910 and 1915, she married. Charles was from New York, rumored to be Canadian… not sure how he ended up in Atlanta, but somehow they met and married. I have not found their marriage license, but on the 1915 city directory, Lena was listed as married. Cousin Billy told me that the first car Lena and Charlie bought was a Hupmobile (1909-1939)… sure wish we had a photo of them alongside that car.

Lena Charles Van Dusen FIX

Charlie and Lena (McKinley) Van Dusen (photo taken posb by 1915)

Lena both Fix

This photo of Lena seems to have been taken around the same time as the one above… she is wearing the same glasses and has the same waves in her short hair. Possibly this photo might have been taken at the time of her wedding and possibly taken on their wedding day.

After my grandfather was discharged from the Army in 1918, he went to live with Lena in Atlanta and worked in her husband, Charlie Van Dusen’s, cabinet shop… where he learned carpentry. Granddaddy didn’t remain there very long… I guess dirt farming was too much in his blood. He returned home to Greene County where he met my grandmother, Ola Askew; they married in 1923.

Granddaddy and Lena remained close through the years… she visited his farm every summer, often staying over two weeks at a time. I think she enjoyed her summers of farm life… so different from the city life in Atlanta. She enjoyed pitching in to help my grandmother can the vegetables from her garden, or helping her brother on the farm. On one of those summer visits, she decided to cut a door into the dining room that my grandmother had wanted. When Lena set her head to doing something… there was no way it wasn’t going to get done. Lena was very close to my grandmother… her sister-in- law.

The story goes that my grandmother Ola (Askew) had been asking my grandfather to cut a doorway in the dining room for easier access to the back room. To reach it before, you had to go through their bedroom, into the front hallway, and then into the back room… but if a door was cut in the dining room, then you had immediate access into the back room from the dining room. As granddaddy hadn’t really wanted to, he had put it off… Lena quickly decided grandmamma was right… a door should be there… and she took it upon herself with a saw in hand… and cut the opening. Once she cut the doorway, there was no turning back. I was told that granddaddy finished the job. Lena knew how to motivate him… just start the project… and then he had no choice but to finish! I can just imagine the muttering my grandfather as he finished that door frame!

Lena was my mother’s favorite aunt and eagerly awaited her coming every summer for those two weeks. She looked up to her… being a strong female… so unlike her mother who was more passive. Lena even came for mama’s high school graduation in 1947, and sewed a white dress for mama to wear under her gown. Mama laughs about it now, but still says how she hated it because it was too big… everyone back then always wanted to make clothes too big for you… so you could grow into it… getting more wear time! Mama always had wanted her clothes to fit at the moment, not grow into! Lena made many dresses for my mother through the years… she seemed to have been quite the seamstress, even having a unique sewing caddy that she gave to my mother years later. Mama seemed to have followed in her footsteps in the sewing department… she made her own clothes and mine… until I began begging for store bought dresses. (I wrote about Aunt Lena’s sewing cabinet as an heirloom – see link above)

Lena asked my mother to come to Atlanta after she graduated and work at the telephone company for her… but by that time mama had already met my father, who was in the Navy… so her future was already set in place… marriage. Even though mama never left the farm to go live with Lena… she did stay with her for weeks at a time during the summers.

I wish I’d been older than the 8 year old young girl who only looked at Aunt Lena as that stern older woman who scared me. My mother often told me through the years how Aunt Lena was interested in the McKinley family history and talked about the three McKinley brothers who came over from Ireland… one went North, one went South and one went West… and we descended from the one who came South. While I’ve never been able to pinpoint any of that… but if the one who went West is related, then it would have probably been President William McKinley. What I wouldn’t give to go back and sit on Aunt Lena’s front porch with my pencil and paper… I’m sure I’d leave with some great stories!

Researching in those early years was very difficult, but did she really research… or only know the stories she’d heard through the years. Researching at that time meant traveling to courthouses and libraries and encountering people who didn’t even understand what genealogy was all about… they looked at it as… their work day was being interrupted!

From cousin Billy McKinley… “Lena was very intelligent and the family historian, telling stories that I only vaguely remember now of events from the 19th Century. She told about grandpa or uncle somebody or other who was in a prison camp at the end of the war and had to walk all the way back to Georgia. (Could that have been our grandfather Joseph T. Sharp or possibly Hugh Lawson McKinley?) Another story was about one of the grandpa’s that was out in a field plowing with a mule when a thunderstorm came up. A tree fell on him as he made his way back to the house, and the injury caused him to get pneumonia… dying shortly thereafter. She knew how many slaves everybody in the family had owned. She would say “Uncle So and So, he owned such and such number of slaves”… and then repeat that information about the rest of them. Aunt Emma later lived with us for a short time, and during that period she told my mother that Charlie Van Dusen was Canadian and had fled Canada due to some trouble concerning his taxes. I may not have this exactly right, but I think that Emma was living with Lena at a rooming house in Atlanta when they first moved there. Charlie either lived there too, or was hanging around to meet some ladies.”

“I went with my aunt Joanne once to visit the grave of Rossie Sharp McKinley in Powelton… we also visited a cousin who lived nearby; she was in her 90’s, but still sharp as a tack. She told us that Edgar Lawson couldn’t afford a gravestone when Rossie first died in 1902, but a couple years later he bought one and carried it to the cemetery in his horse and wagon to place on her grave. Upon telling my grandfather this, who also was a son of Edgar Lawson, he chuckled and said about the cousin… “Is she still fat?” “No she’s not fat.” He then said, “well she used to be fat.”(I laughed as I read that as it painted such a picture for me of my great uncle chuckling as he asked… and laughing to myself, that after all those years, he still remembered her, but as fat.)”

“Emma told me while living with us how she and Lena had to care for their baby brother Lonnie (b. 1901-d.1901) when he was born as their mother was sickly. She mentioned how they really didn’t know much about caring for a baby, but did the best they could. Maybe being there when he died shortly after his birth caused them to never want children of their own later in life… as it would be something you’d never forget.”

Lena McKinley Van Dusen with birthday cake (2)

Aunt Lena’s birthday! (Photo shared by Billy McKinley)

We often went to Aunt Lena’s house in Atlanta on weekends … she lived directly across from Grant Park… where the Grant Zoo, and the famous Civil War Cyclorama was. One of the first things she always told me was, “don’t go to the park by yourself, there are bad people down there.” Who listened when you saw a big swing set sitting there that was calling to you? It only took one time of me sneaking down there, and her pulling me back to her house, fussing all the way that I better not do that again… and I didn’t… as I was too terrified of what she would do next time! That was the era of  “switches” and the saying, spare the rod and spoil the child… and believe me my mama didn’t spare the rod!

Another place that I wasn’t supposed to sneak into was her living room… which was full of antiques… and not a thing out of place. While I didn’t plan on touching anything… and very afraid to do so… I often snuck in there. All of her antiques fascinated me and I wanted to see, but often, quicker than lightning, Aunt Lena discovered me, pulling me out and telling me that I shouldn’t be in places where I’d been told to not go! She felt children shouldn’t touch her things! I’m sure she kept her eyes on me when I came and hardly gave me a moment to sneak!

Mama says she never felt Lena was stern around her, but she knew that Lena didn’t like you to touch her things without asking. One funny trait Lena had was that when she went to bed at night, she sat her shoes up on the mantle… as she didn’t want anyone to step on her shoes. It’s kind of funny to think about… as who’s walking around your house at night! Maybe she thought ghosts were there?

I enjoyed taking baths at her house when we spent the weekend… she had a big claw foot bathtub… and so high that I had to step on a stool to get over the side. I’d never seen a tub like that before… and as I’ve never forgotten it… guess it left a lasting impression on me.

Besides the sewing cabinet (link above in story) Aunt Lena gave my mother… she also gave her a few crystal glasses and salt dishes… the salt dishes I remember being quite intrigued with. The one piece of jewelry she gave mama was a white platinum diamond brooch, which I also blogged about in Friday Heirlooms.

Lena McKinley obit

Lena McKinley Van Dusen died January 5th, 1969 in Atlanta, Georgia


Sister No. 2

Redone picture of Cora McKinley

Cora McKinley Beckum

1888 – 1910

Cora was born in January of 1888 in Powelton, Hancock County, Georgia. She has been the sister that very little has been known of. In 1900, she was 12 years old and living home with both parents, as her other sisters were… but things quickly changed for the sisters, after their baby brother, Lonnie, died in 1901, and soon after their mother died in 1902.

I found a marriage record for Cora in Baldwin County when she married Marshall Norwood Beckum on April 12, 1908… the same year her sister Lena left home… and the same year her father remarried… we might assume she married in Baldwin County as it was told that she had moved there and worked as a nurse.

In the 1910 census, Cora, was listed with her husband and new baby, Lucille, and now living in Powelton, Hancock County … next door to her father, step-mother and siblings. Living next door just makes me wonder even more as to why she married in Baldwin, or rather why she applied for the marriage license there… possibly because her husband was from there? Cora died shortly after her daughter was born from all I’ve heard in stories from my mother. I’ve yet to find anything online to date that, but she is not with Marshall in 1920. It’s been told that Cora’s death resulted from some type of fever and that she’s buried in Gum Hill Cemetery in White Plains,  Greene Co., Georgia. Being she was a nurse, possibly she contracted the fever at the hospital where she worked.

On the 1920 census, Marshall is now married to Evelyn “Evie” (Durden) and living in Midway, Baldwin Co., Ga, with children Myrtle Lucille, age 10, and Marshall, age 1. They were living next door to a Carlos Beckum, age 26… both Beckum’s were carpenters… and possible brothers.

Beckum Lucille marriage

It seems that at some point in 1910, Cora died and Marshall raised Myrtle Lucille Beckum by himself until he remarried a short time later… by 1919 Lucille had a sibling. I have not determined how Myrtle ended up marrying in Brattleboro, VT. but once she married, she moved around with her husband to Massachusetts and New York.

Sister No. 3


Emma Mae McKinley Murray

1892 – 1976

Emma Mae McKinley was born on April 4, 1892 in Powelton, Hancock County, Georgia. I’m sure my great grandfather wasn’t happy to have a third girl, but the two other sisters were probably thrilled. Within two years the boys soon began flowing into the family… finally making their father happy.

Emma Sharp Sister of Joseph T Sharp FIXemma sharp info note FIx

Emma Sharp – Emma’s mother’s (Rossie Sharp McKinley) sister. This note was found with the photo of Emma Sharp and tells that Emma Mae McKinley was named for her aunt; the photo was taken before Emma was born. (Photo shared by cousin Billy McKinley)

Emma McKinley glassesFix

Aunt Emma’s glasses sit next to her address stamp on her great niece, Cynthia McKinley Thrower’s bookcase today. Thank you for sharing with me Cynthia!

Emma was only ten years old when her mother, Rossie died in 1902… so tragic for a young child to lose their mother at such an early age; big sister Lena soon became mother to the family until she moved to Atlanta in 1908. Emma remained at home, even though the father remarried, but soon after the 1910 Census, she followed Lena to Atlanta and married Charles H. Murray on August 20th, 1911. She possibly lived with Lena and met Charlie through Lena or her soon to be husband Charlie Van Dusen… no one has ever said.

My mother always said that Emma worked with her sister Lena, but in checking the city directories and census, she seemed to never work, so possibly it was a short time until she married. Charlie was a bookkeeper at The Western Electric Company… he possibly made a good enough salary for her to stop work.

Emma and Lena McKinley Easter (2) FIX

Emma and Lena celebrating Easter… tell-tale basket sitting on floor! I believe this photo to be slightly older than the one below.

emma and Lena Fix

Emma and Lena (Feb. 1959) McKinley. As Lena has her coat on, I’m assuming she might be visiting Emma. Someone might have had a birthday, as Lena is holding a gift… but Emma was born in April and Lena in August.


Emma and Lena with their brother Richard McKinley

Many Sundays Aunt Emma and Uncle Charlie drove down to the farm to see her brother… my grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley; probably Lena and Charlie also went. Mama often has talked about the Sunday dinners at the farm… where everyone enjoyed putting their feet under her mothers table. Mama tells me how she’d sit out on the back stoop, while hoping the adults would leave her a piece of chicken. In those days, the children ate after the adults… eating what was left. One story mama remembered was how she snuck in her mother’s kitchen and put a chicken breast up in the cabinet… ensuring she had a piece for dinner. She got a switching for that… but she got her chicken! Mama said that often the children were lucky to even find a biscuit left, on some of those dinners if everyone came. When she thinks back now, she feels sorry for her mother, as it seemed she did all the work… cooking the dinner and cleaning up while everyone else enjoyed eating that meal.

Those Sunday dinners often had the men walking a little wobbly after they returned from a visit up to the barn with granddaddy… where they must have all had a few drinks from granddaddy’s hidden liquor stash… probably hidden under the corn crib. Mama always talked about his hidden stash that the local law often tried to find… but never did!

The one thing I have to thank Aunt Emma for is all the photographs she took of my mother and grandparents when she came. It seems she was the only one who had a camera and enjoyed taking photographs… much to mama’s dismay… as she hated being asked to pose… and smile!

ola and helen mckinley

Mama hasn’t forgotten this day when Aunt Emma took this photo as she sat by her mother Ola (Askew) McKinley… twisting and turning in that chair… always hoping that this was the last photo Aunt Emma would take for the day. I love it… Thank You Aunt Emma for making mama pose for those pictures!

Emma McKinley and charlie Murray FIX

Charlie and Emma (McKinley) Murray… photo looks to have been taken at Flat Rock in Siloam, Ga; possibly her younger brothers above… and  photo probably taken by her camera.

I don’t have many memories of Emma, but I do remember that she was more soft spoken and not as stern as Aunt Lena appeared to me as a young child. Why we didn’t visit her house when we visited at Aunt Lena’s… I’m not sure… but probably because mama was more close to Aunt Lena.

Emmas cameras Fix

Aunt Emma’s cameras… the very ones which took many of the photos I have today of my mother and grandparents… she never visited without her camera. Thank You Aunt Emma for taking all those photos!

My cousins Cynthia McKinley (Thrower) and Beverly McKinley Smoak have graciously shared several of the mementos they inherited after Emma’s death… they were younger, so didn’t really know Aunt Lena, but they spent much time with Aunt Emma; Emma lived with their family in her later years.

Photo Left: Edgar Lawson McKinley and Rossie Sharp McKinley – parents of Lena, Cora and Emma McKinley. Photo Right: Edgar Lawson McKinley and Nancy Josephine Askew; second wife of Edgar L. McKinley. She was more known as Miss Bay to everyone… but no one ever knew why. (Photos shared by Beverly M. Smoak)

Emma and Charlie, like Lena and her Charlie had no children in their marriage either. Both woman outlived their spouses and each lived alone, although they lived near each other…  both buried in Westview Abbey Mausoleum, Atlanta, Georgia with their husbands.

Stay tuned for Week 33: Comedy


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

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2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 31 (July 29 – Aug 4): Brother

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 31 (July 29 – Aug 4): Brother

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!

Week 31_ Brother


As I have no brother’s on which to write… I’ve chosen to write on the brother’s of my mother-in-law, Cecelia C. Insalaco… she was fortunate to have had three brothers! This post is written from the memories of my husband and myself… all the younger memories of his uncles… “the brothers”… would be from him. In knowing all three… each one was very distinctive in their own way… very competitive… each sharing a closeness in growing up… and each always there for the other.

The Cambino Brothers


Freddie Cambino

Brother No. 1: Frederick “Freddie” Cambino was born on January 26, 1926, and the first to leave home in joining the Navy; another future post will cover his Navy years. My husband has many memories of his uncles and how he enjoyed following each of them as he grew up… and each having different interests. Freddie’s interest lay in building large model planes, archery, cars and the water, where he had boats… spending many early mornings… fishing, or digging for clams and eels… always keeping his mother supplied with fresh seafood to cook. Fried eels were a favorite on Christmas Eve… hubby remembers them well.

Freddie belonged to a local archery club, where often my husband tagged along; he enjoyed retrieving the arrows, while watching in awe as Freddie shot bullseye after bullseye… often splitting the arrows! As my husband had no older brothers…. his uncles were those older brothers to him… and he followed behind them in every step… always wanting to be just like them! Freddie had cars and motorcycles before any of the other brothers… hubby remembers how Freddie took him for many rides on his motorcycle… him riding on the gas tank… and they both always keeping it a secret!

A friend gave Freddie a speedboat after they moved to 1st Avenue in West Haven… and after spending a couple of years on repairs… it was finally seaworthy. Freddie never left the motor sitting on his boats in the water – salt water deteriorates the metal quickly –  he’d always carry the motor up the cement beach steps and sit in a wheelbarrow when not in use. It was never a two-man job in carrying any motor either, my uncles always carried them by themselves – they all were very strong!

One summer Uncle Freddie bet a friend that he could swim out to the breakers off the beach in West Haven; Freddie was a strong swimmer. My father and Uncle Johnny, his brother,  followed him out in the rowboat. Both men made the swim, but it was said that the other guy had a rope tied to himself and was pulled by the spotter in his boat.

My uncles were all musically talented… never having had a music lesson… it was all learned by ear. Freddie played the harmonica and guitar… Johnny played the accordion, piano, guitar and harmonica… Frankie played the piano, organ, guitar, accordion and harmonica. And if anyone ever asked who played the best – Johnny would pipe up quickly to say that he played the best!

As a young boy, I was in awe of everything Freddie did… he was always finding ways to make money. He brought home old cars to the farm to strip down… selling the parts to local junk yards or whomever; my grandpa even utilized many of the old car parts. When grandpa built his chicken coop he used the entire door panel with the window… from the cars Freddie had. I remember watching him roll the windows up and down with the hand crank on the door panel… and thinking how that was pretty neat.

My husband, Steve, and I often visited Uncle Freddie (Cambino) and his wife Helen when they were older. Most times we’d arrive to find Freddie in the kitchen, either making a pot of sauce, or sitting at the kitchen table carving a wooden spoon or building something. I have a small basket he carved out of a peach pit… Freddie was very talented. He had been a cook in the Navy…. once a cook, always a cook!

johnny cars

Johnny Cambino

Brother No. 2: Johnny Cambino was born on February 22, 1931… he and brother Frankie were only a year apart in age… very close, and very competitive through the years. I’ve heard several stories told by both… same story, but they each painted themself as the hero of the story. Hubby and I both laugh today when we remember those stories, and how they each remembered them differently!

Going to the movies on Saturday afternoons always gave Johnny and Frankie ideas… and after seeing Johnny Weissmuller as “Tarzan” it gave them this idea. The story goes… they came home and decided to swing from the big tree out back just like Tarzan did in the movie. They hung a rope on the old oak tree, and pretended to be “just like Tarzan”. One day Johnny swung out and the rope broke… down he went on the rocks underneath. His mother and grandmother quickly patched him up before his father came home. No one ran to the doctor back then, they often relied on home remedies. His grandmother cracked several eggs to seperate the whites, which she soaked strips of fabric in and wrapped around his wrists; after they dried, they were hard as a rock… an old remedy for a cast. When his father came home, he was told that the cow had kicked him. While they never told him what really happened, his father cut down the rope on the Tarzan Tree.

Tarzan treeFIX

The tree was always known afterward as the Tarzan Tree. Many of the things I heard about when I was older… was gone by the time I heard the stories… but the Tarzan Tree was still there by the pump house – no swinging rope though – grandpa had long cut it down.

The one story, that both Johnny and Frankie always told, was… “I pulled a kid from under the ice at Eddie Voss’s pond once. He’d fallen through the ice, and I just reached in and grabbed him, pulling him up to the surface. If I hadn’t caught onto him the first time, I would never have found him. I don’t remember how I even happened to be there that day.” Both my husband and I always laughed when we’d hear them each tell this same story… each being the hero! But that was ok… they’d always played the game of beating each other through the years… but they will always be heroes in our eyes! The one thing uncle Frankie mentioned about this story, that was different…  was that he wished he’d been recognized for saving the boys life… like maybe being presented with a medal or a certificate for saving his life.

Uncle Freddie, Johnny and Frankie were who I looked up to as a young boy – they were my idols! They were also close enough in age to even have been a brother. Whatever they did or wherever they went – I wanted to be and do the same!

Johnny always liked the water and loved to swim at Lake Phipps. One afternoon he climbed a tree, probably up about 50-75 ft. and dived off into the water. He wasn’t afraid of anything! One day the limb bounced him too close back to the edge and he landed more on the bank than in the water. He went home hurting that day, but never said anything as he knew he’d be scolded for even doing it.

Johnny bought the first TV set while still living at home – a black and white console television. Even though they were older than me, both Frankie and Johnny enjoyed watching cartoons with me on that set; they would close the blinds and curtains, making the living room all dark… and we’d sit there and watch cartoons all afternoon, Bugs Bunny was their favorite… probably why he was always mine too!

At Christmas Freddie and Johnny always brought home the biggest tree they could find. One Christmas the tree was so tall that it couldn’t even stand upright in the living room. And what did Johnny do – he just cut off the top of the tree – making it fit!

Every Xmas Eve Johnny would go to Chancey Brothers (A large store at Savin Rock) to buy Xmas gifts…and always on Xmas Eve, never any earlier. He’d go in and tell them to fill up a box with toys… never paying any attention to what they put in either… they just filled it up for him. I can still see Johnny walking in with that big box of toys. One Xmas Eve he handed his sister Dolly a paint by number set, and it turned out to be of a naked girl. I guess Dolly didn’t get a gift that year – and Uncle Frankie took possession of that gift. One Xmas he came with a huge Santa head that he hung on the front of the house – it was just a Santa face, but it was huge. You never knew what Johnny would come in with – this was before he married. He always bought the biggest of everything!

When I was around fourteen, I began working with Johnny doing carpentry. He usually brought a radio on the job, and always played the country stations. Even today, when I hear certain songs like, “From a Jack to a King,” I think of Johnny – it was one of his favorites.

Johnny let me drive all his cars when I turned fourteen and working with him. He said I wouldn’t get into any trouble if we were pulled over because he knew all the West Haven cops and most of the New Haven ones. He always told me “don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of everything.”

Uncle Johnny loved cars, but never bought a new car – I remember his black Pontiac Bonneville… he often let me drive it. That was the best car ever! I felt cool when I was with Johnny – it was like being with a celebrity. Whenever he entered a room, he was immediately acknowledged – he was well-known wherever he went.

Johnny was a carpenter by trade, often working with his brother Frankie. I worked with them both a few summers and learned a lot. Johnny didn’t strictly work all day though – he took his share of breaks… and always knew exactly what time his favorite meals were served around town at various restaurants. Everyday we’d stop at a certain diner to have his favorite – milkshakes. Wherever we went – Johnny knew everyone… it was like spending time with a celebrity… he was very well-known. Johnny always had a story to tell – and he could tell stories that kept you in stitches, long after they were finished.

Riding with my uncle was an experience. He’d say, “you’re safe in my hands, I can stop on a dime” – and I never doubted him! I’ve seen Johnny accomplish many things in his life – winning car races, tearing phone books in half with his bare hands – even running across the steeple of a roof like he was walking on air – he was very impressive. Johnny had arms like “Popeye” and he was just as strong.

I learned many things from Uncle Johnny! He lived life to the fullest, living his dream and passion of racing for many years. He began racing at Savin Rock Speedway as a young man of around eighteen… giving it up only when The Rock closed… but later making a come-back at the age of 62 – driving just as fierce as he did in his youth… beating many of the younger racers! One thing I admired about his racing was… he never threw the towel in… no matter what pole he started from, or where he was in the pack, even if at the end. He never gave up trying to win until the checkered flag was thrown. He always told me that he was never a quitter – he’d fight till the end.

It was a thrill for me as a young boy, telling my friends that Johnny was my uncle. He was well-known at Savin Rock and well liked. Even when he lost… he lost graciously with a smile. I always wanted to be there on Saturday nights when he raced. It was exciting as I stood at the fence rooting for him. He was known as “King Cams” driving the “Flying 5.” He was a Legend!

Johnny often said of the other car drivers, “if they can’t beat me, then they don’t deserve to be on the track.” And that came from him when he drove at an older age, against the young twenty-or-something ones. They hated having him on the track, calling him an old man, but he showed them; being beat by him was an insult to their driving ability.  Johnny often laughed about his beating them… he had more skill and knowledge about driving then they had of just being alive at that point.

Uncle Johnny was the strongest person I’ve ever known. His arms were really like the cartoon character Popeye; he told me he was very strong from the many years of pulling on the racing car steering wheel. I remember Uncle Johnny and Freddie arm wrestling all the time… they were both strong… no one could beat them. Johnny was my idol – I always wanted to do whatever he did. He’d arm wrestle me, giving me a head start, and then take me right down in a quick second. He never let me win… If I had won… it would have been honestly!

I was a strong arm wrestler in school… beating everyone there and in my neighborhood, but I never beat Uncle Johnny – even with the head start he’d give me – which was a tease… him knowing all along that he’d take me down quicker than I could imagine.

I’ll never forget the site of watching Johnny tear a large phonebook in half – ripping it with his bare hands… like it was nothing! But what really impressed me about his strength, was the day he picked up my 120 lb weight bar – lifting it over his head with one hand – like it was nothing! I was young, and I couldn’t even do that with two hands on the bar, but he just picked it up one-handed – and the bar never wavered. I couldn’t believe it!

When I enlisted in the Air Force… and right before I left, Johnny said, “when they give you a gun, never hit your target – always miss. If you can’t hit the target, they’ll never put a gun in your hand and send you to Vietnam. Never let them know exactly how much you do know.” And he was right, I never let them know what I really did know. I even flunked my truck driving test on purpose because I didn’t want to drive trucks and work on the flight line, but that didn’t stop them from giving me a truck license and putting me on the flight line. They do what they want with you – whether you like it or not. YOU belong to them!

Even though my uncles and my father are no longer around, I’ll never forget the things they taught me and the stories they told. I still hear their reminders in my mind everyday as I live my life – they will always be remembered!

Frankie colorized

Frank Cambino

Brother No. 3: Frank Cambino was born October 16, 1932; he and Johnny were more closer to my age than Freddie. I remember watching my favorite TV show “Superman” with Frankie in the evenings. They had a TV set before we did so I often went over to my grandparents house… they lived just next door. Frankie was funny to watch TV with – he’d tell you all about how things worked as you watched the show, or make fun of how they did tricks and stunts on the program – telling you it was a “crock” and it wasn’t really done like that. He’d say, “look there are the strings pulling Howdy Doody, you’re not suppose to see them.” Freddie liked to mostly watch movies, so I watched mostly the old classic’s with him, while it was more cartoons and TV series with Frankie.

Spending time at my grandparent’s farm on Sawmill Road and later First Avenue was the best of times; there was always plenty of family around to be entertained by. My three Uncle’s, Freddie, Johnny, and Frankie were usually into something – and I wanted to be right there – right alongside them. To a young boy, these ‘older,’ young men, were the ones to hang out with. You knew you would hear language, stories and jokes you wouldn’t hear in your own house. They were considered ‘cool’ by everyone!

Uncle Frankie enjoyed reading Popular Mechanics Magazine, and from one of the magazines he built a “diving tank helmet”…. actually it was a bucket used as a helmet so you could go under the water… like a diver with a tank; a tube was attached to a hot water bottle, which held the air. Whoever was in the boat was the one who pumped air into the tube. Frankie tested it out with my father and I in the boat once, but I don’t remember much more about it other then that.

Uncle Frankie said that he and his brother, Johnny, had first tested it. Johnny put on the helmet and tied heavy chains around his body to weigh himself down; a pump in the boat pumped air down to him. It was told that Johnny went down about 20 feet before shooting back up fast as he had run out of air. They tried it another time with a friend, and weighed him down so much that he almost drowned trying to get back to the surface. They could each tell that story… and have you in stitches as they told it!

Another project Frankie built was a robot ashtray; it stood about three feet high and had two light bulbs for eyes. When you put your cigarette out in its hand, his eyes lit up. He also built a wooden donkey that held a pack of cigarettes – when you lifted the tail, a cigarette came out the back end. Frankie loved Popular Mechanic magazines… I only wish I had thought to take pictures of all those projects he built… but who thought of things like that back then.

I also worked with Uncle Frankie doing carpentry when I was young – before I even had my license. I remember being amazed as I watched him and his friend, Frank Belbusti, bang nails. They’d set the nail, and with one swift pound of the hammer, the nail was completely in the wood. What power that took – they were all very strong!

Every summer Frankie built something for us to use on the water. I remember a floating raft he built one summer… we’d swim out and sit and dive off; usually the rowboat was tied up nearby. When my grandparents first moved to First Ave., we swam off the beach, even though some of it was pretty murky on the bottom… we’d walk out a little ways and then pick up our feet to miss that part… and swim out to the wooden raft or the rowboat.

Frankie, along with his brothers, was very musical… you’d often arrive on Christmas Eve to him either playing Christmas songs on the organ or guitar. One of the most funniest songs I ever heard him sing was “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette” by Tex Ritter… and if I happen to hear it today, Uncle Frankie immediately comes to mind. (You know you want to go look that up now on You Tube)

I’ve never tired of Uncle Frankie’s funny stories… and he always had a story to tell! If he didn’t have a story… you could count on him amazing you with one of his many card tricks. He especially enjoyed pulling out the card tricks whenever the kids were around…. teasing them so they would beg him to teach them!

My husband and I have both had many long conversations with Uncle Frankie through the years, and he always had a smile on his face… always enjoying to make everyone laugh… He is truly missed by all!

Stay tuned for Week 32: Sister


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Family Stories: Remembering the Families on Smoak Avenue

smoak ave map

Family Stories

Remembering the Families on

Smoak Avenue

smoak ave street

I moved to 1321 Smoak Avenue in Perry, Georgia with my parents when I was five years old… about 1957. We moved from Union Point, GA… when I had lived for the first five years of my life; Smoak Avenue would be home for about seven years… and was always a neighborhood alive with children.

Take a walk with me and my memories of Smoak Avenue…

1323: Jack W. Peavy: Let’s begin on my side of the street at the corner with Mr. Peavy and his daughter Jackie, who was about five years older than me. I never remember hearing my parents refer to him as Jack… it was always Mr. Peavy. I believe Jackie babysat me at times, but the memories are faint of that. What I do remember most about Jackie is how she teased me about my playhouse. It wasn’t more than a one-floor playhouse, but it was my hide-a-way up in the holly tree that sat on the line of our yards. She liked to tell me that it was her tree… and I’d run crying to my mother… telling her how Jackie said it was her tree. After one too many times… mama had had enough… she told me to go tell Jackie that if it was her tree… to dig it up and take it home. I’m sure I made a bee-line back out to tell her just that… and I think it finally ended the teasing! Catching up with Jackie on Facebook one day, we both mentioned the holly tree and she  laughed about how she’d often teased me about that tree!

1321 Smoak Ave

A recent photo of my house… it’s been sided and a new front door added… still looks like the same awnings we had. Seeing the tall trees still looming from the back yard… I’m assuming the tall pecan trees are still there. Mama tied a rope to her waist one day when she wanted to paint the trim on the outside of the window up top… she said the neighbors yelled to her that she was going to fall… but she painted that window!

1321: My home – The Bryan’s: My father had gotten a job at WRAFB in Warner Robins and bought our house on Smoak Avenue about 1957… we had been living in Union Point, Georgia… where I was born. Mama remembers that he bought the house before she even saw it… he began work on the base and lived there before moving us. It was a small two bedroom house, with a living room, dining room, small kitchen and an addition of a den, just off the kitchen. I still remember the kitchen table there… a small porcelain rectangular table, with drop down sides and drawers on both ends… which held the silverware. The kitchen window faced the street… great for mama to keep an eye on me. Not long after we moved in, mama bought me a chihuahua… supposedly they were good for children with asthma. My parents were Clayton and Helen Bryan… my mother worked at Perry Beauty Shop for Clara Dykes.

Besides a treehouse in my backyard, I also had a playhouse… which originally was just a large crate that daddy brought home from the base. Mama cut windows and doors and even made curtains… sadly no picture has ever surfaced; it sat under the back window of my bedroom. My windows faced the backyard and the side small area between our house and the Ogletree’s next door.

Just outside the back door of the den was a huge Ola Lilly that mama had brought from Union Point. There were two tall pecan trees in the backyard… we always had pecans. I’d climb and shake the tree limbs… helping them to fall. What I hated most about that backyard was how there always seemed to be “sandspurs” lurking there… and I always found them whenever I went barefoot, which was often; I never remember finding them anywhere else! Sandspurs are tiny pod-spurs of cactus hiding in the grass… and hurt like cactus spines!

Our chihuahua, Teddy Bear, thought the backyard only belonged to him… it was where he buried his bones, or one of mama’s leftover biscuits. I enjoyed teasing him and often dug them up as soon as he walked away; Teddy Bear usually only played that game a couple of times before chasing me… nipping at my heels. I also liked to tease him in the house as well, especially when he hid under the quilts at the end of the couch… he’d quickly chase me out of the den.

Riding bikes was very popular on Smoak Avenue for all the kids, and it was one of the first things I discovered when we moved there… discovering that they all rode bikes… but no one had training wheels like me! That was my first introduction into being laughed at, as I still rode a baby bike with training wheels. I did get revenge one day, as when they were riding and laughing at me, one of the girls, Pam Perkins, hit gravel and down she went… splitting her head open. It was my mother who picked her up and took her inside to patch her up. That was the end of the bullying over who could or couldn’t ride bikes. Mama took my training wheels off and within a few days of falling into every bush… I learned to ride that bike! They didn’t laugh anymore after that.

My mother interacted with all the neighborhood kids… even racing a few of the boys once… and beating them! She was Barbie’s seamstress to the girls… we’d go inside while she sewed and put our orders in…. returning later in the day for pickup. I still have two Barbie skirts she sewed, along with a couple of faux Barbie mink stoles.

Around the corner was the local tennis court, which was located in a small grass triangular park area; the high school tennis club often used it for practice, but in the summer it was our skating rink! I always loved to skate, and spent many mornings down there with my skate-key dangling around my neck.

1319: The Ogletree’s: Mrs. Joan Ogletree lived there with her daughters, Lisa and Julie, and son Bud… I think his name was Robert, but we only called him by his nickname. Lisa was my age, and Julie was a few years older. Out of all the kids on the street, I probably played with them the most…. maybe because they lived next door. My mother even babysat Bud for awhile until he was old  enough to go to school. It was often a problem when I came home from school and wanted a Coke… I’d have to spell it out so he wouldn’t know. He quickly learned what I spelled, and soon began yelling that he also wanted a COKE; having Bud in our house was like having a little brother. Bud liked to taunt me by standing in front of the TV set, waving his hands, so I couldn’t see… and of course I’d yell… mama would come and yell at both us us.

I remember how I loved to be invited for dinner at their house… as they never drink iced tea with their meals, they only drank Coke. There were always cases of Coke in the kitchen closet and I was so jealous of that. I liked the bottle tops, as there were prizes that were printed under the tops. As we very seldom had Cokes in our house, I’d bring a few bottle tops home from there when I ate dinner there. When mama found them in my room one day, she got really mad at me for taking them… telling me that I stole them… and making me return those bottle tops! A silly thing like that… I’ve never forgotten!

I loved those crazy Georgia rainstorms…. making it rain in one spot and not in the next, it was fun to run in and out of the rain from one yard to the other.

There was a wire fence that separated our backyards and in the summer we often camped out right alongside the fence together… until we all got scared and ran inside. Summers on Smoak Avenue was fun…. so many games played in my front yard… kick the can, mother may I, red rover, school games, Dairy Queen runs with everyone piled in my mothers back seat… no seat belts needed, and ghost stories told by my mother… as we all sat on quilts; mama often had to walk everyone home afterward.

Our yards there were filled with fireflies… or lightning bugs as I often called them. I remember gathering them in a jar and sitting them on the headboard of my bed to watch while falling asleep. I imagine my mother released them after I fell asleep!

We played a basketball type game called “horse” in their backyard… they had a hoop, I didn’t. The big Friday and Saturday night games for all the kids was “kick the can”… playing after dark so we had lots of hiding places. I never liked the dark, so I’m sure I scared myself in hiding, but I wasn’t going to be left out. I remember many times of running to kick that can!

1317: Rex Ivie: Funny how I remember the name, but can’t remember the people or even if they had children.

1315: L. C. Todd: I only remember one boy in this family, Terry Todd. He was a few years older than me, so he didn’t give us younger girls the time of day, but I remember watching him play basketball at Perry High School. High school basketball was very popular in Perry… and his class had the best players… they went to state championships almost every year; the basketball games were exciting, even my parents came.

1313: R. J. Perkins: Pam Perkins lived here with her parents, and I’m now told she had an older sister, but I don’t remember her. I vaguely remember playing Barbie with Pam, probably not often, as I don’t have strong memories of it.

1311: Unknown… possible empty lot

1309: Unknown… possible empty lot

1307: Unknown… possible empty lot


1305: Chas J. Norman: Found name listed in the 1963 Perry telephone book. I believe this might be the man who drove the Gordon’s potato chip truck that I remember always in his driveway. While I don’t remember any children, Jim remembers two children in this family… Joe was a year older than Jim… and there was a sister Jean, who was several years older. (Remembered by Jim Beall)

gordon chips man

Mr. Norman lived on my street!

1303: Unknown… possible empty lot

1301: C. I. Murray: They had a son and daughter a little older than us. (Remembered by Jim Beall)

Other Side of Street:

1322: The Kersey’s: They had two or three kids I think, but I don’t remember any of their names. I played Barbie with one of the girls, but what comes to mind most was the huge Mimosa tree in their front yard… with its beautiful cotton candy pink fluffy flowers. Besides climbing the tree, the most fun we had with it in the summer was gathering the green seed pods that hung from the flowers. We strung the seeds with a needle and thread … turning them into necklaces. Those green seeds were soft enough to string through, and later after drying, they turned into hard brown seeds… making the best necklaces. This was probably my first introduction into arts and crafts… and no one had to run to any craft store for supplies; my mother probably supplied us with needles and thread. One afternoon those little green seeds sent me to the Dr…. don’t ask me why but somehow I stuck a seed up my nose… I have no clue as to why I would have even thought of doing such a thing… maybe it was a dare!  I don’t remember when the Kersey’s moved here, as I didn’t find them listed in either the 1963/66 telephone book that I have of Perry. Imagine, I actually saved two old phone books  from all these years! In 1963, Delbert L. Holton lived at 1322, but they weren’t there in 1966. (Jim Beall told me their names were Billy and Ann, they were near our age… and there was also an older sister)

1320: The Lampley’s: Fred and Mary Lampley lived directly across the street from us, along with their son, Freddie boy… as he was called by everyone. Freddie was about ten years older than us and all the girls liked to hang around him. I remember him having a few animals he kept as pets and I think one was a snake; we were always inquisitive about them. Miss Mary… mama always made me address adults as Miss or Mr., I could never just call them by their first name… it was rude. Mama and Miss Mary became good friends from the very first of us moving there, she’d often walk over and sit on the stoop with mama. My first experience meeting Miss Mary was when I just walked into her house, without being asked in… I think I wondered in looking for Freddie boy… she promptly told me to never do that again and to knock next time. Another instance I remember was when she had brought over a jar of cream to my mother and I wanted to smell it… she somewhat stuck my nose in it… I guess she was telling me not to be so curious.

Miss Mary and Mr. Fred had a summer cottage at Alligator Point, Florida;  we went a few times with them to spend the week. I always thought for sure that I’d see alligators walking around there, because of its name, but I never saw any. The beach behind their cottage wasn’t a beach for swimming, but it was the best beach for seashells that I ever saw. Mama and I picked up buckets of shells and the prettiest white sand dollars… I’ve never found them again on any beach. I guess daddy and Mr. Fred went fishing there as he never came with us to the beach; fishing was his thing. I found out later that Alligator Point was so named because of an aerial shot… the point is shaped as an alligator.

1318: Carl W. Grant Jr.: I didn’t remember the name of this couple until Jim Beall reminded me… they were older with no children that I remember, but I do remember them having a small pekingese dog. The kids always wanted to pet it but they’d tell us to not pet it on the head as the eyes might pop out. I guess we believed it… as I was always afraid to actually pet it. Well that’s one way to keep kids from petting your dog! (Jim remembers them having a boy named Mike, a few years older than us.)

1316: J. M. Hamilton Jr: I’m only reminded of this family by Jim… they had one boy, Jimmy, one year older than me. Several families lived here for awhile, but I remember the Hamilton’s there. (Remembered by Jim Beall)

1314: Jack Davis: Another family I didn’t remember, but am told by Jim Beall that their names were Paul (1 year older then us), James (3 years older), and Helen (6 years older).

1312: B. E. Dennard: I don’t remember much about this family except for one boy, David, who lived there. He might have had another brother, but I don’t remember anything about his parents. He rode bikes with us all the time and that was the biggest summer thing that all the kids did together. We had a big group of bike riders… riding up and down the street… often we even tied ropes to our handlebars… pretending our bikes were horses; we even took playing cards and clipped them to the spokes to make noise. Our street crested at the top of a somewhat hill heading down toward Hwy 41. If we felt like riding back up, we’d coast down for a nice breezy ride. (With Jim Beall’s help, he reminds me that there was also a brother named PeeWee and an older sister Pam.)

1310: The Bealls: Tom and Polly Beall lived here with three children, Priscilla, Tom and James (Jim)… and for the life of me, I don’t remember James “Jim” Beall when he lived there, but he must have played with us… as he remembered me. I guess us girls played together more. He seemed to have not been in any of my school classes or surely I would have remembered him from school. We hooked up on Facebook and have exchanged many Smoak Avenue memories.

Smoak Ave pic3

Mrs. Beall at the top of the street… photo looking down toward my side of the street. I can see my house in this photo. The neighborhood was still new here… notice no tall trees like today. (Photo courtesy of Jim Beall)

snowman on Smoak2

Snow arriving on Smoak Ave. about 1954… a few years before we moved there. I can just about see the chimney at my house of 1321 Smoak Avenue in this photo. (Photo courtesy of Jim Beall)

1308: C. Boterweg: Two girls, Connie, and Ann… both girls older than me. (Remembered by Jim Beall)

1306: J. W. Jacobs: Clint Jacob’s grandmother. (Remembered by Jim Beall)

1304: Jeff Roper: Beverly Roper was near our age… several brothers and sisters. (Remembered by Jim Beall) I remember a Beverly Roper, but she wasn’t in my grade, maybe a grade up.

1302: G. T. Pierce Jr: Name listed from Perry 1963 telephone book.

1300: E. H. Odom: Sharon was a bit older than Jim and I. (Remembered by Jim Beall)

Smoak Avenue was a fun place for a child to grow up… it was a time when children played outside with no worries of anyone bothering you. All the parents looked out for all the kids… and quickly disciplined you if you needed it. No one contacted that parent if they had disciplined their child… it was just the way it was… it was growing up in good times. We played outside… all day! We played until supper… then played again until dusk… often playing until we were finally called in for the night!


Read more Family Stories over HERE!

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 30 (July 22 – July 28): Easy

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 30 (July 22 – July 28): Easy

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!

Easy… life

What’s the Secret?

City vs Country life?

Factory worker vs Farmer?

Home-grown food vs Supermarket bought?


So what’s the secret to a long “easy” life? Everyone has their own thoughts on this… is it the way we eat, where we work, how we live, or even where we live? Both our ancestors, for the most part, grew their own food, but lived in different locations. All mine lived in the South, and were dirt farmers… while my husband’s ancestors lived in the North, and lived within the city limits.

My grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley once went to a Bryan family reunion with my parents in the Georgia Blue Ridge mountains… upon arriving, the first thing Granddaddy McKinley asked of the men, “where are your cemeteries“… and was quickly told, “we don’t need them.” It seems that they lived long lives in the mountains, although probably not an “easy” life! Granddaddy had constantly remarked during the trip as to how he hadn’t seen any cemeteries, and it puzzled him.

While “Longevity” is defined as being a “long life”… it’s not always an “Easy” life. If you live longer than the average person… you are said to have longevity, but not everyone had an easy time in achieving that old age… but we still seem to strive in reaching it!

Pedigree chart of Steve Insalaco

Steve Pedigree chart

My husbands pedigree “direct line” showing the ages at death… no one lived past age 87 for women and 79 for men. As I don’t have ages of death going back any further, I have no comparisons for those living in Italy. Is a young death age a sign of not an “easy” life?

Pedigree chart of Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

pedigree chart me

My chart shows a high age of 80 for the women in my line and 86 for the men; ironically they are both my father’s parents! If I took this chart back further, my highest age for a woman would still be 80 as a direct descendant and age 99 for a direct male… my great-great-great grandfather, Berrian Clark Bryan. (B.C. Bryan not showing on chart) Directly in my line also is a 2nd cousin, 2x removed, Ila Stargel Sewell Jones who lived to the age of 114. At the time of her death in 2017, she was the oldest woman living in Georgia and the second longest living woman in the entire United States. I had the privilege of meeting and enjoying much correspondence with her over the years. Did she have an easy life to reach that age? Like my husband always says… “nothing in life is “easy” or free.”

Sibling Charts: Cambino and DeTulio

                               Cambino Siblings                       DeTulio Siblings                    

Even though my husband’s great grandfather Giovanni (DeTulio) only lived to age 67 and his great grandmother, Julia (Catalano) to age 72… it seems for the most part, that their children lived a much longer life… maybe because it was easier! Daughters, Mary, lived the longest in this family to age 93, Josephine (JoJo) to age 92, and sister Carmela (Carmel) to age 90. The younger sisters, Domenica (Minnie), Antoinette, and Rosa (Rosie) lived until their late 80’s except for sister Lucia (Lucy), who died at age 76. The oldest brother, Michael (Mikie), lived until age 70, the next brother Nicholas (Nicky) lived until age 85, while their youngest brother, Andrew, was the first one to die at age 56… it hadn’t been an easy life for him.

In knowing my husbands aunts and uncles, I believe the one thing they all had in common was that they remained of a sound mind. Steve’s grandmother, Minnie, remained very sharp until the end… she never forgot anyone’s phone number or ingredients in a recipe.

In the Cambino family, my husband’s grandfather, Giuseppe. lived to age 72, while his grandmother, Minnie (Domenica), lived until age 86; again, the wife outlived her husband, which unfortunately has been the case in most of the families. The siblings in this family show the oldest sister (Catherine) living to age 90, while the oldest brother (Freddie) only lived to age 60. What factored in the difference of longevity here, might be an easy lifestyle? work? If you look at male vs female in ages of death… all three brothers died before any of the sisters. Did the sisters have an easier life in not working outside the home after the marriage?

If we all knew as a child… or even as a young adult… as to what we now know in  our later life… we wouldn’t rush to grow up quite so fast… and hopefully we’d live a more “easy” lifestyle!

Think back to how you couldn’t wait for school summer vacation to begin…. learn to drive… get your license… graduate from high school… get married… have a family… have children… hurry them along to crawl, walk, talk… and soon they are married… the grandchildren come… you’re getting older and soon called grandma/grandpa…your life is becoming shorter and shorter now… and it doesn’t get any easier!

So what does this mean? Stop rushing life… enjoy your children, don’t rush them to walk and talk so soon…  take time to enjoy the easy part of your life… it ends too quickly!

Live for Today, Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us!

Don’t rush your “Easy” Life!

Image result for Longevity

Stay tuned for Week 31: Brother


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 29 (July 15 – July 21): Challenging

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 29 (July 15 – July 21): Challenging

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!



My husband’s family came here in the early part of the twentieth century as immigrants from Italy. I thought I’d focus on 1930 through the 1940 census to see how they prospered in the beginning of the depression… to the end… it was very “Challenging.”

The three family lines that immigrated from Italy to the United States

  • Stefano Insalaco (Stephen Insalaco) – March 13, 1909 / April 9, 1920
  • Giuseppe Gambino (Joseph Cambino) – May 27, 1913
  • Giovanni DeTullio (John DeTulio) – Aug. 02, 1906 / Giulia (Catalano) DeTulio – April 22, 1909

Giovanni DeTullio (John DeTulio)

1930 DeTulio censusFIX

DeTullio/DeTulio, 1930 Census

John DeTullio first came to New Haven, CT. in 1906, and lived in the “Little Italy” area at addresses of 2 Olive St., and 5, 15, 42, and 45 Warren St. He worked in various jobs, with the first one working for Star Line Co. (N.H.S.C.) as a dock hand at Belle Dock (record found on the 1918 WWI Registration Card). Later he found work at a local New Haven lumber company… DeForest & Hotchkiss at 115 Water St. John seemed to always work near his home as he didn’t drive. The 1930 census was challenging in as they misspelled his name as DeTugglio.

1917 CT Military Census

In the 1917 military census, John was listed as married, living at 5 Warren St., could not drive, was not a citizen, and had never served in the military; his occupation was then listed as a stableman.

The 1930 Census, showed that John and wife, Julia (Giulia) were living at 2 Olive Street, with their nine children, Antoinette, Carmela, Rosa, Michael, Nicholas, Maria, Andrew, Lucy, and Josephine; the children’s ages varied from 2 months to 19 years of age. At this time they rented, paying $21 dollars a month. Neither John or Julia were listed as able to read or write, but all children of school age were listed as able to. The language spoken was Italian… and from all accounts I’ve heard, it was always their dominant language used in their home. Several of the grandchildren, who knew their grandparents, told me how they didn’t have much communication with their grandparents… they didn’t speak Italian. The one odd question on this census to me was “did they own a radio?”… it was noted that “yes” they did.

By the time the 1940 Census was taken, the family had moved from 2 Olive St. to 42 Warren St., which was just around the corner… still remaining in the Italian “Wooster” area of New Haven; the family rented at $16 dollars a month. I was told that he often moved the family to less expensive rents through the years, and on Warren St., much family lived there. I never found if he ever bought, only rented. By 1951, Julia, widow of John DeTulio, was living at 55 Carlisle St. in New Haven with son Nicholas. (I’m not sure if she rented or owned, but I believe that house was bought)

DeTullio / DeTulio Through the years

Detulio census 1

Detulio census 2


Giuseppe Gambino (Joseph Cambino)

Giuseppe (husbands grandfather) Gambino arrived in the United States as a young man of age eighteen on May 27, 1913. As jobs were scarce, it pushed him to quickly join the Army in WWI on July 20, 1917. That may have been his best choice, as he came out of the Army as a barber. We have never been sure if he knew barbering before entering, but it was told to me by sons Johnny and Frank, that he came out of the Army as a barber; it seems he cut hair while in the Army.

Cambino ship Clip

Giuseppe Gambino (Cambino) arrived May 27, 1913

Even though I found Giuseppe’s destination listed on the ship manifest at Ellis Island for 178 Frank St. in New Haven, CT, I never found him actually listed in the city directory until 1920… after returning from WWI, where he was then listed as a barber at 668 Washington Ave., West Haven, with a residence now of 178 Frank St; previously listed there was a Thomas Foormichella and Grava Angelo. He may have boarded with them before going into the Army… possibly why his name was never in the directories; there were many boarding houses on Frank St. in New Haven… a big area where many immigrants settled to.

Discovering this ship manifest was indeed a big challenge… discovering it many years before “Ancestry” and “Family Search” was even online. I found it by sitting in front of a fiche machine at a local LDS library, scrolling page by page… looking at each name on every ship manifest page. Luckily I knew the exact date he arrived or I’d never have found him… most definitely a “challenge”!

1930 Cambino Census1930FIX

1930 Census: Joseph (Giuseppi) Cambino (Gambino) and family

On the 1930 census, Joseph was now married, working of his own accord at his barber shop (Buddy’s Barber Shop) at 668 Washington Avenue in West Haven… but now living at 294 York St; he owned this home with a value of $6000… 3 children were living at home… Catherine, Fred, and Celia. Joseph was listed as able to read, write, and speak English, which was their primary language spoken in the home; all the children spoke and read English. I was told that he never spoke in Italian… and only wanted his children to speak English… he wanted them to be American. Joseph also owned a radio, and his grandson, Steve, remembers how grandpa enjoyed listening to his radio at the barber shop; it was kept on a shelf in the shop… and was always on. They also had a radio on a shelf in their kitchen at home and it’s the very one that we have today in our kitchen.


Grandpa Joe Cambino’s radio.

Joseph Cambino came here at the youngest age (18) of any of my husband’s grandparents… coming as a single man… and the only one to own a business… and buy a house at an early age. He operated his own business by age 25, never rented except for when he first arrived… and bought three houses during his lifetime. He and his wife, Minnie (Domenica) first lived in a small back room, in the building of his barber shop, but within a year or two he bought his first house on York St. in West Haven, Ct. (It seems Giuseppe Cambino was the most prosperous of my husband’s immigrant grandparents.)

Gambino / Cambino Through the Years

Cambino year listing

Cambino year listing 2


Stefano Insalaco (Stephen Insalaco) – March 13, 1909 / April 9, 1920

Stephen Insalaco entered the United States more than once as a single man, but it wasn’t until 1920 did he finally return… now as a married man with his wife and children. It’s told he was ordered to serve in the Italian army before being allowed to leave with his family.

1930 insalacoFIX

Insalaco, 1930 Census

Stefano first came in 1909 with his brother, Gaetano… both listing their destination as N.Y., with an address of 3 Monroe St.  It was told to me that he didn’t remain long in the United States before returning back to Italy; it was also said that he went to Argentina to work on laying train tracks in between coming to the United States. I was never able to document any information on those Argentina trips, but I do know that he returned to Italy and remained there to serve in their Army… by their demands. Before returning with his family, he came again to live with cousins in Willimantic and work in the Willimantic Thread mills.

By 1920, he returned, for the final time, to the United States… bringing his wife, Giacinta, and two children, Louise, age 2 and Anthony, age 2 months. Their destination was to their cousins in Willimantic, CT., where work was promised in the Willimantic Thread Mill as a weaver; he had worked there on previous trips.

The 1930 Census finds Stephen and Giacinta have moved their family now to Shelton, Ct. where he found work at Bloomenthols, also a textile mill. They rented for $15 dollars monthly at 131 Oak. St… both were listed as able to read and write… six children were living at home; no radio was owned.

They made a few moves during the 1940’s, and was later found at 346 Coram Ave. in 1940. His occupation continued to remain as a weaver, and now renting at $18 dollars a month. It was noted that he did not work at all in 1939 and their only other income was “zero”  …with 9 children at home; not sure how he supported them all. It was told to me that at one time, Giancinta took in laundry and later worked at a local shirt factory folding shirts. I’m sure there was other income coming in as my father-in-law (Steve) always talked about how he worked at a local grocery store delivering groceries, from age 8, to help support the family. Finally, after moving from Coram Avenue, Stephen  and Giacinta bought their first house on Kneen Street in Shelton.

Insalaco Through the Years

Insalaco listings 1


Only two, out of my husband’s three grandparents who immigrated here bought houses. It seems the one (Joseph Cambino) who came here at the youngest age of 18, and single, worked himself up the ladder at a quicker pace. Was it because he acquired an occupation of a barber in the Army? However it happened, he worked for himself, quickly owning his own business… definitely a challenge!

If I hadn’t already gathered information on his grandparents from all his children, I would have later discovered this information through the census… such as year of immigration, marital status, where immigrated from, residences, children, age at marriage, and property owned.

Stay tuned for Week 30: Easy


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 28 (July 8 – July 14): Reunion

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 28 (July 8 – July 14): Reunion

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!


Reunion pic

DeTulio Family Reunion

Giuseppe DiTullio (front left) visits America on Dec. 1, 1969 for the first time to meet siblings. (Through the years in America, their name took a change in spelling from DiTullio into DeTulio.)

Giuseppe (Joseph) DiTullio was born (1903-1987) in Bari, Italy… the first born into the DiTullio family and the only sibling not living in America. His father, Giovanni  DiTullio immigrated alone in 1906, and after establishing himself with a job and living accommodations, he sent money for Giulia (Julia) to come in 1909; they had two children… Giuseppe, age 6, and Domenica (Minnie), age 3. The article said that immigration laws only permitted one child to come, so as Minnie was the youngest, they brought her with the understanding that Giuseppe would remain with his grandmother and sent for later. When money was saved, and the time came for him to come, he declined… he decided he would save the money for marriage instead of coming to America.

Ditullio and wife

Through the years, all but two of his siblings, Minnie and Mary, visited Italy and met him and his family. After the death of his wife, it became his dream to finally visit all his siblings in America… and they made it happen for him! He was met at the Kennedy Airport by his brothers and the reunion celebration quickly began. It wasn’t easy to communicate with him, as his American siblings didn’t speak the Baranese Italian dialect, which is very fast, but after several times of telling him to slow down, they soon began to understand what he said. Giuseppe was very overwhelmed in their first meetings… as well as in learning how to tell them apart. They were his brothers and sisters, but yet strangers!



Children of Giovanni & Giulia (Catalano) DeTulio

Giuseppe spent a whirlwind of a couple days with each sibling, in trying to get to know them and their families. The one thing I’m sure he felt at home with, was the food… as they all cooked very old-style Italian foods learned from their mother.

Reunion Pic 2

Reunion Pic banner

I can’t even imagine how he felt… meeting all those strangers at once… but yet they were family… his very own brothers and sisters… of whom he’d never met, except for one, the baby Domenica. His dream of this very meeting had finally come to be! Domenica (Minnie) was my husband’s grandmother… and if she had been the one left in Italy, I would have never met my husband, as his mother would be living in Italy. I’m thankful she was the chosen child to bring to America!

DeTulio graves

Graves of Giovanni & Julia DeTulio at St. Lawrence Cemetery

Giovanni: 1882 – 1950    Julia: 1885 – 1957

The 66 year-old widower had not seen his parents since that day they sailed to America with his baby sister Domenica… now he stood solemnly at their graves, over sixty years later… saying a final goodbye.

Giuseppe was my husband’s great uncle… and the only one he never met. He was currently serving in the USAF and stationed in Warner Robins, Georgia at the time he came to visit. His mother sent him the newspaper clipping that was in the New Haven Register.

Stay tuned for Week 29: Challenging


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


Posted in 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 27 (July 1 – July 07): Independent

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 27 (July 1 – July 07): Independent

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!


Giuseppe (Joseph) Gambino (Cambino)

I married into an Italian family… a family with stories of times gone by… stories I never tired of hearing… and wrote down! Many of those stories were also centered around a once, great amusement park known as Savin Rock.

Week 27, “Independent” weekly prompt begins with my husband’s maternal grandfather, Giuseppe Cambino (Gambino), who arrived on American soil in 1913. He was a very “independent” young man of age 18 to have left his family and friends… arriving alone here to begin his life.

As the July prompts progress, I will write on other Italian family lines as they crossed the ocean to arrive at Ellis Island… arriving for a better life in America.

The S.S. Moltke arrived in the New York Harbor on May 27th, 1913. The ship departed from Naples, Italy on May 13th for New York… a voyage that would take fourteen days to reach its final destination… the United States. There were many immigrants onboard, alongside Giuseppe, who was eagerly anticipating a new life and “start” in America.


S. S. Moltke

The “Moltke” was built by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg in 1901 for the Hamburg America Line; she had a weight of 12,335 gross tons, length 525.6ft x beam 62.3ft, two funnels, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 16 knots. The Moltke could accommodate 390-1st, 230-2nd and 550-3rd class passengers, and was launched on 08/27/1901. She sailed her maiden voyage from Hamburg to Boulogne, Southampton, and New York on 03/02/1902. On 04/03/1906 she commenced her first sailing between Naples, Genoa and New York and her last voyage, Genoa – Naples – New York – Genoa was on 06/23/1914. Giuseppe sailed on one of her last voyages from Italy to New York.

She was later interned at Genoa in 1914 and on 05/25/1915, was seized by Italy and renamed the “Pesaro”, where she began sailing for the Italian company, Lloyd Sabaudo. In 1925, she was finally scrapped in Italy.

Steerage passenger number ‘five’ on the S.S. Moltke was eighteen-year-old Giuseppe Gambino. Arriving at a young age was on his side, as American immigration authorities tended to look more favorably on the young and healthy who could help build America’s booming industrial base. He entered the United States as Giuseppe Gambino, so written on the ship manifest… but through time, his surname evolved into Cambino. Whether he initiated the change or it changed by accident, we don’t know, but however it changed, it remained Cambino for the rest of his life, into his marriage and became his children’s name. His birth records in Italy clearly show his surname to be “Gambino.” Possibly he secretly want to be “independent” of the Gambino name because of the strong mafia association to it in America.

Ship Manifest of the S. S. Moltke


Gambino, Giuseppe, Male, 18y, South Italy, Italian, South Tramonti, Italy

His nationality (country of which he was a citizen) was listed as Italy; race or people as Italian South; country of last permanent residence was Italy, town of Tramonti. I’ve often pondered on the lines of the second page, where the names were asked of nearest relatives or friend, of from where alien came.  It seems to read as father, Luitalo (sp) and town of Tramonti; his father’s name, from his birth records, was Federico Gambino; he was headed to the destination of New Haven, CT.

Giuseppe verified before boarding that he was not a polygamist, anarchist, or indentured laborer, and had never been in the poorhouse or insane asylum. The ship surgeon and the ship Master both verified that he was in good health for his arrival at Ellis Island. There were strict rules in place at that time, and the ships were strictly held accountable for the health of their passengers. It was in the ships best interest to verify their occupants before sailing, as they were held responsible for the payment home to return those that Ellis Island would not accept; Ellis Island verified everyone entering our country. Immigrants were turned away if they were seen as diseased and unfit… America was looking for able-bodied immigrants to build the melting pot of America.


Of the twenty-three names or so on the ship manifest, Giuseppe was one of twenty-one that was listed as able to read and write. The hopes that these immigrants pinned on the new world were all ahead of them. Living in America gave much more opportunity for themselves and their families. Giuseppe stated that he paid his own passage of forty dollars, and all that was left in his pocket was twenty-five dollars to begin a new life. Giuseppe never wanted to return to Italy, he told his son Johnny many tales of life there and he wanted his children to have a better life. He did not speak Italian in the home, he encouraged them to only learn and speak English. He wanted them to be American!


The voyage over in steerage was horribly crowded for Giuseppe… crowded in with hundreds of immigrants, unknown to him… all squeezed into tight spaces. Some steamships could accommodate as many as two thousand passengers in steerage; so-called because it was located on the lower decks where the steering mechanism of the sailing ships had once been housed. These long narrow compartments were divided into separate dormitories for single men, women, and families. Inside the steerage cabin were bunks, two or three tiers high, equipped with meager mattresses – often populated with lice. If you were a woman traveling alone, or with your children, sleeping in the same room as a strange man was too immoral to even consider; they often chose to sleep sitting up on the deck. As far as the family stories have been told, Giuseppe came to the United States alone. I can not imagine coming to a foreign country, with little money and no knowledge of the language, but he was coming to meet his brother… from what was written on the manifest.

The water calmed as the S. S. Moltke made its way into the New York Harbor. Most immigrants, eager to catch sight of the new land, hurried up on deck… I’m sure Giuseppe stood with them in wanting a first glimpse of where he now would call home. In Italy, they had heard of the Statue of Liberty but were never exactly sure what it was. Still, to all of them, the first sight must have been unforgettable. The Statue Of Liberty offered them a mute, but powerful ‘welcome’ as it stood silently in the Hudson Harbor… a sign of indepence in this new land.


The Moltke steamed up the Hudson River to a pier where the first-and second-class passengers, native or immigrant, debarked. They hoped their passage through immigration would be quick and courteous, and while they were being cleared, the steerage passengers were kept waiting – and waiting. In an effort to impress the inspectors, immigrants changed into their finest traditional clothes before leaving the ship – often it was the only other clothing packed for the journey.

When it came time for Giuseppe to finally debark with the others, they were all harshly commanded to hurry. Bulky in their many layers of clothing, carrying bedding, trunks, holding onto their only possessions… even cuttings from the family vineyard to transplant in America… they scrambled from the S. S. Moltke; good riddance and glad to leave! They then boarded a barge that transported them over to Ellis Island. Giuseppe always had a vineyard after he married… first at the farm and later when he moved his family to an 1860 saltbox style home, situated directly on Long Island Sound in West Haven, CT. Most Italians kept their traditions from home, wanting to have just a little feeling of “home.

Finally landing, Giuseppe joined his shipmates to line up at the main door – standing like cattle under an enormous metal canopy… about fifty feet wide. He then entered the main building and climbed the immense stairway to the huge Registry Room. In 1913 the room was still divided into iron-railed aisles into which the new arrivals were steered (or shoved) to wait… once again. Five thousand immigrants were processed a day as the Ellis Island staff worked twelve hours a day.

After passing the medical examination, Giuseppe moved through the back of the room to meet the ‘primary’ inspector; the man who would finally give or withhold permission for him to go ashore. The inspector asked Giuseppe a total of twenty-nine questions. What was his name, his age, could he read and write? What was his occupation and destination? All his answers had to exactly match the information previously recorded on the manifest of the S. S. Moltke. Just because you wanted to come and live in the United States… was not the reason to grant you acceptance.

The most difficult question that men often stumbled over was – do you have work waiting for you in the United States? The correct answer was No! The importation of contract labor was illegal and during the time that Giuseppe came, many laborers were deported from Ellis Island when they answered Yes.

After leaving the primary inspector, Giuseppe returned back to the baggage room to gather his belongings and with papers stamped from the primary inspector’s desk, he was now free to enter the United States. He ferried over to the Battery and headed to Grand Central Station to begin his final journey to his listed destination of New Haven, Connecticut. What were his thoughts as he sat on that train, hoping he had been put on the correct train… hoping his brother Francesco would be waiting for him… wondering what would he do if he was not able to find his brother! I imagine there were other Italians on that train of whom he spoke to in his language… riding for almost two hours before reaching Union Station in New Haven. (Possibly his brother Francesco met him at Ellis Island)

Only a third of the immigrants remained in New York City, which kept the railroad office at Ellis Island very busy – sometimes selling as many as twenty-five tickets a minute. Immigrants leaving the island often wore this sign, “To the Conductor: Please show bearer where to change car, or train, and where to get off, as this person does not speak English.” These immigrants were very brave… coming to a foreign land, not knowing the language, hardly having any money in their pockets… often having no family here at all.

Giuseppe Gambino / Cambino was the first of my husband’s direct line of Gambino’s to come to America. From the ship manifest, it showed he was met by his brother, Francis/Francesco (sp from records) – destination listed as New Haven, Connecticut. We can only assume he chose New Haven because of his brother, Frank, supposedly then living there… or Frank took him there to live with friends. Giuseppe did indeed go to New Haven and by 1920 he was still living at 178 Frank St., of where it had been written as his destination. I was never able to determine if Frank actually lived in New Haven with him on Frank St.; I did find Giuseppe listed on the city directory at that address, but never Frank.

A family story told to me, was that his brother Frank showed up one day after Giuseppe was living in West Haven, married with a family; Frank told him he had been searching for him. Maybe he had lost contact because of the name change? After that, he often came yearly, until he returned to Italy.


It was told to me by Giuseppe’s son, Johnny, that he lived in the apartment of friends when he first came to New Haven; his father told him that when he was young. That’s probably why I never found his name listed in 1914 as an occupant in the city directory for 178 Frank St.; most likely he rented a room in someone else’s apartment. I did find him listed later in 1920, he was then the sole occupant, and also now listed as a barber at 668 Washington Ave., West Haven; Giuseppe had now begun a business as a barber.

gambino-francesco-2 ship

In searching the Ellis Island website for Giuseppe’s brother, I only came up with one entry for a Francesco (Frank) Gambino. It showed that he left the port of Naples, and arrived on December 21, 1907, married, age twenty-two, sailed on the ship “Konigin Luise,” and was no. 7 on the ship manifest page. Most of the Gambino’s who immigrated to America sailed from Sicily and since he came from the same area as his brother – I might assume that this listing may be him. The age is not correct, as the original family birth listings from Italy, lists his birth date as 1881, which would make him twenty-six years of age; his age could be listed wrong on the ship manifest.

This new “start” for Giuseppe in America brought many changes to the life that he might not have had in Italy. He entered the U. S. as a laborer, but eventually acquired the trade of barbiere (barber) which led him to become a business owner of his own shop – Buddy’s Barber Shop at 668 Washington St. in West Haven, CT. He wanted to be an American, he wanted to start a new life, marry and raise a family in America… he wanted to be “independent.” Giuseppe was part of the “melting pot” who contributed to help America flourish.

I will return to Giuseppe later during the year with another prompt…

If you are family and reading, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. You might even possibly be a new cousin, and if so, I look forward to connecting with you. I began the gathering of these stories and information many years ago and decided that the time was right this year to “start” sharing my husband’s family history! Goda! (Enjoy!


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

Want to read more on Savin Rock, click…. Savin Rock… Now and Then

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Roger Sherman: Signer of the Declaration of the Independence

Celebrating 4th of July in remembering our history!

Everyone Has a Story

Roger Sherman – Signer of the Declaration of the Independence

roger sherman ROGER SHERMAN

It was  Heather Wilkinson Rojo  idea of a Fourth of July post on signers of the Declaration of the Independence that challenged me to search my state (Connecticut) for signers, and I found one buried in my home town of New Haven, Connecticut – Roger Sherman.

DSC_0119 Oak Grove Cemetery – New Haven, Connecticut

My husband and I visited Roger Sherman’s grave-site at Oak Grove Cemetery, just behind Yale University. I also came across a few more interesting graves while there and will post them at another time; a return trip is needed for more information and photos.

DSC_0087 Original gravestone was the tablet

DSC_0090 Gravestone placed by the descendants of Roger Sherman

Sherman was born in 1721, Newton, Massachusetts, to William and Mehetable Sherman; he was one of seven siblings born to this family. Roger’s father farmed to provide…

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2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 26 (June 24 – June 30): Legend

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 26 (June 24 – June 30): Legend

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!


johnny cars

When I first read the prompt of “Legend”… there was only one name that called out to me… my husband’s uncle… Johnny Cambino! From the first time I met him, he made a lasting impression on me… he was one of a kind… a true “Legend!

I often talked to Johnny, asking countless questions about his racing career that I’d heard so much about. He was a “Legend” within the family… as well as at the racing track! And from Johnny’s own words… “Until I saw the checkered flag I raced to win!! Some guys would settle into a spot, but not me – I was there to win and I never gave up! “I live on the edge.”

In asking Johnny once about where was his favorite pole spot was in the race… “I never liked to draw an upfront pole… I like to be last in the field… and win from behind!”

The West Haven Speedway was a paved 1/5 mile oval located directly on the waterfront of West Haven, CT. The track was somewhat unusually shaped, being built around a baseball diamond named Donovan Field – named after “Wild Bill” Donovan, manager of the New York Yankees. This small town of West Haven also held an attraction known as Savin Rock… a somewhat small version of Coney Island.

My husband remembers that by 5:30 or 6 o’clock p.m. on Saturday nights, there would be a steady stream of cars coming off the turnpike – all heading to the rock for the Saturday night racing. Many people with large lawns nearby, often stood out in front of their house to park cars in their yard…  it was an easy way to make a few extra bucks.

One race that always stuck in my husband’s mind was… “I remember a 100 lap race where Tommy Sutcliffe, “Tommy Suitcase” as Johnny called him, was in the lead. He held the lead for 98 laps, then Johnny made his move and pulled right around him – winning the race.! Johnny could be in last place and never give up trying to win the race. As Johnny would say, “the race isn’t over till it’s over!”

“I saw my uncle, “The King,” win many races! He was one of the top racers at Savin Rock Speedway. Usually I didn’t have the money to get into the races, so my friends and myself often “hopped” the fence after the cop walked by. On Saturday night the speedway was the place to be; it was exciting to be there and especially to watch my uncle, “King Cam,” race.”

Words from Uncle Johnny…

johnny 1951

“I began racing about 1950/51 and raced locally at West Haven Speedway at Savin Rock until the Rock closed around 1965/67. I was the top racer there, racing in all the features and winning most of them. Quite a few of them were $1000 winning purses. If there were any special entertainment going on at the races – I was involved!”

“I was so popular at Donovan Field that when the owner, Tattersall, found out I was engaged, he asked me to have a ‘mock’ wedding right on the infield – on a Saturday night for the fans! I was all for it as I was a crowd pleaser… I loved my fans and I’d do anything to please them, but my soon-to-be wife, Margaret, wasn’t as eager to participate in that deal, so the answer quickly became NO! My wedding was so popular that even many of my young fans also attended the church wedding… sitting in the pews quiet as a mouse.”

“Often, after the races, my fans would line up for me to autograph the pictures they’d purchased. I was always asked for my autograph – and I never refused. There was always a long line of girls waiting for my signature. Even my soon to be wife, Margaret, stood in line for her photograph to be signed… she never cut the line!”

johnny tropies

Johnny with only a few of his winning trophies!

“No matter where I went, I was recognized. Even on my honeymoon in Vermont, a group of motorcyclist passed and  yelled out, “Hey King Cams.”


Johnny’s famous “Legend” scrapbooks!

Johnny’s, soon to be wife, Margaret, made him a scrapbook for his birthday one year… entitled “THE LEGEND“… put together from all the racing photos and newspaper clippings she had saved all through his career. Johnny was super surprised with that scrapbook of his career in print… and couldn’t wait to show his friends. Maggie later began a No. 2 “Legend” scrapbook when Johnny re-entered the racing game at age sixty-two… racing in the “Legend Race.” Little did she know, that there would be so many new photos and newspaper clippings to soon fill a No. 3 scrapbook. The “King” as he was so called… was back in the driver’s seat! Sitting behind that wheel… was where Uncle Johnny was always the happiest!

johnny abd margaret

Johnny with the girl who stole his heart!

Johnny was one of seven children born to Giuseppe (Joseph) and Domenica (Minnie) Cambino. He was one of three boys… and very close to his brother Frank; they were very competitive in everything they did together through the years.

Johnny could tell a tale like none other… holding you spellbound to every word, and the one story of how he almost didn’t make it past age three, I’ve never forgotten. Johnny always accompanied his mother down to the well to carry water back to their farmhouse. One afternoon his mother suddenly missed him and before anyone went searching, she took off running down to the well… only to see his little fingers holding over the edge. She always knew how fascinated he was with the well, so that had been her first thought of maybe where he had went.

He entertained me from the first moment I met him… telling me about the Tarzan Tree  that he and his brother Frankie made. It was no more than a rope hanging from a tree on their farm, but it yielded them much fun… especially after an afternoon of watching Tarzan movies at the Rivoli theater in town.

Johnny’s father often scolded the boys to not swing there… as they’d hung the rope above a bed of rocks… probably to prove how tough they were! One afternoon Johnny returned to the house holding his arm… he had fallen on the rocks. Quickly before his father came home, his mother and grandmother whipped up several egg whites to soak strips of cotton sheeting in…. then they wrapped his arm to set it. Johnny laughed in telling me how hard that “home made” cast actually was. When his father came home and asked what happened… he was told that the cow had kicked him… whether he believed if or not… Mothers always knew best… on how to keep peace in the family.

I was treated to riding with Johnny several times… and while I felt like I might be taking my life in my hands… he’d look over and say, “you’re as safe as a baby in a cradle… I can stop on a dime!” He never lacked confidence… and no matter where he went, everyone knew him… he was a true “Legend.”

Stay tuned for Week 27… to be announced!

Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.


© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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