Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday the 13th: A Day for Superstitions

Many people are aware of the reputation of Friday the 13th as a day for bad luck in Western civilization and are therefore extremely afraid when the 13th falls on a Friday.  There's even a word for that fear:  paraskevidekatriaphobia (try to say that three times -- or should it be thirteen times? -- quickly).

My mother was superstitious about a lot of things, but she flipped a couple of superstitions to the reverse.  So she considered Friday the 13th to be a good luck day.  She also said that black cats were good luck.  I agree with that one, because I think of all cats as being good luck.

But she taught me several other superstitions that I still follow.

Lot of people have heard that it's bad luck to open an umbrella in the house.  That one you can come up with some reasons why you wouldn't want to do it, and maybe they morphed into it being bad luck to do.

My mother taught me that it's bad luck to put a hat on a bed.  She had a minor fit the day I graduated from high school, because when we got home after the ceremony I tossed my mortarboard onto my bed.  She ran over and grabbed it off the bed, kvetching at me about how I dared do such a thing.  I told her I hadn't really thought of the mortarboard as a "hat", to which she responded, "You put it on your head, don't you?"  So I've never put a mortarboard on my bed again.

It's also bad luck to put shoes on a bed.  I can't say that I remember putting shoes on my bed, but I remember my mother telling me I shouldn't do it.  I'm sure she would say that slippers count as shoes because you put them on your feet.  I may have put slippers on the bed once or twice, but never around her.

For several superstitions, you can come up with a logical explanation of why you might not want to do that or why it could be bad for, but superstitions aren't really about logic.  Bad luck for seven years if you break a mirror is another commonly known superstition.  It's also one that you can come up with a good explanation for -- now you have a lot of broken glass around and you might cut yourself.

Don't walk under a ladder, because that's bad luck.  Okay, that makes sense also.  If you walk under a ladder, something might fall on you from it, or the ladder itself might fall on top of you.

But what's with knocking wood?  Why is it good luck to knock wood?  Well, maybe not good luck, but a way to ward off bad luck.  You say something and then knock wood.  Yup, my mother did that a lot.

Do you know the one about salt?  If you spill salt, you're supposed to take some and throw it over your shoulder, or bad luck will come to you.  I've read that one probably comes from the days when salt was extremely expensive, so spilling it was wasteful.

Along with these starter superstitions that my mother provided for me, I have learned additional ones on my journey through life.

My mother said that if someone dies on a piece of furniture, such as a couch, you have to get rid of that furniture.  Sounding like a corollary to that is if someone is wearing shoes when he commits suicide, you can't use the shoes again but have to get rid of them.  That one didn't come from my mother but from a published family memoir.  (I've been told these are specifically Jewish superstitions.)

How about picking up a penny?  "Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck."  Sure, I learned that from my mother.  But someone later in my life (I think my friend Eileen?) taught me a second half to that rhyme:  "Find a penny, leave it lay, bad luck will follow you all the day."  I know it was Eileen who taught me a variation on this:  If the penny is face up, you're supposed to pick it up, because that's the good luck side.  If it's face down, you don't pick it up, but you flip it over so that the next person who comes across it can pick it up to get the good luck.  Bet you didn't know superstitions could be that complicated, did you?

Eileen also taught me a superstition for necklaces.  Often, while you are wearing a necklace, the latch circles around from the back of your neck and ends up in front touching the pendant.  When that happens, you're supposed to kiss the latch for good luck and then return it to the back of your neck.

I learned my first "foreign" superstition when I worked in the USC Industrial and Systems Engineering Department.  We had three Turkish professors in the department, and they all followed this.  You can't take a knife directly from someone's hand; if you do, the two of you will fight soon.  Once I gave a letter opener to Ali Kiran, one of the Turks.  He quickly put it down on the counter and lightly spat in its direction.  I, of course, asked him just what in the world he was doing.  He said he had taken the letter opener from me without thinking but then, realizing that it, in terms of superstitions, was essentially a knife (kind of like the mortarboard and a hat), he had to counter the bad luck -- which is done by getting the offending item out of your hand immediately and then spitting on it.  So I filed that away in the back of my head to remember.  Scissors count for this one also.

Another superstition I picked up somewhere (maybe the Chinese roommate I had for a while) was that spilling rice from your bowl is bad luck.  This sounds similar to the one for salt, because rice is such an important food staple that you wouldn't want to waste it.  I don't remember it there is a way to remedy the situation if you do spill some, however.

Do you know any interesting superstitions you learned in your family?

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Grandparents Day

To celebrate Grandparents Day this year, this is a photo of my five grandchildren last year when we went to Sauvie Island for the corn maze and choosing pumpkins for Hallowe'en.  Unfortunately, the light rain that started when we arrived turned into a torrential downpour before we were halfway through the maze, which we bailed on, and we all ended up looking very soggy.  This photo was taken when we had only been dripped on a little bit.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Create Your Own Tombstone

Is it morbid to create your own tombstone?  Randy Seaver of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun apparently doesn't think so!

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Create your own tombstone at  And/or create one for a relative who doesn't have one, or one for an event or significant issue.

(2) Share your creation with the genea-sphere in your own blog post, or on Facebook or Instagram.  Be sure to drop a link in a comment to this post.

Here's mine:

I couldn't figure out how long I want to live, so I left it up in the air.

I also created a tombstone for Moses Mulliner, one of my Revolutionary War ancestors.  His brother was a Loyalist who was hung for treason, yet he has a tombstone that is regularly replaced.  Moses has no surviving tombstone, even though he was a Patriot.  So I figure Moses deserves one.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your School Yearbook Photos

It's always fun to have a timely subject, which is what Randy Seaver has done this week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

1) updated their School Yearbook collection and it is FREE to access until 2 September.  Use

(2) Show us your school yearbook photos from the Ancestry collection, or from your personal photo collection.  Tell us the school and year.  Add your spouse or best friend or children if you wish!

(3) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

Here's what I could come up with:

So first of all, I was surprised to see that my high school — Niceville Senior High School, in beautiful Niceville, Florida — actually is represented in the collection.  Unfortunately, none of the years I attended (1976–1979) is there, and I have no idea where my yearbooks are in the house.  I know I bought them and kept them, but they're in a box somewhere.  So much for high school photos of me!

I did find the USC yearbook for my senior year in the collection.  I graduated in 1983.

Janice Sellers, University of Southern California yearbook, 1983, page 174

Next I tried looking for my parents.  I didn't find my mother, but I did find two photos of my father in the 1954 Seminole High School (Sanford, Florida) yearbook.  I wish I had found these three months ago, while my father was stil alive.  I could have asked him about his experiences in the Pan American Club, Projectionist Club, Camera Club, and Glee Club (although I think the first three might have been in Moorestown, which was spelled incorrectly in the yearbook).

Salmagundi, Seminole High School yearbook, 1954, senior photos, page 28

Salmagundi, Seminole High School yearbook, 1954, Glee Club, page 59

I couldn't find any of my grandparents.  I looked for my best candidate for my paternal grandfather's biological father and struck out.  I did, however, find my ex, who went to Santa Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica, California.

Hugh Singh, Compass, Santa Monica Catholic High School yearbook,
1966 (freshman), 1967 (sophomore), and 1969 (senior)

I also found the younger of my mother's two brothers (but not the older), about a dozen members of my aunt's family (but not her), and all three of my ex's brothers (but not his half-sister).  Obviously, one could spend many, many hours searching through these for family members.  They sure are fun!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ancestor with Most Unusual Occupation

Randy Seaver has gone in a different direction for tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge:

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1)  Which of your ancestors had an unusual occupation?

(2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

Well, I haven't found any truly unusual occupations while researching my family, and certainly no snake oil salesmen.  The best I can come up with is that my great-great-grandfather Frederick Cleworth Dunstan was a file grinder in the suburbs of Manchester, England.  It used to be a fairly common occupation, but I don't know if people still work doing that.

There's an interesting essay online about the life of file grinders in Sheffield, England, which was pretty harsh.  I'm guessing that it was similar in Manchester.   Unfortunately, nowhere in the essay does it actually define the work that a file grinder did, so I'm still a little fuzzy on that.  I don't know what types of files were ground or what the files were used for.  The impression I have is that file grinders were pretty far down on the socioeconomic scale, however.  I was particularly struck by the comment that most file grinders died young, because that is what happened to Frederick Dunstan, who was only about 34 years old when he died.  He left behind my widowed great-great-grandmother Maria (Winn) Dunstan and five children.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Were You in a Youth Organization?

Randy Seaver has taken an idea from someone else for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun posting challenge.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

Did you join a youth organization such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, Job's Daughters, for example?

(2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

Thank you to Lisa Gorrell for suggesting this several months ago.

I was in a few youth organizations at different times.  When my family lived in California, I was in Camp Fire Girls (today, apparently, simply Camp Fire), as was my younger sister.  My mother was our group leader (whatever the group was called).  That would have left my brother alone, so he was our (unofficial) group mascot and participated in activities with us.  We were in the youngest age group, which at that time was called Bluebirds.  I think somewhere I still have my Bluebird uniform.  The Wikipedia Camp Fire page says that kids can earn beads; I have no recollection if we earned anything or just did social activities.

The next group I was in was Girl Scouts, which was after my family returned to the States from Australia.  I must have been a Cadette Girl Scout, I think for all three years of junior high school.  I remember earning badges, particularly my cooking badge, for which I learned how to make authentic Italian food from the chef at a local restaurant.  I think my mother was their bookkeeper, so I had an in.  I still make my pasta sauces the old-fashioned way I was taught then.  I earned a sewing badge, too.  I also still have that uniform and my badges.

After the third year of Cadette Girl Scouts, we went on a big trip to Atlanta, which is about 325 miles from the tiny little settlement of Villa Tasso, Florida, where my family lived.  We visited Stone Mountain and Underground Atlanta, and probably a few other sites.  The main thing I recall from that trip, however, was how the driver of the car I was in got lost in the "wrong part" of Atlanta on our way to where we were staying. (Translation:  She was a "traditional" white Southerner, and we somehow ended up in the black part of town.)  She was freaking out and panicking, totally afraid of the people around her, even though they weren't doing anything.  This was well before the days of ubiquitous mobile phones, so no Google Maps or even being able to call one of the other driver/chaperones.  We were able to get to where we were supposed to be because I knew how to read a map.  I talked her through Atlanta streets block by block until we arrived.  I think I'm happy I don't remember her name.  And somehow I just never got excited enough to be a Senior Girl Scout.

The third group I participated in was 4-H.  I think that was only for one summer while we lived in Villa Tasso.  I have no memories of what we did, simply that I did it as a summer activity.

In college, my best friend was involved with the Future Farmers of America chapter in Santa Maria, California.  One weekend we went up to help out at an event.  I ended up in a hog pen, trying to convince a hog which direction it wanted to go.  As I recall, I was not particularly successful, and one of the kids had to help me out.  But the hog eventually ended up where it was supposed to be.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Where Were You in 2000?

For Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this week, Randy Seaver is asking us to reach back in our memories almost twenty years.  Let's see how I do compared to him.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

Do you recall what you were doing in 2000?  Family, school, work, hobbies, technology, genealogy, vacations, etc.?  If this doesn't work for you, what about your parents?

(2) Tell us in a blog post of your own, in a comment on this blog, or in a Facebook post.

As usual, I am amazed at Randy's amount of recall.  This is what I could cobble together.

I was living in Oakland, California in the house I had bought in 1993.  I no longer had a housemate.  The friend who had cosigned with me to purchase the house had moved out in 1998.  In mid-1999 I had a friend who needed a place to stay, so I let him have the extra room.  By the time 2000 had rolled around, however, he was gone.  He had gone out drinking on New Year's Eve and had apparently spent the night with a young lady, who then took all of his money and disappeared — which is exactly what the housemate did for several months, being too embarrassed to admit what had happened.  I finally tracked him down three or four months into the year and got him to take all of his stuff out of the house.

In 2000 I had been working for the Seismological Society of America for two years.  I was the publications coordinator — at that point I was not yet editing one of the journals; my work was administrative only — and the "junior Webmaster" — I assisted the primary Webmaster with maintaining and updating the society's site.  I don't remember if I had learned HTML by that point or not.  I was probably doing only really basic stuff with the site.

The Seismological Society of America (SSA) is a scientific membership association.  Most members are seismologists and geologists, with a smattering of volcanologists and other geological specialties.  SSA holds an annual conference, as do many scneitific societies, where members and other attendees present talks and posters on recent research.  The 2000 conference was held in San Diego right after my birthday.  I remember there was a field trip of some sort to Old Town, which was enjoyable if somewhat touristy.  I also remember that was the year I met Shri Krishna Singh.

See, there was an international enclave of seismologists at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National University of Mexico).  Certainly there were scientists from Mexico, but they also had Kostoglodov from Russia, a Japanese man whose name I've forgotten, and Shri Krishna Singh from India.  I met him in San Diego when I heard someone speaking fluent Spanish behind me, turned around to see who it was, and was momentarily nonplussed when I saw a man who pretty clearly seemed to be from the Indian subcontinent.  It took a few seconds for my brain to process, and then I realized who it had to be.  I had communicated with him by e-mail prior to that but had never met him in person.

(Years later, when I was with my stepsons' father, whose father was born in India, I contacted Shri to find out if he had any advice for doing genealogy research in that country.  He told me that after he had been a successful scientist for several years, he went back to India himself to try to find some record of his birth.  He was dismayed when he could find absolutely nothing and learned that his brother had literally made up a birth date for him when he started school.  He told me I was pretty much out of luck.)

In August I'm prettty sure I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for GenCon, the largest gaming convention held in the United States.  I don't remember whose booth I would have been working at.  It might have been Reaper Games or Pegasus Publishing.  I just learned from reading the GenCon page on Wikipedia that the 2000 convention was the first year that Hasbro owned it, having bought Wizards of the Coast the previous year right after the 1999 convention.

There's a good chance that I also attended the Origins Game Fair in Columbus in July.  That's another game convention, I believe the second largest in the United States.  Again I don't remember who I worked for.  If I did go, I probably visited my aunt's sister, who lives in Columbus.

It's almost guaranteed that I went to two of the three game conventions in Los Angeles run by Strategicon:  OrcCon over Presidents' Day weekend and Gateway over Labor Day weekend.  I don't know if I went to the Memorial Day weekend convention, Gamex; it was a significantly smaller convention, and it wasn't always cost effective to attend.

If I still had access to the e-mail address I used at that time, I could easily check on all of this.  Unfortunately, Eudora has not been supported for many years now, and I don't have access to the old files.

All of those conventions used to use up all of my vacation time, so I usually didn't do much additional travel other than that related to work.  I might have gone to one or two professional training seminars for SSA.

I was doing genealogy research back then.  As I recall, I had Family Tree Maker 3.0 for Macintosh (before Ancestry abandoned it!)  installed on my work computer.  I think I had upgraded my home computer to a 486 because I needed a hard drive to use the version of FTM I had discs for.

2000 was the year I began volunteering to help at the Oakland Family History Center, after having used the library for several years for research.  I kept helping people, so one day one of the staff asked, "Would you like to volunteer here?"  I said I wasn't Mormon, and he said it didn't matter, so I signed up!

That's about all I can recall for now.  Maybe something else will percolate up through my brain during the next few days.  If so, I'll post an addendum.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

I Love It When Cousins Call Me!

Ruchel Dwojre (Jaffe) Brainin,
one of the ancestors my
cousin asked me abour.
She is our great-great-grandmother.
I had a wonderful surprise on Wednesday.  Out of the blue, I got a phone call from one of my younger cousins!

He told me that his mother had given him all of the genealogy materials I had shared with her.  I haven't heard yet what prompted this, so I don't know at whose instigation this happened.  But he apparently started reading thorugh it avidly and then had lots of questions.  So his mother gave him my phone number.

We spent an hour and a quarter on the phone!  Mostly he seemed to want to know what I knew about any rabbis on the Brainin branch of my family (the line we have in common) and which members of the family were Orthodox Jews, but he also asked about anecdotes and stories, things that went beyond just the bare facts that are in the family tree information he already had.  I was able to remember lots of things (really good, since I didn't have any papers in front of me and I was totally unprepared), which seemed to satisfy at least some of his curiosity.  But some of what he asked about I still don't have answers for.  Now that someone else is asking, however, I feel a little reinvigorated about researching that line.  Maybe that was just the motivation I need to make some new discoveries!

I met this cousin and his family in person in 2013, when the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy was held in Boston.  I actually stayed at their house for the week.  One of the amusing things about the phone call today is that my cousin didn't seem to remember having met me, even though that was only six years ago and at the time we made a big deal about the fact that we share the same birthday.  I don't feel so bad about some of my forgetfulness if someone 34 years younger than I am is forgetting things also!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

IAJGS Cleveland: Wrapping Up and Heading Home

By the time Thursday rolled around at this year's IAJGS conference, the temperatures in Cleveland had taken a serious dip, and it didn't get over 79° for the rest of my visit.  I wasn't quite happy enough to go dancing in the streets, because that would have gotten me overheated again, but it was a great relief.

The first session on Thursday was my third and final presentation of the conference.  My talk about finding the maiden names in your family is one of my most popular, and the room was pretty full.  Near the end of the talk, one of the suggestions I make as to why people change their names is to gain an inheritance.  A gentleman in attendance actually had an example of that from his own family, where the man writing the will included a provision requiring potential heirs to change their name to his if they wanted the bequest.  I asked him to contact me after the conference, because I would love to have an image of that will to include for the future.

Since none of the topics in the second time slot really grabbed my interest, I headed back to the Resource Room to see what other goodies I could find.  Along with being able to use ProQuest databases, several genealogical societies provide access to resources that are normally behind password-protected member areas.  I took advantage of the opportunity to obtain copies of several society journals/newsletters that I didn't have.  I left with a loaded flash drive and a satisfied smile.

Thursday was also my last volunteer mentoring session.  I was surprised and happy to see that someone who had been in my maiden names session actually followed through on her statement that she would see me later.  I helped her with several questions and then stayed an extra hour to be available, because for a while there was a back-up of people wanting assistance.

I did drag myself away for Alex Denysenko's talk about "Alternative Sources for Jewish Genealogy."  Even though he was approaching the idea from a Russian/Ukrainian perspective, it turned out that a lot of his "alternative" sources are the same types we use here in the United States, such as land records, passports and visas, voter registration lists, school records, and newspapers (hooray for newspapers!).  Some that were different were notary records (common in many locations in Europe), work registrations, Judenrat records, Extraordinary Commission records (unique to the former Soviet Union, I believe), land distribution in Poland, and debtors' lists.

The last session I attended on Thursday was Jane Neff Rollins' discussion of "Translation Tips for Foreign-language Documents."  Jane and I were both members of a short-lived APG special interest group for translators, and I definitely wanted to see her presentation and show support.  She provided a lot of good resources and discussed the pros and cons of using volunteer translators, trying to do it yourself, and paying for a professional.

Friday is the short day of the conference, with the "afterthought" sessions.  I've been scheduled in the last time slot, and I know what it's like to look at an empty room, so I make an effort to find talks to go to on the last day.  I lucked out and again was able to attend a talk that will be presented later this year for the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.  Robinn Magid, an SFBAJGS member and the chair of next year's conference in San Diego, spoke about "American Jewish Family Clubs and Family Circles."  The impression I got was that most of these didn't have lots of documentation, but some of them are goldmines of genealogy information.  I know my family members used to get together, but I don't know if it was a formal "family club."  I doubt there's any paperwork to find, unfortunately.

And then I couldn't resist the siren call of the Resource Room and went back one more time to see what else I could discover.  This time I visited a different genealogical society's site and found several pieces of information about family members in its member area.  Another successful foray!

I had allowed some free time after the conference ended in case I found someone to talk with before I left for home.  I ran into a man who had gone to two of my talks, and we had a lively discussion about families and research for about an hour before he headed off to find lunch and then drive to Fort Wayne, Indiana for even more genealogy.  And as a coda to the conference, when my airport shuttle arrived, I was amazed to discover that the two people with whom I was riding recognized me because they had also gone to my presentations, each of them a different one.  So we talked even more about genealogy the entire way to Hopkins, barely letting the driver get a word in edgewise to ask us which airlines we were flying on.

I really love going to these conferences.  As the SFBAJGS president likes to say, who wouldn't want to be stuck in a hotel for a week with 1,000 other people equally obsessed about genealogy?  I can hardly wait until next year's conference, especially since I don't have to go east of the Rockies.  It isn't Cleveland's fault, but San Diego will probably have weather more to my liking.  And I won't even have to change time zones!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

IAJGS Cleveland: Tuesday and Wednesday

The best news about the IAJGS conference is that the temperature here in Cleveland has dropped quite a bit.  Today, for example, the high was only 79°, and there was even a breeze!  As I walk back and forth between my hotel and the conference hotel, I really appreciate that.

My Tuesday began slowly.  I hadn't been that enamored of any of the sessions in the first time slot, and I somehow just didn't manage to make it to even one.  Next, I wanted to go to Banai Feldstein's class on "Lesser Known Online Resources", but right before I was about to walk into the room, someone called out to me that she had something important for me.  It turned out that all she wanted to do was to introduce me to a new person in a local genealogical society, but by the time that had happened, I turned around and the room with Banai's session was already overflowing with people.  There was no way I was going to get in there.  I'm lucky that she (finally!) uploaded a handout to the conference site, so at least I have that now.

For lunch the Jewish genealogy bloggers got together.  We introduced ourselves, talked about our blogs, and generally had a great time hanging out with each other.  The only bad thing was that we were arranged in a not very comfortable fashion on some random seats in an open area.  Next year the blogger get-together coordinator said she just might break down and try to get us on the schedule for a regular room.

We look like a friendly bunch, don't we?

After lunch, I heard Jane Neff Rollins speak about the Clarion agricultural colony in Sanpete County, Utah in the early 1900's.  She used the colony as a way to demonstrate things to think about during research and reasons not to get into a research rut.  It was an interesting but sad story about the colony.  Most of the research suggestions she made were ones that I use regularly, but there were a couple I could think about more.

Then came my second presentation of the conference, apparently the only methods session that was scheduled.  I talked about why everyone should use source citations in their research, even when it's just your own database on your computer that you don't intend to share with anyone, and the various style guides available to help you construct those citations.  One of the points I emphasized was that if you already are familiar with a style guide, such as from college research or professional work, you will be much more likely to start doing citations if you just use that rather than force yourself to learn an entirely new style, such as one that is heavily pushed in some circles.  I consider it far more important to get the citations done, and that's more likely to happen if people feel they can use a tool they already know than try to convince them to do the citations in a style they will have to learn from scratch and therefore will put off doing.  Not only did it seem that attendees enjoyed the talk, one person came up at the end and specifically thanked me for my approach.  I have to admit, I felt pretty good about that.

My last learning opportunity of the day was Judy Baston's talk about "Documenting the Vilna Ghetto Library."  She is scheduled to give that presentation to the SFBAJGS later this year, but I won't be able to attend now that I live in Oregon, so I jumped at the chance to hear her.  It was fascinating to hear the history of the library and learn what documents existed in the Lithuanian archives regarding the library and its patrons.  I am constantly amazed to discover what types of material have survived and are available for researchers.

The last event of the day, however, was SFBAJGS attendees meeting up for our new tradition.  We try to get a photo of members at the conference to share online.  I think this time we have a total of about 18 members here.  We didn't manage to get everyone into one photo, but most of us have been captured for posterity.

Wednesday started with bouncing from one session to another.  In the first one, the speaker was pretty much reading from his handout, and that's never exciting, so I snuck out the back and went to Jennifer Mendelsohn's talk, "Think Like a Reporter."  While mostly a revisiting of several successful genealogy searches she has made, she did give several morsels of advice about how to approach research, not to rely on unsubstantiated information, and all-around good ideas.  Plus she is a very entertaining speaker!  So it was a lot of fun.

I went from there to the Resource Center, because Wednesday and Thursday at an IAJGS conference mean we have access to all the ProQuest databases, including the historical newspapers.  Woo hoo!  I found several little nuggets in newspapers, including the Minneapolis Tribune and the Chicago Tribune.  I was very happy with my new discoveries.

I had another group lunch on Wednesday.  This time it was for people who have finished or are currently going through the ProGen (Professional Genealogy) study group, which is set up for people who want to learn about how to be a good professional genealogist.  Getting together is good for networking and just to talk with other people who have similar interests.  Half a dozen of us had an enjoyable (and not horribly overpriced) lunch at the Hilton restaurant and got to know each other.

After lunch was another disappointing talk.  The speaker had very fractured English and poor spelling on his PowerPoint slides, plus the talk didn't really flow and was kind of like random thoughts strung together.  Plus, with a talk focused on an online site with records, he never included the URL.  And instead of lasting for an hour and fifteen minutes, the talk petered out at barely half an hour.  Oh, well, I had plenty of time to check my e-mail before the next session!

The next presenter wasn't very dynamic but was more on point with her subject.  I learned about the types of holdings that the Western Reserve Historical Society has, with an emphasis on Jewish records, of course.  One of the most interesting to me was the collection of records from the Bellefaire orphanage.  I remember helping someone research his family members who had been in the orphanage for some years.  At the time, I didn't know about the collection at the historical society.  Now I want to go back and find out who that research was for to see if these records might be of interest to him.

And the last item on my agenda for the day wasn't even for me, but for the SFBAJGS Webmistress.  As usual at the conferences, Banai Feldstein had scheduled a meeting for JGS Webmasters.  I try to go because Barbara doesn't usually attend the conferences.  This meeting didn't have any great revelations, but I covered the bases.

Now to rest up for Thursday and my last talk!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

My Uncle Gary

Gary Steve Meckler, February 12, 1951–July 24, 2019
Photo: Hot August Nights, Reno, Nevada, August 12, 2018

Last week, on July 24, my aunt called me to let me know that my uncle Gary had died that day.  He had been ill for some time, more than he had let on.

My mother was the oldest child, so both of her brothers were younger than she was.  Gary was the younger of the two, born seven years after his older brother and eleven years after my mother.  I asked my grandmother about that age gap once, and she admitted that Gary had been a little bit of a "surprise."

Gary's Hebrew names were Gershon Sholem.  Gershon was for his father's maternal grandfather (my great-great-grandfather), Gershon Itzhak Nowicki (Novitsky here in the United States).  Sholem is more complicated.  That was for his mother's sister-in-law's mother, Scheindel.

These are a few of my favorite memories of Gary.

My mother was close to her family, so my siblings and I grew up knowing her side of the family well.  Gary visited us several times while we lived in California.  He was kind of like an older brother for my brother, my sister, and me because the age difference wasn't that big.  He taught us to eat ketchup on our scrambled eggs and gave us the phrase, "You don't cheat fair!"

Gary even visited us while we lived in Australia.  He brought us a present, a book titled 101 Alphabets.  It was mostly alphabets in different fonts and styles, but one of the examples was the Greek alphabet.  So I learned the Greek alphabet when I was 10, because I thought it was pretty cool, and because my uncle gave us the book.  I think I still have the book.

One of my favorite photos of Gary is from when he was stationed in Vietnam with the U.S. Army.  I love snakes, and I still think this is a fantastic photo.  I don't know if Gary had a copy of this of his own, because when I posted it on my blog several years ago, he saved my digital copy and posted it to his Facebook page.

We will all miss Gary very much.

Monday, July 29, 2019

IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Cleveland, Ohio

So here I am in lovely Cleveland, Ohio.  I think it hit 89° today, with something like 90% humidity.  I really, really hate weather like this.  Then why have I come to Cleveland in July?  For genealogy, obviously!

Yesterday (Sunday) was the first day of this year's IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  It is the 39th conference, although it hasn't been held every year.  Even though it is Cleveland in July, I can deal with that more than I could the expense of last year's conference in Warsaw, so I'm glad I am able to attend.

I unfortunately had a late start on Sunday, so I missed both of the morning sessions, which was very disappointing.  I had particularly been looking forward to hearing Vivian Kahn's talk about Hungarian Jewish immigration into Cleveland, especially since both sides of her family lived there.  I did have an enjoyable time walking through the exhibitor hall, visiting vendors and many research groups that had tables for the afternoon.  The highlight of the day was the keynote address by Daniel Goldmark, Director of the Center for Popular Music Studies at Case Western Reserve University.  His presentation was about Jews in popular music, ranging from Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson to the Beastie Boys, Gene Simmons, and more.  He sometimes regretted playing snippets of songs, as most people in the audience started singing along almost immediately.  It might not have been the most genealogically oriented keynote I've heard at a conference, but it sure was fun!

I wrapped up the day with a meeting of Jewish genealogical society newsletter and journal editors.  I always try to schedule one for the conferences I attend.  This year we had six people representing five societies (and two people were unable to attend but spoke to me about the meeting).  As usual, it was a combination of networking, brainstorming, and kvetching.  There's still one society that does print only, with no electronic version of their publication.

Monday began with the first of my three presentations.  I was so happy that the first session of the day began at 9:15, instead of 7:30, as it was at one conference!  The topic was "Jewish Genealogy:  How Is This Research Different from All Other Research?"  Rather than being an introduction to genealogy, it focuses on the aspects of Jewish research that are unique and different from researching other groups.  About 50 people were in attendance, which was nice to see.  One of the attendees was a lovely woman who has been researching her family for 40 years but only recently discovered she has a Jewish line.  She and several others told me at the end that the talk was very helpful and informative, which I am always gratified to hear.

I went to the Belarus Special Interest Group meeting because the well known Miriam Weiner was scheduled to be the presenter.  I've never heard her speak before, so I don't know if today was surprising or not, but all she did was show how to use the Routes to Roots site.  On the positive side, I did get a copy of a 1937 map of Grodno, which will be helpful for research.

IAJGS offered its mentoring program again this year, where they ask speakers to volunteer some time to help attendees with research questions.  The mentoring area is really cramped this year, with a small number of tables and lots of volunteers, but I found a table with two attendees who came up with lots of questions for me.  They have several new avenues of research to work on now.

I was able to fit one DNA talk into my schedule.  It's the first time I've heard Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA talk.  He is an entertaining speaker, even on the (somewhat boring) technical aspects of Y-DNA that were his topic.  I'm not sure if what I learned is going to necessarily help me in my research, but I do understand how the matches work much better.

For some local flavor (since I missed Vivian's talk), I next went to a session on the Jewish presence in central Ohio.  The presenters discussed Jewish immigration into the area beginning in the 1830's and going through Soviet Jewish immigration late in the 20th century, and showed images of many documents and artifacts held at Ohio History Connection and the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, including a mohel's record book covering 1873 to 1904.  Both repositories hold a wide range of items that would be helpful and beneficial to many genealogists researching their families.

Today ended with a get-together of professional genealogists who are at the conference.  We introduced ourselves, talked about our research specialties, and did a lot of networking.  One of the few (I think there are two?) Jewish Certified Genealogists was actually in attendance.  One topic that came up was how it would be beneficial for attendees at the IAJGS conference if there were more sessions on methods and foundational topics, rather than everthing being focused on Jewish genealogical topics.  It has been learned over the years that few people who attend IAJGS go to general conferences where they would learn more about those other topics.

My commentary on days 3 and 4 of the conference is here, and that on days 5 and 6 here.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ancestors' Transcontinental Travel (Not by Airplane)

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is from a suggestion I made to Randy Seaver recently.  I'm glad he liked the idea.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Each week, The Weekly Genealogist (published by NEHGS) asks a survey question, and readers respond to the question, usually just selecting one of the answer options and sometimes with paragraphs of information.   Reader Janice Sellers suggested using this week's question.

(2) On 24 July, the question was:  Have you or any of your ancestors traveled across the United States by car, train, wagon, or some other form of transportation that was not an airplane? (You can decide what constitutes a cross-country trip, but since the distance from the east coast to the west coast ranges from 2,500 to 3,500 miles, depending on the route, we suggest it should be at least 1,500 miles.  Canadian cross-country trips also count.)

(3) Answer the question above in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.

Okay, here are the ones I know about.

• I'm not one of my own ancestors, but I have driven from Florida to California.  I went from Fort Walton Beach, Florida to Riverside, California and then north to Oakland.

• My parents, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Jr. and Myra Roslyn (Meckler) Sellers, drove from Miami, Florida to Whittier, California, leaving within a few days after having been married on October 21, 1961.  Even years afterward, my mother would complain about how it took three entire days to drive across Texas.  I don't know what reason or excuse my parents gave to their families for leaving so quickly after the wedding, but years later I pieced together that my mother was already three and a half months pregnant with me and she didn't want her parents to know.  I was told that my godmother in Whittier learned my mother was pregnant before my grandparents did.

• My paternal grandfather, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr., drove from New Jersey to somewhere "out west" and stayed in the west for a couple of years.  I learned this from a list my grandfather compiled of all the places he had lived in his life.  He wrote, "1928–1929 Traveling thru west no perm. Add."  Unfortunately, I received the papers years after my grandfather had died, and my aunts were too young at that time (born in 1925 and 1928) to remember anything about him not being home.

• I believe my maternal grandparents, Abraham Meckler and Lillian (Gordon) Meckler, drove from New York to Miami when they moved south, probably sometime around 1949 or 1950.  And they likely drove from Miami to Las Vegas when they moved out there.  I don't know what year that was, but it was early enough for my younger uncle to graduate from Las Vegas High School in 1968.

And that's it for my ancestors traveling cross-country, at least ones I know about.  I do have one collateral relative, my great-grandmother's brother David Brainin, who went from New York to California before 1910 and spent at least seven years out west.  He registered for the World War I draft in Butte, Montana and served in the Army at Camp Lewis, Washington.  And before 1920 he had returned to the East Coast, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ellen's Questions, Part 4

Tonight for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun we're wrapping up the last of the 20 questions we started three weeks ago (although I'm very surprised Randy Seaver did not pick the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing as his theme this week).

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission: Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Ellen Thompson-Jennings posted 20 questions on her Hound on the Hunt blog three weeks ago — see 
Even More Questions about Your Ancestors and Maybe a Few about You (posted 27 June). 

(2) We will do these five at a time, with
Questions 16 to 20 tonight (we did
questions 1 through 5 three weeks ago, 6 through 10 two weeks ago, and 11 through 15 last week).

(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.

Okey-dokey, here are my responses.

16.  If you’re into DNA, which would you say you work on more?  Genealogy or DNA?  Or about the same?

Definitely more on genealogy.  Most of the time DNA isn't sufficient to give you a complete answer, so if you don't work on the genealogy, you won't know how all those cousins are connected to you.  And you have to do regular genealogy for all the people who haven't done DNA testing!

17.  Do you think that your genealogy is ever really done?

Oh, heavens, no, not for me.  How could it be done?  You would have to do such exhaustive research on even one line to be able to say authoritatively that there really were no other records available anywhere that could help you learn more information about that family.  And I'm nowhere close to that on any of my lines.  But if someone began genealogy research to answer a specific question and nothing else, then that person could be done when the question was answered.

18.  Did you ever search an ancestor’s name on the Internet and you were surprised at what you found?

I search for ancestor names a lot to see what pops up.  I have found lots of things, but I'm not sure I was surprised.  After all, that's what I was trying to do, right?  But I can't recall any great revelations that blew me away.  On the other hand, I have been surprised to see what's online about myself when I search for my name.

19.   Do you ever feel like your ancestors are nudging you in the right direction in your research?

The only time I've ever had that feeling was when my father, my stepmother, and I went to the cemetery to look for my great-grandmother's grave.  It was a small cemetery, and the three of us spread out in different directions:  I went straight to the back, my father went to the right, and my stepmother went to the left.  Just as I arrived near the back fence, my father called out that we should probably be looking for a flat stone, because my grandfather, who had taken care of his mother's burial, was well known for being cheap and probably would not have paid for a standing stone.  Right after he said that, I looked down, and I was standing right by her stone — which was flat, just as my father had predicted.  I realize that isn't quite "research", but that's the best I have.

20.  If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to genealogy, what would you tell them?

You mean besides, "Prepare to lose all your spare time to this hobby"?  I think it would be to talk to the oldest members of the family as soon as possible and ask as many questions as you can think of; write down everything from your interviews.  Once those family members have died, their memories are gone.  And my second piece of advice is to get as many photographs identified as possible while older family members are alive, because they have the best chance of recognizing who is in those photos.

50 Years Ago: The Apollo Moon Landing

Buzz Aldrin walks near the lunar module (NASA file photo)

All week long there have been stories in the news about the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing.  Well known genealogy blogger Judy Russell went into great detail about her memories of the day.  One of the recurring themes during the week has been, "Everyone remembers exactly where they were when it happened."

Except, apparently, me.

Well, I kind of remember.

What I remember is my mother gathering the three of us children together and having us sit in front of the television set, telling us, "This is important.  This is history.  You need to watch this."

But I don't remember anything else.  Not Armstrong's famous words (with or without the "a").  Not film of him or Aldrin walking on the Mooon's surface.  Not the U.S. flag on the Moom.  Not the shot of the Earth from the Moon.

ZIp.  Zilch.  Zero.  The big bagel.

All I remember is my mother telling me it was important.

You'd think that at 7 years old I would have committed more to memory.  I even remember some things that happened when I was much younger, about 2 1/2 years old.

But nope, not the Moon landing.  In one eye and out the other.

I guess that means that to me my mother was more important than the Moon landing.

Well, maybe that isn't so bad after all.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ellen's Questions, Part 3

In this week's challenge for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, we continue to follow up on a previous one.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Ellen Thompson-Jennings posted 20 questions on her Hound on the Hunt blog two weeks ago — see 
Even More Questions about Your Ancestors and Maybe a Few about You (posted 27 June). 

(2) We will do these five at a time, with
Questions 11 to 15 tonight (we did 1 through 5 two weeks ago and questions 6 through 10 last week).

(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.

Okay, these are my answers.

11.  If money weren’t an issue, where would you go to do genealogy research?

All over the world!  I would go to Ukrainian archives and hire interpreters to find information about my Gorodetsky and Schneiderman (and maybe Kagan) family lines.  I would try doing research in Moldova with more interpreters, looking for my Gorodetskys.  I would visit the Latvian archives with yet more interpreters, desperately trying to find even one measly document about my Brainins and Jaffes.  I would go to archives in Belarus (yes, more interpreters) to see if any of the record sets listed on the Routes to Roots site include any of my Mekler, Nowicki, Yelsky, or related relatives.  If I found addresses in any of those records, I would look to see if those buildings had survived.  In Belarus I would also search for records and information about the families of my many Mekler cousins with whom I am now in contact.

It would be ineresting to go back to Cuba, now that I have a little more information about my Cuban cousins, to try researching in person, instead of having to rely on e-mail communications with my researcher there.  At least I can read Spanish fluently and understand spoken Spanish fairly well.

And that's just my mother's side of the family!

For my father's side, I'd like to go to Manchester, England (where my brother has been able to go, once) and research the Dunstans and Winns (and I wouldn't need an interpreter there).  If I could trace the Dunstans back to Cornwall, that would be my next stop.  I should also go to New Jersey to do archives research on all of his other lines, because they were all in New Jersey for such a long time.

And after all that I would probably take a break to determine my next destination.

12.  Do you ever feel as though you’re the only person researching your family?

At this point, yes.  A cousin in Ottawa, Canada was doing research for a while, even going to the point of creating a legal-sized two-page questionnaire that she sent around to all the relatives there (I am very fortunate that she made photocopies of all of the pages for me).  I don't think she is pursuing that anymore.  Other than the occasional random forays my brother makes online (which almost always produce something substantive and useful), I'm it.

13.  Why do you think you’re interested in your family history and other family members might not be?

I used to actually listen to the stories that my mother and grandmother told about family when I was a little girl.  For whatever reason, my brother and sister were apparently not as interested.  So I was already primed when, at the age of 13, I had a junior high school assignment to trace my family back four generations.  I still have that purple mimeographed piece of paper and the notes I took at the time while interviewing family members.  That assignment is what got me hooked.  I think being open to the stories and then starting so young, when I had so many older relatives who were still alive and could tell me information themselves, was a rare combination.

14.  Do you intend to write about your genealogy/family history findings?

You mean like a book?  Oh, heavens, no!  I hate writing.  But I do manage to post to my blog on a (semi)regular basis and share a lot of the family stories and discoveries that way.  And I have shared family trees with so many cousins I lost count.  If I could find someone who wanted to do the writing after I did all the research, that would work much better for me.  And then I could edit the manuscript, because I love editing.

15.  Did you ever make a genealogy mistake that caused you to have to prune your family tree?

One mistake, and one discovery via DNA.  The mistake was relying on the information in the IGI to identify my great-great-grandmother Lippincott's parents.  I happily researched the parents that were listed and went back quite a ways.  But as more records became readily available and I did more research, I discovered that there were two girls of almost the same age with almost the same name, my great-great-grandmother and another one.  That, of course, meant that I had to fully research both women.  I was finally able to determine through church records that the parents listed in that IGI record were those of the other Lippincott, not mine, even though the marriage date and husband were correct for mine.  Someone accidentally combined info from two records!  So out went the one line of Lippincotts and I began work on the correct one, which I have not been able to document as extensively, but at least I'm pretty sure they're actually mine.  The two lines will probably end up connecting some generations back, but you can't go anywhere in New Jersey without tripping over a Lippincott because they've been there so long, so I'm not worried about that yet.

The other "pruning" came when I demonsrated through DNA testing that my grandfather's father was not the man his mother married.  I actually haven't taken those people out of my family tree, because Elmer Sellers was the only father my grandfather knew, and I put years and years of work into that research.  But I have discontinued further research in that direction and now focus on determining just who my grandfather's biological father was.

Friday, July 12, 2019

It's National Motorcycle Day!

A Honda CB750, but not quite like mine*
And just what is National Motorcycle Day, you may ask?  Apparently it's a blatant marketing push by a Wisconsin-based company that offers motorcycle insurance.  But motorcycles have been an important part of my life, and I felt like posting about them as part of writing my own story, so I searched to find if a national motorcycle day existed, and I found it.  This year it falls on July 12, ergo this post.

I've decided the first bike I'll write about is my Honda CB750K, because it was the most distinctive of the motorcycles I've owned.  Based on my recollections of all of my vehicles and the fact that I now recall that I already had it when I had my knee surgery, I think I bought it about 1985.  I was living in Los Angeles at the time and had been riding a Suzuki GS550 for a while but had decided it wasn't big enough.  I bought it used, as I have done with all of my vehicles.  I don't remember what year it was, but according to the Wikipedia page about the model, the 750K was made from 1969 to 1982, so it could have been anywhere in there, and I don't know the submodel.  I'm inclined to think it was more toward the later end, as it was in reasonably good condition.  Maybe there's a way to research that kind of thing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles?  Hmm, if so I could get copies of all of my vehicle registrations and learn more about them, like their license plates.  I'm pretty sure I had a vanity plate for the Honda, but I don't remember what it was.

My Honda was blue.  It was designed as a touring bike, to be ridden long distance over highways, so it had a large gas tank for a motorcycle, 5 1/2 gallons.  This was probably my favorite feature, because it meant stopping less often to gas up, particularly helpful when I was driving regularly between Los Angeles and Berkeley on I-5.  With the Honda I only had to stop once each way for gas, whereas all my other bikes required two or three gas stops.  Because it was my primary vehicle and I hauled around various things on it, I had saddle bags and a trunk.  I also had a full fairing for highway riding.

Some of the features described on the Wikipedia page I remember:  electric starter, kill switch, dual mirrors, flashing turn signals, and air-cooled engine.  One of the problems I discovered with the air-cooled engine was that if you weren't moving, you weren't getting air to cool the engine, so on really hot days when I was stuck on the freeway it would often stall on me.

Three things I remember about my Honda are not described on the page.  First, it was extraordinarily tall, so tall that I had trouble getting on it for the first few months after my knee surgery, which was in the fall of 1985 if I remember correctly.  I had to very carefully pick up my right leg and gently slide it over the bike, letting my foot just barely tap the ground on the other side before I could tilt the bike to an upright position and rely on my left leg.  I'm lucky that you shift with your left foot, or I probably wouldn't have been able to ride at all until I was fully recovered.  None of the images I can find online of 750K models looks like my bike; all of them look like normal-height street bikes.  Second, it was very heavy and had a very high center of gravity, more than any other motorcycle I've owned, even the 920.

The other "feature" of the bike which is not mentioned is the fact that it was necessary to take the side panels off of both sides to gain access to the battery, which I think of as a serious design flaw.  I remember the problems I had with that after one year at Band Camp (from when I was in the USC Trojan Marching Band, The Greatest Marching Band In The History Of The Universe).  Not only was I out of town for four days (I think?) with band camp in San Diego, but I broke my finger while there (which was an adventure in and of itself that I should write about sometime).  So when we returned to Los Angeles I couldn't ride for a while.  By the time I finally had a chance to check on the bike, which I had left parked on campus near the band office, the battery was dead.  So here I was, my right (dominant) hand in a cast, fumbling with this stupid layout to undo bolts to get the battery out so I could take it home and charge it.  I eventually did manage to do this, but when I brought the battery back, for some reason the charge had not taken, and I had to do it all over again!  The second time the battery did charge, and I was able to start the bike (yay!).  I vaguely recall that I rode the bike home slowly and carefully and had someone else drive my car home.

The center stand on the Honda was extremely difficult to maneuver.  I was never able to get it up by myself.  I never learned if that was normal for the model or if mine was just stiff.  This became a big problem once when I was riding south on the 405 during rush hour and the rear tire blew out.  I was in the fast lane, so I pulled over onto the shoulder and tried to get the bike to stand up on the side stand.  Nope, that didn't work; the bike kept trying to fall over.  This was well before ubiquitous mobile phones, so I didn't see a lot of choice of what to do (although I suspect if I had stayed there, someone would have alerted the police).  I got back on the bike and started it, got up to speed, and moved over two lanes.  I could see the Warner Avenue exit coming up, but I had to move two more lanes to the right to get to it.  Some absolute angel in a station wagon in the third lane saved me.  Somehow that person figured out I really needed to move over and waved me over to the third lane.  Then he (she?) moved to the right lane and covered me for that move.  I was able then to exit the freeway!  The first place I found to try to park the bike was some fast food place.  I still couldn't put the bike on the center stand, however.  I don't remember how at this point, but I was able to call AAA.  At that time AAA had pretty much no assistance for motorcycles except gas and water.  When the dispatcher asked for details about the vehicle, I said it was a Honda CB750K motorcycle with a flat tire.  He told me they couldn't really do anything for the bike because they couldn't repair or replace the tire, and I explained I just needed someone to help me put it on the center stand.  He sounded doubtful but said he would send someone.  The AAA driver who arrived was a big, beefy guy.  I explained the problem.  That center stand was so stiff he couldn't do it by himself, and I had to help him!  But we did manage to put it on the stand.  My landlord very grumpily came to retrieve me from Orange County (I lived just on the edge of East L.A. near the USC campus), and then I called the one local motorcycle towing company to retrieve the bike.

After my knee surgery, I no longer had the leg strength to pick the Honda up when it fell over.  One time this became a problem was when I somehow managed to get the shoelace of my left shoe tangled with the foot peg.  I tried but could not fix it while I was on the bike, so rather than risk some kind of horrible accident because I couldn't control the bike, I pulled up to a median, laid the bike down, and untangled my shoe.  Then I looked around at people and asked if someone could please help me pick it up!  Happily, someone walking by did just that, and I was able to go merrily on my way again.

Another time I laid the Honda down was not quite so . . . planned.  I was turning left at an intersection when the engine suddenly cut out.  I was in the middle of the turn and leaning left, and the bike just dropped.  I tried to catch it with my left hand, but because of the weight it slipped off my fingers (and caused a hairline fracture in my pinky).  So there I am, standing in the middle of the intersection, with a downed bike.  I shouted for help!  Someone came and helped me pick the bike up, and I made it out of the intersection safely.

The last time I had to get help picking up the Honda was after I had moved to Berkeley from Los Angeles.  It was the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake, October 17, 1989.  I was in the house when the quake hit.  At the time I was a nanny/cook/housekeeper.  After the shaking stopped, I left to pick up the 2-1/2-year-old daughter of the household, who was in daycare.  When I walked outside, the Honda had fallen over, and onto the wrong side, no less.  Motorcycles are designed to lean to the left on their side stands; it was on its right side.  That makes it even more difficult to pick up.  I didn't want to just leave it there, because gasoline from the tank would have leaked out.  I was fortunate in that someone was walking past the house at that moment, and she helped me get the bike up.

By that point I wasn't actually riding the Honda anymore.  While I was still in Los Angeles, it was stolen from outside the USC Hillel, where I was working as a kosher cook.  This was between the fall of 1988 and the spring of 1989.  I walked out after finishing work one evening and poof!, no motorcycle was there.  Beyond the annoyance factor, this was suspicious because this particular model was not popular and therefore not worth much money.  I reported it but didn't end up waiting for it be found.  I got fidgety without a bike and only lasted about a week before I bought my Virago.  About two months later, the police recovered the Honda on the side of a freeway (I think the 10), where it had been abandoned by a man who was trying to get away from the police.  I was told that the engine was still running when they found it.  It had been in some kind of accident.  I don't remember how I transported the Honda to Berkeley.  I tried to sell it, but no one wanted it.  Not long after the earthquake, I gave it to my landlady's lover just to get rid of it.

And so ends the tale of my Honda CB750K.

*Credit:  yoppy.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.