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I was rummaging around an old hard drive the other day and came upon a bunch of your pictures. That started it all over again.


JLOPpers taking on Sunset Strip in July 2009. From left: Dolores Gillham, Erik Oginski, Scott Mackie, Bryan Frank. (Photo by James Kang. This and all James Kang photos in the post are used with permission of his family)

I was trying to figure out how your shots ended up on my computer. And then it came back to me. It’s when you were still shooting film – b&w film. After a Justice League of Photographers (JLOP) event, which ordinarily ended in a meal at some hour not terribly long before sunrise and all of the rest of us would review the digital snaps in the LCD screens on the back of our cameras, you’d drop the film at a lab. And then, a week or so later, long after most of us had forgotten our digital photos, you’d pick up your pictures on the way to work.


Revelers on Sunset Strip in the predawn hours of a Saturday in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)



24290021The crisp b&w’s were on CDs. Your computer in the newsroom didn’t have a CD drive, but mine did. So a couple times, I transferred the pictures on those CDs to my drive and then to a USB thumb drive so you could see what you had.


Making the scene on Sunset Strip in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

Making the scene on Sunset Strip in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

I’m remembering now, you had really good stuff!

Rap mogul Marion "Sug" Knight with a cigar after a haircut on Sunset Strip in the predawn Saturday hours in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

Rap mogul Marion “Sug” Knight with a cigar after a haircut on Sunset Strip in the predawn Saturday hours in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

Many people don’t realize that taking photos on film is a lot harder than taking pictures on digital media. Since every film picture costs money for film and processing, you tend to get a lot more careful about pushing the shutter. You only want to pay for the good ones. More precisely, you find it much less expensive to double-check your settings, your exposure, your focus than to just fire away. What you save by adhering rigidly to the fundamentals of photography can then be applied to taking even more pictures.

Film photos, particularly film photos taken on b&w film, have some particular qualities that you don’t see in digital photography. There aren’t a lot of shades of gray on Tri-X Pan (or its Fuji equivalent). At least, the gray tones are less prominent than a digital sensor will capture.


24360010The photos I turned up on my drive were from about two years before you left us. It sounds impressive when I say one set of them came from a JLOP event. Not everyone realizes that JLOP was really a moniker we needed just to create a Facebook group where we could post the pictures we took. This supposed group of ours had as its motto, “It’s not a club.”

A JLOP “event” really was a bunch of people with cameras looking for new and different places to snap our shutters. Hollywood was a favorite destination because it was active and well-populated after midnight, the hour when we would usually get off work and had the time to roam around looking for good shots. That’s all the organization it had.

Looking over these shots from our night on Sunset Strip, I’m astonished at what great shots you got. I can see from looking at the successions how you “worked” the shots – looked for the right light, waited for the right facial pose, paid attention to the composition.

A good example of "street photography," the art of capturing life as it's being lived. Through the window of Carney's on Sunset Strip, before dawn on a Saturday in July 2009.

A good example of “street photography,” the art of capturing life as it’s being lived. Through the window of Carney’s on Sunset Strip, before dawn on a Saturday in July 2009. (Photo by James Kang)

I told you at the time that these were nice shots. I’ll say it again. You got some great stuff.


An under-the-stars Shakespeare by the Sea performance in Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

An under-the-stars Shakespeare by the Sea performance in Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, in July 2009. (Photos by James Kang)

Another of the CDs on my drive had your pictures of a different event in July 2009 – a Shakespeare performance in the park in Manhattan Beach. It was a lot more confining than the Strip. Yet, your pictures of it are every bit as well composed, as relaxed, as evocative as the street stuff. They have a relaxed quality to them. They tell the story in so many ways of that wonderful evening.

Chris Maxwell, having her picture taken by Bryan Frank, so she could be added to the beFrank online gallery of people who jumped for the camera. Dellis Frank was also photographed that day for inclusion in the gallery. (Photo by James Kang)

Chris Maxwell, having her picture taken by Bryan Frank, so she could be added to the beFrank online gallery of people who jumped for the camera. Dellis Frank, in the background of this picture,  was also photographed that day for inclusion in the gallery. (Photo by James Kang)


Paul and Kathy Magers, sandwiching the star of the Shakespeare performance. (Photo by James Kang)

Paul and Kathy Magers, sandwiching the star of the Shakespeare performance. (Photo by James Kang)


What's a get-together without a "red-cup picture"?

What’s a get-together without a “red-cup picture”? And no, don’t be deceived by the soft drink. Notice that the packages are sealed. (Photo by James Kang)


My daughter Rebecca, whose every creative pursuit James Kang praised and encouraged to the high heavens on social media. (Photo by James Kang)

My daughter Rebecca, whose every creative pursuit James Kang praised and encouraged to the high heavens on social media. (Photo by James Kang)

It’s been five years, James. That’s a lot of shutter-snaps. None of us gets to dictate where our lives start and where they end. But we do get to choose how we make our way through it. I want to thank you again for sharing so much with me and my family as you made your way.

It’s easy to wish there were more time. But there wasn’t. And there isn’t. For any of us. I – and the legions of people whose lives you touched in life and online – thank you for making so much of the time we spent together.

We honor you by remembering.

Previous James Kang posts:

May 29, 2011

May 31, 2011

James Kang photo galleries on Flickr (including digital photos in color he took in 2011):

James Kang Flickr photos


Sometimes the shutter captures what I fail to see


I drove out to Marina del Rey a couple Sundays ago to exercise my shutter finger. It had been awhile since I’d gone searching for scenes to capture, and the Marina has two things to recommend it: nice scenery and a place I’ve found I can park for free. I was bursting with enthusiasm to shoot because I’d devoted a little time over several previous days to watching tutorials about photo composition. There’s only so much I can watch about framing before I want to do some.

DSC_0403However much inspiration I was feeling wasn’t translating through the viewfinder. And I was starting to come up with all of those kinds of excuses that are so easy to make and so hard to listen to: it was too cloudy, the light was too soft, and there was nothing happening: no boats in the channel, so sun reflections on the building, no color (other than gray) in the sky.

Finding pictures is a whole lot harder than finding excuses!

I decided to power through and just practice some of the things I’d learned about composition and “working the shot” and the Rule of Thirds. It was, I’m sorry to admit, a modicum of motion for just going through the motions.

Still, there wasn’t much there. There were no couples to silhouette walking hand-in-hand into the sunset. There were no sails, either furled or unfurled, to capture against a rich sunset. There were none of the cliched things you’d hope to find in fifteen minutes at the ocean’s edge.

But I was there, even if the pictures I’d envisioned weren’t there.

Palm trees against a blue sky. Nothing says Los Angeles like palms against a blue sky. Or maybe it says Miami. Or Hawaii. Or anywhere else in the Tropics or Subtropics with water and dirt.

So I snapped the palm trees against the sky and tried to make a lesson out of moving around enough on the pavement to isolate a couple of them and get them to create “leading lines” and “points of interest” on the modified tic-tac-toe grid that controls composition.

DSC_0423There was a flag fluttering in the freeze, and if I moved back from it enough, I could get it on the yardarm from which it hung. A few steps more, and I could get the palm trees with it. Hmmm. Switch to the wide-angle lens and I could get some masts in the boat basin with the flag and the palm trees. Move several steps to the right and I could get the glow on of the sun. Okay, it’s not much but it’s something. I snapped it.

And then I moved about ten steps and saw something really offbeat. A sun through the haze. I switched to the telephoto lens and it looked… different. The silhouetted palms added something. So did the masts. So here it is: that afternoon’s big payoff.

DSC_0430-Edit-EditSometimes the shutter sees what I don’t. And I’m thankful for that.

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Einig II: Another batch of (old) Strober family photos


Looking over this trove of Strober photos Arthur Einig contributed from the last century (and one possibly from the century before that) makes me wonder even more about the lives these people lived.

This one, for instance. This is Sam Strober, son of Moshe David Strober, son of Berl Strober. We think Sam was born in the 1880s, in a shtetl somewhere in what is now the western part of Ukraine. It was probably Potok Zloty. He immigrated to the United States, but we’re not quite sure of when, and married Pauline “Pauli” Schneider in 1906.

Portrait of Sam Strober with a handlebar mustasche taken circa 1890. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Portrait of Sam Strober with a handlebar mustache, probably taken in the 1890s or early 1900s. (Collection of Arthur Einig)


Formal portrait of Pauli (Schneider) Strober and Sam Strober circa 1908. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Formal portrait of Pauli (Schneider) Strober and Sam Strober circa 1908. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

At some point, Sam lost the ‘stache. He and Pauli had seven kids. Ben, known in the family as “Benny,” was the second oldest.

Wedding photo of Ben "Benny" Strober (#596) and Irene (Levy) Strober (#860), December 16, 1934 (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Wedding photo of Ben “Benny” Strober (#596) and Irene (Levy) Strober (#860), December 16, 1934 (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Rose, known as “Rosie,” was six years younger than Benny, but two years behind him to the altar.

Wedding portrait of Rose "Rosie" Strober (#872) and Abe Kugler (#873) in Brooklyn, NY, Dec. 5, 1936. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Wedding portrait of Rose “Rosie” Strober (#872) and Abe Kugler (#873) in Brooklyn, NY, Dec. 5, 1936. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Frieda was two years older than Rosie.

Formal wedding portrait of Frieda Strober and Ben Levine, presumably in late 1930s. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Formal wedding portrait of Frieda Strober and Ben Levine, presumably in late 1930s. (Collection of Arthur Einig)

Looking into the eyes of people at the most hopeful moments of their lives, when they were young and getting married, tells us something about them. They had dreams. Today, those dreams are the memories of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.


The Arthur Einig Files: A treasure trove of family photos


Sometime when the snow was up to the rafters in many parts of the country last winter, I was in touch with Arthur Einig. Arthur is a distant cousin who lives in Gansevoort, NY, near the New York-Vermont state line. He descends from what we have come to call the Berl #100 line, Berl Strober being the earliest descendant in the line we’ve been able to track. We don’t know the precise relationship between Berl #100 and Abraham Aaron Strober. They may have been brothers. They may have been uncle and nephew. They may have been cousins. But we know 1) they lived in the same general area of what is now Ukraine, and 2) that there is common DNA between the descendants of Abraham Aaron and Berl #100.

Descendants of Berl Strober.

Descendants of Berl Strober. (Click the chart to enlarge view.)

Arthur had a large collection of family photos and he wanted to share them. We worked out a secure shipping method, the photos arrived, I scanned them, retouched them slightly to remove distracting dust and scratches… and then kept them on the hard drive.

It’s time to start showing them.


Sam Strober (#580), son of Moshe David Strober, and his wife, Pauline “Paulie” (Schneider) Strober (#594), presumably in Brooklyn, NY sometime around their marriage in 1906.



Sam Strober (#580), son of Moshe David Strober, and his wife, Pauline “Paulie” (Schneider) Strober (#594), in a studio photograph sometime around 1945. Imprint on cardboard art deco frame indicates photo was taken by the Moss Photo Studio, 453 Stone Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.



Formal portrait of Martin “Marty” Chess and Sondra “Sally” Chess in about 1933. Unknown location, but probably Brooklyn, NY.



Sondra “Sally” Chess circa 1934 at Campbell House, Ellenville, NY.



Formal oval wedding portrait of Stanley Chess and Dorothy “Dottie” Strober on their wedding, December 25, 1926



Sondra “Sally” Chess portrait, circa 1935


Sondra “Sally” Chess and friend Leona Marchand at Campbell House in Ellenville, NY circa 1935


This, as I said, is just the beginning. Arthur sent me close to 100 images that span more than a century of family history. I’ll be posting them over time.


A voice from the past


In January 2007, my daughter Rebecca, her sister Andrea, and I headed on a weekend roadtrip from Tampa to south Florida where, among other things, we visited my uncle, Leo Hoffman. Leo was 85 at the time, and living in Boynton Beach. I had with me a compact camera with a new feature–the ability to record an hour’s worth of video–and decided to try it out by recording some of my uncle’s recollections of his early life.

The professional shooters and audio engineers I have worked with over the decades will chide me for the many technical problems with this video, but my uncle was not someone who was used to having a camera pointed at him. I was trying to get the most candid conversation from him that I could, and the best way I knew how to do that was to tell him about the camera, start the recording, and then put the camera on a bookshelf where it would be as unobtrusive as possible.

The result? No camera fright, but frightfully bad framing, horrible lighting, and hollow sound.

I didn’t give a lot more thought to this flubbed experiment for a long time–until, in fact, last weekend when I came across the video file on a storage drive.

Much has changed in the years since I made this recording. My Uncle Leo is dead. He died in the April 2014, six weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. Though I saw him many times between January 2007 and his death, I never attempted to reshoot the big genealogy interview.

Watching this half-hour from 2007, I noted how my uncle filled in quite a few family details I hadn’t heard before. For instance, his reference to Devine Corners. He’d mentioned before that my grandfather became a postmaster at some point, I don’t remember him ever mentioning where. (My mother went searching for it yesterday on her computer, and discovered that it was a community east of Liberty, in Sullivan County, NY. She said she had no recollection of it because she was two when her family moved there.)

And best of all is a permanent record of my uncle’s George Wallace story. He told this tale many times, and it’s a good one. If you don’t want to slog through all of the other family details, it’s all the way at the end.


How did this place escape me until now?


I’d never even heard of the Cold Spring Tavern until a friend mentioned it a few weeks ago as without a doubt the best barbeque he’d ever eaten. He described to me where it was—in San Marcos Pass, which is in the mountains just east of Santa Barbara—and that it has been continuously in business for more than a century and a half.

In Italy or Greece, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. But in California, where things seem to get the “historic” designation if they were around since the 1950s, that was saying something.

IMG_2039 copy I couldn’t understand how I’d never heard of the place. I went to school in Santa Barbara. Although that was a long time ago, it was well within the arc of the tavern’s history. I’ve been over San Marcos Pass a few times in my life. Make that a few hundred times. Never even heard a rumor about the place.

It was easy enough to find on the web. I punched it into the GPS, and a couple hours later, I was parking the car by the stream on a road off a road off of San Marcos Pass. The creek, I guessed, was Cold Spring. And I hadn’t seen a single sign along the way for the place.

The restaurant itself was rustic. I’m not talking southern California faux rustic. I’m talking real wood construction from the century before the last one, with a real stone fireplace that consumed a whole wall.

I ordered the tri-tip sandwich. Tri-tip is a big deal in central California. It’s a cut of beef that for some reason you see only on the central coast. It’s sometimes called Santa Maria barbeque. Although it’s served a number of ways, I like it on a sandwich.

IMG_2041My friend was right. The slices were about an eighth of an inch thick, the baguette was crisp on the outside and lightly toasted on the inside. It came with three sauces—a homemade barbeque sauce, which was pleasantly tangy; a salsa, that had a hint of spice and a lot of fresh tomato; and an apple horseradish sauce, that to my taste had more horseradish than apple but was still very good.

Although I’ve worked at it for several years, I’m not very good at tri-tip at home… and I can’t figure out why. I’ve used oak, which is plentiful on the central coast. I’ve seared it on all sides and then moved it to the cooler side of the grill. Whatever I’ve tried, the tri-tip has been tough.

I asked my server how they do it at the Cold Spring Tavern. She said the meat is cooked on an oak fire to medium-rare, then placed in a steamer over beer and onions to be kept warm until it’s sliced and served.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s the beer I’ve been missing!


Where does this piece of the puzzle fit?


strauber screen grabI stumbled on this little item today in an online database of Jewish vital statistics and government documents from the Galicia area of Austria-Hungary. It may be an enormous breakthrough in our genealogical research… or it may be nothing at all. (Interesting range of possibilities, don’t you think?)

So here’s why it might be significant. Abraham Strober, best known to his descendants like me as Abraham Aaron Strober, is what we call the “common progenitor.” He is the guy all the rest of the 1,400 or so names on the family tree stem from. Maybe that’s just a tad overly broad. There are several branches of the family that may descend from Abraham Aaron’s brothers, or possibly cousins. But however you dice it, Abraham Aaron is the guy at the top of our chart. He’s the oldest known ancestor.

We think, based upon information that amounts to less-than-scant evidence, that Abraham Aaron was born between 1797 and 1808. We know he had at least one son, Yoinus Folic, who is my great-great-grandfather. We think he may have had other sons. But we had never heard before this mention that he had a daughter.

The strongest part of this item is that it mentions someone by the name of Abraham Strober (or, in an alternate spelling still in use by a broad segment of his descendants, Strauber).

The weakest parts of this item are many:

It says Jute died in a hospital in Lviv, which was the biggest city in that part of the world (sometimes known by its name in German, Lemberg). Abraham Aaron lived in a tiny shtetl called Jazlowiec about thirty miles to the southeast. That doesn’t seem far to us today, but it would have been a long ride on horseback or by wagon. It says she was two and a half years old. Had he taken her to Lviv for medical treatment that he couldn’t get elsewhere? Did he live during that time in Lviv? There’s no way to know. And if this is our Abraham Strober, how far off are the ages? It’s doubtful (if we assume he was born in 1797) that he had a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter when he was 14 years old. So which date is in error? And what does it do to the rest of our family tree to make his birthdate earlier.

Clearly, from the information here, we can’t know the answers to any of these questions. But perhaps this document can lead us in the direction of other documents that will help us piece this puzzle together.


The broader Strauber family*


One of the unexpected surprises of Dale Leshaw’s photo collection was that it included pictures of quite a few descendants of Israel “Sruel” Strauber and Milke (Weisler) Strauber than we’d previously seen. Remember that the Strauber-Strober-Struber family is massive. It really does take a scorecard! My great-grandmother Surah Henya (Strober) Schkolnik (1851-1928) was the only daughter of Yoinas Folic Strober and, we believe, was the second-born of her family. Israel “Sruel” Strauber (1867-1940) was the fifth born, the baby of the family.

Sruel, as he was known to the family (a common Yiddish nickname for the given name Israel), and Milke had eight children. Annette (Dale Leshaw’s grandmother) was the second oldest.

Here’s Sruel’s branch of the family tree.


Click to enlarge the graphic

So if we count the descendants of Sruel and Milke, we’re talking about a lot of people. Notice that a good many of the lines stop short of the current generation. That indicates we haven’t (yet) been in touch with people in those direct lines to fill them in for us. Basically, there may be two or three times the number of descendants, but we just don’t know about them.

Among the amazing pictures from Dale’s collection is this one.

Lenore Strauber, left, with her father, Jerry Strauber, at an unknown time (possibly sometime around 1950) in an unknown location.

Lenore Strauber, left, with her father, Jerry Strauber, at an unknown time (possibly sometime around 1950) in an unknown location.

Gary had told me that his mother had corresponded with her cousin Lenore, who was known by a different name. She was Sister Grace, a nun somewhere on the eastern seaboard. I spent a little time playing with search engines and came up with this article. She is indeed a nun named Sister Grace Frances Strauber, SFP. And a nurse. And the former CEO of a major Catholic hospital in Hoboken, NJ.  The article explains that her father was Jewish and her mother Episcopalian, and that after a brief childhood illness and care in a Catholic hospital, she converted. This was the first picture I’d seen of Lenore/Sister Grace. There are some from 2011 at the link.

Wedding photo of Sharon and Gilbert Strauber, unknown time and place.

Wedding photo of Sharon and Gilbert Strauber, unknown time and place.

Gilbert Strauber is a son of Lenore “Lee” and Michael “Mitch” Strauber, and thus a nephew of Dale’s grandmother Annette, and Dale’s mother’s first cousin. We have been in touch with his son Warren, but somehow never filled in some of the vital statistics about his parents. But now we have a wonderful photo of them to prompt us into collecting the vitals.


Joan Strauber and Eric Corringham at their wedding, unknown date and place.

Joan Strauber was the daughter of Henry E. and Mildred Strauber. Henry was another of Annette Strauber’s younger brothers. He became a county commissioner in Pasco County, FL and died in office in the 1970s. There’s now a street named after him on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which I wrote about last year.

Among the photos were a number of Strauber cousins playing together when they were small children.

Edmund Strauber and Pearl Schekman, 1933

Edmund Strauber and Pearl Schekman, 1933

Pearl Schekman is the second daughter of Annette (Strauber) and Saul Schekman. She was born in 1932, so it’s entirely this is not her but her older sister Ruth. Edmund Strauber is the older son of Lenore “Lee” and Michael “Mitch” Strauber.

Edmund Strauber, Ruth Schekman, and Wallace Dunchelman in about 1940.

Edmund Strauber, Ruth Schekman, and Wallace Dunckelman in about 1940.

Another picture of Strauber first-cousins at play. This is from about 1940, we think, and shows Edmund Strauber, the second son of Lenore “Lee” and Michael “Mitch” Strauber, Ruth Schekman, the first daughter of Annette (Strauber) and Saul Schekman, and Wallace Dunckelman, the younger son of Sylvia “Kitty” (Strauber) and Carl Dunckelman.

We have not been in contact with any members of the Corringham or Dunckelman branches of the family, and thus have no anecdotal information about succeeding generations.

The Noble family. From left to right, Maurice Noble, Ellen Noble, Pearl (Schekman) Noble, Andy Noble, and Michael Noble, probably in the mid-60s.

The Noble family. From left to right, Maurice Noble, Ellen Noble, Pearl (Schekman) Noble, Andy Noble, and Michael Noble, probably in the mid-60s.

Pearl (Schekman) Noble is the second daughter of Annette (Strauber) and Saul Schekman. She married Maurice Noble and had three children, Ellen, Andy, and Michael Noble.

First cousins Wallace "Wally" Dunckelman and Ruth Schekman in 1933 on Long Island.

First cousins Wallace “Wally” Dunckelman and Ruth Schekman in 1933 on Long Island.

SIBLINGS AND SPOUSES -- From left to right, unknown woman, unknown woman, Michael "Mitch" Strauber, Lenore "Lee" Strauber, Lay Leshaw, Ruth (Schekman) Leshaw.

STRAUBER SIBLINGS AND SPOUSES — From left to right, unknown woman, unknown woman, Michael “Mitch” Strauber, Lenore “Lee” Strauber, Saul Sheckman, Annette (Strauber) Schekman in Miami, FL on November 22, 1967.

Sean and Lesley Stout, grandchildren of Sylvia "Kitty" (Strauber) Dunckelman, probably in the mid-60s.

Sean and Leslie Stout, grandchildren of Sylvia “Kitty” (Strauber) Dunckelman, probably in the early 1970s.

Sean Stout and Leslie Stout with their grandmother, Sylvia "Kitty" (Strauber) Dunckelman in unknown location in October 1969.

Sean Stout and Leslie Stout with their grandmother, Sylvia “Kitty” (Strauber) Dunckelman in unknown location in October 1969.

* – IDs in the seventh photo have been changed. (5/31/2015 – 5:10p PT)


My lunch with Dale Leshaw*


I had lunch a few months back with Dale Leshaw, a distant cousin of mine who also happens to live in the Los Angeles area. My great-grandmother Surah Henya (Schkolnik) Strober was the sister of Dale’s great-grandfather, Israel (Sruel) Strauber. Put another way, Dale and I share a great-great grandfather, Yoinaton Folic Strauber. Put still another way, Dale and I are third cousins. Put in the simplest way, we’re really distant cousins who didn’t know the other existed until this genealogy stuff came up several years ago.

In the days after our lunch, Dale scanned a number of family photos from his collection and shared them with me so I could post them here.

Israel (Sruel) and Milke (Weisler) Strober on rooftop, presumably in Brooklyn, NY, in 1927.

Israel (Sruel) and Milke (Weisler) Strober on rooftop, presumably in Brooklyn, NY, in 1927.


Annette Strauber, probably in 1916, when she would have been about 18 years old. Location unknown.


Sylvia “Kitty” Strauber with her niece Ruth Schekman, daughter of Kitty’s sister Annette, in 1926. Location unknown.


Left to right: Saul Schekman, Ruth Schekman, Pearl Schekman, Annette (Strauber) Schekman, in Atlantic City, NJ, in 1936.


The Schekmans at Roton Point (presumably CT) in 1928. The Schekmans seated on running board of car, left to right: unknown person, Saul Schekman, Ruth Schekman, Annette (Strauber) Schekman. Others in photo unidentified.


Annette Strauber on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY in 1924.

* – ID’s on the fourth and fifth photos have been changed to correct errors. (9:10pm PT)

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The curious case of Clara (Skolnick) Rosenblum’s U.S. citizenship


Clara (Skolnick) Rosenblum, with husband Jacob Rosenblum, in the “old country,” probably Buchach, Galicia, Austria-Hungary, sometime around 1912. (Collection of Jim Ostroff)

Sometimes documents create questions rather than answer them. That’s the case with this set of papers from 1943-44. They concern the naturalization of my great-aunt, Tante Clara (Skolnick) Rosenblum.

Here’s what’s so curious: her application for U.S. citizenship came 29 years after she arrived in New York aboard the SS George Washington.

Why the delay?

Clara was the youngest child of Chaim Shulem Schkolnik and Surah Henya (Strober) Schkolnik. That makes her my grandfather’s younger sister. But the connectedness gets a little more complicated. Through her marriage to Jacob Rosenblum, she was a  sister-in-law to Bobscha (Tepper) Rosenblum. She became close friends with one of Bobscha’s younger sisters, Esther Tepper—such close friends, in fact, that she introduced Esther to Clara’s brother Paul. Esther and Paul married. That made Clara and Esther sisters-in-law through my grandfather Paul and sisters-in-law through Esther’s sister Bobscha. And besides that double connection, Clara and Esther remained best friends for the rest of their lives.

Because of their closeness, it’s not at all surprising that Clara and Esther would be witnesses at each other’s naturalization. Who better to vouch for you than your best friend/sister-in-law?

My best guess about why it took almost three decades after Clara arrived at Ellis Island to become a citizen is that there really wasn’t a reason to… until her husband died in 1943. And while the application of Social Security laws in the mid-40s is a complete mystery to me, I’m guessing that the naturalization was necessary for Clara to collect her husband Jacob’s benefits after his death.

It’s the only thing that makes any sense.

Jacob Rosenblum, Clara’s husband, died in August 1943. It’s the only event I can think of that could have prompted the rush toward naturalization. A month later, Clara obtained documentation that she had arrived in the United States on April 14, 1913 aboard the SS George Washington sailing from Bremen, Germany.

rosenblum klara cert of arrival 19430928The Certificate of Arrival, issued under the European spelling of her name, would have been a necessary document for naturalization. It showed that she had been in the country as a permanent resident for the requisite time to be naturalized.

But if collecting her late husband’s benefits was the goal, why wait a month? I suspect Clara didn’t. I think the gap was the result of how long things took in those days, especially in the middle of World War II. Getting the Certificate of Arrival would have taken time for the request to be transmitted to immigration authorities, for a search of the ship’s manifest and the immigration documents, which had to have taken time to retrieve, and for the the certificate itself to be prepared, signed and delivered to her.

rosenblum clara natural pet 19430000

(Click to enlarge)

The Petition for Naturalization is not dated, but my guess is that it came hard on the heels of the Certificate of Arrival being issued. And with the Petition is the Affidavit of Witnesses.

rosenblum clara affidavit of witnesses

The Affidavit of Witnesses is dated November 10, 1943. Virginia Altman, the first witness, was Clara’s oldest daughter. Esther Skolnick, the second witness, is my grandmother and Clara’s best friend/sister-in-law.

rosenblum clara nat card 19440202Even with the great push to get it done, it took three more months before the Naturalization was finalized. That happened on February 2, 1944.

All of these documents were retrieved a few years ago by researcher extraordinaire and cousin Kristie Weiland Cohen, when she went digging through uncatalogued paperwork in a storeroom archive in a government basement in Manhattan. It’s four pretty simple pieces of paper that no one in the family had ever seen before. But those four pieces of paper tell a remarkable story of a new widow trying to work her way through the bureaucracy to find a way to support her family.


Four years ago today


grab_skewedYup, it’s been four years since I launched this blog. Just about this time of day on Halloween 2010, I finished four weeks of programming, uploading and coding—things which were then foreign to me—and thought that it worked. Well, it mostly all worked. The truth is, some of it worked. But throwing caution to the wind, I pulled down the construction page and let the world in.

The first post, in which I set some lofty goals, is still here. I’ve achieved some of the goals. Others I’m keeping up with. And then there are those that are still on the to-do list.

Gauging the subjects I’ve written about from the cloud in the right sidebar, the most common one is Rebecca. She’s tagged in 17 posts. And that is as it should be. My daughter is close to my heart. And to be completely candid, she drives the traffic. There are a few visitors when I post something here, and hundreds of visitors when I post something about Rebecca.

Since the construction page came down, there have been 31,362 pageviews, which averages out to more than 650 per month, or just over 20 a day. Inasmuch as I tend to post in bursts—from a height of 12 in November 2010 to lows in many months where I didn’t post at all—I’m fine with the averages. Another stat from Google Analytics: there have been 9,190 users, which is Google’s word for unique visitors. That works out to 6.38 per day. That sounds low, until you consider that if I met more than 6 new people a day in person, it would be beyond belief. Nearly 200 new and different people each month have read my musings, sloshed through some of the genealogy archives that are posted here, looked at my photos, or otherwise engaged with what’s here.

I’m not going anywhere, and neither is the site. I re-upped the subscription with the service provider and plan to stick around for a long, long time. I hope you’ve enjoyed the site—and that you’ll continue to enjoy it.


A walk in the park


I got a chance Sunday to snap a few pictures. My pal Bryan Frank had asked if I wanted to shoot this weekend. He proposed a late-night excursion to Hollywood. I declined on the grounds that I’m a lot older than Bryan and less interested in wandering those mean streets til the wee hours. I countered with a visit to Recreation Park in El Segundo. I won, primarily because it seemed so low-impact, even to a dynamo like Bryan.

DSC_0076I’ve written quite a bit about El Segundo. Forget for a moment (as everybody who lives there seems to) that it is surrounded by a sewage treatment plant, an international airport, an oil refinery, and a freeway. When you’re in El Segundo, you’re essentially in a small town in the middle of one of the world’s biggest urban areas. I was hoping to see what photographic vestiges we’d find of that small-town life on a warm weekend afternoon at the end of summer.

DSC_0051I guess you can’t go wrong with lacrosse, especially since the best vantage point of the game was about ten paces from where I’d snapped the water tower. Some might call it laziness. I prefer to call it economy of motion.

DSC_0080About ten more paces down the trial was a pick-up basketball game. Two on one. These guys had a whole lot more energy than I did that afternoon. And they seemed to be having fun.

DSC_0146We switched into street-photography mode when we saw this little guy with his mom. They were headed for the sandbox. The mom kept trying to carry the kid’s sand toys, but the kid was having none of it. He insisted on carrying the bucket himself.

DSC_0176But these were without a doubt the busiest guys we saw at the park. They were working away like there was no tomorrow.

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The power of pictures


For David Schendlinger, a great-grandson of Nellie (Becker) Struber, here are the other photos I have of her in the database.

The Strubers, handwritten note on the photo indicates it was taken in Oct. 1891.  L to R: Mendel "Max" Struber, his sons Bill Struber, Sam Struber, his wife Nellie (Becker) Struber, his son Jack Struber, his daughter Annie Struber, and his brother Sruel "Israel" Strauber. (Collection of Victor R. Struber)

The Strubers, handwritten note on the photo indicates it was taken in Oct. 1891. L to R: Mendel “Max” Struber, his sons Bill Struber, Sam Struber, his wife Nellie (Becker) Struber, his son Jack Struber, his daughter Annie Struber, and his brother Sruel “Israel” Strauber. (Collection of Victor R. Struber)

Nellie (Becker) Struber, note on back indicates photo taken in 1912, unknown place. (Collection of Victor R. Struber)

Nellie (Becker) Struber, note on back indicates photo taken in 1912, unknown place. (Collection of Victor R. Struber)

And that’s why these photos are so valuable. Each of us holds a piece of the family history. It could be that others in disparate branches of the family tree have never seen a particular piece. So let’s share them here.


Ask and ye shall receive


I’d hardly hit the publish button on yesterday’s post about building a comprehensive photographic database of my genealogy project when Vic Struber emailed a photo I’d never before seen.

The Struber family at the beach, probably sometime in 1914, probably at Brighton Beach or Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. (Collection of Victor R. Struber)

The Struber family at the beach, probably sometime in 1914, probably at Brighton Beach or Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. (Collection of Victor R. Struber)

From left to right, the people in the picture are: (unidentified woman in bow hat, Michael “Mike” Struber, Mike’s sister Libbie Struber holding her niece Frieda Schendlinger, Annie (Struber) Schedlinger (sister of Libbie and Mike and mother of Frieda), and Nellie (Becker) Struber (mother of Mike, Libbie, and Annie; grandmother of Frieda).

This is exactly the kind of picture that tells us much about the lives of our ancestors. It’s not a dramatic moment in a family, and yet it gives us a window into what people’s lives were like. Their smiles speak volumes. The setting—a day at the beach—speaks volumes. Everyone, with the possible exception of Mike, who appears to have on a tank top that was standard beach-wear in those days, is in street clothes (which may well have been standard beach-wear for women in those days).

The database is growing, and with it our understanding of how our ancestors lived.


The photographic record


photo_mosaicFor as long as I’ve been keeping track of genealogy, I’ve been building a database of family photos. The idea was that the genealogy factoids would become the text, and the photos would be the pictures of this centuries-long family saga.

I have done okay. Several family members have taken me up on my offer to pay the freight on any pictures they cared to send me. Some sent hundreds of pictures that took weeks for me to scan.

The goal was to have a repository of family photos that we could display online. That way, everyone in the family would have equal access to the family history. It could be an online scrapbook that everyone can share.

Now, with more than a thousand images in the database, I’m set to begin the work of getting the whole thing online. It won’t be immediate because of how much technical effort is involved.

Step 1 is to migrate the photo database—the list of each image that includes a description of the picture, who contributed it, when it was taken, who is in it—to the photos themselves. It seems a whole lot more sensible to store all of the information in one file than to have it spread across multiple files with some tricky proprietary formats. This process requires some tricky computer scripting that is at the moment a little beyond my skillset, but I’ve learned that if I don’t push, I don’t make progress.

Step 2 is to find an online utility capable of reading the embedded information directly from the photo files and displaying it online. That may be a lot easier than Step 1, but it’s still not without complexities.

So the whole thing is underway. I’m hoping to have something for you to look at soon.


The Vic files, part 6: A laughing matter


Over the decade or so that I’ve been actively interested in genealogy, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of my Strauber/Strober/Struber relatives and have spoken to a good many more by telephone. Generally, they seem to be people of good cheer during these contacts. Often during these exchanges, there will be a quick joke, a chortle here and there, perhaps even a pun.

So imagine my surprise in reviewing the files Vic Struber sent me to find included a handbill for a Struber descendant who’s actually a professional at laughing, or at least getting others to.

schendlinger_david_flyerWhen I emailed the flyer from Vic’s files to David, who now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, he acknowledged what an artifact it is. He guessed the flyer was about 30 years old, from the mid-1980s, when he’d moved from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles.

He’d previously given me permission to use his Facebook profile picture.

david schendlinger at mikeIt shows, among other things, that, mike in hand, he’s still up there working for laughs.

David hails from the Mendel “Max Struber line of the family. The lineage goes Mendel “Max” Struber > Annie (Struber) Schendlinger > Sidney Schendlinger > David Schendlinger. The lineage continues another two generations in that line.

I’d originally “found” David on Facebook almost four years ago, in one of my irregular searches of the common surnames in our family tree, and we’d had a few back-and-forth exchanges by Facebook and email where he was kind enough to provide me with the names and dates on his branch of the family tree.

There’s a recurrent dream in our genealogy discussions to one day have a huge family meet-up, much like the 1941 gathering in Brooklyn, where we can all meet and get to know each other as our ancestors knew each other in the shtetl.

It’s a nice dream. I don’t know if it will ever happen, which is why at this point it’s a dream. But it is astonishing to learn how, from a single collection of DNA somewhere back there in eastern Europe a couple centuries ago, we are now an incredibly diverse group of thousands of men, women, and children literally scattered all over the world.

And it’s nice to know that among us, somebody is looking after the laughter.


Chaim “Heiman” Strober’s path to citizenship


This is a primer in the value of primary documents in genealogy research. And it’s also a lesson in sticking to it.

Chaim “Heiman” Strober was a son of Schmeel Hirsch Strober, and a grandson of Yoinus Folic Strober. That makes him the nephew of my great-grandmother Surah Henya (Schkolnik) Strober. And except for one tiny picture from the 1940s, that’s all I knew about him.

But my cousin Kristie Weiland, who threw herself headlong into genealogy research some years ago, helped us to learn a lot more about him. Kristie went digging in the (largely unindexed) archives of the New York courts some years ago and came up with three documents that tell us much more about this ancestor. All three documents involve his path to American citizenship in the 1920s.

19210604 Strober Chaim Heiman first Declaration of IntentionThe first of the documents was filed in New York Supreme Court (which had jurisdiction over immigration matters at that time) on June 4, 1921. It is called a Declaration of Intention, and it began Heiman’s journey from a resident alien to citizenship.

Why a 44-year-old man who had lived in Brooklyn for almost two decades would decide in 1921 that he needed to suddenly become a citizen isn’t clear. Those were years when the Red scare swept America. The previous year, in a series of actions undertaken by U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, more than 500 immigrants were rounded up and tagged for deportation because of suspected Communist, Socialist, or anarchist political views. Note that the Declaration of Intention form requires the applicant to affirm that he or she is not an anarchist, bigamist or polygamist, and to swear it before God. Perhaps people who had immigrated to the U.S., as Heiman had, were worried their immigration status was in jeopardy unless they became citizens.

19251000 chaim heiman strober natrualization petitition (2)

(click to enlarge)

A little over four years later, on October 9, 1925, Heiman was back in court in Brooklyn to get his petition for naturalization. By then, control of immigration had shifted from State Court to Federal Court, and typewriters had become the standard way to file government forms. Heiman listed the names and birthdates of his five children, and we’re able to see the signatures of his witnesses, his uncle, Israel Strauber, and his brother in law, Isidor Mosberg. Israel listed his occupation as “fixtures” and Isidor listed his as “candy.” Heiman also indicated that he left Europe from Rotterdam, Holland in 1903 aboard the vessel Marion, had arrived in Philadelphia two weeks later, and had come to New York City three days after arriving. He listed his occupation as tinsmith and roofer.

He listed his wife as Ida (though she was known in the family by her Yiddish name Hudel) and gave her birthdate as June 5, 1879. Her gave her birthplace as something the clerk heard as “Gazlowitz, Austria” but which is almost certainly Jazlowiec (pronounced YAHZ’-lu-vitz), the same shtetl so many other members of this part of the family are from. He listed his own birthdate as May 3, 1877 and his place of birth as “Bucharch, Austria,” which is almost certainly Buczacz (pronounced boo-CHATCH’ in Polish, Ukrainian, and German, and bu-CHOOCH’ in Yiddish), which was the equivalent of the county seat.

19260112 chaim heiman strober oath of allegiance

(Click to enlarge.)

Three months later, Heiman’s Petition for Naturalization was granted, he took an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and became a U. S. citizen. He had 20 grandchildren, scores of great-grandchildren, and the lineage has now reached into the next generation, great-great-grandchildren.

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I was fiddling with the camera while the sun did its thing


The tropical weather that washed over southern California last weekend drew me out to the water just before dusk. It was humid (something we seldom say in Los Angeles) and there were broken clouds (something else we seldom say here). That’s often a recipe for a pretty good sunset.

IMG_1774The view from Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey toward the west was one I hadn’t photographed before. That’s a little disingenuous. I’ve been several times to the two other basins just to the north, Basins F and G, but this was a maiden voyage on Basin H.

IMG_1780So you go to the Marina, and you get lots of boats. That’s just the way the world works. And I was content with that. It’s been at least a few weeks since the last time I took pictures of boats at sunset.

IMG_1782I moved toward the east, away from the point of the basin and alongside the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club to see if I’d have any luck at something different than the last time I took pictures of the boats at the Marina at sunset. The shot looked a little cluttered with sailboat masts, and then it dawned on me that I’d never tried to use the obstructions in the basin so much as I’d tried to avoid them.

So I looked for something without an obstruction.

IMG_1799Now there’s one thing about sunset shooting. It’s on its own schedule, not on yours. If you want the sun, you wait for the sun. I had nowhere else to be, so I waited.

And then I framed up the obstruction.

IMG_1808I guess obstruction does have its beauty, doesn’t it?

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The next chapter begins


I’m a week late in getting these posted, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t show pictorial proof that Rebecca is in place at UC Berkeley.

IMG_1759This is Foothill dormitory on the northeast side of the Berkeley campus. It’s about 90 seconds after the four of us—Rebecca, her mom, Chris, and I—got the bed heater over the mattress, the sheets on, and the bedspread on top.

It’s also about eight hours after a 6.0 earthquake rocked Napa, about 40 miles northeast of Berkeley.

It was an auspicious start to the day, to college, and to the new chapter in Rebecca’s life.

IMG_1760I had been through the parents’ orientation earlier in the summer, and had heard the many stories about the overwhelming emotion this moment would bring. Many of my friends, even the stoic ones like me, told me they had to use tissues when they went through this.

I had some emotions, to be sure, but none of them were of the kind likely to bring tears to my eyes. I’d wondered about this moment from Rebecca’s birth, maybe even from her conception. I’d wondered if I’d be able to convey to any kid the importance of working hard and staying focused in high school, of having high aspirations, and of figuring out a way to fulfill them. I guess I did convey those things.

Tears? Nah. I’m thrilled Rebecca is getting to live her dream, just as a lifetime ago I was able to live mine. I’m ecstatic she, alone, made the choice of where to go and what to study. I’m happiest that Rebecca is getting to be Rebecca.

It doesn’t get any better than that.


The Vic files, part 5: What death tells us about life


Here are some more treasures from the files Vic Struber sent me. These are the death certificates of Vic’s grandfather, Mendel “Max” Struber, and my great-grandmother, Surah Henya (Strober) Schkolnik. They were siblings.

VRS Doc 010Death certificates are treasure-troves of important information for genealogy researchers, but they can also be stores of misinformation. Note that Max’s surname is misspelled on his death certificate. It shows up, and in consistent ways, as “Struder.” That’s the kind of error that could have caused it to be lost in the files forever. Max’s father is listed as Philip. In fact, his father was Folic. It’s a simple matter of translation, but inasmuch as Yoinus Folic, or Yoinatan Folic, never came to the United States, his name was never pronounced in English.

His mother’s name is listed on the death certificate as Pesice. In fact, it was Pesha. And her maiden name is listed on Max’s death certificate as Struder, but was actually Cohen.

Max died on April 3, 1931, though the death certificate is stamped “1930.” Bureaucratic error? Probably. Mis-set date stamp? Could have been. Source of confusion for years to come? Possibly.

Max’s death was caused, according to the autopsy mentioned on the death certificate, by diabetes mellitus and a fractured rib (accidental), though what these two things may have had to do with each other isn’t made clear. The death certificate says he was 60 years old, though we suspect from other information, such as immigration documents, that he was more than a decade older than that, either 72 or 73 years old.

VRS Doc 009

Surah Henya (Strober) Schkolnik, listed on her death certificate as “Sarah Skolnick,” died three and a half years before her brother, on September 11, 1928. Her death certificate lists her as 75 years old, but we think (again based on other records, such as immigration documents) she was actually 76 or 77. The cause of her death was listed as broncho pneumonia. Her father’s name is listed as Felix, though (as with Max) it was actually Folic. Her mother is listed as “unknown,” which may have been a momentary lapse in memory by a family member at a very trying time, the immediate wake of her death. The address listed as her former residence, 796 Lenox Road in Brooklyn, was the home of her middle child, my grandfather Paul.

Genealogists call these kinds of documents “primary sources” and understand there may be discrepancies with other kinds of official documents and records. They’re vital documents in studying the history of a person or, in our case, a family, but they’re not infallible.

Still, when they reach back 80 or 90 years, they are fascinating.