Monday, May 13, 2019

Generations of Family Art - Part 2

My 95-year old mother died last year. I had to go through her things quickly which was difficult for this family historian and genealogist.

For items I found and did not want to keep, I took photos of for remembrance. For items, I could not make a quick decision, I kept to go through later. 

I love family letters and some of them I already filed. As I found, even, more, I added them to my files. I was raised in the US Navy. I was so thankful my parents wrote detailed letters to their parents during the times we were out of the country. Mom and Dad also wrote detailed letters to one another when my father was out to sea for months at a time.

I was ecstatic when I found letters written while we lived in the Philippines from October 1957 to January 1960. Apparently, after my paternal grandparents' deaths, my uncle found boxes of letters & returned them to my mother who boxed them away separately in different date & location files. I love the letters my mother wrote as they were more like journals or diaries of our lives at that time. In a letter, my father wrote to his mother, he called his wife’s letters “novelettes.” He also said, “Her trade secret is to produce a large one like that and then make a copy of it for distribution to all.”  No wonder I found several copies (rough draft of some typed using carbon paper & some handwritten) of the same letter! I am so appreciative of having them in my hands.

As a baby & toddler in Sangley Point, Cavity City, (near Manilla) the Philippines; I have no memory of this beautiful country. I am thankful for my mother’s pictures, letters and ephemera.

My father described his “job at the office is something that I have never tackled before. I am the assistant War Plans Officer, Logistics Planning Officer and a few other things that I cannot mention…Have you ever wondered what it takes to keep a fleet or force running? Or what has to be done to keep us constantly ready for anything that might happen? I can lay awake nights thinking of what I have to do before anything should happen.” In another letter written by my mother at the same time describes his work with more detail. “Stan has been very busy this past weekend with the excitement of VIPs coming in for the SEATO (SouthEast Asia Treaty Organization) conference, arranging lodgings for them, transportation, etc.” I guess this was alright for her to share as it was not removed (blacked out or cut out of the letter) as the beginning paragraph was torn off the first page of this same quoted letter.

In Filipino culture, Americans are given household help to pay. We had a housegirl, Conchita; a nanny for me, Sulay; and a houseboy, Luis. In one of mom’s novelettes, I find this description of what she looked to do to prevent boredom as an officer’s wife. “There is really so much to do around here that there is no excuse to be bored. Stan goes golfing about once every two weeks. Last week with our neighbors, we went bowling and had so much fun we decided to do it one night a week. Stan said maybe this is my game and wants me to put forth some effort into becoming an outstanding bowler. I have signed up as an interested party in beginning Spanish classes. I am also going to start attending art classes as soon as I can get an art kit.” She also mentioned getting involved with the local elementary school’s P.T.A. and local cub scouts for my brother. 

She enjoyed bowling so much that she joined a local team and won many trophies. Martha is on the far right holding her awards.

While we lived there, my mother took oil painting classes. I grew up with these paintings in several rooms of our several homes. In a letter dated a year later, she states “I started my oil painting & am working on two pictures at once.  I can only get to it once a week, so after the instructor leaves, we keep at it for the rest of the day. That’s on Tuesdays. The first day I started the instructor asked me if I’d had any previous lessons. He liked the way I handled the brush & my eye for color - also my slow and deliberate attitude. If I don’t like what I’ve done i keep changing it until I do, as a result, I am not as far ahead with my paintings as Alice and Ruth are. He has done some of theirs for them and I won’t let him touch mine. We are copying very typical scenes of the Philippines which included Banca boats, nipa huts, palm trees and water. They are night scenes done in brown tones with moonlight sifting through clouds. I’m still not satisfied with my colors & shadings but he said they are good.” 

l immediately knew what paintings mom was referring to & took their photos. I guess she was finally satisfied with them when she framed them. I think they are lovely. One of my nieces inherited these two heirlooms.

In another letter dated 7 April 1959. Martha states, “ I've started my fourth oil painting. It’s a very fascinating hobby & I am quite pleased with my efforts. I just completed a still life of some exotic blossoms in a jade vase with an Oriental jade figurine standing beside it. Most of the work on it was done without the instructor’s presence after class was over. I worked far into the night with it, just couldn’t put the brush down. 

“Now I am working on a landscape of Grand Teton. I’m having a little trouble with it, as San Pidro didn’t show up this week. We started on our own and I could only go so far. I need some advice on the type of brush strokes to use."
Again, she was satisfied with her final piece in a frame.

Martha asks, "I would like you (Sophie Cooper) and Martha (sister-in-law) to find a picture you each like (still life, land or seascape, tell me what color frames you want & I shall try to do them for you & give them to you when we get home. They will be on a 16x20 canvas or smaller if you prefer.” I know of no paintings she might have completed for Sophie & Martha Cooper. 

By October 3, 1959, Mom wrote to her parents that “my painting teacher told me that I didn’t need him anymore also somebody else told me that he said I am his best pupil. This, of course, makes me feel very good. Enough said.”

I found more of her paintings and photos of others taken and the time she completed them for gifts. She continued to dabble with the brush after we returned to the United States.

I did receive this mission painting from my aunt (mom’s sister) who had it in her possession. This one was a gift she did for her mother, Mary Sarna Gabuzda. I do not know when this was painted. The picture with the painting behind Mary Gabuzda with daughter, Irene O’Donnell was taken in Freeland, PA, in 1981.

I love the art of her driftwood on the northern California coast where we lived after the Philippines. I imagine her sitting near our neighborhood with canvas, brushes & paints. Another artistic niece chose this one to remember her grandmother.

These following paintings were gifts that I only have a photo.

 This harbor piece was a gift painted for friends, Ernie and Virginia Horn in January 1962, in San Diego, CA. Ernie loved to sail. 

This child painting was a gift for friends' who were expecting a child in 1963. I also realize that some of these paintings were copied from pictures she found in magazines.

After this point, my mother followed different interests. I am thankful for her creative talent that blossomed for a few years.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Generations of Family Art - Part 1

I have been perusing through family ephemera for the last six months since my mother died at the age of 95. 

I have been brought joy seeing the artistic talents of my parents and younger generations.

My father, Stanley G. Cooper, took art classes in high school at the age of 15. My aunt found files of paper belonging to him after her parents' death. These two are my favorites.

Pencil drawing by Stan Cooper 2 Nov 1939 at Brooklyn Tech High School age 15.

Pencil drawing by Stan Cooper 20 Dec 1939 at Brooklyn Tech High School age 15.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

"Domestic" Treadle Sewing Machine

I have four sewing machines including a treadle machine. My mother found this beauty at a local yard sale in 1980. The earliest photo I have of it is Christmas 1981 in the background of Lola and Sara playing with toy irons and ironing board. Mom used it to hold plants making sure there was no water damage to the wood.

I was in possession of it when I moved 30 miles north of her in 1999. I also used it as a display case. I started an interest in sewing again around this time. After borrowing mom’s Sears Kenmore (which had tension problems that could not be repaired), I purchased my Janome (2001) and Bernina (2004). I also have my mother’s Singer 222K. I no longer have the Sears Kenmore.

In 2004, I moved back in with Mom, for health reasons. The treadle was placed in storage with 90% of my belongings. After, my mother’s death in 2018, along with the selling of her home, I found a place to live along with closing up my storage unit. 

Out came the Domestic again with me showing more interest in it as a sewing machine.

I wanted to investigate its parts and how it works.

Domestic was the premier manufacturer of vibrating shuttle sewing machines from the 1870s through 1880s-- at a time when Singer only manufactured reciprocating shuttle models for domestic use. 

When I took a close up of the needle, I discovered the machine’s serial number of 545221. 

But when I took the plate off there was another number of 288744. So which one is it?

There were two plates surrounding the needle. One had the patented history and the other had instructions on which needle to use.

I transcribed what was engraved on both of the plates.
The one in front of the needle:

“Domestic” S.(ewing) M.(achine) CO.(mpany) 
JAN. 31.1871
APR. 25.1871
AUG. 21.1873
APR. 14.1874

With the dates of 1863 to 1876 listed with this machine, I conclude that this one is post-1876.
The other behind the needle:

300 TO 500   USE  1
120     200          2
  90     110          3
  70       80          4
  40       50          5
  12       36          6
   0        10          7
 COURSE WORK         8

My model is called the “fiddle-bed” as the bottom of the machine is in the shape of a fiddle. It is also called the No.1 Primal as seen by this advertisement. My machine does not have the "star" in the center square of the trellis that moves the needle with the foot press. 

I love the unique bobbin case nestled under the front plate. 

There is a small shelf below the machine that contains its notions. 

These include a key, 2 needle cases, 6 bobbins with thread, 2 bobbin cases, and another foot. I have no idea what the other five items are used for.

My next goal is to clean the machine and get it working again.