Monday, February 22, 2021

Amanuensis Monday - Affidavit of a Nickname - Belle Sissie Newmark

 Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Today I share an Affidavit my paternal grandmother signed in front of a notary to prove that her nickname, that everyone knew her by, belonged to her. And that the name that appeared on all government documents was hers too. I am not sure what prompted the affidavit - what agency, business, person first questioned her identity. I also do not know how often she had to present the affidavit.


AFFIDAVIT

I, Sissie Newmark, being duly sworn on her oath says that she was born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 14, 1914, and that she was given the name of "Belle" by her parents Herman and Anna Feinstein. They registered her birth under the name "Belle" and she attended school in Clayton, Missouri under the name of "Belle."

Affiant further states that she was known by all of her class mates, friends and family members as "Sissie" and has continued to this date to use the name "Sissie". Belle and Sissie Newmark are one and the same person.

_______

Affiant

Subscribed and sworn to before me this __ day of October 1986.

____________

Notary Public

My commission expires: 


Notes:

1) This unsigned copy was saved by my paternal grandfather in his archive folders. I am sure my grandmother retained the signed copy

2) Letters indicate she spelled her nickname Sissy early on, but at some point changed the spelling. Many friends abbreviated the nickname to Sis, which of course is the etymology of the name her older brother gave to her. Her younger brother ended up with the nickname "Babe."



Monday, February 15, 2021

Amanuensis Monday - My Grandfather Writes to his War Buddies - 1945

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

In going through all of the documents my paternal grandfather saved, in one folder is correspondence between him and his war buddies. My grandfather served as a Field Director for the American Red Cross. When he returned from the war in 1945, and landed in San Francisco, he learned his brother, Mandell, had been killed. Below are paragraphs from several letters where he informed his buddies. 

To Lt. Bernard Samoff - Aug 29, 1945

My return was not the happy event I looked forward to - I suppose you learned that my suspicions about my little brother having been killed were true. But since the return safely of my other brother and the ending of the war, I’m beginning to feel good.

To Kurt Stone - Aug 30. 1945

I don’t know whether you remember my talking about my little brother Mandell - he was with the 41st division. We were at Biak together for about three months. Did you know that I got to Biak just about a week after you left. While I was on my way home, Mandell was killed at Zamboanga and I learned about it when I arrived in Frisco. So my homecoming was anything but the happy event that I thought it would be. It is difficult for me to write about it.

To Zach Levine - Aug 30, 1945

My homecoming wasn’t very pleasant. While I was enroute, Mandell was killed and I got the news when I arrived in Frisco. It happened at Zamboanga. The whole division had a rough time of it, although I understand little or no new got into the papers about it. About a week before Mandell was wounded, he had received the Bronze Star. I wanted so badly to get him out of that outfit. I feel pretty bitter about it but I suppose that doesn’t do any good. When I get to thinking about it, I just can’t think of anything else - so will you forgive me for making this short.

To Col. Chet Lange - May 11, 1946

After I left Morsby I went to Biak for about six months and then spent a little time in Manila. I cam home completely beaten. My littler brother who was with the 163rd Inf. was killed at Jolo. I cam home on leave and before my leave ended the war was over. I got back into law practice around the first of the year and while it was slow going at first I am getting all the business I could handle now. So much so but every once in a while I get to wishing I was back at Morsby. The more I think about it the more I love that place and the more I realize what a swell bunch of people there were.


Notes:

1) In one day my grandfather went from "beginning to feel good" to feeling "pretty bitter about it," but that is natural for the grieving process.

2) Was Mandell killed in Jolo or Zamboanga? Newspaper reports indicate Jolo. It is possible initial information the family received suggested Zamboanga. It's possible his troop was stationed at Zamboanga and had a mission on the nearby island of Jolo. While officially "Killed in Action" he was killed when a fellow officer was cleaning his weapon.

3) My grandfather saved correspondence to/from individuals stapled, paperclipped, or prong-fastened together. Sometimes including envelopes, sometimes not. The copies he saved of the letters he wrote often don’t have last names of those he wrote to, but these can be determined by other documents fastened to the letter. In the case of the letter to Zach Levine there is no such document, but he did have a separate list of addresses he titled “Overseas Mailing List.”  There is only one Zach on that list. 

4) If by chance you are reading this because you found the entry searching for your relative, one of the letter recipients, let me know. There may be letters they wrote in the folder I could scan and send to you. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Amanuensis Monday: Letter from Melvin Newmark July 28, 1943

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Today I share part of a letter my grandfather wrote in 1943. I’m not sure to whom he was writing, nor am I positive the letter got sent. I assume it did and my grandfather felt it important enough to keep an unsigned copy of his letter. I do have a copy of the letter referenced in the first line, but there is no surname on the letter. 


Dear Micky:

Glad to hear from you.

[…]

Sissy and I are going away on a little vacation. We are leaving St. Louis Friday and will probably be gone about ten days. We are going up to Elkhart Lake, Wisc. to try to cool off.

I have an opportunity to go across for the American Red Cross as a field director and I am having a very difficult time trying to make up my mind. I am hopeful that during my vacation I will be able to think the thing out and reach a decision. I don’t know whether you are familiar with the job or not. It pays $275.00 per month. While I would not be considered part of the military, I would wear an officer’s uniform and live with the officers. If I went in I would probably leave the country in about four weeks. I wish I had your faculty for reaching a decision.

Apparently you do not like your present assignment. All of the fellow that I know have griped about the training and you have the consolation that that will be through soon.

Your thoughts about the law practice are pretty much the way I feel. If I do not take the Red Cross job, however, and if I am not drafted, I will probably never have the nerve to quit it. More power to you.

[…]

I understand Stella and the Baby are with you. Give her my best.

Sis and the Kids are fine. Sissy is very set against my going into service and if I don’t go in it will probably be because of her wishes.

Good luck, Micky, and let me hear from you soon.

Sincerely,


Notes:

1) My grandfather took the job with the Red Cross. When he returned after the war, he returned to the law practice.  I’m not positive what his issues were. Micky’s letter is handwritten and difficult for me to read, but I’m going to work at it.

2) Both of my grandmothers weren’t initially supportive of my grandfathers serving. A letter I’ve previously shared indicates my maternal grandmother was upset about my grandfather’s decision without her consent.

3) Sissy was the nickname of my grandmother given to her as a child by her brother. Later she would spell it Sissie.  

Monday, February 1, 2021

Amanuensis Monday: Melvin Newmark's Speech to Maryville College - Feb 1958

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

Today I share a speech my grandfather gave to Maryville College (now Maryville University) in St. Louis in February of 1958. He would have been 46 years old at the time. This was given in connection with National Brotherhood Week, which was promoted by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, of which my grandfather was an active member.

 For delivery February 13th 1958 Maryville College

This meeting this morning is one of many held during Brotherhood Week in Schools and colleges of America. It is an opportunity for students and teachers alike to reappraise the American goal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — from our earnest studies of history we all have some knowledge of the dreams and aspirations of our founding fathers and their concepts of a truly democratic state. From our own daily experiences we all have some knowledge of the way in which those ideals have or have not been fulfilled. An opportunity, then, such as this one to examine wherein we have failed and to look for ways and means of improvement is essential to the orderly, progressive development of our democratic society.

Once, for instance, people of good intentions thought of America as a great melting pot — until we came to realize that you don’t solve problems of group differences by eliminating the difference — anymore than you would solve a headache by cutting off the head. It’s true there would be no more headache, but then neither would there be a you. And if the differences between the peoples and groups of this great country were eliminated the strength and vigor of America would be sapped and democracy would have been dealt a death blow.

Today people of goodwill understand the differences and no longer fear them. Whenever tensions do develop you can be sure that lack of understanding and baseless fears have blinded some from the truth. And sometimes evil men, who prosper on discord, try to mislead us and distort the meaning of our democracy. Ignorance is our worst enemy — truth and understanding our only hope.

However imperfect is our present form of government, however impatient some of us may at times seem, none of us doubts the ultimate success of our system to establish a climate where all of us, regardless of our differences, whether they be race or religion, will be able to live and prosper together in peace and harmony.

We fully believe so because we know that the ideal of American democracy is simply a fulfillment of the one basic law common to both science and religion.

From science we have learned the value of cooperation. The way in which single, simple cells unite, for instance, to join together to form more complex patterns of living matter. The history, for instance, of evolution which reveals the pattern of progress and survival through cooperation. Countless other examples testify to the scientific proof that the basic law of nature is cooperation. We know now that it is not enough to say “live and let live”, we must say “live and help live.”

From the religions of our Judean-Christian civilization we learn, too, there is one basic law, one commandment, which seems to sum up everything that God has ever revealed to mankind. That law, that commandment is “Love thy neighbor”. Hate, we know, will destroy us, but love will fulfill us.

Love and cooperation are different words meaning the same thing.

The democracy our forefathers established in America actually began when Moses led the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery. His goal was freedom, not just freedom alone from restrictive tyranny, but freedom as well for restraining law - so that free people could thereafter live together without fear or hatred. The laws and commandments then revealed to Moses established the only kind of freedom possible, a freedom, if you will, that simply makes your feel easy in your harness, and these laws and commandments were preserved by the great Christian religions and are the backbone of our American democracy.

The uniqueness of this democracy is the degree of unity we are able to achieve without at the same time giving up our differences.

If everyone thought alike and looked alike and prayed alike, or if everyone did not pray at all, then there would be, for sure, unity, but no diversity, and we would thus have totalitarianism.

If everyone did just whatever he pleased and acted however he pleased and no two people thought alike, we would of course have diversity but without any unity this diversity would result in anarchy.

Only in a democracy can there be, in fact, must there be, both unity and diversity.

Today we see our democracy as a symphony, each of the groups an instrument, all blending together in a glorious harmony, and we all contribute to the richness of the music.

What can we as members of different [faiths] do to preserve and strengthen this God given ideal — from Him who is the Father of all of us.

As a Jew it is my most sacred duty to live up to the loftiest commandment of my faith “to love thy neighbor as myself”. As Christians it is your most sacred duty to live up to the same commandment as explained by your great Savior to mean “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” The Hebrew Psalms say “Olam Chesed Yiboneh” — the world is founded upon love alone. [Psalms 89:3] Coleridge, my favorite poet, I think, said it best in these words

He Prayeth best who loveth best — All things both great and small — for the dear God who loveth us — He made and loveth us all.


Notes:

1) I had heard about the Symphony alternative to the Melting Pot, so I went in search of who first suggested it. It was Horace Kallen in an article for The Nation, Democracy Versus the Melting Pot, in 1915. It is sad that kids were still being taught the Melting Pot metaphor when I was a kid in the 80s, and there are still people promoting it today.

2) It is great to see my grandfather's evolution as a thinker and speech writer over the 12 years since the speech he wrote in 1946. It was also good to learn the name of at least one of his favorite poets. His bookshelves were rather large. As are mine.