April 3rd, 2011

OnePiece in the Boston Globe

There are some real issues with the Northeast and fashion. While Boston is no Portland, Maine, even a girl from Seattle tends to feel like everything gets adopted here a little later than ... elsewhere. As in, years. I found this annoying, because I was really hoping to see the end of pointy toed shoes, and it took longer here than ... elsewhere. But whatever. We're through that. It's all good.

I don't know what brought this to my attention:


Apparently some hungover Norwegians came up with a garment design based on sewing hoodies to sweatpants, and after a while, a guy on the Boston Globe staff reported on it and its celebrity adopters. What the staff writer missed, however (possibly because it happened before he was born and, therefore, is not relevant) is that the jumpsuit or flightsuit or coverall has a very long career as a not-really-fashionable-but-we'll-pretend clothing choice. Think: W. with the crotch thingy (I guess that's one way to deal with the bagginess inherent in this garment) on the flight deck (sorry I reminded you of that); the cover of Heinlein's _Friday_ in paperback, endless middle-aged housewives in the mid 1980s wearing "leisure wear", usually with really silly belts over them.

The hood on it is a novel feature in my experience, but I'm sure someone will point to a 50 year old instance of same if I just wait a few hours.

While I certainly committed jumpsuit sins in the mid- to late 1980s myself (there are pictures to prove it, including one with shorter legs that could arguably be described as a skort -- no, I'm not kidding, and while I have photographic proof I'm not sharing it here), I'm always amazed that people keep trying to make something so simultaneously practical (hey, we're talking a _coverall_ here. That's mechanic clothing. For realz.) and awkward, at least for women who don't feel like stripping to pee. (Yeah, I never understood the belt over the jumpsuit thing that middle-aged women were doing in the 80s. That belt just made the problem that much worse.)

genealogical serendipity

Henry Z Jones does amazing genealogical work. He's also written a couple of highly improbably titled books about weird things that happen while doing genealogy, that I am still resisting buying (I'll give in. I know I will. Or maybe I'll get it at the library. Hmmm.).

My stepfather-in-law was kind enough to divulge some names and a little additional information regarding his family, which let me go digging around in the Lower East. I have candidate families for his mother and his father; further research will be required to make certain I have the right people. The truly bizarre bit that turned up was a _name_ coincidence that made me chuckle: the attorney who did M.G.'s naturalization in 1904 (hypothetical grandfather of stepfather-in-law) had the same name as my paternal grandfather after he came to the US a few years after that. At the time, of course, that man was a boy still in Fryslan, and still using his given name. Still, really quite hilarious to me.

This is the first time my genealogical efforts have revolved around careful analysis of street addresses on census pages. R. has been doing this for a while to disambiguate his extended family in Berlin, NH. The census form doesn't have a spot for a street address, but the name of the street is often written at right angles in the left margin or some similar spot. I had from e-mail the street where stepfather-in-law's parents lived (where he grew up -- not helpful just yet, because they got married in 1930, so that address won't show up until the 1940 census which I'll get my mitts on next year, IIRC), and also from where his grandparents lived. The candidate families both lived within a block or two, which I believed, based on what little I know about New York in the first quarter-ish of the 20th century, was important.

Having gotten this far, I took a big step back and contemplated the setting. What _did_ I know about the lower East? Hmmmm. I seemed to recall an unread book in my library about this migration and settlement pattern; I thought it was called _The Promised Land_. But I did not know if it had survived various attempts to reduce the number of books I keep around, and librarything was not encouraging. As luck would have it, however, a five minute visit to the third floor provided the book itself: Moses Rischin's _The Promised City: New York's Jews, 1870-1914_. Really, I don't think it could be more perfect for my purposes. Even having been written when it was (published originally in 1962) is fantastic, because Rischin was able to interview people who remembered How It Was Back in the Day before they all died or moved away.

Lucky day!

Oh, wait, I almost forgot. A little surfing through the index for variations on a source-region theme (Ukraine, Odessa, etc.) turned up a map of the Lower East, with different lines drawn around various groups of blocks indicating "sub ethnic" groupings. Fantastic! Altho I then had to go look up "Galician" and similar. But so far, everything is looking just great.

ETA: Why, you might ask, did I own this book? I'm not entirely certain. It has a Half Price Books sticker on it with a 4/97, which looks like a date to me (that wasn't the price; that was $5.98). There was a period in the mid- to late 1990s when I was somewhat indiscriminately buying any used academic press book I ran across that looked interesting to me. This was particularly true when I was selling books and had a choice between more credit or less cash. I'd usually browse pretty aggressively while they were pricing the books I had brought in. If I found enough, I'd take the credit.

It's a little odd as a choice, even for my wide-ranging tastes. Yes, it is history, but it's not about food, textiles, technology or women, nor is it about religion. Fortunate, however. :-)

Jewish Encyclopedia

There's a public domain Jewish Encyclopedia from the early 20th century that is unbelievably good. I mean, shockingly good. I looked up Odessa:


The person I'm tracking (not the hypothetical match; this is family lore) came from Odessa, perhaps was a tailor. And being a tailor was a common occupation for Jews in Odessa. Jews settled in Odessa after the Russians took it over, and that community was attempting to assimilate in Russian society, giving up its Germanic roots in the process. They were German enough to try out a rabbi from Germany -- but committed enough to assimilation for him not to take.

The hypothetical match immigrated in 1890 which is early enough that ellisisland.org can't help me out. And that, too, fits well: the early 1890s in Odessa were a time when Jewish rights were being curtailed: they were about a third of the population of the city and had been participating in municipal politics -- until they were banned from doing so. Hardly a promising sign.

If this candidate turns out to be the right one, my step-father-in-law had a wise grandfather: he got out before things turned really ugly.