Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Surprise! Here's your History...

There are still some wonderful surprises in life!

The summertime is usually one where family and household activities take priority over layout time, and so it is this year.  With some capital improvements around the house it's an exciting (albeit exhausting) time.   We're finally doing a patio outside and a long-overdue kitchen spruce up with painting, new lights, cabinet repairs, floor polishing etc.  

In doing some moving to accommodate the work, I found an old collage from my mom's house, dropped off when Dad's new wife was doing some archiving of old family photos.  Seeing it was a landslide of distant memories!  Christmastime 1977 was held at my grandparent's home in Marcellus, NY, close to where mom grew up and a place of powerful memories for me - after all, this was the destination of many childhood trips, and functionally too the home from which I discovered the Chicago Line for the first time.  The old photos were labeled in some cases with the date and who was whom, but memory served for the latter.  Of course December 1977 found me just week short of one year old, so these aren't my memories; instead they are those of my parents - in some ways, more valuable to me than my own.

Here's my mom, seated, pregnant with my younger sister.  Standing at left is Sally, mom's older sibling, with their mother Rosemary Grimmelsman Dean, and with sister-in-law Colleen Dean at the right.  This is the kitchen of grandma's house on South Street in Marcellus, NY, a place I stayed many times in my youth, and from this place we'd ride in the cars of my uncles to see the trains at Dewitt, NY.

Also in the basement was my grandfather Bill Dean's small Lionel setup, with which I was always fascinated.  Here a few of my older cousins watch intently as Grandpa instructs.

I was too young to remember this gathering, as this photo shows - still learning to walk and almost one year old.  And yet my heart moves with viewing these images because so much of what was to come feels in my memory like these photos of their memories.  So much of my life was looking forward to these trips.  Quite a bit of the the energy around the Onondaga Cutoff is affected by trips to Central New York to see family.  

No family Christmas Eve is complete without a whole-family photo with a timer.  And so I bring you the Dean Family Christmas Eve, 1977, from the warm old colonial home of Bill and Rosemary Dean on South Street in Marcellus, NY.   The baby (me) is asleep but the cheer is alive and cousins are electric with excitement.  All 8 Dean kids are here:  Sally, Susie, Bill, Bob, Tom, John, Peter, and Carol.  

Sort of strange on a summer evening to be reminiscing of Christmastime but in any case I wanted to share these photos as part of the discussion of the true roots of the Onondaga Cutoff.  Yes, it's all about Conrail in Central New York, but that railroad and locale for me are tied up in the wonder and camaraderie of a big family, endless nights of fun, trials and tribulations and subsequent triumphs, and also the balance of loss and darkness that gives it all such a sense of light.  

The Abeles side was more local growing up, and the photos above bring me to want to share one from that side too.  Here's my great-grandfather's butcher shop on Ferry Street in Newark, NJ, in the 'down neck' section of town close to the Ironbound.  That's him on the left; with his son Richard (my grandfather) in Sunday-best clothes for the photo and his wife Ida frowning upon the scene.  

When we say 'down neck' in Newark, this is what we are talking about; north of the CNJ tracks and up to the bank of the Passaic River.  South of the CNJ tracks seen below would be considered 'Ironbound' as it was a triangle bounded by the PRR main line to the west, the CNJ to the north, and the PRR freight main (the Passaic and Harrimus Line) to the south.  

I'm grateful for memories and a sense of place, the notion of belonging to something without conditions, and with the idea that such a series of gifts is a foundation on which to build something for others to be part of.  

Mom's birthday is August 12, and that's a day I always fondly remember each year.  This year we get to be in Skaneateles for part of that. 

Big ideas, nearly limitless thoughts and dreams about life related to a model railroad and refreshed with re-discovery of a few old photos in the attic.  

Enjoy your summertime - more great OC news coming soon!

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