Archive for the ‘My Memories – Family Stories’ Category

Betty and Bob’s 53rd Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my parents, Betty and Bob. Today, 18 February 2015, they would have been married 53 years. The first year, they lay at rest, together again.

About a year ago, my mother wrote an account of their first date, courtship, engagement and marriage:

Pat, my friend since the age of ten, and I, grew up in a  neighborhood [the Bellrock section of Malden, Massachusetts] with lots of kids our age.  When we were teens, we hung around the corner drug store, owned by Hy Goldberg, a very good friend of your grandfather [Dr. Charles George Hall]. A coke was five cents, an ice cream was eight cents. It was Kerwin, Ferrick, Short, Sheehan, O’Keefe, Dean, Skelton, Winchell, Keough, Hall, Murphy, Nugent, etc.

The guys all went to Malden High or the trade school. Most were in the high school with me and played sports of some kind.  Pat and I went to most of the games.

Your father played football and baseball.  The guys on the football team dated the cheerleaders.  Your dad dated a girl named Alice.  She would take the bus home from school, pass the drug store, see Pat and me there with other girls and the guys, and accuse Bob of cheating on her. She didn’t like us.  We probably weren’t even paying attention to Bob with so many kids hanging out there.  All just friends.

When your dad joined the Air Force with Kerwin and several other guys and was sent overseas Alice would write to him often.  He hated writing letters so he gave her letter to a friend to answer.  The friend typed a reply and your dad signed.  He said he very often didn’t even bother to read it.  What a brat! When he got home she had moved on and was seeing someone else.  His friends kept fixing him up with different girls. He said it was usually just the one date.

One night, in 1961, I got a phone call from Bob’s friend Woody Short aka Lloyd Short.  He was calling from the Kernwood Restaurant and Bar.  I don’t think either one of them were entirely sober.  Woody asked me if I’d go out with Bob on Saturday night.  Thinking he was drunk and it was a joke, I said, “sure why not”.  Saturday came, I was sitting around reading a book or watching TV, when the door bell rang.  I was shocked to find Bob standing there.  I did go out with him.  It was the middle of May.  We went to a drive-in-movie to see “Rally Around the Flag Boys”.


We talked through most of the movie.  When he took me home, he said he never noticed how cute I was and what a good sense of humor I had, and then kissed me goodnight.  I figured it was one date and dismissed it.

He was a neighborhood friend!  Low and behold he called me again and again.

I did date a guy before your father, for seven years.  He was a Lithuanian guy from Salem, Massachusetts, named Eddie Piecewick.  I wasn’t seeing much of Eddie, with him working and going to school and living so far away, so I went out with Bob. We were not exclusive as you kids today put it.  That’s why I started dating your dad at the same time.  Bob and Eddie did not get along, the few times that they met.  Only because your father was rude to him or maybe just jealous. Bob and I went to Pat’s (she was married by then), out to dinner, movies, walking the length of Revere Beach, etc.  Pat was happy I was dating him, but my other friends were kind of cool toward him, because they were all friends with Eddie.

After your father got home from the hospital in Germany and recovered at home he got a an infection in the same stomach area and had to go into Chelsea Navel Hospital for medical attention.  Nana [Bob’s mother, Edith], who I had never met, called me and asked me to take her to visit him.  I had been invited to their house, because they knew we were dating, but thought “rich doctor, stuffy wife”, no way was I going there.  Much to my surprise, she was very down to earth and a lovely person.  Through a good part of her life she introduced me as her “daughter in love”.  We got along great.  Grampa [Bob’s father] told Bob that he made a good choice and he liked my sense of humor.  We all got along great.  I worried for nothing.


By August he asked me to marry him.  I said no, that was not for me.  He asked me again in September and then I said yes.  For my birthday he gave me an engagement ring.

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We planned a small wedding because I had little money, having spent it on funerals for my father and mother.  Also I had no family to speak of.  I wanted to wait a year to get married, he didn’t, so we picked 18 February 1962.


Pat was my maid of honor, Janice [Bob’s niece] my flower girl, who hated having to wear a dress.  She looked adorable in the dress, Helen, her mother, made for her.  Joanne [Bob’s first cousin] took care of the guest book and did a wonderful job.  Also looked so cute.  Back then a person took the book around for the guests to sign.  Because my godfather [maternal uncle, Edmond Sylvio Roy] could not make it up from Florida to give me away, I asked Tom O’Keefe [Betty’s foster brother]. Joking, he said he’d be happy to get rid of me!  By then he was married to Liz.  I asked Aunt Margaret [Betty’s foster mother] to stand in for my mother. She did and looked lovely.


We were married at Sacred Heart Church in Malden by Father Hart later to become Bishop Hart.  We were not allowed inside the alter as most brides were, because Bob was not Catholic. I had to get permission from the bishop to marry outside my faith. My bans, an announcement in the bulletin, was not allowed. Bob had to attend a meeting with the priest on the Catholic religion.  He met with Father Hart and said they mostly talked about the greyhounds [Bob and his dad and grandfather raised and raced dogs], after Bob promised to bring any children up Catholic.

The reception was at the American Legion Hall on Pleasant Street, because Aunt Margaret’s husband was a member, and she was too, so she got us a deal. We had a band. An old boyfriend’s brother in law.  I forget his name.  No special song.  Maybe fifty people or less.  I forget.  Mostly Bob’s friends, mine from Malden and work. Some of Aunt Margaret’s friends and relatives and Nana’s friends and her knitting club. A couple of doctors that were friends of Grampa. Grampa’s only request was that he not wear a Tux.
wedding party
Betty wedding
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After the reception we stopped to see Georgiana [Bob’s paternal grandmother], because for reasons I never heard, she did not attend the wedding.


We went to Pennsylvania for a week.  I remember staying the first night in New York and leaving my only pair of heels there. I had to buy shoes in Pennsylvania but the hotel did mail my shoes to me.  We met a lot of nice people. We went to a place called Mount Airy Resort in the Pocono Mountains. It’s still there but looking at it on line it’s been updated after fifty two years. It is or was a honeymoon resort with a hotel and outlying cottages.  Lots of things going on and most of the people there were our age. It had it’s own restaurant and night club.  You could ski, sled, hike, etc.  Dancing and entertainment in the club.


After the honeymoon we went to our apartment at 64 James Street in Malden, returning home in a miserable snow storm.  It was a nice surprise that your grandparents [Bob’s parents], went food shopping and left us food in the house.  We forgot to do that before we left!  Also we came back on a Sunday when the stores were closed. Would you believe I still have the giant sized can of Spaghetti O’s they left!!!


We planned to work for a few years before having children, but come April, I found out I was having a baby!!!  I worked until September [at John Hancock].  Back then you could not work beyond five months.  On December 29, 1962 we had a baby girl. The rest of that story is yours!!!

This is a reminder to document your own courtship and that of your ancestors to preserve your story for future generations!!

A French pen pal?

As part of your ancestor search, have you considered that parents or grandparents may have had a pen pal? Someone who might have preserved their letters?

As a “tween”, in the early 1970’s, I acquired two pen pals, by responding to an advertisement in the Boston Globe or Herald.



My first, Donna, grew up in Bondsville, Massachusetts.  I don’t recall the content of our letters – just that I was excited to receive mail. We corresponded until we departed for college,  and although we only lived 82 miles apart, lost touch and never met. The second (who’s name I can not recall), lived in Trinidad and Tobago.  The relationship was short lived; after several letters, she asked me to send money.

I was suprised to find that my dad may have also had a pen pal when he was 17.  He saved the initial letter of introduction, dated 26 Feb 1953, addressed to him at his childhood home, from Mademoiselle Solange Poncelet of the College Modern de Jeunes Filles at Thionville.  I haven’t had time to get this to a french speaking friend, but using “Google Translate” the jiste seemes to be: She has waited a long time for a pen pal. Miss Lawrence, an American was her teacher of English.  She is 17, small, with brown hair and dark skin.  She speaks of her father’s occupation and says that she doen’t see her parents much, other than holidays; she is boarding at school. She speaks of french examanations, perhaps related to college acceptance? She asks about his interests and schooling and whether they should correspond in Fench or English.  She asks that he send his photo first, before she sends hers. She thinks that Americans are friendly based on their apperance and gaiety.

Did dad write back? If he did, how long did they correspond?  My dad had a longtime girlfriend, Alice, during that time period (he didn’t start dating my mother until 1961) would she have tolerated a french pen pal? Where is Solange today? Although her initial letter is a bit commonplace, it would be interesting to track her down to locate further correspondence and to share the letter with her family.

Will our grandchildren know the meaning of the phrase “pen pal”?  Back in the day, it exposed us to other cultures in an era before the global economy, home computers, email, Internet and social media. Did you, your parents or grandparents have a pen pal?  Were the letters preserved? of what did you/they write?

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Elizabeth Norma “Betty” (Billings) Hall



Slide Show: 

With a heavy heart, we said goodbye to my mom, on Friday, she has touched many lives and will be missed, although sad to see her go it is comforting to know that she is free of pain and suffering.

Elizabeth Norma “Betty” (Billings) Hall of Linden, Malden, Massachusetts passed away on 6 February 2015 from complications related to Multiple Myeloma at the age of 79. She was born 19 October 1935 in Gardner, Massachusetts to Charles Billings and Yvonne Marie Roy.

Elizabeth was interested in genealogy and proud of her heritage. Her father, a Lithuanian, was born to Juozas Baltrūnas (Billie) of Preibiai, Pasvalys, Lithuania and Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Morris) of Stanioniai, Pasvalys, Lithuania (both near current day Pumpenai, Pasvalys, Lithuania).  Betty’s mother, a French Acadian, was born to Pius Dosithée “Paul” Roy of Ste Marie de Kent, New Brunswick, Canada and Laura Marie Melanson of Scoudouc, New Brunswick, Canada.

In the early 1940’s Betty came to the Bellrock section of Malden and was raised by foster parents Joseph and Margaret Galiack. She graduated from Malden High School in 1955 and was awarded a gold key and college scholarship for her art talents. She then worked for John Hancock Insurance Company.

On 18 February 1962, she married Robert “Bob” Hall, son of the Malden veterinarian, Dr. Charles George and Edith Anna (Haines) Hall. Together they raised four children and lots of beloved (mostly stray) cats.

For many years, Betty was a stay at home mom. When her children were young, she was a Cub Scout Den Leader and a CCD teacher at St Joseph’s Parish in Malden. She completed the Religious Master Teacher Program at Aquinas Junior College in 1982. She also worked as a leader at Weight Watchers.

When her youngest child reached school age, Betty became part of the family at Robinson’s News Agency in Malden, where she was employed by the Kramich family until her retirement. In recent years, Betty enjoyed lunching with friends, drawing, reading, watching old TV shows, playing computer games and looking after the feral cat living in her garage, who she lovingly named Lily.

Survivors include her beloved children Linda and John Little (her beloved son-in law, good friend and caregiver, who she loved as a son) of Jackson, New Hampshire; Nancie and John Georgopolous of Raleigh, North Carolina; David Hall of Malden and Michael and Lauren (Fontana) Hall of Reading, Massachusetts.

Her grandchildren Makayla Georgopolous, Zack Georgopolous and Anna Hall, and step-grandchild, Kaitlyn Little were the light of her life. She also leaves a sister, Shirley Billings of Sylacauga, Alabama; a brother Ralph Charles Billings of Las Vegas, Nevada; a brother-in-law Charles George Hall Jr. and wife Ann (Bickford) Hall of Falmouth, Massachusetts; many nieces, nephews, cousins, an aunt and her lifelong best friend Patricia (Gowell) McDevitt of Melrose, Massachusetts.

She was raised with Joseph O’Keefe of Billerica, Massachusetts and the late Thomas O’Keefe of Brockton, MA who were like brothers to her and she thought of their wives and children as true family.

She was predeceased by her husband, who died on 12 December 1993 and a brother Charles Anthony Billings.

Visitation: Tuesday, February 10th from 4:30-6:30pm at Boston Cremation Funeral Home, 287 Main Street, Malden, MA.

Funeral Mass: Wednesday, February 11th at 9am at St. Joseph’s Church, 790 Salem St., Malden.  Immediately following the service she will be put to rest with her beloved husband at Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden.

In lieu of flowers, her wishes were that donations be given to The Kitty Connection, 6 Cudworth Street Medford, Massachusetts 02155 (who captured and found homes for a number kittens living in her garage), a donation in her name to your church, to an organization dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or to any charity of your choice.


Genealogy Do-Over – My Dad


This week, I started over. My whole genealogy, from scratch.

I started with “me” (offline) and have moved to my dad – Robert Hall – known as Bob or Bobby – with no given middle name.  Dad was born on 18 July 1935 at Melrose Hospital in Melrose, Massachusetts to Charles George Hall, age 30, a veterinarian, born in Malden, Massachusetts and Edith (Haines) Hall, a 27 year old housewife (who took care of kids, acted as a vet tech and hand fed the greyhound pups our family raised), born in Boston, Massachusetts. They resided at 228 Main Street, Malden.  Bob was the second of two children.  He was 2 1/2 when he got his first hair cut; in the orchestra at Beebe Junior High School;  J V Football Captain and track member at Malden High School and a baseball player for the Belmont Hill Teenage Club. When he graduated in 1953,  the “blonde hair, blue eyed very good looking” Bob had hopes to join the Army, wear bell bottoms and have a girl in every port. He was a “cool” guy with a ’55 green and white Chevy [likely purchased after he got out of the Air Force].

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My mother briefly documented my dad’s life:

  • Belmont School – Cross St.
  • Beebe Jr. High – Pleasant St.
  • Malden High – Salem St.
  • Wentworth Inst. (electronics)
  • Indiana State
  • U.S. Air Force
  • Lowell Univ.
  • Bentley College
  • worked – from 1958 at Honeywell (in 1973 they were called Lorall/Lockheed Martin – same company changed hands he continued to work there – 35 years, until two weeks before his death – was electronic engineer, working on space program, top secret clearance.

Sadly, Dad died, after a two year fight with Melanoma, on 12 December 1993, age 58.

BUT, he almost died before marrying my mom, when he was in the Air Force.  I don’t know much about this time is his life. He told me that he recovered because he refused to take the pain medicine they gave him, he would pretend to take it, then spit it out. He lost most of his teeth as part of the ordeal.  I never thought anything of him having false teeth when I was a child, I thought it was just “normal” for “old people” to lose teeth. Although he led a “normal” life, he spent most of it in pain; he collected a small disability pension.

As part of the “do-over”, I have crafted a research plan to discover more of the 4 years, 3 months and 28 days of his military career.

My mother writes:

“Bob was in the United States Air Force. He was in Morocco when he got sick. They sent him to Germany. They sent for his parents because they did not think he would live. His mother went.  They took out part of his intestines. He lost all of his teeth because of all the medications. He did survive to get home to Chelsea Naval Hospital in Chelsea, MA. He had a scar the size of an 8 inch dinner plate. He did get better, but all his life had stomach problems if he ate the wrong thing (spicy/salads, etc.).  In 1960/1 he had more problems, a cyst. Dr. Auld lanced it and sent him back to Chelsea.  They put a drain in, after several weeks he came home.  He learned to endure a lot of pain for the remainder of his life”.

My grandmother’s journal, dated July 1958, which describes her trip to Germany, to see Bob in the hospital,  offers few clues:

“Vaccinated Sat. July 5th and applied for my passport Mon. July 7. The passport was rushed through. Thanks to Hy Goldberg [the neighborhood druggist, and friend of my grandfather] I had a ticket “economy” to fly to Frankfurt. The round trip ticket cost $513.20. The flight left Logan on Tuesday at 1:00 PM. My seat companions were an Austrian woman of 80 and a negress, 30. They were both very sociable.”

The journal goes on to describe my 50 year old grandmother’s “adventure” through Gander, Newfoundland; Shannon, Ireland; London, England; Dusseldorf, Germany – finally arriving in Frankfort, Germany at 8:25 AM Wednesday EST (1:20 PM German time). She was paged at the arrival airport and recounts “I was sure Bob was gone when told to see the Red Cross – I was so rattled I couldn’t remember a thing”.

She arrived at the Airforce Hospital in Weisbaden at 2:00 PM German time to Ward 2A and Bob.  He was glad to see her  “His breathing was shallow, he felt very cold to the touch and his nails were blue. I rubbed his arms for over an hour before he got warm… While I was there he got out of bed and walked with difficulty but without anyone holding him down the corridor, about 70 of my steps”.

The next day she writes”…Bob was very worried today, they found another abscess in the last incision and took 200 cc of pus from it. The doctor took out all the stitches, put the scissors into the incision [which she later describes as 5 or 6 inches long and 3 inches wide] and opened it all up again.  No anesthetic either…” She speaks of him having dysentery, pains on the right side of the waist, having to wear a “Nelsonbinder” (used to bind him tight to keep his incision together), “fixing the colostomy himself” and weighing 117 pounds. Although she remains positive, on July 24th she writes, “The Doctor says he won’t go back to the States”.

She visited twice daily, bringing ice cream, cake, candy, and other goodies, noting his increased hunger and weight gain. They celebrated Bob’s 23rd birthday, also her 28th anniversary – she writes “Miss Charlie something terrible”.  In August, she says that Bob is feeling better and told her about Morocco; “I had no idea what a mess it is nor how he happened to go there”.

Others mentioned in the journal: Miss Graham (who seemed to be a coordinator who assigned her to a hotel); Colonel Crouch; Dahl and his wife; Captain Chaplain Benjamin J. Shinn and two blond sons; Chaplain H. W. Wicker; Mrs Dempsey who had been in Morocco the “past two years”; Doctor Jernigan; Mrs. Thornton a Naturalized American from Australia her husband is a Colonel stationed in a “hell hole” in Turkey south of Istanbul; Mrs. Kinsley who’s birthday is August 3rd and who’s husband is dying of cancer; Colonial Thornton (army); Mrs Sweeny a friend of Mrs Nicolls from Arlington Virginia, Mary Calkins neighbor at the hotel.

She stayed at: First an unnamed hotel with a loud sidewalk cafe then after the first week Amelia Earhart Hotel. 

Finally on Monday, August 11th she writes: “I am so excited I can’t bear it!!!!! Bob is leaving Thursday (if the weather and conditions are right). He will be flown to the Azores then to Maguire in New Jersey where he will stay from 24 hours to four or five days depending on customs. He will then be flown to Chelsea Naval Hospital. I can hardly believe it.”

Nana stayed in Europe another several weeks to tour, on Bob’s insistence.  She agrees, only because his final operation will be scheduled after her return.  On August 18th, she notes that Bob has arrived at Chelsea Naval Hospital [Side note: In 1999 I purchased a 3 level town home at Admiral Hall in Chelsea, MA – this complex was the Chelsea Naval Hospital converted into condos/town homes – at the time, I had no idea that my dad was there recovering!] She had a fabulous sightseeing trip, but cheered with the others as her plane touched down in New York on 3 Sept 1958. She says “I called Charlie and he is to meet me at Logan”. Then, “Arrived at 3:30 PM and am beginning to live again”.

There is a 1957 article on Mocavo written by the Chaplain Benjamin J. Shinn of whom my grandmother writes:

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What I Have

A photo of Dad at basic training dated November 1954 and naming Jim D’Eon [died 2004], Fred Kerwin [an usher at my parents wedding] and Carl Notorangile [Notarangeli?], according to my mother at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.


A newspaper article:

Bob operated on

Dad’s “DD Form 214 (Report of Separation)” – this is a free record which can be ordered here:

I submitted a request and received the document (image below) within 3 weeks.  My neighbor was informed that her dad’s record was destroyed in the fire and could not be recreated:

The document arrived 4 or 5 years ago, I looked at it quickly, thought “cool” and put it in his genealogy file.  “Check” – I have his military record.  I never transcribed it or did any type of search on its contents to determine what my dad might have done in the Air Force, where he was stationed or why he was discharged.



Personal data
Name: Robert Hall; Service Number: AF 11 293 532; Grade/Rank: A/2C; Date of Rank: 1 Sep 55
Dept: Air Force Reg/AF; Place of Birth: Melrose, MA; Date: 18 July 35
Race: Caucassion; Sex: Male; Color Hair: Brown; Color Eyes: Blue; Height: 5’8″; Weight: 148
US Citizen: Y; Marital Status: Single; Civilian Education: High School 4; Course or Field: Academic

Transfer or Discharge Data
Type of transfer of discharge: Retirement (T)
Station/Installment at which Effected: Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Reason: SDN 270 Par 8 SO C-98 Hq DAF, 18 Feb 59,
Sections 1202 & 1372 Title 10 US Code, Par 88c AFM 35-4
Effective date: 2 Mar 59
Last Duty Assignment: 357 FINTCPRON APO 30 (USAFE)
Character of Service: Honorable
Type of Certificate Issued: DD Form 217AF [The DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge issued to these members did not authorize retirement benefits. In the past, these honorary members were issued a DD Form 217]

Selective Service Data
Selective Service Number: 19 20 35 61
Selective Service Local Board: LB #20 Malden (Middlesex) Massachusetts
Date Inducted: N/A
District Transferred: N/A

Service Data
Date of Reserve Obligation: N/A
Current Active Service: Enlisted
Prior Enlistments: None
Grade Rate or Rank at time of Entry: A/B
Place of Entry into Active Service: Boston, Massachusetts
Home Recorded at time of Entry: 228 Main Street, Malden, Massachusetts
Specialty Number and Title: Flt Simulator Sp 34230H
Related Civilian Occupation: Radio Rpam 0-83,411
Net Service this period: 4 years, 3 months, 28 days
Total Active Service: 4 years, 3 months, 28 days
Foreign and/or Sea Service: 1 year, 6 months, 5 days
Decorations, Medals, Badges, Citations, Ribbons: GCMDL, AFLSA
Wounds received as a result of Action: None
School or Course: Chanute AFB Ill: Dates Jan-Sept 1955
Major Courses: Apr Elec Instr Rpmn
Other Service Training Courses: None
Gov’t Life Insurance: No
Amount of Allotment: N/A

No time lost under Section 6a Appendix 2b MCM 1951
60 days unused leave credit and rations paid on final pay.
Blood Group “O Pos”; FSSD: 15 Aug 58. Paid 300.00 MOP. IP $100.
AQE Cluster: Mech 7 Cler 7 Eqp 7 Rad Opr 6 Tech Sp 5 Svc 2 Cft 6 Elect 7
Secret Clearance NAC 5 Apr 56 4th OSI Dist (ADC). SSN 021-28-0603
Placed on Temporary Disability Retired List. VA Code: 7328
Permanent Address for Mailing:228 Maine Street, Malden, MA
Name Authorizing Officer: Joseph R. Dillehay Capt USAF (MSC)
Asst Pers Off USAF Hosp W-P-W-PAFB Ohio

Evidence that Dad perhaps joined the Air Force Reserves and was discharged effective 4 November 1962. It mentions a form 256AF.

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And certificate of Honorable Discharge, form 256AF.


My “To Do” List

(1) Locate the men in the basic training photo and Earl Wiedner mentioned in the journal, if living, to determine if they have any memories of my dad. Locate fellow servicemen who were stationed with my dad at Basic Training, Chanute AFB and in Morocco. Locate nurses/doctors who might have worked at the same German and Massachusetts Hospitals.

I believe I found an address for Carl Notarangeli and have drafted/sent him a letter via snail mail [today]. My mother gave me some clues to help locate Fred Kerwin.

(2) Find out more about the Unit.

Google Search –

357 FINTCPRON is perhaps: Redesignated as 357 Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 11 Sep 1952. Activated on 1 Nov 1952. Discontinued on 8 Mar 1960.

Assignments – 316 Air Division, 18 Sep 1953-8 Mar 1960
Stations: French Morocco (later, Morocco), 28 May 1953-8 Mar 1960.
Commanders:  Maj William G. Dilley Jr., 28 Oct 1955; Maj Lyle E. Mann, 4 Dec 1956; Maj Raymond F. Farrington Jr., 22 Jun 1958; Lt Col Leonidas C. Bradley Jr., 1 Jun 1959-8 Mar 1960.
Aircraft: F-86, 1952-196

Wikipedia Reads:

The squadron was reactivated as the 357th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron under Air Defense Command ADC at Portland International Airport, Oregon in November 1952. The squadron took over the personnel, mission and F-86F Sabres of the federalized 123d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the Oregon Air National Guard which was returned to state control. A little more than three months later, ADC formed Air Defense Groups at its dispersed fighter bases and the squadron became the operational element of the new 503d Air Defense Group. However, the 503d soon converted to Lockheed F-94 Starfires with the activation of the 497th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and the 357th deployed to Nouasseur Air Base, French Morocco and assigned to the 316th Air Division of United States Air Forces Europe in May, where it provided air defense mission for Strategic Air Command forward bases used by Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft on Reflex deployment to Morocco. The unit received new HVAR rocket armed and airborne interceptradar equipped F-86D Sabre interceptors in early 1955. The unit remained in North Africa until 1960 when it was inactivated as SAC withdrew from its Morocco bases.

357 Fighter Squadron Emblem

(3) There are a bunch of abbreviations – what are they?

Rank at time of Entry: A/B – Airman basic (AB) is the lowest enlisted rank in the United States Air Force (USAF), immediately below airman. The pay grade for airman basic is E-1.

School or Course: Chanute AFB Illinois: Dates Jan-Sept 1955; Major Courses: Apprentice Electronic Instrument Repairman, Flight Simulator Tech School at Chanute AFB

Job: 34230H-Apprentice Flight Simulator Specialist

Related Civilian Occupation: Radio Rpam 0-83,411 – ?????

Rank: A/2C – Airman Second Class (there is no such rank anymore); but essentially an E2 with one stripe.


What are the awards listed?

GCMDL- Good Conduct Medal is awarded to any active-duty enlisted member of the United States military who completes three consecutive years of “honorable and faithful service”. Such service implies that a standard enlistment was completed without any non-judicial punishment, disciplinary infractions, or court martial offenses.

AFLSA – Air Force Longevity Service Award is awarded for completing four years of Active, Air Force Reserve, or Air National Guard service.

If he was discharged 18 Feb 1959 after 4 years, 3 months, 28 days, then he joined 21 Oct 1954.

(4) What are the discharge reason codes? SDN 270 Par 8 SO C-98 Hq DAF, 18 Feb 59, Sections 1202 & 1372 Title 10 US Code, Par 88c AFM 35-4

(5) Find out what other medical or military records are available. Would my dad’s Secret Clearance paperwork be accessible? I believe my dad had a small pension – is there a pension file available?

Thanks to FB readers at the Genealogy Do-Over page, I just requested my father’s Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) from NARA National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.  The FB post read:

“Here’s the form:  For next of kin, there is usually no charge (that may have changed though – double check). There is such a wealth of information contained in those records (including medical records)!”

If they’ve responded with the “there was a fire and the file was destroyed” letter, all hope is not lost. There are other records (and some are more informative) that are not necessarily kept with the standard military records. Morning reports, change of duty station, final pay vouchers, and other documents. I have a guy who occasionally pulls those records for me. His fees are quite reasonable and he is very thorough. Let me know if you’d like his contact information.

Also – if you need help with other aspects of the records (deciphering abbreviations, etc.), Jennifer Holik specializes in military research and has a WWII toolbox ( that will be helpful, even though your records are after WWII. She’s also here on Facebook and you can reach out to her that way as well.

(6) Learn what was going on in Morocco late 1957 to early 1959. Did he spend 1 year, 6 months, 5 days there and Germany or was he stationed elsewhere during his time abroad? Where was he stationed during the remaining 3 years? Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio?

(7) Scan and transcribe Nana’s entire journal of her time in Germany, for future generations to enjoy.

(8) Last, using the information collected, craft a narrative of Dad’s time in the Air Force and Military Hospitals.

I am enrolled in Military Records II at IGHR at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama this coming June. It is not on the syllabus, but I am hoping one of the course coordinators Craig Scott, Michael Hall, J. Mark Lowe and/or Richard Sayre can advise where additional information might be found. I plan to bring the DD Form 214 to see if they notice something that I may have missed.

Another Facebook poster suggested this site – – The Air Force Historical Research Agency – just 90 minutes from Birmingham! I may have to make a side trip.

If you are reading and have suggestions/advice, please comment here or email me at gmail – LindaHalLittle

Memories of Nana (1 Oct 1907 – 25 July 1999)

No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”  Note: You can “click” on any image to view a larger version.

I remember my Nana, Edith Anna (Haines) Hall, known by friends as “Ede”, as a pleasantly plump, happy-go-lucky woman with an infectious laugh, who found the good in everyone and everything.


Edith’s early life wasn’t easy. Her parents had lots of mouths to feed. There were times when they had to go without; during the depression, they used coats to keep warm in the winter, as blankets and heat weren’t affordable.  Nonetheless, they learned to enjoy life.  The following poem, depicting their childhood, was written by Nana’s younger sister, Natalie:

You’re Only Young Once

… A rhyming version of Depression days

Depression Days were then at hand
(Financial woes throughout the land.)
A seventh child was added to
A family which grew and grew.

Their worries big, their money small,
Their laughter rang from hall to hall.
Each day brought on a new event
From buying shoes to paying rent.

They picked blueberries in the sun
And sang on rides ’til day was done.
The castles were all made of sand;
The water cool, the sunshine grand.

The root beer was, of course, homemade;
Each holiday, a new parade!
The bonfires bright, who can deny,
Were better than the last July.

The icy tunnels dug in snow;
The car would need a push to go.
The swan-boat rides meant trips “in town”.
The clothes were mostly hand-me-down.

The marks in school were of the best…
Such praise for every “A” in tests!
A photograph in groups, you know,
Would find them always in front row.

The house was clean, there was no clutter,
But, oh, “Go easy on the butter!!”
The Market on those weekend nights,
With pushcarts for their city sights.

Their visiting was done in groups,
But picnics called out all the troops!
A wink from Dad, a smile from Mum,
Would mean a happy time to come

With dishes washed and windows closed,
The bathroom busy, off they’d go!

Besides the Great Depression, Nana lived through her young husband’s nervous breakdown which caused them to live temporarily with a mother-in-law who disliked her [she considered her son’s marriage to my grandmother a social step in the wrong direction]. Nana worked tirelessly helping to manage the veterinary business and a household. She battled cancer and lost a breast at a fairly young age. One of her arms swelled and stayed that way (something to do with medications related to her surgery). She nearly lost her youngest son, to illness, while he was stationed in Germany. Despite the challenges, she loved life and was never without a smile. She had loads of friends, belonged to many social clubs, volunteered at the local hospital and joined every imaginable church committee.

Nanas knitting club












Among her many talents, Nana was an incredible painter [click to see a larger version].



An abstract by Nana (above); my favorite as a child. Below, other pieces in my collection.


After Grampa died in 1976, Nana spent years exploring the world with friends – London, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Vienna, Niagara Falls, Alaska, the list goes on….

Nana (far right) with friends Muriel, Barbara & unknown

She was one of my best friends – loving, kind and sweet.

8d6fd439-5e08-4561-b0f0-c14bf6092677nana grampa me
Me & Nana circa 1963                                             Me, Nana & Grampa 1967

Throughout the sixties and seventies, my parents dropped us three kids, at my grandparents, across town, every Saturday [four of us, in the early seventies, when my youngest brother was born]. The day would commence, with Nana and I assisting with the spay/neuter operations – she would administer ether while I held the dog/cat’s legs – we laughed and talked.

We spent Saturday afternoons making toll house or oatmeal sundae cookies (licking spoons and bowls), mock-cherry pies and/or cream cheese and maraschino cherry sandwiches (shaped like jelly rolls). We learned to knit and crochet. I still have the pink and white afghan personalized with my name that Nana made to match my bedroom.

We played games, like “The Oregon Trail”, Chinese checkers or chess.  Many weeks we took the bus/train [she didn’t have a driver’s license] to Boston where we sailed on the Swan Boats at the Public Garden, meandered along the Freedom Trail or gaped at the Jordan Marsh Christmas display. Many times we attended her church events (my favorite being “decorate your own cup cake” at the annual Christmas Fair).  Dinner was meat and potatoes on folding “TV trays” while watching Grampa’s favorite show “Let’s Make a Deal”.  My grandparents would drive us home Saturday after dinner.  We would pile into Grampa’s big green truck (or in later years, his green Dodge Dart) and sing old songs like “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I’m half crazy over the love of you….” or “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck…”

recipes2014-11-27 18.49.31sundae cookies

Nana would call often when I moved to my first apartment in the mid-eighties.  I of course was at work, but had an answering machine.  My roommates and I adored her messages. She would start off with “Dear Linda”….then relay her message….and end with an emphatic “Love, Nana”  in a cheery voice.  It was so cute, I wish I had thought to save them.

Nana often spoke of her days working at John Hancock where one of her tasks was to alphabetize hundreds of index cards.  One day she tripped, dropping the entire pile down a flight of stairs.  Cards flew everywhere. It was a disastrous mess! She recollected this story frequently, each time belly laughing hysterically until tears formed in her eyes.

While in her late 70’s Nana was hit by a car while out for her daily walk.  As she lay in her hospital bed with a bruised body, she recounted how fun it was to go flying up in the air when the car struck her. “I was higher than the car roof!! It was sooooooo exciting,” she giggled.

In the nineties, we bought Nana a new phone for Christmas, after realizing she had been “renting” her rotary phone for years and years – likely paying several thousand dollars over time.  To discontinue the fees, she had to return the phone – so we decided to make a day of it!  As we drove, Nana confessed that it had taken her almost six hours to clean the “gunk” off the cord (so they wouldn’t try to charge her extra for cleaning). We arrived at the “phone store” and indicated to the man behind the counter that we would be returning their rented phone.  He looked at it and immediately hurled it 25 feet behind him to the “junk pile”.  I was mortified!  But in an instant, Nana began laughing uncontrollably, I joined her in hysterics. It took a good ten minutes for either of us to be able to speak and explain to the clerk that she just spent six hours cleaning the “junk pile phone”.  He felt so bad, he looked as though he wanted to crawl under a table, which caused us to laugh harder.

On another occasion, while in her late 80’s she decided to take the bus a few stops away to visit my dad who was hospitalized with cancer.  Several hours later she was nowhere to be found. My entire family was panic stricken.  Finally to our relief she arrived. She was happy as a clam.  Nana had taken the wrong bus and had traveled for hours having to change buses a few times to find her way back home with the help of some friendly bus drivers.  “The best part”, she exclaimed, “was that I got to see the ocean, and the whole trip only cost me a dime!!”

Years before her death, she labelled her collection of precious Hummels, ensuring that each of her loved ones would receive a keepsake (they were acquired in the fifties, while Nana was in Germany, visiting her youngest son, my dad, who was quite ill).


She was truly an amazing woman, who lived to be 91. While on her deathbed, she told me not to look so sad, she had had a terrific and exciting life.  In her last moments, she worried about her family, as was her character, not thinking of herself.


Edith Anna Haines was born at 101 Maxwell Street, Dorchester, Massachusetts on 1 October 1907; eldest child of John Glatis/Galatis Haines and Edith Bernice Lansil.  Soon after her birth, the Lansil home was sold and the Haines family relocated.  They moved frequently, residing in Melrose, Malden and for a short time Saugus (until sister Doris showed interest in a “colored boy”).

Siblings included  John “Jack” Galatis/Glatis Jr., Walter Lansil (who died at 11 months from acute enteritis and colitis), Doris, Marion Jeanette, William Alexander “Billy”, Bernice Frances and Natalie.

Nanas young

Edith’s elementary education was completed at the Ripey School in Melrose and she was a 1927 graduate of Melrose High School. Based on her yearbook description it seems that she was good natured, well liked and perhaps a bit sneeky, pretending to be sick when a “fun” activity interfered with her school schedule.

Nanas graduation

Edith met her husband, Charles George Hall, son of Charles Milton Hall and Georgianna Hughes/Clough at a dance at the Congregational “branch church” on Forest St., Malden; she asked the minister to make an introduction.  It later became an independent church, but by that time Edith had married, and enrolled her two sons in the Sunday School of the Congregational Church on Pleasant St., Malden.

Nanas 1927

They were engaged by March 1929, as reported by her employer, John Hancock.


They married 18 July 1930.



Ceremony Performed at Bride’s Home in Melrose by Rev. W.H. White..
Couple will reside in Boston.
Bride prominent in Forest Dale Chapel Activities..
July 18, 1930
A pretty home wedding was celebrated yesterday afternoon when Miss Edith Anna Haines, 8 Oxford St., Melrose, daughter of Mrs. John G. Haines became the bride of Dr. Charles G. Hall of Lawrence St. Linden.


The ceremony was performed by Rev. W.H.White, ass’t pastor of the First Congregational church.


The bride was attended by her cousin Miss Doris Marshall and Miss Doris Haines her sister.  Dr. Cornelius Thibeault of Reading attended the groom.


A reception followed the ceremony and over 50 attended.  A catered supper was served.  the couple left on a honeymoon by auto to parts unknown. They will make their home in Boston.


The bride was attired in white chiffon trimmed with lace.  She wore a tulle veil caught up with orange blossoms and carried a shower bouquet of birde’s roses and lilles of the valley.


Miss Marshall was gowned in embroidered organdy trimmed with blue and Miss Haines wore embroidered organdy trimmed with pink.  Both carried pink roses.


Miss Doris Jenkins of Milton rendered “O Promise Me” and was accompanied by Mrs. E.H.Thompson also of Milton.  John Haines Jr. a brother of the bride, played the wedding march. 


The bride is a graduate of Melrose schools and was employed at the office of John Hancock Ins. Co. of Boston.  she was a member of the Queens of Avalon of the Congregational church.


The groom is a graduate of Ohio State University and is a member of the veterinary staff of the Angell Memorial Hospital.  He is a member of the Omega Tau Sigma fraternity. He is also a graduate of Malden High and Linden school.
7e22934a-7f49-4d4a-a656-2cd05e5eb21eEdith 1930's
7071795861_9d3ba87369_oEdith & Charles
The business and their residence was located at 228 Main Street, Malden.  Grampa bought her the house next door as a birthday gift – it was occupied by tenants.  After Grampa’s death, her sons sold both homes and moved her to a studio apartment, #411 at The Heritage on Pleasant Street, Malden – keeping the phone number we all had memorized – 324-0278.


The “Haines girls” were talented poets.  The following (likely by sister Natalie) gives a glimpse of  Edith’s life:



… By a Younger Sister

Nineteen-Aught-Seven, in the fall
In birthing room off upstairs hall
Of Family Manse at “One-Oh-One”,
Her fruitful life was first begun.
First child of Edith and of John
The same room where her Mum was born,
Descended from the Grouts and Paines
Came Edith Anna (Lansil) Haines.


She stayed so sweet as years went by
(The apple of her family’s eye)
She was so loving, kind and good
(The one who always understood!!)
The next score years that family grew
And six more siblings Edith knew.
She learned there at her mother’s knee
That she was special – we agree!
She set the pace (her standards high);
Ours just to do, not reason why.


In Forestdale she really shone.
No wonder Charlie Hall came home
To claim his bride (his life long mate);
They started on their own sweet fate.
She pushed the prams and answered phones;
She cooked the meals, went out alone.
She smiled and mingled socially;
Held dogs and cats professionally.
She fretted for her growing sons
And all the while those four had fun.


Artistic talent came to fore
Creating “favors” by the score.
She mastered canvas stretched on a board
(Her “SEAGULLS” won a Grand Award.)
Her sons grew up to be fine men
With lovely wives…she breathed “Amen”!


And in the meantime (in between)
She never left our family scene.
So long, so well, she’d helped our Mother.
She tried to guide each Sis and Brother.
She shared in all our joys and tears.
And mellowed with us o’er the years.


Each niece and nephew she’s include
Within her ever-growing brood.
Of Grandkids, whom she loved galore
(They filled her heart…she asked no more).
For twenty years each “took a turn”
With “Nana Visits”… How they learned!


Today, within four generations,
Mid changing, sticky situations,
An anchor ‘twixt the ages, SHE
Can sympathize and easily
Remember how it is when young,
When every day “Life’s song is sung”.
A Daughter, Sister, Mother, Wife,
A Nana, Friend, a rich full life!
Upon this Earth she’s left her mark,
And earned the title MATRIARCH!



Nana’s 80th Birthday


Stranger Exchanger!

My husband supports my genealogy efforts but does not comprehend why I seek out online 3rd, 4th & 5th cousins.  He emphatically exclaims “They are STRANGERS! Didn’t your mother ever teach you about “Stranger Danger!”

Yes, but strangers have family bibles, photos, letters and diaries! I have become good friends with many of these “strangers”. We exchange information to aid each other in breaking through brick walls, while adding color to ancestors’ lives. Many times the stranger is not even interested in genealogy. I send a bit of family history to pique their interest and get them looking through those old boxes stored in the attic.

In 2013, my long lost “stranger” cousin Sam, visited New Hampshire with a suitcase of photos, letters and scrapbooks.  His 2nd g-grandparents and my 3rd g-grandparents were George Perry and Ann Jones of Wales who later settled in Oneida/Herkimer Counties, New York. This was Sam’s second visit after our meeting through, when I posted  a “mystery photo” of my g-grandmother Georgianna (Hughes) Hall with her Grandma Ann (Jones) Perry Evans and 4 others who I later learned were Georgianna’s cousins Anna Belle Palmer, Kitty Mae Palmer, Leland Spoor [cousin by marriage only] and George Spoor. A 5th cousin, born after this photo was taken, was Gilbert Spoor.

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Sam was thankful to locate a photo of his grandmother, Kitty Mae Palmer (who he knew as Katherine) with her grandmother. I was a genealogy “newbie” and overwhelmed with the amount of information he shared in exchange for one photo!  He had visited Ann’s birthplace in Llanfaelog, Anglesey, Wales; had the ship manifest for Ann, her parents and siblings arrival in New York, in 1849, on the Julia Howard and had taken photos of the family graves at Wright Settlement Cemetery  in Rome, New York!

Sam “organized” letters he had inherited from his grandmother.  Upon arrival, he said something like “I have a letter, that your g-grandmother Georgianna wrote to my grandmother’s sister, Anna Belle, just after Christmas, in 1918.  I thought you might like it, since it mentions a cat, and you are a crazy cat lady”.

What a surprise!  My grandfather’s 14th Christmas!

My grandfather, Dr. Charles “Charlie” George Hall, a veterinarian, was my first “best friend”.

grampa and nana and me

Grampa with his mom (left) with Nana (right).


year bookgrampa college35a10208-b083-40c0-a6ea-e346979f7aa0014cefda-186a-46aa-a4cb-f478191cf3a07e22934a-7f49-4d4a-a656-2cd05e5eb21e1cc41fc5-613f-46da-b0ff-6e5d298e6b9f6925779788_37a9347142_o

0dd77cee-3403-4693-9de8-9689c195653e25760e6b-2429-47c2-a029-d723a2c84652grampa 1960.pngLawr st pic.png

I knew Grampa, but didn’t know him.  He was born 08 Dec 1904 in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts, to Charles “Garrie” Milton Hall and Georgianna “Georgie” Hughes [who used her former step-father’s surname, Clough], of 17 Dale Street. His only sibling, David, was premature, and died one day after birth on 3 Jan 1914, just after Grampa’s ninth birthday

Grampa was blessed to have known three grandparents and his step-grandfather Mr. Shipman.  At age seven, he traveled with his mother and grandmother to their Rome, New York birthplace to visit his Uncle.

August 1911 The Utica NY Herald Dispatch: “Mrs. F. M. Shipman of Lynn, Mass and her daughter, Mrs. C. M. Hall, and son Charles of Malden, Mass[achusetts], are spending two weeks with Mrs. Shipman’s brother. W. C. Perry, 414 West Dominlck street, [Rome]”. [Mrs. F.M.  Shipman aka Kittie Perry, was Grampa’s maternal grandmother].



3 generations

Grampa and Roxanne

Grampa had appendicitis at age 17.  At 18, his aunt, Ellen Maria Sophia (Hall) Nichols, bequeathed $500 (about $6,800 in 2015 buying power), a small fortune for a teenager.

He attended the Faulkner school, graduated from Malden High (1922), attended the School of Ontario (1922-1926) and Veterinary School at Ohio State College (1926-1929). As a member of Omega Tau Sigma, he resided at the fraternity house (1928/9). His inheritance likely covered the $27 -$32 quarterly tuition, and much of his living expenses.(Student_Fees_1874-1967). He graduated in June of 1929 with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

He met my grandmother, Edith Anna Haines, daughter of John Glatis Haines and Edith Bernice Lansil, at a dance at the Congregational “branch church” on Forest St., Malden (my grandmother asked the minister to introduce them). They married on 18 July 1930, without his mother’s approval; Georgianna considered her son’s marriage a social step in the wrong direction (she had selected another woman, with whom she had hoped he would connect).  Grampa visited his mom daily, until she died in 1964, despite her disdain.

In 1933, Charlie and Edith took a $5,000 mortgage, and purchased their home at 228 Main Street, Malden. They had two boys, the later being my dad, Robert “Bobby”, born on their wedding anniversary in 1935.  Grampa was strict with his children and frugal, a result of the Great Depression.  My grandmother was an active church member, but my grandfather, a non-church goer, jokingly proclaimed himself a “Holy Roller”.

For over twenty years, Grampa raised, trained and raced greyhounds (a tradition started by his parents) on a farm in Wilmington, Massachusetts until it was taken by eminent domain in 1964 (at it’s height, the business had just over 100 dogs and puppies, most with the surname Matron or Guide); the farm was purchased in 1945, perhaps with the winnings of the family’s famous dog, Hi-Guide.

After graduation, Grampa worked at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston for four years, then in 1933, began a veterinary practice in Malden. His rates were low and he excelled at his craft.  He never took a vacation and clients adored him.  As a young adult, everyone I encountered from Malden, knew my grandfather.


animal hospital


Grampa inside of his operating room at 228 Main Street “fixing” my apparently very sick toy dog in the 1960’s.  The rear of the photo says that I paid a penny to have the dog operated on…

His best buddies were Hy Goldberg, the local Jewish druggist, Leo Norton who owned a Malden funeral home and Dr. Cornelius “Connie”  Thibeault, a fellow colleague, also an Ohio State graduate, of Wakefield, then Ipswich who had his own horses (a home I loved to visit with Grampa)!

In 1939, he purchased the home next door, as a birthday gift for Nana, their rental property until his death.

Middlesex land deeds to 1950 CG Hall.png

There were hardships. As a young man, Grampa had a breakdown which resulted in the newlyweds temporarily residing with Georgianna. His young wife battled cancer and lost a breast at a fairly young age. One of her arms swelled and stayed that way (doctors never discovered the cause). In 1942, Grampa rushed to his dad’s bedside in Florida, and watched him die at the age of 61.  He nearly lost his youngest son, my dad, to illness, while he was stationed in Germany in 1958 (his friend, Hy Goldberg, arranged a $513.20 ticket, “economy”, so Nana could fly to Frankfurt. On Bob’s 23rd birthday, also her 28th anniversary – she writes in her journal, “miss Charlie something terrible”).

charles milton died

Grampa was a “meat & potatoes” guy who ate on a TV tray most nights. He collected old coins, enjoyed the television show “Let’s Make a Deal”, introduced us to the board game “Oregon Trail”and taught me to play competitive chess.

He gave my dad our house (his parent’s home, which they purchased in 1930, three months prior to his marriage) for $1.00 in exchange for a promise to take care of Nana, when he was gone.  There was a gigantic pine tree in the back yard planted by Grampa as a young man, which he confided was “no taller than me”.  When I was a child it was a great place to play; the ground was covered with a deep bed of comfy pine needles, a small space protected by the heat of summer.

tree tall

When Grampa hugged me, his face was “scratchy”.  He seemed to always be wearing a leisure suit and a fedora hat. In bad weather he picked us up at school in his big green truck (my mom didn’t have a car) and when Nana was with him, we would sing things like  “Daisy, Daisy / Give me your answer, do….” on the short ride home.  Likely how my very first kitten, a gift from Grampa, was named Daisy.

For as long as I can recall, my brother, sister and I (and later my baby brother) spent every Saturday with Grampa and Nana, at their 228 Main Street home and veterinary office (except, according to my mother, one week each summer, when my cousin visited, and reportedly cried if she didn’t have them all to herself). My grandparents stopped by our house, just two miles away, several times a week. On the rare occasion my parents had a social engagement, Nana and Grampa were our babysitters.

I was six years old when my Grampa described his desire for my future. “You will become a medical secretary!!” he stated emphatically on a number of occasions.  I was not sure how a medical secretary differed from a regular secretary but based on what I had heard from my mother (a secretary prior to marriage) a job as a typist did not sound like much fun.  But…I loved Grampa’s attention and worked diligently to make him proud.  In first grade instead of “run Jane run,” I learned to spell and define words like castration, hysterectomy and expectorate. Grampa would administer verbal quizzes to test my retention.  I passed with flying colors and begged for more. Weekly Grampa would present one or more books covering every imaginable topic. He introduced me to the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew.  My father’s office became a small library. On most days, after school through bedtime, my nose was buried in a book, in lieu of watching the popular kids shows.

In addition to being my first teacher, Grampa was a genius. He was a life long learner who in 1975 cured cancer in a greyhound through a diet of raw fish and selenium.


By 5th grade, I traveled alone on Saturdays, catching the 6:30 AM public bus to my grandparents home on the other side of the city. My grandfather, who was semi-retired, would begin operations at 7 AM. I observed closely as he skillfully performed surgeries on cats and dogs. I held the animal’s legs while Nana would moisten a giant cotton ball with ether and place it a cylinder like contraption over the animal’s face, speaking softly to the little guy until he went under.

Grampa’s second love was raising greyhounds and racing them at Wonderland and the Topsfield fairgrounds where he moonlighted as the track’s veterinarian. I was the eldest local grandchild and my grandfather’s sidekick. He let me name some greyhounds, always bet $2 on the dog of my choice and bought me jelly donuts at a fair food stand when we arrived early on crisp fall mornings. The dogs’ winnings went to a college fund for his five grandchildren.  Grampa was happiest when he was with family and animals, he lived what he loved.


doc hall

Enter a caption

One Saturday, Grampa and I were in the operating room alone (Nana was upstairs instructing my siblings on the art of baking).  He was struggling to untangle a cat’s matted coat, with a giant metallic comb.  Suddenly, Grampa drew his hands to his heart, and withered back in pain.  He soon recovered; looked me in the eye and sternly said, “DO NOT tell your grandmother”.  I was in the 8th grade.  I kept his secret.

My dad drove him to the hospital later that night. He died a day later, on Monday, 1 March 1976.  It was leap year; I often thought he might have lived, had there been no 29th day of February that year.


Grampa was buried at Forestdale Cemetery, Malden alongside his parents and paternal grandparents.  Nana joined them in 1999.

Grampa left me a clock, saying he had planned it to be my wedding gift, it is a treasured possession of mine.



To have a letter from a “stranger” that gives me some insight into Grampa’s childhood is a wonderful gift!

It reads:

Christmas Day

First excuse paper as I didn’t want to go upstairs, being pretty tired. I am awfully lame and no strength but am in hopes to be better soon.

Glad Aunt Delia was better as sickness makes it awfully hard for everyone.  We had a nice day. Mamma and Mr. Shipman were up. Ma came up yesterday about noon and Mr. S. today. We all received our share of gifts.

Little Charlie got everything he asked for. His father got him a Rifle which will worry the life out of me but I guess he won’t use it yet awhile as last year he got a dandy air rifle. I gave him a Receiver + Sender of a telegraph set. Suppose the whole house will be wired all up now, and a belt.  Ma gave him a Compass + Pedometer, two batteries, 4 books, $2.00 and then he got several other things from friends.

Suppose you received lot of pretty things. Tell me about them. Thank you very much for my pretty handkerchief. They are always needed and I love pretty ones and I have quite a few that I am very choice of and among them are yours.

I received a lonely long letter from Gilbert yesterday saying he was well and he wanted to go to Germany. He also said he was going to visit us when he gets back in the USA more [?] when he comes. Don’t forget to come with him. We have beds for everyone and always have plenty to eat.

Glad you liked Chas. picture. That is his dog, the first good one he has ever taken to and they are Pals [Grampa’s father raised boxers for show and greyhounds for racing]. He has a cat that he likes and that raises the deuce with everything. He has been up the Xmas tree about a dozen times so far and has tried his best to get everything off.

Mamma sent her love to all. She was quite lame but outside of that feels pretty good. She has had us all playing cards all day. Little Charlie is going to take after her I guess as he wants to play with everyone he can get to play. He has only just learned.

Sorry Leland’s folks had the flu.

Well Anna Belle, I have written a long letter to Gilbert and this one so I guess now I am ready to go to bed. Hoping it will find all well also wishing all a Happy New Year.

With love to all.


P.S. Hoping Gilbert will be home soon.




In summary, don’t be afraid to look for some Stranger Exchangers who may hold a piece of your family history!!

PS: For those of you wondering about Gilbert, he was honorably discharged about six months later on July 3, 1919.  I don’t know if he ever made the trip to Malden to visit his cousins.

Gilbert discharged

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