Saturday, October 23, 2010


While Billy is yet a baby my father found employment in New York, 1930-31

I don't know if this were a transfer or a new employer.

Our family moved to this home in Minneola, NY. 

I learned to talk in NY and my parents said I spoke with a Brooklyn or Bronx accent.

 I have many 2 and 3 year old memories of our life in NY. I recall the smell of the fish markets the times when Elayne and I had long waits in the car while mother and dad, with Billy, visited the doctor. I know he had at least one operation early on. He had a scar on the back of his head. 
I remember men in tall, stovepipe, hats walking up the main steps to a large, probably government building . 
For a long time I thought a gorilla had escaped from the zoo. Each time we drove downtown, which was often, I would look to the tops of the buildings, fearfully, expecting to catch sight of this gorilla. Many years later I figured out that the family had gone to the movies and seen KingKong.  To a 2.5 year old the gorilla on the screen would be real. I checked with my sister and she says, "One night search lights lit up the sky. A gorilla was said to have escaped from the zoo." 
There were musical carousels which drove through the Jackson Heights neighborhood, probably adjacent to Minneola something like the Good Humor man we came to know of later on. They had music playing and children could get rides. 

Elayne and I owned a children’s book which had a drawing of 2 clowns standing on their heads with their tongues hanging out and touching each other. We tried many times without success to copy that pose. 
The two girls lived next door pose with Elayne and MaryKay
We considered a big treat to be a full slice of bread covered completely with grape jam so not a speck of bread showed through. 
I know we visited Niagra Falls. I recall walking along beside the Falls and being frightened with the roar of the waters on one side and no railing on the other. My father often took us on Sunday drives to the ocean. He would drive out on a point overlooking the water. I always feared he would drive too far and the car might drop into the water for I could see no fence or abutment. These incidents were where I actually developed somewhat of a dislike for water. My sister says his parking also frightened her.
My mother had often hired black women to help with chores. We had this large, round black woman come time to time to watch us while mother and daddy went out for an evening. One night this woman told my mother that I had walked out of my bedroom, to where she was seated in a chair, climbed up in her lap exchanging hugs and  kisses, after which I was returned to my bed. I occasionally did this with my parents and didn't realize anything was different. I was a sleepwalker.   Today this wouldn’t even rate as a story. In twenties and thirties this was a special story to be told again and again in visiting company for racial prejudice was rampant. If we were tempted to put copper pennies in our mouths we were cautioned with, "Those pennies could have been in the hands of a nigger". Our grandson Timmy Stewart was a sleepwalker, too.

Our small family would frequently spend Sundays visiting a park.  A very special treat would be the chocolate bars we were given.   
When out for Sunday drives I would longingly look at the swings as we passed by parks hoping daddy would stop the car. Sometimes he did and sometimes I was so sad because he didn't.
The Crash, the Great Depression of October 29, 1929 started around September 3, known as Black Tuesday, with the fall of stock market prices. Eventually my daddy’s [name we called our father], employment in New York, at Durkee Famous Foods was affected. 

 The day came when the plant, lab, and offices closed. I can still recall the  moments when we drove up to a closed chain link double gate with a lock on it. Elayne and I discussed at that time, as we clung with fingers to the fence, the closing of the banks and how the pennies we had saved were gone forever; at so young an age no doubt we were picking up on the panicky feelings round about us. 

Job to support the family now ended, mother and daddy packed up our belongings and we drove back to Milwaukee. On route we had a memorable experience. There was a trunk rack on the rear of our car. My daddy had strapped some large items to take with us on the trip back. One strap loosened or broke. He stopped the car immediately aware something fell onto the highway. All five of us piled out to look. I presume roads were not as dangerous without traffic roaring past. Mother's typewriter had dropped and keys lay scattered all about the highway. Never before thought of it this way but our parents must have been devastated with this additional happening. I know typewriter was very important to my mother. Perhaps comparable to dropping a computer onto concrete?

Friday, October 22, 2010


I need to include this picture of the home my grandparents lived in on Juneau Avenue, Milwaukee. Interesting to me how the homes seem similar to each other, high steps, porches, like a tract home. I always thought tracts of similar homes, ticky tacky, were built after World War II when the troops came home. This picture shows my father reaching for Elayne, probably about 2 years old.
This latter one is Elayne and MaryKay with Auntie Gladys sitting on the Juneau house steps. One can see granddad John Morris seated in a chair on the porch. 
This is a portrait of Mother, Elayne and I. Seems I am yet a babe, 18 months or so.
This is a photo of Elayne and I kinda waiting around, mother being busy with our new baby brother, Billy.
This one I have always liked because it shows me sitting on the little wicker rocker which is now in Jim and Angie’s home. I am holding Sugar Bun, the baby doll which belongs to Elayne. She often shared with me. 
I cannot figure this out. This is the house where we lived Jefferson, WI. I am 2 1/2 years old. Did we move to this house just a short time after Billy was born? His birthdate April 3, 1929. Snow now.
The home was across from a park in which was a high slide. My mother spent tense times at the foot of the ladder because I always wanted to fearlessly climb to the top, out of her reach. As a mom and grand-mom I learned first hand of her anxiety.

This is Mother and Billy, around 10 months old. Easy to identify this as the Jefferson home.

Then there is this picture of me on my kiddie kar. Same house and I am 2 1/2 years old. My mother wrote my age on the back of the snapshot. 


When traveling through Boise,ID summer of '97 Bruce and I visited my first cousin,  Jack Bergin,  son of Frances and Cornelia Bergin. We each chimed in with cumulative memories of times when we vacationed with our grandparents on their farm in Fond du lac, WI. I carry on with my memories.

The couple pictured  above,  is an early photo of my father's parents, John and Margaret Costin Bergin. This photo catches expressions I have seen in the face of my nephew Dan, my brother Bill's son, and I see something there which reminds me of my grandson Shawn Michael Rennie, who is Elizabeth Stewart Rennie's oldest son. The huge mutton sleeve in Margaret's dress almost overpowers her. I would call it a Gibson Girl fashion. I witnessed a brief return to Gibson Girl in the late 40s when I was a college student. Margaret was also known as Maggie. My daddy would sometimes sentimentally hum and then sing line from a song reminiscing of his mother.   "I wandered alone o'er the hills, Maggie, when you and I were young....." I don't believe he ever knew all the words.
His birthdate is July 21, 1898.  

1866, G.W. Johnson, and J.A. Butterfield

I wandered today to the hills Maggie

To watch the scene below
The creek and the creaking old mill Maggie

Where we sat long long ago

The green grass is all gone from the hill Maggie

Where once the daisies sprung

The creaking old mill now is still Maggie
Since you and I were young.

But to me your as fair as you were, Maggie, when you and I were young

There exists somewhere a beautiful sepia portrait  of my grandfather's and grandmother's 3 eldest boys, Francis, Edward and William [my dad] clear, beautiful childhood faces and each child dressed up in turn of the century Sunday clothes, high button shoes, etc. Who has this picture?

This is probably my daddy's High School graduation portrait. He was John's and Margaret's No. 3 son. They called him 'Willie'.

Following High School graduation my father, William Thomas Bergin attended Marquette University Milwaukee,WI. Other brothers attended Marquette as well. His family was living in Fond du lac, WI on the farm the Bergin family had homesteaded.  His 2 aunts, Anna and Ellie, sisters of his mother, Margaret Costin Bergin ,  helped dad pay his university expenses by offering and paying him for work on their farm also in Fond du lac.
Building Wisconsin highways was another source of income

He must have worked in a hash joint too for he taught me how he was taught in college  to turn a pancake only once. {I found reference in a letter to me Jan. 1980- "Now sanity had to prevail when I went to MU with $1.50 in my pocket after C&NW train fare to Milwaukee. $12 shoes and $3 shirts were for my better financed buddies. With $1.50 shoes and $1 shirts and whatever else the good God had given me I was accepted by two of the most popular Frats- Engineering Professional and a greater of all the University social Frats."}

While a student at Marquette he met my mother, Cecile Kathryn Morris , at a dance at St. John's Cathedral where mother had attended High School and also graduated from St. John's.

"First I laid eyes on her on I
knew she was something special"
Words I heard my daddy repeat again and again
Following her graduation, mother worked at the telephone company manual switchboard.
As operator she would connect each call by inserting a pair of phone plugs into appropriate jacks. Each pair of plugs was part of a cord circuit with a switch associated that let the operator participate in the call. Each jack had a light above it that lit when the receiver was
She would say, "Number Plee-ess", and proceed with the connection.

My father graduated from Marquette University,  from the School of Engineering, Class of  1923, B.S. Chemical Engineer.

Daddy found his first post graduate employment in Chicago. Though the two had been dating, my mother told me, "It wasn't until your Daddy left Wisconsin and was living in Chicago that I knew he was my one and only love".

Not much time passed before their wedding, May 10th, 1924. They set up there home in a Rogers Park apartment, north side of Chicago.

My sister, Elayne Marion was born January 10, 1926 at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, IL. Those were the days when a maternity case was hospitalized for about 10 days. There was a routine about it. Day 1 this and day 2 that. I believe one dangled one's legs about the 3rd day. Was also like this when Michael was born. Mother spoke of living in an apartment amongst Jewish folk which was difficult for her due to the nausea which often accompanies pregnancy the first few months. It was sparked by the heavy amounts of garlic the women used in their cookery. Could be smelled in the hallways. Might be appropriate here to mention 'churching of women' hardly a custom now a days. This is a ceremony wherein a blessing is given to mothers after recovery from childbirth. The ceremony includes thanksgiving for a woman surviving childbirth, and was performed even when the child was stillborn or died unbaptized. A woman was purified after giving birth as Blessed Mother Mary who went to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the requirements in the Law of Moses. I believe my mother's babies received the Sacrament of Baptism the same day-- godparents, priest and family.

My Sister Elayne
Well then, 21 months later I was born, Mary Kathryn, October 2nd, 1927, same home, same hospital, St. Francis, Evanston. Mother had a caring Jewish neighbor who lovingly brought her nourishing soups. I cannot share enough how often mother recounted her appreciation for this kindness. Some months later family moved from Rogers Park to Milwaukee.

Daddy's Girls Enjoying a Spring Day.

My brother, William John, was born at Milwaukee Hospital on April 3, 1929. Mother tells the story about being so well prepared for this third pregnancy. She had solicited the services of a very fine specialist for this 3rd delivery. I understand what she was saying because she felt she was now able to apply some of the know-how she had learned with her previous two pregnancies. An accident happened at Billy’s birth because nurses kept my brother from being born by forcing my mother's legs tight together until the time of the physician's arrival in the Delivery Room. This caused a paralysis that wasn't discovered in the hospital nursery.

Quite a while later while Auntie Gladys visited her sister, they were leaning out the window watching the children play when auntie called mother’s attention to some strange motions Billy was making.

My family had a picture like this one of my parents wedding.

The Marriage of Auntie Gladys and Uncle Joe Dobeus
 My mother sitting left is bridesmaid