Friday, October 22, 2010


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

1 comment:

  1. Great hearing this story again - with a lot of added details I didn't know! I actually see a resemblance to Shawn Michael Rennie in Grandfather William T. Bergin's high school photo.


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