Saturday, July 12, 2014





Pieces of history


February 16. 2013 10:42PM


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We asked, and you answered ... • June Quinnan of West Pittston told us about her mother's 1940s Dutch oven, which Quinnan still uses for roasts, tomato sauce and "anything you don't want to burn." • Mary Pugh of Hanover Township explained she brings out her grandmother's 100-year-old dishes every Thanksgiving, with a warning to her family: "Break one and you might as well leave town."


While Margaret Pastula of Wilkes-Barre can't interpret the Welsh words in her old family Bible, she said paging through the holy book makes her feel closer to her ancestors, who, she believes, brought it all the way from Wales.


These women are just a few examples of local folks who treasure vintage hand-me-downs.


We learned about them last month, when The Times Leader published a story about a 1977 Mercedes-Benz truck still making deliveries for Baut Studios Inc. of Swoyersville.


Was anyone else, we wondered, making similar use of an heirloom?


First to respond to the question was Quinnan, who said her mother started using her hammered-aluminum Dutch oven in the 1940s, after receiving it from a neighborhood store as a reward for shopping there.


"They made things better in the old days," Quinnan believes.


Then we heard from Jenny Vitale of Wilkes-Barre, who promised to invite all the ladies from the women's club at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church to bring older items to their next meeting.


Vitale herself brought an original wedding photograph of her grandparents, Helen Grimes and Fred Kratz, who married in 1895 when they were both 16. "My cousins would have liked it too, but I was the one who always did my grandmother's hair," Vitale said. "I think that's why she gave it to me."


Pastula brought her family Bible to the meeting, noting her own 1929 birth has been written in it. The first entry is dated 1909, and she believes that's a clue to the age of the Bible, which once belonged to her grandparents John Bebb and Margaret Owens.


Church administrator Helen Youells of Plymouth brought an embroidered blouse worn by her husband's grandmother, Matrona "Martha" Oshirak, when she arrived at Ellis Island in 1912.


"Everything she had was in a suitcase, and it was stolen. The story goes, she saw her suitcase floating in the water, so she literally came with only the clothes on her back. And this is what she was wearing," Youells said.


The family keeps the blouse, decorated by hand with Ukraine-style embroidery, in a frame.


Youells also showed the group Oshirak's early Fenton carnival glass dishes. "She loved pretty things."


Joan Healey, 84, of Forty Fort brought a plate adorned with a scene from the coast of Whitley Bay in England, where she was born. She remembers strolling along the concrete promenade with her mother and enjoying the ocean breezes when she was 5 to 7 years old. "My mother and I could walk there, from where my grandmother lived," she said. When her parents moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania, Healey said, it was hard for her mother to adjust to living so far from the ocean.


Jean Bohac, 74, of Plains Township, vividly remembers working at the Pittston Acme in 1955, when a heavy storm blew out the front window. She continued to sell emergency supplies to customers, making out the objects by candlelight and the beams of car headlights. Her collection of memorabilia commemorates storms (the floods of 1955 and 1936) as well as the grocery business ( an April 1938 issue of The Progressive Grocer.)


Pat Jones, 84, of Kingston brought tintype family photos, her grandmother's mother-of-pearl opera glasses from 1893 and a smoker's tray that her brother, Robert Landmesser, bought when he was stationed in Korea. The metal tray, with places for cigarettes, matches and an ash tray, was a gift for his Uncle Arthur.


Sadly, Robert Landmesser lost his life during the Korean Conflict. Later, when Uncle Arthur died, the tray came into Jones' keeping.


 
 
 
 
 
 


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