Sunday, June 6, 2010

Recollection: Mother’s Youth (second part)



In my last post about my mother’s youth I mentioned how much she liked hydrangeas. She also loved roses and many other flowers. The rose above is called The McCartney Rose and it has a lovely fragrance. I planted it this year and have seen several beautiful blooms already. I cut a couple of stems today and placed them in a vase in the kitchen. I can’t resist smelling them every time I come close to the vase.




My grandmother had a predilection for roses also. My grandfather sent her many postcards showing roses, like the one below. My grandfather had sent so many rose postcards that it was hard to select just one.



Here is a pin below showing a picture of my grandfather when he was young. My grandma cherished it.



My grandmother was so well versed in chemistry, herbs and plants that she made her own skin lotions and creams. I remember a small bottle where she had a special mixture of mysterious things and rose petals – it smelled divine. My younger daughter inherited this interest because when she was a small child she constantly liked to mix very strange liquids for her “special experiments.” My grandmother had flawless skin and kept all her teeth, which in those days was quite amazing. She wrote many treatises on her findings but unfortunately I do not have any. Below is my grandmother at her desk.



My grandmother gave courses in chemistry but I do not know more than that. Whatever she did, it had been very appreciated because the French Government awarded her with the order of the “Palmes Académiques” (Order of the Academic Palms) which is a decoration bestowed on her for her contribution to education and culture in France. She was very proud of this decoration and wore it on her lapel during official occasions. She gave it to me later in her life. This order was founded by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808. He appreciated how important education was and wished to recognize French people in academia, education and culture who had helped the citizenry in these spheres. It is amongst the world’s oldest orders of chivalry – here it is below.



Because my mother wrote her memoirs before she passed away I have information on her life to supplement what she already told me, but not so much on my grandparents (her parents.) Below is a picture showing mother on the left, grandmother, great grandfather and grandfather. Notice how tall my grandfather was. He was at least 6 ft 4 ( 1m 95) which was quite tall for a Frenchman in those days. My grandma always called him “mon grand” (my tall one.)



During that time my grandfather was busy with his own career. He was a civil engineer for the French Air Force – working as a civilian. He was also very active in politics, being the director of the city council in his town of Courbevoie, a suburban town near Paris, about 5.1 miles (8.2 kms) from the center of Paris. Below is a photograph of my grandfather with members of his political council.

Grandfather is first on the right, sitting.

Mother wrote her short memoirs long hand and a nurse in the retirement home where she stayed transcribed them into a document. This nurse gave me the document after my mother died in 2002. I was not aware that she had written her memoirs and was very happy and grateful when the nurse gave me an orange folder containing the document.




In my last post I published some of my grandfather’s postcards on the 1910 floods in Paris. A blogger friend remarked that it was strange to publish postcards of a flood. What happened is that the Parisians would write to their families in the provinces and mention the floods. No one could believe that “la ville lumière” (the city of light) could be paralyzed by a flood. An enterprising printer had the idea to take photos of the streets of Paris under water. He then published them as postcards.


Place St Charles in the XV quarter of Paris

It became a very successful business because people jumped on the cards to send to their relatives and to keep as mementos. Even after the water receded postcards were made showing “after the flood” pics and then of people helping to rebuild houses and so forth. The habit of sending postcards had started and continued past 1910. Actually in France you can find current postcards everywhere. In Paris there are shops selling postcards only on all kind of subjects. Everyone sends postcards to family and friends during their vacation or whenever they take a trip. I surely do. Below is a 1910 postcard showing the Alma Bridge with the water almost reaching it.


Pont de l'Alma (Alma Bridge)

Below is a postcard, maybe from the 1920s, showing a panorama of eight bridges in Paris. The Seine had calmed down by then.


Panoramic view of 8 bridges of Paris above the river Seine

In my last post we left as my mother was working for the House of Worth, a high fashion couturier where she started as dressmaker and went up all the way to Première d’Atelier (top person in the high fashion studio.)


The Seamstress by Joseph Rodefer de Camp, American, 1858-1923

She had gone south to the Riviera where she worked in Juan les Pins for six months.



She told me that she learned the Charleston – one of the roaring twenties favorite dances made popular by Josephine Baker.


Mother

Josephine was an American expatriate beloved by the French people – all her life.Click here for more on Josephine Baker.


Poster of Josephine Baker performing at the Folies Bergères, Paris

I had written quite a lot more but I felt this was getting too long. So, I’ll stop here and my next post will be about mother and the tango.


48 comments:

♠ ♠ ♠ Nancy ♠ ♠ ♠ said...

*** Bonjour Chère Vagabonde ! :o) Que j'aime venir chez toi ! Les images, les photos, les fleurs, les endroits, l'ancien temps , tout cela a un charme fou ! :o)
Tes grands parents étaient des personnes cultivées et avaient des vies interessantes. Dieu que ta grand-mère était belle sur la photo !!!!!!!!
Ta maman aimait les aussi les roses et celles que tu as coupées pour mettre dans un vase sont splendides ! :o)
Merci pour tout ce partage Vagabonde ! GROS GROS BISOUS !!!!!! ***

lakeviewer said...

I enjoyed this tremendously. You have quite a bit of documentation to start with; a good thing indeed. This is precious stuff; most of which becomes cultural history for an entire generation if handled this way. Brava!

Leesa said...

I just LOVE this post... I love looking at old photos/postcards.. things from a past time period... This is such a lovely posting for you to share with us... I just breezed through the pictures.. Now, I'm going to go back and read the post..

Have a great Sunday!
Leesa

Linda said...

Your pictures of the roses are so wonderful - wouldn't it be wonderful if scent became part of the internet!

What a life your mother had. You come by your love of travel and quiet elegance so naturally.

I wish I had my grandmother's bourbon roses now. So many plants have been so hybridized, the scent is not even there anymore.

Another gorgeous and interesting post.

DJan said...

There is something about the look of those pink roses that makes me remember their scent. I understand stopping to smell them. Your grandfather was indeed very tall! I love these old pictures, and your mother was very accomplished. How wonderful for you to receive those memoirs upon her passing. I would have loved to have something similar from my own mother. Thank you for your continuing story about your mother and her life.

Vicki Lane said...

A wonderful post, Vagabonde! You choose your 'illustrations' so well. The poster of Josephine Baker is so full of joy!

Pondside said...

I enjoy these biographical posts very much and look forward to reading more about your interesting family.

Friko said...

A picture of the time, through the eyes of a modern descendant.
You are fortunate to have your mother's memoir. I hope you are writing one of your interesting life for your children.

Napple notes said...

Fascinating post full of memories to treasure, as you rearrange them into a new bouquet! Jinsky

Zhu said...

Fascinating! Je comprends bien les références historiques françaises et je peux situer, ce qui rend ça encore plus intéressant.

Elaine said...

Your photos of the roses are beautiful, and I always enjoy seeing your old postcards. How wonderful that you have the award presented to your grandmother. She must have been a very talented woman to receive an award like that at the time that she was doing her work. I look forward to seeing the next installment of your mother's life.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

This is a fascinating family story. I am enjoying being able to share it through your posts. The postcards are particularly interesting. We also send postcards when traveling. We often return before the postcards are delivered!
The flowers are spectacular. That color is unique. I am also quite impressed with that medal your mother received. How wonderful that you know all about the story....imagine finding such a medal and not knowing anything about it.

loveable_homebody said...

The photographs you put up here always fascinate me. They're so often candid shots -- seems to be a rarity in old pictures. I love the one of your grandma writing at her desk. She looks so happy! In what year was this one taken?

I don't think this post was "long," mainly because your posts are so engaging! Your grandma seemed pretty special and intelligent. Her award pendant is beautifully preserved. If I won something so prestigious, I would wear it on special occasions too!

I'm excited for the tango post!

♠ ♠ ♠ Nancy ♠ ♠ ♠ said...

*** Bonjour Chère Vagabonde ! Je te souhaite un bon lundi ! Je regarde et je lis encore ton post, j'aime beaucoup ! :o) GROSSES BISES à toi !!!!! ***

Alesa Warcan said...

Wow, getting that memoir must have been amazing. I don't say this often but I can hardly imagine what it was like...
I'm looking forward to hearing about tango (it's my favorite dance).
Thanks for sharing your family history, it's very interesting.

Elisabeth said...

Alesa from the Questing for Food blog suggested I visit you, Vagabonde, perhaps because I am interested in autobiographical writing.

This is a beautiful post and reflects a view of your parents and grandparents that is inspirational.

My mother has also written her memoir. I treasure it as a memento of particular aspects of my mother's life that she has shared with us all.

You are fortunate as well to have such a memoir. Does your mother mention you in her story?

This interests me as I have seen it written that children are always bit players in their parents' memoirs and this can be disconcerting for us, the children. when we find we feature less than we might have once imagined we would.

This is badly expressed. I hope it makes sense to you. Thank you for a beautiful post.

I, too, love the roses, the postcards and the images of Paris in and out of flood.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Another interesting post Vagabonde. Your grandmother must have been a clever woman. In those days it was almost unheard of for a woman to like chemistry let alone get an award for it. I love the rose!! What a beautiful shade of pink.

Vagabonde said...

Nancy, Zhu, Alesa Warcan - Merci pour vos commentaires. C’est toujours très motivant et sympa pour moi de les lire et cela m’encourage à continuer. J’irai lire vos posts cette semaine, promis.

Vagabonde said...

Lakeviewer, Leesa, Linda, DJan, Vicki Lane, Pondside, Napples Notes, Elaine, alwaysinthebackrow, loveable_homebody and SAPhotographs – It’s such a pleasure to hear from you all. I am pleased that you like the post on my mother’s youth. I’ll certainly go and read your posts this week. Thanks for stopping by.

Vagabonde said...

Friko – You asked if I am writing a memoir of my own for my children. Well, you see, this blog is supposed to be my memoirs, or recollections as I like to call them. We are going through my mother’s life till she marries my father. Now I am trying to find some info on my father. Then it will be their marriage and the war, then I’ll come into the picture. So we have to lot to go through in the next few years as I like to also talk on my trips. Thanks for commenting.

Elizabeth - welcome to my blog. Yes my mother talks about me in her memoirs but I am not there yet. As I tell Friko above there were be several posts before then. Thanks for coming to my blog and taking the time to post a comment. I’ll go and visit your blog soon.

Peter said...

Love reading and looking at all this! My preference goes to the photo of your grandmother at her desk!!
I'm just trying to prepare some kind of album or little book with scanned photos from my parents' albums and realise how little I know about my ancestors. My mom is getting old and loses her memory, my dad told me things I have forgotten ... and nobody wrote memoirs. At least I will try to leave something to kids and grandkids. Who knows, maybe one day they will be interested?

♠ ♠ ♠ Nancy ♠ ♠ ♠ said...

*** Hello Vagabonde :o) !!!!!! Je viens te souhaiter un agréable mardi !!!!!! Je t'envoie plein de gros bisous !!! :o) ***

Reader Wil said...

Vagabonde! J'aime à lire les mémoirs de votre mère. Avez vous vu le feuilleton à télè BBC "The House of Elliot"? C'est l'histoire de deux soeurs anglaises, qui travaillaient comme couturières à Londres pendant le même temps que votre mère travaillait à Paris.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Your blog post today was one of the most interesting pieces of personal history I have read and that it takes place in France makes it doubly interesting to me.

I really like the old postcards and photos and the one of Josephine Baker at the Folies is marvelous.

claude said...

Quel post plein de charme, Vagabonde, j'adore les vieilles photos de familles et les vieillles cartes postales, surtout de Paris, (j'en ai une petite collection aussi) et celle des roses est superbe. J'ai photographié mes roses ce matin, dans mon jardin.
a carte postale sur les inondations de paris en 1910, c'est la mémoire de PARIS, Je ne vois rien de choquant là dedans.

Angela said...

What an interesting family you have, Vagabonde, and so many precious memories! In the winter of1910 my grandmother could go ice-skating on the Lake inside Hamburg. She wrote about that in her diary. And in the same year her brother emigrated to Argentina. Last week his youngest son (now 75) visited us here! History is never past!
(I wrote my last post for you, as an answer to your comment!)

DianeCA said...

You are lucky to have such an interesting family, and so much good information to help you remember all the stories. I think your grandmother was very interesting and way before her time entering the sciences and being a woman. Amazing!

Marguerite said...

Lovely rose pics and postcard! And I just love your grandmother's pin, with the picture of your grandfather. What a treasure! And it is so fabulous that your mother wrote her memoirs, for you. Such a special gift! As always, a wonderful post, cher!

dutchbaby said...

The McCartney Rose is a beautiful hot pink. I like that it has a beautiful fragrance and how it opens up completely, revealing its yellow stamens. Growers are hybridizing roses to have fewer thorns or longer vase life, but unfortunately they traded in their beautiful fragrance.

You must have been a favorite of your grandmother's to have been given the cherished memento of her husband.

I imagine that the "Palmes Académiques" is a grand family treasure. Its style is very French -quite elegant and important looking.

Shammickite said...

Perhaps I should start writing my memoirs now, before I get too old and decrepid! But I have not had anywhere near an interesting life as your mother had. Lovely roses, reminding you of your mother's love of flowers. And you are so lucky to have photographs of your grandparents and even your great-grandfather. I am looking forward to your next post.

Ruth said...

There are many things to like about this post. I always love to see your postcards, and these old ones are just wonderful.

Your grandparents are remarkable people, and it's good that you know as much as you do.

How wonderful to have your mother's memoirs! It was thoughtful of her to do that for you.

I really enjoy this period of history - 1900-1930s. Josephine Baker is quite something, and the flappers, and all that freedom certain women found, even here in the U.S.

I look forward to hearing more about your family. Thank you for documenting it for us, and for yourself too.

BJM said...

Most interesting! B.

Reader Wil said...

Chère Vagabonde! Merci de votre visite encore! Oui, le parapluie est pour la pluie, le parasol on le trouve sur la plage, ou dans le jardin contre le soleil. Mais maintenant le paraplui est toujours plus important. En néerlandais nous parlons de "paraplu" et de "parasol". Nous avons beaucoup de mots français en notre langue.

♠ ♠ ♠ Nancy ♠ ♠ ♠ said...

*** Coucou Vagabonde :o) Je viens te souhaiter une très bonne fin de semaine !!!!!! BISOUS et bonne journée !!!!!! :o) ***

Pam said...

Lovely post, Vagabonde.
My grandmother also loved roses. She had a rose covered arbor by her backdoor, I can still remember the wonderful fragrance.
Old post cards are beautiful and sadly have become a lost art.

Fennie said...

Hallo Vagabonde, What an interesting post about your family history. I wish mine had been as accommodating (or as successful!). Though I can boats a grandfather who was a Professor of Gynaecology, though I am not sure whether I would have recommended him. I have a thermometer (French) outside my house which shows how cold in was in Paris in 1871. 'Le grand froid' when the temperature reached -21 degrees C.

RennyBA's Terella said...

What an interesting and readable post and again great documented with wonderful photos - thanks for sharing!

Reading through, it reminded me of a lot of sorriest that was told from my family (in Norway) at the same period of time when I was at my father to celebrate his 80s birthday :-)

Vagabonde said...

Peter – yes indeed ask your parents and family for their past and take notes. It will be important to your children, even if they don’t realize it now.

Vagabonde said...

Reader Wil – Non je n’ai pas vu The House of Elliot. Peut-être il y a un livre la dessus?

Abraham Lincoln – I am pleased that you like the post. I am afraid that people may get bored with my family’s history so I enjoy your kind words.

Claude – merci de ta visite. Tu dois avoir de jolies roses dans ton jardin, je sais que tu es un bonne jardinière.

Vagabonde said...

Angela – Thank you for your nice comment. Having family from Argentina, how exciting. I hope to go there in the next two years – I always wanted to.

DianeCA, Marguerite, Dutchbaby and Shammickite – Thanks for coming and reading my post. I always look forward to reading your comments and appreciate them.

Vagabonde said...

Ruth, BJM, Pam, Fennie and RennyBa – thank you for taking the time to write interesting comments – it is such a pleasure to have you come to my blog.

Nancy et Reader Wil – merci mes amies pour vos visites qui sont appreciées énormement.

Reader Wil said...

Vagabonde, je ne sais pas s'il-y-a un livre de House of Elliot, mais il-y-a certainement des dvds de House of Elliot.

Ginnie said...

What you are doing here, writing about your mother and grandparents, Vagabonde, I do hope your own children will one day do of you! Wouldn't that be something! All the fascinating history and creativity and artistry have simply passed down the line. It's quite amazing when I read it. YOU are like you incredible mother and grandmother.

tunisian said...

Bonjour,
me voilà après une période que j'ai n'est pas visité votre superbe blog (ce n'est pas un compliment mais la vérité)
je vais maintenant voir tout ce qui m'a échappé
et je voulais savoir vous allez retourner en Tunisie une autre fois?

belle journée

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

I missed this one, but I am so glad to catch up on it now.

I just read this: "the director of the city council in his town of Courbevoie, a suburban town near Paris, about 5.1 miles (8.2 kms) from the center of Paris" and smiled to myself as I just went there for the first time yesterday! :) My "stepson" was giving a musical concert and it was held in the Parc de Bécon in Courbevoie. It was a lovely park and I enjoyed seeing this new area (to me) and all that was in the town.

I love the vintage postcards of Juan les Pins, too, for if you remember, my good friend is in Antibes, and I have been to Juan les Pins.

I am so glad I caught the second part of the posts on the life of your mother. I really am enjoying this a lot, and I'm looking forward to all your future posts on this topic. I am so very glad she left her memoirs. It gives me thought that to do the same might be important for me, too -- so that my children and grandchildren have something to read and know about their personal history and in the larger context of all history, too.

Wonderful stuff, and thank you for sharing. :)

maría cecilia said...

I`m fascinated by your mother and grandparents story, quite interesting!! And so nice to know your daughter inherited your mother`s chemestry talents.
I can`t imagine your reaction when you received your mother`s memories, and your emotions when you got to read it.
cariños,
maria cecilia
p.s. I wish I could write you in Spanish!

Putz said...

p.s. you did not comment on my comment on your just before this post and you promise in yopur header just above me that you would even on older poasts so i am holding you to your promise>>>love the putz

Optimistic Existentialist said...

What a beautiful retrospective this was...I really enjoyed reading this :)

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