October 30, 2012

Take a closer look.

Monona, Wisconsin, November 2009. Ghiddi has stirred from her nap, and she's wondering what is causing everyone to focus on her.

Welcome Home

Kaunas, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1958. My Dad's niece, Kaunas Nina, and her Husband welcome their baby, my Kaunas Cousin.

Sources of Humor

Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, July 1962. So many things about this photo make me smile: the use of the self-timer, the pipe, the trees, the argyle socks, the London Fog windbreaker ....

Halloween Manners: Find an historical inspiration.

Suburban Chicago, October 1968. I dress as a woman of the Revolutionary War era. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, sewed the (green) garment, and I borrowed my Mom's cool 1960s wig.

October 29, 2012

Lawn Mowers

Door County, Wisconsin, August 2008. These little fellows keep things neat.

Related by Marriage: First Apartment, Same Neighborhood

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, many Lithuanian Displaced Persons lived, worked, and socialized within the radius of a few miles. This was true for new arrivals who settled in the neighborhoods of Brighton Park, Gage Park, Marquette Park, West Lawn, and Archer Heights. Those neighborhoods surrounded Midway Airport.

When Mr. Irene's Dad first arrived in Chicago in 1949, he lived in a boardinghouse just across the street from the family home of his sponsor. A first-wave Lithuanian woman owned the boarding house; she rented rooms and provided meals to second-wave, single men. A cousin of Mr. Irene's Dad, who fled Lithuania with Dad and his brother Ignas, lived just a few doors down with her husband and young daughter in rented rooms on the same block in Brighton Park, South Artesian, near 40th Street.

After completing his U.S. Army service in 1953, Mr. Irene's Dad returned to the same boardinghouse and eventually found work alongside fellow Lithuanian DPs in a factory that manufactured seats for Ford automobiles. The factory stood in a sprawling industrial district along 65th Street, between Cicero and Narraganset Avenues. Just a few blocks south along Cicero Avenue were other manufacturing neighbors like a Ford assembly plant (that became the Ford City Shopping Center in 1965), Tootsie Roll, Sweetheart Cup, and Cracker Jack.

Mr. Irene's Dad shared his room with an older fellow he had known in the Displaced Persons camp at Seligenstadt. In early 1956, while Mr. Irene's Dad was visiting his brother in Los Angeles, his roommate passed away in his sleep, presumably from a heart attack.

Brighton Park, Spring, 1956. Immaculate Conception Lithuanian Catholic Church. Mr. Irene's Dad, standing at the front, on the right, serves as a pallbearer for the funeral of his boarding house roommate. Many younger DPs, however, were not Immaculate Conception parishoners. Instead, they attended Sunday Mass at Holy Cross Parish near 46th and Woods, in the nearby Back of the Yards neighborhood.
*     *     *     *     *

Shortly after the funeral, Mr. Irene's Dad moved into his first apartment with another immigrant friend. The spacious flat was just a few blocks south of his old boardinghouse, near the intersection of 43rd and Campbell. Mr. Irene's Dad occupied that apartment until his wedding day.

Brighton Park, Chicago, Illinois, sometime between 1956 and 1957. Mr. Irene's Dad relaxes on the sofa in his new apartment. The flat stood behind a first-floor grocery store operated by the owners of the six-unit building, themselves recently arrived DPs. The apartment had two bedrooms and an ample, eat-in kitchen. Mr. Irene's Dad made good use of his Army mess-hall training: quick sales at the grocery store frequently prompted hearty pork chop dinners.
*     *     *     *     *

Vytautas Grove, Chicago, Illinois, about 1957. Mr Irene's Dad and his apartment roommate chat in the parking lot during a Sunday picnic.

Campfire Oath

Near Schweinfurt, Germany, about 1948. Lithuanian scouts from the Displaced Persons camp assemble. My Dad is the dark-haired fellow standing in front of the left pole.

Election "Irregularities"

In Lithuania. Chicago Tribune reports:

President Dalia Grybauskaite, a former EU budget commissioner who is popular with the electorate, refused to accept the Labor Party, which faces allegations of buying votes during the two rounds of balloting.
"A party which is suspected of gross violations in the election, which is suspected of false accounting and non-transparent activities cannot participate in the government's formation," Grybauskaite told a news conference.

October 28, 2012

Romeo and Juliet

Taliesen Estate, Spring Green, Wisconsin, October 2009. The Romeo and Juliet Windmill is the oldest Frank Lloyd Wright structure on the estate.

Related by Marriage: Farm Friends

Near Goodman, Wisconsin, about 1940. Mr. Irene's Mom, on the right, and her cousin—Cousin O's daughter—play with some of the farm dogs that lived on Cousin O's property.

There's that ladder again.

Bolting home.

Afghan dog "Bolt" soon will reunite with his master, stateside.

Mutual Admiration

Suburban Chicago, December 1973. As the years passed, Tatjana grew to accept Gigi.

Sunday Paper: Woodpile Edition

Door County, Wisconsin, July 1978. Mom reads the paper; Dad has been chopping firewood.

Halloween Manners: Read the cultural cues.

One year, my high school sponsored a Halloween "sock hop." My closest friends and I still were too young to date, so most of us went to the dance in small groups. I invited my Best Friend. She attended a different high school, and I thought she would enjoying seeing my school.

The dance took place in the school's gymnasium. The school administration oversaw decoration of the space, and during the dance, the nuns permitted us to dim the gymnasium lights. A live band played music by Chicago and the Beach Boys.

Because this was a "sock hop," the school urged us to wear 1950s-inspired costumes to the dance.

This is where I encountered some "lost in translation" trouble. First-generation children of Displaced Persons sometimes didn't transition into American culture fluidly. For example, my family did not understand how different universities in the United States offer varying levels of prestige. They didn't see, for example, how a degree from the University of Chicago might look differently on a cv than a degree from a satellite campus of a state school. Similarly, when a relative won a Rhodes Scholarship, no one seemed to notice what potential that honor offered. Many related examples arose during my childhood. I remember watching my favorite cartoon, Fractured Fairytales, and repeating the end line of each episode, "And the moral of the story is …" My Mom became agitated because she thought I was commenting on ethics, and she found it inappropriate for a child to address "morals." Another example was that first-grade lunchbox. It was an adorable lunchbox, but it was not cool.

This cultural disconnect again came into play when I prepared my costume for the "sock hop." Most of my friends planned to wear poodle skirts, bobby socks, and saddle shoes. My family didn't understand the whole "fifties revival" thing; it wasn't on the radar screen—at all. My folks persuaded me that I shouldn't look like everyone else—and besides, why buy items to create an unoriginal costume? So, I instead borrowed pieces from ladies in the neighborhood—a wig, a cocktail dress, stilettos, and a mink stole—and went to the dance as that 1950s icon, Marilyn Monroe.

It was a disaster.

Suburban Chicago, 1973. Family members still laugh when they look at this photo.

October 27, 2012

Golden Reunion

Door County, Wisconsin, October 1979. Birches were my Dad's favorite trees. They reminded him of Lithuania.

Hurricane Havoc

*     *     *     *     *

*     *     *     *     *

*     *     *     *     *

Charleston, South Carolina, October 1989. I visit the city one month after Hurricane Hugo's arrival.

Russian Style

I'm a great fan of all things Tolstoy. I'll probably see the new Anna Karenina, but I'll wait until it's released for home viewing.

Can Anna Karenina fashions translate to the modern market? Banana Republic seems to think so. But these pieces look more like an interpretation of Dr. Zhivago.

Halloween Manners: Start with a plan.

Suburban Chicago, October 1967. It looks like I'll be carving the pumpkin this year.

Happy Homecoming Day!

Camp Randall, University of Wisconsin—Madison, October 2011. It's Homecoming Day on the University of Wisconsin—Madison campus. Third-year students at the University of Wisconsin Law School prepare for the cane toss.

When Mr. Irene and I observed the cane toss on the field last year, I was surprised that the toss occurred before the game. I expected it to be part of the half-time festivities. Positioning the cane toss so early—well before the players took the field and even before fans had filled the stadium—deflates the excitement of the tradition.

October 26, 2012


Vienna, Austria, July 1971. Some things look better in the dark.

Halloween Manners: Show your enthusiasm.


Suburban Chicago, October 1964. What did my family have in mind? I've always disliked clowns.

Related by Marriage: Kitchen Demons

Camp Irwin, Barstow, California, December 1951. Mr. Irene's Dad, on the left, and a buddy are ready to work in the Mess.


He's a snake on a plane.

Flag Duty

Schweinfurt, Germany, about 1946 or 1947. Lithuanian scouts from the Displaced Persons camp march in a parade. My Dad is the fellow carrying the flag.

October 25, 2012

Pilgrim's Tower

Provincetown, Massachusetts, July 1963. We've driven from our rental cottage to spend the day in town. I remember two things about the visit to Provincetown: (1) a lot of time passed as I watched Mom browse in a yarn shop; and (2) we ate lobster chowder, and I didn't like it.

We're invited to an afternoon coffee party.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 1964. My Toronto Cousin and I walk down Abbott Avenue with my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana. My Dad's twin sister, Jonė, and my Mom follow behind us. I think we've just been to the candy store at the end of the block because both Toronto Cousin and I are chewing happily. Tatjana is wearing those familiar orthopedic shoes.

Halloween Manners: Be creative.

Suburban Chicago, October 1964. I made a cat mask in art class.

Political Advertising


Last one in ...

Camp Aušra (later Camp Kretinga), Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada, early 1960s. Children at the Lithuanian summer camp race into the water.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

"Nostalgia" ...

... for a complicated past.

October 24, 2012

Lower Yellowstone Falls

Lower Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, July 1966. We're finishing up our tour of Yellowstone, and we are heading north to Glacier National Park.

Halloween Manners: It's "pumpkin carving," not "pumpkin painting."

Suburban Chicago, October 1966. I display the pumpkin. I can't call it a "Jack-O-Lantern." Halloween was not a big deal at our house, so perhaps I wasn't aiming for holiday authenticity.

Look over here!

Kaiserslautern, Germany, June or July 1948. A buddy of Mr. Irene's Dad works with his canine-security-unit dog. This photo provides a closer look at the base's dog kennel.

Departure approaching.

Kaunas, Lithuania, about 1943 or 1944. Here's Mom while she still was enrolled at the medical school of Vytautas Magnus University. She sat for this photo not long before she and her father, Jake, fled Lithuania.

October 23, 2012

Hidden Hawk Reunion

Verona, Wisconsin, October 2011. The Autumn Purple Ash has lost its leaves, but the hawk still seeks refuge on its branches.

I was feeling a little green.

Ontario, Canada, July 1964. I don't remember the purpose of this boat ride, but I recall feeling sea sick. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, didn't mind.

Party season will be here soon.

Suburban Chicago, December 31, 1960. There's confetti in everyone's hair. Mom doesn't seem to mind. The fellow on the far right is Vytenis, the husband of my Mom's best friend, Donna.

Dainų Šventė

The "Dainų Šventė," or "Festival of Song," is an established Lithuanian tradition. Like the Folk Dance Festivals, the Festivals of Song occur at regular intervals, usually every four years. The history of the Festivals of Song dates to the 1920s. Today, the Festivals are modernized affairs; some even feature Lithuanian rappers.

During the years of Soviet occupation, the Displaced Persons maintained the custom of staging Festivals of Song while they lived abroad. The DPs living in Germany organized a Festival in 1948. The 1948 "Dainų Šventė" took place in Würzburg.

Würzburg, Germany, 1948. Mr. Irene's Dad—standing in the back, at the center—travels to the Dainų Šventė. Standing directly in front of Mr. Irene's Dad are his maternal Uncle, "Uncle D," and Uncle D's wife, Danutė. Ignas, the older brother of Mr. Irene's Dad, is at the far left.

October 22, 2012

We're heading off to watch the debate.

Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1970. The view is widening.

Dolls bring joy.

Kaunas, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, about 1961. My Kaunas Cousin finds happiness with her dolls. Here I am, at about the same time, with a favorite doll.

Wedding Cake

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, January 1978. A traditional Lithuanian wedding cake, a "Šakotis," (or a "Baumkuchenas," as we called it), graces the sweets table at the wedding of my Toronto Cousin and her husband, Toronto Al. Traditional, Lithuanian woven sashes decorate the wall and table.

This is the biggest Šakotis that I have seen.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

Casual Tweed

Suburban Chicago, December 1981. Dad is in a favorite chair in the Rec Room. A friend today wore a similar jacket, and I recalled how my Dad's wardrobe included many tweed jackets. He often wore one at home when he returned from work.

Thanks to my friend Kris for making this photo available to us.

October 21, 2012

What two conditions favor capitalism in a former Soviet state?

"First, a thoughtful, transparent and unbiased privatization process is required to make the move from state-controlled socialism. Second, the rule of law must be enforced against corruption."

Reflective Reunion

Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, July 1962. Keep an eye on what flies by.

Kitchen Work

Camp Aušra (later Camp Kretinga), Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada, early 1960s. Women prepare a meal for the children at the Lithuanian summer camp. There are a lot of mouths to feed.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

Related by Marriage: Sweets Table

Marquette Park, Chicago, Illinois, December 1961. Mr. Irene's maternal Aunt, Martha, enjoys after-dinner treats with a friend. The table features sliced Lithuanian crumb cake and generic, Eastern European kolaches. The photographer has left behind his shot glass and his "Parliament" cigarettes.

Sunday Paper: Get past the front page.

Suburban Chicago, August 1962. We've reached Section 2 of the Polka-Dot Edition.

October 20, 2012

Potomoc Reunion

Washington, D.C., November 2010. Mr. Irene travels to D.C., and he takes the camera.