Monday, December 15, 2008

Searchin' For My Roots: Family Reunion

Memorial Day was celebrated on May 26th this year, nearly a full week before its original designation of the 30th. I usually don’t like to travel on that weekend due to the likelihood of heavy traffic but I had been looking forward to a particular trip this year and that seemed to be the ideal time frame. Ro had additional days off from school due to some “snow days” not being used this past winter so we were able to plan a trip whereby we wouldn’t have to leave or return home on the heaviest traffic days–the Friday and Monday.

As many regular readers of my Chronicles are aware, I’d recently finished my genealogy research, during which I located a cousin on my father’s side of the family, and another on my mother’s side, both of whom I’ve never met. I had written several times over the months leading up to Memorial Day weekend, proposing that Ro and I visit with them at their homes. John and Norma Jean Bausert live in York, Pennsylvania, and Warren and Ray Gehrt reside in Dover, Delaware–two locations that are relatively close. Both couples were excited about the idea so we packed up and logged the addresses into my Garmin GPS.

After arranging our itinerary, I called John Bausert, my close cousin who lives in New Jersey with his wife, Nancy, and asked if they'd like to meet
another John Bausert. Of course, he had learned of the existence of the other cousin with the same name we had never met, and when I told him we were going to visit him, he planned to join us in York. He’d take his own car, however, since he was going to have to return home the following day. (Our cousin in York is related through his grandfather being my (and my other cousin John’s) great-grandfather’s brother.)

We met on the afternoon of the 22nd, and drove over to John and Norma Jean’s home. We had suggested going out to dinner somewhere together, after meeting and exchanging family-related stories and photos, but Norma Jean wanted to prepare dinner for us. We had brought wine and she set a beautiful table in their sunroom, overlooking a garden, and made a sumptuous meal and a couple of desserts. We learned a great deal about a branch of our family that we had not known much about previously.

Left to Right: Ken, John (from Jersey) and John (from York).

Ro and I left after breakfast on Friday and headed over toward Baltimore. Along the way, I found a couple of antique shops to browse through, and arrived in “Charm City” in the afternoon. We were staying at a Comfort Inn & Suites near the airport, so it took about five or ten minutes to get into town from our hotel.

Our friends, Kenny & Mona, have a daughter who married and moved to Edgewater, MD, near Annapolis; Nancy had told us about some good restaurants in Canton and Fells Point, the areas just north of Baltimore’s city center. With the help of my GPS, we were able to find the places with no problem; parking, it seems, is another story. The area is heavily residential and there’s not much space available for people trying to drive into the area and go to the restaurants.
On our first night in town, we visited Nacho Mama’s, a very noisy place with a long wait for a table and a very unique blend of Tex-Mex. It was worth the wait, however, as I enjoyed a great Philly Cheesesteak Cassadilla.

While we were seated at our table, a young woman was walking by our area on the way to the rest rooms. She stopped when she saw us and said, “Kenny and Ro!” It turned out to be one of Nancy’s friends who had moved to the area from New York before Nancy and Scott had followed suit. We had met her a few times over the years but I would certainly not have recognized her if I passed her on the street. The last time they talked, Nancy had told her we were going to be in Baltimore so I guess it was less of a surprise for her to find us in that place than it was for us to imagine someone actually recognizing us.

The following day, I visited Geppi’s Entertainment Museum and was quite impressed with the array of memorabilia on display. One room had numerous old toys that I remember from my childhood, another had old TV’s and radio’s, and everywhere you looked were old movie and advertising posters. On display were the largest collection of vintage comic books–many in exceptionally fine condition–that I’ve ever seen in one place, at one time.

Some of the hundreds of vintage comic books on display in Geppi's Museum, in Baltimore.

Comics are Steve’s forté, but I was really impressed with a special video booth he set up that had a couple of old comic books digitized and available for reading, by “turning the pages” at the press of a button. The very first Donald Duck comic from 1941, “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold” was one of the two stories available, and it’s quite possible many visitors to the museum would be viewing that rare book for the first time.

Ro and I also walked around Baltimore’s inner harbor area, revitalized as a tourist destination much the same way San Francisco, Boston, and New York’s South Street Seaport have attempted to do. The best part of that visit was finding a Barkers Frozen Custard stand, easilly as good as Ritter’s in Florida, overlooking the docks.

The next day, we drove over to Nancy and Scott’s in Edgewater; they fixed us all a nice lunch and then showed us around their area. A couple of blocks in one direction is a small, private beach; a few blocks in another direction brings you to a calm boat launching area. Their house looked smaller in the pictures they originally sent out after moving but I thought it was much larger inside than it appears from the outside. I think they found a really nice place in a fine location, since they love the water and boating so much.

The beach near Nancy and Scott's place, in Edgewater, MD.

On Sunday, we drove over to Delaware and checked into the Sheraton Dover. There are way more hotels in the area than I think necessary, since there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of tourist attractions. However, the Dover Raceway hosts a major NASCAR race every Memorial Day (fortunately for us, scheduled for the following weekend) and there is some gambling starting to bring people to the area. After scouting out the immediate area and finding nothing much of interest, I contacted my cousin and confirmed out visit with them for the following afternoon. By evening, Ro and I were in the mood for Chinese food so we found a good-looking place and bought take-out to bring back to our room.

The following afternoon, we drove a short distance to Warren and Ray’s place, where I met my cousin for the first time. Warren’s father, Rudy, and my mother were cousins (Rudy’s mother and my mom’s father were sister and brother, who came over to this country a few years apart, around 1900). One of Warren’s sons, Russ, had driven an hour to see us this day since he was especially impressed with the booklet I had made up to document our genealogy. He asked me to sign his copy, making me feel a bit like a celebrity. I had brought many old photos and papers relating to our families that Warren, Ray and their son really enjoyed seeing. They showed me many old pieces of furniture and other items that had been handed down though their family throughout the years, affording me with a glimpse into the past as well.

Left to Right: Ray, Russ and Warren Gehrt.

On Tuesday, Ro and I packed up and headed back to New York. By traveling after the weekend was over, we managed to avoid traffic and make good time getting home. We even found gas on the Jersey Turnpike selling for $3.74 a gallon when the price on Long Island was well over $4.00. As you might imagine, the lines at the gas stations along the Jersey Turnpike were filled with cars bearing New York plates.

1 comment:

William P. Tandy said...

Haven't been to the Geppi Museum yet, though I only work four or five blocks from it and have heard many good things about it.

Also, should you find yourself again in the vicinity of Nacho Mama's, Mama's On the Half Shell, just up the block, is a great place for seafood.