Friday, April 30, 2010

SEPIA SATURDAY- Uncle Bob and my father- wrestlers at The University of Chicago

What a bunch of hunks! 
My father(Gil Finwall), front row second from right, Uncle Bob (Finwall), third from right. 
(About 1936, '37, or '38.)

From articles in the University of Chicago magazine:

 This ad was also in the magazine. Maybe this is where they ate:

Supposedly my uncle was supposed to go to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. I can't remember what happened to keep him from going. Another one of those family stories that I'm not sure was true and now there's no one left to ask.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

The L.A. Times Festival of Books and the search for info on Great Great Grandma and Mark Twain

Nancy and I made our annual trip (although missed last year) to the festival. We always have a great time... hear and see some of our favorite authors, meet fascinating people, visit our favorite city, eat great food, etc.

This time we stayed with Nancy's daughter Megan. She's subletting an apt. in L.A. for a few months. Coincidentally the apt. is just down the street from the apt. we first lived in more than 40 years ago. I was already living in L.A. (recently divorced) and Nancy and her friend had just graduated from high school and moved in with me.  It's in a great area called Beachwood Canyon at the foot of the Hollywood sign. The area used to be called Hollywoodland when it was first developed. It's still a wonderful cozy area, feeling far removed from the big city. You can just barely see the Hollywood sign in this photo. It's much more visible in person.

At the book festival we wanted to see Laura Skandera Trombley who has a new book called "Mark Twain's Other Woman". Our Great Great Grandmother was supposed to have been his girlfriend when they were teenagers. At least that's what our family have always said. The only proof we have is the census records showing them living next door to each other.  I thought this author might have some info.  But no such luck. She did tell me where to get more information, though. There's an expert on his life at U.C. Berkeley who has a huge archive.  I'm going to contact him next.
However she was a wonderful speaker and she was on an interesting panel with other biographers.
We also saw The great Herman Wouk, author of 'The Caine Mutiny", "War and Remembrance" and many others. He's about 94 years old, still quite spry and very funny. He mentioned that he wasn't proud of having written "Marjorie Morningstar". That was good to hear, although I remember loving it when I was young.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous the next person we saw was the wonderfully silly Sarah Silverman who has a new book called " The Bedwetter,  Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee" She, of course, was hilarious. And the book was an autobiography!!
Everybody loved her.  (She's the one in the purple jacket)  She looks like she's about 18 years old and she's 39.

We also saw Sebastian Junger, who wrote "The Perfect Storm". His new book is called "War". It's about Afghanistan and it sounds very good. He was there as a journalist but was in the very midst of the fighting.  There was a man in the audience, with his wife and son, who he introduced as one of the soldiers he was embedded with. He spoke very movingly about the soldiers he was with and about this man.  He was here on leave and will be going back next week. As people were leaving after it was over several of them stopped to shake his hand. It brought tears to my eyes.

One of my favorite writers is Lisa See. She wrote "On Gold Mountain", "Shanghai Girls", "Sunflower and The Secret Fan", and "Peony in Love".  She and her mother, Carolyn See shared the stage. Carolyn is also a wonderful writer. Some of her books are "The Handyman","Rhine Maidens", Dreaming, and Good Times in America".  I once knew her a very long time ago.  She was a friend of a friend.  It's kind of rare for a mother and daughter to both be writers...and to both be good.  They were very entertaining and very funny.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

SEPIA SATURDAY- Mark Twain's Other Woman

I forgot all about Sepia Saturday until it was too late. Now I'm rushing to get ready to go to L.A. for the L.A. Times Festival Of Books which Nancy and I try to attend every year.  We love it. This year we noticed that Laura Trombley who wrote a new book called "Mark Twain's Other Woman" is going to be there. If you read my last week's post you'll know how excited I am. No, the book isn't about my great great grandmother but she might have found out something about her while researching. She'll be signing books, so I'll try to talk to her. I'll report back next week. Sorry no photo today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Photo styling

I love looking at Holly Beckers blog decor8 . It's full of the latest in the decor world. Today she talked about freelancing and photostyling. Since I've been involved in both for the last almost 40 years I was very interested and it got me thinking about my whole career.

My sister (and partner) Nancy and I had planned to retire this year. We really weren't quite ready but the whole economy kind of made up our minds for us. So now we're easing into it and some days absolutely loving our new-found freedom. Other days we don't know what to do with ourselves.

The thing we enjoy the most is Etsy, where we can sell the things we've collected for years as photo props and some ot the things we make, plus the books we've published. You can see our two shop at  bitsandpiecesetc and linencloset .

I noticed that I don't take as much care when styling the Etsy photos as I did when I thought of it as a career so have vowed to be more professional about it from now on.

Here's some of the photos from the past shot by our wonderful photographer, Steve Whalen :

Friday, April 16, 2010

SEPIA SATURDAY- The Mark Twain connection

 I posted this back in 2010. But it's perfect for this week's theme.

My grandmother on my father's side was born and raised in Hannibal, MO. I think anyone from Hannibal finds some connection to Hannibal's most famous citizen, Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens.

Our family's story was that my great great grandmother ( Mary Lacey) was Samuel's girlfriend- some even said they were engaged and that he dedicated a book to her. I haven't found that book but I did find through the census records that they were close neighbors.  Her family was numbered 881 and he was living with a family (Joseph Ament) who was numbered  879.

 I copied this from a biography of him:
 When Samuel was 12, his father died. Samuel had to leave school and work as an apprentice to a printer named Ament for room and board. His brother Orion, who was 22, worked for Ament as a printer.

Sam remained with Ament until he was 15, when his brother Orion bought out the small county newspaper called the Hannibal Journal. They moved the equipment into the Clemens home, and the two brothers ran the paper, with Sam setting most of the type. A younger brother, Henry worked as an apprentice.

They ran the Hannibal Journal for several years. Occasionally, when Orion wasn't around, Samuel would publish light verse and satirical articles that poked fun at local characters and conditions. Although they helped sell the paper, they also alienated some people, contributing to the failure of the paper.

At age 17,( in 1854) Sam left home and moved to New York, where he worked for a short time in a printing office.

In 1854 Mary was about 18 and had her first child. She married someone named Leonard Mefford. I've never found anything to prove his existence.  Do you think it was a coincidence that Samuel left town the same year? Or is there more to this story?

I don't have any photos of Mary but everybody knows what Mark Twain looks like.

Here's the Mark Twain house in Hannibal. (Nancy and I visited here a few years ago while at a trade show in Chicago).
Don't forget to look at the other Sepia Saturday posts. Click here  Sepia Saturday

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My collage wins a prize in the Fallbrook Art Association Show

Happy and unfocused- the story of my life!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


My friend Robert Sommers, turned my last week's shadow shot into a work of art.
He has an art gallery here in Fallbrook and is also a wonderful writer. I never miss his interesting blog:
blueheronblast. It's often very irreverent and usually about politics, food, music and/or art.

Don't miss all the other shadow shots at:

Friday, April 9, 2010

SEPIA SATURDAY- Napoleon's Body Guard

Barthomeus Theiss and Margaret Zillis Theiss- my great great

At Niederhilbersheim, Germany, on October 14, 1782  Bartholomaeus Theiss was born.  He served with the army for eight years in its struggles against Napoleon before he was taken prisoner by the French. Napoleon reviewed his captives and asked each soldier his former profession. When asked, Bartholomaeus presented his sword and said, "This Sire." "We must take care of this man," said Napoleon and transferred him to other quarters. He soon became a member of Napoleon's guard and served the master he idolized through campaigns in Italy, Prussia, Austria and Russia. 

Bartholomaeus rode a splendid black charger. So long had man and horse been together that mutual understanding and devotion existed between the soldier and his mount. In the midst of the terrible saber fighting his right hand was severly injured by a stroke of the enemy's sword. Instinctively recognizing his master's plight his horse backed out of the line of combat to a place of safety where the rider could wrap the injured hand in his neckerchief, wind the reins around the useless arm and firmly grasp his saber in his left hand. Then without command or guidance the horse tore back into the battle where the soldier fought with all his left handed might till his strength ebbed. Three times the unurged horse retreated till the rider recovered, then again charged into the fiercest fighting, carrying the wounded man safely in and out of battle till French victory ended the bloody encounter and the wound could be attended. 
(I suspect this story might be a family myth- but who knows?)

When Bartholomaeus left Germany he said he didn't want his sons to be soldiers and wanted to get them to America because he could foresee years of struggles in the various European territories. This vision was accurate because the wars continued throughout Europe at regular intervals. 

At the time, however,  his sons were bound for military service and were not permitted to leave the country.  So he used a common means of securing passage for them. He drilled holes in four trunks, put the boys in and took them on board ship and released them once out to sea.

Bartholomaeus Theiss came to Sublette, Illinois  in the year 1846 with his wife, four sons and two daughters. Members of the Theiss family built the first Catholic church in Sublette, now known as St. Marys church. Both the church and the adjoining cemetery are kept beautiful to this very day by the descendants of the original Theiss family. 

To see more Sepia Saturday:

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I'm having such fun with Sepia Saturday and Shadow Shot Sunday that I might as well fill all my days. So here goes Theme Thursday.  Today's theme: Box.
Abbie in her favorite bed- the "in" box on my desk. 

Go to  to see more Theme Thursday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Caught on camera at the Fallbrook Film Festival

I love buffet food, maybe a little too much- because I'm always embarrassed to go back for seconds (or thirds). I'm always hoping that no one will notice. My sister, Nancy, and I have spent many years attending trade shows. There's always a party or two with a wonderful buffet. Sometimes it's even free. Then it tastes even better.

We once thought about writing a book for homeless people that would tell them how to eat good for free. Go to the nearest fancy hotel, go to the rest room and get tidied up as best you can. Pick up a name tag outside the door of a party (surreptitously) , check to see if they're only serving cheese cubes (too binding!) put on your best manners and eat hearty. Then we realized, homeless people wouldn't have the money to buy the book. So much for that idea !

Nancy  called me to say " did you see our picture in the paper? It's in an ad for the Fallbrook Film Festival."  There we were at last year's film festival---at the buffet table---caught on camera! Luckily it wasn't free so at least we had paid to gorge ourselves.

Notice that our picture in the ad is between an Elvis impersonator and George Hamilton,( this year's honored guest.)Nothing but the best for Fallbrook.

Actually it's a wonderful festival. We always enjoy the films and the buffet is delicious!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

SHADOW SHOT SUNDAY- Sidewalk shadow

Not the Easter Bunny !

SEPIA SATURDAY- Four generations

Four generations on my mother's side:
My great grandmother, Katherine White;  my grandmother, Bessie Reis; my mother, Arleen Reis;
my great great grandmother, Rosa Daehler (about 1916)

My great grandmother, my mother, grandmother and me. (1940)

My father's side: My grandfather, Petrus Finwall (the one who was killed in an accident with a fire truck [story in a previous post, Feb. 20]),  Great Grandmother, Josephine Mefford; Great Aunt, Ella; Grandmother Della Finwall; Uncle Glenn (the one who saved the family in the accident with the fire truck). See more about heroic Glenn on March 18 post. This photo is taken in back of the house that my Grandfather built in Chicago.
My sister and I went to see this house a few years ago and it was still standing. I made an altered tin using this photo, another photo of the front and the census page listing the family at this address in 1910.

My father's maternal side; Great Grandma Mefford; Me, Grandma Gilbert (Finwall); my father, Gil. (About 1940)

The Sepia Saturday Site is actually on vacation today for the Easter Holiday.  So, if you go to the site it won't be as complete as usual, but I think some people are still posting.
For more Sepia Saturday stories go to


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