Thursday, September 30, 2010

Military Life post World War II

Jack's military life took him to far away remote places including the Mariana Islands (Guam) and the Aleutian Islands (Adak, Alaska). He entered the Navy in August 1946 as a Construction Electrician. He did his basic training in Bainbridge, Maryland, then went on what he called a "troop train" to California. At Port Hueneme in Ventura County, he attended a Radio and Communications school for twelve weeks (the Seabees program described in an earlier post) before boarding a ship for a five day cruise to Hawaii via San Francisco. Although in Hawaii for only one day, this provided enough time for checking out the beach and taking some pictures including the image below of Diamond Head on Oahu Island.
From here, he went on to his first major duty assignment that lasted almost two years - the 103rd NCB (Naval Construction Battalion) in Guam in the South Pacific. He lived in a tent for over a year then upgraded to a "quonset hut" shown below.

August 1946Bainbridge, MDBasic Training
Oct 1946Port Hueneme, CARadio and Communication School
Jan 1947Guam, Mariana Islands
103rd NCB
Duty Assignment 1
Apr 1949Adak, Aleutian IslandsDuty Assignment 2
July 1950Seattle, WADischarge

Even though Jack studied communications in the Port Hueneme training program, he ended up operating a power plant in Guam and later in Alaska as well. Besides the extreme heat, the living conditions in the South Pacific offered unusual and frequent visitors in and around the tents, in Jack's own words: rats the size of tomcats. Although, his service in Guam might have been considered a hardship, his experience in Alaska offered a contrast and clearly a different flavor.
Jack's second major duty assignment while serving in the Navy was in the Aleution Islands at the southern Bering Sea. He was assigned to Adak Island which sits on Kuluk Bay, 1,300 miles southwest of Anchorage on the lattitude of Vancouver Island in Canada. It has a population of 320.(source of stats: navy history). Jack may hold the distinction in the Siulinski family to have traveled to the area where man first walked onto the American continent via the Bering Land Bridge. Ages ago, much of the Earth's water supply was locked up in huge ice masses. Eventually the sea level fell exposing vast areas of land formerly under water. A continuous land bridge then stretched between Siberia and Alaska. Most archaeologists agree that it was across this Bering Land Bridge, also called Beringia, that humans first passed from Asia to populate the Americas. Source for the map: worldatlas
Source for the text describing the Bering Land Bridge: PBS
One of the most vivid images that Jack offered during numerous hours of being interviewed for his life story was when he flew over the Aleutian Islands.
"We flew practically to the end of the Aleutian chain.  We were flying a route above the mountaintops, you could see the craters of active mountains [volcanoes]."
Mt Edgecumbe outside of Sitka
Image source: AlaskaPride Blog
While serving in Alaska, possibly brought on by the elements and stress of work, Jack suffered a collapsed lung in June of 1950. While hospitalized in Alaska for diagnosis and observation, the Korean War flared up. He was sent to Seattle on a ship where he was then discharged on July 26, 1950j, and sent back to Maine on a train. Ironically and fortunately, the illness may have prevented a tour of dury in Korea. Unfortunately though, the July discharge in Seattle was processed just one month prior to Jack completing his full tour of duty. HE would later have problems re-enlisting into the Navy Reserves which he tried to do before meeting his future wife. This issue may have also effected Jack not receiving a full disability upon discharge which would have provided living benefits for him and his family during the time of convalescence. Although his condition was later deemed to be  "service-connected", he was only entitled to the medical benefits necessary to treat the condition. These facts made life difficult for a while but he persevered through the time of marriage and a new family. (source: Oct 1952 VA letter from personal archives of Jack Siulinski)

Although Jack did not face combat in his service years, he did serve in the Navy during the time that the World War II Victory Medal was awarded to servicemen.
Endnote: Much of the material for this post was taken from a recorded interview with Jack in 2007. Also, many documents and pictures saved from his military days were used to create the story of his military life beginning in 1946 to the time period after his discharge and  when he met his wife in 1950.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Szulinski Brothers of Schenectady

"The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future."
The above quote comes from the title page of a booklet called "Growing with Schenectady". It was prepared for the 1948 sesquicentennial of the city. If you, like me, have never seen this word before it means a one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary. The booklet told the development story of one of Schenectady's key industries: the American Locomotive Company (ALCO).
The photo shown here is a postcard image of the ALCO plant. This company along with General Electric served the world by their respective industries and my two great uncles contributed to the effort by devoting their life's work to these companies. Our immigrant ancestors were true die-hard industrialists.

My grandfather, Adam Siulinski, Sr., had two brothers. Their names were Joseph Szulinski and Walter Szulinski. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of these two men but they lived their entire lives in Schenectady, and they were blue collar workers. The little information I found comes from newspaper articles I found on the FultonHistory website (these were articles orginally published in the Schenectady Gazette).  According to the articles, they both died in their fifties of unstated illnesses. Eventually I would like to find some living relatives, descendants or friends of these men who can speak about them from knowing them. Walter had a daughter, possibly adopted, and Joseph did not have any children.

Walter worked for General Electric for eighteen years in the Relations and Utilities Department until he became ill. Chris Hunter from the Schenectady Museum says that this department was probably located within GE’s Central Station Department, which was responsible for equipment sales, installation, and service to utilities. Walter was an Army veteran from World War II. Walter's passing in March 1959 garnered a full newspaper article in the Schenectady Gazette: "Szulinski Dies at 51; Was GE Employe". Notice the misspelling of "employee". The Gazette's copy editor was apparently on vacation. He was survived by his wife, Ann Olejnik Szulinski, and a daughter, Miss Patricia Ann Szulinski.

Source: Wikipedia
In the early 1880's, on a train trip from Albany to New York, Thomas Edison envisioned Schenectady as the perfect factory location for his new business that was to become General Electric. He liked the area because of its transportation, roads, railroads, and water. If anyone is interested to learn more about the history of General Electric, there is a comprehensive book available on the web called Men and Volts.

The 1923 Schenectady Directory has Joseph Szulinski working at General Electric. When he got married to Gladys Niegowski in 1945, the marriage announcement (Schenectady Gazette, 8-1-45) showed he worked for the Army Service Forces Depot as a "Packer". The Depot was a United States Department of the Army maintenance, distribution, and supply depot from 1941 through 1969. Mostly the depot shipped motor vehicles to the Port of New York. At its peak it employed four thousand people. Joseph died July 6, 1960 and is buried in the family plot at St. Mary's Cemetery.
These men were common and hard working folks but the stories involving the companies they worked for were anything but common. Like the story of the first transcontinental truck delivery accomplished by five crew members of the ALCO company arriving at San Francisco City Hall on September 20, 1912. Their cargo was three tons of Parrot Brand Olive Silk Soap. It took them 91 days. Although, ALCO was known for building locomotives, they also made cars and trucks.

Thanks to Chris Hunter from the Schenectady Museum for providing research information for my post.
Sources for this post:
Army depot information: and
Photo of ALCO plant:
Edison story information:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Dyckman Coat of Arms

In May 2009, I attended a workshop on Heraldry at my local genealogy society (CGS). James Terzian was the speaker from the Heraldry Foundation. Here is a definition of the term taken from a websiteHeraldry is a system of identification of individuals and families based on hereditary devices (or "charges") centered on the shield. The whole idea of decorated arms and shields came about at the time of the crusades when societies were semi-literate so using images was very important. Richard I, "the Lion-Hearted", carried a shield emblazoned with three golden lions on a red background. Heraldry was made famous during the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine in Northwest France where the display of arms was a common royal affair. She represented a rule incorporating the arts and troubadours offering plenty of opportunities to display these heraldic symbols in ceremonial fashion.

These events were referred to as tournaments and were used for training in the handling of weapons and horses, and evolved into a pageantry form in which the bearing of arms was a major part of the ceremony.  An excellent film from 1968, The Lion in Winter, gives a feel for the time period when knights and arms were the rage. To sum up, once used to identify knights on the battlefield (essential after the development of the closed helmut) then became known as a means to identify one's noble status, the practice of heraldry eventually became to be associated with anyone who had assets not just royalty.

Even Princess Diana has a coat of arms shown here.You can see other arms of the British royal family on the blog site where I source this image.

In regards to the DYCKMAN arms shown above, I asked Mr. Terzian what the symbols might mean. He thought they had an overall 'new world' meaning. The image of wheat could refer to wealth and the image of the shovel could refer to industry. I see the broken chain as possibly showing a freeing of some kind. Any other ideas?
Source of the Dyckman image above: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volume 34 , page 23.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Famous Dyckmans

This is a story about one of the oldest Dutch families in New York City. The Dyckmans were one of those families and they prospered from farming and tending an apple orchard in a northern area of Manhattan now referred to as Inwood.     
Image source: Dyckman Farmhouse Museum brochure
Before the island became citified, farming was a thriving lifestyle for early colonists. The Dyckman’s made their livestock available to the markets of Lower Manhattan for many years. Here is a time period so far back. Try to imagine Manhattan three to four generations before the American Revolution. People in New York can do this by walking through the rooms of the Dyckman Farmhouse (built by William Dyckman c. 1784) and walking the grounds of the Dyckman homestead which is now a museum located in northern Manhattan. This home was featured in a Bob Vila televised special on the A&E network which I possess in VHS format. The Dyckman House has been an historic landmark since 1967.

Source of two house images:
Of my four family lines, the ancestor's of my paternal grandmother (Ouida Dykeman Siulinski) heralds the most fame. The line is traced back to a man called Jan Dyckman who emigrated from Westphalia (an area in Germany) c. 1661. Our name spelling changed from Dyckman to Dykeman when a descendent of Jan, Garret Dykeman, moved his family and others to Canada in 1783. To show the link of my grandmother to the Dyckman line, the following images show the references of Ouida’s family in the book, Jan Dyckman and his Descendents. The images show the genealogy page (181) and the index page (187). Ouida (spelled "Weeda" in the book) is in the eighth generation.

A whole chapter in the Jan Dyckman book is devoted to Garret Dykeman, whose family and followers begin the Canadian line of the family. Garret’s marriage to Eunice Hatfield, niece of Capt’ Abraham Hatfield, begins his association with the Loyalists. The Loyalists (also known as Tories) were American colonists who remained loyal to the British monarchy during the American Revolution. When their cause was defeated, about 20% of the Loyalists fled or were driven out of the US to resettle in other parts of the British Empire (source: There have been volumes written about the two sides which brought on the revolution but when it was all over, many losing-side colonists felt safer to pack it up and leave. Thousands of Loyalists boarded ships to Nova Scotia (what now consists of the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). Land grants and other supports were offered to help in their resettlement but what they encountered in the new land was a more primitive and desolate landscape then what they had grown used to in America.

Map source:
Fortunately, Garret Dykeman’s group had chosen well. They decided to settle on the St. John River, a fertile area and further north were uplands which supported cattle raising (source: Jan Dyckman book, page 170). The place where he “set down his family” became Jemseg. This is the town of Ouida’s birth.
Ouida (Dykeman) Siulinski with sons, Jack and Adam, Jr.

End note: Research for this post came primarily from these two books:
Jan Dyckman and his Descendents by H. Dorothea Romer and Helen B. Hartman
Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture edited by Roger Panetta.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Albin Szulinski Revealed

The odd title to this post comes from the impact that genealogy often provides: information not known about an ancestor is revealed through research and a bit of luck. The children of Adam Thomas Siulinski, Sr. (Jack and Adam, Jr.) did not get to know their grandparents, Bronislava (Bessie) and Albert (Albin) Szulinski. The name change and the son becoming separated from his family of origin presumably came about from Adam, Sr. marrying a woman of another faith from the family's traditional Catholic creed. Here is the only image I have of Albin Szulinski. It came from a photo album in the possession of Adam and Jean Siulinski who reside in South Portland, Maine.

Thanks to Beth Snyder from RAOGK for offering this obituary to help shed away the mystery of who Albin Szulinski really was:

Obituary April 13, 1943 Schenectady Gazette
Mass will be celebrated this morning at 9am in St. Adalbert's Church for Albin Szulinski, 70, retired, who died Saturday at his home, 1019 Second Ave, after an illness of about a week.  Burial will be in St. Mary's cemetery, McClellan St.  The A B Brzozowski funeral home, 644 Crane St., will be open this morning after 3:30pm. He was born in Poland and lived in this city about 50 years.  He worked at the American Locomotive Co. about 25 years and at one time was employed about 10 years at the GE Co.  He belonged to St. Josefa society 181, Z P R K.  He retired in 1931. Besides his wife, Mrs. Bronizlawa Podoraki Szulinski, he leaves three sons, Adam, Joseph and Walter Szulinski.There are three grandchildren.
Although, genealogists can provide factual information about an individual who lived many years ago, offering a sense of what their personality was really like is a challenging task indeed. Mr. Szulinski seemingly was a very traditional, conservative hard-working industrial worker from Schenectady, New York having immigrated from Poland around the turn of the century. Any child's fascination with locomotives might have its origins in the place Albin chose to work most of his life: the American Locomotive Company. Could Albin have worked a train as famous as the Nation's First Diesel-Electric Locomotive, Alco from 1924?
Source: THE SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE - a service of the Schenectady County Public Library.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brick Wall Broken!

"Genealogy is a pursuit of hidden knowledge, and success at the end of the search is like the perfect outcome of a mystery murder". -Graham Landrum

It was three years ago when I began searching for the records of my grandfather's family of origin at the Transylvania Public Library in Brevard, NC. After countless hours of research, the mother of Adam T. Siulinski has at last been found one month prior to a planned trip to the city where she raised her family. Bronislawa Podorski Szulinski's obituary was found on Google News Archive which popped up through navigating the Albany State Library website during a late night search at my home in Oakland last weekend. This incredible find will be a point of reference that I can use to find vital documents for my grandfather's family members, and will piece together other documents I have already found to confirm the path of this Polish immigrant family's journey. The source of Mrs. Szulinski's obituary (seen to the left) is the Schenectady Gazette printed on May 14, 1953.

One of the reasons why this find is so significant is because the Szulinski family in Schenectady became disconnected from the newly forming Siulinski family in Portland as far back as 1928 when Adam Siulinski married Ouida Dykeman. Their sons, Adam Jr. and Jack, never got to know this half of their family line. Here is a time that the work of genealogy can open a window (if only for a glimpse) to shed some light on a long forgotten family.

As noted above, the two family names are spelled differently. What has been speculated is that when Adam married outside the traditional faith of the family, a separation occurred thereby cutting off communication for all those years. Or, did Adam just choose to stay out of touch because of other family-related reasons? What is certain is that somewhere along the line, Adam changed his name from Szulinski to Siulinski.
Armed with the facts about Mrs. Szulinski's life, I used another website (fultonhistory) to find the obituaries of Adam's brothers, Walter and Joseph. They both died in middle age, but what of?...Stay tuned. Also, Adam was known to have a sister but she was not named in Mrs. Szulinski's obituary possibly because she was not living at the time. Here is another part to piece together the family that Adam came from.

Over these years, many people have helped me break the brick wall. I would like to formally thank four of them: Jerry McGovern, Marybeth Frederick, Nancy Servin and Michelle LePaule.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jack's School Days

As you know from an earlier post, Jack attended Morrill Day Nursery while his mother worked at the card shop in downtown Portland. He attended a few different elementary schools as the family moved a number of times. He attended West School in Portland for junior high then went on to Deering High School. He remembers walking three miles to school even in heavy snow as there were no school buses at the time. When asked what his favorite subjects were he replied:
Well, English and history were my worst but my best subjects were science, geography and math.  Those were always my best subjects and I went through school that way.
There were no organized sports in elementary school but he and his brother did participate in activities at the Portland Boys Club.  He played freshman football at Deering but soon after began working after school which ended up taking time away from school activities (more on Jack's early work days in another post). He also played tennis with his friends in his free time. Did you know that Jack's nickname in high school was Jackson? Take a look at his high school (1946) yearbook page:

While a junior in high school, Jack was offered an opportunity to attend the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine.  In 2007, he reflected on this experience as learning monotonous procedures such as cleaning your sink with a toothbrush or making your bed to utter perfection. It seems the training was heavy on routine at the expense of the normal high school life of attending classes and socializing freely.  In June of 1945, he received an honorable discharge as a midshipman from the academy and returned to Portland.

After graduating from high school, Jack enlisted into the Navy and began basic training in Bainbridge, Maryland in August 1946. His interest in science and math from his days of youth carried right into his choice of what he would end up studying in the Navy, and later in college. Upon initial entry into the Navy, he enrolled in Seabee School and studied in the electrician field later to work as a "construction electrician" at various posts in the Pacific and Alaska. Check out the little newspaper piece from Pauline's scrapbook:
The original Seabees formed the Construction Battalions (CBs) from World War II. The Seabees have been featured in a lot of popular culture including a John Wayne movie from 1944, and Ward Cleaver, the fictional father from Leave It To Beaver, was a Seabee. 
(Source for information and the Seabee emblem:

When he got out of the service, he used the GI Bill to take courses at Portland Junior College and then enrolled at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) in a field that would lead to his career of life: photography.  The GI Bill was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and included generous provisions to fund education for returning servicemen. This bill had an enormous impact on American economic society in the 1950's.
In this newspaper clipping (probably from the Westbrook American), Jack is being interviewed by the reporter on the street, again taken from Pauline's scrapbook:         
Click on images to expand them.
     Finally we see Jack's 1953 graduation book from RIT...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Catholic School Days

Pauline went to kindergarten at Brown Street School then to St. Hyacinth School for grades one through eight. From the variety of things collected by a family historian, here you see Pauline's grade school graduation brochure from 1943:
Here’s a Siulinski trivia question: What musical instrument did Pauline take lessons in while attending St. Hyacinth School? 
                     Photo credit: Schools of Berlin, NH
Pepere's brother and sister, who were both in the clergy, influenced the decision to place their daughters in Catholic boarding schools in New Hampshire. Jeanne and Lorraine went to a serious Catholic boarding school – where they had to wear black dresses with stiff white collars. When Pauline would visit her sisters every two weeks, she would tell her mother, "Don't you ever send me here!". Apparently, she said it enough times that Memere and Pepere agreed to find another placement. The chosen location was Berlin, NH where she attended the co-ed Notre Dame High School and lived at a convent called St. Regis Academy (image shown above) - walking distance from the school.

While Jeanne and Lorraine graduated from their school in New Hampshire, Pauline’s boarding school education was more tenuous. Pauline decided in her sophomore year that an all-girl Catholic boarding school was just not to her liking so much that she refused to go back while on Thanksgiving break.  She wanted more opportunity to date boys and more freedom in general. Using her birth order to her advantage (being the yongest daughter), she was able to swing a change in the high standards of her diehard Catholic parents.  Helen, Memere's sister-in-law, had attended St. Joseph Girl's School in Portland which may have helped to get her enrolled immediately. Here is a period picture of the school taken from Pauline’s newspaper scrapbook:
Oddly enough, she ended up in an all-girls school where she had to wear a uniform but this time she did not have to live at a convent. It was at St. Joseph's where she met a classmate, Sue Breton, who became a close family friend and whom I remember as a child. Sadly, Sue would die in a car accident about fifteen years later. Pauline graduated from St. Joseph's in 1947. From high school, she attended a two year secretarial school in Boston where she rented a room at a boarding house for students located on the Charles River.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Family Dog – More Love than Headaches

What better topic to start up the blog in the New Year: reliving the experiences of having a family pet.  On Saturday, January 23, 2010, Claudia and I were reminiscing about Buffy - who lived a long dog life with the active Siulinski family. This post is a result of that conversation.

Mom and Dad were hesitant for a long time to get a dog probably because Mom thought she’d be taking care of it all the time – another “child” to raise. Claudia points out that Buffy was initially named “Bufferin” to refer to the headaches that Mom would be getting!

With six kids, there were bound to be alliances formed and in order to get a dog added to the family, it was necessary for more than one kid to advocate for it. So Claudia and I became the activists for the cause, but we also needed an opportunity of where we would find the perfect pet. The opportunity came when one of Claudia’s friends had a pet that recently had a large litter. Claudia and I rushed over to Gorham to check it out. The year must have been around 1970. Buffy was the first puppy in the litter to come right over to Claudia and I so the match was made instantly.

Buffy was both a lazy dog (read about Claudia’s memories in the next paragraph) and an active, energetic one or should I use the word – frantic?  For some reason, when shown the door, she’d bolt for the great outdoors usually returning in one or two hours soaking and smelling from some conquest mucking through the gully behind our house…hence the acquisition of Mom’s headaches. I used to wonder why Buffy would always run away from the property when given the chance – was it to get away from this crazy family or was it to act like the animal that she was?!

Buffy was a smart dog. She knew she was not supposed to be on the couch but she found a way. She actually enjoyed the comfort of our furniture on a regular basis, usually at night. In the morning, somehow she could tell who was coming down the stairs. If it was one of us kids, she’d stay put, but if it was Mom or Dad she’d pop off before they turned the corner! 

Buffy had a love-hate relationship with riding in the car. She liked to eat leftovers, that is OUR leftovers, but she couldn't hold the human food down if a ride came after the meal. While she loved riding in the car, we learned to make sure she hadn’t eaten before. One of our favorite memories of Buffy was her jolly display on Christmas morning: she’d open the gifts herself then proudly prance around the room showing them off to everyone.