How Times Have Changed

Family reunion in the fifties

Family reunion in the fifties

This photo was taken in the back yard of my Uncle Lewis’ home in Linwood, New Jersey. The three couples are (from left to right) Seward and Cathryn Leeds, Lewis and Nellie Leeds, and Fred and Gertrude Ulmer.

Three of those people are also in the next photo.

Classmates in early 1900's

Classmates in early 1900's

The second and fourth from the right (in the first row) are Seward and Gertrude Leeds. The first boy on the left in the second row is Lewis Leeds.

Thus, the photo of the three couples is a family reunion for three siblings.

My parents are the ones on the left – Seward and Cathryn Leeds. Dad’s name was ‘officially’ William Henry Seward Leeds, but everyone in the family called him Seward. Naturally, his co-workers called him Bill.

Dad was the youngest of the three siblings who survived to adulthood. He was born in 1891.

In 1910, he and his brother rode from Northfield, New Jersey to Pittsburgh (double on a motorcycle) in search of employment. They both succeeded in not only finding work, but in finding wives. Dad married Cathryn Mary O’Hare and Uncle Lewis married Nellie Crowley.

At some point, Uncle Lewis and his wife, along with two sisters-in-law moved to Florida and later back to New Jersey. Dad and mom remained in Pittsburgh, but I believe dad’s heart remained in south Jersey.

Aunt Gertrude moved to Philadelphia to find work shortly after she graduated from high school. She was the only one of the three to finish her formal education; the boys had to drop out of school and go to work to help support their widowed mother. Gertrude eventually met and married Fredrick Ulmer.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Gertrude became the parents of three children. The most famous of the three was Fredrick who was instrumental in a bombing raid on Tokyo and later became curator of the Philadelphia zoo. I wrote about his exploits sometime ago. Click on “A Tribute to an Unsung Hero” if you’re interested in learning more about him.

Unfortunately, I only got to know one of the three. Ruth Ulmer married Ed Morris around the same time as I entered this world. She, and most of my siblings and cousins are a good bit older than I; thus, when our family visited my aunts and uncles, my cousins were off raising their own families.

I finally got to meet Ruth about three or four years ago. She is a delightful woman and full of information about our family’s history. Her brother Fredrick died a number of years ago, and her brother Leeds, passed on a few weeks ago.

Uncle Lewis and Aunt Nellie were childless. That’s why I have two brothers named Lewis.

I apologize for rambling about my family, but one picture leads to another and one sentence tends to do likewise.

My original intent was to point out the clothing worn in that first picture. It was not at all unusual for adults of that time to dress up for events that seem trivial in today’s society. For instance, it was not unheard of for men and women to put on their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes to ride a Greyhound bus to another city… or simply to take a shopping trip to the downtown department stores.

Airplane trips were a big deal back then and anyone in less then business suits or dresses would have been totally out of place.

On the day the group photo was taken, my parents were joining the others for a meal at a restaurant. Notice I did not say ‘fancy’ restaurants. There were very few of that variety back then. There were very few of any variety in those days. Most women were called ‘housewives’ and they stayed home and cooked for their families.

One fancy restaurant reasonably close to where my Uncle Lewis lived was the Smithville Inn in Galloway Township. The siblings and their spouses may have been headed there, but I have my doubts. That place might have seemed too expensive to my frugal parents.

In any case, about fifty years later, my wife and I, along with a group of nephews and neices went there for dinner. We wanted to celebrate our little family reunion by dining in the ‘Leeds Room’ which was named for Jeremiah Leeds… an ancestor who once owned most of what is now Atlantic City.

Our attire clearly demonstrates how times have changed.

From fine dining to casual

From fine dining to casual

There are many who would point out that the clothes we were wearing when this photo was taken would be considered by many to be the Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes of the twenty-first century.

My, how times have changed!


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