Marcia, the youngest, maybe the bravest

no nonsense

Roger Leslie Marcia.5 GainesThere was a point when this became my favorite picture of my “baby sister” Marcia. She’s the one in the foreground, in front of my sister Leslie and me, in our driveway at 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton back in the mid-1960s.

My appreciation for the photo certainly developed after March 12, 1995. That was the day of my parents’ 45th anniversary. There was a family blowup. I remember the details amazingly well.

The part relevant to this piece involved a discussion the three of us had in the parking lot of a Montgomery Wards. Leslie and I were telling Marcia how awesome she was.

Specifically, our maternal grandmother, Gert Williams, would fill our heads with stories of boogeymen and other creatures designed to quiet and tame us. Roger bought into it. So did Leslie. Marcia never bought into grandma Williams’ nonsense.

She would also stand up to our father in a manner Leslie and I would never have DARED to have done. One of us said back in ’95, “we thought he was going to KILL you!” I think we were speaking figuratively.

So I suspect that the photo bugged me a bit when I was a kid as lacking order and symmetry. Now I appreciate it as an act of individualism.


As the youngest, Marcia was the only one of us to permanently move to Charlotte, NC in 1974 with our parents, though both Leslie and I stayed there for brief periods. Ultimately, That has meant that she is the one who is the keeper of the family photos. I own virtually no photos from my childhood, save for a few duplicates I’ve managed to find on visits to North Carolina.

The photo here I found on her Facebook page, which is a treasure trove. Some of my cousins who are working on genealogy totally agree. Unfortunately, my grandmother never bothered to label the older ones.

I should continue to note that Marcia I the person most likely to send a card, not just birthdays and anniversaries, but for Easter and Thanksgiving. I didn’t send her a birthday card this year, or probably last year; this post will have to do.

Sister Marcia: Alzheimer’s fundraising

A potential cure for Alzheimer’s has been found by a new study.

Marcia.Roger.ChristmasAs I surely have mentioned, my sister Marcia was in a too-familiar position in America.

She was raising her daughter and making sure our mother was all right.

For much of the time, Mom was pretty OK. Then in the months before she died in February 2011, not so much. The reason they had a post office box was that mom would take the mail and hide it. She could be belligerent, though seldom to people outside the family.

On her Facebook page for her birthday, which is today, Marcia is raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Her timing is quite fortuitous. There is a “special opportunity to double your impact in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease — our $500,000 Matching Gift Challenge, thanks to longtime supporters, Mary Joy, Jerre and the Stead family.

“The Mary Joy and Jerre Stead became involved with the Alzheimer’s Association when Jerre’s mother developed Alzheimer’s. Since then, Mary Joy, Jerre and their family have been dedicated supporters of the Association, and they’ve pledged to match every gift received by June 15, up to an incredibly generous total of $500,000.”

Incidentally, I read that a potential cure for Alzheimer’s has been found by a new study that appears to have uncovered what causes the disease. “The new treatment would use drugs that are currently prescribe to fight HIV.”

“‘For the first time, we can see what may cause the disease,’ lead researcher Jerold Chun told The New York Post. ‘We also uncovered a potential near-term treatment.”

“The Post added: ‘Chun and his colleagues at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego, Calif., compared brain samples of seven people who had Alzheimer’s with six who didn’t.”

Donating through the Alzheimer’s Association NOW, whether through the efforts of sister Marcia or not, would be a great birthday present for her, and would honor our mother to boot.

Sister Marcia: contribution to the genealogy talk

Someone in the audience knew Charlotte Yates from her time in Binghamton before 1954.

Even though she hasn’t been to our hometown of Binghamton, NY in over a decade, my sister Marcia has contributed mightily to the genealogy talk our cousin Lisa presented recently.

Lisa spoke at the Broome County Area History Conference on April 21 at the Bundy Museum. She came all the way from Washington, DC to introduce two families, one Black and one Jewish, which my wife, daughter and I attended.

As she wrote in the precis, our “second great grandfather, James A. Archer, a free Black man who, along with two other family members, fought in the Civil War. They survived and returned to Binghamton to raise families and start businesses.” In part because of other photos Marcia put online, Lisa was able to ascertain that the post-Civil War photo I’ve posted to this blog included not only James Archer, but the brothers of his wife, Harriet Bell Archer.

“In the late 1800’s the Archer family purchased a house on Maple Street, which became a hub of family activity for several generations to come.” That was the house my grandmother and mother grew up in.”

She also told about her great grandparents, Isaac and Sarah Berman, who were born in Latvia and Lithuania, emigrated, first to Denmark then to the US in 1913 and settled in Binghamton. Isaac “started an egg business that eventually turned into a trucking company that was the first to offer overnight service from the Triple Cities to Boston.

“Both families grew and in 1937, the two came together with the marriage of Ernest Archer Yates and Charlotte Berman, my grandparents, who faced their own challenges as an interracial couple.” Ernie was my grandma’s brother and Charlotte the third child of Isaac and Sarah.

This picture also came from Marcia’s collection, with Ernie and Charlotte together in the back row, my mother’s arm on Ernie’s shoulder. Given the presence of three of their four children, I peg the photo in 1945 or 1946. Someone in the audience knew Charlotte from her time in Binghamton before 1954, when she and the children moved to Queens, NYC after Ernie died unexpectedly.

When Lisa came to Binghamton, she had to take a detour off Front Street onto Gaines Street and pass another Archer property at 5 Gaines Street, where MY nuclear family lived in the 1950s and 1960s.

So Marcia, even though she was far away, was an important part of Lisa’s presentation. Happy birthday, baby sister.

Dad and his three kids on Father’s Day

“Everything looks better in black-and-white.”

My sister Marcia posted a picture on Facebook. It was all pinkish, and I couldn’t even see her in the photo. So I asked Arthur the AmeriNZ guy, who must be related to Annie Sullivan, because he’s a miracle worker, if he might have a go at it.

He noted, “The original photo appears to be a low-resolution scan of the photo, and that means there’s not much to work with. If it was a higher-resolution version, I’d have more to work with.

“The pinkish cast to the photo is because of natural deterioration in photos from the 1940s through the 1960s and 70s. The dyes used turned out not to be stable, and photos taking on a reddish hue is common.” Yes, I do have a few of those in photo albums.

I suspect the original negative from 1958 is long gone, and a higher-resolution scan seems to be beyond the capacity of my sister’s machine.

He actually did three versions, one “with the colours lightly corrected”, another with “a little more intense colour correction, with the focus on making the skin tones a little more natural (which makes the background even worse)”, and the one I chose, “a black and white version, with some of the dust and defects caused by the low-resolution cleaned up. This version, because the colours in the background aren’t weird, is a little less distracting.”

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. As Paul Simon, in his corrected lyrics, once said, “Everything looks better in black-and-white.”

I have only a vague recollection of this photo. I’m sure I saw it at the time, but that was long ago. I assume my mother took the picture, and based on the baby’s size, probably on June 15, 1958. This is the only one I recall with just these four people, Dad, Roger, Leslie and Marcia.

Happy Father’s Day to you, and to me.

Music: There Will Never Be Another You

The painting in the background with the guitar was by our father.

Marcia, the younger sister, in very many ways, has become the keeper of the flame, not only for the history of the nuclear family in which we grew up back in Binghamton, NY in the 1950s and ’60s, but for the extended tribe as well.

It’s logical. She was the only one who moved to Charlotte, NC with the parents. Leslie and I were already ensconced in college, though of us lived down there for brief periods in the late 1970s.

After my father died in 2000, Mom and Marcia took care of Marcia’s daughter Alex and each other, though as time marched on, Marcia and her daughter were tending more to Mom until she died in 2011.

She still is tending to our parents’ memory, as she has access to decades worth of photos and other material.

As all three of her kids knew, my mom LOVED Nat King Cole. She had a whole bunch of 78s of his, but I have no idea whatever became of them. There were some items in my maternal grandmother’s house, the house my grandma and mom grew up in, and where my sisters and I spent a lot of time. The stuff went into storage and ultimately disappeared long ago, including some photographs of mine.

Marcia was musing about my mother back in November, just before Mom’s birthday. Our mother particularly loved Nature Boy and other familiar tunes by Cole. But neither Marcia nor I had heard him perform There Will Never Be Another You. It’s become one of Marcia’s favorite Nat King Cole songs. And I can hear why.

BTW, neither she nor I ever really learned to play the guitar, though Dad and Leslie did. The painting in the background with the guitar was by our father.

LISTEN to There Will Never Be Another You

Arturo Sandoval

Nat Cole

Doris Day

Happy birthday, Marcia!