Sepia Saturday #315: Birthday Baking





This beautiful card celebrating Aunt Sadie’s 4th birthday was sent to her from Newton Memorial Hospital where she was born at the end of September in 1936.

The little workers on this birthday card are busy putting the finishing touches on the cake. It’s huge but when the cake shows up on the inside of the card to be delivered by a knight-led parade of elves, it’s in the arms of only one elf. It must be some sort of elven magic!

Our (Jodi, Jill and Jenni) birthday cakes were usually homemade by mom, Sadie, or one of the grandmas. This is my 5th birthday cake. Not sure what the decorations are supposed to be and I hope we had ice cream for all those spoons! My mom’s china pattern can be seen on the creamer to the right.


My sisters and I have celebrated a number of birthdays over the years. We have been photographed in costumes and odd hats.


Super Jill, 4th birthday at Merriam Ave, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey


Jodi, 5th birthday at Merriam Aveneue, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey









Also, we’ve been both inside and outside for our celebrations.


Jill with a “tude”, Jenni and Jodi. Gram Westra is peeking around the corner. Merriam Avenue, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey




Jill at Gram Strait’s backyard, Lincoln Place, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey









Jill and Grandma Westra had the same birthday, July 9th, so we have pictures across the decades too:


1970s: Jill and Gram Westra with Jenni onlooking at Townsend Street, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey


1980s: Jill and Gram Westra, Townsend Street, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey












1990s: Jill and Gram Westra, Townsend Street, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey

And it’s interesting to see all the things in the background of photos.JillMerriam

Aunt Sadie smoking in the house, rainbow suspenders, popsicle stick wishing well, macramé owl.

Here’s to all the birthday cakes. Wedding cakes? Another story, perhaps…




The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo: Baking

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Sepia Saturday #314: Row, Row, Row Your Boat








This is a card given to my Aunt Sadie and is labeled as being from Joan L. in 1938. I believe Joan L. was a friend or neighbor since I don’t have a Joan L. in my family tree program related to any close family members. This little boy is rowing his heart out on some rough water. The boy and the boat on the card rock back and forth to give the sense of the waves. A bright yellow fish watches and one of the Valentine’s Day hearts has fallen out of his boat.

One of my 2nd great uncles was born on Valentine’s day. Since he didn’t get into my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks posts, he’s today’s topic.

Orval D. Strait was the 3rd of nine children born to Ira Wilson Strait and Sarah Matilda Kimble. He was born on 14 February 1883 in New Jersey,[1] most likely somewhere in Sussex County since his parents resided there all their lives.

Orval is found in the 1895 New Jersey census[2] in the very broad category of 5- to 20-year-old males. He would have been 12 years old in 1895. He was listed with his parents and six of his siblings.

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Orval went to school in Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey. Around 1897, when Orval was about 14, the local newspaper took a picture of the Vernon School students. This photo was reprinted in July of 1956 in the New Jersey Herald. Brothers Ora (18), Asa (12), and Orval (14) were all in the picture.

Even though Ora’s occupation was listed as teacher in the 1900 census and this photo was taken around 1897, I don’t think Ora wasn’t actually the teacher for this class based on the punctuation in the caption. “… Nettie Rhodes (Mrs. Bert Drew), Ora Strait; Teacher, Uhler H. Creveling, Charles Utter.” The semicolon provides a break between Ora Strait and Teacher. Since the photo was loaned to the newspaper by a Mrs. Uhler H. Creveling, I think it was in her husband’s family mementos and that he was the teacher at the time.

Asa was in the second row, fifth from the left. Orval was also in the second row, eleventh from the left. Brother Ora was in the back row, fifth from the left. However, given the way the students are positioned, it’s tough to be really sure who is who in this picture. One also has to trust that the person giving the information relayed the correct names to the reporter.

Ora Simpson STRAIT class photo

In the 1900 U.S. census,[3] Orval was listed as being born in February of 1883 and was a 17-year-old. Again, he’s with his parents and six of his siblings. Orval’s grandmother, Elizabeth, was also living with them.

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At some point between 1900 and 1905, Orval met and married his wife. Their son, F. Howard Strait was born in 1905 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[4] It is unclear why F. Howard was born in Philadelphia. What is clear is that he didn’t get to know his father. He was only three years old when Orval passed.

Orval died on 03 April 1908.[5] A short death notice shows that he died at Beaver Run at the very young age of 25.[6]STRAIT Orville D.

His obituary[7] has him as 25 years, one month and nine days old at his death. Working forward from his birthday, that would mean he died on 23 March 1908.  However, this obituary (below) is dated Friday, 10 April 1908 and says he died “Friday last.” That would put his death date as 03 April 1908 which matches his tombstone and the death notice above. Using the 25 years, one month and nine days and working backwards from his death date, would put his birthdate at 25 February 1883 which does not match what’s on his tombstone. So, I believe he was 25 years, one month, and 19 days (not nine) when he died. One could speculate that the nine days was supposed to be nineteen and a simple typo makes sense.

STRAIT Orville D 2

Orval’s first name seemed to be somewhat fluid over his short life. There is some discrepancy in his first name. His obituary has him as Orville. The 1895 N.J. census has him as Orval. The 1900 U.S. census has him enumerated as Orvin. Whatever he was known by, his tombstone has him immortalized as Orval.

STRAIT Ira W. and Sarah M.

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo: Boat

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[1] North Hardyston Cemetery (Rt. 94, Hamburg, New Jersey), Ira W. and Sarah M. Strait marker; photos taken by author, July 2006.
[2] 1895 NJ state census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Vernon Township, p. 50 (penned), dwelling 290, family 328, Ira W. Strait; digital image, ( : accessed 02 April 2013); citing NJ State Archives microfilm 54 reels, roll V227_103.
[3] 1900 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Lafayette Township, ED 169, p. 1B (penned), dwelling 23, family 25, Ira W. Strait; digital image, ( : accessed 01 October 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 995.
[4] Sussex County, New Jersey, probate case files, docket no. 24162, F. Howard Strait (1972), record of death, 11 December 1972; Sussex County Surrogate’s Office, Newton.
[5] North Hardyston Cemetery (Rt. 94, Hamburg, New Jersey), Ira W. and Sarah M. Strait marker; photos taken by author, July 2006.
[6] “STRAIT,” obituary, New Jersey Herald, 16 April 1908, p. 5, col. 3; Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.
[7] “Orville D, Strait,” obituary, Sussex Independent, 10 April 1908, p. 5, col. 4; Bound newspaper stacks, Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.

Sepia Saturday #313: The Rubber Rabbit


This card has beautiful colors from the deep red of the little girl’s footie pajamas to the various shades of green on the tree and bows in her golden curls. She holds a stuffed animal but has plenty of other toys to play with and/or open. This is a Christmas card given to my Aunt Sadie from her grandmother, Anna Marie (Karthaeuser) Repsher.

Unlike the toys of today, the little girl’s toys are fairly low tech. A ball, a jack-in-the-box, a blue, stuffed bunny rabbit. Not a teddy bear. A blue rabbit. Where have I seen that before? A low tech blue rabbit?

Oh, yes, this is the rubber rabbit’s story.

My Aunt Sadie and Dad were both born in the late 1930s, shortly before the start of World War II. Their mom, Beatrice (Gram Strait) was the oldest of eight and she was the first to have children. Her siblings didn’t start their families until after the end of the war. That meant, being the only children in the family for over ten years, Sadie and Billy were the recipients of much attention.

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Sadie and Billy’s wooden blocks

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Donald Duck, photo courtesy of Bill Strait

When they were little, they were given various toys by their numerous aunts and uncles. A ceramic Donald Duck showed up with Walt Disney stamped on his behind. Colorful wooden alphabet blocks were used to build towers and castles. Easter presents, one for each of them, were chickens that would crank out wooden eggs. Dad was given a cloth cowboy about 8 to 10 inches tall that had hard, wooden feet. Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs were all the rage and made it under the Christmas Tree for young Billy. One year, older sister Sadie got a beautiful bride doll.

Then there was the rabbit. The rubber rabbit was light blue. It had two yellow wheels but the wheels weren’t round, they were octagonal. It had rolled off the assembly line sometime in the mid-1940s. When the rabbit was shiny and new, it went to live with the Strait family. They lived at 46 Pine Street in a two-story green Victorian that was handsome, well-maintained and not unlike many of the houses in the Newton neighborhoods. The rabbit had a pull-string attached to it between its front legs. Billy and Sadie would drag it around the house, up and down the stairs to the 2nd floor, out to the front porch, and all around the backyard. The rabbit had many miles on it, tagging along behind Sadie and Billy.

Around 1950, the family moved to 43 Lincoln Place. Billy, now called Bill, and Sadie grew up, graduated from high school, and moved out on their own. Over the years, some toys were lost, some were broken, some wore out but a few made it to old age. Gram kept them in the cabinets under the bookcase in the living room.

Dad started his own family and the three Strait sisters (Jodi, Jill, and Jenni) came along. After Sunday lunch at Gram Strait’s house, we would slide open the cabinet doors. My sisters and I would pull out the wooden alphabet blocks, puzzles, decks of pinochle cards, Barbie dolls, and other things. The rubber rabbit was in the cabinet but we hardly ever pulled it out to play with. The rabbit didn’t move around on its own or beep or chirp or have googly eyes. Unlike the blocks and Legos, it couldn’t be used to build anything. It didn’t have lights like the Barbie Dream Car. We never considered how much play time this little rabbit had in its past.


Sadie and Billy’s rubber rabbit and wooden blocks

As we got older, Gram made it a point to tell us that the rabbit was valuable since it was now an antique. However, the family was moving apart. Mom and Dad got divorced, Dad had a falling out with Sadie and Gram, and the Strait girls went off to college and struck out on their own.

In the early 2000s, on a visit home, I stopped in at 43 Lincoln Place to see Gram. To my surprise, I was given custody of the rubber rabbit. Wow! I had a valuable antique now. I brought it home to Knoxville, Tennessee, and it took up residence on a bookcase shelf. Unfortunately, my Aunt Sadie was upset to learn that Gram had given the rubber rabbit to me. It was part of her childhood and she felt the toy truly belonged to her. To keep the peace, I sent the rabbit back to New Jersey to Aunt Sadie.

Aunt Sadie kept it for a while until ill health forced her to start thinking about all the “stuff” she had in her house. As a result, my sister Jill currently has the rubber rabbit. We joke that all our inheritance is wrapped up in this truly beat up, dried out, old rubber pull toy which our grandmother assured us was worth a pretty penny but is really just filled with fond, childhood memories.

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo: Girl with toy

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