Another Time, Another Quarantine

During the year that my grandmother was in quarantine for possible tuberculosis, my grandfather was also in quarantine, but for him, it was not TB or the Spanish flu that put him out of service. Papa was “somewhere in England” in isolation with four other soldiers in his ward. A total of thirteen other soldiers were ill with German measles. That vaccine was not available for another forty years.

In a letter to his sister Ann in mid-June, he wrote that he would be in isolation for twenty-one days after having gotten sick a week earlier. He was not feeling ill, and it was apparently not a big concern to the doctors because my grandfather mentioned that they were bringing in a piano “for us to have a dance… The nurses here are great for dancing. They are very nice but are not in with the girls at home. There is only one girl for me, Ann, and she is in Boonton, and you tell her to stay there and wait for me.”

I hardly knew Papa, so reading this letter gave me an insight into his feelings towards my grandmother when they were engaged and they were separated by war. It’s rather sweet.

Just a page of his quarantine letter.- 6-17-1918


Watch Who You Date in Boonton USA

Growing up in a small town, it was always said that everyone is related to one another, so one must be very careful when dating another resident of town. Perhaps we should have all done our family trees first.

While at our recent reunion, I discovered an interesting connection between the families of my cousin Bobby and his wife Jackie. Apparently, Jackie’s parents bought their first home from my grandparents back in 1955. (That house was the home that my parents moved into for a brief time when they returned from Grandpa’s short stint serving in Texas during the Korean War.)

My grandparents could not move all their furniture into their small two-bedroom home, so some of it remained in the house that Jackie lived in when she was born five years later. The furniture included a bunk bed, which Jackie slept in, as did her future father-in-law, my Uncle Bob when he lived in that same house with my grandparents.

I located the deed to the house, which provided the proof and pertinent dates.  Skip all but the last paragraph.

After speaking with my cousin and his mom, Aunt Peggy, I decided to return to her family tree. I discovered another interesting connection. I located her grandparents’ marriage record and discovered that they were married in the same church I attended when I lived in New York—the church where my first two children were baptized—St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown Heights, New York. Aunt Peggy verified that she and her sister once visited St. Pat’s.

I need to continue climbing her tree to see if there are connections to any other members of the family. I bet there are more family connections.


What Happened?

I returned from my reunion road trip to New Jersey a few days ago. I met cousins for the first time and connected with a few I had not seen in years, and I was able to see my two aunts. For that, I was happy.

My cousin Ellen and I planned the event. We picked a date seventeen months in advance based upon input from various family members, and we put a deposit down on a venue which could hold one hundred fun-loving members of our family.

I stressed that the church hall I rented was not large enough based upon the size of our extended family, which exceeds two hundred. I knew not everyone could come, particularly because we don’t all live in New Jersey. We don’t even all live in the United States. Still, we thought, it would be an epic event, wouldn’t it? After all, our family funerals are legendary in attendance.

Ellen and I contacted our cousins and started making plans. She reserved a block of rooms at Embassy Suites, and people booked flights.

As the date got closer, we decided to order sandwiches from a local venue, Jamie volunteered to make her famous pasta salad, and I made a non-mayonnaise-based coleslaw because our family all knows that we can’t serve Jamie any products with mayo. We purchased fruit, veggies, ice, drinks, and some cookies. I made the funeral cake.

While we were disappointed that we only filled a quarter of the room, I am looking at the positive side. I got to chat with my two aunts who I have not seen since my breakfast with them two years ago, along with three of their children and the grandchild and great grandchildren of my Aunt Peggy. Two traveled straight through from the mountains of western North Carolina, not stopping overnight like Ellen and I did. (They are younger!)

I met one of the children of the best member of our extended family—my cousin Meghan, whose dad is Tim from Texas. Tim visits Grandma often despite living in Houston and calls her every week. Tim is awesome, regardless of being a Texas A&M fan. (Go Cocks!) Meghan traveled from Scranton, even though she had to work on Saturday and Monday and to attend a funeral of a close friend that week. Thank you, Meghan.

I was happy to be asked by one of my cousins for the contact information of my cousin John, whose great grandfather, the brother of my grandfather, owned a huge ice house near Lake Hopatcong. FYI, according to the Landing, NJ historical site: At the time of its construction, its fifty-six-foot height made it the largest ice house in America. It was said to be able to hold 100,000 tons of ice. It was the largest single-span construction in the United States until Radio City Music Hall was built.

Cousin John introduced me to his wife and daughter. I am happy he came and made enough of an impression that another cousin wanted to meet him again.

I met a cousin who was a friend of my oldest friend, yet I never knew she was related to me. I spoke to another cousin who is an attorney in New York, who told me about going to the Texas/Mexico border in December to work with the immigrants. Cousin Jerry told me that “the stories we hear on the news are all true. I was there.” I met his sister and a few other cousins from that branch of the family—the descendants of my grandfather’s brother Joe. I chatted briefly with my cousin Christine, whose Carnival ship followed my Norwegian cruise liner around Alaska last summer.

I talked with two of my cousins who are the daughters of my mother’s oldest brother. I have not seen them since the funeral of my Uncle Bob three years ago. I used to play school in their basement as a child. Uncle Larry had somehow gotten actual desks from a classroom, which we all thought was so cool.

And last, but not least, I spent several days traveling with my co-reunion-planning cousin Ellen, who lives just outside Charleston. Ellen, along with her brother Eddie from Wilmington, left the reunion and returned to face Hurricane Dorian. Thankfully, they were spared the wrath of the storm felt by the people of The Bahamas.

In the end, I enjoyed the weekend. I hope that it was just a poor choice of date rather than apathy that resulted in the small turnout. In any case, I am glad I went, but I will pass the reunion planning baton to someone else next time.

P.S. Thank to my dear friend Mary, who helped me to look on the bright side.


Before the Next Funeral

When our grandfather Dan Carey was young, he would routinely visit his siblings and their growing families at their homes in Boonton. The one exception was his brother John, who lived too far away in Lake Hopatcong—at the Ice House—to join in those family gatherings.

Until his oldest sister Annie Carey Duffield’s death in 1932, Papa would take the kids to visit his family on Sundays at the Duffield house on Boonton Avenue. Grandma and Papa were living on Main Street near Boonton Avenue at the time.

He would tell Grandma that “We’re going to take a walk to Dublin,” and Grandma would stay home preparing Sunday dinner. After his sister Annie died, he moved the visits to his sister Nell and Pat Cooney’s Church Street house, which was across the street from his brother Joe and Lo Carey’s home.

As the families grew and lives got busy, those visits began to diminish. While I remember visiting Aunt Lo and Uncle Joe often, and their youngest daughter Betty was always part of our lives, I only knew of Uncle Pat because his was the home whose yard met ours—the house with the grape vines, cherry and pear trees, and the great yard for sledding.


I had little knowledge of the children and grandchildren of his sisters Annie and Nell, and even less of the families of his brother Jim and John, but I later learned that many of those descendent children did and still do know their second cousins.

Ours was the largest family, with Grandma and Papa eventually having thirty grandchildren, most of whom he never knew because he died in 1959. So he saw only the first fourteen of us, and these grandchildren probably have little, if not any, recollections of him.

Grandma with 14 of her grandchildren – 1957. On couch: Rosemary, Janice, Lois, Laurie on Lois’ lap, Bobby on Grandma’s lap, Nancy holding Gail, Alan, Tommy, Billy. On floor: Tricia, Timmy, me , Maureen

In the beginning, we’d gather at each other’s homes at Christmas or for birthday parties, but in time, no one’s homes was large enough to accommodate our growing crowd. We’d get together for play dates with the cousins who were close in age to us or choose a cousin for a sleepover at Grandma’s house.

We began to splinter off and gather for weddings and then the funerals of the aunts and uncles and even a few cousins like Daniel, Lois, Billy, and Shane. Even the wedding lists could not include everyone because we are just too large. Many of you were able to get together for my mother’s birthday in January, but for the most part it is now just the funerals.

Now there is a reunion unlike any other we have ever had, which is in good old Boonton on Labor Day Weekend. This is a gathering of all the descendants of our grandfather and his siblings. It is an opportunity to meet the cousins whose names you may have heard and wondered how they fit in, cousins you may not have seen since you were young, and cousins who are complete strangers to you.

Still, it is an opportunity to connect, and I bet all those “Careys from Dublin” (gee I wish I really knew where they originated) would be thrilled to know their grandchildren and great grandchildren were interested in keeping their memories alive.

And to those local cousins who still are not interested in meeting the “stranger cousins” I say this to you: Then come and gather to hang out at Johnny’s or the Fireman’s Fair or St. John’s Church on Sunday afternoon and share a few stories and a laugh or two with the cousins you all know, which are the grandchildren of Dan and Sis Carey—before the next funeral.

There is a Facebook page with the details called Carey Family from Boonton USA 2019 Reunion, or contact me at for details.

Stayin Alive

It’s nice to have a nurse or two in the family, so during our recent mini family reunion, we learned how to save someone from choking and how to revive them when they have stopped breathing or their heart has stopped beating.

Aunt Linda, who is Red Cross certified, began the lesson with a video, and then moved onto the meat of the lesson.

She explained that we no longer need to pinch and breathe into someone’s mouth, telling us that simply doing chest compressions is sufficient to get air moving and hopefully revive an arrested heart. I never liked the idea of breathing into a stranger’s mouth so this was nice to learn. Coincidentally, since it is our 40th-anniversary-celebration week, one of the big hits of 1978 is the song which is associated with CPR—Stayin Alive. We learned that after calling 911, we compress the victim’s chest in time to the beat of Stayin Alive. (For a child, compress before calling)

We then moved on to learning about the use of abdominal thrusts, which we all know as “the Heimlich maneuver.” I could not recall precisely from Nurse Linda why the Red Cross method is not referred to as the Heimlich method, so I researched it.

She taught us to hit on the choking victim’s back 5 times and then perform the abdominal thrusts. This method apparently shocked Dr. Henry Heimlich, who was horrified by the slaps, claiming that no evidence existed to support the back-slapping, so he wanted his name removed from the method taught by the Red Cross.

It turns out that no studies have ever been done comparing the effectiveness of both methods side-by-side, so Dr. Heimlich died 2 years ago still at war with the ARC. I will use what I was taught by Nurse Linda! I hope to never need to use this lesson.

The Strong Rise Up

Our family is all familiar with Grandma’s father, TJ Downey, who was a successful businessman in town, but few know the tale of his parents. This is another story that shows the strength of our family and what people are able to do when they are backed up against a wall.

TJ’s father was James William Downey, who came to American from Ireland in the early 1860’s and initially settled in Indiana. (Why oh why Indiana is still a mystery to me!)

James enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and fought in the Civil War for three years, mustering out in Chattanooga, Tennessee. What he did for the next six years after his discharge is another puzzle, but what I do know is that Grandpa Jim ended up in Morristown, where he married Mary Nolan of Boonton at the Church of the Assumption. Mary was originally from the small village of Killenaule, in the county of Tipperary, Ireland.

After the birth of their third child, John, the Downey family relocated to Jersey City. Our grandfather worked as a laborer, both as a gardener and grave digger. Unfortunately, he died from tuberculosis at the age of fifty, leaving our grandmother with four children between the ages of five and fifteen. She was in deep trouble now. How would we all react to Mary’s dilemma?

Mary earned her living by “washing and nursing,” collecting a meager salary of just $15/month. It was a difficult life for her, and within three years of our grandfather’s death, Mary became ill herself. She applied for a widow’s pension, but sadly, the application was lost or misplaced. With her two youngest children under the age of sixteen, she was entitled to $12/month—eight dollars for her and two dollars for each of her sons. As my mother would say, “Whoopee!”

Due to her declining health, our great-great grandma had to cut back on her work, so she was then earning only a mere eight dollars each month, and at times, not even that much.  She was dependent on her three boys to supplement her income. Her daughter, Johanna was also ill.

Within six years of her husband’s death, Mary was totally incapacitated from labor of any kind due to being in the advanced stages of TB. She had no means whatsoever due to “her wretched condition of health,” according to her family physician. Because of her illness, it is doubtful that she would have been able to witness the marriage between her son TJ and his bride, Jemima Blue. Happiness kept eluding poor Mary.

More than two years after applying for her widow’s pension, Mary returned to Boonton, probably to be closer to her mother and siblings. She had a lot of guts, because she decided to file an affidavit, throwing the attorney who misplaced her application under the bus by providing his name and location of his practice. Remember, in 1892, women did not speak out against men. She was a brave and desperate woman.

Tragedy struck again in March of that year when her mother was struck and killed by a train.

Two friends from Boonton, John Barrett and John Dunn, corroborated her statements by verifying that Mary had no “other means of support other than her own labor, and a trifle that one of the boys brings in.” Mary then submitted a special action application, stating that she was dying, having been sick for more than a year and in bed for the past eight weeks. She had no source of income except for $3/week which our great grandfather TJ was able to give her.

The application was finally approved on May 6, 1893, 2 ½ years after she first applied. By then, our poor Grandma Mary had died. I wonder if our own grandma, who was born just two years after her grandmother’s death, was ever told the story of James and Mary Downey.

Makes you think twice when you believe your life is bad, doesn’t it?

Always Be Prepared for a Revolution

I was discussing the need to be flexible in planning a vacation with Kelly the other day. With so much of the world constantly in upheaval whether it be because of unexpected weather events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, or snow in areas unaccustomed to extreme winter conditions, or a terrorist attack or civil unrest, one must always have a back-up plan.

While this is not new and I admit we never had a Plan B, it is nevertheless an excellent idea. Years ago, Dad’s parents planned a magnificent trip to Cyprus, which is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea—south of Turkey and west of Syria.

Knowing the geographical location of this island and being the nervous-nelly that I am, I would never consider such a trip, but your grandparents were adventurous back in 1974. So they made their travel arrangements, and while in the air, a revolution broke out on the island. The pilot decided to divert the plane to Cairo, Egypt.

The inflexible, grumpy passengers aboard that airliner chose to remain in the hotel that they were placed in and had an awful vacation, but others, like Dad’s parents, decided to make lemonade from those Egyptian lemons and visited the Great Sphinx of Giza, the pyramids, and a few random temples.

The moral of the story is to always be prepared to bend when the unexpected happens. Like the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, which opened their restaurants, hospitals, homes, and hearts to passengers diverted there on September 11, go with the flow and be receptive to detours.


Treasure Those Moments


I hope that all of these stories are helping you learn about my past, as well as that of my grandparents and extended family, and to also remind you of your own childhood. This is the driving force behind Mommysmeanderings—enabling you to view how the world changed through the generations, beginning with The Lost Generation (my grandparents) through your generation, The Millenials.

Now that I have received digital access to my family’s home movies, I have hours of menu-jogging material to enable me to write more stories. I’d like to tell you more about Grandma’s mother—the woman who had the sleepovers with many of her thirty grandchildren.

My grandmother was sixty-years old when I was born, and now we have a movie taken on that particular birthday. When you view it, keep in mind that she was two years younger than I am now. Sixty was a lot older back in the fifties—at least that is what I keep telling myself on each birthday.

These older movies are wonderful treasures because they enable us to see so many of our now older or deceased relatives when they were either your ages or mine, laughing and joking and acting silly. They all had years ahead of them before time took its toll on them by adding those lines of wisdom and robbing them of their independence. It’s so sad, but at the same time, it makes me smile to watch their antics.

It was not unusual for a sixty year old to wear dentures at that time, and we can see from the video that someone (Uncle Rich I believe) removed her choppers after she licked the icing from his fingers. He was such a scoundrel, and she let him do it.

We see my grandmother waving a handful of paper money around, which I suspect could be those dollar bills which we traditionally tucked inside our birthday cards. It was my grandmother’s mother who always shook a card, saying that it must never be empty. We have all kept that tradition alive.

Her hair was still peppered with color, not the silver-white, tinted just the palest shade of blue by a rinse which was popular in her day that I remember. She always wore a housedress, and she was clearly enjoying herself as she danced with my uncles and laughed with my pregnant mother and aunt.

And now everyone in those movies is gone but my mother. Time moves so fast. Cherish those moments.

Grandma’s 60th Birthday- Part 1

Grandma’s 60th Birthday- Part 2

FHB Can Prevent Embarrassment

Aunt Ar sent me a text recently asking if I knew the meaning of FHB. She was visiting with Grandma and they were reminiscing about the good old days. As Bryce would say, “piece of cake.” I immediately responded “Family Hold Back.” Aunt El’s answer was “???” Aunt Ar answered  “And we have a winner.” (Incidentally, Dad also knew the correct answer. I trained him well.)

Not knowing if this little code was invented by my mother or my grandmother, I immediately dashed off a note to my cousins Eileen, Gail, and Cathy. Eileen was the first to respond: “Family Hold Back. When you had guests, so you didn’t run out of food. To my knowledge, it was Aunt Lorraine’s saying.”

While I was speaking with Aunt Ar, my cousin Timmy, Aunt Lorraine’s oldest son coincidentally called Grandma. So I asked him, and he verified that his mom had come up with the secret code. Timmy likes to joke around, so he explained that “She did start FHB, because we were poor folks and had to pretend we didn’t want seconds so the guests could eat.”

So now you know and you should remember this so if you either have unexpected guests drop in at dinner time or you misjudge the amount of food to prepare when you have planned guests, you will have enough food.

FHB. Remember this. It may save you some embarrassment.

Home on Leave

I have been browsing through some photo albums belonging to Grandma dating back beginning in 1946 and ending in 1952, which was the year after her marriage to Grandpa. Many I have shared with you already. Today I have a few more focused primarily on Uncle Rich.

Uncle Rich was just fourteen when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. With his older brother Larry already in the Army and the war not ending in the foreseeable future, he decided to take control of his destiny. So three months before his eighteenth birthday, he enlisted in the Navy. Because he was underage, my grandmother had to sign papers to allow him to enter the service. He knew if he waited to be drafted, he would end up in the Army, which was not what he wanted. My grandmother was not a happy camper having to sign these papers permitting him to enlist at such a young age, but they knew it was inevitable, and he wanted to go on his terms.

He was stationed in the Caribbean. One day, my grandmother received a letter from him, explaining that he had been swimming off the side of his ship. He assured her that she should not worry about shark attacks, because one of his shipmates was standing guard with a machine gun ready to protect him. My grandmother was not amused, but this was typical of Uncle Rich’s sense of humor.

While the war ended in the fall of 1945, he was not discharged until a later date. Below are two photos taken during his leave home from Puerto dated January 22, 1946, which was Grandma’s seventeenth birthday. What a nice way to spend her birthday!

Uncle Rich and Papa
Uncle Rich and my grandpa- “Papa”
Uncle Rich- 1-22-1946
Uncle Rich- 1-22-1946