Thursday, September 6, 2012

It Was Many and Many a Year Ago...


My grandfather, Paul Zieren, was born 100 years ago today. I wish he was still here so I could wish him a happy birthday, but he passed away two years ago. He was a quiet, sentimental, thrifty, and hardworking man who loved his family and had a talent for spinning tall tales. I treasure my memories of him reading Edgar Allen Poe's poetry to me when I was a little girl. 
Paul and Nelda Zieren - A sailor and his bride. Weren't people glamorous back then?!
And doesn't he look like a movie star in his portrait?
He valued education very highly, and he worked hard to ensure that his children and grandchildren would be able to attend college. He was so proud when I gave the salutatory speech at my high school graduation, he cried. I've always been fiercely motivated to work and study hard, so as to deserve the possibilities he worked so hard to make for me. Grandpa, wherever you are, I hope you know that we remember you and love you. 
My mother made this beautiful video to commemorate his life, and I can't stop crying rewatching it and drinking in all the great vintage details. What were they doing with that goat at 0:17?! Just one female mortuary school graduate, circa 1930something, at 0:36! Dapper sailors' uniforms at 0:45! My gorgeous, glamorous grandma, circa 1940something, at 1:00! The correct way for a man to wear a hat while showing off his newborn child at 1:08! My apple-cheeked, eye-rolling mama makes her first appearance at 1:28! Wearing ties and unironic hipster glasses while playing with dogs at 1:45! Me (and my huge honkin' baby birthmark) at 2:08! Cheesy color-coordinated 1980s family portrait at 2:13! 

I'll leave you with a little historical gem. I've always loved this letter grandpa wrote to the editor of his hometown newspaper when he was stationed in Papua New Guinea during World War II. Twelve years ago I copied it from the original by hand, and I've always kept that handwritten copy close. It's so formal! I wish people still wrote like this. Luckily, he did get his wish, and returned home soon after this letter was written.
New GunieaNovember 12, 1944
Dear Editor:

I truly enjoy the letters you publish in your paper, written by the fellows in the service, and feel if everyone gets as much out of them as I do, it implies a contribution on my part. I can well imagine them reading your paper, that you are quite active in civic affairs and interested in the welfare and prosperity of the community. The August issues are just arriving but are read with enthusiasm.
To write about what is really on one's mind and what I think of military life might sound more like a post script to despair. But the esprit de corps of the men who are together in this common cause will be a priceless jewel, that even though so unpleasant now, shall be long remembered in our sober moments, and cannot help but give all a satisfaction in reflecting that can not now be anticipated.
Since leaving the states have been stationed here in New Guinea island. The country is very mountainous, and covered with a dense vegetation and not much like the South Seas Islands, shown in the movies. Some things are as you might expect, coral reefs and coconut trees, and natives whose clothing doesn't cover, or cost, much. The natives look pretty wild, but are a lot more intelligent than they look. Their life is a strange mixture of primativeness and civilization. As a whole they are friendly and talkative and drive a mighty hard bargain when trying to trade for souvenirs. Most of them speak some English.
Then too there are a lot of tropical diseases, smells, and bites. But the difficulties in living in these out of the way places is mostly getting used to a strange land.
Incidentally I am still very proud of my community back home and truly miss all of my friends back there. The out of sight-out of mind business doesn't apply to me, and after being away over two years, I would give almost anything to be back.
Best Wishes,
Paul B. Zieren

1 comment:

  1. What a great video. What a wonderful way to capture all of those memories. I'm seriously hoping the video montage doesn't just become a trend that ends because what a fabulous way to encapsulate a life of happiness!

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