Thursday, January 28, 2016

Picture Day at Dudley Stone School: San Francisco, 1953

Dudley Stone School class photo, Room 207, Grade 6, September 29 1953

Here's a cool artifact: a Dudley Stone School class photo, taken in 1953.

The historic Dudley Stone building is located at 1250 Waller Street in San Francisco. You can read about its history, namesake, and various incarnations (as the William R. De Avila School, and ultimately the Chinese Immersion School at De Avila) here. According to the changeable letter board, this was Dudley Stone School, Room 207, Grade L6, and taken on September 29, 1953.

And, of course, it was snapped by Plymouth Pictures / Golden Gate Studio, formerly of 1007 Market Street. As you may remember, they had a monopoly on the San Francisco class photo racket for quite some time.

Many thanks to anyone who can tell us why the front-row children are wearing seat belts.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Feast of Saint Natalia: Early 70's in Russian San Francisco

This particular collection was snapped at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco, in what appears to be the early 1970's. All the women featured were part of the old-school Sisterhood gang at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church at 1520 Green Street in San Francisco.

Natalie Vasilev and Holy Trinity Sisterhood women, taken in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco
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Natalie Vasilev, Olga Licin, and Holy Trinity Sisterhood women, taken in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

The original Sisterhood women were all White Russian widows—so, unfortunately, most had already, um, gone onto their Eternal Reward by the time I came along. Nonetheless, I do cherish a few happy memories of rainy Sunday mornings in the Holy Trinity kitchen, watching the last holdouts cheerfully cook pirozhki and gossip in Russian. Sometimes they also served at Christ the Saviour at 2040 Anza Street.

Natalie Vasilev, Tasha Thomson aka Natalie D. Moore, Rhea Thomson aka Marie Thomson, Sean Sarsfield, and Elena Vasilev at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

I think these photos were taken to commemorate Natalie Vasilev's "Namesday." You can read more about her here. Natalia Feodosievna Vasilev née Mitrofanenko was named for Natalie—of Aurelius and Natalia fame—thus, her Name Day (or namesday, as my family always called it) falls on October 8th. The date makes sense, given the still-formidable tans in evidence.

Natalie Vasilev and Holy Trinity Sisterhood women, taken in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

I love the cock-eyed framing in these pictures. Dutch Angle, I think they call it. Was it a consequence of this particular camera? I don't think these namesday snaps were taken with a Kodak Instamatic. Maybe the next model up?

Father Roman Sturmer and his wife, Xenia in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

At the head of the dinner table is priest Father Roman Sturmer, alongside his ecstatic-looking wife, Xenia. Born in Russia, they escaped during the Revolution, and spent time in the Philippines before emigrating to San Francisco to take up ministry at Holy Trinity. You can read more about Roman Sturmer here. He was also the subject of a biography, although I don't think its been published yet.

Olga Licin, Natalie Vasilev, Roman Sturmer, and Elena Vasilev at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

I'd love to know what happened right before they snapped this one.

Roman Sturmer, Xenia Sturmer, and Olga Licin at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

Natalie's flat at 2678 McAllister Street was—of course—eventually sold off, remodeled, and resurrected as a million-dollar condo. You can see its present incarnation here. I wonder if the current residents experience any old Russian lady hauntings.

And if anyone out there is a fan of the Holy Trinity Sisterhood—these legendary ladies of the past—please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you! :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Svetlana, Tatiana, & Lena: 1950's Seoul Sisters

Svetlana, Tatiana, and Lena were three Russian sisters born to Konstantin Aleksandrovich Vassilieff and Natalia Feosodievna Mitrofanenko. Their father was an architect, and their mother worked in military translation. Their parents were of Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Polish stock. You can read more about them here. The Seoul Sisters were born in Korea, and lived in Seoul and Japan before immigrating to San Francisco in 1953.

I have a rather large collection of black-and-white snapshots taken in Japan, sometime in the early 1950's. The ones featured here spotlight the Seoul Sisters together, sometimes with, or without cats. Vintage cat pics anyone?

Photo of Svetlana Vasilev aka Lana K. Thomson, Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.
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Photo of Svetlana Vasilev aka Lana K. Thomson, Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.
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This last photo is of the oldest Seoul Sister Svetlana (on left), alongside Lena, the youngest. Most of the photos feature Tatiana and Lena together. I assume because they were closer in age.

Photo of Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.
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Photo of Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.

Tatiana and Lena clearly had a thing for cats. I found a few snaps that feature the Seoul Sisters petting cats, hugging cats, cradling cats, and otherwise loving cats. Harry Pointer (1822–1889) has been cited as the "progenitor of the shameless cat picture"—but these kids took the budding trend, and ran with it.

Photo of Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.
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Photo of Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.

"And I will love him, and squeeze him, and call him George!" Or perhaps, in this case, Yury.

Photo of Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.
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Photo of Tatiana Vasilev aka Tanya K. Sarsfield, and Elena K. Vasilev, taken in early 1950's Tokyo, Japan.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Konstantin & Natalia: From Harbin to San Francisco

Evidently, this is a childhood portrait of my grandfather, Konstantin—alongside his sister, Mariya (aka Moora, my great-aunt). It was taken in Harbin, China in 1913. Konstantin was five or six years old, Moora was about six months.


Konstantin Aleksandrovich Vasilyev (Васильев Константин Александрович) was an architect who grew up in Harbin, China, and later lived and worked in Chongjin, North Korea, and Seoul, South Korea. Although he identified as Russian, his father—Aleksander Vasilyev née Vasiliauskas—was Lithuanian, and his mother—Vera Doroshenko—was Ukrainian and Polish. He was born on May 26, 1908, and died of Tuberculosis on November 11, 1946. He's interred in the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea as Konstantin Aleksandrovich Vasileyev.

Tracing your Russian roots can be difficult. Strike that. It's harder than a cat trying to bury crap on a marble floor. But sometimes, if you're lucky, you find a vintage family photo where someone scribbled genealogical-type info on the back.

Writing on the back of Konstantin and Mariya's photograph, 1913, Harbin, China.
The year is 1913. Summer or Spring. The town of Harbin.
This is your father and Mura. Kostya was 5 years old or a little more. Mura was 5-6 months old or even less.
Kostya was born on 26 May (old-style 13 May) 1908.
Mura — 23 January 1913.
This missive was most likely penned by my Great-Aunt Yelena Aleksandrovna Vasilyeva (Василевa Елена Александровна) who I hope to learn more about someday. Many thanks to my pal, Vyacheslav Tomenko, for translating.

In 1933, Konstantin (or Kostya) married Natalia Feodosievna Mitrofanenko (Митрофаненко Наталья) in Harbin. Natalia was born on September 3, 1915 in Ust-Karsk, Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia (Усть-карск Забайкальск). Her father was a Justice of the Peace, and her mother was a merchant. Both parents were Ukrainian. You can read more about them here.

Natalia Feodosievna Mitrofanenko aka Natalie F. Vasilev, 1958, San Francisco, California.

And this lovely, very Ukrainian-lookin' broad is Natalie F. Vasilev. Natalia came to San Francisco in 1953, and I believe she submitted this photo along with her Declaration of Intention to become a citizen. It was most likely taken in 1958—which would put her at around 43-ish years old. Hubba.

Petition for Naturalization for Natalie Feodosievna Vasilev nee Mitrofanenko from 1958
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Receipt for Natalie Vasilev's Declaration of Intention, filed under her birth surname, Mitrofanenko.
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Citizenship admission for Natalie Feodosievna Vasilev, dated 1958

Natalie F. Vasilev died on November 29, 2006, in Pacifica, California. You can read her obituary here.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Birthday Cake, a Cigarette, and Thou: 1982 in Piedmont, California

Happy New Year!

To honor the birth of 2016—as well as this shiny new blog—I figured a birthday theme was in order. Also, I recently discovered a small collection of 34 year-old birthday snapshots, and I need an excuse to post them.

They were taken in August of 1982, at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California. The bow-tied birthday boy is yours truly—and yes, I'm holding a Kodak Pocket Instamatic.

My sixth birthday, celebrated at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California

I insisted on that bow tie, but I can't remember why. I do remember it was a clip-on. And yes, that's an original Womeco Home Theater descrambler on the TV. We used it to watch SuperTime (later called Star TV), a subscription television service that broadcast over KTSF Channel 26 in the early-1980's. In the evenings, they'd play two hit movies, one crappy one—and then soft-core porn. I feel like they showed Seems Like Old Times and Serial every night.

Eve Buckner, Lisa Kastle, Margaret Shellada, and Jill Weissich relax in the living room at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California. Also pictured, Maggie Bedford of San Francisco.

And speaking of Serial. Those colors. The smoking. The potted plants. I miss the early 1980's.

Birthday cake and cigarettes make excellent bed fellows.

Okay, maybe not so much the smoking.

The late Frank Russell of Ramona Avenue and Maggie Bedford in 1982 at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, Ca
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Dennis Skellenger, Geertje Cook, Vic and Jean Hernandez, and others at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California

I love that these adults were forced to watch me open presents. I must've been like that evil kid from the "It's a Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone. Oh, and I don't remember who the dude with the sunglasses and chops was, but he's frickin' awesome.

Jessica Butz and Andy Jordan at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California

"Oh, yay. A shirt." The blonde was my babysitter, Jessica Butz. I think the brunette was her friend, Rachel. I remember thinking they were both, like, so grown up. One time, we were locked out of Jessica's house—and to pass the time until her mom got home, she read to me aloud from the Halloween II paperback novelization. Yep, she was a keeper.

Andy Jordan—of Andy Human & the Reptoids—in 1982, eyeballing my new Freddie the Frog hand puppet

The kid eyeballing my brand-new Freddie the Frog puppet was named Andy Jordan. He grew up to headline the Oakland-based punk band Andy Human & the Reptoids. You can read more about them here. I loved that puppet for years. Well, until 1985—when my taste in Freddies abruptly veered toward the Krueger. That was the end of the innocence. Thanks, Wes Craven!

A boy sticking out his tongue in 1982, at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California

"And that's the truth."

If you wanna share a story about Piedmont in the 1980's—please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you! :)