Friday, November 18, 2016

Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control: A Russian Orthodox Baptism in 1976

To honor Organized Religion Day, I thought I'd post this fast, cheap, and out-of-control collection of vintage baptism snapshots. They were taken at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Russian Orthodox Church on Green & Van Ness in San Francisco, and they can only be described as Instagrams from Hell.

Russian Orthodox Baptism at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco in 1976

These dinky little prints really are holy terrors. I wish I knew who took these lemons so I could properly shame them. A baptism is a big deal. They could've at least spent over $10 on a camera, or called Sears Portrait Studio, or something.

Russian Orthodox Baptism at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco in 1976

How am I supposed to take my relationship with God seriously if this picture taker couldn't take his/her assignment seriously? If they won't do their job, then I can't do mine! Sorry, it's not Christ-like to judge vintage snapshots so harshly, but seriously—this photographer blows.

Russian Orthodox Baptism at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco in 1976

In case you haven't figured it out, I was the baby—and these were my Godparents, Seoul Sister Tatiana "Tanya" Sarsfield née Vasilev (left), and Alexander Sven Zabelin (right). Godparents present a child at baptism, respond on its behalf, and promise to take responsibility for the child's religious education. But Tanya was an atheist, and Alex left a week later for Italy to appear in "art films," so my subsequent religious education didn't end up being very comprehensive.

Russian Orthodox Baptism at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco in 1976

Once again, I just have to mention—these pictures really are bad. But there's something kinda cool about them, like my baptism into the Russian Orthodox Church was an Andy Milligan movie. I don't remember who this priest was, but he may as well be Guru the Mad Monk.

Russian Orthodox Baptism at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco in 1976

I can hear you right now: "You spoiled little child! Who cares that they used an inexpensive, semi-disposable Kodak 110 nightmare camera to commemorate your unholy baptism and make it look like lost stills from a horror film? You should be grateful that someone cared! Nobody took pictures of my baptism! They drunkenly sketched it with charcoal, then buried the drawings in the backyard to be dug up by raccoons and pissed on!"

Russian Orthodox Baptism at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco in 1976

In that case, I guess I should be a little more thankful. It is Thanksgiving season after all. What would the Great Pumpkin say?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trick or Treat: Halloween in Piedmont in the 1980's

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I love horror movies, and I love barging up to strangers' houses and demanding things. So put the two together, and you've got the best day of the year. Speaking of, check out these eerie-sistable 35 year-old snapshots commemorating All Hallow's Eve. They were taken in Piedmont, California between 1979 and 1982.

Me (as the Pink Panther) on Halloween at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in 1979

These pictures were taken in 1979. That's me in the Pink Panther costume. That little board game with marbles next to the stuffed dog has me curious. Can anyone identify it? I remember playing it, and I remember liking it—but I have no idea what it was. I already tried Googling "board game with marbles from the 1980's" to no avail. *** UPDATE *** Reader MH has identified the game as Trouble.

Rory Sarsfield (as a devil) and me at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in 1979

Not sure who the devil is. I think it may have been my late cousin, Rory Sarsfield. Strangely enough, these photos terrified me as a child. I was already watching movies like Halloween and Dressed to Kill on cable (and loving them)—but then show me a snapshot of myself dressed like the Pink Panther, and I'm hiding under a couch.

Jessica Butz (as a cheerleader) and a mystery ape at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in the early 1980s.

This was my babysitter, Jessica Butz, dressed as a cheerleader. I'm not sure who the monkey is. I feel like it could've been me, but seriously.... Socks with sandals? I hope it wasn't me.

Me (as a green-faced monster) at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in the early 1980's.

I remember being very proud at having picked out this "costume" myself—a sweatsuit and a rubber monster mask. I had all year to plan a dynamic outfit to knock everyone off their feet, and at the last minute, I just threw on play clothes and a cheap Payless Halloween mask, and called it a day. That's pretty much a metaphor for my entire life.

The annual Halloween Parade outside PIedmont Avenue School in the early 1980's. Jean Gamboa as the witch.

This was the annual "Halloween Parade" outside Piedmont Avenue School. We all dressed up, and then took to the streets to terrify everyone within a two-block radius. The witch was my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Jean Gamboa. It was a more innocent era, when billboard alcohol advertisements weren't frowned upon.

The annual Halloween Parade outside PIedmont Avenue School in the early 1980's.

Here are some random kids who aren't me.

The annual Halloween Parade outside PIedmont Avenue School in the early 1980's.

There I am! I distinctly recall feeling like a bad-ass, bouncing down the street in my track suit.

The annual Halloween Parade outside PIedmont Avenue School in the early 1980's.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kharitiniya, We Hardly Knew Ye: Harbin in 1936

To honor Business Women's Day, I thought I'd post this 80 year-old snapshot of my Great-Great-Grandmother Kharitiniya Afanasyevna Kozyreva (Козырева Харитиния Афанасьевна). It was taken in 1936 when she was 74 years old.

Козырева Харитиния Афанасьевна, 1936, Harbin, China

Not much is known about Kharitiniya, but I do know she was something of a business woman. And she had a fondness for head scarves.

She was born in 1862 in Staro-Konstantinov, Ukraine. At the age of 14, she married Ukrainian merchant Yakov Grigoryevich Kozyrev, and—at some point in the late 1880's—they migrated to Ust-Karsk, Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia (Усть-карск Забайкальск) to run a department store. They had five children that I know of—Stepanida Yakovlevna Kozyreva (b. 1877—d. 1958), Ivan Yakovlevich Kozyrev ("Vanya," b. 1880), Mikhail Yakovlevich Kozyrev ("Misha," b. 1882—d. 1918), Aleksandra Yakovlevna Kozyreva ("Shura," b. 20 March 1905), and Zinaida Yakovlevna Kozyreva ("Zina," b. 30 Sept 1900).

BREM file for Kharitiniya Afanasyevna Kozyreva.

According to family legend, Misha was killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Yakov may have been as well. The now-widowed Kharitiniya fled to the Russian community in Harbin with her surviving children, in-laws, and grandchildren—including her also recently widowed daughter Stepanida Mitrofanenko née Kozyreva and her daughter, Natalia Feodosievna Mitrofanenko. You can read more about them here and here.

Obituary for Kharitina Afanasyevna Kozyreva, Jan 11 1941, Harbin, China.

"The grief-stricken son, daughter-in-law, grandsons, and granddaughters notify friends and acquaintances of the death of their beloved mother and grandmother Kharitina Afanasyevna Kozyreva. The body will be carried from the home at No 23, 7th Street, Zelenyy Bazar (Green Bazaar), to the Uspenskaya Cemetery Church (Church of the Assumption) today at 12:00 noon. The funeral service will be held at the Uspenskaya Church at 2:00 p.m."
Khartiniya (or "Kharitina") passed away sometime around January 11, 1941 at the age of 78 or 79. I don't know the cause, but I theorize old age may have had something to do with it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Afternoon Delight: a 1970's Baby Shower

If one thing drives blog traffic, it's baby showers. Baby showers and cats. And apparently some broads named Lisa and Lena. We get a hundred hits a day from folks Googling Lisa and Lena. Who the hell are they?

Anyway, in late celebration of Labor Day, here's a cool little collection of 1970's baby shower pics. These snapshots were taken in the Spring of 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue in Daly City, California. People ask why I'm so specific about locations. It's because—okay, if I Googled my address, and found a bunch of old snapshots taken in my house with, like, old Russian ladies, or foxy 70's chicks hanging out on Harvest Gold couches, I'd totally be psyched.

1970's baby shower cake

This is Lena, the youngest of the Seoul Sisters. She was expecting a little bundle of joy in what appears to be three-to-four months. I feel like it'd suck to be pregnant in the 1970's; no sonograms, no epidurals. And then after you have the baby, there are no baby monitors—so you'd actually have to stay close and listen for your own baby. What a hassle.

Elena Vasilev's baby shower in 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue, Daly City, CA

Here's an authentic baby shower cake from 1976. That means, the baby just celebrated his 40th birthday. You know who else had a birthday around the same time?

Elena Vasilev's baby shower in 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue, Daly City, CA

That's right; the evil monster babies from It Lives Again (1978). I'm not saying there's a connection, I'm just saying it's interesting.

Elena Vasilev's baby shower in 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue, Daly City, CA

Women love small things. I forget who, but some comedian used to joke about women going nuts over miniatures, and baby booties, and crap like that. They say it's instinctive, like using a Crockpot, or knowing how to stretch your husband's hard-earned dollars at the grocery store.

Elena Vasilev's baby shower in 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue, Daly City, CA

Far-left is a bored time traveller from 2016, obviously checking Snapchat. The others—being authentic citizens of the 1970's—are paying attention. And smoking. And drinking. Old Timers lament about when we stopped talking and started texting, but what I wanna know is: When did we replace smoking and drinking with texting? That's the real tragedy, there.

Elena Vasilev's baby shower in 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue, Daly City, CA

If you ate this picture, it'd taste like Shalimar, Woolite, and Virginia Slims.

Elena Vasilev's baby shower in 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue, Daly City, CA

That's my late cousin, Rory Sarsfield (b. 1965 - d. 2000), stage left, brandishing a stuffed bear. Does anyone remember the episode of Charlie's Angels with, like, a bomb hidden in a Teddy bear? Or was that CHIPs?

Elena Vasilev's baby shower in 1976 at 5 Coronado Avenue, Daly City, CA

And this is the last picture in the collection. Maybe because the party ended soon thereafter—but most likely because the Teddy bear blew up, and this roll was found among the wreckage.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Moora, the Merrier: a Tribute to Mary Sheveloff

In early celebration of Cousin's Day, I'd like to pay homage to my Great-Aunt Moora. Technically not a cousin, but close enough. Plus, I don't think anyone's paid homage to Moora before. I'm trailblazin' here.

Mary Sheveloff aka Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilev aka Moora chillin' on da couch at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California
Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilyeva aka Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (left)
Christmas 1979
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California

Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilyeva (Валькова мария Александровна), aka Moora, was born on January 23, 1913, in Harbin, China. Her parents were Alexander Vasilyev, a Comptroller for the Chinese Eastern Railway, and his wife Vera Vasilyeva née Doroshenko. You can read more about them here. According to Moora, her mother was a direct descendants of Petro Doroshenko.

Konstantin Vassilieff and Mariya Vassilieff in Harbin in 1913

This is Moora (right) seated alongside her brother, Konstantin Alexandrovich Vasilyev in Harbin in 1913. Not pictured is their sister, my other Great-Aunt, Elena Aleksandrovna Vasilyeva (Валькова Елена Александровна). Elena later hit it big in Harbin when she published a popular Russian children's magazine called Lastochka. We'll get into her more at a later date.

Oleg Voldemar Shevelev aka Oleg Sheveloff aka Олега Шевелева, Baby Russ (Беби Рус), a Russian light-heavyweight boxing champion.
Oleg Voldemar Sheveloff
(b. March 02, 1908 — d. June 13, 1991)
Shanghai, China

On September 15, 1935, Moora married Oleg Voldemar Shevelev (Шевелев Олега Вольдемар)—also known as Baby Russ (Беби Рус)—a Russian light-heavyweight boxing champion from Shanghai, China. Oleg was born on March 02, 1908 in Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai (Primorye), Russia. According to his memoirs—published 20 years after his death—his family stayed in Russia until 1924.

Mikhail Grigoryevich Shevelev aka Михаил Григорьевич Шевелёв
Mikhail Grigoryevich Shevelev

Oleg was the grandson of noted industrialist, activist, and shipping tycoon Mikhail Grigoryevich Shevelev (Шевелев Михаил Григорьевич). Señor Shevelev was born on August 25 1844 in Verkhneudinsk (Верхнеудинске)—now Ulan-Ude (Улан-Удэ), Buryatia, Russia. He went on to start the first Russian shipping company—Shevelev and Co. (Шевелев и Ко)—in the Russian Far East, and you can read his gripping rags-to-riches-to-rags tale here (more boat crashes than a day-long Titanic marathon). They even named a street named after him in Vladevostok, but of course it's some random dirt road with a bunch of crappy houses on it.

Vladimir Shevelev, Alexandra Sheveleva, and Margarita Sheveleva in 1890 in Vladivostok, Russia
Vladimir, his mother Alexandra, and sister Margarita Sheveleva
Vladivostok, Russia

Mikhail married Alexandra Dmitrievna Sinitsyna—the grand-daughter of Kyakhtinsky merchant Povich Sabashnikova (Сабашниковы)—and the couple had three children; Vladimir (1879-1941), Margarita (1884-1936), and Angelina (1893-1980). Vladimir was Oleg's father. Oleg is the guy who married Moora. Sorry, I got off-track. But on January 22, 1922, Angelina married Feodor I. Kichigan (b. September 17, 1896 in Ural, Russia) in Vladevostok. I'm not sure when he died, but Angelina was a widow when she moved to the United States.

I'm interested by the fact that Angelina (not pictured) lived until 1980. I wonder what the Aunt of the Husband of my Great-Aunt (my Great-Great Aunt in-Law?) was doing up through the 1970's.

Angelina Kichigan Sheveloff Shevelev Death Certificate from 1980

Anyway, back to Moora. She and Oleg had one son; Sviatoslav Olegovich Shevelev aka "Svetic" aka Steve Oleg Sheveloff (b. 1936). They lived in Shanghai, and then in the Russian settlement in the Philippines, before eventually settling in San Francisco in the early 1950's. The happy couple split shortly thereafter.

Ship manifesto from 1951 featuring Maria Alexandrovna Vasilyeva aka Mary Sheveloff, her husband Oleg Sheveloff, and their son Sviatoslav aka Steve Sheveloff
Steve Oleg Sheveloff and Mary Sheveloff aka Moora in the mid 1950's in San Francisco, California
Steve Oleg Sheveloff (far left) and Moora (second from left)
Mid 1950's
San Francisco, California

When the Shevelev family immigrated to the United States, their last name was changed to Sheveloff. And Moora's name was changed to Mary. So she was known legally, I guess, as Mary Sheveloff, but we always called her Moora. And she had a thing for marshmallows.

Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilyev aka Mary Sheveloff petition for naturalization
Mary Sheveloff's Naturalization record from 1957. Her address is listed as 425 2nd Avenue, San Francisco, California
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora alongside Lana K. Thomson and Lena Vasilev in 1979 at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (left), Lana K. Thomson, and Lena Vasilev
July 1979
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California
Fox Photo stamp from July 1979

At some point in my early childhood, Moora decided I loved marshmallows. I didn't not love marshmallows, but they weren't my favorite thing. I was probably more into Bubblicious and
Nestlé Crunch. But—God bless her—whenever I met up with Moora at a Christmas, Easter, or a Namesday Celebration, she presented me a big ol' bag of multi-colored marshmallows. When I was a kid, I always thought Russians lived in the 1800's. Here I was, lusting after McDonald's Happy Meals, and obsessing over Garfield the Cat and Fraggle Rock—and my Russian relatives were always trying to get me excited about, you know, marshmallows, and anthropomorphic rabbits and foxes in lace dresses.

Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (far left) alongside sister-in-law Natalie Vasilev nee Mitrofanenko, and Little Boy Kearney
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (far left), Natalie Vasilev, and Lil Kearney
August 1980
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California

Here I am (far right) at my 4th Birthday Celebration, and that's Moora, blurry behind her sister-in-law Natalie Vasilev. She'd probably just given me a smashed bag of marshmallows—and that face I'm making indicates I would've been happier with a tin of Strawberry Nesquik and an MCA betamax tape of Jaws 2.

Mary Sheveloff aka Moora in June 1979 at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora
June 1979
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California

Moora finished her life at the age of 93 on March 25, 2006 in Green Valley, Arizona, surrounded by her son Steve and other loved ones. I miss her marshmallows, and I miss her affinity for antiquated picture books featuring porcupines and hedgehogs drinking tea.

Old Russians could be kinda cute sometimes.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Summer Place: Day Trips in the 1950's

Scrape the rust off that barbecue, stuff the Coleman with domestic canned beer, and fire up that bug zapper—it's the July 4th Weekend!

Tanya Sarsfield, Lena Vasilev, Lana Thomson, and Natalie Vasilev in Marin County in the 1950's.

Independence Day is an American tradition, so I thought I'd celebrate by showcasing this 60-ish year-old pile of snapshots featuring a bunch of Ukrainians hanging around Japan and the rural Bay Area in the 1950's. They may not have been celebrating July 4th, but they're in the woods, and drinking soda. So it works.

Tanya Sarsfield, Lena and Natalie Vasilev, and Natalie's boss, "Mr Grey," in Japan in the early 1950's.
Tanya Sarsfield, Natalie Vasilev, Lena Vasilev, and "Mr. Grey" in Kamakura, Japan in the early 1950's.
Natalie Vasilev and her friends and family in Kamakura, Japan in the 1950's
Ann Schwartz, Natalie Vasilev, Lena Vasilev, and Tanya Sarsfield in Japan in the early 1950's.

The preceding pics were taken in Kamakura, Japan sometime between 1950 and 1953. They feature Natalie Vasilev and the Seoul Sisters—as well as Natalie's boss, "Mr. Grey," a Russian from Australia, and some others—hanging out at Kōtoku-in.

Lena Vasilev and Tanya Sarsfield in rural Marin County in the mid-1950's.
Stephany Mitrofanenko, some guy, Lena Vasilev, and Tanya Sarsfield in California in the mid-1950's.
Tanya Sarsfield and Lena Vasilev in Marin County in the mid-1950's.

These final photos were taken somewhere in Marin County in the mid-1950's.

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Me and My Honey! Faded Memories of Piedmont in 1980

It's National Pink Day. And so I thought, what better way to celebrate than to showcase this random pair of glossy, faded-pink 5x7's.

Marie Rhea Thomson on the deck at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in 1980

They were taken in 1980, at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California. I'm the little boy-child. But funny enough, I have absolutely no idea who took them. I feel like it may have been my Uncle David "Scotty" Thomson.

Me and my Honey — 1980

Awww! I'm pictured with my cousin, Marie Thomson aka Rhea Thomson of Pacifica, California.

Marie Rhea Thomson on the deck at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California in 1980

These are two of maybe half-dozen or so 5x7's in the whole collection, and the only red-hued ones. As far as I know, they've always been pink. What made some 35mm prints turn out this way? Small aperture and a low-speed film?

Which Twin Has the Toni?

"Which twin does not have the Toni?" I think this is in reference to an old ad campaign for the Toni Home Permanent.

Toni Home Permanent

The "Which Twin has the Toni?" slogan jumped the shark in the early 1950's. Probably when CBS presented a live variety show called "Toni Twin Time" hosted by a then-unknown Jack Lemmon. To put a reference on the back of a photo dated 1980—it'd be like hash-tagging an Instagram #WheresTheBeef. Whoever scribbled this caption was old. Like, at least 40.

Which Twin has the Toni?

Happy National Pink Day!