Thursday, March 28, 2013


       My maternal grandparents (Leonard and Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak) lived in Van Nuys from 1931 to 1967 (my grandfather's death) and then my grandmother continued to live in Van Nuys until the early 1990's. They moved into this house on Cedros Avenue in 1944.  They were the first owners.  I have many fond childhood memories of visiting my Grandparents in this house. A very special treat was sleeping over at their house.

         The house is located on Cedros Avenue just a few houses north of Vanowen.  I remember that the Pacific Bell Telephone Company was located across the street at the corner of Cedros and Vanowen.  If you continued south on Cedros, Saint Elizabeth's Catholic Church was located at the next large intersection of Cedros and Kittridge.  South of that on Cedros was Van Nuys High School.

        Just for fun yesterday, I looked up their address on Google Maps.  The house doesn't look that much different than when they lived there.  It is the same color of yellow, but it does have a ramp up to the front door now.  It also has a lot more plants and trees when they lived there.  Little Grannie was a stickler for neatness and didn't like things looking messy.  Our joke used to be that if she saw a leaf fall, she would immediately go outside and rake it up.

        The above photo is of my Dad on his wedding day.   Mom and Dad got married at Saint Elizabeth's, which was just down the street.  Mom had attended elementary school at the parish elementary school and then attended high school at Van Nuys High School.

Monday, March 25, 2013


       The farthest back I can trace  my "Stachowiak" side is Valentine Stachowiak and Josephine Kowalczyk Stachowiak (my 2nd great grandparents).  Valentine "Walenty" Stachowiak was born on 3 Feb 1833 in Posen, Poland.  He married Josephine Kowalczyk (Kowalski) in 1853 in Grodziszczko, Poland.  According to the Poznan Marriage Project ( a great source of information), Valentine was 24 years old and Josephine (born on 8 Mar 1835) was 17 at the time of their marriage.

     Valentine and Josephine had 9 children -- Mary Ann (born in 1853), Petronella (born in 1856), Lawrence (born in 1861), Albert (born in 1865), Agnes (born in 1868), Joseph (born in 1870), Charles (my great grandfather who was born in 1871), Casimir (born in 1876) and Stanislaus (born in 1879).  Valentine, Josephine and at least 7 of their children immigrated to the US in 1880.  Their two oldest daughters -- Mary Ann and Petronella -- were already married and they immigrated in 1879 and 1880, respectively.  I haven't found the immigration papers on any of them yet.

       In 1882, Valentine and his family were living in Milwaukee.  According to the city directory, it lists Valentine's occupation as "lab".  I am not quite sure what that means.  In 1885, his occupation is listed as "carpenter".  Valentine died on 11 April 1904 in Milwaukee.  So, if you go by the age from Poznan Marriage Project, he was 75 when he died but if you go with the birth date (according to he was 71 years old.  Either way, Valentine had a very long life.  His wife Josephine died 10 Nov 1914 at the age of 79 and lived an even longer life.  Both Valentine and Josephine are buried in St. Adalbert's Cemetery in Milwaukee.

Friday, March 22, 2013


       Did you hear the story about the judge who fined himself and gave himself a lecture about doing wrong?  Well, I have been reading old issues (from 1933) of the Van Nuys News these past few days and ran across this funny story.  According to the story, the Judge wasn't paying attention and didn't stop at a stop sign.  He was stopped by the police and given a ticket.  Since, I guess, the judge would be the one to determine the fine on such a traffic violation, he fined himself $2 (probably the going rate at the time) and then an additional $1 (because he as a judge should be a better example). On top of that, he "gave himself a lecture and warned himself never to do that again".  One of his friends verified that indeed he did give himself a lecture and it was a good one.  It was said that by paying his fine, he balanced the books but threw the lecture in "for good measure".

        I am enjoying reading these 1933 issues of the Van Nuys News (courtesy of The Van News (and at some points called The Valley News) was the local paper for Van Nuys and the surrounding San Fernando Valley. I remember as a kid reading this paper but it as been a lot of fun reading about life in 1933, the year my mother was born in Van Nuys.

I want to share a few more tidbits from the 1933 Van Nuys News --

1. They weren't big on patient confidentiality -- names were given of the patients in Valley Hospital (not only those giving birth, but those for medical reasons and those having major surgery).  Wonder what the patients thought about this?

2. When people died, the words "summoned", "called" or "answers summons" were used instead of "died" or "death".

3. It was in 1933, that sales tax was introduced in California.  Sales tax was  2 1/2% and part of the economic recovery after the Depression.

4. Reading an article about a new method of vaccinating against chicken pox, I almost fell out of my chair when I read that it was for use on "chickens" not humans"!

Friday, March 15, 2013


         This is the funeral card for my Grandpa Leonard Stachowiak. He was married to Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski).  Today I am honoring both of my Grandpas by posting their funeral cards on my blogs.  Grandpa Charlie Sherlock's card is posted on my HomeoftheSherlocks blog.

          I remember the death of my Grandpa Leonard.  He died on the 1st hole of the golf course at Griffith Park.  He loved golfing and did so on July 31st after working all day.  Leonard had a massive heart attack and even though there was a doctor in attendance, he couldn't be saved.  I am sure that his emphysema contributed in some large way to his demise.  Through all the sadness, though, what has always made me happy is knowing that he died doing the thing he loved.  We should all be as lucky!!

Monday, March 11, 2013


            In one of my latter posts, I was discussing the birth and "miraculous" survival through infancy of Lillian Braciszewski (better known as Little Grannie).  After Little Grannie's birth, her sister Cecilia was born in 1906.   So by now, John and Josephine (Gruszka) Braciszewski are probably thinking that the worst is behind them -- they immigrated to the US with three little boys, had another son after arriving in the US, and then the tragedy of their daughter Helena's death at 5 months old followed by the premature birth of Leokadia less than 3 months later.

         Well tragedy would continue to follow them.  Josephine gave birth to a son John on 5 April 1907 but he died  two months later in June.  Then baby Boleslaus was born on 15 Feb 1908, only to die 5 months later on 27 Jul 1908.  The final baby, another son named John was born on 4 Jan 1910 but he died the same day he was born. How absolutely horrible for both Josephine and John!  By 1910, Lillian is 6 years old and is aware of what is going on.   But of course, that wasn't the last tragedy to hit Little Grannie in her childhood.

        On 14 Dec 1914, her father John Braciszewski would die at the age of 49.  Lillian had just turned 11 years old. She would drop out of school after 8th grade to work in a candy factory to help support her family.  Tragedy would strike Lillian more times in her lifetime (a topic for another post) but she always dealt with it and stayed strong.  Little Grannie, you were an amazing woman!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


                               Virginia Houk and Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak

Monday, March 4, 2013


     It is very exciting to find a photo and a story about your grandparents in an old newspaper, especially when it is a story you haven't heard before. Imagine my happiness when I located this photo and story of my grandparents Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak (yes, that famous Little Grannie) and Leonard Stachowiak in the Van Nuys News in a December 1949 issue. It is not hard to pick out Little Grannie in the photo.  She is the tiny woman holding the baby and Grandpa Leonard is the man to the left.

     What was the story about you ask?  Well, Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church parish in Van Nuys, California built a new church in 1949.  The parish was established in 1920 and Lillian and Leonard had been parishioners at St. Elizabeth's for over 16 years.  My  mother was baptized in the old church. and two years later (after this story) my parents would be married in this new church.
     On the occasion of this story, Saint Elizabeth's was holding its first Baptism at the new church, which is a cause for celebration.  According to the story, "First baby to be baptized in the handsome new structure now housing St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church was John William Smiley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smiley.  ... Rev. Patrick Francis O'Dwyer [the priest that married my parents] and Rev. Earl Walker officiated at the 11:30 o'clock ceremony.  [Okay, I have never heard the half hour called "o'clock"!]

     "Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Stachowiak served as godparents and later attended a family party at the Smiley home which celebrated both the christening and the 59th birthday of the infant's maternal grandmother Mrs. Mary Bauer".

     Well, I have never heard of the Smileys but obviously they considered my grandparents good role models and entrusted them with the special role of godparents.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


           Little Grannie's (Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak) siblings included from left to right -- Francis, then her father John, Lillian (love the hair and her dress), big brother Stanley, little sister (only in age) Cecilia, mother Josephine Gruszka, Edward and Michael.

          While the photo shows a happy family  (okay, relatively happy), much heartbreak was in store for them. That will the topic of my next post.

Friday, March 1, 2013


         I remember the stories that Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski) would tell us grand kids -- that she weighed only 3 pounds at birth ... that she was born in 1903 (Nov. 3rd) but her parents (John and Josephine Braciszewski) didn't register her birth until 1905  ... and that she had 4 older brothers (Stanley, Michael, Edward and Francis) and a younger sister Cecilia (who I had met several times when she would come to visit from Milwaukee).

        When I started researching Lillian and her parents, I found some puzzling news.  I thought either there was a mistake or Little Grannie had been wrong about her birth date.  Who tells people that they are older than they are except for kids wanting to drink before their 21st birthday?

        I found a birth record that showed a daughter Helena was born to John and Josephine Braciszewski on 6 Mar 1903 in Milwaukee.  Is this really Lillian's birth record since her middle name was Helena? I could swear that we always celebrated her birthday on Nov 3rd.  Then I found a death record for Helena, dated 21 Aug 1903.  Okay, this is definitely not Lillian's birth record but how did her mother give birth to 2 babies in the same year, not born on the same day or month?  Then I got to thinking, if Josephine had gotten pregnant a month after giving birth to Helena, she could have given birth to Lillian 7 months later.  That would explain the low birth rate of 3 pounds.  It would also explain why Lillian's parents waited for 2 years to register the birth.  After all, they just had a full term baby die at 8 months, what could they possibly hope for with a tiny premature baby back in 1903?   I think they would be very surprised to know that the tiny Little Grannie lived a long life, dying at age 94.