Tag Archives: Christmas

Marcia Did Not Teach Burlesque in Italy

Cristoforo Colombo took Marcia, Steve, and Dawn to Italy, 1970.

Cristoforo Colombo took Marcia, Steve, and Dawn to Italy, 1970.

We did go to Italy.

I didn’t learn Italian ahead of time.

In fact we went separately. Steve flew there. He flew ahead to find a place for us to live and some work for me to do because I was going to be “putting hubby through,” so to speak. I had a trunk full of our household goods and at that time it was cheaper to go across on an ocean liner and take your trunk than it was to fly. So he flew and I came later.

I learned a little Italian on the ship. I was on the Italian lines. I met up with him in Italy there and then I took some Italian lessons when I was there. Basically we learned Italian from just living in the culture.

I remember. . . .

[Heidi]: The ship came into Venice.


[Steve]: No, that was the second ship.

No, that was the second time we went back. The first time it came into . . . um.

[Steve]: No, uh, the other side of the peninsula.

[Heidi]: Florence?

[Steve]: Florence, no, um.

[Heidi]: I mean, um, Genoa.

[Steve]: Genoa.

Genoa! We came into Genoa.

[Heidi]: And then you trained across.

[Steve]: Yeah.

[Heidi]: To Padova.

Yeah. We did a lot of train travel in Padova.

[Eric]: While he was in medical school, you were working?

So then he found me a job in a Berlitz school, teaching English. So I taught English in a Berlitz school.

[Bruce]: Burlesque?

[Steve]: Burlesque?



[Heidi]: Mom did burlesque to bring in the money.

And I learned a lot of, you know, I learned a lot of Italian teaching English, just because of the way the Italians would speak English. It helped me to learn how things were said.

[Heidi]: Twenty-six years later, I moved to Italy and lived in Venice and taught English in a Berlitz school and learned some of my Italian.

[Virginia]: Are you serious? Oh, Heidi, that’s awesome.

So after three years in Italy, he took an externship at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton. Came back for a period of six months. I came ahead. I was six months pregnant with Dawn. I came ahead and Dawn was born in the States at that hospital, Saint Elizabeth’s. He was not—were you here for the birth? You were back by the birth time. OK.

Then we went back to Italy and the second time we went back together in a ship. That’s when we went to Venice. On our way there, we stopped in various ports. So we were in Malaga, Spain. We stopped and visited Pompeii and we were in Naples and visited Pompeii.

[Steve]: We stopped in Sicily.

We did. We stopped in Sicily. And then we went up the Adriatic and stopped in Greece.

[Steve]: In Greece. We went to Greece.

We stopped at Piraeus. And then we took a day trip to Athens. And then we went over to Venice.

That gave us a chance to see a lot of places in Europe and when Dawn was baby, we traveled—when we had vacation times, we had a little VW Bug and traveled to various places, to visit places in Italy.

[Heidi]: You went to see Aunt Betty and Uncle Harley.

And we went to Austria also because we had met a couple on a ship—he was Austrian and she was American. They invited us to go to Austria to visit them at Christmastime, so we did a few things like that.

[Kimberly?]: Aunt Betty and Uncle Harley.

[Steve]: That was up in Switzerland. We had gone also, among other things, we saw where The Sound of Music was designed in Salzburg.

[Victoria]: Yeah. In Austria.

They lived in Salzburg, so they took us around to all the sites in Salzburg.

We traveled to Switzerland several times and met up with Aunt Betty and Uncle Harley there and Sandy and Debby. They would get apartments for missionaries in various places in Switzerland where we would have vacation time. So we would drive through the fog out of Italy, because it was usually very foggy at Christmastime.

Then I can remember one time when we were driving up in the mountains in Switzerland. Steve was not feeling good. Did you ask me to drive? And I was like. . . .

[Dawn]: Dad was in the back seat.

Dad, he would look out the window and see that it was a drop-off like this and he just closed his eyes and hoped we didn’t drop off.

Anyway, so we had a lot of good memories from those years. We were there for six years. Came home in 1974.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with additions from Steve and Heidi (Steve’s daughter) and interjections from Virginia Gorman, Bruce Kindberg, and Eric Kindberg (Lee’s children), Dawn Harrell and Kimberly Duncan (Steve’s daughters), and Victoria (TJ Ramey, Kathryn’s son’s wife), transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Any other Smith and Steve Duncan family stories from those Christmastimes spent together that you’d like to tell?
  • Would someone please tell the flaming fondue table story?
  • Can someone relay the peanut butter story? Didn’t Harley and Betty come to Italy for that story? What was the context?
  • How about going to France to help build the camp one summer story?
  • Sandy? Debby? What do you remember of those intersecting times?
  • Why would Betty have stayed behind in France at Steve’s graduation? Children? Other duties? Finances?
  • Any other stories from the ocean liners? How about the diapers-in-the-hold story from the second crossing?

Grandma’s Congenial Family

It’s confusing to know where to begin—a life as long as mine, 88 years last June. It is difficult to imagine that I can go back so many years and review just what has transpired.

I will mention the fact that I was born in New York in the Bronx in 1899. I was on 146th Street and Saint Anns Avenue in the Bronx. We must have lived there for around five years because that seemed to be the number of years my folks lived in one place. Then we moved to various other apartments in the Bronx there.

Now my grandmother, my father’s mother, lived in Harlem—and mother and father lived in Harlem. They had six boys of which my father was the second oldest. The oldest boy was William, who died just a little bit after I was born. And there was the other five boys that all were close brothers and used to come visiting once in a while in our house or we would meet them at Grandmother’s house, who—grandmother and grandfather lived in Harlem. They must have lived there many, many years until my grandfather died.

E146th and St Anns looking northIt was a relatively congenial family. I never remember anything that every disturbed the contentment of any of the boys. There was one son Ralph that lived not too far from us in the Bronx. And then there was Morten, who was the youngest one. And my father was second oldest as I mentioned. He just, they all seemed very congenial.

E146th and St Anns looking westEvery Christmas and a good many of the other holidays during the year, we all assembled together and went to visit the old folks in Harlem. There was always singing going on as we’d go up the stairs, especially at Christmastime. My father would say, “Remember the first thing to say was ‘Happy Christmas. Merry Christmas to you all.’” And everybody answered. It just seemed as if that was the place to be.

E146th and St Anns looking southIt was a great interruption when Grandfather died and then Grandmother died very shortly after that.

[Barbara asks:] How old were you when they died?

I was about eleven years old, twelve years old. I just don’t recall.

E146th and St Anns looking eastI can remember the unfortunate thing was Grandmother came to visit us. My grandfather had died just a few months before. He died in December and she came to visit us in June. And she died. When they laid her out, they laid her out in the living room. And my bed was in the living room. Just a couch was where I slept. I can remember hearing those drips of water. They must have always put them on ice. And I just laugh at it when I think of it. How uncanny it was to hear the dripping of that water.

Well, we’ll just go to something else. 

[Barbara asks]: Now this was the White—was this the White side of the family?

White. Yeah. White.

partial transcription of Virginia’s life story as told to Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) in the summer of 1987, courtesy of Barbara Duncan

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Do you remember the month and/or year that Grandma was visiting the Chicago Duncans and told this story?
  • Do you remember her telling other parts of her childhood? (More will come . . . eventually . . . from the transcriptions.)
  • What do you remember about Grandma?
  • Do you have photos of her when she was a girl?