Long Ago and Far Away: Written by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin, recorded by Jo Stafford


Recently, my friend Richie Raskin posted a photo–third below–of his mother and father “nightclubbing” in New York City during WWII. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years enjoying the photos I have of my mother, father and my family that were taken during the war and shortly thereafter. The photos, the music and the stories evoke in me warm feelings of many whom have passéd on. Here are some “1940s’ photos of friends’ parents and grandparents, including some thoughts. (To see a full sized version of the photo, click on the photo. When it opens click again.)


photo“This photo of my maternal grandparents, Peter and Helen Gallagher, was taken in NYC, but I’m not sure where.  I think some of Gallagher Brothers’ tugs and barges were used in the local war effort. My mother told me they were lean years and my grandfather would travel to DC to sign contracts. I think he was an officer in the National Guard. He never went anywhere. I think he just rode a horse in parades. My mother remembered when the fleet returned to NYC harbor there was a huge celebration and she got to ride a Gallagher tug with my grandfather and meet the fleet as the ships came in. She remembers the fire tugs spraying water in the air. She was thirteen.”  Jim Rodgers


1371240_10200824904532657_165916526_n“These are my parents Beatrice (Psaki) and Thomas MacDonald on a date in a photo taken at New “51” Club in 1943. My mom was attending Misericordia Nursing School in the Bronx at the time. My father was an operating engineer so he’d come and go depending where his work would take him. He was in the SeaBees in the Navy during WWII. My mother grew up in Forest Hills, NY and my father was from Brockton, MA. They met at the 1939 World’s Fair.  My mom lived within walking distance to the fairgrounds and my father was working there. Mom was 17 and dad was 21. That was the start of their romance that spanned from 1939 through nursing school, my father working in Scotland and Cuba, and in the US Navy during World War II. They married in 1945.”

 Maureen MacDonald



“I dont have much information on the nightclub photo as I just came across it a few days ago. It was taken before my parents (the couple on the right) were married, probably in 1941 or 1942. My mom looks very young and she is not wearing a ring. She and my dad married in 1943 on November 6th. I know they visited the Copacabana as we had ash trays with the Copa logo on them. Could be the Copa, but I’m not certain. Dad was a trumpet player and he traveled through Europe entertaining the troops. He even appeared with Bob Hope.  My dad would sometimes have his “army buddies” come over to our Glen Oaks’ apartment; I remember the lifelong camaraderie that existed between them. I think I’ll frame this photo. It’s so vibrant and alive.” Richie Raskin 

IMG-18“My father, US Marine Staff Sargent Warren L. Keer, returned from WWII to NYC in 1946.  He found work as a union painter and was contracted to paint my mother’s Yorktown apartment.  They married 32 days later in the Little Church Around the Corner on October 26, 1946.  Though I was never able to confirm this with my mother, I believe this photo is their wedding “reception”, celebrated by just the two of them that evening in an Upper East Side bar.”   Karen Keer 


Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 8.39.11 PM“I just went to my mom’s and we dug up this picture of her father, Harold (2nd from left) and her mother, Madeleine, (2nd from right). The picture has no date, but my mom was born in ’37 and she believes that this was taken in the 40’s. My grandmother, Madeleine Lowrie – Mimi to me, Maddie to her friends – was an interesting woman. I’m sure her husband chose her because she was fun, social, and quite intriguing. She was born in England in 1907, moved to Canada around 1913 and then to NYC where she started school at Parson’s School of Design. She was 17. She met my grandfather Harold Kelley there, where he was working as a stock broker on Wall Street. I always knew her as an artist. I remember watching her sketch and thinking, “I’d like to try that.” So, I did, much to her delight. Everything she touched was made elegant and special. She was probably my most influential mentor.” Betsy Cross


Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 8.28.22 PM“My mom, Evelyn Gunn, is the second from the left.  The gentleman to her left, Bill, is not my Dad; she wasn’t married then. She would always tell us stories about going into Manhattan to meet the soldiers. The other woman, Marge, with a man named Joe, was a very good friend of my mom. I love seeing the pictures from the ‘40’s. It gives me a good insight as to who she was as a young woman.  My mom was very glamourous and took care as to how she looked.  Even when she was dying she put her “face on” as she called it, putting on make-up until she no longer could.” Denise Gunn


photo-1“This photo was taken in NYC at Tony Pastor’s.  The couple on the left were Gloria and Bernie Bronheim before they were married. She was Gloria Kamenkowitz at the time. Bernie passed away when he was quite young. That’s my father Jack Goldstein and my mother Renee Brenner on the right, on their first date.  My mother remembers there was a piano with live music. And she remembers that they could smoke in the clubs. Even cigars and pipes.  I remember my dad said they would drive to the club and before he passed he told me that this was “the club. Eventually my parents eloped in Reno, Nevada. They then combined business and pleasure and left for a meeting in California, traveling across the country by train in a “sleeper” car.” Diana Laatu 


memories are made of this 11“My mother, Dorothy Gorman, (far left) and my father, Charles R. Hale, loved nightclubs. Any place with a piano. I have no doubt that Mom knew the words to every song written in the thirties, forties and fifties. I think this picture was taken in 1946–Mom would have been seventeen–after my father returned from the South Pacific where he was a pharmacist’s mate aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Antietam. The couple on the right are my mother’s sister Florence Gorman and my father’s cousin Jim Steproe. Within two years each couple married.” Charles R. Hale Jr.


 A number of those in attendance at last night’s “AWoW Rocks the Living Room” event asked me to reprint Martha Pinson’s beautiful and evocative story of her grandmother.  The story is put to the music of “Ashokan Farewell,” another beautiful and evocative work, which was written by Jay Ungar for the Ken Burns Civil War documentary film. You can listen to Ashokan while you read by going to the bottom of the page and clicking on the youtube link.






Someone who loved order must have spared the twin maples twenty paces in front of the old, clapboard farmhouse.  They lent a symmetry otherwise lacking and graciously shaded the lawn.  The bank dropped sharply to a dirt road and a swampy pasture where weeping willows concealed the Dead River but not the fields rising beyond.  All this, common birds and butterflies, a rusty cultivator, and whatever else was carelessly left, formed my Grandma’s view from the long, weathered porch where she worked on summer days.  “How can a river be dead?”  I wondered. 


img_1356It was all tangles of green and, like they say in wordy books, “dazzling sunny patches interwoven with deep shades.”  The atmosphere was languid, though alive with peepers.  High winds and high tensions passed over the tops of surrounding hills. 


She sat rather still, did Ellen Marie Kilaren Deeny. (Right, age 16)  Tired, I guess, with 77 years behind her by 1951.  A hungry child in Dublin, at thirteen she’d crossed the Atlantic where she said, “many brave hearts are asleep in the deep.”  Here in New Jersey, she became a dairy farmer’s wife.  I later learned of 13 pregnancies in 20 years, two miscarriages, three dead in their first year, seven raised, one dead at 37 from a heart infection.  Now, her oldest daughter, also Ellen Marie, my mother, (Below with author) who moved back home after college to help her parents, was ill and (no one dared to think) dying from the same disease. 


mommy-and-marty-2-2Grandpa was dead.  The only person he could stand was my father, and vice versa.  Daddy was good with him, gave him a shave every morning.  His father had died some 20 years prior and I guess he thought a crazy old man was better than none.  Old Hughie wasn’t suited to his fate.  A skilled cabinetmaker, he remembered dancers and teachers among the Deeny’s in Donegal.  He was a pretty good farmer anyway, but not good enough against the Farm Depression of the late 20’s and 30’s.  Nevertheless, he sent his brilliant children to college, Radcliffe and such.


But somehow, Grandma Deeny accepted all things in life.  She loved her children, did what she could, and left the rest to Providence.  Daddy said she was the only good Catholic he knew (he loved to exaggerate) and drove her to Mass every Sunday.  I watched her, comfortably stooped in a straight chair, wearing an old cotton dress, shelling peas.  The soft wind just lifted her wisps of hair.  She split the pods, gave me that melancholy smile, and said nothing.  I said nothing, too.  A child respects a reverie sometimes, I’ve discovered.



farm-in-winter-4Swiped peas are the sweetest, warm as the day as they rolled off her thumb and dropped in the kettle ather feet.  I don’t think she minded, though they were to be cooked for supper and many people were entitled.  They were mine after all.  My mother and father had planted and picked them and so on, and on and on spun my simple universe.


What was she thinking?  Did I remind her of herself as a girl of three and make her long for her most green home?  Did she wonder where the hungry tow-headed elf with her eyes would find her strength in adversity?  Was she recalling her life in the light of the Immortality of the Soul and the Forgiveness of Sins?  I don’t know.  She was lost to me in the secret ecstasy of woman’s work so rhythmic and expert the mind is free to exult or pine, the eye to be caught by a butterfly.  And she stays with me that way.


Still I strain to hear her voice, to find her words.  “I’m sorry, Miss, it’s impossible.  No records were kept.”  


“But I want to know and there’s nowhere else to look.” 


“Well, that’s not very good, is it?” says the complacent bureaucrat with finality.  Furious, I walk away, but soon silently singing of Ellen Marie. 


–Martha Pinson, summer 1982, edited 2011


New York City


Click here for more about the very talented Martha Pinson.