Selected Stories from
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration 2012/2013
— Stories dated 1904–1938 —

Surprised at the 1904 World’s Fair

St. Louis, Missouri, USA; 1904

In 2013 the Internet has become a dominant part of our lives. I can’t even imagine life without the Internet. The Internet was invented before I was born, but to my parents and grandparents, it’s still a very new toy.

Back in the early 1900s, all of your news was from newspapers, as even the TV had not yet been invented. People were isolated from everything that happened outside their home state. So imagine the wonders that the people of St. Louis experienced when the 1904 World’s Fair came to town. My great-great-aunt Mary and her cousin Nell were eleven and sixteen at that time.

“I can’t believe that my mom said yes!” Mary shouted.

“Yes, isn’t it grand that we’re going to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair? And just the two of us!” exclaimed Nell.

Two days later they were on their way to the fair with high hopes. When they arrived, they decided to travel down the Pike. The Pike was a mile-long walkway where you could eat anything and just have fun. Mary and Nell tasted their first-ever hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream cones, and iced teas. They also enjoyed something completely new called “cotton candy.” How could they ever convince their parents that cotton was now a candy! The girls strolled down the Pike, trying a little bit of everything — basically stuffing themselves and then eating even more. Along the Pike they also saw international stations, including an “Eskimo Camp” and the “Geisha Girls,” which thrilled them. By the time they got to the end of the Pike, Mary was feeling a bit queasy from eating too much.

Then they saw the Ferris wheel.

The girls hurried over and excitedly gave the carny 50 cents admission for two rotations. They climbed into a car with fifty-eight other people, the doors closed, and the Ferris wheel started its rotation. They sat together on fancy twisted-wire chairs, holding hands, anticipating the ride of their lives. In 1904 no one had been very far off the ground, because skyscrapers and airplanes had just been invented, so their ride up to 264 feet both thrilled and terrified both of them. At the top, they searched intently for their neighborhood and their houses in the skyline of St. Louis. Unfortunately, Mary’s stomach started churning because of all of the food she’d eaten on the Pike. The conductor on their car was very nice and offered her some water. The ride was really long, taking forty minutes for them to complete two rotations before they were let out of the car.

Mary shared this memory with my grandmother Catherine, who passed it to me. Neither Mary nor Nell is with us anymore, but they live on in our hearts through these loving stories.

Orion F. Jones; Pennsylvania, USA


No Child Left Behind

Bilozirka, Ukraine; 1919

The date was January 15, 1913, the day my great-grandmother was born: Rebecca (Ruth) Shochet. It was such a happy day for Mr. Label and Mrs. Mariam.

Years later, in Russia,* it wasn’t so restful. Ruth was with her family and her cousins. They were having their Sabbath day meal when all of a sudden an
ear-piercing gunshot interrupted their meal. They heard screams of terror coming from neighbors. Ruth and her family peered out of their snow-covered window, which revealed a horrifying sight. Everybody was running out of their homes, screaming in terror to take shelter from the Cossacks.

Papa said, “Those mischievous Russians! They always steal, and kill everyone that doesn’t believe in their religion.” He sighed. “Everyone! Go and run away!” he cried. “We want everyone to be safe!”

“But, Papa,” Ruth heaved. “I don’t want to leave our home.” Ruth began to cry.

“Don’t worry, Ruthie. We will come back. Now, everyone! Let’s go!”

They all ran with all their might, stomping on soft snow, making footprint by footprint. Mama was carrying baby Fagie. She glanced over her shoulder to find the Cossacks running after them, shouting in Russian.

Ten minutes later, they all were gasping for breath as they entered a cave with dark walls and horrifying echoes. While everyone was hoping they could grab more of the cold air into their lungs, they heard faint cries, coming from . . . Mama?

“Mama, why are you crying?” asked Ruth.

Mama sniffled and said, “Fagie . . . Cossacks chasing us . . . running . . . Fagie’s cries . . . snow . . .” She started wailing.

“Do you mean . . . ?” asked Papa.

Mama nodded sadly.

They gasped and started talking all at once. “The baby — ” “She dropped her in the snow???”

“We have to go back!” Ruth cried.

“No, we can’t. The Cossacks could still be looking. We must stay in the cave,” Papa said.

Hours later they peered out of the cave. The Cossacks were gone. They crept out of the cave. They ran and ran until they found baby Fagie. They all thanked G-d** that she was still alive, but she lost her hearing.

Now always remember: No child left behind.

* When this story took place, Bilozirka was spelled Belozirka and was located in Russia.

** This incomplete spelling is a show of respect.

Rivka Abedon; Maryland, USA


Remember Me?

Warsaw, Poland; Brooklyn, New York, New York, USA; c. 1926–1928

“Gertrude, they’re going to kill you!” Gertrude’s friend shouted frantically.

“I don’t care!” Gertrude Bloustein answered abruptly. Then Gertrude walked off to the very small one-room schoolhouse with a gorgeous façade of oak wood. The wood came out of the façade into an arch. Under the oak arch there was a moderate-size rusty brass bell.

Then the petite sixteen-year-old Jewish girl with brown hair, pale skin, and big brown eyes reached for the rusty old brass doorknob. She turned the knob and walked in. She gaped at the willowy teacher with pale skin, green eyes, and gray hair in a bun. The teacher turned toward her and asked, “What do you want?” Her voice was like a cat’s claws on a chalkboard.

Gertrude went into her best posture and answered, “I want to learn.”

The teacher pointed to an old oak desk as she responded, “Go sit down then.”

Gertrude walked over to the old oak desk and learned.

A couple of years later a Polish man from the New World came to find a bride from the shtetl, meaning “small Jewish village.” The man, whose name was William, had brown hair and hazel eyes. He was tall and slender. William, from America, had arranged to marry Gertrude’s cousin, but when William looked at Gertrude, it was love at first sight. The two lovebirds eloped, and by the time Gertrude was eighteen, she was packing to go to the New World.

As Gertrude approached the monstrous ship, she held her protruding stomach and thought about her unborn baby. She gazed upon the huge steel steamboat. Then she looked up at a large smokestack that was puffing black smoke. She boarded third class, or steerage, which was exceptionally cramped. She looked down at the old red wood and realized that she did not feel well and started vomiting.

As three days passed, the hurling got worse. So she went to see the captain. She gazed at the captain with his gray beard, green eyes, and large scar next to his right eye. She looked him in the eye and spoke with a firm voice. “I want to be moved to first class.”Remember Me? illustration by Autumn Caito: Gertrude being firm with the captain.

The captain was shocked at the tiny Jewish girl. “Okay then. You will be moved from steerage to first class.”

Later that day, she got to sit at the captain’s table with all the other first-class passengers. She thought about her life in the New World.

They eventually made it to Ellis Island. When Gertrude arrived, she couldn’t find William. She realized that he was in the third-class steerage line, and she was in first class. So Gertrude took a lengthy walk and saw William. She tapped him on the shoulder and whispered, “Remember me?”

Miles R. Bassett, great-grandson of Gertrude; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Autumn Caito; Missouri, USA


The Bootlegger

Harrisburg, Illinois, USA; c. 1930s

Bootleggers. They fit right up there with robbers and gangsters. Bootleggers had very interesting jobs. They made liquor illegally. My great-great-grandpa Ira T. Kingsley did just that in Harrisburg, Illinois. He started working on making whiskey in his basement, but he did not know much about the process. As he figured out more and more, he became very good at what he did. After a while he moved the “business” into the middle of the woods and went underground.*

Being a bootlegger was no cup of tea! First off, they were always being chased by the authorities. Second, they had to learn how to draw the tax stamp that the government put on legal liquor,** because back then, if the liquor had no tax stamp, there would sometimes be no sale. Third, they had to perfect their liquor-making skills.

Making liquor was illegal because of Prohibition, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, banning the making of and sale of alcohol. Even though it was illegal, my great-great-grandpa did it anyway. The reason why is because bootleggers made a lot of money. Back then, $25 seemed like about $325 today. So if bootleggers sold each bottle of whiskey for, let’s say, $10, they would be rich!

After a while in the liquor business, my great-great-grandpa was caught and sent to prison for five years. Near the end of his term, the warden had to make sure that my great-great-grandpa had a home and a job to go back to. My great-great-grandpa had both, so he was free to go.

Not long after being released, he got an offer to sell his liquor recipe to Jack Daniel’s, a big liquor company in Tennessee. My great-great-grandpa never accepted.

My grandpa said he found out about all this when he discovered the liquor-making equipment in the basement where it all started. My grandpa is not proud of what his grandfather did, but it will always be part of our colorful family history.

* Went underground means “took extra steps to keep the operation hidden.”

** The only legal liquor during Prohibition (1920–1933) was for medical or scientific purposes or for religious observances.

Jenna Pardieck; Missouri, USA


America, Here I Come?

Drohiczyn, Poland; New York, New York, USA; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; c. 1930–1964

When my great-grandfather Hershel Steinberg moved to America, he decided that he wanted to bring all his siblings over to America as well. He bought boat tickets for all his siblings, but he couldn’t get one for his brother Levi.*

“Hershel, when will I get to come to America?” Levi wrote in a letter.

“Very soon,” Hershel replied. Hershel tried but could not succeed.

He wrote back to Levi, saying, “Levi, go to the port on Wednesday. I have contacted my friend Aron Maksym to take you to America.”

The next day Levi went to the port, and Aron was already there.

“Hello. I am Aron,” he said.

“Hello. I’m Levi, Hershel’s brother.”

“All right. I’m glad to meet you. Now, since the ship doesn’t leave port for three days, you will be living with me until then.”

Levi enjoyed three days of living with Aron, and Levi lost track of time. But Aron didn’t.

“Levi, the ship leaves today!”

“Let’s go!” Before they left, Aron took out an empty suitcase and told Levi to climb in.

“What? I’m not climbing into a suitcase!”

“You have to!”

“Okay, fine.” Levi climbed into the suitcase. They went to the port, and Aron boarded the ship with two suitcases.

The boat ride lasted about one month.

“Hello, Aron!” Hershel greeted when they arrived in New York. “Safe journey for both of you?”

“Levi is in the other suitcase,” Aron replied softly.

“Thank you, Aron,” said Hershel.

“Of course.” And with that, Aron left.

After about four months of living in America, Levi was getting pretty used to his lifestyle. One day, when he was driving, he was pulled over by a police officer.

“Hello, sir,” Levi said. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, you were speeding! Show me your driver’s license!” the cop said.

“Sir, I don’t have a driver’s license.”

“Well, that’s a problem. Fortunately, I’m also part of the Immigration Department. So I guess we’ll just have to deport you to Canada. If you try to sneak back into America again, we will deport you again, and then you won’t be able to get a license or become a citizen at all.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now go pack. You go to Canada tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.” Then Levi drove back home.

After the plane ride to Canada, Levi found a place to stay. Then Levi called Hershel. Hershel flew to Canada with an empty suitcase, found Levi, and flew home. When they got back, Levi went into hiding under the name “Joe Levy.”

He married a woman named Sylvia Klempner, and they had a daughter named Judy. How Levi became a citizen, on July 2, 1964, is still a mystery. Somehow he came out of hiding and received all the legal documents he needed to use his real name, not his fake name.

Levi died in 2009.

* Pronounced LAY-vee.

Sophie Pomeranz; Colorado, USA


The Pilot

St. Louis County, Missouri, USA; c. 1935

When my step-grandfather Jim was five, he loved planes. His mom and dad would always take him to old Lambert Airport. It was a treat for him. One day at the airport when watching airplanes take off and land, he decided he would learn how to fly planes and buy his own.

So for sixteen years he waited and waited to finally get a plane. Then when he was twenty-one years old, he went to old Lambert Airport and signed up for a private class. He took nine lessons, and on his tenth lesson the actual pilot said, “I am going to go get a soda. You will fly the plane, and you will take off three times and land three times.” Then the pilot left.

The Pilot illustration by Mikael Fett Schultheis: The new pilot hesitates on the runway as a plane approaches.Jim was very scared. Then he heard something on the radio. It was the control tower: “You are clear for takeoff.”

Jim couldn’t go — he was too scared. He started thinking about all the bad things that could happen to him — like if he would get lost and never see his family again, or crash the plane and die. Then he heard the radio say again, “Sir, you need to go. There is a great big plane that needs to land.”

So eventually Jim pushed on the gas and lifted into the air.

He did it! He was flying! He was surprised. So he did what he had been told, and he lifted off and landed three times.

Then he went into a room and got a paper. It was an examination about everything he had learned.

Later a man came into the room and told my grandfather that he had passed the written part of the examination. Then the man took Jim outside, and they got into the plane. He now had to do some maneuver testing. He got up into the air and did all the maneuvers very well. They were up there for about an hour. Then he landed the airplane and saw his instructor writing on a clipboard.

Jim was nervous. Had he done something wrong? Then there was a moment of silence. “Congratulations.Here is your license.” Jim was so excited he couldn’t believe it. His dream had come true.

So now his saying is “Regardless of what you do, never give up.” And he never did.

Tripp Gatch; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Mikael Fett Schultheis; Missouri, USA


The Storm That Erased a World

Watch Hill, Rhode Island, USA; September 21, 1938

It was a perfect afternoon — September 21, 1938 — as my grandmother, eight-year-old Cathy Moore, was walking home from a perfect day at school. The wind blew at her strongly, but Cathy didn’t think about it. When she got home, her mother was talking to her father urgently.

“What’s wrong, Mother?” Cathy inquired.

Her mother knit her eyebrows, looking out the window. “Jim is here.” She paused. “His family is not with him.”

Just then Jim, their neighbor, burst into the house. “My family is all gone — all gone, Catherine,” he said to Cathy’s mother.

Cathy realized the winds had picked up. The house was shaking. She was going to point it out to her mother when the storm struck. The Great Hurricane of 1938* was beginning its path of pure destruction.

Cathy and her family bolted up the stairs to the attic as a wall of water swept into the first floor. Cathy watched as her father tried to hold the door closed against the sea. It was the first time she believed that her father couldn’t protect her from everything — not everything.

The whole room shook, but to Cathy it felt like the world was splitting apart. The four walls around her broke, leaving behind only the floor, with slippery pipes sticking out. Her family members desperately held on to the pipes as they were thrown into the angry sea on their attic-floor raft.

“Hello, Polly! Hello, Polly!” Cathy’s pet parrot flew down to their raft, joining the family. Cathy cried when she realized her dogs had not come with them.

Geoffrey, her older brother, yelled, shaking her out of sadness immediately. “Sharks! I can see sharks!” he cried out. Just like he said, two hammerheads were circling their makeshift raft. Cathy wondered if they were there because the storm blew them in, or if they followed the scent of blood. She didn’t want to find out.

After several terrifying hours, her father sighted land. They didn’t know it, but they had drifted from their home in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, to Barn Island, just off of Connecticut. Cathy was exhausted after their desperate paddling had pulled them to the island. She sank to the ground just to realize there was uncomfortable, scratchy straw beneath her. She and her family looked back on where they had come from. They saw a glow in the distance. The fires of New England lit up the eerie, silent night.

Cathy woke to find her family shouting for rescue. Geoffrey discovered a shard of broken mirror in the rubble. He sent up SOS signals by catching the sunlight on the mirror. A fisherman in a small beaten-up rowboat saw the signals, came to the island, and took everyone to the mainland. Cathy’s home was in pieces.

The Great Hurricane of 1938 passed, and in its wake stood nothing. It was the storm that erased my grandmother’s world.

* This hurricane, which hit without warning, has been called the greatest weather disaster ever to hit Long Island and New England, killing more than 600 people and permanently redrawing coastlines.

Dede Driscoll; Alabama, USA


Read additional stories from the 2012/2013 celebration:

Sneak a peek at Grannie Annie, Vol. 8

Grannie Annie, Vol. 8: Historical Family Stories Written and Illustrated by Young People
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The Pilot illustration by Mikael Fett Schultheis: The new pilot hesitates on the runway as a plane approaches.
Scroll down for "The Pilot,"
written by Tripp Gatch and
illustrated by Mikael Fett


Individual authors
retain the copyrights to
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published here with

The setting of each story is
noted below its title. In
cases where the exact year
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indicates that the year given
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Return to main Vol. 8
Stories page


Stories on this page:

1. Surprised at the
1904 World’s Fair
Orion F. Jones
Pennsylvania, USA

2. No Child Left Behind
Rivka Abedon
Maryland, USA

3. Remember Me?
(c. 1926–1928)
Miles R. Bassett
Missouri, USA

4. The Bootlegger
(c. 1930s)
Jenna Pardieck
Missouri, USA

5. America, Here I
Come? (c. 1930–1964)
Sophie Pomeranz
Colorado, USA

6. The Pilot (c. 1935)
Tripp Gatch
Missouri, USA

7. The Storm That
Erased a World
(September 21, 1938)
Dede Driscoll
Alabama, USA


Click here to read additional
stories from the 2012/2013
celebration as well as stories
from previous years.

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Consult our Index of
. (This year's stories
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