Tag Archives: Paul Kaser

Another Blow To Young Paul Kaser

Two final blows came to the young Paul Kaser as he made the abrupt transition from carefree youth to independent adult.

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser late 1920s

September 1926,If you have read the two previous stories about a letter and a life-shifting death in the family, you know that at 17, Paul left Millersburg Ohio to start college in Washington D.C.

October-November 1926. But shortly after school started, he was called home because his mother died. His father decreed that he could not go back to school.

April 1927. Therefore at 18 he was home, when his younger brother, Milton Kaser, got pneumonia and ultimately died. Not only was this a blow because he loved his younger brother, but now he had to live alone with his father. But that was not to last long.

Marriage License-Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser’s 2nd Marriage. To Mildred Dailey

December 1927.  Cliff Kaser, Paul’s father, married Mildred Jameson Dailey in Millersburg and they set off on a trip to Florida. I did not know her name until I found this marriage license.

The way my father told it, the woman his father married just wanted to go to Florida, so she married Cliff on the promise that he would take her there. Within a week, Cliff was back in Millersburg–without Mildred.

I have not dug deeply enough to find a divorce record, but their is a mystery hiding in this story.  I know from the records that Mildred continued to call herself Mildred Daily on census reports, and all official papers.  And when Clifford Kaser died, the death record listed Mame Kaser as his wife, and he shares a burial plot with his first wife, also. They both apparently wanted to forget that day in December 1927 when they were officially married.

That is the problem with family stories. You only hear one side.  And the essence of a story is that there must be a conflict between a “bad guy” and a “good guy.”  Now, maybe my Dad’s recollection is true and Mildred just wanted to get out of town. Maybe unemotional and strictly religious Cliff didn’t turn out to be the man of her dreams and she bailed.  But maybe Cliff deserted Mildred down there in Florida in a fit of pique.

Maybe they were just two lonely widowers looking for company when they married.  Cliff’s wife had died a few months earlier and Mildred’s husband had died at the end of 1925.  Find a grave says that the cause of his death was “alcoholism.”  If that is true, it could lead to all kinds of twists to the story.  But I don’t know.

All I have to go on are my father’s admittedly biased report, and some official documents.

At any rate–his father’s marriage and the brief trip to Florida disrupted my father’s life once more. At 19 he was thrown on his own, expected to find a way to make a living.

End of 1929-January 1930. Toward the end of 1929, back in Millersburg, and once again working on building duct work for furnaces, Clifford Kaser began to feel bad.  He had a hernia and went to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Mt. Vernon Ohio for treatment and surgery.  His death certificate graphically describes the cause and contributing factors in his death. Too graphically, for me to add here.  As my father said, he died of complications from an operation that today would be totally routine.  (Ironically, my father also died of complications of an operation).

Death Certificate - Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser Death Certificate

January 13, 1930. Paul Kaser officially becomes an orphan when his father dies. Paul is now approaching his 22nd birthday.  For more about his rootless life during the early years of the Great Depression see “Paul Kaser: No Permanent Residence.

A Lively Letter from Teen Milton Kaser Makes Me Sad

Why do I say that a letter from the fourteen-year-old Ira Milton Kaser to my father, Paul Kaser makes me sad? The letter itself is cheerful and full of life.

For my father, the year 1926 was “the best of years, the worst of years.” (Apologies to Charles Dickens). The 17-year-old graduated from Millersburg High School in Ohio in June that year and in September he set off for college. The gregarious dark-eyed boy with a shock of dark hair and a flare for dressing well, made friends easily and had an endless curiosity. His mother had instilled a love of reading.

His strict father would only allow attendance at the  WashingtonMissionary College run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington D.C. Although Paul secretly had no plans to become a minister or a missionary, he was eager to learn and happy to board the train for the trip east.

The family in 1926.

Keith Kaser and family

Clifford Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton and Keith with Cliff and “Mame” in front. About 1926

When he went to college, Paul left behind his doting mother (looking much older than her 54 years in this picture), task-master father, and beloved younger brother, Milton Kaser. Their sister Irene was working as a maid in other people’s homes.  Their much older brother Keith was married and farming nearby. Milton would have been fourteen in this picture and when he wrote a letter to his older brother, Paul, away at college. Ira Milton Kaser looks and sounds (in his letter) more mature than 14, although the letter is unmistakably that of a young teenage boy.

letter from Milton to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to Paul Kaser, October 1926, pg. 1

Milton to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to brother Paul Kaser, pg 2

Milton Kaser to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to Paul Kaser, October 1926, pg 3

Letter from Milton Kaser to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton Kaser to his brother Paul Kaser, October 1926 pg 4

Milton spends two pages describing the latest high school football game, a description full of details and nicknames. The description is also notable for his use of a derogative term for the quarterback of the other team, which reflects a time less concerned with tolerance than our own time.

Milton Kaser then says “I’m doing fine in school” which is an understatement, as he gives his grades of A’s and B’s in subjects that sound advanced for a fourteen-year-old–at least the Algebra and Latin. Later we learn that he is a Freshman in High School.

He then moves on to the family. “Everybody fine here. Irene just went to Kenmore and “dad” and “Mom” just returned from Glenmont. Since Irene is gone we get bigger pieces of pie. Keith was to Mt. Vernon today and brought some  Cero (?) meat home.

We’re sending you your overcoat and a comfort[er].”

Darned Freshman class had a party Friday night.”

These passages take some explaining.

  • Irene may have been going to serve as a live-in maid with a family in Kenmore, a neighborhood of nearby city of Akron.
  • Glenmont is a town in the same county as Millersburg, where many of Mary (Mamie) Butts Kaser’s relatives lived.
  • Why are “Dad” and “Mom” in quotes?  In the 1920’s these words would probably still qualify as slang–not the kind of words you use in formal writing. However, later Paul’s father signs himself ‘dad.’
  • I’m still giggling at the fact that his older sister’s absence mainly means Milton gets a bigger piece of pie.  Wish I had recipes for Mamie’s pie.
  • The word that is missing in the sentence about older brother Keith looks like Cero.  Milton’s writing is quite clear, so I’m really puzzled by this one.  However, since Seventh Day Adventists manufactured vegetarian meat substitutes, and Mt. Vernon was a center for the church in that part of Ohio, I’m guessing that is what it refers to. Perhaps a brand that disappeared so thoroughly that even Google can’t find it.
  • sending your overcoat”  Apparently the D.C. area had some early winter weather that my father was not prepared for. He might have preferred to get some of that pie!
  • And why would a 14-year-old say “Darn” about a class party? Probably because of religion again. His father was very strict about keeping the Sabbath. No work between Sundown on Friday and Sundown on Saturday.  And that would no doubt include no parties.  So Milton would have preferred that the party be scheduled at another time.

On the fourth page, Milton Kaser closes the letter, and their father adds a note.  This is a rare–in fact unique relic of Cliff Kaser.  When my sister read it, she felt it reflected his concern for his far away son (sending the overcoat) combined with his practical side (weather report). It seems to me to reflect, the rather cold man, unable to express emotions, that was reflected in my father’s stories about Cliff Kaser.

“Rained from Saturday midnight to Sunday midnight then snowed about 1 1/2 “. Sloppy snow on ground this a.m.  your overcoat and comfort to forward today.  dad.

To return to the question at the beginning–why does this letter make me sad?

Because just five months after the lively letter, Milton Kaser was stricken with pneumonia. Three weeks later he died in his brother Paul’s arms. He had not yet reached his 15th birthday, which would have come in September. My father, Paul, never entirely got over Milton’s death, and we had heard the story from him many times.  But this week I finally saw the death certificate, and could more clearly understand the tragedy of this young man’s life and death.

Milton Kaser Death Certificate

Milton Kaser Death Certificate, April 9, 1927

Milton Kaser is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Millersburg, beside his parents and other members of the Kaser family.

And why was my father, Paul Kaser, at home with Milton instead of in the spring semester of college in Washington D.C.?  That will be the subject of my next post, when I continue with Paul Kaser’s year 1926–the best of years, the worst of years.

 

Family Heirloom: Gift Book for Christmas

This post is dedicated to those of us who are tempted to give an Amazon gift card for a present. Here is a hint on how to make a gift book into a family heirloom.

My Gift Book

Our family frequently gave gift books for Christmas presents.  My mother and father almost always wrote inscriptions in the front of the book and dated and signed them.  I treasure those gifts, particularly this one which probably accounted in large part for my life long fascination with Greece and the culture of the Golden age.  I read that book so much that the hard cover is long gone.  Here is the title page, and the very treasured inscription written by my father, Christmas 1947 when I was eight years and nine months old.

Grandma Vera’s Gift Book

What a nice surprise it was to discover that this tradition went back two generations before me. I found books that my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan Stout gave to my grandmother and to my great-uncle–writing an inscription in each.  Even more fun, my Grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) did what many young people do–she “wrote” on the pages. The inscription indicates that she would have been six years old when she received this book, but the book seems a bit young for a six-year-old, and she surely would have known better than to draw in a book by that age!

The book is beautifully illustrated and teaches us much about how children dressed and what they played with. Some things have not changed–skipping rope and blowing bubbles. Some toys have disappeared–whipping tops and hoops.

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Great-Uncle Will’s Gift Book

Vera’s older brother William Morgan Stout (Willy or Will), received a very different book for Christmas 1886 when he was 13.  The inscription is in the handwriting of my great-grandmother, but my mother added the “age 13”.

Review of Davy and the Goblin in American Magazine advertising section January 1888.

Review of Willy's Book

Review of Davy and the Goblin in January 1888 issue of The American Magazine.

This is a very odd book. The author, Charles Carryl, was known as the Lewis Carroll of America–writing humorous fantasy, perhaps as an escape from his day job as a stock broker.

This book published in 1894, obviously aims to cash in on the popularity of Alice In Wonderland which was first published in 1865, and continued to be a best seller.  Carryl tells some original stories, like Davy’s confrontation with the giant Badorful, but he also riffs on familiar tales like Sinbad the Sailor, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Robinson Crusoe.

The illustrations are black and white, but surely would appeal to an adventure-minded young man.  Thirteen year olds today might find this a bit young for them, but I can imagine my great-uncle “Willy” eating it up.

Willy's gift book.

Willy Stout’s gift book, Davy and the Goblin meet Giant Badorful, 1887

I post this in the hope that it will influence you not only to give books to family members, but always, ALWAYS, write the date, their name, an inscription and your name. It will enhance the value of the book in the century or two to come.  Amazon gift certificates may disappear in the cloud, but books will stick around for a long, long time.