Art for the Movie Theatres: early 1940s

This week I want to backtrack to Diana’s art when she lived in Toronto, before she attended the Art Students League in New York.

As a young woman, Diana worked as an usherette for the local movie theatres. You can find my post about her job at Proud to Be an Usherette. But Diana had another job for the local theatres. She was a film poster artist. Her posters were posted outside and inside the movie theatres.

The other day I wondered if she had ever wanted to be a full-time artist for one of the movie studios, but when I looked at the list of artists the studios used for any length of time they were all men.

These posters were painted (mainly in 1942) in Toronto. Here is 20-year-old Diana posing with one of them.

The “poster show cards,” as Diana referred to them, were painted on beaverboard, and most of them were 40×60. She rented some of them out to the 20th Century Theatre chain in Ontario, Canada. However, Century claimed they lost the posters and never returned any of them to Diana.

Taking Courses at The Art Students League in NYC: 1940s

Last week I posed the question of what drew Diana to New York City from Toronto.

What is known to me about Diana’s life in NYC before she married involved her education at the Art Students League, her survival jobs, and her painting. I believe it’s safe to say that what drew her was her artistic passion. From the time she was little, she was a talented artist. Her family first noticed it when they discovered that her “tracings” were drawn free-hand and were not traced at all.

The Art Students League of New York was well-known as a school for artists. Many famous artists had studied there, but perhaps two of the most important attributes of the school for Diana would be:

  1. Students can take classes as they wish–there is not a formal program of matriculation and coursework. She would not have had the funds to enroll in a full-time program.
  2. The ASL had a decades-long commitment to providing art study to women artists with the same respect it gave to men artists.

The following photo is what the Arts Students League looked like when Diana attended–and what it looks like today. It’s a landmark of NYC.

Here is a great article about The Art Students League: The Top 10 Secrets of the Art Students League

In the next photo, Diana is standing on the roof of the Art Students League. The water looks very close, which somewhat surprises me. I am guessing this is the Hudson River. Any NYC readers, what do you think? Diana wrote the location on the back of this photo, along with the year of 1947. She said her dress was wine-colored.

I plan on showing you a little more of her art in a future post, but here is something I discovered from 1943, when she was 21, and before she traveled to the United States for the first time. I guess it shows where her mind was at, even then. Please excuse the condition of the painting. Paint has chipped off it. It was in with her practice works, so not well cared for.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president of the United States. And a sign of the times, too.

Here is one more painting drawn from the news stories of the times Diana grew up in. Field Marshal “Monty” Montgomery. In the lower right corner, near her signature, Diana has written Toronto 1943.

Last year the gardener and I visited the Knoxville Museum of Art and saw an exhibition of the paintings of Joseph Delaney. He was an African-American painter who was born in Knoxville. He was a student at the Art Students League in NYC at the time that Jackson Pollock was a student, so a bit before my MIL’s time at the school. I was struck by this Delaney painting of the lobby of the Art Students League.

Seeing this painting meant a lot to me because I can see a lot of similarities between Delaney’s painting style and my MIL’s style. Was this taught to them at ASL? By a particular teacher, perhaps?

I know Diana cherished her time at the school. She sometimes mentioned it when she talked about her life in New York City. Diana remained a painter for the rest of her life.

Moving on to the Shulmans, and a Focus on Canada

So far this blog has focused on the gardener’s paternal family, the Scheshkos. As I mentioned a year ago, in a post called Murray’s Further Military History, the gardener’s father Murray married Diana Shulman, the sister-in-law of his friend Jack Blanc.

Now I will start trying to “reconstruct” the Shulman family history. Unlike the Scheshkos and my own family in my blog The Family Kalamazoo, the Shulmans are a large, artistic family who lived, after immigrating from “Russia,” mainly in Canada. Because of the size of the Shulman family, my unfamiliarity of Canadian records, and a lack of any concrete documentation of origins, I feel that I am dealing with an “unruly” mess when I try to work on this family.

Diana was born Dinah Leah Shulman*, to Joseph and Dora Shulman, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. However, at the time, the family lived in the village of Aberdeen, just outside Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Winnipeg is about 480 miles from Saskatoon, and they had family living in Winnipeg. The story goes that Diana was almost born on the train, but whether Dora was intentionally traveling to Winnipeg to have Diana or if Diana came early, we do not know.

* Updated info on Diana’s birth name. While her Hebrew name was Dina(h) Leah, her Canadian name at birth was Dina Shulman, according to her birth certificate.

The best record of where the family was living in Aberdeen is the 1921 census, which was one year before Diana’s birth.

Here are the cropped entries for family members:

We see that Joseph is listed as 35, Dora as 30, daughter Edith as 13, Sarah as 9, Rose as 8, Harry, as 5, and Florence as perhaps 1.5. For the time being, that is good enough. Dora would have been pregnant with Diana at the time of the census.

What can be seen in the larger image is what the quotation marks in two columns mean. It means they were living as boarders in a hotel on Main Street. Imagine living as boarders with all those children. 

In this section we learn that Joseph and Dora were both born in Russia, as were both their parents. Edith, Rose, and Harry were born in Manitoba (surely Winnipeg) and Sarah and Florence were born in Saskatchewan. Why the back and forth between birth places, I do not know.

We learn that Joseph and Dora immigrated to Canada from Russia in 1905, and that they were still Russian citizens as of 1921. Their children were all Canadian citizens. They were listed as Jewish for racial affiliation and Jewish for religion.

All the family could speak English, but they could not speak French. I wonder how long it took Joseph and Dora to learn English. Everyone except the two youngest could read and write.

Column 28 is Months at school since Sept. 1, 1920: the 3 oldest children spent 8 months at school since that date. But why does it say X240 for Joseph???

For occupation, Joseph is listed as OA (owner) of a grocery something or other. I can’t read the second word, but know that he owned a grocery store.

Diana was born 29 January 1922 in Winnipeg. The gardener has ordered her birth record or certificate. For Canadian records, you have to wait 100 years before they become available unless you are next of kin! Other than his request, her birth record will not become available for three more years.

Notice that this portrait was taken in Winnipeg, not in Aberdeen. At a point, the family did move from Aberdeen to Winnipeg, but I have not yet found documentation of the family in Winnipeg.

From the time she was small, Diana was viewed as a little “tomboy,” the only one of the sisters. She got into a few scrapes because of her adventuresome spirit. One time she ran away to the circus and had to be rescued by big brother Harry. Another time she hid on someone’s running board because she wanted to venture out farther from home. Again, Harry came to her rescue, chasing down the car to bring his little sis back. She was pretty scraped up from that event.

The next time I see the family address documented is in 1940 when Diana was 18. In the voter’s record, the adult household members are living at 544 Spadina in Toronto. The gardener remembers the family still talking about the Spadina location when he was a kid, although they no longer lived there. I can’t be sure on Google Maps if the house is still there or torn down. See what you think.

In 1948, Diana immigrated to the United States. Her family was living at 34 Brunswick Avenue in Toronto.

In the 1949 voter’s record, 34 Brunswick is verified. This address is still in the electoral district of Spadina.

According to Google, the house still stands. See the red flag? That house has 3 sections. They lived in the middle section.

Does it really still stand? I don’t know. We traveled to Toronto this summer, and at the rate that old buildings are being torn down to build new ones, I wouldn’t be too sure.

In the 1957 voter’s record, the family still lived at 34 Brunswick Avenue, but Diana had been in the U.S. for a decade.

When exactly did she leave her home for New York City? Although the immigration form above shows 1948, she was most likely living in NYC as a student for at least a year before that–maybe two years. She traveled back and forth by train. The gardener says that she told him once she was turned back to Canada and not allowed into the states.

But eventually she did stay here for good. And in 1954, she married Murray Scheshko.

Here is a portrait of Diana taken just before her marriage.

Murray in His IDF Uniform

A year ago, I wrote in the post Murray’s Further Military History about how Murray went to Israel after WWII, where he served during the time of the Israel’s War of Independence. I mentioned that he served with a Canadian soldier who eventually introduced him to his own SIL, Diana Shulman. Murray and Diana eventually married.

In that same post I shared an AP news article showing Murray and his future brother-in-law as soldiers in Israel.

Recently I found a document in the same envelope with Murray’s U.S. Army transcript and discharge paper that proves that Murray served in Israel. This was a treasure to discover because Murray’s service during 1947-1948 has been unfindable up til now. We have his stories, which we know are absolutely true because Murray was not a “storyteller” and he was very realistic about his accomplishments.

You will see that one side of this document is written in Hebrew and shows Murray in his Israeli Defense Forces uniform!

My next door neighbor, who is Israeli, said that the Hebrew doesn’t say anything different than what the other side, in English, says, but he didn’t spend a lot of time translating it. If anybody knows differently, please let me know.

Here is the photo closer up:

Now the flip side of this document is a letter from the American  consul.

This is a document that will allow Murray entry back into the United States as a native-born citizen without a passport.

That is because his belongings, including his passport, were destroyed, according to this document on 21 June 1948 in Tel Aviv.

Murray was right in the middle of things when he was in Israel. He had some impressive stories. Without documentation, however, I don’t want to garble the stories or tell stories he might not want told on a public blog. However, he did know many of the movers and shakers of Israel from that period. He was on the Altalena when it was full of refugees fleeing Europe after the Holocaust. He was also around for the Altalena Affair, as well as other events. He did say, and I believe him, that if he had stayed in Israel he would have ended up a general, but he had family back home and decided to return to the United States.

Murray’s Military Career, Part 3

I’ve written twice before about Murray Scheshko’s (Murray Castle) military career.

The other day I discovered some new documents that belonged to Murray. The gardener (my husband) didn’t realize we had these papers pertaining to his father’s military career.

I wrote earlier that Murray was in the 353rd fighter group: Murray’s Further Military History and Murray’s U.S. Military History.

One of the new documents I discovered is a discharge paper that states that he was in the 352nd fighter squadron.


So was he in the 353rd or 352nd? Apparently both squadrons worked together and were in England at the same time. Both also finished up their service in New Jersey, but not at Fort Dix as this discharge paper states–at Camp Kilmer instead. Both squadrons were highly celebrated.

In the stack of papers, I found Murray’s “transcript of military record.”

His bronze stars and other awards are mentioned, but not his purple heart. He not only earned a purple heart, but it meant that he received $67 per month for the duration of his life for the injury he sustained.

I found out that the gardener can order information about the bronze stars from NARA (National Archives) in St. Louis. I plan to help him do so this week.

These documents show that when Murray was discharged he was a sergeant. He had had a higher rank, but was in the brig for fighting, so he was demoted. There is a rumor he was AWOL for awhile, too, but none of this is mentioned on these official records.

On the transcript, I was particularly transfixed by the list of “battles and campaigns” he was involved with:

  • Air Offensive Europe
  • Central Europe
  • Normandy
  • Northern France
  • Rhineland
  • Ardennes-Alsace

We are guessing that his time in England would be covered under “Air Offensive Europe.”

According toU.S. ARMY CENTER
OF MILITARY HISTORY
EDUCATE-INSPIRE-PRESERVE
, these are the dates Murray would have been in these areas:

  • Air Offensive Europe – 4 July 1942 – 5 June 1944
  • Central Europe – 22 March – 11 May 1945
  • Normandy – 6 June – 24 July 1944
  • Northern France – 25 July – 14 September 1944
  • Rhineland – 15 September 1944 – 21 March 1945
  • Ardennes-Alsace – 16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945

In general, we knew that he had been in England, and the gardener and I had both heard about his service in Israel after WWII, but neither of us had any idea he was involved in these other battles and campaigns.

The gardener and I were talking about how we wished we had thought to ask Murray questions and interview him about his wartime and other experiences. But, unfortunately, Murray died suddenly of a massive heart attack onboard a flight home from his job in Tupelo to Kalamazoo at the age of 62. We were young and had expected him to be around “forever.”

The Fun of Finding Old Photos

A long time ago I posted a photo of the Scheshko family in the old country (probably Odessa, but maybe Tiraspol). Every member of the family is there, including a boy whose name I don’t have, EXCEPT Malka, the oldest child. That is because she had already emigrated.

Once I realized that Malka was not in the photo, I lost all hope of ever seeing a photo of her. In the United States she became Molly Riskin after marrying Isadore Riskin. Their only child was Charlotte Riskin Vendola.

But in going through that little orange box of photos we recently found, I spotted another photo of Charlotte and her father–this time she’s an adult–and a woman who has got to be her mother, Molly Riskin (Malka Scheshko).

 Moral of that story: never lose hope.

Here’s another photo I found.

This is a photograph taken at the bar mitzvah of Eileen’s son. Charlotte is in the center of the photo, looking striking as usual. Danny to her left and to Danny’s left are their best friends, Sally and Tut.

What I would like to find out is who is seated across from them. Eileen’s son thinks that these might be friends of his parents.The gardener says that there were three men at the bar mitzvah who were some sort of cousins, but nobody who is alive today knows who they were or how they were related. Could they be the men in this photo? The gardener thinks one of the men he vaguely remembers could be named Archie The bar mitzvah happened in 1968–maybe someone someday will see this post and supply names to the faces. Friends or family, I’d love to know who they are!

Always getting a little closer to the information, but not close enough. But finding these old photos is FUN.

This is my last post until September. I plan to do more research in August. Plus it is really really hot here in Phoenix . . . .

 

 

Mystery Man Not Solved!

I’m posting the results of the poll about the mystery man. If you go to the link you can find the three choices for familial resemblance.

 

Here is the winner!

The funny thing is that while you were voting, I found a note that Charlotte had written years ago. She says she doesn’t know who the man is!

That means he couldn’t be Danny’s father because she knew him. It’s still possible that he could have been a relative in Italy, and Charlotte never made the connection.

So could he be related to the Goodstein (Anna, Rose, and Max) family in some way? It’s possible, but why would Charlotte have their photo? She was related through the Scheshkos, not the Goodsteins. But, of course, she DID have the photo of the Goodstein family which features Celia Goodstein (who became Celia Scheshko), so maybe . . . .

It’s likely we will never know.

But I do know that the following photo is Charlotte and Danny in 1946. Are they in front of the bar or behind it?

And this photo is Charlotte as a baby on horseback (ponyback?). She looks a bit like her first cousin Murray (the gardener’s dad) here.

Murray:

Work is being done on the gardener’s mother’s family, but they are a tough genealogical nut to crack–and a huge family.