England, Part V: The Final Day

Our last day in England was as action-packed as our first two days in London. We had planned to go to Churchill’s War Rooms. Several friends had recommended it, and after seeing The Darkest Hour, we were both very interested in learning more about Winston Churchill and his role in World War II. We had passed the site the day before and noted the very, very long line of people on the sidewalk and decided that we’d better get there as early as we could.

We showed up at 9:10, knowing that the museum didn’t open until 9:30. There was already a line ahead of us—perhaps about thirty people. What we hadn’t realized was that it would have been possible to buy tickets ahead of time for a set time on the priority line, but now it was too late. As we stood outside waiting, the line behind us grew longer and longer, stretching down the block almost to the corner by the time the doors opened at 9:30. Then we had to wait as the priority ticketholders entered. Every ten minutes or so they would allow in more people, including a few from the regular line.

We finally entered at 10:20, saying to each other, “This had better be worth the wait.” It was. Without question.

We spent two hours underground at the exhibit. The audioguides were excellent, providing clear directions on where to go and lots of information about what we were seeing as well as interviews with some of those who worked in the war rooms with Churchill. It was a fascinating tour. Seeing the spaces that were recreated in the movie and realizing that these men and women had spent days and nights during the long years of the war burrowed beneath the ground, doing intelligence work and collecting information about the war’s progress, made us appreciate even more Churchill’s leadership and commitment to winning the war.

There is one very large gallery devoted to an exhibit about Churchill’s life. For some reason they decided to start with the war years, then the post-war years and his death, and then his early years as a child, a young adult, and a politician. I found that room a bit confusing and overwhelming. Maybe because I am such a linear person and like things to be in chronological order. I most enjoyed hearing some of Churchill’s speeches in his own voice and also seeing pictures of him and his family as a boy and then as a father and husband.

We finally emerged from the dark around noontime and were grateful to see sunlight, although it was a cloudy and gray day. We walked over the Westminster Bridge. Well, we tried to walk. The throngs of people made it as crazy as being in Times Square before theaters open. You could barely move. We were heading to the Tate Modern, which is on the other side of the Thames. When we finally managed to get away from the crowds, it was quite a relief.

After a quick lunch, we continued our walk to the Tate Modern. We enjoyed the walk along the river with the London skyline in view—we could see St Paul’s Cathedral and all the modern skyscrapers that we had seen the day before, but now from a distance with the river in the foreground.

We finally reached the Tate Modern, and it is an imposing structure. Once a power station, it was converted to a museum and opened in 2000. I can’t say that I found it a terribly inviting building—it still looks more like a power station than a museum, although there are glass additions on top of the old building.

Entering the building felt a bit like entering a huge train station—a very large open hall descending down towards the ticket booth and museum itself.

We went to two of the exhibits, the first being Artist and Society, which focused on how artists use their art to comment on society. Some of those works were very provocative—like the collection of firehoses attached to each other to evoke the hoses used to spray African American protesters during the civil rights movement in the US or a series of photographs showing the demolition of buildings in the name of urban renewal. But some just left me cold, like the one of strange large forms just strewn on the floor.

The second exhibit we saw was more traditional and included works of artists who were more familiar, such as Picasso, Dali, and Rothko. It focused on the artistic process itself. I enjoyed that exhibit more than the first because I tend to be more conventional in my idea of what is art and prefer art that is more about aesthetics than politics.

We wanted to take the elevator up to see the observatory on the tenth floor. But the lines were too long, and we gave up. I think we’d just had enough of crowds for the day.

Our last evening in London was much less hectic than the day. We took an Uber to Covent Garden and had a fabulous sushi dinner at Sticks and Sushi. Then we walked from there to St Martin-in-the Fields Church for a concert of Vivaldi, Mozart, and Purcell. The music was soothing and relaxing, and the setting quite beautiful.

For our last morning in England, we had the wonderful treat of meeting two of my cousins—Annette, my fourth cousin, once removed, and Mark, my fifth cousin. Annette and Mark are related to me through my Seligmann family. We are all descended from Jakob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, my four-times great-grandparents. Mark and Annette descend from Jakob and Martha’s daughter Caroline who married Moses Morreau, and I descend from Jakob and Martha’s son Moritz. We had a delightful time together—sharing family history and our own stories. Mark and I have now continued to share and explore our mutual family history.

And after saying goodbye to my cousins, we packed our bags and headed for Heathrow for the flight back to the US. I was quite sad to leave. It had been a perfect vacation with the right mix of relaxation, exercise, gorgeous views, art and culture, history, and friendly people. I was in no way ready for it to end.

But it did, and now I have found great pleasure in recreating and remembering it all through my blog. I hope you have enjoyed my travelogue as well. Thanks for coming along.

Next—a return to the story of the children of Henry Goldsmith.



A Delightful Conversation: Cousin Marjorie 

There are so many joys that come with doing genealogy work: solving family mysteries, learning about your roots, reliving the lives of those who came before you, working with other researchers and learning and teaching each other, and many other benefits.  But perhaps the greatest joy for me has been finding and meeting new cousins.  My reunion with my Brotman cousins last April was more than I’d ever expected, and the phone conversations, email exchanges, and meetings I’ve had with other cousins have also all been so much fun and so rewarding.

But this cousin connection was particularly special to me.  Cousin Marjorie is my father’s first cousin and close to him in age.  They knew each other as children, but have not been in contact for over sixty years.  In order to contact this cousin, I could not rely on email or Facebook.  I had to do it the old-fashioned way, a handwritten letter.  Fortunately, I was able to find her address on line and took a chance that she would still be able to respond and that she would want to respond.

When I did not hear back for nearly two weeks, I assumed that she either could not or did not want to respond, and I resigned myself to the fact that I would not hear from her.  Then one day last week my cell phone rang, and a number came up that was not familiar.  I answered the phone, and a woman who sounded like someone in her 20s said, “Amy?  You will never guess who this is.”  I said that I had no idea, and she said, “This is your cousin Marjorie.”

What then followed was an hour long conversation, followed up with another hour long conversation the other day.  Marjorie’s memory is remarkable; she was able to confirm a number of dates and addresses and stories that I had found online through public documents, but she had them at her fingertips.  She also had memories of my great-grandmother, my grandfather, my great-uncles and great-aunts, stories I had not known before.  And she had wonderful stories about her own life and her parents’ lives as well.   Our conversations ranged from the particular to the universal, discussing everything from Winston Churchill (from whom she has a signed letter), Queen Elizabeth (to whom she sends a birthday card every year and receives a thank you in return), and how she learned to drive, to current politics and social issues like legalizing drugs and sexual mores and her current day-to-day life with her cat Scarlett and her many friends.

Out of respect for her privacy, I do not want to discuss too many of the details of her own life on the blog, but suffice it to say that she is a very bright, articulate, and opinionated woman.  She told me that she had graduated from Trinity College (D.C.) and that she had traveled the world as part of her career working for the American Automobile Association.  She is still volunteering one day a week for the local historical society in her neighborhood.

As for some of the family memories, Marjorie did not remember her grandfather Emanuel well since she was only about three years old when he died, but she does remember her grandmother, Eva May Seligman Cohen, lovingly and clearly.  She said Bebe, as the grandchildren called her, had been a brilliant woman.  Her brother, Arthur Seligman, was the governor of New Mexico (more on that when I get to the Seligman line), and he had been invited to speak one year at Valley Forge.  When he had to cancel his plans, my great-grandmother Eva May spoke as his replacement.  Marjorie had not been able to attend, but wished that she had been there.  Marjorie said that not only was Bebe brilliant, she was kind and giving and would do anything for her family.  I shared with her the fact that Eva May and Emanuel had opened their home to Emanuel’s brother Isaac and his son when his wife died, and she was not surprised.  Like my father, Marjorie remembers exactly when her beloved grandmother passed away in October, 1939.

I also asked Marjorie what she remembers of my grandfather, her Uncle John, and she said that she has no memory of him before he became disabled, but remembers driving with her parents to Coatesville, Pennsylvania, once a month to visit him at the VA hospital there.  She described him as very good looking, thin, with black hair.

She also remembered going to occasional Sunday dinners at her grandmother’s house when my father and my aunt were living there and going to the movies with her cousins.  She said that somewhere she has a street photograph of the three cousins—my father, my aunt, and Marjorie—walking in Philadelphia.  Marjorie also told me that about 25 years ago she got a call out of the blue from her cousin Buddy, Maurice’s son, saying that he was back east from California and wanted to see her.  He and his wife (whom she remembered as being Norwegian) came to visit, and she said she and Buddy stayed in touch until he died in 1995.

Marjorie also spoke adoringly of her parents, Stanley and Bessie Cohen.  She said that although they were brought up in different faiths—her father a Reform Jew, her mother a High Episcopalian, they were an ideal match and had a wonderful marriage for well over 60 years.  She quoted to me several sayings that her mother used to convey her values to her daughter—as Marjorie described them, common sense statements about the value of an education and the importance of good health.  She said her mother was a sweet and kind person who always saw the good in other people.  Her father, my great-uncle Stanley, she described as a broad-minded man who had a bit of a temper, but who adored his wife and daughter.  He lived to be 98 years old and had good health all the way until the very end.   Marjorie said her parents had a very large circle of friends and were very well-regarded in their community.

At the end of our conversation, I told Marjorie that I would stay in touch.  She said that I had made her day, and I told her that she had made mine as well.  And I meant it from the bottom of my heart.

Two of Marjorie’s heroes:

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

English: Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


HMTQ Landing Page Burnley

Queen Elizabeth II