Monday, December 30, 2013

One year ago: Day 8: Blasts from the past in Chicago!

Grace 1939
My Mum's Aunt Grace Sutcliffe (fourth from left), working in Japour's haberdashery store in Parramatta in 1939.

Aunty Grace, the younger sister of my maternal grandmother, married a US sailor, Bob Stern, was voted "Most Beautiful War Bride", and went off to live in America. It always seemed like a bit of a fairy tale come true to us. Her annual Christmas cards, always with a golfing theme, were eagerly awaited each festive season, and we were excited to finally meet Aunty Grace and Uncle Bob in the mid 70s, when they made a trip back to Sydney. I returned the visit to Florida in January 1984, catching up with their son David in Chicago on the same trip. In 1991, I stayed briefly with their daughter, Lynn, also in Chicago.

I was able to squeeze in a brief detour through Chicago on my US adventure of one year ago. It turned out to be a very nostalgic trip, with Lynn and I going through her now-deceased mother's photo albums, and making some amazing discoveries.

The above photo was posted to the "Lost Sydney" Facebook group, and those members of the collective who knew about historic Parramatta were thrilled about the pic. One poster confirmed the name of the store was Japour's. (Now that did ring a bell!) "That was how it was said and I can remember struggling over the letters of the sign and their sounds. My grandmother, Winifred Stoney, used to make ornate crochet coathangers using silk and cotton from there. They also sold balls of wool and much else. It was even interesting to go to when with her as a 5-year-old. I remember it being there for a few years after that. I am nearly 59yo. I can't shed much light on the exact location, but there were shops on either side."

Another person said, "When I was a kid... there was a drapery/haberdasher called Japours... which was somewhere around 333 Church (right next to the bridge). IIRC, with an old style milk bar next door."

Another said, "I think it was Japour's - we caught the bus home from St Pat's primary school to Carlingford outside their door - the owners were related to the Bokeyers and Tannas who I went to school with!"

And "I certainly remember the drapery as late as 1977, perhaps as late as '80 or '81. Whether or not it was the one in the picture above (which is obviously long before the 70s)..."

Another recalled, "Japour's was not drapery really. It was haberdashery, although the photo has the sign HOSIERY on it."

It seems that the term "jabour"/"japour" is a type of sheep wool, thus the name? Now, what is really weird is that three elderly Parramatta sisters, now all deceased, whom a friend used to mow lawns for as a young kid, would have all visited this haberdashery shop often. He remembers them talking about it and buying stuff there in the 1960s. One of the women, Phyllis, actually owned a milk bar in Parramatta, although her store was next to a cinema, not right near the bridge. Small world!

3D Grace and Bob Stern
Grace and Bob Stern, Naples, Florida, 1984

The second blast from the past, also found in my American cousin's photo album, was my missing Santa portrait from 1963! My mother had sent it to her Aunty Grace in a Christmas card, assuming that she'd be able to order an additional copy at some future date. Just before my mother passed away, she mentioned thinking that that's why there was a blank space in her own album. I mentioned it to Cousin Lynn while visiting her in Chicago... and she remembered having only recently gathering together her mother's albums. Sure enough, there it was!

So, now 50 years after it was taken, here's to Christmas 1963, at Grace Bros. Broadway. I'm on the left:

Christmas 1963

Also in the album was a photo taken, by Aunty Grace, of Uncle Bob showing me around their tropical backyard in Naples, Florida, in January 1984. I'd never seen this shot before. I'm wearing a beloved "Get Smart" T-shirt, which I later lent to a friend (and never got back), so it was nice to have a copy made of this shot, too:

Bob & Ian 1984

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