Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Gritty details....

I had my own internal debate concerning whether or not to post this less than idyllic information that I had stumbled upon.  I didn't go trolling through criminal records and newspapers looking to uncover shocking family scandals- actually the idea never occurred to me.  I was in pursuit of ordinary details, just looking through some old newspapers hoping to find my grandmother's and great grandmother's obituaries when I saw these other articles concerning the Syska family. Genealogists caution, while newspapers can contain important information, they are not primary sources, but the historian in me finds them fascinating as they represent a snapshot in time.  They depict a true slice of life.  I guess it would be nice if all my ancestors were pillars of society, but wouldn't it be boring?

The first article is about my father's arrest for robbery as a 23 y.o. Mount Vernon Cabby.  I hope you don't mind, but I want to share a little about my dad to put this into context.   He was not convicted, but the article says he had a history of arrests for robbery and passing bad checks.  Honestly, I was horrified when I found this.  But my father was not raised in split level home with a white picket fence and roast beef on the dinner table every night.  He is the oldest of 8 children from a very poor family. His mother passed away when he was seventeen and his youngest brother was only two, while his  father worked sporadically and was described as erratic and heavy handed.    My dad didn't like to talk about his childhood, but I know it was not uncommon for him to go hungry and that he dropped out of school quite young- probably in sixth grade- in order to start working and earning money.

As a father, I never doubted he loved his family.  He coached our softball team, helped me build a fab log cabin in 3rd grade and decorated castle birthday cakes.  We called him daddy long legs, although daddy long arms might have been more appropriate because I watched him, time and again, reach his arm through the terrace bars down the block to buy marshmallows for roasting on the bbq.  My parents separated many times over the years. Dad was never happy about it.  When Mom was hospitalized on a respirator, due to emphysema, she refused to let Dad come to visit, so he sent her flowers.... again and again and again.  She never relented, but she had been through so much herself, and it was not in her nature to back down from a fight.
Stan & Margaret (Hennessy) Syska - 1963

Dad worked long hours as a carpenter rarely missing a day.  He never made a lot of money, in part, because he had trouble pressuring people to pay, arriving  home once with a Shihtzu and another time with a slightly used color tv instead of money.  Mom was clearly distressed, but we kept them both and named the former, Munchkin.  Dad could not take a job that required him to punch a time clock and, thus, he had no benefits or stability.  He also had a drinking problem, to be sure, disappearing at times for months even years.  When he was in his 70's, recovering from a fractured hip, I got a call that he had busted loose from the rehab facility.  He came back some 10 hours later, baffled by all the 'hullabaloo', never admitting where he had gone.  I suspect he paid a visit to his friends at the local Bodega. Officials at the facility were doubly concerned because he was in a wheelchair at the time, though I doubt he had trouble finding an accomplice to help him escape. He was in Yonkers, afterall, where he spent the bulk of his life.  Upon his discharge, we moved him into senior housing in a not so great part of Yonkers, but our initial concerns for his safety were assuaged by the realization that he literally knew EVERYONE in a ten block radius.

Sure my father had a checkered past and made some mistakes.   I wish he had an easier life, but I am grateful he was my father, warts and all.   As you read the articles and information about our family, keep in mind they are just snapshots, not the full story.

Add caption

16 y.o. Douglas Syska and 22 y.o. Merlin Scofield (his mother's brother) arrested for malicious mischief in 1946, a year after Beatrice (Scofield) Syska passed away.

William F. Syska Jr.  involved in a fight in 1918 and declaring bankruptcy in 1945

Based on a true Story involving the child of Gladys Syska - daughter of William & Lizzie Syska.

Walter's Hope (Google eBook)
Front Cover
Xulon Press, 2010 - Religion - 250 pages

Was this the end for Walter-death at the hands of His mother? His mother's suffocating hand covers six year old Walter's face as she attempts to throw him overboard. Lured with a promise of fun on the lake, now Walter is locked in a death struggle with the very one who brought him life. Is this the end? Was Walter created simply to die at six years of age?What clues would be found to his early years in that abandoned chest in the basement in Evergreen, Illinois? 

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