Memories of Katinka

Memories of Katinka

A few days after my dad signed the contract with the Hartman-Steindorff Opera Company in 1922, he performed in Katinka, a musical composed in 1915 by Rudolf Friml and Otto Harbach. (The former was a noted composer, and the latter was considered America’s first great lyricist.) Throughout the 1920s, my dad kept a record of his theater work. In the pages of a loose-leaf binder, he’d paste a…

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The Curtain Rises

The Curtain Rises

San Francisco in the 1920s. The memories of the 1906 earthquake were as fresh as the memories of 9/11 are today. The city had rebuilt, and the United States was entering what would later be called the Age of Prosperity—or, more informally, the Roaring Twenties. The country shook off a postwar recession with a surge of manufacturing productivity, technological advances, and a stock market that seemed to be…

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My Mom, Her Brother, and the Rocking Chair

My Mom, Her Brother, and the Rocking Chair

When my dad’s career as a performer began heating up in California, my mom was a toddler in the Western Pennsylvania coal-mining community where she grew up. In this photo, from about 1922, she sits in a little rocking chair alongside her older brother John. The photo was obviously taken on the same day as this portrait of her with her parents. (I wish I knew the backstory behind…

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Portrait of a Young Actor

Portrait of a Young Actor

California agreed with my dad. Within five years of moving west with his mother, he went from being the kid from Brooklyn wearing knickers to being the young man pictured here. He’s 20 in this spectacular, hand-colored portrait, taken in San Francisco in December 1922. (View a larger version.) This is one of his first publicity photos. He had recently begun performing as a singer and actor, a career…

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Discovering California

Discovering California

Shortly after the end of World War I, my dad and his mom moved from Brooklyn to Northern California. Several relatives lived in Berkeley and Oakland, and my dad and grandmother headed west to join them. The photo above was taken in Berkeley on April 15, 1918. My dad is fifteen. My mom would be born almost exactly one year later. The record of my dad’s first years in…

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