Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos


Jack's brother William j. Barrett from Mollie Barrett album #164 p 21 B-I-L-L
Letters from ARTHUR MERANSKI, JASON POLLACK 1973, REBEKAH GEETTER 1974, SOPHIE BARRETT 1986. Letter from Notebook Eight pages136-138 Postmarked l Oct l973 received 3 Octobor l973 The Rouse Company Columbia, Maryland 21043 Mr. Arthur M.Meranski Rural Route 2, Box 505, Aberdeen, Maryland, .: 21001 Dear Aunt Sophie, Needless to say, I was quite surprised to receive your long, interesting, and informative letter. Upon reflection I don't think I have seen you since childhood, and I have never seen your son.So many years have passed, and so much has happened.My record as a correspondent is no better than yours, and my handwriting has never improved, but I do want to answer your letter.It is very difficult to find a place to begin, but possibly the best way would be for me to briefly review my somewhat unusual life since World War II. -I came out of the war as a Captain - Armor- and got myself out of the Army in July l946 with several decorations, two wounds, and a gorgeous case of hepatitis, as you know. For a while I took a fling at the restauant and bar business in Bantamm, Connecticut, but it had no appeal.Therefore, it was back to the Army in l948 at Fort Bliss,Texas. While in Bantamm,I met a female from Texas who was working in Hartford,and on 21 September l949, we were married at Fort Bliss. So,a week or so ago we celebrated our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary,which strikes me as an awfully long time with the same woman. We have quite a brood, of whom more later.From Bliss we moved to Fort Lewis, Washington State.Then my luck caught up with me- two years in Korea from the Inchon landing on. Another wound.Then two years in San Francisco on ROTC duty, three in Germany, many at Fort Sill, Oklahoma,where I was a gunnery instructor and a battalion commander. From there I went to Laos,where I nobly contracted hepatitis again and was rewarded by going to Vietnam. I put in three years as Chief of Combat Instruction at the Engineer School at Fort Belvoir (spelling?) Virginia and three years as Inspector General at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Twenty-eight years all told in the Army. sounds dry and matter-of fact, but I enjoyed every minute except for those all too frequent periods when I was scared silly. Anyway in l968 I got orders for my fifth war. Right then and there Betty and I decided that the Colonel business had no future.I flat-out retired. Since then, I have been working as a manager for theRouse Company in Columbia. It is as different from the Army as anything can get.I have an interesting job with an even more interesting salary.My responsibilities include scheduling about twenty million dollars in construction plus handling all remodelling, telephones, movies, microfilms, and blueprints.I have seventeen people to do the work. The company is very large, progressive, and interested in the personnel.We live on an acre lot just outside of Aberdeen.Our house is a five-bedroom brick rancher. Trees and a brook in the back of our lot.Very pleasant, and we enjoy it.Most importantly, we have four children: Stephan Michael aged 21, Harry (Hank) aged l9, and twins Paula Jane and Thomas Arthur now eighteen. Tommy is a senior in high school. Paula is a freshman at Harford Community College and intends to teach.Hank is in the Army, having enlisted a year ago. He will not make a career of it - just serve his three years.He will probably marry a local belle, Linda Jones next June. Stephan, the oldest, has an excellent job with a home construction firm.He has been married quite a while - almost four years.His wife's name is Linda too, and we are proud to have her as a daughter-in-law.Not only that, but we have an extremely beautiful granddaughter, Amy Lisa, who will be three on October 25th.She is the biggest morale-boosterI have ever known, totally charming,well-behaved, and humorous. A living doll, even from a very prejudiced grandfather, which of course, I am. So there you are.I have led a full and interesting life with very few regrets.I would indeed like to hear from you again- even to enter a regular correspondence. We understand you are writing a book about Uncle John.This would interest us tremendously, and we would appreciate hearing from you on it.From all eight of us to you and your son John,the best of everything,and please let us hear from you.If you wish, we will have some photographs of our tribe taken and send them to you.By the way my mother saw her great-granddaughter many times before she died, and we are very grateful for that. Again, Please do write. The address: Rural Route 2,Box 505, Aberdeen Maryland 21001. Also should you come this way we'd love to have you. Just call (301) 272-4516 Your middle-aged (but spry nephew - Art(Meranski)- John Barrett note - Arthur was in Normandy invasion June l944 France in fast-moving tanks under General Patton His parents were Harry Meranski and Sarah ("Sade") Taylor of Hartford.He called his wife Betty "The War Department" and "the Ball and Chain" He later was a fraud investigator for state of Maryland. He wrote humorous letters to his aunt Sophie until she passed away in l987. His granddaughter Amy Lisa invited John Barrett to her graduation from Aberdeen High School May l988, and John met cousin Arthur and his wife Betty and their sons Tom and Steve and Steve's family at that time. Sophie was invited to Hank Meranski's wedding October l985 but was unable to make the trip. :Second Arthur Meranski l973 letter to Aunt Sophie Barrett Notebook Eight VIII p. 145 Excerpt from letter from Colonel ArthurMeranski 15 Oct l973 Stephen Linda and Amy Lisa live in Havre de Grace, about eight miles from us. You ask me about such things as the Inchon landing,but after twenty-three years, all I retain are a sewer of impressions.I do remember a British cruiser (HMS JAMAICA?) firing overhead with me wishing the noise would stop, and then when it did cease, hoping it would start again. (It did). Then the landing craft didn't land, so we dove off it into shallow water before reaching shore. I also recall all of us trying to stop the milling around and finally getting our armored vehicles into a column and moving inland. That night on shore we split our time between shooting at North Koreans and trying to stop the local civilians from massacring supposed collaborators. My most vivid memory is of a Military Police officer who came to our outpost line the next day and said he was going to check out the next town to the south.He was told the next town was definitely not ours,but chose not to believe it.Later that day we attacked, captured the place, and got his jeep back .Never found a trace of him. More on our family. The frau, Betty, is quite tall for a woman and was red-haired before it turned gray.Our children are all somewhat outsized.Steve and Hank are both over six feet and slender. Tommy, one twin, is also tall and very solidly built, going close to two hundred pounds. His twin, Paula, is as tall as her mother and is on a fairly constant diet to keep her weight down. As for me I ended up at six feet, and my weight has never varied much fron one hundred ninety pounds." Jason Pollack letter Jason S. Pollack 4A Rose Avenue, Great Neck NY 11021 Nov. 8, l973 Dear aunt Sophie,The mail today brought your long, newsy, and most interesting letter. It also caused a pang of shame, as I have been meaning to thank John for sending the letter from Arthur Meranski I do intend to write to Arthur, but first I must answer you.First of all, we are all fine. As you know Jon,who will be twenty in March is in his second year at Yale.He is a physics major and is working very hard, although he does seem to love it.Richie will be seventeen in February and is still in his junior year of high school.He will be starting to apply to college soon, probably to study Biology which seems to be his main interest.Ann expects to get her degree in Art history in June of l975.She loves the subject and is doing very well..Now in regard to your letter. I will send it to Teddy,but first must re-read it myself,.I found your anecdotes fascinating, and do think you should consider putting them in book form if it would be possible to disguise some of the names. I enjoyed most of all your comments on the family and the family history.I have only the slightest memory of my grandfather, and really had no previous knowledge of the historical facts you supplied. I would appreciate any further information that you could supply. I didn't know my grandmother at all, and really don't know anything about her. I was lucky enough to know and be very close to your brother "Pete" I do remember Ben, but know almost nothing about the others. Perhaps you could write more about the family.The cousins are scattered all about, and some of us hardly know some of the others.You could help to pull all of us together.I must confess that my boys are at the age where they shy away from the camera, and that I have no recent shots. i will try to take some and pass them along to you. They are both very good kids, and I am very proud of them. Many thanks for the great letter, and even though I hate writing I do promise to keep in touch. Love from all of us - Jay. + Black Notebook Eight VIII p 158 Nov 20,1973 excerpts Arthur Meranski "Yesterday I called aunt Jeanette in Pikesville. It was a trifle strange to talk to someone you haven't seen in so long and who doesn't know what you look like, but we got along quite well. I asked them up for Thanksgiving, but she had already made other arrangements with her son and a cousin. So I think Betty and I will invite her on a weekend even if we go to Pikesville - about thirty miles - to get her and bring her back. She told me that her daughter is in the process of gettig a divorce. Also during the past week I received a letter from Jason Pollack. = have been ransacking my memory concerning my grandfather Taylor. It seems to me that he came from some hick town in the Ukraine - the name Uman and Bernichen Berndichen seem to ring a bell. For most of the time I was old enough to know him he didn't do too much due to diabetes and I think heart trouble. = Betty just gave me a sort of combination Christmas and birthday present - to wit - a piano. I use eight fingers and one thumb, since my right thumb has a fine collection of twnety-millimeter fragments in it and is not exactly flexible. = I never supposed I would have a granddaughter who is composed of varying fractions - Scotch-Irish, Jewish, Virginia mountaineer, and Indian. Being prejudiced I think that this combination - plus whatever admixture I forgot- has really produced quite a female. = Tell John I still will write to him presently. We get a large charge from your stories and await the next one, so write when you can. Paula and Tommy - twins are intrigued with their Naval great-aunt.-Arthur Meranski Nov 29, 1973 Dear John, My sister came down for the weekend and had a good time doing nothing. Things were almost too quiet and relaxed, but then our granddaughter arrived. With her in the house there is always an uproar. She helps Betty in the kitchen.Betty appreciates this as the assistance adds only about two hours to the time normally required. = Eire is one place not familiar to me. My only time there was a four hour layover at Shannon airport in 1954.My main recollection is the incredible green of the countryside, but that is a common impression. I am far better acquainted with Scotland, northern England, and the Channel coast of England. My unit spent a long time in the Cairrigorum Mountains in England [check spellng]. Of course I got to know the Channel almost as well as I know Long Island Sound. Also spent a lot of time in Staffordshire in glider training. I like both the country and the people. I remember the British as a hard, tough, and hospitable nation and would prefer to have them on my side than against me. Bad enemy! = I have been chasing Amy up and down the banks of Corsin's [?] run at the rear of the property. Now that's tiring ..... Art" + pages 147-148 notebook Eight: Excerpts of letter from Babe Geetter dated January 17, l974 First of I do want to acknowledge your letter which most certainly did contain information thwat you received from Mrs. Witkower as well as the second letter from Saul Seidman. I called the elderly Mrs. Witkower just before starting this note. She was most gracious and offered the information that Meema Saura had lost her husband before leaving for America and in all probability went back to Brody from Vienna as a widow - knew Mom in Brody, and together they left for the United States. Israel Witkower was born in Europe and was a year old when he came here with his mother. Mrs. Witkower was sure that Meema was a widow when she arrived here and that Israel was less than a year old. So you see "meema" had no husband with whom to travel, and bears out my own conviction that Momma really had no connection with Vienna and that the two women and Yonkel the infant boy travelled here from Brody. They came here to stay with the Meiselmann family and Ma remained with them until she married Pa. Also the name and address of the young Adelman girl is now Mrs. Albert Shulman, 856 Prospect Avenue, Hartford Connecticut She was Rachel Adelman and was very young when Pa remarried."[end Rebekah Geetter letter. [Rachel was eight years old, Sophie Barrett note:] Jacob "Yonkel" Ma's brother came with her at an early age. They may have traveled with widowed Meema Sura Witkower and infant Israel from Brody. John Barrett note: Records show the ship on which Mrs. Witkower and her two sons arrived in new York April l890. No one has searched whether Tolley and Jacob Goldfeld were on that same ship. They may have arrived earlier. The older Witkower boy was born in Brody l880's and his younger brother israel in Vienna l889. Tolley or Thalia Goldfeld married Daivd Meranski at Germania Hall, Hartford August 8, l890, said to be age twenty, which agrees with her l925 death certificate in placing her birth in l870 or l869. [Sophie Meranski's birth certificate indicated she was somewhat older, born about 1865l to be thirty-sic in October, l90l. Rebekah Meranski stated her mother came to USA via Hamburg Germany. SOPHIE BARRETT letter text: draft of letter to niece Thalia and Bob Klein: Friday 27 June, 1986 Dear Teddy and Bob, On Friday June 20 Babe [was]busy packing for two weeks of fishing at Belgrade lakes in Maine she and Geetter enjoy so much with Harold, Ava, and their girls Jennifer nine and Lauren seven there for one week. The girls are good students, even at summer school, play piano, clarinet and cello. - Babe wrote me an informative letter of thanks for my June 10 letter for her 57th wedding anniversary June 16.[round robin] She mailed my long account of Meranski, Pollack, Geetter weddings mostly in June to Buzzy Price for aunt Jen in Baltimore and for my nephew in Aberdeen, Maryland, Colonel Arthur Meranski and wife Betty. Arthur is sixty-six, lives at 836 Randolph Drive, Aberdeen, Maryland, 21001. Jen is at 20 Warren Park Drive, Baltimore, Maryland - her son Dan's wife works in governor's office, and child, baby Diane, is a gem. Dan is a psychologist working with problem boys. In writing Babe for her fifty-seventh Jen enclosed a newspaper account of "remarkable Ph.d candidate at NYU Deborah Meranski Sonnenstrahl, zealous worker, public speaker and writer for benefit of deaf." The article has a good picture of Debbie, whom we admire. Ask Jen for a copy. = I wrote Babe that about 1919 our oldest, loved brother Harry married privately his longtime sweetheart Sadie Taylor. We were not present because her mother had health problems, but I loved her Dad. My brother Ben and sister Esther never married. Abe married lovely Ethyle Berenson privately as her working widowed mother could not afford a formal marriage reception. Harry had two children, Colonel Arthur, and Pearl, who never married.On a June Sunday in 1924 in our Wooster Street home Bee [Bertha] Meranski married Sam Pollack 1920 Harvard junior Phi Beta Kappa. She was lovely, beautiful - he very happy. On Sunday June 9, 1929 I enjoyed Jen and Pete's well-attended formal wedding [in Baltimore]. I saw them soon again on their honeymooon June 16, 1929 when Jack and I attended Babe's wedding [traveling] from New York. At Babe's outdoor wedding [at 'The Shack' near the Farmington River] Lieutenant Jack Barrett met honeymooning Jen and Pete and invited them to dinner in New York the following Thursday night June 20, when they had theater tickets. He took them to Longchamps Restaurant. Jack and I afterward walked to my apartment [27 Commerce Street]. When I invited him in, he said, "I still have a lot of packing to do as I leave by train at three [pm] tomorrow for the west coast and sail for three years sea duty." I expected sadly never to see him again. But he said, "I'll take you to lunch tomorrow". At noon he entered my office - Friday June 21, 1929. He asked, "Will you marry me?" Stunned, I was silent. We went to a hotel for lunch, then by subway to City Hall. He had a license. We hurried to the railroad station just in time for his train.One year and five months later we met in North China. In 1957 we went to Baltimore for June wedding of Jen and Pete's girl Debbie [to Alfred Sonnenstrahl]. In Brooklyn New York twenty-eight years ago we saw David Geetter marry Joan Trouboff. They have two girls {Darya and Erica] in graudate study.Twenty-five years ago June 10, 1961 in Hartford I saw Buzzy [Thalia] Geetter marry Michael Price- three children Eric 22, Jessica 18, Hilary 15. I did not attend weddings of Albert, Harold or Suzy Geetter but know their mates and children [from Thanksgiving 1984]. Albert's son Josh is climing Andes i Peru. We hope you both and Ken's family [Klein], Keith [Klein], Anne, Jason, Jon, Richard and wife are well [Pollacks]. Buzzy's family go to Cape Cod very soon. Love - aunt Sophie (and John). P.S. Darya Geetter David's older girl - a second year New York University Law student- is happy this summer in Philadelphia working for a distinguished appellate judge. David's younger girl Erika Yale 1985 summa cum laude Phi Beta Kappa is in Heidelberg University for a full year free on a fellowship and all expenses paid.On June 21 David -married twenty-eight years- left with Joan to vist her in Germany and to travel in the area the week of June 21. Buzzy and Michael relaxed and rested in their Maine wilderness home while Eric -Yale 1985 -worked on reume/s in applying for a job. Jessica Price 18 and Hilary 15 work on Cape Cod, keep house, until parents arrive this weekend before the Fourth of July traffic jam the following Saturday. Jessica is a Colgate sophomore, - Hilary a Concord Academy junior- both ski, play soccer, and wind instruments. The Price family scuba-dive in Bahamas. Suzie Geetter Kashdan's girl Sarah is a three-year-old now in Shirley, Massachusetts. Norman Kashdan is Suzie's fine husband. At the town pool three-year-old Sarah Kashdan will learn to swim, with Suzie in the pool while Dad- Norman- often goes to California to teach computing and digitial equiment at college there in California. Kashdan is a worthy family kin - good for Suzie and Sarah. All Geetters are fine folks. In mid-June Babe hired help to serve and clean up for a family dinner party for her fifty-seventh wedding anniversary, and Albert's birthday, and David and Buzzy's twenty-eighth and twenty-fifth wedding anniversaries. The house was filled with good talk and food. Eric Price, 22,who played rugby for Yale, drove a [Coronado?]van- he wants bank work - fine young man." Draft of June 1986 Sophie Barrett letter to her niece Thalia Klein in Florida and Thalia's husband orthodontist Bob Klein, many years in practice in Mansfield, Ohio.