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


Sophie and Jack Barrett at New Years Eve costume party Tientsin Country Club p 37 #924 CHINAchapter {S}{J}{9}


December 31, l930 detail of costume party Teintsin country club - Jack at left - Sophie at right - lady between unidentified. Sophie wore a rabbit's-fur jacket she had bought at Shanghai- she liked it until she found it was shedding fur on Jack's blue Navy uniform, so this New Year's party at Tientsin Country Club was the last time she wore it.Friends in Tientsin included Paul, Gertrude and Nathalie Rice, Army Dr. and Mrs. Mendelssohn, Mr. and Mrs. "Bunny" Warren, Mrs. Evans of Mount Holyoke Club of north china, Grace Liang Mount Holyoke 1925 ( later Mrs. Dan Yapp), and Grace;s father and mother of Elgin Avenue- Mr. eismonger - chief of police in British concession -a Danish gentlman who collected Chinese coins- American fur buyers who brought first word of Japanese aggression at Mukden Manchuria September 19, l931, Narine |William W. Paca of TULSA, Cdr. and Mrs. Leonard & Rachel Doughty and Dr. Supan of TULSA. Elsewhere in China Barretts saw William Rupertus |US Marine corps in Peking, Chaplain William Maguie at Chefoo, sisters Maimie and Mickey Ashley and their adopted Chinese daughter at Shanghai.Since I arrived in Tientsin on the thirteenth of November, 1930, the holiday season was fast approaching , and a new guest registered at the Hotel just before Christmas. He was Mr. Isemonger, who was an Englishman just employed in India in charge of the Sikhs, in the police of India. He had come to Tientsin with his twenty-year-old daughter Tina to take charge of the Choinse and Sikhs police in the British concession of Tientsin where we lived. Jack informed me that it was part of his job to foster international relations. So we were friendly and were in a party with a group of British pilots and their wives at the Tinetsin Country Club New Year's Eve. When Mr. Isemonger found a nice house in Tientsin, Jack and I were frequent guests for Saturday noon dinner and for dancing later at the Country Club. Mr. Isemonger had an excellent camera and found me photogenic. He would come by the Court Hotel in the morning to invite me to ride to the Country Club with me where he was tireless and gifted in photography. He always gave me copies of the pictures without charge. He spent many hours in the Chinese city huniting for an embroidered evening coat for me- he found a white one with large white flowers. The bottom was embroiadered with exquisite silk tiny blue and black flowers - also the front of the evening coat had the same border, modeled on styles of the Empress Dowager's family. In the fall of 1952 I wore it to my son's Junior prom in West Roxbury when I was the hostess, because he was Clas president that year. We emjoyed Mr. Isemonger's hospitality for many months. Jack used his new Voightlander camera frequently to take pictures of me in our hotel room, and I took one of him, in which a red table-like paper drum is visible. Evenings he spend a lot of time studying to get ready for a promotion exam at the end of 1931.


Harry Uriah Meranski born May 1891 from 1911 group p 37=925 {F}


Eldest of eight children of immigrants David Meranski and Thalia Goldfeld. Around 1914-1915 Sophie remembers her eldest brother Harry composed music for songs with lyrics (words) by his friend Martin Kupperstein, which they performed publicly under stage names "Cooper and Moran or Meran. Kuppersteon's family in Hartford area have later shortened the name to "Kupper."Sophie also remember Harry playing Irving Berlin's 1015 hit "The Girl on the Magazine Cover" on a wind instrument called the occharina.Harry married Sarah ("Sade") Taylor, whos parents were neighbors of the Meranskis as early as 1892 on Front Street near the Connecticut River on the north part of the east edge of Hartford, CT. Harry had severe influenza at Fort Devens Massachustts when drafted in U.S. Army l9l8 World War I. He was in furniture and bedding business l920s with Al Deutch, who married Sade's older sister Minnie.They had two children Arthus born December l9l9 who served 28 years in U.S. Army as officer mainly in Tanks including Normandy invasion June 1944 under Gen George Patton and amphibious Inchon Korea Sept. l950 under General Douglas MacArthur. Arthurmarried Betty and had four childrenSteve, Hank,Tom, and Paul in Maryland area in recent years. Arthur's sister Pearl is in West Hartford Connecticut.


Rebekah Meranski born November 1, l906 married Dr. Isadore Geetter June 16, l929 p 37-926 {F}


Youngest sister of Sophie Ruth Meranski Barrett, called "Babe" by the family Rebekah Meranski took commercial course at Hartford Public High - married Dr. Isadore Geetter June 16, 1919 at Meranski rural property the "Shack" near Farmington River Windsor CT - they were married sixty-one years - romance began l922 when "Babe" was fifteen years old - they had five children - David l933 Albert l935 Thalia l938 Harold l940 Suzanne Ruth l942 - and eleven grandchildren. They invited Sophie Barrett and her family to Thanksgiving dinners, graduations, bar and bat mitzvahs and other events and often visited West Roxbury also.


David Meranski probably born Brest, Russia March 1865 father of Sophie Ruth Meranski and seven other children p 37-927 {F}


He is believed born Brest l865, spent time in Odessa near Black Sea, was photographed wearing few in Turkey, left home at age seventeen because of repressive persecution and probably militasry draft, learned tailoring Cairo Egypt l880s, was married to Thalia Goldfeld August 8, 1890 at Germania Hall Hartford -had eight children Harry l891 Ben 1892,Esther 1894, Abe 1896 Bertha l889 (l899?) Sophie 1901 Israel Peter l903 +Rebekah l906. After his first wife died of cancer September 8, l925, he married Mrs. Adelman, a recent immigrant from Lithuania with four young children.The youngest Rachel Shulman was very friendly with Sophioe Barrett in later years, and her son Mark visited Sophie's l923 Mount Holyoke classmate Betty Giles (Mrs. Howard) at NIH Washington DC l974 when her incurable motor neuron disease was being studied there. Rachel and Albert Shulman of Hartford have three daughters also - the youngest Amy is Mrs. Robert Weinberg in Brooklione - wife of noted MIT cancer geneticist. David Meranski was a tailor on Portland St l909- ran restaurant at 25 Morgan St l9l90-1915 -grocety at 4 Wooster St Hartford after autumn l9l6. He was active helping new immigrants in Moses Montefiore society and in Capital City Lodge helping Hartford Jewish families plan burial arrangements.He attended Sophie's l923 Mount Holyoke graduation.


Israel Peter Meranski born October 1903 on Orchard St. Hartford {F}


Sophie's youngest brother graduated from Hartford Public High School 1921 and Trinity College 1925 - for some reason his photo appears in l926 Trinity Year Book.His future wife Jeaneete Goldberg of Baltimore and her parents greatly assisted him during four years at University of Maryland Medical School, where he graduated l929 and was married June 9, l929 - Sophie attended in Baltimore. He became a pediatrician and served in U.S.Army World War II in Georgia and France - daughter Deborah Meranski (Mrs. Sonnenstrahl) was born l935 and son Daniel Meranski was born l951. In 1925 "Pete" escorted one of Sophie's students to her Mount Holyoke Senior Prom when her fiance was too far away to be able to attend the prom. InJune l957, Sophie and Jack Barrett traveled to Baltimore to attend the wedding of "Pete's" daughter Deborah. They had a very happy reunion - a photo of Sophie and Jack dancing at the Baltimore wedding reception appears on this photo website. Pete was active in Trinity college alumni.


Dr. Israel Peter Meranski born Oct l903 Orchard St. Hartford CT p 37 {F}


Youngest of four sons of David Meranski and Thalia Goldfeld Meranski ,married Jeanette Goldberg of Baltimore who helped him during medical school University of Maryland l925-l929, as did her father and mother, who lived with the family on Dolfield Avenue through l960 or later along with an aunt. Two other photos are now on website- one as US Army Officer in Georgia - Pete also served in France in World War II where he saw his nephew Arthur Meranski who served in tanks in Normandy invasion under General Patton. There are also photo of Pete and his wife Jen spring l948 (in separate groups) in back yard of Geetter home 92 Fern St., Hartford afternoon of his nephew Albert Geetter;s bar mitvah.Pete was a pediatrician. A fourth photo of him appears in l926 Trinity College Year Book, although he graduated in l925 (as did Isadore Geetter, who married Pete's youngest sister Rebekah. They both were active in debating and glee club. If anyone has an opportunity to make copies of the TRINITY Year Book on file at the College, I would like to obtain copies for website, for my own collection and for his chiuldren and grandchildren Debby, Danny, Sam Beth, Diane, and the four great-granchildren.


Thalia Godfeld Meranski - Sophie's mother p 37-930 {F}


Probably born 1869 or l870 Brody in Lemberg province then Austrian Galicia later in Poland, Russia and now Ukraine.She was friendly with the Meisselman and Witkower families of Hartford, also believed to originate from Brody. Her youngest daughter Rebekah Geetter stated her mother traveled though Hamburg Germany. She was married to Daivd Meranski in Hartford August 8, l890. A younger brother Jacob had some sort of speech or hearing problem - was unmarried - worked as tailor.Many neighbors whose mothers had died lived with the Meranski family including Julius Aronson and his brother. Both parents spoke many languages including German, Yiddish, and Polish, and Pa Meranski spoke Russian. At home Sophie often used an Austrian German dialect with her mother and took German at Hartford Public High School and three years of college German at Mount Holyoke reading Goethe and Schiller with Professor Grace Bacon after World War I, when enrollment in German-l;anguage courses was low. Babe recounted that when three sons got Army draft notices in l9l8, her mother was so nervous she used salt instead of sugar by mistake in jelly she was making.Her gallstones became cancerous when improperly diatgnosed. He had an operation in l925 - was well enough to attend Sophie's Mount Holyoke grandaution May l923 but died September 8, l925 aged about 55 years. Her sonBen furnished "Abel and Bertha Goldfeld" as names of her parents. A family named Goldfield were neighbors of the Meranskis on Portalnd St. Hartford l909 - possibly relatives? [draft 01A:]#01A- Date: Mon, 18 May 1998 17:16:31 PDT #01A Thalia Goldfeld Meranski- To the best of my knowledge my mother Tahlia Meranski came to Hartford Connecticut from Vienna Austria with her younger brother Jacob, when she was a girl.I understood that she and my father were married in Germania Hall at the corner of Main and Morgan Street in HartfordAugust 8, l890. My first memory of my mother finds her standing in the living room, holding my infant sister Babe in her arms on Pleasant Street when I was five years old, iin l906. Babe was her eighth and last child - all healthy.I was her sixth born in a family of four boys and four girls. My mother was of average height, slender, black=haired and black-eyed.She was a good cook, but I never saw her sew or mend even though my father was an excellent tailor who enjoyed his work until his eyesight was strained by the use of fineneedles and dark thread on dark blue overcoats and black velvet collars. Apparently around l909-l9l0 as he got into his mid-forties, it became difficult to adjust to the close work.In l906 owing to a financial Panic my father found it very difficult to support his large family of ten in Hartford, where very few customers if any could afford a custom made overcoat. Through a friend Samuel Schlimbaum he found work as a tailor in New York for a time in l907. He located a cheap tenement at Twenty=-Seventh Street near Third Avenue and wrote my mother to bring the family.Less than a year old my sister Babe was an infant in arms suffering from the measles when my mother gathered her brood in a horse=drawn carriage and took us to the railroad station. My sister Esther remembers my mother keeping Babe's face covered with a blanket asd we rode in the coach train to New York city.My three older brothers slept on the floor at 27th Street, and one night Ben stepped on Al's hand, which was sore for weeks afterward.I was too young togo to school, though my sister Bertha did attend New York schools forsome time. I spent most of my time looking out the window, as mymother had two very young children to care for. Although I was lessthan six years old, my mother would give me ten or twenty cents everynoon, and I would go to the store to buy the baloney.We had no bathroom of our own and had to share the toilet out in the front hallwith the other tenants on that second floor.To supplement our diet, wehad a corn popper and popped corn on the coal stove nearly every night.My brothers would take a coal hod down to the railroad tracksand spend long hours trying to fill their hods with coal that mighthave fallen from the coal trains. Wood was difficult to get, but mybrothers searched endlessly for kindling wood. One evening my father'sfriends the Schlimbaums had the ten of us for supper. We went to their flat by streetcar, and I can remember my disbelief at the number of courses and quantity of food on the table. At Halloween, looking out the window I saw some mean tricks as teenage boys would hit passersby with long socks with a heavy brick inside. One morning I was standing in the front room when myt father unexppectedly came home. My mother without a word followed him from the entrance down in the kitchen to the front room and watched the poor man put his scissors and his tape measure on the table. When she questioned him with her expressive eyes, he told her that there was not enough work, and as the last man hired, he had been fired.We returned to Hardford and lived on Portland Street.There are Portland Street neighbors named Goldfield listed nearby in directories, but we have not been able to find out if they were relatives of my mother. In Boston in the l970's we spoke with a widow Celia Goldfield of Milton, whose husband had come from Rovno in eastern Poland, on the same railroad line as Brody, where my mother came from.The name probably dates back to an Austrian taxation plan of the later eighteenth century.My mother had a family photo album. We believe her parents named Abel and Bertha were deceased in Austria before 1890.Ellis Island opened in l892, and immigration records from New York from the 1880's are said to have burned. e her parents named Abel and Bertha were deceased in Austria before 1890.Ellis Island opened in l892, and immigration records from New York from the 1880's are said to have burned


Sophie Ruth Meranski Mount Holyoke College AB 1923 MA l925 Mrs. John B. Barrett p 37 {S} {F}


earliest known photo of Sophie Ruth Meranski, born October 4, l901 at 189 Front St, Hartford CT from September 1911 group with her father and mother David Meranski and Thalia Goldfeld and four brothers Harry,Ben, Abe, andIsrael Peter and three sisters Esther, Bertha, Rebekah.Sophie is principal author of "Red Headed Stepchild" biography of Commander John Berchmans Barrett US Navy 1888-l969, whom she married 2 pm Friday June 21, l929 at New York City Hall during her lunch hour as Director of Personnel Research at Macy's Stores (34th St. NY), one hour before he left for destroyer TRUXTUN duty based at Cavite, Philippines. Sophie traveled to Tientsin China l930 on large navy transport HENDERSON - sent first report to Navy of Japanese capture of Mukden, Manchuria September l9, l931, traveled round world with Jack l932 via Philippines, Malaya, Ceylon, Egypt and Europe - lived in Boston l932-3, Panama l934-5 Norfolk,Virginia 1936, Philadelphia (Bala Cynwyd) l937 -Coronado near San Diego part of l938-l939 -9615 Shore Road near Narrows, Brooklyn September l939-June l941, 2415 Ala Wai Boulevard Waikiki July 1941-June 1947 toured San Francisco, Yosemite redwoods Crater Lake Mount Rainier Glacier-Montana Yellowstone-Grand Tewton-Wyoming GreaT LAKES-NIAGAra summer l947 -spent autumn 1947 at home of sister-in-law Mollie Barrett 640 East Seventh Street South Boston, and moved Thanksgiving Day to 52 Emmonsdale Road, West Roxbury, where she resided over 39 years.