Great Grandparent family portrait.
Jim's grandmother is upper right.
The Grup� family celebrates 4th of July in their Brooklyn home.
|There was once a rather detailed family history on the paternal side. Alas, as it was devoid of anything remotely notable, it has long ago become part of the landfill. About the only small recollection of its content is that some 7 year old died by sliding into a salt mine. The only other ancestral note on my father's side can be made by observation that the family name ( Grup� ) is very definitely French, suggesting that the location of the salt mine, and ancestral home, was near enough to the French border that they probably ended up on various sides of the line after one war or another.|
|I don't recall what Grandfather Grup� did for a living, but he lived in a modest home on Long Island when I was growing up. He had been a champion long-distance cyclist in his youth, evidenced by a scrapbook filed with photos and articles about his exploits. Father was the youngest of three, having two older sisters. He had an uncommonly large number of "uncles", though many were not blood relations at all. This fact became significant to him only in the last few years, when the circumstances of my own life caused him to rethink his extended family tree.|
Father and his parents, with my older brother
Grandfather and Great Grandfather
The maternal ancesters proved to be far more notable. Both the Hoffman and Herman families came to Long Island in the 1850's and were major contributors to the development of Long Island.
The Hoffman family originated in southern Germany, and came to Long Island in the last century. Around 1850 Jacob Hoffman moved to Elmont from the older German settlement in Queens County. He was looking for a larger farm. He built his farmhouse on Foster's Meadow Road near Dutch Broadway. Foster's Meadow was renamed Elmont in 1866 as was the road, now Elmont Road. Joseph Hoffman was a prominent Catholic and the first mass ever said in Elmont took place in his farmhouse. It was Joseph Hoffman's son, Jacob who married Miss Schroeher, establishing the family in Franklin Square. Jacob Hoffman managed his father-in-law's inn starting in the early 1880's. He and his wife lived there and Schroeher's continued to prosper. Jacob Hoffman soon bought the hotel outright from Louis Schroeher, along with the acreage and this became the Hoffman farm. Hoffman, with and eye toward the future, tore down Schroeher's and erected a new hotel in its place. This was called the Hoffman hotel, built in the late 1880's.
With the advent of the automobile, my great-grandfather Herman, whom I met once as a toddler, decided it might be a neat idea to divide the farmland he owned in Franklin Square into separate properties and build houses. He reasonned that the masses of people working in nearby New York City would probably love to have a house in the country, even if they had to travel a dozen miles to get there. With a horse, that would be impossible, since horses had to be cared for all day long - and in the middle on New York City, there were no pastures to leave them in. However, a machine could simply be left on the side of the road during the workday.
Long story short, Great Grandpa is credited by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC as having invented the *suburb*. After selling out his farm, he bought up all his neighbors' farms and repeated the process. In the end, he owned and/or developed much of Nassau and Westchester counties, the two counties adjacent to New York City in New York State. And, oh yes, he was rather wealthy towards the latter part of his life, though he never spent it on himself, and continued to live in *his* original farmhouse. That house is now a historic landmark, regrettably remodelled extensively by later relatives who "modernized" the exterior. He gave away hundreds of homes during the depression, which was the major altruism that I know of. His farm is now Franklin Square, New York. Herman Boulevard is a major commercial highway on Long Island, even *I* have a street named for me.. one of his last development projects.
The Hoffman family was always a very proper sort. Many of them were also rather eccentric. That was one of the early lessons I learned of "life". If you're rich, you can afford to be as odd as you wish.
I didnt know most of them.. I only heard stories. As it happens, most of those in the photo at the right were relatives I actually *did* know. The younger brother of my grandfather, and the younger sister of my grandmother, both pictured, also got married, 5 years to the day after my grandparents. If made for a very close-knit group within an otherwise very large and disparate family.
Grandparent wedding portrait.
Mother with her two younger siblings.
La Vera, in the middle, died at 7
I think the story of my great grandfather is pretty neat, and has the practical advantage that the remains of that wealth still keep my mother in the chips. Unfortunately, her father, my maternal grandfather, was not nearly so clever as his father. One of 17 sons and daughters (there was no TV back then), each had been set up with a business making them instant millionaires when they reached age 21.
Grandfather was a poor businessman, however, who lived by one principle: thrift. Even so, his fortune only dimished over time, leaving enough to keep his two surviving children comfortably, but far from rich. Mother's childhood was somewhat harsh, with a miserly father and a superstious unfeeling Catholic mother. She would always recall her childhood with a determination to do better for her own family.
Thus comes Jim into the world, son of Ernest and Lucille, at 8 pounds 4 ounces. He is pre-dated by older son Tom, and followed, many years later and somewhat accidently we might add, by younger brother Bob.
Jim on the wagon at an early age
Proud Papa with his two sons
Mom flanked by Tom and Jim
Timothy, my first friend.
The red hair was redder then
|Jim was a noisy and rambunctious baby. The story oft told is how when my mother first approached the hospital nursery to view her newborn child, there was one baby howling and screaming like no other, and my mother is quoted as giving pity to the unlucky parents of such a child. As luck would have it, the howls were mine, and were but the precurser to a rather boisterous life. On the plus side, there were signs that I had been sucking my thumb for quite some time in the womb, a sign of intelligence that was latter confirmed by a variety of tests.|
Jim filling the pool
Jim on his bike
Mom was pretty playful herself
|Now, there is no part of my life that I would consider anything but happy. As much as I can recall, I have always been energetic, enthusiastic, and humorous. My first few years were spent in the town of Lynnbrook, but my parents moved to Baldwin when I was about 2, and nearly all of my childhood memories come from there. My parents were struggling financially, my father required some dangerous back surgery, but they built and kept one of the nicest homes in the neighborhood. (My mother's rich father provided no assistance.) Mom shopped the discount stores for "imperfect" mark-downs, Dad laboriously cut our hair once a month, and we learned to make the most of whatever we had.|
Party Animal !
Jim's 6th Grade graduation portrait
|But, Mom also held to her determination to provide for us the childhood she wished she had had. Without fail, each year we found one day to to visit the Bronx Zoo, another for a full day at Coney Island, and many, many days at the beaches for which the South shore of Long Island is renowned. We all had season tickets for the New York World's Fair, and went often. I still love the beach and amusement parks.|
At the beach with brother Tom
The house Jim grew up in
Jim's best friend was also Jimmy
Jim with Santa at age 3
|Christmas was the most important time of the year. More than just a day, Christmas meant months of shopping, decorating, and preparation. Christmas Day was the one time that all the close and no-so-close relatives would come to our house for dinner. As I grew older, I took over the exterior decorations, and though father bemoaned the spinning electric meter, covered the house in lights. My propensity for an 'electric' Christmas has not diminished.|
In pursuit of a muscial career??
|Growing up. School was easy. I tended to daydream a lot. My teachers struggled to find things to keep me busy. I did a lots of artwork from an early age, contributing to decorations in the hallways, school papers, whatever. I tended to like creative activities, My mother was determined to find an area in which I excelled, to which end I was sent to dancing school, music class, choral societies, and whatever else I might demonstrate a propensity for. My father made the mistake of enrolling me in little league baseball without ever teaching me the game. I so embarrassed him that we never made a second trip.|
"A"'s were expected in everything.
I always did like the water
|High School was not my happiest experience, for a variety of reasons. Near the end of grammar school, one of my teachers suffered a nervous breakdown and made me the object of her torment. I was also having physical problems with eventually required oral surgery to correct. Kids being kids, I was subjected to a lot of derision in class. In High School, I was isolated from the majority of my class, having been entered into a small, select group of "gifted" children for more advanced education than the standard curriculum. In my Junior year I contracted mononucleosis, which was misdiagnosed, and which kept me out of school for most of the year.|
I came into my own in college. As always, I found the studies easy, and rarely cracked a book until the last possible moment. Instead, I devoted myself to the extra-curriculars. No longer encumbered by the legacy of my High School baggage, I built an empire of committees and activities that at one point included nearly 20% of the entire school, students and faculty.
For relaxation, I taught myself to ice skate, and was offered a job with the ice capades in my last year of shcool. I was feeling very much on top of the world when I graduated... at least up to the point that President Nixon eliminated occupational deferments and it became obvious that I would be called for service in Vietnam. I avoided Vietnam, but was in boot camp on the day that others in my graduating class were strolling down the aisle to get their diplomas.
As depicted in the college newspaper.
They even captured my fashion sense.
The two on the right were opponents in an election.
I also liked to embellish the envelopes of the letters I mailed home. Doodles, really. I didnt realize that they had made such an impact. They were quite a hit at the post office, and Mother actually saved many of them. You have perhaps noticed a few floating around the page... :-))
I spent 5 years in college, then went back for another six months as a method of escaping the army early. I ended up with Master's degrees in Engineering Physics and Management.
I spent my brief army career cloistered at White Sands Missile Range, NM, inventing secret weapons that had no chance of ever working. Like the "Giant Orbitting Nose" to sniff out VietCong, and the "Remote Wind Detector" to better aim our missiles. Yeah - we *both* know where the wind was coming from!! No matter. I was not getting shot at. And there was a lovely beach... although lacking in water. I learned to fly. I captained a post soccer team. I taugh calculus to pick up some spare change, and spent it on trips into Mexico. I got out in 18 months, 10 days, and 11 minutes, not that I was counting. They say you will look back on your army years as the best part your life. I found it to be a total waste of resources, both public and private.
From here on out, you can read my resume to see how my career has developed. Briefly, it is likely that something I have done has impacted your life in some way, especially if you live in North America. I'm a successful engineer, but I long ago changed my personal "hero" to Walt Disney, because he built his success on making people happy.
This is how the family looked recently..