My Aunt Margit

Margit Paris (Died 1977)

My only aunt, Margit, was the sister of the Paris twins, Elek and Emil. Like them, she was born in Prešov-Solivar in what is now the Republic of Slovakia, but at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and under Hungarian administration. Like them, she was abandoned by her parents at the end of World War I in the middle of a famine. The three siblings did what they could to survive under difficult conditions. In 1929, they were able to come to the United States and joined their parents in Cleveland.

Although Margit never married, she single-handedly owned and operated May’s Bridal Shop in Garfield Heights, Ohio. She lived in the back of her store, though I believe she spent most weekends with my Uncle Emil in Novelty, Ohio.

I used to enjoy visiting the store, even though I was put to work. Aunt Margit handed me a magnet and had me use it to pick up pins from the fitting room floor, of which there were usually hundreds. When I was done, I sat admiring her calendar. Her insurance company put out an annual calendar that featured color engravings from Currier & Ives. The calendar part didn’t interest me at all, but the budding book collector in me coveted the Currier & Ives engravings. She didn’t know it at the time, but instead of buying me clothes at Christmas time, I would have been happier with one of her old calendars.

A Typical Currier & Ives Color Engraving

When she retired from the bridal shop in the mid 1970s, she bought a house in Florence, South Carolina. It was a bit of a surprise to me, as Margit was always close to her brothers.

When I went with my parents to Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1977, I flew back from Europe earlier. The news that awaited me after my return was that Aunt Margit had died. I rushed to send a telegram to my Dad in Budapest. They couldn’t get back in time for the funeral, so I decided with my brother Dan to attend the funeral in their place. Afterwards, my Mom told me that Dad was totally broken up by my telegram and was agitated that he couldn’t be there for her. Dan and I figured that would be the case, so we were both happy to honor our aunt with our presence on this sad occasion.

She was a sweet and kindly person all her life, and we all missed her.

 

Caught Between the Warring Twins

Emil, Margit, and Elek Paris

The following post appeared on my Multiply.Com blog site on January 16, 2011.

It’s been a while since I revisited my past. This time, I’m going back into the period before my birth. The above picture was taken at some point in the 1930s and shows the Paris twins, Elek (Alex) and Emil, and their sister Margit.

Can I tell which one of the men is my father? Probably, it is the one on the right, because my father Elek was always better tanned and more athletic but not so well dressed as Emil. Even later in life, I sometimes had to wait for them to start talking before I recognized them, because they had very distinctive voices.

Elek and Emil could never live far apart from each other. When Emil bought a condominium in Hollywood, Florida, my Dad followed—in the same Carriage Hills condo complex. My father died in October 1985; and Emil died a few months later, of pretty much the same combination of diabetes and heart failure. At my Dad’s funeral, Emil was visibly shaken, as if his world had been taken away from him.

All their lives, the two twins competed through their children. Dad had the two sons, my brother Dan and myself; Uncle Emil had a son and daughter, Emil Jr. and Peggy. At times, the competition got bitter, especially when my cousins faltered in school and in their personal lives. Dan and I, however, always liked our cousins and regretted any bad blood between the brothers. They were just that way.

Margit was a different case: She never married. I don’t even know whether she dated very much or even wanted to marry eventually. Some years after this photo was taken, she opened May’s Bridal Shop in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and lived on the premises spending her time sewing bridal gowns. My job when visiting there was to pick up fallen pins with a magnet. I would also look with admiration at all her old calendars with Currier & Ives illustrations.

I don’t remember when Margit (whom we called Nana) closed the shop and retired to Florence, South Carolina, but I think it was in the early 1970s. She didn’t last very long because, shortly after I returned from Hungary in 1977, I got a call that Margit had died suddenly. The timing was unfortunate, as my parents were still in Hungary visiting. So I notified my brother and the two of us attended the funeral—after sending a telegram to Dad in Hungary. He was very broken-up that he couldn’t make the funeral in time, but was grateful that Dan and I went.

Whatever the competitiveness between the frequently warring twins, I always felt that my Uncle, my cousins, and my Aunt loved us for what we were. Although Margit was closer to her brother Emil than to Elek, that never impacted on the next generation. I did feel, however, that my Dad had never said certain unkind things about my cousins that I wish he hadn’t. Cousin Emil was always good-hearted and frequently protected me from neighborhood bullies when I was a little shrimp of a kid; and Cousin Peggy was, I always thought, incredibly cute.

A life is always strange when one looks at it all of a piece. I cannot help but feel that I have grossly oversimplified the complex web of interrelationships that existed among us. The important thing is that I accepted the few bad things because they were more than made up for with kindness and love. Elek, Emil, and Margit now exist inside of me; and all the conflicts have been resolved.

 

Identical Twins

My Father, an Unidentified Friend, and My Uncle Emil

This photo was taken long before I was ever thought of, probably in he late 1930s or early 1940s. Both Paris twins are shown: Elek (Alex) on the left on Emil on the right. There were times as I was growing up when it was difficult to tell one from the other, but here, it is clearly my Dad on the left. What’s the giveaway? My Dad was always a bit scruffier than my Uncle, who in this picture is actually wearing spats over his shoes and, in general, is more stylishly dressed. Unfortunately, I inherited my father’s sense of style and have always been described as scruffy.

The Paris twins were born in what is today Prešov-Solivar  in the Republic of Slovakia. When they were born in 1911, it was merely a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, primarily under Hungarian administration. Although Elek and Emil chatted in Slovak whenever they wanted to hide something from me, both of them were more comfortable speaking Hungarian.

They had a hard life because they were abandoned my their parents in the famine that struck the area after the First World War. They had decamped to the United States, while Elek, Emil, and their sister Margit had to fend for themselves in the foothills of the Carpathians around their town. They were aided in this by an aunt, Dorcsa, whom I met in 1977. Much of the time, they hunted for mushrooms and frogs to feed themselves. In 1929, the family was reunited in Cleveland, Ohio; but there was always bad blood between the parents and their children.

 

Caught Between the Warring Twins

Elek, Margit, and Emil Paris

Emil, Margit, and Elek Paris

I originally posted this on Multiply.Com in January 2011:

It’s been a while since I revisited my past. This time, I’m going back into the period before my birth. The above picture was taken at some point in the 1930s and shows the Paris twins, Elek (Alex) and Emil, and their sister Margit.

Can I tell which one of the men is my father? Probably, it is the one on the right, because my father Elek was always better tanned and more athletic but not so well dressed as Emil. Even later in life, I sometimes had to wait for them to start talking before I recognized them, because they had very distinctive voices.

Elek and Emil could never live far apart from each other. When Emil bought a condominium in Hollywood, Florida, my Dad followed—in the same Carriage Hills condo complex. My father died in October 1985; and Emil died a few months later, of pretty much the same combination of diabetes and heart failure. At my Dad’s funeral, Emil was visibly shaken, as if his world had been taken away from him.

All their lives, the two twins competed through their children. Dad had the two sons, my brother Dan and myself; Uncle Emil had a son and daughter, Emil Jr. and Peggy. At times, the competition got bitter, especially when my cousins faltered in school and in their personal lives. Dan and I, however, always liked our cousins and regretted any bad blood between the brothers. They were just that way.

Margit was a different case: She never married. I don’t even know whether she dated very much or even wanted to marry eventually. Some years after this photo was taken, she opened May’s Bridal Shop in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and lived on the premises spending her time sewing bridal gowns. My job when visiting there was to pick up fallen pins with a magnet. I would also look with admiration at all her old calendars with Currier & Ives illustrations.

I don’t remember when Margit (whom we called Nana) closed the shop and retired to Florence, South Carolina, but I think it was in the early 1970s. She didn’t last very long because, shortly after I returned from Hungary in 1977, I got a call that Margit had died suddenly. The timing was unfortunate, as my parents were still in Hungary visiting. So I notified my brother Dan and the two of us attended the funeral—after sending a telegram to Dad in Hungary. He was very broken-up that he couldn’t make the funeral in time, but was grateful that Dan and I went.

Whatever the competitiveness between the frequently warring twins, I always felt that my Uncle, my cousins, and my Aunt loved us for what we were. Although Margit was closer to her brother Emil than to Elek, that never impacted on the next generation. I did feel, however, that my Dad had never said certain unkind things about my cousins that I wish he hadn’t. Cousin Emil Junior was always good-hearted and frequently protected me from neighborhood bullies when I was a little shrimp of a kid; and Cousin Peggy was, I always thought, incredibly cute.

A life is always strange when one looks at it all of a piece. I cannot help but feel that I have grossly oversimplified the complex web of interrelationships that existed among us. The important thing is that I accepted the few bad things because they were more than made up for with kindness and love. Elek, Emil, and Margit now exist inside of me; and all the conflicts have been resolved.

In Memory of Emil

Where My Uncle and Cousin Emil Worked: The Metal Craft Spinning Company

Where My Uncle and Cousin Emil Worked: The Metal Craft Spinning Company

For two years, 2008 and 2009, I posted all my blogs at Blog.Com. When suddenly it started to go bad around the end of that period, I moved to Multiply.Com for a while, which also went bad. Anyhow, here is a blog I wrote about my cousin, Emil Zoltan Paris:

I wish I had a photograph of my Cousin Emil. Perhaps I do—and when I find it I will post it—but I could not lay my hands on it on short notice. Emil Zoltan Paris Jr., to give his full name, was my father’s twin brother Emil Zoltan Paris Sr.’s only son. Between those formative years in my life during the early 1950s, he lived only a block away on East 177th Street.

He was a couple years older than I was, and he was anti-intellectual to a high degree, but he was fiercely loyal and goodhearted. As a little kid, I was frequently picked on by the neighborhood bullies—unless Emil was around. He was tall and big, the type that became a defensive tackle in high school (and in fact, that’s just what he was at West Geauga High). Whenever he caught someone who was picking on me, Emil just sat on him and whacked away until blood squirted or sounds of apology were reluctantly tendered.

Once, when he walked into our living room while I was reading Tom Sawyer, Emil picked up the book and slammed it to the floor, saying “There! That’s what I think of books!” Even at John Adams Junior High School, Emil was not known for his learning or sensitivity. But we liked him for his good heart and his steadfast friendship. Not, however, for his humor. Once he asked me if I could use the word Rotterdam in a sentence. When I hesitated, he grinned and said, “I gave my sister some candy and I hope it’ll rotterdam teeth out.”

Emil married a woman named Lois from Detroit, but it didn’t turn out well. She left him for another woman, who happened to be African-American.

I lost touch with Emil went I went to college and, from there, moved out to California. Then, I heard from my mother that he was living in Lake Havasu City, AZ, just across the Colorado River. Twice, on my road trips through Arizona, I detoured to Lake Havasu and visited him, once with my mother along. He was running a limo service there. We kept in touch now and then.

After a few years there, he moved back to Cleveland to be with his aging mother. It was difficult to tell who was more ill, because Emil was showing symptoms of advanced Type 2 Diabetes. Toward the end, he lost his vision. Then he passed away about sixteen years ago, leaving his two grown-up sons, Greg and Doug, with whom I am not in touch.

I miss not having Emil around to talk about old times. Those included the years he worked for his father’s company, the Metal-Craft Spinning Company in the Flats of Cleveland (see photo above).  The building in which Uncle Emil’s factory was located has now been subdivided into luxury lofts. I used to drop in with my father ostensibly to talk to my uncle, my cousin, and Mr. Prosser, my uncle’s partner. Actually, I was probably just as interested then in the nudie pinup calendars scattered throughout. For lunch, we would walk over to the old Flatiron Café and have some delicious sandwiches. It is still there, but it’s become yuppified and now calls itself an Irish Pub. Those gruff Slavic faces at the tables of the old greasy spoon are all gone.