Yet another week of Sepia Saturday on the same theme, “Work and Play,” so for this week, I have a series of photos of my grandfather, Leon Kitko. Leon was born in 1933, so he’s probably somewhere around 2 years old in this photo, or maybe just shy of 2 – he was born in March of 1933, so if this was taken late summer, he’d probably just be walking which looks about right. I’m not quite sure where this fits into the theme, whether it’s work or play since I can’t quite tell what Leon is holding. It may be a brush as if they had set the child to work to wash the car, or a toy, or just a random piece of metal.. it’s hard to tell. The back of the photos say, “L J Kitko on Dad’s Truck,” and I know that truck shows up in a lot of photos, so it’s something his father, Joseph Kitko, was rather proud of. Even if these weren’t labelled, I’d probably be able to tell that was my grandfather just from the child’s face – the eyes and cheeks are features I’d be able to recognize at any age! It’s great to have all three photos taken in succession like this – usually we pick out the best photo and toss the rest – and to have all three together is a real treasure!
For this week’s Sepia Saturday, we’re on our own to either follow the August prompt image or a different path. I’ve finally been able to clear up a few things regarding my great-grandfather’s history, so I figured this would be a great week to publish all of that finally. Above is a scan of a page from great-grandma Olga (Powis) Kitko’s photo album. The photos are mounted on what feels like black construction paper and bound into an album. Most of the pages at the end are blank and the album seems to cover her late teens through early 30s. It ends abruptly after the birth of her son in 1933.
Joseph J Kitko was the son of Andrej “Andrew” Kitko and Theresa Pnakovich, born 9 December 1905 in Madera, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, the second of six children. Both Andrew and Theresa arrived in the USA from Slovakia, and I’m told by a family member who knew them that the marriage was arranged. Theresa’s brother met Andrew and suggested that Andrew marry his sister, so Theresa came over from Slovakia without ever having met Andrew. They were married on 6 May 1900 in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
At some point in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Joseph got together with my great-grandmother, Olga Powis. I haven’t been able to find their marriage certificate in the county they were from, nor was there a certificate in any of the neighboring counties. If they ran off to another, far away county or another state, I haven’t stumbled across it and the surname is uncommon enough, that if it was indexed online, it would’ve popped up by now! I can’t be sure they were even married since common-law marriages were legal in Pennsylvania at that time, so it’s entirely possible that they got together and started living together as husband and wife without actually having been married. On 20 March 1933, my grandpa Leon was born. Shortly after his birth, I think before grandpa Leon was 3, Joseph left. The circumstances of his departure and whatever happened is likely lost to time, but there was obviously a great deal of upset over the events since I’m told Olga ripped up every photo of Joseph. Well, lo and behold, she did not. In that album page above, there are two photos of Joseph that a living family member who was close to Joseph was able to identify as him!
On the left is Joseph Kitko with Olga Powis, likely just before they were married (or not married?). On the right is Joseph with his son, Leon. All those years of thinking I’d never see a photo of my great-grandfather, and there he is!
Olga was granted a divorce on 28 December 1946 since PA law allows for divorces after a certain time if the spouse doesn’t respond to repeated summons or can’t be found. Joseph had moved on and married (or possibly not married again?) twice after Olga. Again, without having been there to hear both sides during whatever happened, I can’t assign blame or fault – I have no personal stake in whatever caused them to split and Joseph to leave, just a genealogical curiosity about the facts I can prove. I know there was a brief time Joseph spent in California between 1945 and 1947, but other than that, he spent the remainder of his life in Ohio.
Joseph died on 11 October 1978 in Xenia, Ohio. There’s a lot more to Joseph’s story, but I guess I’m still close enough to this in terms of time that I feel a little odd airing someone else’s dirty laundry! It’s rather satisfying to have all of this information now, especially since I had thought it was lost to closely guarded family secrets that had gone to the grave with their keepers. Just to reiterate, I’m not assigning blame or pointing fingers – what happened, happened, and I have no desire to continue whatever fight, hurt feelings, or what have you that I wasn’t even alive to see. It’s more so that I want some sort of connection to this side of the family since it always felt a little at arm’s length – even though we shared the same surname, it just wasn’t something we talked about, however there are people who are willing to talk openly about everything and I’m grateful for the time they take to share stories that bring a person’s history to life. I’m glad to have these two photos as a connection to a man I never knew, and am glad the photos are still here!
This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featured a group of people touring a cavern in England. Well, here I have my grandpa, Leon Kitko, grandson of immigrants from England, who, having made his own canoe out of salvaged parts, is taking a tour of a reservoir somewhere in Central-Western Pennsylvania. I’m told he was rather pleased with himself for having made the canoe all on his own.
As you can see, he even figured out the rudder and motor all by himself too, and judging by the grin on his face, was having a great time puttering around with this canoe! I think you can see better in this photo how the canoe wasn’t all one piece originally and that it’s a variety of different pieces of metal welded together to make the final form. It wasn’t very pretty, but clearly, it worked!
A boy and his dog for Sepia Saturday this week. It was SUPER easy to match to the prompt photo this week since we have dozens and dozens (possibly hundreds) of photos of family pets from the Kitko side of the family. Pictured here is my grandpa Leon Kitko and Tippy the dog. The photo is dated 1946, so this means Leon was 13. Location is in the yard of the family home in Beccaria, Pennsylvania – on the far left is the church we see in a number of other photos. I’m not quite sure why the back of the photo is labelled twice – perhaps the pencil was starting to fade and was re-done in ink later. On the label, Leon is called, “Buddy,” which was his childhood nickname. In fact, it was such a commonly used nickname that, as the story goes, when he went to his first day of school, the teacher called his full name during roll call and he didn’t respond. Being a small town, the teacher knew who he was already, so she asked him why he wasn’t responding. He replied, “My name is Buddy, not Leon.”
Over the years the family had a number of pets, but there are quite a few photos of Tippy through the years which is nice to see. Our pets have such short lives in comparison to ours, and it’s nice to see that they held a prominent enough spot in the lives of my ancestors to make it into saved photos.
Sepia Saturday, or rather, Sepia Sunday for me, featured a prompt photo of a group of people watching a movie filming. While we have a LOT of old super 8 reels we had digitized, I felt these two belonged here together, since they’re people taking photos of themselves and there’s a camera in the photo like the prompt photo. On the left is my grandpa, Leon Kitko, with an old Polaroid camera, taking a selfie in a mirror. On the right is his second wife, Romayne Greenaway, also set up in the same room with the same camera, but the focus is just a touch off. Both photos are labelled on the back with a date of 26 May 1969, written in Romayne’s hand. Leon is sporting quite the smirk with his hat tipped back and to the side while Romayne appears as if she’s trying to concentrate on getting everything just right before hitting the shutter release. I love that we have both of these photos and that they’re still just a little different from each other. I also get a kick out of the fact that they’re basically selfies, but from long before the first teenager took a selfie with a mobile phone.