October 14, 2004


This is my cousin Tonya Gabor, née Shymkiw, and her husband Leon. They got married a week ago Sunday in Winnipeg. I've been in Winnipeg for the last few weeks to see my family - with the wedding, more of the clan was there than usual.

Tonya and Leon live - or perhaps lived - in the Cayman Islands, a small Caribbean tax haven and technically UK territory which has long been something a favourite for elusive billionaires. They, alas, are not billionaires. Small Caribbean tax havens support rather large service and hospitality sectors. There is little point in savings millions in taxes through voluntary exile if you can't spend them on some warm beach where pretty girls bring you overpriced drinks. That is the area of their employment.

Hurricane Ivan apparently did a real job on the islands. Although the Cayman government denies that the damage was enormous, I am assured that the damage was, in fact, enormous. The assumption is that the goverment does not wish to cause on a run on its exceedingly profitable banking sector by disclosing the full extent of the damages. Tonya and Leon stayed through the hurricane, getting out only a few days before the wedding. They don't know - or didn't know at the time - whether or not they still have work.

There seem to be a number of transitions afoot in the old country.

Among the family members that I don't see too often is my uncle Ed. It will probably surprise some of my readers, but my uncle, like several of my aunts and uncles, was born in the US, guanateeing him US citizenship under the 14th amendment. He was moved to the US in his late teens and became a diplomat and later a state senator in Minnesota. Back in the 70's, he was fairly important in Minnesota politics. And he is - or was - a Republican.

Yes, there is a Republican politician in my family. A liberal Republican, but yes, an Eisenhower/Nixon Republican. He does, however, have a reputation as a serious legislative foe of the tobacco industry and is credited with having pushed through the first state indoor smoking ban in the US.

Anyway, I was rather shocked to see him wearing a Nader pin when he came to Winnipeg for the wedding.

Uncle Ed and I seriously disagree about many, many political issues, including the wisdom of voting for Kerry. I believe that if Kerry doesn't win the results will at best be catastrophic, at worst apocalyptic, while if Kerry is elected, the worst that will happen will be ordinary bad government. Uncle Ed feels Kerry is no better then Bush and Michael Moore is no better than Rush Limbaugh. I can't help but differ.

Uncle Ed is to me something of a bellwether of the Goldwater/Nixon/Reagan Republicans. To turn him to actively supporting Nader - not Kerry, Nader - that says something about what is going on in America. Uncle Ed, it seems, isn't alone among old time Republicans turning their backs on Bush. This editorial, which has come to my attention via Doonesbury, suggests that a lot of the liberal wing of the Republican party has turned their backs on the machine politics of the Bushes.

The minds behind the "Nixon majority", the very Republican figures who attracted so many Democratic votes to Reagan and the first Bush, seem to be fleeing the GOP, replaced by political engineers and moneyed interests. I hope this bodes ill for the party, but the poll numbers in the current election are not too encouraging.

For those reading Grandpa's memoirs, to which I haven't posted in six months, I'm trying to get together the time to get on with it. My personal life has been a mess for about a year now, and this blog seems to reflect it. Also, they've moved my desk to make it harder for me to post without everyone knowing I'm slacking off on the job. But, I will get back to it soon.

This is my paternal grandmother, Frieda Martens née Willms, who some of you may know from Grandpa's papers. Two weeks ago, Grandma moved out of the house where she and Grandpa lived and I helped to load the truck. She's relocating to Alberta, to an apartment across the street from my aunt Liz and her family. This is a big transition for her - moving out of their house in Altona, the house where she had lived for some 14 years and the town where she had lived for almost 30 years. I only barely remember when they still lived in Niverville. For as long as I can remember, Altona, Manitoba always meant Grandma and Grandpa.

It is possible that I will never set foot in Altona again - it is well off the main road to Winnipeg from anywhere you'd want to be.

As a result of her move and need to unload decades of accumulated stuff, I got about three boxes of books - mostly in German - and an envelope of family photos, most of which I had never seen before. Many of the people named in Grandpa's memoirs are pictured, so I've scanned in a few here at the office for you.

For instance, Grandma and Grandpa's wedding picture from 1947. This photo used to hang in the living room in their house. There's a signature at the bottom - I presume a photographer's mark, but I don't know. This is copied from a photo. I remember when I was in my mid-teens Grandpa setting up equipment to copy his old photos himself onto new films. He didn't have negatives for this stuff. I assume that's the reason this photo is so sepia coloured. It certainly wasn't technologically necessary in the 40s, nor was it fashionable. It makes the photo seem much older than it is, but I assume that it's just faded.

This is the first photo I've ever seen of Grandpa's biological father, Kornelius Peter Martens. I did not know that there were any photos of him extant. It looks like he's wearing a uniform, but I know he dodged the draft, so I'm not sure what he's wearing exactly.

And this young lady is my great grandmother, Katharina Neustädter Martens Dick. She appears to have been a very fashionable young lady in her time. This photo was no doubt taken before moving to Canada and probably before her marriage or the hardships of the Russian Civil War.
I also have a wedding photo of the two of them, just a year and a half before Great Grandpa Martens died of typhoid fever:

Since I suspect my aunts are also reading this - they asked for my URL - I thought I should include something a little more recent and, just to show that I play fair, embarassing to everyone. This is a Martens family photo from 1973. Pictured, from left to right: Top row - my father, Theodor Robert "Bob" Martens; my grandfather, Theodor Cornelius Martens. Bottom row - my aunt Liz, (who has not yet appeard in Grandpa's memoirs); my mom; my grandmother; and my aunt Carol.

And who, you may be asking yourself, is the small blond person in the adorable little sailor suit sitting on my mother's lap? Why yes, this little victim of child fashion abuse is none other than yours truly. Not many men are secure enough to put a picture of themselves up on their website in a powder blue sailor's suit. There are very few photos of me on the web, and this is the only one you'll find here.






Posted 2004/10/14 15:52 (Thu) | TrackBack

I can't quite make out the emblem on his cap well enough, but it looks to me like Kornelius Peter Martens is wearing a White Army uniform (it's clearly a picture from Russia). The Mennonites served in the Red Cross hospital service during WWI but that doesn't look like a Red Cross uniform. If he emigrated through Turkey, he definitely served in the White Army

Posted by: Terry at October 15, 2004 17:05

Yes Scott, Great Grandpa Martens served in an army and the White Army sounds right. He had a bit of a reputation I think. He was likely quite a bit like your father in a variety of ways and not much like Grandpa Dick. Also, Ed has not been a genuinely loyal Republican supporter for a while, pre Bush definitely. He is not likely typical of anything. The family picture isn't the most flattering but I have no apologies for dressing you in a sailor suit. It was handcrafted and I am proud of it!

Posted by: Scott's Mom at October 17, 2004 21:55

I could see that that was your father.

Welcome back to the blogosphere, by the way. You've been missed.

Posted by: David Weman at October 18, 2004 12:34

Thanks, David. I'm going to try to get some new posting up soon. I've got an unposted draft up on AFOE that should be online in the next couple days.

Mom - really? I knew great-grandpa Martens had a variety of sympathies, but I didn't know he had ever worn a uniform. Grandpa describes him as brokering a truce between the Makhnovitsii and the White Army at one point. As for Uncle Ed, I knew he hadn't been active in the party in a while, but I remember us disagreeing about Bush the Elder some years ago.

Terry, I know many Mennonites served in the Red Cross in WWI, but I don't think he did. Great-grandpa Martens didn't emigrate, he died of typhoid fever during the Russian Civil War. Great-grandma and the rest of the Martenses managed to wrangle passports and simply bought tickets to Canada in 1927.

Posted by: Scott Martens at October 18, 2004 13:24

The cockade on his cap sure looks like a Tsarist or White Army one.

Posted by: jim at October 19, 2004 1:49

Scott, I am absolutely sure that your Great Grandpa Martens served in an army in Russia. I think it was a bit of an embarrassment to the family, at least later on.

Posted by: Scott's Mom at October 21, 2004 23:47

Also, your father's real first name was spelled THEODORE not Theodor like his father's.

Posted by: Scott's Mom at October 21, 2004 23:49

A friend told me of your site.
That?s definitely what i was looking for.
I will surely recommend you.

Posted by: Rita at June 20, 2005 8:33
Post a comment

Remember personal info?