About Me
My Photo
Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
View my complete profile

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Harold Angel

I belong to a sentimental kind of family - the kind that remembers loved-and-lost people, that revels in sharing images in old photos, in old home movies and on video, the kind of family that not only emails candid photos to each other on birthdays and anniversaries, but also has the birthdays & anniversaries of departed relatives marked on their current calendars.

Sometimes we remember those we loved by raising a glass to toast their memories. Sometimes we remember them in .... the kitchen. Does anyone else connect certain relatives with their favorite foods? We do! Oral history tells us that Grandma Kitty loved kidney stew, horseradish and coconut macaroons, Grandpa Jim ate a whole raw onion every night before dinner, Uncle George was a broccoli fan and the key to Uncle Ollie's heart was a big dish of stuffed peppers.

Beloved Uncle Harold's favorite pie was mince - so his wife, my piano-playing Aunt Helen, made sure that a mincemeat pie was always included in the holiday desserts - a choice that was soundly rejected by the kids in my generation. Luckily for us, Harold's other favorite pie was banana cream - one we were happy to share. His December birthday plus St Nicholas Day plus Christmas also confused us into thinking that Herald Angels were Harold Angels.... not too far off the truth! He died a long time ago, but some years I find myself making a banana cream pie on my uncle's birthday and thinking about him.

Harold grew up in Chicago, second son in a big family. His dad had a furniture finishing shop where Harold learned to like making furniture as a hobby... as a young man he worked in the office of a big furniture company, falling like a rock once he saw my cute little aunt -the feeling was mutual. Annieinaustin, H&H w carHarold's generosity and courtesy soon made the whole family love him. A few years after they were married, the Second World War separated them, and Harold served with the Army Air Corps (forerunner of the US Air Force) in the Mariana Islands where he worked on the cameras of reconnaissance planes. He contracted malaria, returning to the US many months after the war ended.Annieinaustin,Harold in Marianas

With no children of their own, Helen & Harold shared love and worldly goods with the children of their brothers and sisters. They were wonderful godparents! Annieinaustin, experienced godparentsHarold bought a 16mm home movie camera to record family parties and the antics of the youngsters... and this attention made more than two dozen nieces and nephews feel special, and as time went on it was hilarious to watch ourselves grow up when the projector came out for movie shows. We saw Helen and Harold at least once a week when we were growing up, but he was usually behind the camera - not in front of it, so we don't have enough photos of him.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Harold hosted family picnics at their small, perfect cottage on a large lot - with landscaping that he designed, planted and maintained - even letting a small, flower-loving niece believe she was helping.Annieinaustin, gardening with uncle HHarold's post-war work was in textbook publishing - and that lead to a perk for us! The display books from the office were nicely bound outside but with blank pages inside. They were replaced periodically and he passed along the outdated models. Having real books in which to draw & write our thoughts let us pretend we were real writers and artists.Annieinaustin, Harold at desk
Helen's piano was replaced by a Hammond Organ - she delighted in leading family singalongs. Once the group stopped singing and began talking, Harold would take a turn on the bench - coaxing a different set of melodies from the keys as background music for the conversation. How I wish for a recording of even one song!

The old camera was replaced around the time the older nieces and nephews traded dolls and baseball bats for mortar boards and bridal veils - now Uncle Harold was ready to film the great-nieces and great-nephews , traveling to see the younger generations as they set up housekeeping in distant suburbs and other states. There's the camera in his hand below - outside our rickety student dwelling. They drove 1000 miles to see us, and acted as if they were visiting a palace instead of a dump, complimenting our newlywed culinary experiments as if they were dining in a fine restaurant. That's the kind of gentleman he was. Annieinaustin, H & H w camera
Harold died too young - long before retirement age - breaking the hearts of all he left behind. Many years later as we ring in 2011, gone is not forgotten... in this Christmas season, you are still our Harold Angel!


  1. Dear Annie, This is a beautiful tribute to your Uncle. Heart warming. May this New Year bring you warmth in love and friendship. Best Wishes to you and yours.

  2. Now your uncle will be remembered by many more whenever we hear that carol. Happy 2011 Annie!

  3. Annie, There are foods that remind me of my mother and holidays...Mostacholi
    is the family favorite. Next time my sisters visit, I think I'll make it for them~I am sentimental, too, and appreciate your sweet memories of Uncle Harold and the faux books he shared with you. Happy New Year and may this year bring you many adventures in and out of your garden. gail

  4. A beautiful tribute to your uncle. I think the holidays bring us many memories of those who are no longer with us, but who remain evergreen in our hearts.

  5. What a delightful story, Annie. Your family circle sounds like a great place to grow up. Happy New Year to you!

  6. What a lovely tribute to a wonderful man. Our family, too, is sentimental about people and things. I love the memories we are able to share.
    Happy New Year.

    Always Growing

  7. What a sweet tribute. We are also a sentimental family - both mine and my husband's side of the family. Your Uncle Harold sounds like an angel indeed.

  8. My family definitely can tie food to the love and support of many family members passed. What a sweet memory of your Uncle and Aunt. Happy New Year to you Annie. I hope you have fun making many memories for your family.

  9. Thank you Flower Hill Carol - warmth in love and friendship is a great New Year wish - hope it comes to you, too.

    Hi Leslie - he was 'Hal' at work, but that never seemed right. Happy 2011 to you, too!

    Although mostaccioli doesn't bring a particular person to mind, it was served at almost every single wedding in the Chicago-area - many memories there! Hope this New Year sees you having fun with your sisters, Gail!

    Thank you so much, Commonweeder Pat - that sounds like something to aspire to, doesn't it? We can all hope to be the evergreen memory for someone! Happy 2011 to you ;-]

    Lovely to see you, Toronto Helen - I was darned lucky, and I know it. The circle has become smaller and it's far away, but the core is still there!
    May 2011 be good to you.

    Hi Jan-Always Growing -it's wonderful how technology has enabled families to share not only the memories but the images - even though we live far apart. Hope your family has a wonderful 2011.

    Thanks for the visit, Ginny from NC - it's fun to know you're also from a sentimental family. Happy New Year!

    The best of everything to you and yours Lisa at Greebow - guess what? Our family sent around a new batch of photos last summer... Aunt Helen turned 100-years old - she's still making memories!

    Thank you all so much for commenting - many sweet memories to you!


  10. Dear Annie, How similar our families are, and so wonderful to reflect on them, especially at this time of year. Your story is inspiring and I'm sure that I will never see another Banana Cream pie again without thinking of your Harold Angel singing. May yours be a joyous New Year.

  11. Everyone should be so lucky as to have an Uncle Harold and an Aunt Helen in their families. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    Happy New Year to you and all your family. May this be a year of great new memories and fondly recalled re-memories for you.

  12. We all should have such lovely relatives. You were so lucky to have him as an example when growing up! And movies to cherish...what a wonderful treat that must be.

  13. What a beautiful tribute! And what a beautiful and lucky family you have. May 2011 bring you all your wishes!

  14. Thanks for posting this. Best of luck for 2011.

  15. What a nice tribute to your Uncle. I remember the women who came before me many times in the kitchen, when I take one of their wrinkled old recipes out and use them. My Mom, knowing that I would inherit her cookbooks, wrote little notes to me by certain recipes.I found them after her death, when I was looking for her Lemon Meringue Pie recipe. Balisha

  16. This is one of the most heartwarming tributes to a family member I've ever, EVER read, Annie. He would have been very thrilled and proud. Happy New Year to you and yours from snow-covered Nova Scotia!

  17. I loved reading about your uncle Harold. What wonderful memories you have. I especially liked that he gave you blank bound books and that you thought herald angels were Harold angels. I enjoy seeing old black and white photos. The cars of the 1950s made great backdrops.

    Sorry I've been out of touch. Health issues, aging parents and a now-replaced computer kept me out of circulation. I'm slowly getting back. I've missed you. Here's to a healthy and fun new year!

  18. What sweet memories you have of your Uncle Harold, and how wonderful that Aunt Helen turned 100 years old. Amazing!
    I love those old photos, especially Uncle Harold and the little flower-loving niece :) He was a very handsome man.
    Your descriptions show a beautiful couple, inside and out. How lucky you all were to have such an uncle, and to still have dear Aunt Helen.
    I can imagine how much you enjoyed putting this post together, Annie, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
    Wishing you and Philo a very happy and healthy New Year!

  19. Beautiful tribute to your beloved uncle, Annie. All children should be so fortunate to be able to grow up surrounded with such love and happy memories.

    I think it's awesome your family commemorates the birthdays of your Uncle Harold and other beloved relatives! It's a heartwarming tradition.

  20. How cool to see your Uncle Harold was a Harold Angel! I thought I invented the name when I wrote my ebook THE HAROLD ANGEL!! See The Harold Angel on Amazon. Best wishes..Ellie Crowe



A comment from you is like chocolate - maybe I could live without it, but life is more fun with it. I'll try to answer. If someone else's comment piques your interest, please feel free to talk among yourselves.