Aunt Martha was unique in my family. As a child, I didn’t understand what a role model she was. Martha was born in St Paul Minnesota in1907; the 7th child of my maternal grandparents Ignatz and Stella Ganas.
She was the only one of my mother’s 10 siblings who moved away from St. Paul as a single person. I’ll never know why she left, but the most common of the family lore says that she fell in love with a Jewish man. Religious conversion was not in the cards for either of them. So, she got on a train with a couple of friends and headed west sometime in the 1930’s.
After visiting towns in North Dakota and Montana she spent a season working in. Yellowstone National Park. She took a lot of photos, but not one has a date on it. By 1938 she was in Pasadena, California taking snapshots of the Rose Parade. She finally settled in Oakland, California. She travelled the west coast and made regular trips back to St. Paul.
My first real memories of Aunt Martha were her visits to us in Chicago. She was a superstar to me because of her travels but mostly because she traveled by air. What luxury that seemed to me! We’d go to Chicago’s Midway airport (this was way before O’Hare), go out on the observation deck and watch the planes arrive and depart.
Martha would arrive on a TWA Constellation. (Here's another article.) What a beautiful plane! I fell in love with it and still love it to this day. The sleek and graceful curves truly set her apart from other planes of the time.
I loved Aunt Martha because she was a loving, kind, gentle woman, and also because she was never condescending to a little kid like me.
I grew up in a time when girls were still expcted to grow up, become secretaries, get married and have babies. I grew up appreciating Martha her for her spirit, her poise, her wanderlust and her independence. All were an inspiration to a young girl. Thank you Aunt Martha.