inessential by Brent Simmons

Me and Newark, NJ

We’ve been enjoying the HBO series “The Plot Against America.” I’m a long-time fan of Philip Roth books, though I haven’t read this one yet.

The action, at least in the first few episodes, takes place in the Weequahic neighborhood in Newark, NJ.

I recalled that my father’s mother is from that same neighborhood.

So I was doing a little research on my family connection last night, and I ran across the wedding announcement of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, and I found it fascinating.

Here’s the headline:

Harry W. Crawford Weds Miss Marie Bertha Keer. Wedding held at the Church of the Holy Apostles, followed by a Reception at Inlet Terrace Club — will reside in Newardk after wedding trip.

Here’s the PDF — it’s from The Coast Advertiser on September 16, 1921.

The story has a lot of detail:

…she wore a gown of white satin trimmed with rose point lace. A court train of satin trimmed with tulle and orange blossoms fell from the shoulders and her veil of rose point lace was arranged in cap effect and caught on each side with orange blossoms. She carried a shower bouquet of white roses and lilies of the valley.

(It goes on.)

The story also omits a bunch of details — where did they go on their honeymoon?

To tie this back to Philip Roth: I used Maps to find out how far their house was from Philip Roth’s childhood house, presumably the location for “The Plot Against America” — just under a mile.

* * *

I knew my great-grandmother, who we called Ohma. I didn’t know my great-grandfather.

Ohma succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease eventually. But, before then, when I was quite young, she used to tell me the story of Peter Cottontail — who was me, she said, since my first name is Peter. (It is.)

For many years I’ve had a picture of her father, Ernest Keer — my great-great-grandfather — on the wall in my office. In the picture he’s doing what I do — sitting in his office at a desk, doing some reading. He was a lawyer in Newark. The picture is from April 1912.