Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Gift from Julia Morgan

Telechron 'Globetrotter" World Time Clock 1937-39

Some of you may have read my blog post about my grandmother, "Bannie," recently passing away. Well, I've had the difficult task of going through her belongings, which include my own items that I've stored at her house since childhood. It's been a hard task, but with some unexpected bittersweet findings.

As we were going through her things, my husband stumbled upon this clock. I hadn't remembered seeing it before. It was certainly handsome, with a wonderful Art Deco look. I turned the clock around, and Bannie had written and attached this note (below) on the back. It was given to my great grandfather (her father) from renown architect Julia Morgan. My great grandfather, Sam Berger, a woodcarver from Romania, collaborated with Julia Morgan on Hearst Castle in San Simeon. In fact, he used to spend entire summers working there. I have fond memories of him. He died when I was 10.


Needless to say, I was in awe thinking that this clock, dating to 1937-39, stayed in the family for all of these years. And, a gift from the late, great Julia Morgan. It was wonderful going through certain items and seeing notes that my grandmother had left. It's as if she was talking to us, telling us what everything was, and where or whom they were from.


A real treasure was this carved table and mirror, given to my grandparents as a wedding gift from my great-grandparents. Entirely hand-carved by my great-grandfather, Sam Berger. I have always admired it since childhood.

Berger as a young man (on right) in his workshop in San Francisco

Samuel Berger emigrated to San Francisco in 1904 from Bucharest, Romania, where he learned his trade as a second generation wood carver. I did a post awhile back about some of Sam's woodcarvings for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.


He carved for California's most beautiful public and private buildings. His works can be found in many churches in San Francisco including, Grace Cathedral, Basilica of Mission Dolores, St. Peter and Paul's, Star of the Sea, St. Cecilia's and St. Brigid's, to name of few.

The table and mirror were one of few items he carved for family and not commercial projects.

This was the first thing you saw when you entered my grandparent's home. Left to me, it's the first thing you see upon entering my house now. When it first arrived I was weeping like a baby. All I could think of is, This shouldn't be here. It's my grandmother's. But, now as I stare at it and touch it, I have fond memories of my grandparents and great-grandparents. Its beautiful detailed carving tells stories of past generations, and I'm honored to have it and will cherish it.

I hope you don't mind me sharing a bit of my family history with you. I miss my grandmother terribly, and hoping that going through these pieces and reading her notes will be comforting.

18 comments:

Ms Smart said...

That is amazing! what a great story and great history of your family. Precious life remembered.

My Vintage Treasures said...

So kind of you to share these special family memories with us. How amazing that she left all these notes, grandmothers are so special that's why they are called "Grand".

kathryn said...

...what an absolutely beautiful post..it made me cry..I miss my grandmother terribly sometimes..I was very fortunate to have her...you have an amazing story and sweet and cherished background..thanks so very much for sharing...KO

melissa davis said...

Oh wow, Lynn! What wonderful treasures and what a wonderful history. (That photo of Sam in his studio is AMAZING!) NO surprise you come from such talented liniage (sp??)..... xx

Jen Zahigian said...

Thanks so much for sharing.

Erica Amina said...

I have no words. Stories like this are so precious. You are a lucky lucky girl and while its hard to look at that beautiful carved wood right now, its origins are so special, I hope you one day feel nothing but warm comfort when you pass by every day.

Sweet Old Vintage said...

This also means these items were precious to her and she is hoping you will keep them....

creakypavillion said...

This was a very touching post, Lynn. Now we see where your appreciation for fine craftsmanship comes from.

Reading the bit about Julia Morgan I recalled seeing recently her photograph alongside Hearst - so fragile but brave and business-like.
Here's what I found googling:

Julia fishing after the disastrous mastoid surgery that caused the right side of her face to sag.

While Morgan never married, she treated her employees and their families as her own extended family. According to Lynn Forney McMurray, everyone that worked for her was appreciated and she always made sure their families were well and happy. However, she never played favorites. Everyone in her office had the same expectations placed on them, and her employees would know they were appreciated if they were still employed. She would fire someone for asking for a raise. She always sent Christmas presents to the children of her employees. Morgan even became the godmother of some of her employees' children. If an employee was in financial trouble, Morgan would help where she could (McMurray). She was a modest person, preferring to thumb through a book than take part in chitchat at family gatherings (Wadsworth, 50), but was always friendly and accommodating with staff, family, and clients alike. After a disastrous mastoid surgery in the early 1930s, her face was left sagging on the right side as the result of an accidentally severed facial muscle. This made her even less inclined to take part in gatherings and social events. When she was working on Hearst's castle, she would never eat in the dining room with Hearst and his guests, preferring instead to stay in her room, have her meal brought to her, and continue working. "For an architect," she said, "it is more or

A Rockridge Life said...

This is very special. What an amazing family. It's wonderful that you have such meaningful materials to remember them by.

Bonjour Madame said...

These carvings are amazing! Such talent they had. Lucky for you to inherit their creative genes!

FrenchBlue said...

So special Lynn! And something to hold on to forever! I think maybe this would be that perfect piece you were waiting/looking for, for the entry table your Grandfather made! It is all so Beautiful~~

XO's

creakypavillion said...

Sorry, my quote incidentally got sliced.
It should end:
"For an architect," she said, "it is more or less embarassing [sic] to present so unsymmetrical appearance"

Cashon&Co said...

That is the best post, with the best memories, Perhaps I've ever read. I love hearing the legacy's our grandparents and beyond , and the memories with objects they leave behind, and your family seems to be full of talent and vision. Wow! That clock is fantastic too, as well as the black & white photo of the incredible carving. I'm glad you shared!

Beadboard UpCountry said...

This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this special history from your family. WOW.The clock, the picture, you are very lucky....As an ex Californian we were ingrained with the history of Hearst Castle, it is nice to know some of the untold stories...This over the top...Maryanne:)

Enzie at World Market Portraits said...

What a wonderful way to remember your grandma. When we share stories about our loved ones who have passed we keep their memory alive.

Kelly said...

What amazing family history & such a legacy for you. That clock alone...not to mention the story and craft of your great-grandfather. Thank you for sharing this very private & special part of your life.

church furniture said...

Oh what a lovely piece indeed...with the antique look and the fabulous shape of the mirror...simply adore it.

Janice Selby said...

Oh I love this story about your Grandmother's belonging. Please tell more as you find items.