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A friend and former Thalhimers associate (who works at the fabulous local shop J. Taylor Hogan) reached out to me with the following question. Her friend owns a dress that was purchased by her aunt from Thalhimers. The dress tag says “Thalhimers French Room” and she has the original dress bag.

I have my own guess at the date of this dress. What do you think?

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I was planning to give this old security badge to my dad for his birthday, but it makes too cool of a necklace! I happen to be 37, so it’s particularly appropriate. Thank you, ebay! And thanks to Thalhimers Security Officer #37, whoever you are. I’d love to hear your stories…
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Last month, I went to New York City with my daughter Lyla, parents, sister Katherine, and two of my nieces. We took a carriage ride through Central Park, sipped frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, and made the requisite little-girl pilgrimage to The Plaza to see the portrait of Eloise. But the reason we were there was far more important than being tourists in the big city. We were there to attend the opening of an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage entitled “Against All Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 1933-41.” Among other stories of heroic Americans who went to great lengths to save the lives of total strangers, the exhibit included the story of Gramps (William B. Thalhimer Sr.) and Hyde Farm.

About a year ago, I helped curator Bonnie Gurewitsch with piecing together this story. While newborn Ethan cried and the dog barked at the UPS man, we spread out lots of archival materials and she chose the ones that best conveyed who Gramps was, what Thalhimers was, and how Hyde Farmlands came about. With the help of Bob Gillette and several Hyde Farmlanders and their children, the story was condensed into a single display involving various artifacts, photographs and documents. And, much to my surprise, the display is punctuated with an enormous photograph of Gramps sitting behind his desk at Thalhimers in 1938.

I lost my camera on the train home (NOTE: now no one will believe me when I say that I had my picture taken with Dr. Ruth at the exhibit opening), so I don’t have any personal pictures to share. Fortunately, a kind journalist from the Downtown Express of Lower Manhattan sent me the following photo of me, my dad, Katherine, and the daughter of the late Werner “Tom” Angress, one of the amazing Hyde Farmlanders. I am so glad to have this one photo to remind me of how grateful my family and I are to have represented Gramps and his brave work to save lives when few others stepped forward to do so.

After 75 years of virtual silence, the story Gramps kept quiet is now being told in a stunningly beautiful way. Visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage anytime before Spring 2014 and see it for yourself.

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This past Sunday, April 21, 2013, I attended a ceremony to dedicate a historical marker beside the entrance gate to Hyde Park Farm in Burkeville, Virginia. Surrounded by members of the Thalhimer family, Marsha and Bob Gillette (author of The Virginia Plan: William B. Thalhimer and a Rescue from Nazi Germany), the current owner of the farm, an assortment of friends and neighbors, local dignitaries, and representatives from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the marker was unveiled to great applause. But the most amazing part of the day was a realization voiced by Mr. Gillette: it was exactly 75 years TO THE DAY since Gramps (William B. Thalhimer Sr.) purchased Hyde Farm as a refuge for young German Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. The day Gramps purchased the farm was April 21, 1938.

Serendipity is one of my favorite things, but I wonder if this anniversary was mere coincidence. Bob Gillette taught me a Yiddish word that I think is more fitting: beshert. It means destiny. Fate.

Whether it was predestined or not, I’m certain that Gramps was smiling down on us as his great-great-grandchildren unveiled the historic marker acknowledging his heroic attempt to save as many German Jews as he could at Hyde Park Farm.

After the ceremony, as I sat on the front porch of the old farmhouse eating a deviled egg and chicken salad croissant, I watched my daughter Lyla and her cousins chasing each other in the yard. I thought of the German Jewish teenagers tending to the fields and the chickens on the same land 75 years prior. 75 years before the refugees lived at Hyde Farm, slaves lived in the outbuildings and toiled in the fields. I wonder what Hyde Farm will observe over the next 75 years?

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Do you have a photograph of yourself or your family at Thalhimers? Perhaps a photo of the Christmas windows? A visit with Santa? The Snow Bear breakfast? Dipping your wrist into the perfume fountain? If so, please scan and email to me at elizabeth@findingthalhimers.com — with your permission, they may be used in an upcoming book! 

The best photograph will win a very unique Thalhimers prize. So enter now, and pass along the word that WE WANT YOUR THALHIMERS PHOTOS! 

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Here’s what I gave Dad for Chrismukkah. He said he used to order the #2: a hot dog “all the way” with onion rings…for $3.40!

Do you remember Angelo’s? It was run by Mr. Junes (pronounced June-us) and was in the basement of the downtown Thalhimers store for a number of years. They had tiny jukeboxes at many of the tables, which was always a lot of fun for my sisters and me!

Who wants a hot dog?

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Remember Snow Bear? Well, he’s still around and just as cuddly and charming as ever! His legacy lives on at Virginia Repertory Theater (formerly Theater IV and Barksdale), where he will have his VERY OWN BRUNCH! Read on for details…

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For reservations, contact Virginia Rep’s box office at 282-2620.

For more info on when Snow Bear was just a cub, take a look at this video shared by a reader…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yz9ZNfuDM8U

 

SALE! SALE! SALE!

Thanksgiving weekend sale – paperback for $15 and hardcover $20 each. Free shipping. Signed by the author. Email elizabeth@findingthalhimers.com to order.

Thalhimers Walnut Mall Opening 1966

Did you know…

…that in the early 1900s, Amelia Blum Thalhimer served Thanksgiving dinner to Thalhimers employees on the 3rd floor of the old store at 5th and Broad Streets?

I don’t have a photo of the store-wide Thanksgiving celebration, but I do have this photo of Amelia, my great-great grandmother (that’s her front and center) along with her husband Isaac and five daughters. Missing from the photo: their only son to live past childhood, William B. Thalhimer Sr. I wonder where he was that day?

Many thanks to my distant cousin Sam Revenson for sharing this photo with me after reading Finding Thalhimers.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Word Nerd

I am a connoisseur of words. As a naming consultant, I help companies and products adopt identities (check out SmarttIdeas.com). So imagine my delight when a fellow consultant introduced me to a website called Wordle.com that makes “word clouds” based on the frequency of words within a selected block of text. I cut-and-pasted all 70,000+ words of my book and this is the cloud that transpired. Dreamy!

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