Unpacking “gratuitous”


Though I probably use the word no less often than most of us do, the term “gratuitous” has always seemed vaguely problematic and suspect to me.

In its more common usage “gratuitous” means “unwarranted” or “uncalled for” in a negative sense – as in an undeserved slight, insult, or cut.  We say, for instance, “That was gratuitous!” when a criticism was wrongly offered or excessive.

And yet the word’s root — “gratus” – also underlies such neighboring words as “gratitude,” “grateful,” and “gratuity” (or tip), all sourced in the Latin word meaning “pleasing” or “grateful.”

In what sense, then, should we connect this “grateful” meaning-root with the unwarranted criticism or claim meaning we intend when we say “gratuitous”?  How, in other words, do “gratuitous” and “grateful” share a meaning bridge?    Continue reading

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Two newly unearthed pics of Mary White and Ralph Semmes Gordon

A wedding photo of Mary in her gown (Dec. 29, 1920) and Ralph in his military uniform (c. 1918).  Incidentally, Mary’s wedding photo, IMHO, indirectly confirms that the
“possible” image of teenage Mary White offered on p. 25 of A Child’s-Eye View is indeed Mary — because the two images appear to be the same young woman.  Nice finds this morning!

Mary Jane White wedding garb.jpg



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Mary White Gordon Reading and Discussion in Wallace on the 27th

Note:  Below, the press release and poster for the Mary White Gordon memoir event at the Depot, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27th, 2017.  I’m hoping to bring a little social history into play at the reading.  Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Roizen-posterThe public is warmly invited to a reading of selections from the memoir, A Child’s-Eye View and related discussion by Mr. Ron Roizen — in the Women’s Waiting Room at the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Museum at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 27th, 2017.

Mary White was born in Wallace on April 8th, 1898, the daughter of Henry and Maude White.  The White family made their home in the handsome edifice at the northeast corner of Cedar and Third Streets.  Father Henry, a businessman and banker, was an early pioneer to the Coeur d’Alene Mining District.  He’d moved his business pursuits from Murray to Wallace in 1888 — where, soon thereafter, in 1890, he and partner Charles Bender built the White & Bender building in downtown Wallace, which remains one of the jewels of Wallace’s historic architecture to this day.  Maude Fox White, Mary’s mother, was cousins with Grace Campbell, the wife of noted mine owner and investor Amasa “Mace” Campbell; Grace and Amasa lived cattycorner to the White family on the southwest corner of Cedar and Third.      Continue reading

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A caution regarding Tony Bamonte’s recent book

Bamonte coverReaders of Tony Bamonte’s recent book, Historic Wallace, Idaho and My Unforeseen Ties (2017), should be cautioned that its narrative occasionally borrowed text – either verbatim, nearly verbatim, or in paraphrase – from sources on the World Wide Web without specific acknowledgment or citation.  Hence, readers wishing to cite or quote from Bamonte’s book should first take the precaution of googling sentences included in the text segments they wish to cite or quote in order to check for such an uncredited source.

— Ron Roizen

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Mary White Gordon’s memoir is published, at last!

6x9_Front_Cover - 1.1 - from template.jpgIt’s available at last! Mary White Gordon’s A CHILD’S-EYE VIEW has finally made it through the editing process and can be bought at Lulu.com. Here’s the little description on the book’s back cover:

Why did Mary’s father, Henry White, send his shirts all the way to Chicago for laundering? What was it like to coast one’s bike at breakneck speed down one of the long wooden flumes that decorated the steep canyons around Wallace? Did Mrs. Hoyt’s “big gray earthen jar” of taffy never empty? And what was the town’s reaction when Mr. McCarthy left his wife at home and took his “pretty nurse” with him to Hawaii instead? These and so many more questions about life and times in the frontier mining town of Wallace, Idaho – in the decade before the Great 1910 Fire – are answered in Mary White Gordon’s wholly absorbing and warmly affectionate memoir.


The link:  http://www.lulu.com/shop/mary-white-gordon/a-childs-eye-view/paperback/product-23237541.html

The “Preview” pages at Lulu’s website for this slender volume allow one to read Kinyon Gordon’s “Introduction” and my “Editor’s Note.”

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Gisela “Doris” Roizen

Gisela-hsGone 11 years ago, today.

And my sorrow for her continues in a palpable, if attenuated, way — although it’s taken a different shape more recently.

In my still relatively new experience with a more solitary life — since Maggie’s passing — I think about Mom a lot.

She quite simply was not the kind of person who should have been obliged, by circumstance, to live alone.

Heidi, for many years, did the best she could to give Mom a family life — and even a work life. I remember at one point she had business cards printed up for Mom with the title “Mother of the President.”

My own humble existence — buoyed up as it is by the internet, by various historical and work-related pursuits, by family, friends, and neighbors, and even by little Meistie’s semi-friendly relationship with me — seems a far cry from the isolation I know she felt. Even language posed, I came to learn, a considerable barrier for her.  She didn’t understand more words than most of us in the family ever realized.

A truth — an unfortunate truth I will be buried with one day — is that if I had it to do over again, I’d have given her more of my time.

The moral of this anniversary reflection, then, is simply this:  If you have a mother or father, or another loved one, who is struggling with the isolation of advancing age and lessening agency, then do more for that person now, while it’s still possible to make a difference.

Trite and syrupy advice, I know.  But — in my case, at least — a hard-won lesson.

Sorry, Mom!




Heidi, Mom, me, Peter, and Millie — c. 1963

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Family History: Two new photos

Aarons sister - poss my great grandmother - baby Joe

Possibly my maternal great grandmother with my infant father

My second cousin, Miriam Diamant Brenner, who lives in Israel, has kindly sent two new photos.  One (left), in particular, is notable because Miriam suggests it’s a picture of baby Joe (my father) held by (possibly) his grandmother (my great grandmother).  I’m guessing — because Miriam belongs to the Diamant side of the family — she’d be my grandmother’s mother, not my grandfather’s mother.  Miriam did not know her name; and, neither, sadly, do I.  I’ve never seen a candidate image before of my great grandmother.  This, therefore, is a very nice find, and gift.

The second image (below) is of my father’s Uncle Aaron’s mother, Aaron, and one of Aaron’s sisters.  Clearly, the right side of this photo was torn and repaired, thus distorting the sister’s left eye.  Aaron was my grandmother’s, Brana’s, younger brother.   That, in turn, would make Aaron’s mother, also pictured, my maternal great grandmother.  Or, in other words, possibly the same woman pictured in the first photo, although at different ages.  Aaron had three sisters — Brana, Riva, and Jenny.  Based on other family photos I’ve seen, my guess is that the pretty girl pictured would be Jenny.

Thank you very much, Miriam, for sharing these!

Aarons mother - Aaron - Aarons sisterAaron’s mother, Aaron, one of Aaron’s sisters

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