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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Harold & Sid


Here are two nice looking men in the 1920s or 30s. (They don't look like they're posing at all.) The one on the left, Harold, is pretty famous in those funny glasses. Recognize him? (No, he's not Tom Daschle.) The one on the right, Sidney, was fairly famous at the time. Now, only a handful of people would know who he is. Don't feel bad if you don't recognize him. Many of you won't even know the one on the left, though you should.

Sidney was a prominent astrologer in the '20s, '30s and '40s, had a column in the New York Daily News, and published Wynn's Astrology Magazine, including astrological charts of Hollywood stars, such as the chap on the left. Sidney developed a system that is still used by astrologers based on the solar return (the sun's return to its position in a birth chart, which occurs every seven years), which he called the "Key Cycle."

His birthday is February 10 (1892). I should know him personally, because he is my grandfather, Sidney Bennett, aka "Wynn," but I never met him, and neither did any of my family except my mom. She only saw him a few times after he and her mom (Grandma Olive) divorced when she was six. He went on to marry and divorce several more times, had children by his other wives, had a show for a while in Las Vegas, ended up living a strange life in New Zealand (they say he lived in caves) and died in the 1970s. I remember being a teenager answering that phone call from NZ for my mom from someone who had news about her dad when he died.

I don't follow astrology, although it's fun to read what Rob Brezsny has to say because he's smart and funny. Sidney predicted the future. I've seen some of his columns in the NY Daily News that were torn apart by readers when they didn't come to pass. These days astrologers talk more about trends, tendencies - like you might feel energetic for work today, or you might feel unsocial and need time to be quiet, or whatever. A bit safer than predicting what will happen next week or next year.

Maybe we've evolved in the last 7 or 8 decades. We're not quite as gullible as folks were then. In old movies you recognize the naïveté that existed. We no longer believe everything we're told, and with changes happening more rapidly, we know that anything that comes to pass will likely transform into something better or worse in the near future.

It's interesting to think that when my grandfather was a teller of fortunes, times were tough. It was the Great Depression. People cared about movie stars and their star charts. Doesn't it astonish you when you see a glam 1930s movie of tuxedoes and ball gowns, to know that some people in the movie theaters then were scratching to make a living, lucky to have food to eat, let alone a job? They longed to escape their misery and fantasize in long, deep mink stoles and automobiles.

How fake actors in the 1930s sound! Like they're feigning a British accent but it sounds like stupid American-Eastern-Snob-talk. (Still, I love me some Katharine Hepburn in "Philadelphia Story.") Today, we demand honest talk from politicians and film stars. As much as we complain about not getting straight answers from our government and the like, if you look back at popular culture, you'll see that we are a bit more wise. But I hope we'll get wiser, and quickly, in the days ahead.

Happy Birthday, Sid. Hope that's not disrespectful, but I can't bring myself to call you "Grandpa" since I never met you.

Here's a short clip of Harold.

70 comments:

Steve Ballmer said...

... enjoying your blog!

Noorul Ameen said...

...as usual terrific read =)

dutchbaby said...

You have a picture of Harold Lloyd in your family album??? That's amazing!

Very interesting post, Ruth!

Deslilas said...

As we say in french "les chiens ne font pas des chats" or "tel père tel fils" !
You are the grand-daughter of Sidney.

Helena said...

What a wonderful story! I love old photos.

rauf said...

Knowing your future is big business here in India Ruth. You have to wait, these guys are big. You will be sad to know that people who run our country cannot take a step without consulting their pet astrologer, that included Indira Gandhi. I can understand the movie stars Ruth, they are always so insecure, they fall for it. Astrology is big money. About ten years ago there was some kind of a debate if Astrology is science. Finally it was decided that Astrology cannot be science and the department was removed from the University of Madras. Perhaps it is back again, i am not sure. Because the people and the lobby behind it is so powerful. They run the country. Our future lies in the hands of a few tricksters.

NJ said...

As usual I enjoyed your blog. My Iranian friend knows so much about astrology down to what signs make music together. All I know is that I'm a Gemini, my husband is a taurus, my daughter a pisces,and my son a leo. Intermittently, I'll read a horoscope but generally never take it too serious. Although if it's pretty good I'll be hopeful in the moment.

My father's uncle was a rodeo clown. When he came to visit it was an event. He teach all the neighbourhood children how to lasso and do rope tricks. He was beyond cool to me at the time. It doesn't seem that I have any such cool relatives now.

Susan said...

Dang it! I tried to scroll down to the comments without seeing the name written, because I knew that was Harold Lloyd! That is so, so cool about your Grandpa....well, not so much the many wives part, but you know what I mean. He sounds like quite the scoundrel. Every family needs at least one, you know.

There's another famous astrologist with the first name Sidney. Sidney Omarr. I wonder if they knew each other?

♥ Kathy said...

I enjoyed that. Love family histories!

Kass said...

Great post. Im sorry you never had a relationship with him- he's sounds like a real character- his loss Im sure.

Ruth said...

Fake Steve Ballmer, you are ten riots! I loved browsing your blog.

Ruth said...

Ah, thank you, Noorul. Still wish I could read Tamil. :|

Ruth said...

Hi, Dutchbaby! Yep, and one with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., too. I think Sid was married to a film actress also, but not a household name. I can't remember who she was, and my mom isn't around now to ask her.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Daniel. Yes, we say "the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree." I wonder what that means about me! :|

Ruth said...

Hi, Helena, thanks! I used to look through my parents' old photos by the hour, I wish I had them all, but they're around the family, as they should be.

Ruth said...

I didn't realize that, rauf, about Indian politicians.

People need/want someone to tell them what to do - a religious leader, a philosopher, or a 10-steps speaker. People don't rely on their own voice, or develop their own authority. They get on someone else's trolley instead of building their own.

Ruth said...

NJ, I'm a Leo, and I confess that when I read about how Leos are supposed to feel and behave, I tend to agree.

Rodeo clown! So your great uncle was even a clown off duty, how splendid for you kids! Reminds me of Steve Martin in "Parenthood" when he dressed up as Cowboy Gil. "yippeekayayayeeeee!"

Now, my most interesting relatives are mostly my nephews and nieces.

Ruth said...

Susan, oh, I didn't know about Sidney Omarr. Were they contemporaries?

I tell you, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin are wonderful to watch, even now. I only recently started watching Chaplin's films, well one, and it was fantastic: "Modern Times."

Susan said...

Ruth, according to Wiki, S.Omarr was born in 1926, so probably not. Omarr was a consultant to the stars though, so they had that in common.

You should watch Chaplin's "The Great Dictator". It's great, too.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Kathy. There are so many things I wish I could ask my mom and dad questions I didn't think of when they were alive.

Ruth said...

Ah, thanks, Kass. I didn't know any of my grandparents, and it feels like an empty hole.

Ruth said...

Susie Q, thank you for the wiki dig. And also for the rec for "The Great Dictator."

Enjoy the warm day!

shicat said...

Hi Ruth, Last night my husband and I went to greek town for dinner. The resturants were packed. There were a few shows downtown and people were out and about. It was great to see all of the people supporting Detroit and local business. I was actually shocked, and said to a friend," no depression here".We went to the greek town casino next and that too was busy. I am not a big fan of gambling,but the people watching is great. Maybe casinos are the new hollywood?
My friend and I were talking the other day and he shared a story with me about a woman who rode her bike to the bank in sub zero temps. Evidently she was a regular customer and the bank clerk asked her why she rode her bike to the bank,she replied she didn't have the money for gas and that she had nothing to eat. The clerk gave her her lunch and found a ride for her return trip home. My friend said maybe we are not worried enough about this economy? How worried can you be with so many things out of our control. The other day I was driving to work thinking,is this what a depression looks like? My father grew up in detroit during the depression and it changed his life forever. He was fortunate to have a good job at Ford but my mom and him never wasted a thing. My mom made all her own clothes and everything was paid for in cash. On most days, after my dad reitired, you could see him walking his dog and picking up bottles, to trade in. He then would give the bottle money to his grandkids,usually around twenty to forty dollars.Depression living is an art form all of it's own.
Sorry so long of a comment,love chatting with you:)

Sandy said...

Fascinating to read this Ruth, you have a celebrity back there in your history. I love reading about odd characters in the family tree.

I have a few odd ones, my grandfather was an artist but became a little famous in his hometown, well probably only in his neighborhood for making cute little critter figures out of rocks...ha

CottageGirl said...

Wow! Love the clip, Ruth! How did they do that back then?

Great blog entry as usual!
What an interesting story about Sid!

I also had a grandfather that I never knew... in fact I didn't even know about him until I was in my 30's!

Poutalicious said...

Great story and post. I love fortune telling and one of my favorite books is a fortune teller's book on dreams.

Anet said...

Ah! I've seen some of Harold Lloyd's stuff, thanks to Autumn being a film student who loves slap stick comedy.
You have the most interesting family Ruth!

Ruth said...

Cathy! I loved reading every word of your comment.

I am so happy to hear Detroit and Greektown are booming! Last time we went it was the international auto show a couple years ago, and we expected it to be busy with that crowd. So this is terrific news.

What you wrote about Depression times makes sense, that when things get worse, people get better, and treat each other with kindness and respect. That is my wish at least. I liked what I saw on the news a few weeks ago, when people were talking about how the bad economy was affecting them. They said that knowing others were going through it too, there wasn't the same stigma and shame of failure.

Ruth said...

Aunty Sandy, what makes me sad about this is that it isn't my story to tell. I mean, I have no stories with this man. Only stories about him, from articles. And it's true of all my grandparents, no personal memories.

Ruth said...

Hi, CottageGirl, they must have used those arm cranking movie cameras. I wonder how much of this clip was real. I should read about it.

There is something empty about having a grandfather you didn't know - and you didn't even know about him. I didn't know any of my grandparents, though I met Grandma Olive when I was a toddler. I remember having friends who had grandparents in their lives, and it was an utter novelty to me.

Ruth said...

Hi, Pouty. Have you been to one of those ladies with a crystal ball in a dark room? That's what I picture with the term "fortune teller."

I feel there must be a dimension beyond this one.

Is this one of those comments you were talking about? :) (Mine)

Ruth said...

Hi, Anet, I feel like I haven't seen you in ages.

Yes, my family is very interesting, especially the generation of my grandparents, whom I never knew! Isn't that annoying?? There's this one, Sid. There's Grandma Olive. There's my dad's dad who fought in the Civil War, and then there's my dad's mom, who was so proud she refused her deceased husband's pensions from the US government (for the war service) and from the Southern Baptist convention for being a pastor. Interesting!

Loring Wirbel said...

Sidney Bennett was your grandfather??!! I remember running across his name. The only infamous relative I had was my great-aunt, who was busted for pro-Nazi sympathies for supporting Father Charles Coughlin in the late 30s, just before WWII. Bad family tree - early relatives were involved in a Cincinnati vegetable-smuggling racket. Why couldn't it have been bootlegging or drugs? Contraband rutabaga and cauliflower sounds pretty silly.

ds said...

Wow, Ruth, this is a fascinating post! Does the photo mean that your grandfather did Harold Lloyd's chart?? Wouldn't it be great to know how they met--and who took the picture (your grandmother?) and all sorts of other stuff. I was lucky enough to know all but one of my grandparents;oh, the questions I would ask them now...
And then there is so much to ponder on the disconnect between Hollywood and the 'real' world...

MAXIMUS said...

Hello again,

great story, great photo!

Just to tell you that you may find interesting the poem on my blog as it's American literature. The rest are still in Greek...

Anet said...

Hey Ruth, Yeah I'm working 5 days a week now, one of the other teachers joined the Army. I had no choice but to take her place until the end of the year. But who couldn't use the money right now? So I'm trying to find my new groove.
We want to hear all about the grandfather that was in the Civil War someday! Noah thinks that is so cool.
I have one famous relative. He's sort of weird, well...really weird. Have you ever heard of Lucky Luciano the gangster? My dad and Lucky share the same first, middle and last name. He's is my grandfather's cousin or something like that. We're just so proud:)

Nathalie said...

Ruth, what a story. Your mom didn't get much of a father, did she? And you didn't get much of a grandfather there either, did you?

Rauf is quite right about politicians not doing anything without consulting their pet astrologer. I read several times that most French presidents did the same. Isn't it frightening?

Ruth said...

Really, Loring?? You read about Sidney?

Ha! Well now I can see where your outlier roots come from.

Ruth said...

Yes, yes, DS, Sid is holding Lloyd's chart, or at least it's supposed to be. This was a publicity photo. I'm afraid my grandma was out of his life by this point.

Too bad we didn't think of the questions when our grandparents were here to ask. We'd better tell our kids and grandkids as many stories as we can.

Ruth said...

MAXIMUS, thank you.

You chose a terrific poem to post, one of our best.

Ruth said...

Anet, oh! That's good about the teaching job then. I noticed you weren't posting as often, and I was concerned.

I'll gladly share about my Civil War grandpa, but I don't know much. He was young, and he was only in the war briefly.

Yes, I've heard of Lucky Luciano! Your dad must have had fun explaining himself.

Ruth said...

Hiya, Nathalie! Well, as for that, my mother's dad, it's another strange twist. Some time after her parents divorced her mom married Sidney's cousin! She didn't even have to change her last name. And Mom's step-dad adopted her and was a wonderful father throughout the rest of his life.

Oh no, the French ones too? Well, our last President did what he did because God told him to, and that is also frightening.

photowannabe said...

Fascinating Ruth. I never know what to expect when I visit your blog. Its an adventure.

Stiggy said...

Great post - really interesting, and fancy having a side by side photo of your Grandpa and Harold Lloyd!

:D

Ruth said...

Hi, Sue, sometimes I feel I am just all over the place.

Ruth said...

Yeah, Stiggy, it's impressive. As a kid I was enamored. Now, as I age, I am still impressed with what he managed to do, but I wish he'd stayed around my mom and I might have had a chance to sit on his lap.

JoAnn's-D-Eyes said...

Great story Ruth, this could be my daddies frind same style of dressing and even the glasses, Great written, nice photography!

Happy weekwishes from JoAnn/Holland

Peter said...

Yes, it's amazing how the ways of thinking, speaking... have changed in a century or even less. Yes, I believe also that we know a bit more than that generation, but I wonder also if the ones who "cheat" us haven't also developed and learnt some new tricks?

Regarding our presidents (Ntahalie's and your comments), it was known that Mitterand had a close contact with a female astrologer, perhaps not only listening to her? As for our present one, he may especially listen to - and probably take advice from - Carla, who has a few talents, but not as an astrologer as far as I know!

Surprising life of your grandpa! Even if you have no special feeling about him, wouldn't you be curious to find out how he really ended his life?

Nautankey said...

Reminds me of my great grandfathers.There is a story of one being a chief treasurer in the court of pandya kings.Wish we had the treasure :)

Caught up with ur blog after long time.. feeling..hmmm..content as usual :). Sorry for not dropping by often

Oliag said...

I think you may be wrong about people in general being less gullible today...many people still fall for similar fads today...and wasn't it just Nancy Reagan who received guidence from an astrologer? (..of course she was Hollywood..)
...A very interesting grandpa you had Ruth!...scoundrel is a good word to describe him for sure...
All in all I think you have the core or beginning of a very interesting novel here - romance, mystery, intrigue,...if only I could write!

Ruth said...

Hi JoAnn, this style and era of clothes is very appealing. The details on collars, pockets. I like seeing a man in a suit in the old days, but not so much now.

I hope you will have a good, warm week in the Netherlands.

Ruth said...

Peter, good point that if the people get smarter the cons have to evolve too.

I would not say I don't have a special feeling about my grandpa. There is something, an awe, a respect, even though he broke many families into pieces, including my mom's. Although I believe it was Grandma Olive who initiated the divorce. And I would like very much to know how his life ended. The rumor is that he took his own life, but the web site says it was in the '50s. And that is not when he died, so it is a mystery.

Ruth said...

Hi there, Nautankey! No need to apologize, this is a free salon for coming and going. :)

So maybe your great grandfather was an honest chap if you don't have the treasure. That's good.

I wonder if you will be staging a new play soon?

Ruth said...

Oliag, people keep telling me I should write about the interesting people in my family, and I know I should. I make the excuse that if only I didn't work full time, I would do it. But it's just laziness that keeps me from starting it. Or maybe a lack of vision for it. It takes a strong vision to see a project like that through.

SamaraZone said...

WowRuth, another coincidence. I just read your blog after writing mine on predicting the future. Isn't that synchronizing?

Gwen Buchanan said...

You have a talented and much varied ancestry Ruth.. You have a very full house...

Ruth said...

SamaraZone, that is synchronicity.

Ruth said...

Gwen dear, I have always said my family got less interesting as time went on. I don't mean anything against my siblings or myself, but I think the ancestors might be a little bored by us.

Lisa said...

Your blog is so thoughtful. I love it.

Christina said...

An awesome story! That was lovely of you to share. : )

Ruth said...

Why thank you, Lisa.

Ruth said...

Christina my dear, it's good to hear about each others families now and then, eh what? :)

Ginnie said...

I haven't read all the comments, Ruth, and don't know if this was addressed. But Astrology, like Christianity, is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. It is based on scientific data that can be pinpointed down to the exact minute and second of where each planet was positioned in the heavens going forward or backward thousands of years. But, here's the rub: it can be misinterpreted by any quack who comes along!

In the same kind of way I am proud to be Mom and Dad's daughter, I am very proud to be Sidney's granddaughter!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruthie,

I love synchronicity! I just found your page this morning while doing some google searches on your grandfather, Sidney Bennett aka Wynn.

Yesterday, out of the blue, it occurred to me that there may be documents in my father’s old files that would be of interest to other people who are researching their ancestors. I assumed it would be something from his WWII military records. But what captured my attention was a two volume set entitled “Personal Comparison Service for Lela Mae Bugbee by Wynn.” (Lela was my grandmother.) I had run across these years ago, and had tried to look up who Wynn was, but hadn’t found much info. (I’m interested because I am an astrologer in my spare time.) This morning I ran a google search hoping more information is out there, and what do I find but your blog entry written just last week! (Cool blog, by the way... love all your photographs!)

I’ve taken a few pictures of the volumes, and I’d be happy to send you a .pdf file if you’d like to see what they look like and see a couple pages. You can write to me at Donnalyn27@aol.com. (You can also see a bit about who I am on my website at AstrologyWithDonnalyn.com.)

I hope to hear from you!

In Joy,
Donnalyn

Ruth said...

Boots, what I wouldn't give to sit in a corner and listen and watch you and Sidney have a conversation about astrology!

Ruth said...

Hello, Donnalyn! What incredible synchronicity that you happened to google search Sidney Bennett and found the post I'd just written a few days ago. I love it too.

As I said in my email, I would be thrilled if you'd send me a pdf of what you've photographed of your grandmother's personal comparison service done by my grandfather. A man named James Holden contacted me when he was writing his book on the history of astrology. I see Wynn listed on that linked page. I was able to fill in just a few of the blanks about Wynn for him, and he also told me things I didn't know. I wish I knew more obviously!

Now, hearing this from you, I feel so happy. You never know what you're going to find through this Wonderful Worldwide Web.

I look forward to hearing from you again. I've looked at your site, and it's lovely.

Ginnie said...

I've never thought about that before, Ruth...that one day maybe I WILL sit down and talk with Sidney all about Astrology and how the Western world took so long to catch up with the Eastern world, just as the Eastern world took so long to catch up with the Christianity of the West! Look at how we're FINALLY accepting massage therapy and chiropractic...and acupuncture, etc.! And it hasn't made us at all "less" Christian!

Barry said...

Very interesting post, that certainly captured the imagination of a lot of people.

How fun to have such a character in your background!

Ruth said...

Boots, I really do wonder if other-dimensional activity will some day be proven true.

Ruth said...

Barry, yeah, like your aunts in Vaudeville.