Shaking the Family Tree

W-4hen you shake my family tree, a few nuts fall out. Case in point: My great uncle Arza. He worked in a traveling vaudeville-style show in the early 20th century. Here he is, far left, dressed as a clown, complete with doggy. I bet the dog did tricks.


I don’t know much about the photo or the troupe, but this picture must be over 100 years old. Arza died in March, 1977, at the age of 91.

That photo sits on our fireplace mantel, along with this one of him posing with his partner Schlosser (the other guy in clown costume above) with guitar and mandolin. His last name was Killey, but apparently he went by “Kelly” in show business:

File Jul 31, 5 55 50 PM

“Schlosser & Kelly, Musical Team” My great uncle Arza Killey, right. 

(I don’t know about you, but I think the stringed instruments in the two photos are the same ones.)

I wish I could tell you more about Arza’s colorful life, but when I knew him he was quite elderly and being cared for by my much younger grandmother. He never married. He and my Uncle Glen, who also traveled with the show, were members of the Elks, a fraternal organization founded by theatrical types. One time, Glen and Arza “fixed” a dent in their car by welding a piece of sheet metal over it. They were always doing crazy things like that, but that’s about all I know. Every time Arza tried to tell us a story about his life, his sister, my grandmother, would interrupt him with “oh, these kids don’t want to hear your old stories.” But we did. We did.