I love it when a cousin finds me. Usually I am the one searching for them, hoping they will be interested and open to sharing their family histories with me. So when a cousin finds my blog, it is a delightful experience—I know they are interested, and there is none of the awkwardness of trying to explain who I am and that I am not a scammer trying to get money from them or steal their identity.
I’ve had that great pleasure again recently when my third cousin Maxine found my blog and left a comment about her connection to me and her family. Maxine is the daughter of Hattie Arnold and Martin Schulherr, about whom I wrote here. Maxine’s grandparents were Jennie Stern and Max Arnold, and her great-grandmother was Hannah Schoenthal Stern. Hannah was my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal’s older sister. Thus, Maxine and I are both the great-great-granddaughters of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg. We are third cousins.
Maxine was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and has lived there all her life. We had a wonderful phone conversation and have exchanged many emails since. Maxine knew many of the cousins about whom I’ve written, including Lee and Meyer Schoenthal, Erna and Werner Haas, and the members of the extended Oestreicher family. She was able to bring to life many of these people, who thus far had been mostly names and dates and occupations to me.
Her grandmother Jennie lived with Maxine and her parents for a number of years, and Maxine even shared a room with her grandmother during that time. She knew her well, and so I was hoping that Maxine would have stories about Jennie’s youth. Jennie came to the United States from Germany in the 1880s with her mother Hannah when she was thirteen years old, and I was interested in hearing any stories about Jennie’s life in Germany or about her experiences as a teenager settling in western Pennsylvania. But as with so many immigrants, Jennie did not talk about the past. Maxine said she never heard her grandmother talk about Germany or about her early days in the US.
But she did have some old photographs of Jennie with two other women whom we both assume are Jennie’s two sisters, Sarah (on the left) and Edith (on the right). (All photos in this post are courtesy of my cousin Maxine.)
Maxine then told me about her grandmother Jennie’s life as an adult in Pennsylvania. Jennie married Max Arnold, who had originally owned a dairy called Sweet Home Dairy. (Maxine was named for her grandfather Max.) It was the first dairy to deliver milk to homes in the Pittsburgh area, according to Maxine. Max had to close the dairy when he had trouble hiring reliable men to come and milk his cows, and he then went into the meat business, as I wrote about here. Max eventually he retired and his son Sylvan ran the business when Maxine was a child. Max, Jr., helped his brother Sylvan doing deliveries, but after having several accidents he moved on to other endeavors.
Sylvan closed the meat market when he enlisted in the army during World War II. He would not have been drafted, given his age, but according to Maxine, Sylvan was looking to get away as his marriage was failing. He and his first wife Ada divorced, and Sylvan remarried while in the service and stationed in Arkansas. Based on Maxine’s information, I found a marriage record for Sylvan Arnold and Gladys Evans dated June 20, 1945, in Saline, Arkansas. He and his second wife Gladys later moved to California, and the family in Pittsburgh never met her.
Here is a photo of Jennie and Max with their first child, Jerome, who was born in 1897.
Jennie and Max had five children, and Maxine had this wonderful picture that she believes is of those five:
Maxine’s mother Hattie is the girl in the light dress on top next to an unknown girl. Her uncle Jerome is on the left and her aunt Bernice on the right in the middle row, and her uncle Sylvan is the boy on the ground in the front.
The little boy on the swing might be Max, Junior, but the age seems off, so I’m not sure. Since Jerome looks to be no more than sixteen here, I think this photo is probably dated no later than 1913. In 1913, Jerome was 16, Hattie 14, Bernice 12, and Sylvan 10, and that does seem to line up with what I think are the maximum ages of the children in the photograph. I actually think they look even younger than those ages. What do you all think? Are the children older than that?
So if the photo was taken in 1913, Max, Jr. would have been two years old. Does the little boy on the swing look to be only two years old? I think he looks at least three or four. What you think?
From Maxine, I also learned more about the lives of Maxine’s mother Hattie and Hattie’s four siblings. Hattie was very proud to be one of the first women to learn to drive in Pittsburgh. She was sixteen, and her father brought home a car that he couldn’t drive, but somehow Hattie and her brother Jerome learned to drive it.
Hattie’s sister Bernice was married twice, first to Julius Averback, whom she later divorced. Maxine was very fond of Julius and recalled that he had taken her to the circus where he bought her a pet chameleon. Maxine told me, “The circus sold chameleons in little boxes with a string around their necks and a safety pin at the end of the string so you could pin it on your clothes!!” Even though he was divorced from Bernice at the time, Julius sent Maxine eighteen roses for her eighteenth birthday. Bernice’s second husband was Abe Sultanov. Bernice did not have children with either husband.
All three of Hattie’s brothers worked in the meat business initially, but Max, Jr. later branched out into the movie theater business, living in Morgantown, West Virginia for some time before returning to the Pittsburgh area where he owned another theater in Verona and then worked in the furniture business after his brother-in-law Abe, Bernice’s second husband, made some connections for him (Abe was a manufacturer’s representative for a line of furniture). Later on, Max, Jr. owned a drive-in theater in the Pittsburgh area known as the Maple Drive-In.
According to Maxine, her grandmother Jennie as well as Jennie’s older sister Sarah Stern Oestreicher converted to Christian Science at some point in their adult lives. Maxine recalled going to church services with her grandmother. But Martin and Hattie remained Jewish, and Maxine was confirmed at Rodef Shalom synagogue in 1944, the same synagogue where her mother had been confirmed about thirty years earlier.
Maxine was married to Alan Stein in August, 1948. She generously shared with me these pictures from her wedding day:
In addition to her grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles, Maxine also knew our mutual cousins Lee and Meyer Schoenthal quite well, and she was able to answer one of my lingering questions about Lee. When I wrote about Lee’s draft registration for World War II, I’d been puzzled by the person he’d named as the one who would always know his address, a woman named Mary Reinbold.
Maxine shared with me that Mary Reinbold was Lee’s girlfriend for many years. They were together a long time but never married because Mary was Catholic and Lee was Jewish. Maxine recalled that Lee and Mary regularly came to her parents’ home for Sunday dinners. She remembers them both very fondly. She said Lee was a successful tailor who sold made-to-order men’s suits; her father Martin owned suits he purchased from Lee. Lee’s shop was in the basement of building on E. Beau Street in Washington, Pennsylvania.
He must have done quite well, as Maxine told me, “Lee always drove a Lasalle car which in it’s day was in the Cadillac or more expensive class. And he belonged to a club in Washington, called the “Arms Club” although he never went hunting. It was a bar, some tables, slot machines, a dance floor, and other games of chance.” Maxine said that Lee always brought her mother candy that he won at the club. Her father Martin was also a member of the club, and Maxine visited there as well. She told me, “I liked to pull the handle on the slot machine and watch the coins come out!! And Daddy would stand beside me and hand me the quarters. (I never had to spend my allowance, which then was probably one dollar a week.)” I just love the images that this anecdote evokes.
Here are some photographs Maxine shared of Lee, Meyer, Mary, her mother Hattie, and herself as a twelve year old, taken in about 1940.
It’s just wonderful to be able to see the faces that go with the names.
Maxine also remembers Lee and Meyer’s sister Erna Haas and her son Werner, but does not remember Lee and Meyer’s other sister, Johanna, the one who survived the Gurs internment camp in France and came to the US with her husband in 1947. Since Johanna outlived Lee and Meyer and also lived in Pittsburgh, I was surprised that Maxine had no recollection of meeting her nor any awareness of this fourth sibling. Perhaps Johanna’s suffering during the war had made her less able to interact with the extended family.
Maxine also knew members of the Oestreicher family, that is, the family of Sarah Stern and Gustav Oestreicher. Sarah was her grandmother Jennie’s older sister, as discussed here and here. Maxine knew Sarah’s son Sidney and his children, Gerald, Betty, and Elaine very well. She said that Elaine had lived with her family for a while in the 1940s when Sidney and his wife Esther moved to New York and Elaine wanted to finish the school year in Pittsburgh. But Maxine didn’t know what had happened to Elaine or the rest of the family after that and was curious to learn more about her long-lost second cousins.
I told her I would see what else I could find as I also had not yet been able to learn much about the Oestreicher family after about 1940. With a few clues from Maxine, I was able to find those long-lost Oestreicher cousins. I will report on what I’ve learned in a later post after I’ve had a chance to speak with my other third cousins, Betty and Elaine.