Last Monday I posted about my third cousin, Betty Oestreicher Jacob, who passed away on July 19, 2016. Betty and I were related through our mutual great-great-grandparents, Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg. Her great-grandmother Hannah Schoenthal and my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal were sister and brother. Betty’s grandparents were Sarah Stern, Hannah’s daughter, and Gustav Oestreicher. Her parents were Sidney (Oestreicher) Striker and Esther Siff
At the time I posted about Betty’s passing, I had only one photograph of Betty and none of her grandparents, parents, or siblings. But within hours of publishing my post, I received a comment on the blog and then emails from Betty’s nephew, Steve, the son of her brother Gerald. And Steve generously shared with me numerous photos of all those people and then some. Now I can place faces to the names of the people I have researched and written about. And what gorgeous photos these are.
In this post, I will share some photographs of Sarah Stern and Gustav Oestreicher and their three children, Sidney, Frank, and Helen. In a later post, I will share the photos of Sidney’s children, Gerald, Betty, and Elaine. All are courtesy of Steve Striker, who so generously spent his time scanning and emailing these to me and answering my many questions.
First, here are some photographs of Sarah Stern Oestreicher, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal’s first cousin. I’ve written about Sarah’s life here.
The photograph below of Sarah was taken in Pittsburgh. She emigrated to the US by herself around 1884 when she was nineteen years old.
I assume the photograph below was taken sometime later than the one above, but I am not sure. Does Sarah look older or younger in this photograph? The hairstyle in the one above seems more “contemporary,” but Sarah’s face seems softer and somewhat younger than in the one immediately below.
A while back I had posted the next photograph, which I’d received from my cousin Maxine Stein, and she and I had wondered whether the woman on the left was Sarah Stern, her grandmother’s sister. Now I am quite certain that it is in fact Sarah. What do you think? Is the woman on the far left of the photograph the same woman as the one in the photo directly above?
Sarah married Gustav Oestreicher, the man she met while he was staying at her mother’s boarding house in Pittsburgh in about 1890. Gustav, an immigrant from Austria, was working as an artist and photographer in 1900.
What a dashing man he was!
Here are Sarah and Gustav’s three children, Sidney (1891), Francis (Frank) (1893), and Helen (1895). You can see that the children inherited their father’s piercing light-colored eyes. I would guess that these were taken in the late 1890s, perhaps 1898 or 1899, from the ages of the children. They were also probably taken at the same time as the photos above of Gustav and Sarah, as all five photos were mounted together in a frame. Perhaps Gustav himself took these photos.
Here is a photograph of the Oestreicher store in Pittsburgh:
Here’s a photo of Gustav and Sarah and their three children in about 1910, I’d guess, given the ages of the children. Unfortunately, Sidney’s head was cut off either in the photo itself or in the scan.
Sidney Oestreicher (later Striker) married Esther Siff on November 16, 1915, in Chicago. Sidney was working as a traveling salesman, and as his daughter Betty told me, he met Esther at a dance in Chicago while there on business. Esther’s father was also a traveling salesman. (I have more pictures of Sidney and Esther, but will share them in my next post.)
The second son, Francis, better known as Frank, served his country in World War I. (Sidney was exempt as he had a wife and young child.) The postcard below shows Frank’s dates of service:
He was gone for just over a year—from June 25, 1918, when he left for camp, until July 17, 1919, when he arrived home. He had gone overseas on September 24, 1918. As I wrote about here, Frank served in the Meuse Argonne Offensive, one of the most important if not the most important battle in World War I. He was a member of Company C of the 301 Water Tank Train in the American Expeditionary Forces.
According to Richard Rubin’s book, The Last of the Doughboys:The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), p.220, a water tank train was actually a caravan of white trucks used to carry water to the front. According to his honorable discharge papers, Frank served as a private, which Rubin’s book suggests meant he was likely an assistant driver of one of the trucks.
I found this photograph online depicting Company C of the 301 Water Tank Train. I wonder if Frank is in the photograph:
As you can see below, he was awarded a Victory medal for his service. (Steve has also sent me some of the letters Frank wrote home during World War I; I will post those separately once I have a chance to review and transcribe them.)
Gustav and Sarah’s third child was their daughter Helen. Here she is in 1917 when she was 22 years old.
As I wrote earlier, Helen married Robert Steel Kann in 1920, but he died a year later at age 26. Sometime before 1929, she married Aaron Mitchell Siegel, known as Mickie, and they had a daughter Betty.
I was tickled to see this item in Steve’s collection:
As you can see, it is an invitation to the 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 1922 for Henry Schoenthal and Helen Lilienfeld, about whom I’ve written extensively. Henry Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle, was Sarah Stern Oestreicher’s uncle, brother of her mother Hannah Schoenthal Stern.
Steve sent me this photo labeled Aunt Helen by his uncle Frank, and I wonder whether this is Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal, who would have been Frank’s great-aunt. Frank received a long letter from his great-aunt Helen and great-uncle Henry while he was serving in Europe; the tone and content of that letter suggest that Helen and Henry Schoenthal had a very close relationship with the Oestreicher family. (I will post the letter in a separate post.)
Frank returned to Pittsburgh after the war and worked as a salesman in the family dry goods store. After the family store went bankrupt in 1933, the Oestreicher family began its migration west to California. Although neither Steve nor his cousin Ron was sure of who first went to California or why, the 1940 census indicates that by 1935 at least Helen and her family and Gustav and Sarah had settled there. I was not able to locate Frank on the 1930 or the 1940 census,nor do I have any address for him between 1920 and 1942, but his World War II draft registration indicates that by then he was definitely living in California along with his parents and his sister Helen. Sidney and his family did not move west until the 1940s.
Here is a photograph of the Oestreicher family in Los Angeles in 1936.
I found this letter written by Sarah Stern Oestreicher to her son Frank in 1933 to be very touching in its religious tone and its affection for her son. Perhaps it was written around the time that family members were planning to move to California. From the text of the letter, it appears that Frank had just visited, perhaps before he was leaving to move out west or his parents were.
My dear Francis!
Always remember that The present is under God’s guidance, the future in His keeping. God is guiding, directing, controlling and suplying His children with all good. His Love and [?] is with you always. Thanking you for all your kindness and the pleasure of having you with us will be the the most pleasant memmories to us.
With my love I remain your devoted Mother. January 11—1933
Here is a photo of Frank in 1940.
One of Steve’s favorite stories about Frank is that he offered to take photographs at Steve’s bar mitzvah, only to discover there was no film left in the camera. There is only this one photo taken by Frank that day.
Although Steve has many photographs with Frank with women throughout the years, Frank never married. He died in Los Angeles on April 23, 1990, at the age of 96. His sister Helen died in 1989 when she was 94.
I am so grateful to my cousin Steve for sharing these amazing photographs with me and allowing me to post them on my blog. There is just nothing better than a photograph to help bring to life the people whose lives I’ve researched.
More photos and stories about the Oestreicher family in my next post.