When Jacob Katzenstein died in 1916, he left behind his second wife, Bertha Miller, and their six children: Helen, who was then 24, Gerald (23), Eva (22), Leopold (18), Maurice (16), and Perry (12). His wife Bertha was 49 years old. As I learned from Leonard Winograd’s book, The Horse Died at Windber: A History of Johnstown’s Jews of Pennsylvania (Wyndham Hall Press, 1988), Bertha’s brother Maurice Miller had been in business with Jacob as owners of a clothing store. That business continued to support the family, as we will see.
In 1917, the oldest child, Helen Katzenstein, married another Johnstown native, John Augustus Rodgers. John had been the captain of the football team at Greater Johnstown High School in 1909 and went on to Penn State for college, according to the 1909 Greater Johnstown High School yearbook, The Spectator, found on Ancestry.com.
In June 1917 when he registered for the World War I draft, John was a physical training teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was still single at that time, so Helen and he must have married sometime after June.He started his service in the US Army in August, 1917, in the Officer Reserve Corps, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in November, 1917. He was stationed stateside during World War I, serving at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia first, then at the Springfield (MA!) Armory, and then in Camp Meade, Maryland. He was promoted to first lieutenant in September, 1919. Meanwhile, Helen’s younger brothers were also dealing with the impact of World War I. Gerald, the oldest son, was working as a clerk at M.Miller & Son, the store owned by his uncle Maurice Miller and, until his death, his father Jacob Katzenstein. Gerald claimed an exemption from service because he was supporting his dependent widowed mother, as seen on his draft card. Leopold or Leo Katzenstein, as he was then known, was in high school in 1917; he was a senior at Greater Johnstown High School and vice-president of his class.
When he registered for the draft in September, 1918, he was a student at Lehigh University, studying to be a metallurgy engineer. He joined the service on October 2, 1918. He served in the Student Army Training Center at Lehigh until December 11, 1918. He never served overseas during the war.Maurice, the third son, was still in high school when he registered for the draft in September, 1918. From his 1919 high school yearbook entry, it seems he was interested in music as he sang in an operetta, was in the spring concert, and was a member of the Lost Chord Club. As far as I can tell, he never served in the military. Helen (Katzenstein) and John Rodgers had a baby in November, 1919, but Helen and the baby were not living with John in 1920 when the 1920 census was taken. At that time he was stationed in Koblenz, Germany, and Helen and her child were living in Johnstown with Helen’s mother and her five younger brothers.
As the census report indicates, in 1920 Gerald Katzenstein, the oldest son, was working as a clerk in a clothing store, presumably the store once owned by his father and uncle, M. Miller & Company. Eva was working as a bookkeeper in a bank. The other family members, including Helen, were not employed outside the home.
But by 1922, Bertha had taken on an official role in the family business. She is listed in the Johnstown city directory for that year as the Vice-President and Treasurer of M. Miller & Co; Gerald and Leo were employed as salesman in the store. Eva was working as a teller in the bank, and Maurice and Perry were in school. (I assume Maurice was in college, but I don’t know where.) They were all living together at 838 Franklin Avenue in Johnstown.Helen and her husband John were listed in the same directory as residing at 227 Locust Street, but John was still in the US Army, and according to his obituary, he served in Germany from 1919 until 1923. “Col. Rodgers, 82, Army Veteran of 2 World Wars,” Washington DC Evening Star (August 25, 1972, p. 26).
Perry, the youngest sibling, graduated from Greater Johnstown High School in 1922. He was on both the varsity football and basketball teams. I wonder how accurately the quote reflects his personality—“Happy I am, from care I am free.” According to the yearbook, he was known as Puz, was always in a hurry, and had a weakness for “the ladies.”As listed in the 1925 Johnstown directory, the whole Katzenstein family other than Helen were all still residing together at 838 Franklin Avenue, and they had the same occupations as in 1922, except that Maurice was now working as a window trimmer for a store called Nathan’s. I assume this means he did the window displays for the storefront. The 1929 directory also shows no changes, except that Maurice is missing and Perry is now employed as an advertising solicitor for the Johnstown Democrat, a newspaper. Helen and John Rodgers were no longer listed in the Johnstown directory in 1925. John had made the Army his career, and in 1930, he was stationed in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and living with Helen and their three children. According to his obituary, John directed the Reserve Officers Training Corps at City College in New York City during the early 1930s. “Col. Rodgers, 82, Army Veteran of 2 World Wars,” Washington DC Evening Star (August 25, 1972, p. 26)
As for Helen’s siblings and mother, they were all still living together in Johnstown in 1930. Gerald and Leo were salesmen in a clothing store, Eva was a bank teller, Maurice was now working as a salesman for the newspaper, and Perry had no occupation listed. I wonder whether the last two entries are accurate, as Perry was the one working for a paper in 1929 and Maurice had no listing; I think the enumerator must have switched the occupation entries for the two brothers.
That is even clearer when the 1931 city directory is examined: Maurice was working as a collector for a clothing store (Eagle Clothing), and Perry was still an advertising solicitor for the Johnstown Democrat. Gerald and Leo were still clothing salesman, and Eva was still a bank teller.
Interestingly, the first of the Katzenstein brothers to marry was Perry, the youngest. On July 30, 1930, he was engaged to marry Helene Haws, also a Johnstown native. Although I don’t have a date for their wedding, their first child was born in 1932.
Other changes started to occur as well. Maurice became the first of the brothers to leave Johnstown. (Helen had obviously left some years before with her husband John.) In 1931, Maurice is listed in both the Johnstown directory, as noted above, and also in a directory for Springfield, Illinois, which listed him as an advertising manager for the Famous Department Store. He is also listed in Springfield in 1934 and 1935. Then in 1936, he is working as a window trimmer again, now in Lima, Ohio.
While working there, he met Gladys Weixelbaum, a Baltimore native who had lived most of her life in Ohio and who was working as a school teacher in Lima in 1930. Maurice, the second youngest brother, became the second to marry when he married Gladys in Lima in 1938. He was 38, and she was 39.
The remaining siblings continued to live in Johnstown. In 1938, Gerald, Leo, and Eva were living with their mother Bertha at 221 Haynes Street. Leo was the manager of a store called Lee’s, perhaps his own store, and Gerald was a salesman there; Eva continued to be a bank teller. The 1940 census report reflects these same facts:
Perry was also still in Johnstown. Although I cannot find him on the 1940 census, in both 1938 and 1941 he and his family were living at 415 Vickroy Street, and he was working as a clerk and then a solicitor for the Johnstown Tribune. By 1940, Perry and Helene had had three children, but tragically their daughter Judith died just before she was four months old from pneumococcal meningitis. She died on March 1, 1940, which might explain why Perry and Helene are not on the 1940 census; perhaps they were out of town, perhaps the enumerator knew they were grieving and skipped their home.
Maurice and Grace were living in Marion, Indiana, in 1940; Grace’s mother was also living with them. Maurice was working as a display manager for a department store. A year later they had moved to Flint, Michigan, where Maurice was the advertising manager for a business called The Fair.
Helen and John Rodgers and their children were living in New Rochelle in 1940; John had no occupation listed on the census. Perhaps by then he had retired from the army. He would have been fifty years old in 1940.
Thus, as of 1940, four of Jacob and Bertha (Miller) Katzenstein’s children were still living in Johnstown; three were still unmarried and living with their mother, and two were following in their father and uncle’s footsteps in the clothing business. Perry was still living in Johnstown, working in newspaper sales, and married with children. The other two siblings had moved away from Johnstown: Helen had left years before with her husband and children and was living in New Rochelle, New York, and Maurice had moved to the Midwest where he had gone from Illinois to Ohio to Indiana to Michigan. He and Grace did not have children.
The 1940s would present some changes and some losses. More on that in my next post.