Escaping from Germany, Part I: Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher’s Family

As discussed in an earlier post, by the late 19th century, the city of Frankfurt had the second largest Jewish population in Germany. During the early decades of the 20th century, that community continued to grow and prosper, as described in this source, the February 2005 issue of Hadassah Magazine:

As the 20th century got under way Frankfurt’s Jews were at the peak of their influence. They were bankers, brokers, manufacturers, retailers, lawyers and doctors. They fought in World War I under the Kaiser and Frankfurt became a center of learning in the Weimar Republic. Jewish Frankfurters were active in politics, and in 1925 Ludwig Landmann became the city’s first Jewish mayor.

And this source added to this picture of the thriving Jewish community in Frankfurt during the first three decades of the 20th century:

Before 1933, Frankfurt am Main had the largest percentage of Jewish citizens in Germany, and its Jewish community was the second largest in Germany following Berlin. In finance, education, science, and through numerous associations and foundations, Jewish citizens influenced the city of Frankfurt in a distinct way.

It is quite evident that Frankfurt was a comfortable place for Jews to live and do business in those early decades of the 20th century.

All that changed, of course, in 1933 when Hitler came to power. And certainly by 1935 with the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws, life became miserable for Jews all over Germany. Thus, it is not surprising that Sarah Goldschmidt’s descendants began to leave Germany, some for the United States, some for England, and some for what was then Palestine, today’s Israel.

The next series of posts will tell the story of what happened to the descendants of Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Stern during and after the Holocaust. This post will tell the story of Kiele Stern Loewenthal’s oldest child, Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher, and her children, Alice, Julius, and Gerhard, and their children.

Selma’s three children all went to the United States after Hitler’s rise to power, as did her grandchildren. Selma’s youngest child Gerhard Schwabacher had in fact left for the United States before Hitler came to power. According to his naturalization papers, he arrived in the United States on February 9, 1927, and by September 6, 1927, had declared his intention to become a United States citizen.

Gerhard Schwabacher, Petition for US Citizenship, National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Naturalization Record Books, 12/1893 – 9/1906; NAI Number: 2838938; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21, Petition for naturalization, v 67-69, petition no 17330-17847
Ancestry.com. Connecticut, Federal Naturalization Records, 1790-1996

Gerhard married Alice Ferron, a Connecticut native, on September 4, 1931.1 Alice was born on April 18, 1905 to Charles J. and Alice Ferron.2 Gerhard and Alice were living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1933 when he filed his petition for citizenship, and Gerhard was working as an electrical engineer for General Electric.3

On September 8, 1934, his mother Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher (who was a widow) arrived in New York to stay with Gerhard in Bridgeport. The manifest listed Berlin as her place of residence  and indicated that she only planned to stay in the US for six months.4  It appears that Selma did not stay in the US;  the research done by my cousins Roger Cibella and David Baron indicates that she died in Berlin on February 20, 1937.

Julius Schwabacher arrived in the US on September 30, 1935. Like his mother, he indicated that Berlin was his place of residence in Germany and that he was going to see his brother Gerhard in Bridgeport. The manifest reports that Julius was a reporter and that he was going to stay only 30 days,5 and it appears he also returned to Germany. But on November 14, 1937, Julius sailed from Havana, Cuba, to Florida, ultimately heading to Bridgeport where his brother lived. This time Julius indicated he intended to stay in the US permanently and that his occupation was a journalist.

And on September 20, 1938, he filed his Declaration of Intention to become a US citizen.

Julius Schwabacher, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, (Roll 541) Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1842-1959 (No 419501-420500)
Ancestry.com. New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943

Julius’ daughter Eva Lore Schwabacher arrived two years later on July 29, 1940, heading to New York where her father, now using the surname Wenton, was living. Eva Lore had been residing in London before immigrating to the US.6  Julius and Eva Lore’s mother Margarete had divorced in 1928, as Julius’s declaration indicates, and tragically, Margarete did not leave Germany and was murdered at Auschwitz.7

Selma’s daughter Alice Schwabacher Weinstein and her husband David and son Wolfgang also left Germany in time. Wolfgang left first; he arrived in the US on December 7, 1935, heading to his uncle Gerhard in Bridgeport.8 He filed his Declaration of Intent the following year and by that time had changed his surname to Wenten.

Wolfgang Weinstein (Wenten), Declaration of Intent, National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Naturalization Record Books, 12/1893 – 9/1906; NAI Number: 2838938; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21, Petition for naturalization, v 100-103, petition no 25563-26184, Ancestry.com. Connecticut, Federal Naturalization Records, 1790-1996

Wolfgang’s parents Alice and David arrived on March 28, 1939,9 and like their son Wolfgang and Gerhard, settled in Bridgeport. David would also change his surname to Wenten and filed a Declaration of Intent for them to become US citizens in 1940.

David Wenten, Declaration of Intent, National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Naturalization Record Books, 12/1893 – 9/1906; NAI Number: 2838938; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
Declaration of intention, no 38436-40677, 1938-1940, Ancestry.com. Connecticut, Federal Naturalization Records, 1790-1996

Thus, in 1940, all of Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher’s children and grandchildren were safely settled in the US. The 1940 US census shows Gerhard living with his wife and two American-born young sons in Bridgeport, working as an electrical engineer.10 His sister Alice and her husband David were also living in Bridgeport where David was in the real estate business. Their son Wolfgang was living with them and working as a shipping clerk for a novelty store.11

I could not locate Julius or his daughter Eva Lore on the 1940 US census, but in 1942 when he registered for the World War II draft, Julius was also living in Bridgeport, working for the Surgical Shears Company.

Julius Wenteo, World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Connecticut; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147; Series Number: M1962, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

Unfortunately, the story of the Selma’s children’s transition to the United States ends on a sad note. David Weinstein aka Wenten died on September 25, 1941, at the age of 55.12 One must wonder whether the stress of leaving his homeland and adjusting to life in a new country contributed to his death.

As for the other members of the family, they safely survived the war in the United States. Gerhard Schwabacher remained in Bridgeport for the rest of his life, working as an engineer for General Electric. He died on July 26, 1971, at the age of 69.13 His wife Alice died the following year.14 They were survived by their two sons.

Julius Schwabacher Wenton died a year after his brother on September 29, 1972, in Laguna Hills, California; he was 79.15 He was survived by his second wife, Elsie Simon, whom he had married in Fairfield, Connecticut on March 13, 1943,16 and his daughter Eva Lore. Eva Lore had married twice, first to Jack Stern in 1943, and then, after divorcing Jack Stern in 1946, to Henry Corton, in April, 1951.17 As far as I’ve been able to determine, she did not have children with either man. Eva Lore Corton passed away on March 3, 2003.18

Alice Schwabacher outlived both of her younger brothers. After losing her first husband David Weinstein/Wenten in 1941, she married Arthur Kingsley (originally Koenigsberger) on August 1, 1951.19 She outlived him as well; he died in January 1972.20 Alice lived to the age of 93; she died on her 93rd birthday on December 29, 1984.21 She was survived by her son Wolfgang Wenten, who was in the construction estimating business in Bridgeport. Sadly, Wolfgang did not inherit the same longevity as his mother. He died less than six years after she did on March 20, 1990; he was 76 and was survived by his wife Ruth and their two children.22

Selma Loewenthal Schwabacher still has numerous descendants living in the United States—her great-grandchildren and their children and grandchildren. She and her family were among the fortunate ones who left Germany in time.

 

 


  1.  Connecticut State Department of Health; Hartford, CT; Connecticut Vital Records — Index of Marriages, 1897-1968; Ancestry.com. WEB: Connecticut Marriage Records, 1897-1968 
  2. Charles Farron (sic) and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Bridgeport Ward 5, Fairfield, Connecticut; Roll: T625_175; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 26, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  3. “Gerhard P. Schwabacher,” The Bridgeport Post, Bridgeport, Connecticut
    27 Jul 1971, Tue • Page 45 
  4. Selma Schwabacher, ship manifest, Year: 1934; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5554; Line: 1; Page Number: 112, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  5. Julius Schwabacher, ship manifest, Year: 1935; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5713; Line: 1; Page Number: 128, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  6. Eva Lore Schwabacher, ship manifest, Year: 1940; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6485; Line: 15; Page Number: 126, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  7. Entries for Margarete Schwabacher at Yad Vashem https://tinyurl.com/wlm399u 
  8. Wolfgang Weinstein, ship manifest, Year: 1935; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5739; Line: 18; Page Number: 21, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  9. David and Alice Weinstein, ship manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6303; Line: 18; Page Number: 104, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  10. Family of Gerhard Schwabacher, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Roll: m-t0627-00531; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 9-69, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  11. Family of David Wenten, 1940 US census, ear: 1940; Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Roll: m-t0627-00533; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 9-125,
    Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  12.  State Vital Records Office; Hartford, Connecticut; Connecticut Vital Records — Index of Deaths, 1897-1968, Ancestry.com. WEB: Connecticut Death Records, 1897-1968 
  13. “Gerhard P. Schwabacher,” The Bridgeport Post, Bridgeport, Connecticut
    27 Jul 1971, Tue • Page 45. Social Security Number: 041-09-0962, Birth Date: 27 Jun 1902, Last Residence: 06492, Wallingford, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, Death Date: Jul 1971, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  14. State File #: 02273, Connecticut Department of Health. Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2012 
  15.  Social Security Number: 104-10-6866, Birth Date: 17 May 1893, Last Residence: 92653, Laguna Hills, Orange, California, USA, Death Date: Sep 1972, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File,
    Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  16.  Connecticut State Department of Health; Hartford, CT; Connecticut Vital Records — Index of Marriages, 1897-1968, Ancestry.com. WEB: Connecticut Marriage Records, 1897-1968 
  17. Marriage of Eva Lore Schwabacher to Jack Stern, Marriage certificates 1943 vol 57A, Ancestry.com. Washington, County Marriages, 1855-2008. Divorce of Eva Lore Schwabacher and Jack Stern, Ancestry.com. Florida, Divorce Index, 1927-2001,
    Original data: Florida Department of Health. Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001. Jacksonville, FL, USA: Florida Department of Health. Marriage of Eva Lore Schwabacher Stern to Henry Corton, License Number: 9785, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 14,
    Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  18. SSN: 045121672, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  19.  License Number: 20152, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  20.  Social Security Number: 112-26-6899, Death Date: Jan 1972, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File,
    Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  21.  Social Security Number: 044-12-5712, Birth Date: 29 Dec 1891,
    Last Residence: 10040, New York, New York, New York, USA, Death Date: Dec 1984
    Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. JewishGen, comp. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR), 
  22. “Wenten Named to Head County School,” The Bridgeport Post, Bridgeport, Connecticut, 28 Jul 1968, Sun • Page 66. SSN: 041105870, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 

How Newspaper Articles Helped Solve the Mysteries of Howard Sigmund’s Sons-in-Law

When my cousin Howard Sigmund and his wife Leslie had a second child, Nancy Lee Sigmund, on February 12, 1922,1 he was the first of the children of William and Adelaide Sigmund to have more than one child.  Nancy Sigmund was born over ten years after the birth of her older sister, Audrey, who was born in 1910.

In 1930 Howard was still in the women’s clothing business in DC, like his brother’s Abe and Goldsmith.2 His daughter Audrey Sigmund married Leonard Casillo sometime between August and October, 1938. Oddly, despite numerous social news items posted about Audrey in the Washington DC newspapers, I could not find a wedding article, just a story referring to her as “Audrey Sigmund” in August 1938 and then a story referring to her as “Mrs. Leonard Casillo, formerly Audrey Sigmund,” in October 1938.

Washington DC Evening Star, October 23, 1938, p. 54

Leonard was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on December 10, 1910,3 to Pasquale and Jennie Casillo, who were born in Italy and immigrated to the US in 1898. In 1930 Leonard was living with his parents, sister, and uncle in Bridgeport where his father was working as the manager of a grocery store.4

I wondered how Audrey, a Jewish girl from Washington, DC, had met an Italian boy from Bridgeport, Connecticut, until I found an article about Georgetown University’s 1938 graduation ceremonies that included this list of dental school graduates:

Washington DC Evening Star, June 14, 1938, p. 5

Leonard, the son of two Italian immigrants, had graduated from dental school  at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, in June 1938.

After marrying, Audrey and Leonard settled in Bridgeport and had a child. I was a bit perplexed by the 1940 census, which shows Leonard living with his parents, sister, and uncle in Bridgeport, but not with Audrey or their child.

Leonard Casillo 1940 US census, Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Roll: m-t0627-00531; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 9-61, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

But Leonard’s World War II draft registration, which is dated October 16, 1940, six months after the census enumeration, lists Audrey as his wife at the same address and as the person who will always know Leonard’s address. So perhaps Audrey had taken the baby to visit her family when the enumeration was done.

Leonard Casillo, World War II draft registration, Page 1 – Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations 16 Oct 1940, Draft Registration Cards for Connecticut, 1940 – 1947, Roll: 44002_05_00009

Meanwhile, back in DC in the 1940s, Howard Sigmund was still the owner of a women’s clothing store and was living with his wife Leslie and younger daughter Nancy.5

Nancy married Julian Savage on May 31, 1948, in Washington.

Washington DC Evening Star, June 1, 1948, p. 24

Learning about Julian led me down quite a rabbit hole. Julian was born in Washington, DC, on February 25, 1919;6 his parents appeared from the census records and other documents to be Samuel and Lena Savage, immigrants from either Lithuania, Russia, Germany, or Poland, depending on the record.7 But were Samuel and Lena Julian’s birth parents?

Although Julian was born in 1919 according to his military records, he did not appear on the 1920 census with Samuel, Lena, and their much older children, Rosa (born in 1900) and Benjamin (born in 1905). Since Lena would have been 43 in 1919 when Julian was born, I started to wonder whether Julian was adopted or just a later-in-life (for those days) baby.8

I found this legal notice from 1943 that also made me wonder:

Washington DC Evening Star, January 27, 1943, p. 35

Was Julian Savage born Julian Margolius? If so, who were his biological parents? I figured I’d never know. But in searching for information about Julian Savage in newspapers, I noticed that the best man at his wedding was Bernard Margolius. In addition, Bernard’s obituary listed Julian Savage as his brother.9 Searching for Bernard’s parents, I learned of Wolf Margolius and Jennie Cohen, Russian immigrants, who had five children: Edna, Emanuel, Albert, Bernard, and finally Julian.

Wolf Margolius and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_209; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 142
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

And where were they living in 1920? In Washington, DC, at 501 Massachusetts Avenue. And who lived at 503 Massachusetts Avenue in 1920? Samuel and Lena Savage and their two children, Rosa and Benjamin.10

So how did Julian end up living with the Savages in 1930? His birth mother Jennie Cohen Margolius died on July 31, 1922, when Julian was only three.11 The other Margolius children were older when their mother died; Bernard, the second youngest, was nine and in school, and the other children were teenagers or beyond. My guess is that Wolf Margolius could not care for the youngest boy and so entrusted him with his friends and neighbors, the Savages. And so Julian Margolius became Julian Savage, the son of Samuel and Lena. But obviously he remained very close to his biological brother, Bernard Margolius, naming him as the best man at his wedding.

In 1940, Julian was the only child left in the Savage household.12 He graduated from Benjamin Franklin University with a degree in accounting and was a CPA by 1940 when he was 21, the youngest CPA in the country at that time. He enlisted in the US Army on March 6, 1941, and achieved the rank of major, serving four years overseas during World War II. When he came home, he attended George Washington University in 1948, hoping to become a lawyer, but he could not afford to continue at school so he “read for the law” by working in an attorney’s office and then passed the Virginia bar. Julian and Nancy had two children.13

Julian became an early investor and developer of Holiday Inn hotels in the Washington, DC, area, and beyond, starting in 1959 and eventually building fifty different hotels, as detailed in a 1968 article from the Washington Evening Star14 and in his obituary.

Howard Sigmund lived to see his daughters living comfortably with their respective husbands. He died at the age of 92 in Washington, DC, in July, 1982.15 He was survived by his daughters, their husbands, and grandchildren. His wife Lesley had predeceased him in April 1977 when she was 89.16

Audrey and Leonard Casillo remained in Bridgeport for the rest of their lives. Audrey died on June 5, 1983,17 when she was 73, just a year after her father Howard died; her husband Leonard outlived her by ten years. He was 83 when he died in Newtown, Connecticut, on November 19, 1983.18 They were survived by their children and grandchildren.

Julian Savage died at the age of 92 on February 17, 2012.19 His wife Nancy Sigmund Savage died almost seven years later on December 15, 2018. They were survived by their children and grandchildren.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1.  Name: Nancy L Savage, Birth Date: 12 Feb 1922, Ancestry.com. U.S. Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Voter Registration Lists, Public Record Filings, Historical Residential Records, and Other Household Database Listings. 
  2. Howard Sigmund 1930 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 0191; FHL microfilm: 2340032, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  3. SSN: 040326854, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  4. Peter (Pasquale) Casillo and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0035; FHL microfilm: 2339990,
    Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  5. Howard Sigmund, 1940 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: m-t0627-00571; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 1-533, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  6. Julian Savage, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for District of Columbia, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 201, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  7. See, e.g., Julian Savage, 1940 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: m-t0627-00567; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 1-413, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  8. Samuel Savage and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_209; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 142, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  9. See wedding article above. See obituary at https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=bernard-margolius&pid=144450864 
  10. Samuel Savage and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_209; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 142, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  11. District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1961,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F7BW-QCZ : accessed 13 November 2019), Wolf Margolius in entry for Jennie Margolius, 31 Jul 1922, District of Columbia, United States; citing reference ID 767, District Records Center, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 2,115,943. 
  12. Samuel Savage and family, 1940 US census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: m-t0627-00567; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 1-413, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  13. “Man Behind the Sign at 30 Holiday Inns,” Washington DC Evening Star, October 5, 1972, p. 68 
  14. “Man Behind the Sign at 30 Holiday Inns,” Washington DC Evening Star, October 5, 1972, p. 68 
  15. Social Security Number: 579-05-1276, Death Date: Jul 1982, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  16. Social Security Number: 577-30-6420, Death Date: Apr 1977,
    Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  17. State File #: 13133, Connecticut Department of Health. Connecticut Death Index, 1949-2012. 
  18. SSN: 040326854, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  19. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?fhid=2167&n=julian-savage&pid=156038507 
  20. https://www.lastingtributesfuneralcare.com/obituaries/Nancy-Savage/#!/Obituary 

My Grandfather’s Notebook: More than Names, Dates, and Addresses

Notebook cover

Among the other treasures that turned up in the shoebox of “old papers” that had belonged to my Aunt Elaine was a Martinson Coffee pocket calendar for the year 1930.  My aunt would have been twelve going on thirteen, my Uncle Maurice ten going on eleven, and my mother not yet born when 1930 began. Here’s a photograph of my grandmother and her three children taken in 1931 when that pocket calendar was still relatively new:

 

Goldschlagers 1931

Goldschlagers 1931

This calendar, however, had to be around for many years as a place where members of the family scribbled notes of all kinds because even my mother eventually made contributions to it. In fact, the most recent entries seem to have been made by my grandmother in 1965 long after my grandfather had died and all her children had married.

Grandpa notebook 1964 notes by Grandma

I don’t know for sure what “Johen” meant, but I wonder if my grandmother was referring to my father, whose name is John Cohen.

It amazes me that my grandparents kept this little book for so long, and I wonder why it became the repository of so many family notes. I can’t imagine how it stayed around and was used by so many members of the family beginning in 1930 up to 1965.  Today that notebook probably would not have lasted a year (well, it wouldn’t exist since we’d use our smartphones and computer calendars instead.)

For example, my grandparents used it not only as a calendar but as an address book.  I already posted two of the pages of addresses in an earlier post:

Grandpa Notebook page 1 addresses Joe Goldfarb Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

Here are a few more:

Grandpa Notebook 4 more addresses Ressler

Leo Ressler was my mother’s first cousin, son of Tillie Brotman Ressler, my grandmother’s sister.  His wife was Mildred Phillips, and the notebook page records both their wedding anniversary and Mildred’s birthday.  Unfortunately there is no year given for the marriage, but Mildred was still single and living with her mother and stepfather in New Haven, Connecticut, on the 1930 census.  She and Leo lived in Hartford during the late 1930s, and so this entry of an address for Bridgeport must have been long after the 1930 date on this calendar. (They were living in Bridgeport as of the 1940 US census.)  Leo and Mildred owned a dress shop in Connecticut for many years before retiring to Florida.  My mother recalls that Mildred was considered high class by my grandparents and that my aunt was invited to come visit them so she could learn some of Mildred’s sophisticated ways.

Leo Ressler

Leo Ressler

(I don’t know who Francis Coen would be— another name to research.)

The next two pages had three addresses for my mother’s uncle, Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s brother.  Apparently he moved around a bit, given all the crossed out addresses the notebook includes for him. (There are two more on the first page, above.) I don’t know very much about Uncle Sam except that he was a cab driver and lived alone all his adult life. Yet all these addresses include a “in care of” reference so perhaps he was living with someone named Weinstein for some period of time and someone named Enzer at other times.

Grandpa Notebook 5 more addresses

Sam Brotman

Sam Brotman

Joe Brotman, the other name on this page, was another of my mother’s first cousins, the son of Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s brother. I have six different Joseph Brotmans in my family tree, including my great-grandfather, but Hyman’s son is the only one who lived in Queens, where he was living when this address was recorded.

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

My grandfather also used the calendar to record birthdays for family members.  There are notes on the dates for his birthday as well as that of my grandmother, my aunt, and my mother.  (The pages for June were torn out, so there is none for my uncle.) My mother was born during 1930, and on the appropriate date my grandfather simply wrote, “My daughter’s birthday, Florence, born—-.”

One of my favorite pages (although very hard to read) is the one where my grandfather apparently listed all his favorite pieces of music.  I know that music was one of his passions, one of the few things he remembered fondly about his childhood in Iasi, Romania:

Grandpa notebook music

I can’t make out the names of most of the pieces, but he has works by Beethoven (whose name he wrote with such a flourish on the opposite page), Brahms, Bizet, and Grieg as well as several others.

He also used the notebook as an account book, and there are many pages where he records his paychecks, his Social Security benefits, and Welfare Fund payments.  My grandfather was active in his union, and I assume that the Welfare Fund was administered by the union.  In addition, he kept a record of people they visited or who visited them and other events.

Grandpa notebook money and visits

The notebook also contains a number of notes my grandfather made about his health and various other matters.  For example, on these pages he not only recorded financial information; he interspersed notes about the times my uncle came home to visit during his military service in World War II  with notes about his own operations and hospitalizations.

Grandpa Notebook 6 notes about Maurice in service

Grandpa notebook page 7 more notes about Maurice and hospital

Again, all of these were obviously written long after 1930 and as late as 1951 when he had surgery for polyps.  He died just six years later on May 3, 1957.

But perhaps the most interesting and entertaining parts of the notebook are those contributed by my aunt, my uncle, and my mother.  There are many pages like this one with a list of names and then what looks like grades.  My mother believes that my aunt used the notebook to play school, listing her classmates and even her brother and herself as the students and then “grading” them in different subjects.

Grandpa Notebook 3 aunt elaine playing school

My aunt also liked to practice writing her name and doodling all over the pages (the top one might have been written by my mother or someone else; I am not sure):

GRandpa notebook Aunt Elaine names earlier

Grandpa notebook Aunt Elaine names 1

These pages were obviously written after my aunt was married as she used her married name (Lehrbaum) and included her husband, my Uncle Phil. The second page also includes my uncle’s wife, my Aunt Lynn, and they weren’t married until 1945, several years after Aunt Elaine had married.  I find it fascinating that even after she was married and out of the house, my aunt still somehow found this notebook a place to scribble.

I found the pages my uncle wrote in 1934 about his adventures shooting at chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits with his friend Blackie both amusing and disturbing.  First, the idea that my uncle was carrying around a real gun at age fifteen is rather horrifying.  Secondly, I always knew my uncle as an animal lover.  He always had a dog (a schnauzer named Schnopsie is the one I remember best), and later on he had several dogs and cats as well as various other animals.  How could he shoot harmless chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits? But when I asked my cousin Beth about this, she said he always liked to shoot, so she was not surprised.

Grandpa notebook 8 maurice hunting notes 1934 Grandpa notebook 9 more hunting Maurice 1934 Grandpa notebook 10 more hunting notes Grandpa notebook 11 hunting notes and final comment in 1939 Grandpa notebook 12 Maurice comment 1939

But it’s amusing also because I can imagine my uncle as a fifteen year old boy having a wild time with his friend Blackie and competing to see who would shoot the most animals that summer.  Below is a photo of my uncle, my aunt, and my mother as well as my grandmother about a year after the summer that my uncle was writing about his hunting adventures.

Goldschlagers 1935

Goldschlagers 1935

I found the note he wrote four and a half years later on February 24, 1939, when he was almost twenty years old particularly touching and revealing:

As I recall it now I have recorded on these last nine pages possibly one of the happiest phases of my life.  As I sit here and look back four and a half years it seems incredible that time could fly by so quickly on the wings of joy and sorrow, (yes, we’ve had our share of sorrows).

What were those sorrows? I don’t know what my uncle was referring to specifically or whether he only meant between 1934 and 1939, but in his lifetime, in 1924 his aunt Frieda had died after childbirth as had her baby; his aunt Tillie had lost her husband Aaron, and his grandmother Bessie had died in May 1934, shortly before he wrote about his hunting adventures.  I also imagine that those Depression years were challenging for my grandparents like they were for so many people.

My uncle also must have liked baseball because he kept a box score from a game in the notebook.  Being a baseball fan, I was determined to figure out not only what teams these were, but what game it was:

Grandpa notebook 15 box score

After studying the names on team listed on top I realized that it was the Detroit Tigers, probably around 1935.  As soon as I saw Greenberg, I knew it had to be Hank Greenberg and thus the Tigers.  After all, how many baseball players have there been named Greenberg?

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Henry &q...

English: 1934 Goudey baseball card of Henry “Hank” Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers #62. PD-not-renewed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The team at the bottom took some more digging because my uncle’s spelling was, shall we say creative? But the Deroch was a big clue—I assumed it was Leo Durocher, and once I looked up his career and saw that in 1935 he was playing on the St. Louis Cardinals with a catcher named Bill Delancey, an infielder named Collins and another named Frisch, I knew I had found the right team.

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Leo Duro...

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Leo Durocher of the Cincinnati Reds #147. PD-not-renewed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But the National League Cardinals wouldn’t have been playing the American League Tigers in 1935 unless they were in the World Series (oh, for the days before endless post-season playoffs and in-season interleague play!).  So this couldn’t be 1935 because the Tigers played the Cubs in the 1935 World Series.  After a bit more research, I concluded that this was a game from the 1934 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.

Since my uncle recorded the final score of the game he was following (presumably on the radio) as 10-4, it wasn’t hard to find out which game this was from the 1934 World Series: Game 4 on October 6, 1934, at Sportsmen’s Park in St. Louis.  Here is a link to the box score of that game as recorded by the Baseball-Reference website. The Tigers evened the series 2-2 by winning that game and then won Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the Series, but badly lost Games 6 and 7 to lose the Series.  I wonder which team my uncle, a boy from Brooklyn, was rooting for. Perhaps the one with the first Jewish player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Finally, there are a few short notes from my mother, the baby in the family.  Here she wrote about her big brother teasing her:

My brother is such a pest he calls me all sorts [?] of names for instance fatso, horse, baby and so many and I call him names to.”  I guess my uncle was always a tease—he certainly was as an adult also!

Grandpa notebook 14 Florence comment about Maurice

 

I wonder how much later she wrote the comment that follows: “When I look at this now I think it silly.  It is childish.”

When she was eleven, she wrote about a favorite teacher, Mrs. Alice Handelsman, who was “just like a mother” to her class, and her boyfriend Myron.  On his birthday in the calendar, she listed a favorite cousin, Sanford (or Sandy), Leo and Mildred Ressler’s son; my mother to this day talks about what a beautiful little boy he was and how kind he was to my grandmother.

Grandpa Notebook 2 Mom note about teacher

Grandpa notebook 16 Florence comment re Sandy Ressler

 

What a gift this little book from 1930 has turned out to be.  It gives me a snapshot into the childhood of my mother and her siblings and some insights into my grandfather as well.  He was obviously a very careful man when it came to money, recording so painstakingly his income and his expenses. These were the Depression years, and my grandfather worked as a driver for a milk company.   My grandparents were not poverty stricken, but they lived from paycheck to paycheck and for many years lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and then a one bedroom apartment in Parkchester when my mother was a teenager and her siblings were married and out of the house. My grandfather worked the night shift for the milk company, and my mother would share the bed with my grandmother until my grandfather got home in the morning and she got up for school.  But my mother says she never thought of herself as poor because she always had food and clothing and a roof over her head.

We take so much for granted today with our cars and houses and televisions and computers and smartphones. We throw everything away and litter our landfills with our junk.  Our children and grandchildren have iPads and scooters and bikes and more toys and books than all the children in one tenement building in Brooklyn combined had back in the 1930s.  But my mother and her siblings had their imaginations and their friends and their teachers and their families.  And this one little notebook gives us a peak into how they entertained themselves and how they lived together as a family.  It, like my aunt’s baby book, is a real treasure.