On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Website for Family Archaeologist

Hello Everyone,

Family Archaeologist has migrated to my new website, LindaGartz.com. There you'll find all past and future posts. 

I want to thank all my faithful followers for your interest and for the wonderful comments you've made since the blog's  beginning on November 17, 2010. 

Since then more than 92,000 readers have visited Family Archaeologist. I'm so grateful to each and every one!

I do hope you'll drop by my brighter website, with its fresh new look, and leave a comment to say hello. 

You can also check out the start of a second blog, "Letters of a World War II Airman," clickable on the navbar at any page at LindaGartz.com

I post a transcription and the original of the missives to and from my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, on or near the 70th anniversary of the writing of each. The blog begins with Frank's induction date into the Army Air Corps on January 23, 1943. The letters give a first-hand look at an eighteen-year-old kid transforming into a seasoned airman. Letters from the home front show how friends and family rally to support the young soldier and expose a mother's worried heart. 

At the end of April, 2013, I was invited to join a compendium of more than 100 Chicago bloggers at ChicagoNow. Go to this link: Letters of a World War II Airman on Chicago Now, to find the latest  and all future letters.

More changes to come in the future.  Thanks again for all your support.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Let's review the rules!

Will is the practical oldest brother who finds it so difficult, if not impossible, to be chatty and newsy. It seems he can’t stop himself from chastising, advising, informing, correcting. You can skim it if you prefer, but if you are following along and getting to know the characters through their letters, this one is revealing of Will’s personality. It’s especially poignant when he gets to the part where he recognizes and admits his shortcomings.

I’m amused by Will’s focus on Frank’s misspellings, many of which I corrected in the transcription, but visible in the original. See what you think as you read through this.

My grandmother adds a note at the end, again singing the praises of Ebner's girlfriend, Cookie.

Friday March 19, 1943
Chicago, ILL.

Dear Frank,

I am sorry I haven’t answered your letter of March 12th but I’ve been somewhat busy what with a new class. I am now teaching in the C.A.P. [Civil Air Patrol], namely “General Servicing of Aircraft.” Boy there is on way to learn a subject; just try and teach it to someone. Since I received your letter to meof March 12th, we have received your letter to Mother of March 19th, so I’ll try to cover both of them here.

In the first place let’s get down some sort of a system by which we can determine whether you receive our letters and packages. You mentioned in one letter that you received one package….Now, have you received the package containing the candy bars (Package #1). And package #2 Containing assorted chocolates, sausage, etc. Sent March 13?

I was saying to Mom...if it wouldn’t be a good idea to enclose in each pacakage a self-addressed penny post card so that when you open the package all you have to do is note you had received package # so and os and whether it was in good condition or not.

Mom was wonder why you don’t answer the specific questions she puts to you in her letters and if you are having difficulty in deciphering them.

By the way, I want to mention something to you...for your own good, some of your spelling is pretty bad especially the phase in which you double the consonant and add the suffix. Example of the worst or more frequent error: you spell “geting” for “getting.” The rule concerning this reads in part “in a word ending in a consenant [sic] and having the accent on the last syllable you double the consenant [sic] and add the suffix.”

Well, so you’re sending 4 words per minutes or is it receiving that many? I’ve sort of dropped away from code practise [sic] because of other work but no matter here is a dose of something I’m sending you.


You mentioned that you loaned some $9.00 to some sergeants does this mean you finally were paid? I don’t want to be critical but you know “Borgen macht Sorgen.” [Borrowing makes sorrow.] In other words be generous only if you have evaluated the integrity and honesty of an individual and at all times keep your book business like and dear.

Darn, I can’t write anything but cold turkey, which, as you know, is my makeup. Abstainance [sic] from the pleasure of life sure is showing and leaving its mark, but I can’t help it. One of these days I’m going to throw caution ot he wind and have a nice long fling.

Hasta la vista


Now Grandma writes in her handwriting:

My Dear Ebner.

Only a few words I send you. Your letter March 16, I received 18. You ask [about] Cooky [Cookie]....

Once she called [me] at home from work.... She is very busy untill 6 p.m. I called before and talked to her mother and thanked her for your package. As soon as she [Cookie] came home she call[ed] me. Allways so sweet, as you know.

We are  so busy at home with that snow, beside the other work. Would you like Paprika Spek [bacon]? This is the real one from Kovash, the Contractor.

Please send me word if that bread was dry. Again is 12:30 at midnite, so Goot Nite on Paper, then Goot nite to your picture.

With Love, Mom

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Morse Code!

Army Technical School 


Dear Mom:

I had my reason for holding back this letter so please excuse the delay. The last 3 days I’ve been concentrating pretty hard and today I passed my first code check. I’ve been taking 4 words a minute and barely getting them and now I’m on 8 w.p.m. So it’s time I sent you a letter. Yesterday morning it started hailing and turned to rain and then ice. All of the streets are like glass and slippery as a skating rink. The temperature dropped to below freezing and snow fell all night. We woke up this morning and found a blanket of snow on top of our [streets.] (?)

 It wasn’t hard walking to school and I felt like turning back twice but I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. This morning I went to the side room and started taking down the cod and did pretty well, so I stopped and went to sleep at my desk. I was determined to pass so I rested my mind. You’d be surprised how hard you have to concentrate on what you are writing. Then he announced over the speaker, “4 Word Code Check.” 

That’s all I wanted to hear. I stretched and started in.

You need only 40 characters in a row to pass and I got 83 and 15 others scattered around to a total of 98 out of a possible 100. This afternoon another fellow whom I’ve been palling around with passed his and sat in back of me. Now we can stall around a bit more and take it easy as this next chen is going to be easier than the first one. I’m sorry, but I can’t send you the articles you asked for this week, but perhaps next.

I lent out $9.00 to a few friends who haven’t been paid since they left gunnery school 2 mos. ago. Heard  the other gunners are sergeants. Also when I finish this school I’ll wear 1 stripe or a first class private and then might be sent to gunnery school if I don’t pass my  physical for the cadet training.

Coookie sent me a box of things today. It was very sweet of her. I received chocolate chip cookies, a pipe, tobacco, candy, and a can of  oranges. I wish you would personally thank her for me. Does she visit you now and then? How is everthing back home. I still have my watch and am trying to mail it home but I just don’t get a chance. The post office closes at 5:0 and we don’t get through calesthenics until 4:30. By the time you get dress and hike over there it’s closed.

Here’s a little note to Will:

MORSE CODE -- see below in original

Well I have to write to LaVerne [Cookie, his girlfriend] and thank her for the package. Lil wrote me and told me your morning greeting to my picture. I ope that it will be bordreed by one in uniform soon. Well, till I write again, I’ll keep as good as I can.

Love Frank 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Radio Days Devotion

A radio similar to theone on which my 
grand mother set Ebner's photo to 
greetMorning and Night

My grandmother explains how she and Grandpa say "Goot Morning, Ebner" and "Goot Night, Ebner" twice daily my uncle's photo, set up as a small shrine atop a radio the the one posted here. It's kinda sweet, picturing them trying to keep a connection through a picture. A refresher on names: Will is my grandparents' oldest son, then Fred, my dad (whom the family called "Sam." I changed it in the letter to [Fred] in brackets, to avoid confusion. Lil is my mom. She and Dad had married just two months, on November 8, 1942, before Ebner's draft date.

Chicago, Ill 3/14 1943

My Dear Ebner,

I was waiting till 7 minutes before 10 pm Sunday for maybe you would call me on the telefon. But it was for nothing. Were you so busy or have you got school on Sunday. I hope and pray for you in our church that God should bless you everywhere you go and in everything you do. He should be with you, my loving son. The letter you send to [Fred] I heard about two days after and wish to help you.

As soon as [Fred] read me the news I send you 1/2 salami, a little bread [and want to find out if] everyting reach you. Was the bread dry out or is it o.k.?

[I sent you dill pickel and some fruit and nut candy Will bought, so I packt it tight, hoping [it] reach you good.

[Fred] and Lil send you a package. Sam mail mine with his on Sat 5pm time. Send me a few lines so I kan know and keep going [to send you] the next one.

How is it with the money? You have still or do you need a littel more. As much as I can I will do. Write me more about yourself. Please don’t get discourage. Read some time the verse I give you [from] the Bible or hymn book. I am sure God will be with you if you think on him.

Page 2

My Dear Ebner,

Your watch you were sending home is not here--or did you change your mind? Your dad is busy. Same [with] Will. Both working so hard, often we have our meal [supper] at 9:00 or 9:30

[At the six flat, a contractor [put in] new front steps to the basement. All the tenants’ leases begin on May 1, 1943, so I was going with the painter and contractor for all the cleaning [of the apartments] and [paid] the last bill of the income tax, and paid the painter, so [that’s the reason] I was not writing.

I don’t know if you can read all. I try very hard with a dictionarie.

Every morning [first thing] I say “Goot Morning, Ebner” to your picture on the radio, and Father, he says it as soon as he comes home...and prays for your blessings for the day. Then [again I say good night to the picture] the last thing before I go to bed.

Those two lights [flanking Ebner’s photo] burn as soon as it gets dark. Often our living room is [lit] only by those green lights.

So chin high. God will be with you all the time and [will] always bless you. It is now 12 o’clock Sunday the 14th. So good night on paper. Before I go to bed, I stand by your picture two times.

With loving and more loving from your Mother and Dad and Will

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The War-years work schedule

Long hours were common during the war years, as women and the men left behind had to do the work of the men deployed and in training. It was no different for my parents. My Mom, Lillian, was executive secretary for the president of the Bayer Company in downtown Chicago. She was an expert typist, resulting in letters like the one below. It needs no transcription, but if the print seems too small, just hold your command or control button and press the + key to enlarge.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What's the Pitch? What Gives?

Frank Von Arx
Frank Gartz's first letter from a pal.

Fun Lingo from the 1940s crops up throughout this very first letter written to my Uncle Ebner BEFORE he was even drafted. That's because his best buddy, Frank Von Arx, had already been inducted into the military the previous December (1942). Here Von Arx chides Frank Ebner Gartz for not writing to him. (Seems the pattern started early, but won't last for long!)

 Its lighthearted scolding and teasing tone, tell us a lot about these two young men and the friendship they shared. Sounds like Ebner was pretty hard to pin down, always on the go. Frank VA is is doing his best to wheedle a letter out of his buddy, Gartz, still in Chicago. Von Arx is already demonstrating his scribe skills which will eventually land him in journalism.

I chose not to post it on the date it was written because that was before Ebner's induction, and I started this thread on that date, 1/23. Here it is now.

January 7, 1943

Dear Frank,

Boy are you in for it now. All you better hope is that we get called out to the drill field before I get started here.

To make myself perfectly plain to you I will put it this way–––
What the hell goes on in Chicago?
Yes, that is what I said. What’s the pitch? What gives?

Here is the situation. Two old pals who knew each other for practically all their lives are separated by a cruel stroke of fate. They bid tearful goodbyes and make stout promises to send a good word as often as possible.  So here is what happens.

The galoot who stays home [my uncle] send the track-maker one high-class letter on stolen stationery and then promptly leaves his poor lost pal in the lurch, alone in the world to tear out his hair and beat out his brains trying to guess what possibly could have happened at home.

Now to make it all the worse, you must consider the one pal who made his goodbyes at home. If he were an ordinary guy, one could just about guess what makes at home, BUT this guys is different. Never try to guess what he is going to do or is doing. You just can’t do it! I know I tried. And that makes all the worst, anything could be happening and this poor pal would never know it. Oh Dear!

Gartz, are you lucky there are five states separating us (or are there? I wouldn’t be too sure of even that ?) or else I would make it tough on you.

(Pause of approximately 5 hours)

So, as I said, What goes on in Chicago? Especially around Keeler and Madison [where Gartz family lived], even though you aren’t at home long enough to get a good night’s sleep at least try to write a letter saying--”Dear Frank, Am feeling ok -- or am not feeling okay, whichever the case may be.

Get the idea?

Now I know this isn’t a very good way to talk to a guy’s best friend, but then I haven’t bawled anybody out for a long time so it might as well be you. You at least, have sense enough not to listen.

I forget when I last wrote you so therefore, I cannot tell you an accurate account of all the heroic deeds I have performed down here in Florida. In fact, just for punishment for not writing, I think I shan't tell you any of them all. So there!

We are now in our third day of Basic Training (15 more to go). This morning we started drilling at 7:45 am, although we had been up since 4:45, and kept at it until 8:30 when we wit and got a lecture on battlefield first aid. At 10am we went to P.T. (Physical Trn.) and got a dose of exercise and a couple of simple lessons on breaking a choking grip or likewise. Now it is 12 noon and we are in our barracks waiting a call for chow.

This afternoon I suppose we will get more drilling and then an hour of P.T. Before we go off duty at 5pm. For the afternoon P.T. We can put on our swim suits and take the exercises on the beach, after which we all take a nice swim. It really is nice in ocean water despite the salt. You can’t swim much but the waves sure knock you around a lot.

There are several basketball outdoor courts, tennis court, volleyball and baseball fields which we get to use in our spare time. I hope to get quite a tan before we get sent to school.

Which reminds me, did I tell you that they have classified me for either metal worker or armorer mechanic schools? That is just what I wanted. I want to get this in the mail at chow time so I am going to close now. Just want to let you know everything is all right -- except for a couple of tired bones -- and I can’t kick on a thin--except your mail.

Say hello to your mother, father, and brothers for me.

Your Pal,

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'd hate for you to go haywire.

Austin High School, Chicago, Il
Frank's former science and division teacher at Austin High School, Miss Hartley, was a regular correspondent, not only to Frank Ebner, but to many of his buddies from his high school class. Harvey Duck was in Frank's same division (see photo above), and his name comes up in this letter as Miss Hartley is keeping all the boys apprised of their classmates doings and whereabouts  (See 3/3 posted letter from Frank's Mom.) Miss Hartley also mentions that Cookie, Frank's girlfriend, took over Duck's job. 

I'm not transcribing this letter. A teacher's handwriting is pretty easy to read. It's an example of how everyone on the home front rallied behind the boys in training and kept their spirits up with a regular flow of correspondence. Frank's teacher adds a few notes of chastisement for some of Frank's apparently not so "mature" behavior in high school, but, like all good teachers, also leavens her critique with guidance and encouragement.
Miss Catherine Hartley's Division #451 Austin High School, 1942Miss Hartley, center 2nd Row. Frank Ebner Gartz, top row second from right.
Friend, Harvey Duck, top row-3rd from left