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, December 22, 2010

Last Summer in Europe

In 1910 Josef began a second book, this time the notebook in which I found his Military Draft notice handwritten on the first page. (See post, Drafted 100 Years Ago). After making some inquiries with Transylvanian natives, the consensus at this time is that Josef probably copied the contents of the draft letter into this notebook to keep it handy. Such official notices were typically sent by mail.

Despite the serious command with which the notebook begins, Josef changes the tone immediately. On the opposite side of the “Draft Summons” page, he enters the date, followed by a tongue-in-cheek explanation of the notebook's raison d’etre:

July 5, 1910

This book should not be used to teach or as a toy for children, but only for amusement during serious and hard times. It wasn’t because of an excess of money that I purchased this book, but rather unbearable boredom tempted me to do so.
The moral and immoral contents from recited poems and songs which I entered into this book are a remembrance of the fantastic, fun trip I made to Vienna in the most wonderful years of my youth, from 19-21.

In the center of the page he writes in large, bold letters the Vienna address to which the military draft summons had been addressed, followed by a request:

VIENNA VI Mariahilferstrasse Nr. 78
Third Floor (our 4th floor); Door #7

This book is dear to me and whoever steals it is a thief, and whoever gives it back is a good fellow and whoever finds it, in case it is lost, will receive on delivery 5 Kronen. Please send it to my home Neppendorf Nr. 587 near Hermannstadt in Hungary.
Yours sincerely, Josef Gärtz.

The notebook book comprises 57 pages with 95 numbered entries. Most of them are folksongs with multiple, numbered verses, but several are off-color jokes or anecdotes--the “immoral contents” he probably was referring to in his introduction.

Josef Gärtz 1909 or 1910 in Vienna
This photograph of my grandfather is undated, but Lisi, my grandmother, wrote on the back:  “Josef In Vienna at age 20” (1909).  I always assumed she made a mistake, that he was 21 (1910), and already on his way to America, through Vienna. But the more I look at it, the more convinced I am it was taken in the summer, given the clothes he’s wearing. Also, propped on his trunk is a sign that says “Wien” (Vienna) along with the street address where he was staying in the summer of 1910, as listed in his notebook. Whether it was 1909 or 1910, it records his appearance during the days of his “wonderful fun youth.”

But he still had that draft notice hanging over his head, was in love with Lisi, and undoubtedly surrounded by buzz about America.

Did he respond to the draft summons on September 30, 1910, in Vienna, as ordered? I believe he must have at least registered, for he often relayed a story that he was told he was “too skinny” for the army, a trait that four years later, at the start of World War I, would have been meaningless. But later letters to him from Mrs. Jickeli indicate that he still had some sort of unfinished business with the military.

Whatever the circumstance, in the following few months he had made up his mind.
He was heading for America, and the next time he writes, he will record his harrowing trip, leaving Transylvania on Christmas Eve, 1910. I’ll explain how I made the extraordinary discovery of his diary documenting his trip in my next post, and post the diary 100 years to the date after it was written, December 24, 1910.

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