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.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Funny thing about love. We know it when we feel it. We know it when we see it.
I can see it in this postcard, mailed one hundred years ago today, November 18, 1910, by Josef Gärtz to his sweetheart, Elisabeth Ebner (ABEner) to celebrate her Name Day. Josef was twenty-one. Elisabeth was twenty-three. Within a year they would marry and eventually become my grandparents.
But I didn't always know about the love expressed in language as flowery as the blue-bedecked bicycle pictured on the front. In fact, before last year, I didn't know this postcard existed.
It was one of scores of missives my grandmother had saved for almost seventy years. "Trash or treasure?" My brothers and I debated, in a frenzy of sorting after my mother's death. We squinted at the illegible writing, written in an ancient German script that most present-day Germans can't read much less a German major like me. We decided to keep them, but I figured they'd languish for years in "Box 14, Gartz Correspondence" and end up summarily tossed.
My brothers and I traveled to Transylvania in 2007 on a family roots-finding mission. In Sibiu (called Hermannstadt by the Germans), we met Professor Uli Wien who was researching the history and immigration of Siebenbürgen Germans -- people like our grandparents. Uli asked for our email addresses.
Serendipity had begun its subtle work.
I forgot all about Uli until the summer of 2009, when he emailed me. “Do you by any chance have any letters to or from your grandparents?”
Did I have letters! My heart leapt at what this meant. Perhaps Uli could help me decipher the inscrutable writing! That put me on a mission to look at the letters closely for the first time in the fifteen years since Mom's death -- and I began to tease out some authors' names.
Reisper Gasse [Street]
c/o Mr. Ji[c]keli [the family for whom my grandmother worked]
(yet another name for Hermannstadt / Sibiu. Nagyszeben is the Hungarian name)
I recognized my grandfather's signature: "Josef Gärtz," and I knew I had a treasure.
Printed under the bicycle on the front:
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Namenstag. “Heartfelt Good Wishes for your Name Day."
I sent a xerox of the writing to Uli, and he deciphered into modern German those words written one hundred years ago today. I translated Josef's sincere, flowery note into English, its tinges of 19th century formality not diminishing its sweetness:
Neppendorf, November 18. 1910
I know love when I see it.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
|Dad and I at the Palmer House "Father of the Year"|
banquet, June 12, 1962
One night after dinner, we received a phone call. My mom picked up the phone, and soon was making the kinds of exclamations that we all knew indicated a happy event.
"Isn't that wonderful!"
"The Palmer House?"
"What's the date?"
"Oh, you'll send a telegram to confirm it all? That's just great."
"I'll be sure to tell her. Yes. Of course, we'll tell her teacher too."
"Thank you, and goodbye."
By this time in the conversation we had all gathered around the only phone in the house. "Linda," Mom said, "that was...I think it was the Chicago Sun Times." (She misheard the organization's name.) "It seems that your essay has been chosen as a district winner in the Chicago area search for Father of the Year!"
|Telegram from the Chicago Area Father's Day Council, 6/9/1962|
I was dumbfounded. I liked the idea of prizes, but it hadn't even registered that my essay had been in contention. I can still see Mrs. Hall, the next day, directing kids to their seats. She was a bit frazzled as I shyly interrupted to tell her the news. I was astounded by her wide-eyed reaction. She called the students to attention, simultaneously grabbing both my shoulders, and turned me to face my classmates.
"I have wonderful news!" She announced. "Linda's essay has just been named a finalist in the Father of the Year contest!" I felt both proud and a little embarrassed. I wasn't used to getting so much attention at school. The glow I felt was not just from the honor of having my essay chosen, but also from knowing my dad would get the recognition he deserved!
A few days later, as promised, a telegram arrived. We were invited to the Chicago Palmer House for an honorary dinner. This elegant hotel, (now the Palmer House Hilton) named after one of Chicago's most prestigious families, where the elite stayed overnight and were wined and dined in its elegant restaurants, was out of our family's economic league. We felt very special, indeed, to be invited to celebrate in this iconic Chicago edifice.
Fifty years ago this past week, Mom, Dad, and I dressed in our best, traveled to downtown Chicago, and joined other district area winners to eat a sumptuous meal in the Palmer House's Grand Ballroom. After dinner, excerpts from each essay were read, and contestants were asked to stand for applause.
I didn't win the big award. A girl who had used metaphor to describe her father as "king of the household on his easy chair throne" won. It was a good essay-- expressing a view of dads in keeping with the the era in which Madmen takes place.
Mine has all the trappings of an eighth grade essay, with its cautious transitions and clunky prose. Despite those failings I see today, we all knew at the time just which lines had reeled in the judges. This little piece I wrote when I was thirteen is as true to my Dad's memory as anything I could write today, though I hope I could express myself more elegantly now.
I'm sure many of you are remembering your dads fondly and all they taught you about life and love this Father's Day. I hope that this essay, written half a century ago (gulp), triggers unique memories of your own dad.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
|Fred Gartz, left; Will Gartz, right.|
Probably between 1928-1930
This month is the "Swimsuit Issue." Family history buffs (no pun intended) are sharing old swimsuit photos.
Not quite as racey as the Sports Illustrated version, these folks were far from posing "in the buff." Modesty was more in vogue. I've dubbed their suits the "mankini," a male bikini, about 1928-1930.
My dad, Fred Gartz (dob 10/10/1914), left looks to be about fourteen-sixteen. His brother, Will, a year older. .
My grandparents, Josef and Lisi, worked non-stop during the week and Saturdays in their jobs as janitors in Chicago's West Side, but Sundays were set aside for family. My grandfather was quoted in an article that reported on his retirement from janitorial work in 1954. "Whenever we went out for a little entertainment, we all went together, the boys, my wife and me."
Given the number of snapshots I have of the whole family at the beach, even when the boys were young men, their philosophy of family togetherness wasn't just lip-service. It was documented in photographs.
This is probably North Avenue Beach in Chicago, about two miles north of downtown. It was one of their favorite destinations on a hot summer day.
LAZY, HAZY DAYS OF SUMMER:
Dear Friends, Loyal Readers, and Newcomers:
Family Archaeologist is taking the summer off. I'd like to use this hiatus as an opportunity to share the backstory of my paternal grandparents, Lisi and Josef Gartz, that many readers may have missed when the blog was getting started. I'll still be posting every Tuesday, re-posting a bit about Josef and Lisi's lives in Austro-Hungary a century ago, including the story of Josef's harrowing journey to America, as recorded in his journal and missives. I hope you'll all enjoy the vintage postcards, their loving sentiments, and Josef's diary and letters of the risks he took to start a new life in America. To see the very first post introducing the blog, click WELCOME.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
|Samuel Ebner, Lisi Gartz's dad|
|Hof courtyard in Grosspold, Romania Lisi's home town.|
House is at right; Pig pen with 2 huge pigs in the back
to the notary, whose response was to heap abuse onto the two parents. Samuel wrote:
|Katarina Gärtz, Josef's mother.|
|Mrs. Jickeli's precise handwriting|