Saturday, September 15, 2018

52 Ancestors: Closest to Your Birthday

This week’s blog prompt is Closest to Your Birthday.  Oh boy, this is going to be fun!

The first thing I did was print a calendar report to see which of my ancestors was born closest to my birthday, December 14.  No one.  There was one death and one anniversary but no one born on my birthday.  So I checked the day before and the day after.  My first cousin once removed, Stanley Fitzgerald, Jr., was born on that day in 1937 but since I don’t know much about him and believe he is still living, I decided that wasn’t a good person to write about.  Then I checked the day after, December 15, and found a favorite family represented with Mervyn Gunzendorfer, my grandmother’s first cousin.  Mervyn was the only son of Jacob Gunzendofer who was the younger brother of my great-grandfather, Abraham Gunzendorfer.  Score – I’ll write about Mervyn!

I started putting things together, happy that I had some photos to share, when it hit me – Mervyn wasn’t BORN on December 15 he DIED on December 15.  So back I went to my calendar only to find that the only ancestors (or descendants) I have born in December are either a very collateral ancestor or someone still living.  It was then that I said to myself – hey, this is MY blog and I can do whatever I want so if I want to write about Mervyn, that’s what I’ll do.

Mervyn Gunzendorfer was born to Edith Inez (Steinberger) and Jacob Gunzendorfer on 4 Apr 1896 in San Francisco.  Jacob was the youngest of the four Gunzendorfer brothers and was my grandmother’s uncle.

I first found Mervyn in a Gunzendorfer family photo from 1896.  That’s little Mervyn sitting on his mother’s lap on the right (Jacob is behind them and big sister Irene is sitting on the ground) and my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, sitting on her mother’s lap on the left with Abraham standing behind them. 

Gunzendorfer Family cropped
The Gunzendorfer Family
Standing:  Abraham, Gustave George, Minnie (Dautermann), Adolph, Jacob
Seated:  Bertha (Schwartz) w/ Loraine, Ferdinand, Fannie, Inez (Steinberger) w/Mervyn
Front:  Irene

Loraine was born 26 Jan 1896 so these two cousins were just a few months apart.  Within a few years Loraine would become a big sister to Wilton, and Mervyn would become a big brother to Helen.

This picture looks to be just a few months later.  Mr. Cutie Patootie Mervyn.

Gunzendorfer Mervyn c1897

And here’s Jacob with his two oldest children, Mervyn on the left and Irene on the right.  Look at Mervyn’s beautiful curls. 

Mervyn_Jacob_Irene Gunzendorfer cropped

The 1900 census shows the family enumerated as Yungendorfer – that’s a new one – and living at 1636 Buchanan in San Francisco.  By 1910 the family had moved to 3367 Washington Street in San Francisco where Jacob lived until shortly before his death.  With them were two servants plus the 3 year old son of one of the servants.

In 1910, The Technical World Magazine, Volume 13, wrote about a Clever Little Inventor.

Mervyn Clever Little Inventor

Yep, I know that Mervyn, along with his father and uncle Adolph, built a submarine for the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915.  You can read about that HERE

I found Mervyn in 1914 attending San Francisco Polytechnical College, a high school in San Francisco.  The high school yearbook, The Cogswell, shows he served as a government representative and that he had earlier (Nov. 1913) participated in the 120 pound class 440 yard dash, where it looks like his time was 58 seconds.  My dad was also a sprinter (100 and 200 yard dash) – must have run in the family.  That’s Mervyn sitting, second from right.

Mervyn SF Polytechnical College 1914

On 4 Jun 1917, Mervyn registered for WWI.  Still at 3367 Washington Street.

Mervyn Gunzendorfer WWI reg page 1Mervyn Gunzendorfer WWI reg page 2

This photo had been floating around in my unknown box but thanks to Irene’s grandchildren whom I connected with a few years ago (read about it HERE), I was able to identify it as Mervyn.  He sure looked handsome in his uniform!

Mervyn Gunzendorfer 1916-1917

By 1920, Irene had moved out, as she married in 1915, and the family was still on Washington Street.  I found Mervyn listed at UC Berkeley in 1921 where he served as the Fall Semester President for the Architecture Association.

In 1930, Helen had also moved out but Mervyn was still with Jacob and Inez on Washington Street, along with a maid.  He was listed as an Architect, Industry Buildings.

I’ve found many references to Mervyn in the City Directories.  In the early 1920’s he just shows a residence on Washington, and then some business listings as an Architect first at 60 Sansome, R100 and then at 405 Montgomery Room 1108.  Residence is always the same – 3367 Washington Street – except for 1937 where he’s listed at 3368 Washington Street (must have been a typo).  By the 1930’s he’d moved from Room 1108 on Montgomery to Room 820.

Somewhere along the line things changed for Mervyn and he joined his father’s business, Typewritorium.  He is shown as Office Secretary in 1937.  But later he was back to working as an Architect.

In 1940, Mervyn was still on Washington Street with his parents.  It showed he had a job, was a Merchant, worked 20 hours per week, and had an income of $900 for the 12 months ending 31 Dec 1939.  Maybe he split his time between architecture and typewriters?

My cousins shared this photo of Mervyn in 1957.  He seemed like a fun guy – I wish I’d known him.

Mervyn Gunzendorfer 1957

When Mervyn died 15 Dec 1959, his address is shown as 170 Vasques Street, San Francisco, where he lived with Jacob (Inez died in 1957).

Mervyn never married or had any children.  The only other male Gunzendorfer, my grandmother’s brother Wilton, also had no children.  So Mervyn and Wilton were the end of the line where Gunzendorfers are concerned.

Mervyn is buried alongside his parents (Unit 5, Catacombs, Tier 3, Crypts 33, 34, 35) at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma.

Gunzendorfer Mervyn

And now that I’ve finished this post, I realized I missed Mervyn’s little sister, Helen, who was born 9 Dec 1902.  So SHE would have been closest to my birthday.  Shoot Sad smile

Sunday, September 9, 2018

52 Ancestors: Work

This week’s blog prompt is Work.  I come from a long line of “work until you die” ancestors and unless something happens that I’m not expecting, I am NOT going to carry on this tradition.  Retirement here I come!

I decided to focus on the work of my paternal grandfather, Sig Levy.  Through much of his life Sig was a partner, along with his three brothers, in Levy Brothers, a real estate and insurance firm.  I always felt so proud to have a business named for my family.

Remember, my grandparents saved EVERYTHING, and my parents followed suit, so it’s no surprise this sign was found with all of my parents’ things.  Since my brother was the only grandson and only person with the last name Levy, we sent it home for him to treasure and I’m sure he has it hanging in a special place in his home.  Above the mantel, perhaps?

Preparing this blog post caused me to look again at Sig’s obituary to see what I could learn and, once again, a second (or third or fourth) look provided me with new details.

On the day Sig graduated from Fresno High School in 1906, he became a police reporter for the old Fresno Tribune.  Within months he joined the business staff of the Fresno Republican and handled the paper’s promotion activities. 

Occasionally he served as a reporter, with his largest assignment covering the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Sig graduated in January, 1906 so it makes sense that he would be working in April, 1906.  And it also makes sense as to why I’ve found photos of the destruction – my grandfather must have had quite a fascination with the event.  Who knew?  Of course now that I’m looking for the photos in the boxes and boxes of things I have yet to go through, I can’t find a single one.  But I did find this photo in Sig’s brother’s (Ben) autobiography.

SF City Hall 1906

In 1912, Sig became advertising manager of the Republican and in that same year he pioneered the idea of newspaper delivery by airplane when he sent bundles of the Republican to Madera by plane.  I wrote about that HERE

On October 1, 1912, Sig’s brothers, Herbert and Leon, formed Levy Bros. Youngest brother, Ben, joined in February, 1913 but it wasn’t until 1917 that Sig joined the firm and all four brothers were together.  About this time he also entered World War I and was in pilot training at March Field when the armistice was signed.  After the war he returned to the firm and specialized in property management, leasing and real estate.

Twenty years ago Sig joins Levy Brothers Fresno Bee 1_8_1937
Fresno Bee Republican, 8 Jan 1937, page 11, “Twenty Years Ago”

In the early days, Levy Bros. was located at 1933 Fresno in Fresno.  In 1917, the California Real Estate Directory, Volume 1-2, showed the firm there.  And in 1918, Jackson’s Real Estate Directory did the same.  But the real proof for me was the letters my grandmother wrote to Sig before their marriage and up until February, 1919 (the month of their marriage), her letters were all addressed to 1933 Fresno.  And we all know that true love wins!

In 1922, the Directory of Brokers & Salesmen (non-PC today), Volume 3-4, the firm was located at 1233 Broadway.  Sig even used some of their envelopes to store his cigar wrappers (more on that in a later post).

Levy Bros Envelope

In 1929, the ‘boys’ posed for a photo.  I have several photos from different time periods but this one seems the most natural.  Grandpa, why didn’t you join your brothers and wear a bow tie?

Levy Brothers Ben_Herb_Sig_Leon 1929
Ben, Herb, Leon Levy (back row), Sig Levy (front), 7 Aug 1929

As you may have read HERE, my grandfather was an avid scrapbooker – it’s a blessing and a curse!  There is so much historical information in his scrapbooks, much of it regarding Levy Bros., that I will never have the time to document everything (I’m a realist).  So once again I’ve packed them away for later but I did pull one out to include in this post.

This one is titled Business and Industry, Fresno County.  And there are pages and pages and PAGES of newspaper articles about Fresno County.  Here’s a few examples.

The Fresno Bee, Sunday, January 25, 1959

I wonder what stands there today.

And is the shopping center still there?  If I’ve got my directions right, it looks like its an assortment of restaurants, banks and other services.

Date unknown, likely 1956-1959

I always knew that something happened to ‘break up’ the brothers as a result of the business but never seemed to get all of the details.  But, Ben Levy wrote this in his autobiography:
“This foursome went along for years, then the break came.  It was a matter of principles involved.
The second generation was coming along and there was a difference of opinion between my brother, Herbert, and myself.  In the old days, the oldest male son was looked to as the one that should take over and carry on.  As far as I was concerned, what was fair for one was fair for the other.  In other words, if the second generation was to receive favorable consideration, this consideration should apply to the females as well as the males and all should be given the same opportunity.  I had two daughters, both very capable, and why should I not protect their interest.  As, my father was opposed to the granting of woman suffrage, the same feeling existed, as to women assuming responsible positions.  Today, our office has very capable women that can do as well as men, or maybe better.  I guess I was a little ahead of my time.  It caused my brother, Herbert, to sell his interest in the firm and establish his son, Herb, Jr. in business.  This was a situation that was not too pleasant and caused some family dissention, not, as far as I was concerned, as I tried to be pleasant, but received no reciprocation.  A new situation has just developed due to the sudden death of my brother, Leon, who died, in our office, of an acute heart attack.  He had planned to retire July 1st, but it wasn’t to be that way.” [Leon died 23 May 1962]
Herb died before I was born but I never remember hearing about him and I’m not even sure I knew about him before I started this journey.  And he spent the end of his life living around the corner from my grandparents and not once did anyone drive by and say “this is where Herb lived”.  The home has remained in the family since and his grandson lives there now.

Ben died 4 Mar 1965 which left Sig on his own.  I vaguely remember him joining a new firm (geez, he would have been 77 years old at this point) but I really had no idea when or why.  So he packed up his stuff and moved next door to Pearson Realty at 1225 Broadway.

Sig joins Pearson Realty Fresno Bee 4_1_1965 page 35
Fresno Bee Republican, 1 Apr 1965, Page 35

If my memory serves me correctly, about a week after his 80th birthday he worked in the morning and then checked into the hospital for surgery.  He never came home and died about a week later on 16 Aug 1968.

My grandfather, and his brothers, spent their entire lives in Fresno and were instrumental in the growth of the city.  And while it ended on a bad note, Levy Brothers was a very large part of that.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

52 Ancestors: School

One of the first treasures I found when I started this journey was related to School – my grandmother’s high school yearbook.  I remember thinking it was really cool to look through it online but when I somehow discovered that I could actually OWN it, I thought my head would explode!  Since then I have become the proud owner of the original high school yearbooks of my grandfather, Sig Levy, and his brothers and the high school and college yearbooks of my parents.  But this was my first and will always be a special treasure.


The original Monterey High School, prior to 1905, consisted of both Monterey High School and Del Monte Technical School.  In 1905, the two schools were joined to form Monterey Union High School.  The school serviced students from Castroville to Big Sur to all of Carmel Valley.

When the orginal three story wood building burned down (on the site where the District Office is today), the new school was built at 101 Hermann Drive where it stands today.

The Whisper was the original name of the yearbook, which was a collection of poems and pictures by the students rather than a ‘traditional’ yearbook.  The word whisper was used to reflect the “whisper” in the students’ voices in their poems.  Keeping with the Spanish tradition, the name was changed to El Susurro (Spanish for the whisper).

A couple of notable people (besides my grandmother) attended the school – former Secretary of Defense Leon Paneta and former NFL head coach and defensive back, Herman Edwards.

With the rich Spanish heritage in the City of Monterey, the Toreador was chosen as the mascot when the school opened in 1905. The original Mascot "Tony the Toreador" caricature served as the face of the school for 80 years.

Some interesting facts from about the time my grandmother attended Monterey High School:
  • The green and gold were chosen as the school colors in 1906.
  • Three new departments were added – Home Economics, Manual Training, and Biology – in 1912.
  • Eight seniors were in the graduating class of 1913, which increased to 133 in 1933.
  • The new high school building was officially opened in its current location on February 12, 1915.
And now on to the yearbook of 1915.

El Susurro Title Page

I love that a beautiful painting was included in the yearbook – it looks so “Monterey-like”.

Neptunes Garden

I guess you don’t need a huge faculty with only 16 seniors.


Luella Thurston was the yearbook adviser as the students dedicated the book to her.
“To Miss Luella Thurston who for five years has been ‘El Susurro’s’ staunchest friend, we now with our ‘good byes’ and warmest wishes dedicate our Journal”

Faculty Photos

And the graduating class of 1915.  So many names I’ve read about or seen pictures of.  My grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, and that beautiful smile.  Her BFF was Hallie Hitchcock, who was actually a year older than Grandma, and her brother, John Elbert Hitchcock, was about 8 months younger than Grandma.  Another notable name on this page is Howard Hatton, who married Mary Salterbach on the next page.

Senior Class page 1

Clayton Philip Salterbach was younger than Mary by two years so not sure how or why he ended up with the class of 1915.  While the other names on this page are familiar to me, one that really stands out is J. Meryl Pugh who appeared in Loraine’s scrapbook.

Senior Class page 2

I lauged at the Senior Advice.  There’s Loraine advising the girls to never allow their hearts to “go adrift”.  I wonder who broke her heart that caused her to write that.

Senior Advice page 1
Senior Advice page 2 Class Poem

An example of a story included – Loraine snatched an apple!

Class Prophecy page 1
Class Prophecy page 2 Class Song

This collage of photos is interesting - can you find Loraine in the Before and After photos?

Photo Collage 2

Loraine’s younger brother, Wilton, was a Freshman at the time.  I know their father was often known as Gunzy so I’m assuming “Champ Gunzy” is Wilt.

Champ Gunzy

And here’s mention of Wilt again – president of his class!

Freshman Class

Even with a close up of the photo, I can’t be sure which young man is Wilt.  Perhaps the one on the left sitting on the steps?

Freshman Class Photo

Some more photos from El Susurro.

Our new school

Dining Room

Manual Training Shop

I can almost imagine my grandmother walking the halls of the school and sitting in the dining room.  But I cannot imagine her in the Manual Training Shop.

Another collage of photos.  Since dad Abe was a photographer, I wonder if he took any of these photos.

Photo Collage

I have to enlarge the Mermaids as you-know-who was posing.  Yep, that’s Loraine second from the left.


Grandma was the Assistant Editor!

Staff Officers

And no yearbook would be complete without advertisers.  I wasn’t surprised to find a very special advertisement.

White House Advertisement

The White House and the Gunzendorfers were a fixture in Monterey during the late 1800’s and until Abe’s death in 1944.  Nearly 100 years of a successful family business.

What a wonderful account of Loraine’s senior year in high school.  I am so happy to have a glimpse into her life as a young woman.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

52 Ancestors: Family Legend

This week’s blog prompt is Family Legend.  When I first learned of this prompt, several legends came to mind.  However, after spending some time researching them I am really no farther along than I was when I first started trying to prove (or disprove) these two legends in my husband’s tree.

First – Dave Crockett.  Early on my husband heard that somehow he was related on his mother’s side to Davy Crockett.  And, of course, I’ve heard that for many, many years but have yet to prove it. 

Davey Crockett
Davy Crockett, photo courtesy of Wikepedia

Years ago I put together a basic family tree for Davy Crockett on Ancestry, hoping that I could somehow link that tree to my husband’s tree and find the connection.  Unfortunately, that never happened – and it still hasn’t.  There are several men in “our” tree with the middle name of Crockett so that makes me suspect that, indeed, it somehow links back to “the” Davy Crockett but I can’t be sure.

My best guess is that somehow it links back to his 2x great grandmother, Mildred Elizabeth Ballard (1842-1902).  She married James Mace (1831-1905) in about 1856.  They had many children, one of which was my husband’s great grandmother, Mildred Elizabeth Mace.  Another was David Crockett Mace (1865-1933).  While Mildred Elizabeth (Ballard) Mace could be the missing link, she also just might have admired Davy Crockett and gave her son the same name.  Or, maybe her mother’s name was Crockett?  I’m about 99% sure that her mother’s name was Elizabeth and Davy Crockett had a daughter named Elizabeth, but the dates don’t seem to add up.

So I’m at a stalemate for now and will pledge to keep going.

Second – Johann Strauss.  Family legend says that on his father’s side he is related to Johann Strauss (1804-1849), the famous composer.  Again, I’m no farther along proving it than I was when I woke up this morning.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

My husband’s great grandmother’s name was Anna Strauss, so the connection could make sense.  Her father was Jacob Strauss, born 1822, so maybe that’s the connection.  I’m fairly certain that Jacob’s father was Johann Jacob Strauss but I have no record of the year of his birth or death.  So was that the connection?  From what I know, “our” Strausses were born in Baden, Germany while “the” Johann Strauss was born in Leopoldstadt (now Vienna) so somehow I’d have to connect back to that.  I don’t have much experience researching in Europe so I need to add this to my list. 

So I have another pledge to make – find the connection to Johann Strauss.

Okay, I have one family legend in my own family, but it is very distant and no way to ever prove.  Our next door neighbor growing up was Mary K.  We lived next door for many years and were friends all through our school years, even going with each other on family vacations.  Legend had it that Mary was the 6th cousin of Mark Twain (real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens), the beloved author. 

Remember back in the day when you would prick your finger and exchange your blood with a friend in order to become blood sisters or brothers?  Yes, I know we wouldn’t dream of doing that today but those were much different times.  One day Mary and I got brave, pricked our fingers, and exchanged our blood.  So that would make me the 6th blood cousin of Mark Twain!

Mark Twain
Mark Twain, photo courtesy of Wikepedia

So those are my family legends.  None of them proven…..but none of them disproven, either.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

52 Ancestors: Youngest

This week’s blog prompt is Youngest.  I had quite a few youngest siblings to choose from but since I didn’t know much about my great grandmother’s youngest brother, Colman Schwartz, and he was such a cutie, I decided to focus on him.

Colman Schwartz 1890
Written on back of photo:
From Colman Schwartz
Age 5 years, 4 months
Uncle Meyer A. Steen
Feb 6th, 1890

Colman Schwartz, the youngest child of Rebecca (Steen) and Louis Schwartz, was born in Santa Cruz 21 Sep 1884.  Not only was he the youngest living child, he was also the last (of eight) children born to the couple, only four of whom lived into adulthood.

Colman’s father, Louis Schwartz, died when Colman was not quite 9 years old.  It seems that his mother, Rebecca, traveled to Oakland and lived there for many years.

Colman Schwartz 1896
Colman Schwartz, 1896, age 12

From the Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel, 15 Jun 1897, page 3.

Colman and Rebecca travel Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel 6_15_1897 pg 3

I know that Colman graduated from high school in Oakland, probably in about 1902.   From the Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel (26 Apr 1902, page 1) it appears that he did, in fact, attend Oakland High School, although I was unable to find his name in the list of attendees.

Colman Schwartz Actor Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel 4_26_1902 pg 1

I also learned from The Santa Cruz Sentinel, 15 Dec 1907 page 10, that Colman was a monologist.  What?  That was a new term for me so once again, Google to the rescue.  From Wikipedia: “A monologist is a solo artist who recites or gives dramatic readings from a monologue, soliloquy, poetry, or work of literature.”  Interesting.  Sounds like he might have been a crowd favorite.

Colman Schwartz Monologist Santa Cruz Sentinel 12_15_1907 pg 10

Colman graduated (I believe in 1911) from Hastings Law School, University of California, San Francisco.  He went on to practice law in Oakland and San Francisco until his death.

I first wrote about Colman when I found my grandmother’s (and Colman’s niece) scrapbook back in 2012.  Colman was married to Selma Lavenson on 25 Apr 1914 in Sacramento.  You can read about the wedding from the eyes of my grandmother who was just 18 years old at the time HERE

Colman and Selma had three children:  Colman born 26 May 1915 in Sacramento; Flora Jean born 31 Jan 1917 in Alameda; and Milton Lewis born 20 Jan 1920 in Alameda.  

From various San Francisco and Oakland City Directories, I learned that Colman spent some time working at the Kohl Building, a building that is a San Francisco landmark (#161) located at 400 Montgomery Street.  He was associated with Grover O’Connor and the firm was known as O’Connor & Schwartz.  He and Selma lived at 301 Perkins in Oakland.

Colman’s life was cut short when he died 25 Sep 1920, just 4 days after his 36th birthday.

Colman Schwartz Obituary SF Chronicle 9_27_1920 pg 2
San Francisco Chronicle, 27 Sep 1920, Page 2

What I found interesting was an obituary printed in the Santa Cruz Evening News on page 9, 28 Sep 1920.  Looks like the newspaper made a HUGE error in reporting that Milton had died when, in fact, it was his brother, Colman.  I wonder how many people were stunned the next time they saw Milton walking down the street.

Milton_Colman Schwartz died Santa Cruz Evening News 9_28_1920 pg 9

Colman is buried in Home of Eternity Cemetery, Oakland, alongside his parents and young brother, Marks, who died before he was born.

Colman Schwartz

It was a rough couple of years for the Schwartz family as Rebecca died in 1918, brother Joseph in 1919, and Colman in 1920.  Selma never remarried and lived until 1979.