Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back in Time

Photo by gerbache
Campanile (Sather Tower)
University of California, Berkeley

Now that I've found the newspaper articles detailing the engagement of my grandparents, Sigmund Levy and Loraine Gunzendorfer, I decided to look through some of the other things I have for more information.  And because of that, I need to go back in time a week or two to capture the entire story.

Sometime in late October, Sig proposed to Loraine at the foot of the Campanile (Sather Tower) on the UC Berkeley campus.  I can only imagine how excited Loraine was to finally have her man!

On Monday, October 28, 1918 my grandfather wrote to Bertha and Abe Gunzendorfer, Loraine's parents, asking for her hand in marriage.  He mailed the letter from Baracks "K", Berkeley the following day, October 29.

Berkeley, October 29, 1918 9 pm
Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Gunzendorfer
Monterey, Calif.

My dad was always active in the YMCA - I guess his father shared the passion.  I find it curious that Jewish men spent their lives giving to a Christian organization.

As I've read letters and newspaper articles, I know Sig had been sick with the flu during the horrible flu epidemic of 1918-1920.  Thankfully, he was well enough to write this letter.

Dear Folks:

This little army message is quite different I know but this is the way I'm situated, and as I have no freedom I'll write this little note as per army channels.

I suppose Loraine has told you of my hard luck, but I am again on my feet and getting strong again.  But it was a dreadful thing; but the way conditions were I couldn't escape.  I was so happy though that Loraine and Wilton missed it.

I have wanted so badly to ask if you would consent to have your daughter become Mrs. Sig Levy some day soon but it seems that misfortune has always prevented.  But Loraine and I have taken for granted that you will approve and we want to announce our engagement.  There is no question of our sincere love for each other and I will do everything within my power to make her a happy girl.  No finer girl than Loraine ever lived and she certainly is entitled to a happy life to come, so I shall endeavor to give her a future that shall be worthy of your admiration.

I am hoping that you will forgive the way we have gone at this engagment but I feel that you understand the trying circumstances.

But now, I have graduated and soon hope to be an officer - and most of all I am hoping that this awful war will soon be over, and then we all can settle down to our homes and be happy.

I am trusting that my request will meet with your hearty approval and that you will always be proud of your son-in-law to be.  Thanking you a big lot and hoping you all are in the best of health I remain

Sig Levy

And this is the letter he received back just a few days later.

October 31, 1918
9 pm

Oct 31/18

My dear Sig:

We read with pleasure your letter telling us that you were rapidly recovering from your illness & we hope that this will be the end of all your troubles while in the army.  Loraine kept us posted from the time you were taken sick & we were glad always to hear you were daily improving.

Thank God Loraine & Wilton have escaped so far & I only hope they will not get careless and take chances at any time.

It surely has kept us worried most of the time, the epidemic has been so virulent and so far reaching.

As far as giving our consent to our dear daughter's some day becoming Mrs. Sig Levy, I guess we will have to, as you both have decided for yourselves some little time ago, & as long as Loraine is happy, we can't ask any more, as parents ??? in life is the happiness of their children.

It is hard to give her up but I am sure you will cherish her & take care of her as she has been at home.  Loraine is a darling girl & I know you will do all you can to make her happy, she deserves it all & I know she in turn will do likewise to make you happy.

Knowing your dear mother & father for so many years, also your own splendid record we do not feel like we are giving her to a stranger but that we are gaining a son whom I know we will love & respect.

Wishing you both all the happiness in the world & that from now on you will keep well & not have to go too far away.

We remain with love
Loraine's mother & father & some day yours

I've studied some of the other things I've found in order to determine if this was written by Bertha or Abe.  Part of me thinks that Abe would have responded as her father.....but since it is signed with 'mother' first I think Bertha may have written it.  I'll have to keep my eyes open for other handwriting samples to compare it to.

I guess it's official - my grandparents are going to be married!


  1. Debi, these are wonderful! I just love that you have both sides of the story.

    1. I knew I had the second part of the story but until I started to put this post together and I had no idea I had Sig's letter to her parents. It was almost an accident that I found but boy I'm glad I did!

  2. I think your "???" is "aim" - a parent's aim in life is ...

    These are the best letters ever.

    1. Thanks, Wendy - I think you're right! My husband and I both tried to read it and all we could come us with was asiu.

    2. It does look like "asiu." But I've come off several months of indexing the 1940 census, so I'm very used to seeing the flying dotted i and m's that look like a string of u's.

  3. What lovely treasures to have - I really enjoyed your post. Jo

    1. Thanks, Jo. I'm so happy that I stumbled upon this stuff.

  4. My great-grandfather's brothers were heavily involved in the Berkeley (and Oakland) YMCA for most of their lives - I bet they knew your grandfather! What a small world!

    1. I hope they did, Leah. But my grandfather was there for a short time - late 1918 to early 1919 - and then he was back in Fresno.

    2. That is the same time frame as when my great-grandfather's brother transferred in (from San Francisco). He became the General Secretary in 1919.

  5. Great letters, Debi! How did your grandfather react to the "I guess we have no choice but to approve" line? I wonder if he saw it as somewhat facetious and loving, as I assume they intended, or whether he was a bit taken aback!