Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dear Skipper’s Brother

The last few weeks I’ve posted about my grandmother’s brother, Wilton Guzendorfer.  You can read about it HERE and HERE.

Wilt_Gordon 1949
Wilt Gunzendorfer and the Skipper, 1949

In writing these posts I’ve come across some interesting things about Uncle Wilt, one of which is this letter to Skipper’s Brother.  While I’ve never heard it before, it seems like Wilt called my dad Skipper.  Wonder where that came from?

Skippers Brother page 1

May 31, 1939

Mr. Robert Levy
1549 Echo Avenue
Fresno, California

Dear Skipper’s Brother:

Your swell  [this was a favorite word in that time period] letter on your fancy stationery landed right side up on my desk a morning or so ago.

I enjoy knowing that your first year at college worked out the way it did.  From what I can ascertain, your work on the Daily California was super, and the family should be proud of your appointment as Sophomore manager.  If your assignments next semester take you to San Francisco [not a great distance from UC Berkeley], rest assured I will give you some more names of the personalities I know in the advertising field there.

I get a kick out of Gordon’s idea of wanting to become a drummer.  [Not sure why that’s funny as my dad was quite a musician]. It seems to me your brother has the idea that in order to become a good musician, you must be able to play all the instruments in the orchestra.  [Is that such a bad thing?]  After all, this isn’t a bad idea.  [Phew, stop picking on my dad].  As far as “yours truly” having a set at his disposal, I am sorry to inform you that I believe I sold my drums in 1920 to the KA house.  You might look in and see if they still have the set of drums that I sold them.  If Gordon is interested in having the family buy him a new set, I believe that he should wait until the next time he comes up to San Francisco, and I can go with him to the drum shops and see that he gets the proper type of equipment at the right price. 

Now, maybe Fresno being somewhat of a large city, might accidentally [accidentally?] have a music shop that he could invest his money with.  It has been so long since I fooled around with a set of drums, that I don’t know what is the latest in drum equipment, but I do know a couple of good drum men in San Francisco who could give me this information.

Skippers Brother page 2

Tell your mother it was swell [see, there’s that word again] of her to send me a wire on last Thursday, and I enjoyed the rememberance very much.  [Probably for his birthday].

If you start signing off with QSO and W6RSL [what?] I will have to be posting your ticket out to the transmitter so that you can sign off with the best of “73’s”.  Cheerio.

Cordially yours, [not love?]

The Skipper
Wilt Gunzendorfer
Station KSRO

So just who is the Skipper?  Dad or Wilt?  And why did he have to tell Rob these things about the drum set when Dad lived in the same house and he could have just written him separately?

I’m not sure if Dad ever got a drum set.  I know he played the accordian and piano as a child, and not only did he continue with the piano as an adult but then ‘graduated’ to the organ.  I also remember him playing an instrument that was like a handheld piano that you blew into to make music – something like this Melodica. (this is not my dad)


Oh Wilt, so many questions I’d love to ask you!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

More on Uncle Wilt

Last week I wrote about the early life of my grandmother’s only sibling, Wilton Gunzendorfer.  You can read about it HERE

There was so much about Uncle Wilt that I never knew, most importantly his musical abilities and that he worked in the radio business.  In fact, thinking about my time with him I’m not sure I ever thought about what he did as I’m fairly certain he was retired before I really had a chance to know him.  But he was an interesting guy and I want to continue to learn more about him.

After he and Natalie Traube were married, they traveled to Montery to meet “the folks” – how odd that they had not met their daughter-in-law before they were married or even that they attended the wedding.  And before you start thinking it was a shotgun wedding, they never had any children.

Meet new daughter in law Santa Cruz Sentinel 26 Jan 1940
Santa Cruz Sentinel
26 Jan 1940

Wilt and Natalie were listed in the 1940 census (April) in Santa Rosa at 320 Doyle Park Dr.  Looking at the property on google maps, it looks to be multi-family with several different units side by side.  And what looks to be a parking garage across the street.

By 1944, I can see from the City Directory that Wilt and Natalie were living at 1900 Beach Street in San Francisco.  And in 1948, they were living at 1990 Beach Street – did they really move down the street or was one of them a typo?  And about 3 miles away was Wilt’s mother, Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer, who was living at 490 Geary Street, which is now the Warwick Hotel.  After her husband, Abe, died in 1944, it seems that she spent the last few years of her life living in hotels.

By 1946, Wilt had been appointed the manager of KROW Radio in Oakland, who also had a studio in San Francisco.  I’m not sure which studio Wilt was at but it makes sense that he would have been in San Francisco since he was living there.

Appointed Manager Santa Cruz Sentinel 18 Jan 1946
Santa Cruz Sentinel
18 Jan 1946

This is an interesting piece of ephemera I found giving me some more information into Wilt’s life – a publication by KROW Radio.

They Serve to Live Cover

They Serve to Live Wilt

Who are these men who serve to live and live to serve?
First let’s talk about Wilt Gunzendorfer.
Wilt, who is advertising director of KROW, has had 15 years in radio selling, merchandising and management.  Graduating from the University of California in 1922, he played eleven years in vaudeville with his musical attraction, “Jazz With A College Education” . . . . from show business he entered radio in 1930 as talent and production and sales supervisor of KFRC, San Francisco . . . . .then to Hollywood for two years in charge of the Don Lee Artist Bureau.
In 1937 he took over the management of KSRO, Santa Rosa, and after a six years’ successful record he was appointed manager of KSFO, San Francisco.
In August, 1945, Mr. Phil Lasky, General Manager of KROW, Oakland, appointed him Director of Advertising.
His 23 years in the field of entertainment, management and selling has won him the position as one of the best radio advertising counselors in Northern California.
If you don’t already know him …..
This Smiling countenance belongs to Wilt Gunzendorfer.

Nice piece summarizing his career path in radio.  I’m so glad I found this in my grandmother’s things.

Maybe some of my childhood friends can remind me – didn’t we listen to KFRC as teenagers?

My memories of Wilt and Natalie in the 1960’s was somewhere in Southern California.  From my grandmother’s address book, I can see that at one time they lived at 459 S. Doheny in Beverly Hills.  I also have a recollection that they lived “around the corner” from Jack Benny but from what I can find, they actually lived about 3 miles from his home at 1002 N. Roxbury in Beverly Hills.  My most vivid memory of this home was their parakeet that used to sit by the shiny salt and pepper shakers and talk to himself – funny what a kid remembers even if I can’t confirm if this is even accurate.

In about the 1970-1975 time frame, Wilt and Natalie were living at 1421 Reeves St. in Los Angeles.  And again my packrat grandmother has helped me out as her address book shows the Doheny address crossed out and replaced with the Reeves St. Address.

We must have spent some time with Wilt and Natalie during that time period as we posed for a family photo.  From the looks of it, I'd say this was in the mid 1960's.

My beautiful picture

And here is Wilt playing his clarinet – looks to be the same day.

My beautiful picture

I love seeing photos of two siblings together – I can just imagine the memories they shared.  And it’s especially satisfying to see them grow old together while maintaining a warm relationship.

My beautiful picture
Loraine (Gunzendorfer) Levy, Wilton and Natalie (Traube) Gunzendorfer
c. 1980

And then, for some reason, they moved to Hastings St. in Belmont which is, I believe, where they lived until Wilt’s death on 19 May 1989, just 4 days before his 90th birthday.

It’s always so humbling to wander through a cemetery, particularly when so many of my ancestors are interred there.  Which is exactly how I felt walking through Hills of Eternity in Colma, California paying my respects to many of my Gunzendorfer clan.

Wilt is interred in the Gunzendorfer plot along with his grandparents, Ferdinand and Fannie (Goldstein) Gunzendorfer.  That’s Wilt to the right of the large Gunzendorfer stone.

Gunzendorfer Plot
Gunzendorfer Wilt

And nothing quite hits a nerve as seeing the Gunzendorfer name on the step as you approach Fannie and Ferdinand.

What an honor to know my ancestors were so highly thought of that someone would have created this beautiful area for them.  I’m so happy I was able to see their final resting place in person.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Uncle Wilt

Wilton Gunzendorfer 1969 cropped

Wilton Louis Gunzendorfer was my grandmother’s brother, but I knew him as Uncle Wilt.  How many kids think about the fact that, at one point, their grandparents were young and actually had parents and brothers/sisters?  The “old folks” who were hanging around were just that – old folks – and we really didn’t give them much thought.

Wilt was born 23 May 1899 in San Francisco, California and was the second child of Abraham and Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer and my grandmother’s only sibling.

Being that Abe was a professional photographer, I’m never sure if the photos I find are of my ancestors or just a photo he took but, thankfully, he wrote on the back of this early photo of Wilt. 

Property of His Dad

I love how he called out that the photo was the property of his dad.  Hmm, July 8th, 1900 – that would make Wilt not quite 14 months old.  So where else would we find him but on a chamber pot!

Wilton Chamber Pot 1900

Look at the beautiful embroidered pillow case.  What are those initials?  It doesn’t look like W G to me but more like L G – could this have been my grandmother’s (Loraine Gunzendorfer) pillow case?

Even though Uncle Wilt was in my life for nearly 35 years, it wasn’t until I started researching that I really knew much about him.  And as we have all experienced, by then it was too late to ask questions.  Thankfully, my mom was still living (Wilt was my dad’s uncle) but she did fill in a blank for me as to how Wilt got his name.  Bertha’s (aka Birdie) brother, Milton Schwartz, was a yell leader at UC Berkeley and when they would go to the events to see him in action, the announcer would tell the crowd that his name was Wilton Schwartz.  Turns out after hearing it enough times Birdie decided she liked the name and bestowed it upon her only son.

In 1900, the family lived at 2040 Sutton Street in San Francisco.  The census states that Abe was an abalone fisher – I guess it makes sense that he might have left Monterey for a few years to fish but I’ll need to keep my eyes open to see if I find any other clues about that.

By 1910 the family was back in Monterey at 430 Pacific, although the enumerator wrote 430 Pacific Franklin.  Did the street name change?  And in 1920, the family was still on Pacific, although Loraine was not there (she was married in 1919) and Wilt was enumerated as a college student.  From other records I know that he followed in his Uncle Milt’s footsteps and attended UC Berkeley.

I’ve learned that Wilt was a musician and from everything I can find, he played the clarinet.  I’m guessing this photo, taken by Myers in San Francisco, was used for advertisements and marketing.  What a handsome man!

Wilton Clarinet by Myers SF

Wilt was also a composer!

Wont You Remember

Wont You Remember page 1

Wont You Remember page 2

I have found information about the copyright (22 Sep 1920) with some other notes but I’m not really sure what it all means.  One interesting fact is that the music was arranged by Arthur Fisk.  It’s been a LONG time since I’ve read music – it would sure be fun to hear the tune.

In the mid 1920’s, Wilt was living in San Francisco and 1925 the Directory shows he was a car salesman with his uncle, Jacob Gunzendorfer, and also lived with Jacob’s family.

By 1930, things were getting a little more interesting for Wilt.  The 1930 census shows that he was a lodger at 1231 Market Street in San Francisco.  As I researched a little more, I found that Wilt (or Gunzy as he was known) was performing with an orchestra of 9 men at the same address – turns out that address is for Hotel Whitcomb.  An interesting tidbit about this hotel is that after so many buildings were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, Hotel Whitcomb was used as the temporary City Hall from 1912-1915.

Hotel Whitcomb San Francisco

What a great commute he had – play music at night and then wander upstairs to go to bed!

In 1931, Wilt traveled on the President Jackson from San Francisco to New York – a 17 day voyage from 22 Apr to 9 May, 1931.  He shows on the manifest as a musician and is listed with others who worked on the ship so my guess is that this was his job for that time period. 

After waiting many years, Wilt found ‘love’ with Natalie Traube and they were married on 18 Jan 1940 when Wilt was over 40 years old.  I haven’t pieced together how they met but the romantic in me hopes she was a frequent visitor to the Hotel Whitcomb where she loved to hear Wilt and the orchestra.

Natalie Traube 1
Natalie Traube, date unknown

Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t get off to a great start as reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel on 19 Jan 1940.

Luggage Stolen Santa Cruz Sentinel  19 Jan 1940
Santa Cruz Sentinel
19 Jan 1940, Page 1

Things turned out okay and the marraige lasted until their deaths.  Come back next time to see what Wilt was up to after his marriage.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Top 10 Genealogical Finds of 2016

Photo by Pierce Place
As 2016 comes to a close, I’d like to step back and reflect on what I’ve learned over the past year.  Unfortunately, I’ve been sluggish when it comes to genealogy this year and haven’t really accomplished much so picking out 10 top things was a bit of a stretch.  I hope to rectify that in 2017.  I did go back and read what I’ve accomplished in years past (it helped a little) so inevent you’re interested in what I’ve done before this year, you can read my past posts.  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011

So in my best David Letterman voice, I bring you my sixth annual Top 10 genealogical finds of 2016.

Number 10:  The book is close to completion!  When I first began this journey, I connected with a woman who was editing a book about the Jews of Santa Cruz and my peeps were included.  Over the last several years we’ve shared information and she’s kept me apprised of the status of the book.  I shared some photos of my family (which I think might just be used) and we even met a few months ago when she was in Seattle for the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  And just a few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from the author to say he is hopeful the book will be published in March, 2017.  Be on the lookout for the book Between the Redwoods and the Bay: The Jewish Community of Santa Cruz County.  Stay tuned - I’m hopeful that the completed book will be one of my top 10 finds of 2017.   

Number 9:  Letters.  I know I’ve posted before about the letters I have between my grandparents while they were courting in 1916-1919 – it’s probably something that should be on my Top 10 Finds every year – but this year I felt like I made some headway.  I was able to get all of the letters from my grandmother to my grandfather sorted by date and transcribed and am pretty proud to see one of the boxes (there’s another one just like this) looking so organized.  And to know I have the words transcribed and saved in several places makes me really, really happy – even though there are 253 pages in 11 point font!

I did get started on organizing and transcribing the letters he wrote back to her but I still have a LONG way to go.  Maybe I should be blogging about my goals for 2017 and put that on the top of the list?

Number 8:  Revisiting the Copper King Mine.  It’s always fun to read about the history of a particular place from someone who was there, but even more fun when that ‘someone’ is your great grandfather!  Read the article HERE  Not only did my great grandfather, Edward Fitzgerald, work in the mine but he and my great grandmother actually spent their honeymoon there.  

Number 7:  I found a mini photo album.  Once again, my packrat grandmother has amazed me with the things she kept throughout her lifetime. 


Take a look HERE.  It’s a small look into life at the turn of the 20th century.  I love all photos but seeing my ancestors doing “normal” things is just so rewarding and a real glimpse into the past.

girl at doghouse  
Number 6:  The mystery of Harry Meals.  

Harry Meals Headstone

Yep, that’s right.  The headstone for Harry Meals, the husband of my husband’s great aunt.  Doesn’t look like much of a mystery here but after delving in a bit deeper, it turns out Harry Meals was, at one time, known as Charles Biesel.

Charles Biesel Interment

After blogging about him HERE, several readers gave me some suggestions on how to proceed.  And after requesting and receiving his SS-5 form, I promptly put it aside and DID NOTHING WITH IT.  Note to self:  Put this on the top of the pile for things to do in 2017.

Number 5:  Finding the Diploma of Graduation from the Grammar School of Monterey from 1911 for my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer.

After spending a few years in my garage – not even in a box – I stumbled across this and realized what I had.  It prompted me to search through some other things which helped me discover her autograph book from about the same time frame.  You can read about it HERE

Number 4:  There were photo booths in the late 1800’s.  While I can’t be sure these photos were actually from a photo booth, it looks possible to me.  But the best part is seeing my grandfather and his brothers as young kids.

Levy Brothers c1898

Number 3:  Photos, photos, photos!  A cousin of my husband whom I had recently connected with filled my e-mail inbox with photos of my husband’s paternal grandfather and his family.  It is amazing to me how you can know someone from the last years of their life and when you see a photo of them as a child, you know them instantly.  It was nice to take a Time Out and document these new finds – I particularly love this photo of his paternal grandfather, Herman Paul Ast, and Herman’s sister, Bertha Ast.

Ast, Herman and Bertha abt 1900

Number 2:  Aunt Charlotte.  Because of #9 above, I’ve been able to learn so many details of my grandparents’ lives, and even the lives (and deaths) of their families.  We all hope for these details and pray that one day we will discover first hand accounts of what our ancestors were doing on a daily basis.  And, in some cases that actually happens.  It sure hits home when you read the personal story about a victim of the 1918 Flu Pandemic, especially when it my grandmother’s Aunt Charlotte.

Number 1:  COUSINS!  This should be in my Top 10 finds every year!  What struck me this year is now that I have connected with cousins, and continue to connect with more, I’m also reminded how short life is and how loved ones come in and out of our lives.  While I found a new cousin – his great grandmother and my grandmother were sisters – I also lost one of the cousins I have met because of my blog.  I loved getting to know her and loved the family connection we shared.  For someone who has one surviving first cousin (out of two), I’m overwhelmed with just how many cousins I actually do have.  Read about my lost cousin HERE

It’s been a quiet year but I am pleased that I was able to add to this blog as my goal has been to document things for future generations.  While genealogy typically has us focused on the past I’m going to take this opportunity to focus on the future and what I still have ahead of me.  Onward!