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.

10 comments:

  1. I've been to several cemeteries where families have a similar "room" with name in the stone like that.

    Finally - a photo with Wilt and his clarinet, not a sax. LOL And don't you just love Jazz with a College Education? I guess jazz didn't get much respect and this was Wilt's effort to change that.

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    1. Ha! I actually googled clarinet images to make sure I knew what it was.

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  2. I've not seen a step with a surname on it before. As you said, it is a beautiful area!

    I loved reading that little pamphlet about Wilt. What a great piece of history!

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    1. I got choked up when I saw the step. And I still do when I see the photo.

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  3. It may not have been a shotgun wedding, but it sure sounds like they eloped! Can you imagine if you married someone your parents had never met? My parents would have killed me! :)

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    1. I really can't imagine marrying someone my parents had never met. Unless, of course, I didn't care about ever speaking to them again. :-)

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  4. Debi,

    I want to let you know that your wonderful blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2017/01/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-january-20.html

    Have a great weekend!

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  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, Colleen. And thanks for visiting!

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