Grandma's picture

Grandma's picture
Grandma's Passport photo

Sunday, July 17, 2016

39 - Who was Alexander Schipka?

Before I return to the story of Grandma's Trip, I have to tell of an amazing connection that happened for one reader, Margit Pohl, who recognized a name in one of Grandma's letters. 

Here are excerpts from what she wrote to me:


For us a real surprise was contained in Chapter 36 Cecilia's letter home on June 17, 1936. She writes about having attended the funeral of Alexander Schipke on June 16.
 
Alexander Schipka
Alexander Schipka born 22 Feb 1874 married to Hedwig Tschöp born 15 Oct 1878 is my (Margit's) Grandfather on my mother's side.

  Here is a picture we have fortunately got from one of his daughters. It shows Alexander in uniform which seems to be from the Austrian-Hungarian period.


His name is Schipka, which in Czech means "Arrow". The picture looks like being taken by a professional photographer of that time.
When I wrote back to Margit, I asked when Alexander got married to Hedwig. I was curious because of the way Grandma mentioned that he had "often spoken about me and always asked questions"... It made me wonder if perhaps Grandma Cecile had left behind an admirer when she set sail for America the first time.  Here is Margit's reply to that question:

Elizabeth, your comments on Alexander and Cecilia makes us wonder, indeed, if Cecilia had left a "broken" heart in Nieder-Mohrau. Who knows. Returning after 35 years to come to his funeral ...  

Alexander Schipka, born 22 feb 1874, died June 1936 got married in 1903 to Hedwig Tschöp, born 15 Oct 1876, died 01 Aug 1954.

Alexander's widow Hedwig, my Grandma, lived in Nieder-Mohrau until we had to leave the country and died in Staufenberg / Hessen.

That's where my cousin Erni lives, a daughter of my mum's sister. Erni was 6 years old, when Alexander died and she remembers the funeral that your Grandma attended. 
 

Quite interesting! Grandma immigrated in 1901. Alexander did not get married until 1903. My Grandparents did not meet and get married until 1905. So it is possible that there were some broken hearts involved, but that is all just speculation at this point. It does add a little more dimension to the story!

I guess we will never know, but I thank Margit for sharing this information with me!

Another interesting twist, Margit started reading this blog because she heard about it from a cousin, who also happens to be a distant cousin of mine. The relations, though, are not on Grandma's side, but rather on Grandpa's side! It is indeed a small world! 

In fact, in the letter in entry #36, Grandma mentions that Alexander lived next to the Bernts. But which Bernts? There were Bernt relatives on both sides of the family tree......

I could go on, but it is time to get back to Grandma's travels. 

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Story to be continued......

Sunday, March 20, 2016

38 - Marie Lulay's Letter to Grandma - 18 June 1936

Click here to read story from beginning

Story so far: Grandma Cecile had reached her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslovakia. She had crossed the United States by train, from Oregon on the Pacific coast to New York on the Atlantic coast. The Europa, a ship with the North German Lloyd ship line, had carried her across the
Atlantic Ocean. She had reached her destination of Nieder-Mohrau and had written some letters back home. At the same time, her family back home wrote  letters to her. All of those letters would take about three weeks to arrive at their destination.

The same day that Grandpa Alois had written, so had my Aunt Marie.
Marie in 1942
Marie, or Mary as was her real name, was Grandma
's step-daughter and oldest child.
We can get an idea of what life was like on the farm back then by the contents of the letter. It was all written in one block of text. I added paragraphs to make it easier to read. Here is what she wrote:


Beginning of Marie's letter


Stayton, Ore
June 18 - 1936

My Dear Mamma.

Always wanted to write always am busy. I hope you got there alright and are having a good time. My pen won't write [the ink fades in and out on the paper and here she switches to pencil] We are all well. Betty Papa & boys[1] are all well. They are getting along fine. 

Gus got announced[2] in church Sun. So will get to go to a wedding dinner soon.[3] 

we canned 38 jars and later 11 more jars Papa says thats enough strawberries I want to make some jam yet for myself and you folks. we sure are busy now with the kids picking berries. It sure does rain every day & how it pours today is the first day of Sun-shine again. How long it will last I don't know. 

Betty wants me to say Hello & for you to not worry & Have a good time and then she said (You could come home again) ha ha But you should have a real good time. first. I sure hope you feel good

the children were at Betty's Sun. Stella Ruth & Margaret.[4] they said Papa was real jolly they went to the other place & said Gus had that house scrubbed good.[5] Conrad Spenners[6] were there to[o]. Mr. Soope was at Dad Tues. so you see with all the work no-body has time to think much

I must close & get busy will try and write again next week So don't worry write soon
With love - from all to all
How is your Sister did she know you Did you see all your Bro. already
By By
From 
Me & all
Give these Pictures to your Sis. I'll send those that Clara took next time.[7]
End of Marie's letter, note torn bottom edge




Apparently Marie did not take time to worry about things like punctuation or spelling. Sometimes words are spelled wrong, sentences end with no punctuation or paragraphs, as mentioned before. Not all sentences start with capital letters. 

Nor does she use fancy stationery. She wrote on what looks like a sheet of tablet paper, and the bottom was torn off. She must have been using scraps. This was in the days of the Depression, and people made do with what they had.

[1] "boys" - meant John, Tony, Gus and FB Beitel, Grandma's sons

[2]  "announced" meant that they had read the banns of marriage in church that Sunday. It was then the custom to both read aloud the banns and publish them in the church bulletin for three weeks in a row before the wedding took place. That way if anyone knew any reason why those people should not be married, they could bring it up.

[3] Gus Beitel would marry Anna Krantz on June 30, 1936.

[4] "the children" refers to Marie's older daughters, Stella, Ruth & Margaret; when she says they were at "Betty's", she means they had gone to Grandpa's house down the road on the farm, Betty and Stella were the same age and they all played together 

[5] By saying "the other place" and "that house", I believe she is referring to the property and house where Uncle Gus and Auntie Ann would first live.That was the house across Thomas Creek, next to the Jordan Bridge in Linn County, Oregon. Betty's letter of June 9, 1936 indicated that Gus was starting on the house on Fern Ridge Road, but it would not be done before they were married.

[6] Conrad Spenner was a friend and neighbor of the Beitel's. He & his family must have been there helping with the house preparation.

[7] Apparently Marie enclosed photos. Grandma must have given them away, they were not with the letter. Not sure who Clara was. If I remember correctly Clara Lulay lived in Sublimity and would have been an in-law of Marie's, it could have been her.


To see the images larger, click on any and you will be able to scroll through them all.
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Story to be continued......

To read Post "39 - Who Was Alexander Schipka?" Click here

Sunday, November 15, 2015

37 - Letter From Grandpa To Grandma - 18 June 1936

Click here to read story from beginning

Story so far: Grandma Cecile made on her way to visit her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslavkia. She had crossed the United States by train, from Oregon on the Pacific coast to New York on the Atlantic coast. The Europa, a ship with the North German Lloyd ship line, had carried her across the
Atlantic Ocean. She had reached her destination of Nieder-Mohrau and had written some letters, one home and one to Grandpa.

Every good story needs a little drama. Only one day after Grandma had written her letter to Grandpa, he sat down on his side of the globe and wrote to Grandma. What did he have to say? The normally taciturn Grandpa Alois wrote seven pages, three sheets both sides, plus one more sheet on one side. Apparently he had something on his mind. Enter the drama - as translated by my friend Al:

Envelope Grandpa's letter came in











First page of the letter


Stayton, Oregon June 18, 1926

My far-away Cilli

[First page:]

When these lines reach you, you have been away already for over 3 weeks, for me twice as long, in the old home country with your much beloved siblings, relatives and our friends and since I am so far away from you, so you can now enjoy your life with your loved ones as you wish without my being in your way or me even finding out a little about that. It is probably also easy for you to find somebody with whom you are happy who was around with you and with whom you would rather be and where you can trust better when sleeping than with me, but the reason for me not being able to trust you…
[unnumbered page: ]
Well, I hope that you do not forget so much, even though you have lost your wedding ring which reminds you of your promise that you have given to me. You have said it yourself and also to many other people, namely that in the old home country they don’t take it that seriously with the marriage promise and since you showed it to me plainly enough how much you still care about me. Since you know, however, that is was my greatest happiness to take you into my arms, and to be able to sleep with you but you were not satisfied and I had to sleep alone and I had certainly thought that you would sleep with me the last night, but this was not worth much to you even though it might have been the last time in our life to be alone together and why did you not do it.

[page] 2

You have sent several post cards but I did not see a single word and now I have to be satisfied with my fate as good as God wills it, even if I cannot sleep at night and I have no peace during the day and my head feels like exploding but I am not angry with you because you did not tell me the reasons that you cannot love me anymore and I pray every day that God may protect you and keep you safe from all adversities
[unnumbered page:]

…with body and soul may keep you but perhaps you get to know me again. But if you don’t feel very well there which, however, I do not wish for you and even if it should be to my detriment and I cannot think that it is because of your sister alone that you would gamble away your whole happiness since, as you know very well,that it was not worth very much to her to see you since she did not have to leave anyone and that I wanted to send her your free passage, but often I believe that there are still other reasons that you went which, according to your opinion I did not have to know but I hope that I am mistaken and that you still love me which you could prove to me, so God willing, and that not one of us as punishment is being called away so that we cannot see each other again, but if you are despising me, then relish your [illegible]….
[page] 3

…..and that you may live as you like it and you may stay as long as you like and that you do not have a great longing for me as I do, as you asked the agent whether you could stop over in Florida on your way back and to see the land there which we own and you might plan to spend some time there and I would just like to know whether you still love me and that a day that I can be with you means more to me than all the land in Florida. You, however, may think differently, and if that is so you may be better off to stay with your loved ones in the old home country, I am satisfied with my lot to be alone until the hill of my grave which perhaps is not too far away, … whether you still love me or not only God knows and you alone with your answer …..

[Last page ? (not numbered) on top of this page is an insert: ]

I sent the “Josefs Blatt” (A German print newspaper, named after St Joseph, it was popular among the German Catholic community in the United States.) to your sister – did she receive it ??
The back of page 3


But I hope and pray that you come back again soon and that we can enjoy a happy and long life together. I feel strangely, however, a lot of time that we may not see each other again, I cannot say why that is. Should this letter of mine be unpleasing to you or not worthy of an answer from you then simply toss it into a fireplace together with remembrances of me. So I hope for the best and pray that God may protect you and that I can have you healthy and happy again and loving in my arms.

Alois

[unnumbered page: This is a separate page, just 16 lines, and clearly written, perhaps in anger, and quite different in tone from the other pages of this letter. - Al ]
The final sheet

If you think of your promise that you gave at the altar before God and the priest, to cherish love and faithfulness to me and to remain faithful to me and not to leave me until death parts and separates us and don’t do it willingly, because then it is not a promise, then just stay in your beloved home country and don’t appear anymore before my eyes.


Wow! I did not expect to read that! When I first got the translation from Al, I almost stopped this whole project. Never had I ever heard of any of this back story. Had Grandma really lost her wedding ring? Was something wrong between the two of them?
I almost felt like I was intruding into a personal space that I had no business in.


The letter itself does not read smoothly. Al found it difficult to translate, partly due to grammar, spelling and handwriting. Grandpa Alois only had a few years of elementary school, so he was not highly educated even though he was an intelligent man. Add to that, Beitels always did have a way of talking in slang that might not be easy to understand. 

It is also possible that he started this letter, and then worked on it for a while, writing more each time without picking up from where he had stopped. On the back page of the first sheet he started writing two lines within one for three lines and then erased what was in the last line below. 


I talked to my cousins and my Aunt Virginia Beitel, who was still alive at the time. Had she ever heard of any of this? She was a teenager in 1936, so may not have been as aware as an adult might have been. She had no idea. No one had ever mentioned it as far as she could remember. My cousins urged me to press on to find out what was going on. 


The next letter I sent to Al for translation was the one in the previous entry, the one from Grandma. It did not sound so brooding or mysterious. So, was this all in Grandpa's imagination, or would further letters give some indication of something else?

To see the photos closer, simply click on any of them and you will be able to scroll through them all.

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Story to be continued...... 

To read Post "38 - Marie Lulay's letter to Grandma - 18 June 1936 Click here

Friday, October 23, 2015

36 - Letter From Grandma to Grandpa - 17 June 1936

Click here to read story from beginning

Story so far: Grandma Cecile made on her way to visit her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslavkia. She had crossed the United States by train, from Oregon on the Pacific coast to New York on the Atlantic coast. The Europa, a ship with the North German Lloyd ship line, had carried her across the
Atlantic Ocean.

Grandma Cecile had arrived at her sister's house in Nieder-Mohrau and had written a letter home. A couple of days later, she sat down and wrote a letter to Grandpa, this one written in German. 

When I first started organizing these bits of memorabilia, I found the letters between Grandma and Grandpa, but they were written in German. Of course, that made me curious since I could only read English. This old couple - I barely knew them since I was so young when they died - they were typical for their time, stoic, quiet. What did they say to each other when separated by such a time and distance?

Here is Grandma's letter, translated by my friend Al:   
Envelope - with stamp removed




Top of first page









June 17, 1936
Dear Alois,     
 
Johann is at the Mims[name?]* and thus I am staying with Gustie. I think I am sleeping in my own bed, the remainder after the fire years ago.  It is really as we pictured it, and with all that, I have not yet seen Joseph and Hermann, otherwise I would be ready to go,  we discussed everything,  and I have seen quite a lot,  I went to the field with Gustie, we thinned the fodder beets that are growing there.  Yesterday we went to the funeral of Schipke Alexander, this sound so strange to me ….
Page 2:    …... that I would see him being lowered into the grave, he supposedly has often spoken about me and always asked questions.  He was the neighbor of Bernts  and he was a very prosperous farmer.  The older Bernts are doing quite well, that is the general opinion around here.  Yesterday I tried out the scythe at the old lady Berntin [name ?]** ,  it felt like a sickle.  I am happy that so many people are inviting me to their houses but I am not all that much interested in that.  Yesterday I also went to see the [name?]** Marie and our parent’s house.  I think today that I would like to go to our meadow near the forest but the Mimi  [name ??]***  cannot come along because of her asthma  and the Gusti is working from 4 in the morning until late at night.  I am feeling quite well and I hope to see you all again in good health and I am  yours   [name]****
*- Al wasn't sure of the name here, I think she was saying “Mina's”. Her brother Johann must have been staying at Mina's, so there was no room for her, she had to stay with Gustie.

** - Not sure who she was referring to here, Al could not make out the names.

*** - Again, I think she is talking about “Mina” or “Minni”, her sister. Grandma in her diary sometimes called her Minnie. Later I remember her being called Mina, all short for Hermina. 

**** - A scribble, could be “Zilly” or "Ma" ED]
Bottom of letter, including signature



There are some interesting things to glean from this letter. We learn that first of all, Grandma Cecile obviously had saved some stationery from her train ride across the United States. The letterhead was clearly Northern Pacific. The envelope was matching paper, a gray color.

It must have taken about 3 weeks 
dates written on the front of the envelope
for her letter to make its way back around the world to Grandpa. Someone wrote the dates " "17 June"
and "6 July" on the front of the envelope. 17 June was the date Grandma wrote the letter. July 6 must have been the date that it arrived in Stayton, Oregon.

Grandma's reference to sleeping in her old bed because of a fire might be referring to a bad housefire that occurred in the house that was Gustie and her first husband, Alois Schrott's home. (It is mentioned in Hermann Schiebel's memoirs. He said they lost everything that night. Perhaps Grandma's old bed was a replacement for a bed that was lost in that fire.)

Most of the people mentioned are her relatives, Mina, Gustie, Hermann, Joseph and Johann are her siblings. Grandma's mother was a Bernt, so the Bernts she mentions are probably cousins or aunts and uncles. A few others must simply have been friends or neighbors.

Alexander Schipke, seems like there could have been a story there. A wealthy farmer who often asked after Grandma, but had recently died. Hmmm, sounds like Grandma may have left a broken heart or two behind when she left for America! He came close to getting to see her one more time, but instead she arrived in time to attend his funeral.

Grandma mentions that if she had seen her two brothers already, she would be ready to leave. She's only been there a few days. She must still have been homesick and wanting to leave. It's a familiar feeling, to go off on a big trip and then after arriving, wonder why you went. Then after you are there for a while longer, it becomes a great adventure. Grandma is still in the early stages of that feeling and a long ways from her long-time home in Oregon.

Her mention of wanting to go see "our" meadow near the forest when she mentioned seeing her parents house is intriguing. It must have been important to her, but a fair walk. Her sisters had neither the stamina nor the time to go there with her. Grandma always liked working outside, perhaps this meadow was where she worked or wandered as a child and developed her love of the outdoors.
 
To see the photos closer, simply click on any of them and you will be able to scroll through them all.

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Story to be continued......

To read Post "37 - Letter From Grandpa to Grandma - 18 June 1936 Click here

Saturday, October 3, 2015

35 - Celebration in Nieder-Mohrau - 14 June 1936

Click here to read story from beginning

Story so far: Grandma Cecile made on her way to visit her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslavkia. She had crossed the United States by train, from Oregon on the Pacific coast to New York on the Atlantic coast. The Europa, a ship with the North German Lloyd ship line, had carried her across the
Atlantic Ocean.

In her previous letter home, Grandma Cecile mentioned that they had held a celebration in the village for her. Fortunately at least a couple of photographs survived from that party. Two different poses of the same group of people can be seen in these photos. In the first, they are standing in front of trees. In the other, they are standing in front of a building, presumably the restaurant where they gathered.

Thanks to two of the people who were there as little girls - sisters Hedi Bernt Ramolla and Hermi Bernt Kotrc - those people have been identified. 

The first image here is a scan of the photo/postcard of the group. This photo belonged to my aunt Betty Beitel Silbernagel.

The second image is an enlarged, cropped print that Hedi wrote numbers on so that she could identify the people. She was doing this at the request of Sr Agnes, who had told her that my cousin Marilyn Pursley and I were working on family history and wanted to know who the people were. Hedi sent this numbered image to Sr Agnes along with a letter with all the names.


Family & friends gathered around Grandma to welcome her


Hedi's key for identifying people at the celebration



Hedi and Hermi identified them all. Hedi wrote it down; Sr Agnes rewrote it for me, since Hedi's handwriting isn't the easiest to read. I added the descriptions of the people.

Hedi numbered the people, working from left to right, top to bottom, acrossshe the picture:
1.*Rudolph Wehrberger - man at far left back row  (Sr Agnes wrote Wehberger, but it looks to me like Hedi put another "r" in there.)
2.*Amelie Wehrberger - lady, white dress, she & #1 were owners of the restaurant and friends of Grandma
3. Hedi Bernt Ramolla - 2 braids showing
4.*Hilde Schinzel - lady, face partly blocked,  ("all the Schinzel family were good friends of Mom")
5. Anni Bernt Binder - one braid to front,
6. Gisela Bernt Schulig - blonde tot in front of #5, 
7.*Alois Schinzel - man to right of #5,  friend of Grandma
8.*Anna Schober - young woman blocking #7's face, maid for Grandma's sister Gustie Weiss
9.*Hilde Wehrberger Hahn - girl directly in front of #8, with white edged collar, daughter of #1 & 2
10.* directly in front of #9, with white apron, Herti Ott, also daughter of #1 & 2
11. Mina Schiebel Bernt - lady to right of #8, whole face showing, Grandma's sister, Hedi's and all the other little Bernts' mother
12.*Erika Schinzel - blonde girl with bow in her hair, light colored print dress in front row, 
13. Hermi Bernt Kotrc - girl to right of #11, only eyes peering over boy's head, 
14.*Herbert Schinzel - little boy in front of #13, looking to right, 
15. Franz Bernt - tall man, center of back row, Aunt Mina's husband,  father of all the little Bernts
16. Hermann Bernt - tallest boy in front row
17. Cecilia Schiebel Beitel, Grandma! - in front and to right of #15, wearing light colored dress
18. Gustie Schiebel Weiss - to right of Grandma (#17), wearing dark dress with light tiny print,  Grandma's sister
19. Franz Bernt - middle boy in front row, right of #16, Hedi's brother who lived in Canada and visited the Beitels out in Oregon in the 1980's or 90's.
20.*Mr. Schindler - man wearing fedora in back row, a teacher and friend
21. Herbert Schallner - little boy in front row, buttons on his pant legs, wearing vest and dark collar on his suit, son of #22 & #24
22. Hedwig Weiss Schallner - lady to right of #20, big buttons on her dress, "(Gusti's only daughter, daughter of #18)" (Weiss/Schrott? - Sr Agnes wrote Weiss, but I thought she was Gusti's daughter with her first husband Alois Schrott, maybe Mr. Weiss adopted her?)
23.*Luise Ludwig - young woman, face only showing to right of #22, "friend of [Grandma]'s"
24. Joseph Schallner - young man to right of #22 & 23, "husband of #22, Hedi Weiss" - again , Sr Agnes wrote "Weiss" whereas I thought it was Schrott, maybe I'm wrong? Not sure where my idea comes from.
25. Hedi Schallner Fleischhauer - girl in front row, directly in front of #24, dark dress with white belt and buttons, "daughter of #22"
26. Wilhelm Weiss - man on far right, back row, smoking a pipe, watch chain on his vest, Gustie (#18)'s husband
27. Ilse Schallner Reiser - little girl on far right, front row, white dress with ruffles and dark ribbon bow, "daughter of #22 & #24"

Other notes that Sr Agnes made:
1.* friends of Cecilia Schiebel Beitel
2. All the Bernts are children of Nos. 11 and 15. (“Bernts” meaning Hedi Ramolla and all of her siblings)
A further note. Hedi wrote in the letter where she was doing the ID's , " I do remember everybody." She wrote "16 people are related family people, including your Mom, 11 are friends, 15 people are passed away, 9 are alive, 1- Anna Schober we lost contact" Best I can tell Hedi wrote this in early 2004. Where it says "Grandma", that is my addition.

The rest of Hedi Ramolla's letter:
I do wish Elizabeth and Marilyn luck with their family tree projects. I don't have any pictures of my parents with their brothers and sisters in one. When your mom emigrated to America, everyone went away. My father's brother to Berlin, his Sisters to Vienna and Tirol, Uncle Hermann to Schemel, Uncle Josef and Uncle Johann to Teschen. I also know that there are no pictures of our Grandparents. They lived and died in Nieder-Mohrau. I do know where most people lived and died. Like for instance, the Schinzel family, he was a teacher, their son was only 16 when he got killed because of the war. Erika was a nurse, she was married to a Polish man, they emigrated to America and she died very young from cancer.

The second photograph from the celebration in Nieder-Mohrau on June 14, 1936, is the next photo. It appears to be the same group of people, taken on the same day, since they are all wearing the same clothes. The only difference is that they are standing in front of a building, presumably the restaurant where they had all met. 

The children appear to have been having fun, most of them have mischievous looks on their faces.

This photo, which is in postcard format, was in Grandma's collection with her diary. The dark around the edges is from smoke damage.


Grandma Cecile at her Welcome celebration
Using the other photo as a guide for identification, here are the names of people in this photo:

Back row in the top left corner:
Rudolph Wehrberger
Amelie Wehrberger - white buttons on dress
Hilde Schinzel - to right of open window
Alois Schinzel
Anna Schober - face partially hidden by boy in front of her
Grandma Cecile  - white dress
Franz Bernt - tall man behind Grandma
Mina Schiebel Bernt - to right of Grandma
Luise Ludwig - behind Mina
Gustie Schiebel Weiss - print dress
Johann Schindler - wearing hat
Hermi Bernt Kotrc - white collar
Wilhelm Weiss - smoking
Hedwig Schrott Schallner - right of Mr. Weiss
Joseph Schallner - upper far right

Front row, left to right, all children:
Hedi Bernt Ramolla - dark dress, hand over mouth
Hilde Wehrberger Hahn - white apron
Anni Bernt Binder - tall, with long braids
Gisela Bernt Schulig - little blonde girl with white collar in front of Anni
Herbert Schinzel - looking to the side
Erika Schinzel - big bow in hair
Herti Wehrberger Ott - white skirt
Hermann Bernt - tallest boy with white collar
Franz Bernt - shorter boy with big, white collar
Herbert Schallner - jacket & vest
Ilse Schallner Reiser - white dress,dark bow
Hedi Schallner Fleishhauer - dark dress, white belt, white bow & band in hair

  To see the photos closer, simply click on any of them and you will be able to scroll through them all.

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Story to be continued......

To read Post "36 - Letter From Grandma to Grandpa - 17 June 1936 Click here