Glued into my Grandma Alice’s scrapbook is this event flyer from my Grandfather’s work. Stewart Warner made various gauges and instruments for The War, so big events of this nature aren’t that surprising. What is, is the date. The only September 8th on a Tuesday during WWII (and the immediate years following) was in 1942. That’s still rather early for U.S. involvement. Then it occurred to me that this might have been more of a war rally than an awards recognition. While I can’t seem to find anything on the internet about this event, I think that I might be on to something. This time period was during the first major U.S. push in the Pacific, and about a month into the very long Battle of Guadalcanal. Though while the First War Loan Drive didn’t begin until November of ‘42, I still think it is safe to say that besides some presentations it was also a sort of pep rally.
A ticket stub to Michael Todd’s Hall of Music, which sadly has no date. Thus I can only guess as to which Michael Todd theater incarnation this was from. One was during the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair. At that time he created a production called the "Flame Dance" where burners would singe off the dancer’s costume thus giving the perception that at the end she was nude. Post WWII Todd owned the Michael Todd Theatre (now the Harris and Selwyn Theaters in the Loop) which showed movies but on occasion would host a dance and music review. He also owned the Michael Todd’s Theatre Cafe in the Lake View neighborhood of Chicago. So, any one of those could be the source of this stub.
While his name is largely forgotten today, he was once very well known. Besides producing many theatre shows both in Chicago and in NYC, he was also in the movie business. He helped usher in widescreen and is best remembered for producing Around the World in 80 Days which won the Oscar for Best Picture. He is also known for marrying Elizabeth Taylor, and being the only husband she didn’t divorce. The reason for that lack of divorce might very well be the fact that in 1958 he died in a plane crash in New Mexico. The story goes that before takeoff he had tried to convince a few friends to join him on the flight, one of which was Kirk Douglas, so that he could have someone to play gin rummy. He was reported to have said "Ah, c’mon, It’s a good, safe plane. I wouldn’t let it crash. I’m taking along a picture of Elizabeth, and I wouldn’t let anything happen to her."
This is a payment book for what I can only assume was an engagement or wedding ring my Grandpa George gave my Grandma Alice. It wasn’t until after I found this little booklet that I realized that I don’t know when they were married. So, this is only a guess.
This piece of jewelry was technically bought by my Great Grandma, probably because her credit was better. An item of interest is that this was done in the midst of The Great Depression. So, while it may seem like taking over a year to pay down $89 is a bit extreme, you would have to consider that this was a good chunk of change. As a matter of fact, if you use an inflation calculator that $89 would today be equivalent to $1,369.64. With that in mind, along with the Depression being in full swing, that loan term doesn’t sound so silly after all.
A Valentine my Grandpa George gave to my Grandma Alice most likely from the mid to late late 1920s. If you look closely you can see a little pin hole at the top. So my guess is that she wore this on Valentine’s Day oh so long ago.
Wrapping up my WWII rations collection are coupons for the grocery store. While the initial thought would be that this was to make sure food was available for the troops (which in some cases was the fact), the real reasoning went beyond the actual food stuffs. It actually had to do with the processing and delivery. Like I had mentioned in my earlier rations posts, a big driving factor was the use of rubber. Hence limiting the amount of stuff you could buy meant that less stuff would have to be transported = less wear on precious tires. There was also the thought that less tin would be consumed by cans if people couldn’t buy as much. While true, I have read that the tin shortage wasn’t really as bad as the public thought. Either way, the rations did help cutback on cans.
This is by no means all of the paperwork involved with rations. As a matter of fact there was a War Ration Book No. 4 issued later on that I don’t have, and plans for a Book 5 as well. I like how over time the rations became more stylized, as you can see comparing Book 1 stamps with Book 3. (And Book 4 was even more so.) Besides the graphics the other thing I really like is the slogan that was used throughout the war years. “If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.” Words that I still live by today.
Along with all of the WWII gas rationing items I recently posted is this form. It apparently had to be filled out by anyone that needed supplemental gas rations; in my Grandpa’s case that would be for his “B” sticker he received because his work was considered vital to the war effort. The form was also used by people that required extra rations because of business needs, driving to school (I’d assume college), an extra long commute, or working for the public welfare.
In this day and age of fears about an intrusive government I can’t imagine this form being accepted. Not only does it require the driver to keep track of their mileage, it also needs to be signed by the place of employment and everyone in your carpool. If such a thing were proposed today we’d all be exposed to non-stop rants and ravings about “Big Government” trying to destroy our freedoms.
Rationing was a way of life during WWII. From gasoline to pantyhose, it seemed like everything was limited. In old photos you can see the ration stickers on car windshields (the green “B”), which was there to show the attendant how much gas you were allowed to purchase. With this you received stamps and other various paperwork that had to be filled out in order to get your fuel. An “A” sticker was issued to the general public. The “B” my Grandpa Ehemann received was because his job was considered vital to the war effort. This meant he was allotted up to eight gallons a week. There were six different window stickers and even a “R” one for farm vehicles. These were a part of everyday life. So much so they became part of popular culture, like at the end of this classic Bugs Bunny when his crashing plane doesn’t crash because it runs out of gas. Why, because he only had an “A” sticker.
An interesting yet lesser known fact is that the rationing wasn’t really created to control fuel consumption, but was there to help save on tires. Gasoline could be made domestically, but rubber trees don’t grow here (at least not in mass quantity). That raw material came from Asia, which of course was controlled by Japan at the time. That’s why if you look closely at the paperwork you’ll see a lot of references to mileage and tire inspections. There was even a national speed limit of 35 MPH put in place to help curb tire wear.
Here’s an example of some of the ration paperwork one had to keep track of to fill-up at the station. The photo is of my Grandfather’s 1942 Studebaker that is referred to in paperwork. There were some other ration related items I’ll get to later.
My Grandpa Ehemann was by all accounts a car guy. Before his scrapbook came into my hands I had found a stack of receipts for cars he had purchased. At some point I should take them and I see if I can tell which was which from his photos. (That ‘49 Hudson on the first page top right is pretty fantastic looking!)
The majority of the photos were taken in front of their place on the corner of N. Paulina & W. Ainslie Streets on the north side of Chicago. The bottom photo on the second page was shot in front of the house I grew up in on Kostner Ave. That old Standard Oil gas station has since been replaced by a North Shore Community Bank & Trust building.
My Grand Aunt Madeline Zabowski was so fond of this clipping that she wrote her name on the back. I suppose just in case someone thought they would take it.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
I usually don’t post old family photos on this site unless something about them strikes my fancy, and how could this one not. Maisy Barrie Trowbridge was my 1st cousin twice removed on the McDermott side of my family (my maternal Grandmother). She’s seated in white on the left and she looks like quite the hoot.
Having a portrait taken and sent as a postcard was a very popular thing to do a century ago. You could call it the forefather of the “selfie” that is oh so popular today. While I don’t have an exact date I do know that Maisy was born in 1887. So guessing by the fashion, including that incredible hat, along with how old she looks, and I would guess this to be around 1910. The card was addressed to her 1st cousin (my Great Grand Aunt) Sybil McDermott Cholis. They were all from Fond du Lac, though my side of the family had moved down to Chicago by this time. One could guess that Maisy had been in town to visit them and what appears like some friends of hers as well. While Maisy looks like the life of the party, her own life was cut short when she fell victim to the great flu pandemic of 1918.
Small Business Saturday was this weekend and it reminded me of this business card from my Grandfather’s short lived small business. I don’t have anything else from his radio repair shop that he ran, so the actual dates that it was open aren’t clear. I do know that he became a Machinist in 1941 and had steady work from there on out. Now, he could have been running this shop on the side during the 1940s, but that phone number gives me a clue that says otherwise.
Most people know that phone numbers were once given out with a word or name followed by numbers, but most don’t know why or how they worked. As one could guess the word translated to that particular number on the phone. For example, one of the most famous of these was immortalized in the Glenn Miller song Pennsylvania 6-5000. This translated to 736-5000, which if you dial today (in Manhattan) will still get you the Hotel Pennsylvania. This meant you took the P & E, which when looking at your phone told you to dial 7 & 3. This makes their exchange 736.
The exchange was the first three digits of the phone number, and it directed the call to that particular part of town. This system of creating the phone exchange from the name of the neighborhood that you lived in came about in the 1920s. Most parts of the country listed the phone number as NAmeX-XXXX, except in large cities like NYC or Chicago that would use the first three letters of the name followed by four numbers (Name-XXXX). So my Grandpa’s number of Ravenswood 6850 showed that he lived in the (you guessed it) Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago. This meant that if using a phone without a dial you would tell the operator to connect you to Ravenswood 6850, and she would then know which exchange to connect your call through. Or if you owned an “automatic” phone with a dial you could look down and see the corresponding numbers to the first three letters. This meant his number was 728-6850.
Having large cities list their numbers in a different format from the rest of the country apparently caused some confusion. So in order to make things more uniform it was decided that the big cities would also list their numbers in the format of name + five digits. NYC was the first to do this starting in 1930, while the other large cities waited until the 1940s. In order to show the new listing the first two letters were left in caps. This meant my Grandfather’s number became RAvenswood-8-6850. Since the card doesn’t list the number as such I’m going to bet it came from the late 1920s to early 1930s.
Today is the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. So with that in mind I have today’s post of some Civil War projectiles supposedly found at Gettysburg by my Grandfather. The larger one looks like canister shot and the others appear to have been shot out of a rifle or a musket. My Grandfather even mounted that one though I don’t know if he ever had it displayed anywhere in the house.
I remember playing with these when I was a kid, and the story that my Grandma told me about them being found at Gettysburg. I don’t know if she meant he found them on the field somewhere, or at a little shop in town. I didn’t even know when it was they went to the site, until my Dad recently discovered his scrapbook in the back of the attic. In the middle of his book were these two pages clearly showing their visit along with the date of August 1934. So at least now I know when they went.
I can’t imagine finding all of these just laying around. Seeing just one would be a very unique happening, nonetheless four. Then again, the battle had been only 71 years ago at the time of their visit. So it wouldn’t have been unheard of. Plus, laws protecting artifacts and National Park Service lands were quite different. (À la, “go ahead, feed the bears.”) Thus, finding and keeping something from a site like this wasn’t that uncommon. There were also a lot less visitors back then. The amount of effort it took to visit these places kept the numbers a lot lower. This was long before the Interstate system existed. As you can see in his photos, the battlefield looks quite vacant of visitors. This is simply unheard of today. Lastly, the area that covers this three day battle is quite large. So, maybe he did stumble upon these on their visit. While I may never know for certain where exactly he found them, at least I can now show that it is indeed a possibility.
Here’s a tip you won’t see in Martha Stewart Living. Apparently my Grandmother thought it good enough to cut it out of the paper.
This postcard was found with the one I posted last week. It’s blank so most likely this was the ship my Great Grandparents took back to America from their visit to Poland. The story goes that they were on their way home when Black Tuesday happened, thus ushering in the Great Depression, which just so happens to have happened 84 years ago today.
Since there are plenty of boat nerds out there I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find some background on the T.S.S. Polonia. Though, unlike the quite adventurous story I discovered about the Lituania, this one is a lot less colorful. The Polonia was launched in 1910 and first flew under the flag of the Russian American Line. Soon after she sailed under Cunard for a bit, then became part of the Baltic America Fleet in 1921 and her route was Glasgow - New York - Danzig - Libau. She remained with the company until 1930. In the postcard you can clearly see she is flying the East Asiatic Company flag, which ran the Baltic American Line. Thus you can date the photo as being taken in the 1920s. This also helps support the family story of being on the voyage home when the Market crashed. Unlike the ship in the other postcard she was not put to noble service during WWII, but was instead scrapped in Italy in 1939. I would imagine that her metal was more important to the Italian military fighting the war than her use as transport.
I also came across a Polish blog with great photos from someone’s cruise on the Polonia oh so long ago.
There is one other aspect of this card that I really like. It’s that you get to see the crowd waving bon voyage as she sets out from port. Even though the crowd is faced away from the camera you can still get a feel for things and can make out some good details like hats that are now an iconic part of the 1920s.
This postcard was sent by Frances Zabowski to her daughter, my Grandma Gen, while steaming to Poland with her husband Antoni to visit the old country. To show that they had made it in America Antoni had shipped back with them the family car to drive around and brought along their eldest son Boniface (Ben) to be the driver. We even have a family photo of my Great Great Grandma standing in front of this big American car on that trip. This card was written on the voyage over on June 19, 1929.
While looking into this postcard I discovered a really great story. The T.S.S. Lituania was built in 1915 was originally christened the Czaritza for the Russian American Line. (Over the years she changed names six times.) In 1920 she became the Lituania and was run by the Baltic America Line for 10 years until she was transferred over to Polish control. In 1939 the Polish Navy took position and she became the Gdynia. Soon after Hitler invaded Poland and the crew fled to England. While there the Royal Navy put her to use for a couple of years. During that time both Winston Churchill and King George VI came on board. In 1941 she was transferred back to Poland (under the Government in exile in London) and participated in the Invasion of Sicily. Over the course of The War she was hit by two German aerial bombs, attacked by Japanese aircraft, and hit by a torpedo that fortunately didn’t explode. When The War ended the crew very wisely decided to not go back to Stalin controlled Poland and gave the ship back to England where it became the S.S. Empire Helford under the Lamport and Holt Line. Her final home was Blyth, England where she was scrapped in 1950.
That’s a movie waiting to be made.
Not only can you find just about anything on the Internet, this particular vessel even has her own Wikipedia page under one of her various names. (Under the name the S.S. Kościuszko.) This little story I found makes me wonder how many other ships have such an interesting backgrounds. It supports my theory I’ve tried to show with this site; many things have an interesting history if you’re willing to dig a bit.