Well, Mom & Pop have arrived! Here they are in New York, NY! My work on this chapter has also finally arrived.
So much transpired throughout the ’30’s time frame of my parents, Gus & Theresa’s lives. I will try to put this into perspective going in a piece by piece fashion. As you will see, it is interesting and made with love in honor of my Mom and Pop.
We will do some back tracking and thus will cover in this chapter roughly from 1926 through 1941. We will call it ‘the thirties’. I can only imagine what life was like for them. We have all heard the old saying, “some people wish things would happen”, and “some people watch things happen”, and then there are “those people who make things happen!” Certainly, as you read through their life from early days on out, my Mom and Pop “made things happen”. As I gathered the thoughts and materials for “the thirties” piece, I started to realize how tough this was going to be for me to piece this all together. Here they were in a new and unfamiliar environment of a new country, which was being hit with the great depression, and at the same time setting out to make a new life for themselves. Yes!, together, they made it happen!
For those of you who have read Chapter 3 “Learning the Good Life” you probably realized that Mom knew how to ‘network’ with good friends and that helped her move on in her life. That networking skill and with the help of her two Uncles, she got to Baltimore in America. All this you hopefully have read about in the details of Chapter 4 “Coming to America!”. As you will see in this chapter, getting to New York for both my mother and father was a masterful achievement. The story evolves like this.
- Mom’s coming to NY and working for the Robert Dowling Family on Park Ave with the help of her lifelong friend and mentor Frieda. I call this ‘The Frieda Beetz’ connection”. Frieda’s intervention made it possible that Mom and Pop would both wind up working for the Dowling family and establishing a foothold on the American soil in New York.
- When Mom showed up in NY in 1927, she met up with a whole new set of old-world Muggensturmer folks already living in NY who would become their lifelong friends. These friends became folks I came to know & love in my lifetime. There is quite a list of Muggensturm Germans who had migrated around the same time here to America. It is interesting how they found and kept tack of each other without all of today’s technology. They all became Aunts & Uncles for me through our lives. My Lynn also benefited by the wonderful relationships we enjoyed together with many of them right through the 1960’s, ’70’s and ’80’s.
- Pop’s arrived in NY on March 10 1930 at age 29 aboard the ship Milwaukee. His Visa #1143 was approved at the US consulate in Basel on 12/17/1929. Thankfully, Mr. Robert Dowling, to whom I am eternally grateful, committed employment for him. Pop became part of the Dowling work force, living in an apartment in Astoria NY, which was part of the Dowling real estate holdings.
- Then came Mom & Pop’s wedding in 1932. Mom at age 32, Pop at 31. Their Maid of Honor was of course Frieda Beetz, the catalyst of it all. The Best Man was a relative of Pop’s, Paul Herr. Another great story because after their wedding, they both lived in that Dowling apartment in Astoria . It was a beginning of their first housing establishment, ‘home’, in the new world city of New York. As the saying by Frank Sinatra goes, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”
- Pop’s employment in the Dowling dynasty throughout the US depression continued. Next, in 1934, Mom, while still in the employ of the Dowling family, gives birth to my older sister, Elizabeth, in June. The apartment becomes too small so here is what luckily comes next! Pop, still being in the employment of Mr. Dowling, gets this offer. “Move to my complex, Rochambeau Gardens on Bainbridge Ave in the Bronx, and Gus, you can be my Superintendent there”. And so, on they go!
- The birth of my sister Elizabeth with Mom at age 34 began a whole new experience in Mom and Pop’s lives. Elizabeth is (she is still with us at this writing) a beautiful person who captivated Pop’s life. She becomes their devotion and they both were great parents to her.
- In 1936, Mom takes a trip back to Germany. She takes Elizabeth with her. This interests me as I wonder how my parents at the time had the means to pay for a trip like this. The reason for the trip as I recall Mom telling me, was to receive part of the settlement of her family estate, all property having been sold. Mom explained that she received payment in ‘Reich Marks’ which were the money during Hitler’s time. They became worthless quickly. A picture of one is shown here. The bundle of them is still in the hands of our son Chris as a souvenir.
- In 1937 moving to the Bronx also made a huge difference in their lives. Their move to Rochambeau Gardens opened for them a whole new circle of friends from the ‘old’ country who lived there. This story still to come!
- Then there was my surprise arrival in 1939. Remember now, Mom was 39! It was a shock for her to find out she was pregnant again. Story goes, feeling ill, she was sitting on a bench and she said to her friend Erika Wyrenbeck, “He (Pop) did that to me again!” Well I am thankful he did ‘that’ or else I would not be sitting here writing these memories today! So here we are, Hubert & Elizabeth. We were lucky as we had great parents!
- The Bronx , being close to the hills of Westchester county to the north, as well as through the influence of their new friends, they venture out and purchase a lot in Lincolndale New York in 1940. This became the beginnings of our family summer place at the Lake. Actually this was one of the most important events effecting the rest of my life. More of that to come as we cover the ’40’s and ’50’s. Country life was in their blood as is evident from their upbringing as described in Chapter 2 the early days. This piece of real estate is still in the hands of our son Chris. It is the most important single investment Mom and Pop made to alter the outcome of all our and Chris’s lives. We are eternally grateful!
- Next, we all move to Parkchester in Bronx around 1941, Pop earned a new lifetime position with Metropolitan Life. Eventually, he retired from the “Met” in 1966. That story also comes later. The details of how this change came about goes like this. Mr. Dowling, (the Donald Trump of his era) said to Pop, “I can’t do anything more for you Gus, but I have some contacts in Metropolitan Life Insurance. Co. and they can help you” Mr. Dowling, as a real estate magnet, was somehow involved with the development of Parkchester. Now, Pop’s work ethic takes hold and that was the beginning of the rest of our lives. Eventually Pop was promoted to Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan (1947)and we all moved there. That story will come.
Lets begin by introducing their 1930’s Muggensturmer Friends,…..
The names and personalities of our ‘Laubis Family’ old country friends are all different. As I write about these people here in 2018, I do so because they all had the connection to the old country town Muggensturm. So, their bond here in America brought them together as a great ‘family’ unit. As well, they were all important to me in my life as I grew up! None of them are with us anymore. In fact, most had no children, they just had each other as immigrants in a new land. I will point out as best I can in my own words and pictures how these pseudo ‘Aunts & Uncles’ impacted our family and came together and enjoyed life.
I begin in no particular order as I write but must point out that over time, the Muggensturmer groups who all made life together in the ’30’s eventually divided in two. I refer to them as my ‘city’ relatives and my ‘country’ cousins. They all started out somewhere in NY city but those with young families eventually migrated to the country side, including Mom and Pop. In general, most of the men had trades and the women worked as Mom did, in some sort of domestic employment.
Our City Relatives…
Rosa & Hugo Pankoke – ‘Antique restorer’ – Tante Rosa and Uncle Hugo never had any children but treated us like their own. They lived on the upper east side on 84th street for the entire time I knew them. Hugo’s Antique restoration shop was on West 10th Street in Greenwich village. He had an impressive list of customers who lived in the wealthier parts of Manhattan. By reputation and word of mouth, he would pick up antique ‘stuff’ and complete the restoration work during the week a piece at a time and then delivered his finished works on Saturday’s. I was probably 8 or so when he commissioned me to help him do those pickups and deliveries. What a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about how business is run. This went on till I was about 15. Hugo made our (Lynn & I) first marble top coffee table. We still have it today. Both Hugo and Rosa were regular visitors to our Sunday dinners. They named our house “Grand Central Station” because they never knew who else was coming to dinner on any given Sunday. Yes, my mom loved to cook and we all cherished our friends. After Hugo passed away in the early 1980’s, Rosa took advantage of the German pension system (not sure how that worked) and went back to Germany to live. Lynn and I visited Rosa when we were over there one time just before she passed away.
Jacob & Rosa Rastatter – ‘Ornamental Iron worker’ Tante Rosa and Uncle Jacob also lived on New York’s east side in the German neighborhood of Yorkville around 86th Street during the early years. They also never had any children. Jacob was an ornamental Iron worker who worked for a firm on west 13th Street. My parents saw them often during the ‘30s and ‘40s, but sometime in the mid ‘40s they started a project of building a house in Rosendale NY (near Kingston) and moving up there. Jacob took a position in his trade in Kingston and for a period of time, that worked. I guess work slowed or the real opportunity was just not there, so he came back to his old job occasionally doing ‘specialty’ work. That left Rosa in Kingston when Jacob travelled into NY. Not sure how long that lasted but you may have guessed it, he stayed at our house and slept often on a day bed we had when necessary. They visited us often in NYC for holidays and parties. They also were very gracious to us when we all visited Rosendale. As they went on in years after retirement, they also went back to Muggensturm and retired. We visited Rosa’s gravesite when Lynn & I lived in Germany for two years in the ‘80s. Interesting enough, after Rosa passed away, Jacob came back to the Kingston area but passed soon after.
Johanna & Johnny Micros – (Gratwhol) ‘servants’ – Tante Johanna & Uncle Johnny where my God parents. Johanna was in NY when Oma arrived. She and Johnny were also servants for a wealthy family out in Westbury Long Island. She met and married Johnny there. Her prior husband, father of her son Otto, passed away in Germany before her migration to America. Her son, Otto Gratwhol, was brought up by relatives in Germany and did not come join Johanna in America until approximately 1950. During WWII, he was in the Germany Army and a POW in Russian after the end of the war for many years. Uncle Johnny died in 1950’s. My father was influential in getting Otto, who was a painter by trade, a job where we lived in Stuyvesant town. Johanna and Otto also moved and lived in Stuyvesant town before eventually retiring to Florida. Lynn, Chris and I visited Johanne and Otto in Florida several times on our Easter vacation camping trips to Juniper Springs in Florida in the ’70’s. The Micros family, like my parents, knew how to throw parties and have some good times as you will see in pictures ahead. Tante Johanna lived to the ripe old age of 96. We saw her last the year before her death. She was a great woman and a wonderful God mother!
Johann Maulbach – ‘personal secretary’. Johann was another Muggensturmer friend who never married. As I best recall, he was a dearest friend to the Micros family. At all Muggensturmer get togethers, he was always there. He made many visits to Lincolndale and also loved the outdoors. I never really knew where he was actually employed but I suspect it could have been in Westbury on the same estate as the Micros’. He was always very nice to me while growing up. He also was one of the first to retire back to Germany for that great pension opportunity.
Paul & Erna Unser – ‘Chef’ – I have good remembrances of Paul & Erna. They had two children, both older than Elizabeth and I by the names of (no kidding) Hans & Greta! They seemed always to be at the events held by the ‘old country’ group. Even though they were very kind and friendly, I never warmed up to the aunt & uncle stage. They lived in Long Island, but I never remember visiting there. They retired to Lecanto Florida and on our visits to Johanna in Lakeland, we would all drive over and visit them for an afternoon. No details of their eventual demise. Our visits by then were in the 1970’s. We never got close to Hans and Greta as they were quite a number of years older than Lynn and I. God Bless all of them. They were a wonderful family.
The Beetz sisters Irma, Erna & Frieda. Frieda was a lifelong friend of Mom’s. As I related in an earlier chapter, she was the catalyst friend that took my mother out of her tiny town of Muggensturm to work with rich folks in Freiburg, Germany. I called her “Tante Frieda”. She and her sisters were from Muggensturm. She had a very important role in their and our family lives. Besides bringing her sisters Irma and Erna to America, she influenced my mother to come to America and eventually to join her working for the Dowling family in New York. She was maid of honor at Mom and Pop’s wedding and Godmother to my sister Elizabeth. Frieda Beetz, never married, and was a personal secretary to Mr. Dowling until she passed away sometime in the 1960’s.
Emma and Josef Strahl – Emma was a domestic worker also at one time with the Dowling Family, who had a shore home in Point Pleasant New Jersey and I believe she was staff there full time. Tante Emma was someone I only got to know when she was already an invalid and lived in the Bronx during the early’40’s. At that point in time she was in a wheel chair with crippling arthritis. I remember visiting her with my mother. We would take a bus from Parkchester to where she lived for a visit. Her husband Josef was her care giver but I never really got to know him. Emma was a key friend to Mom as she was part of the triangle with Frieda Beetz who influenced Mom to come to NY and work for Mr. Dowling. This all comes from stories I heard from Mom growing up. Emma also visited Mom in Baltimore before Mom came to NY so she was in America early. She passed in the ’40’s. When visiting in South Jersey, Mom would have us drive past the Point Pleasant Estate. She knew where it was!! Her memories of time there with Emma were quite good during those ‘drive by’ visits in the ’60’s.
Erna (Beetz) & Ernst Ahnke – Chef – Ernst, though German born, was drafted as a chef into the US Army during WWII. I have an excellent recollection of Tante Erna and Uncle Ernst because Lynn and I saw them right through the 1970’s. They also never had any children. After the war in 1946, with Pop’s assistance working for Met Life, they joined us living nearby in Parkchester. While we were still living there (1946-1947) I (age 7-8)would visit them often, walking there by myself. Uncle Ernst kept his Army .45 cal. pistol after leaving service and he would show it to me during my visits. Of course, at that age, it was all about Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and I had my holsters and set of 6 guns. Loving firearms was something I learned young and my collection was with me well into retirement. During that initial period after the war, they visited us often in Lincolndale.
Uncle Ernst paid for my swimming lessons at the lake given by our local lifeguard at the time. Erna and Ernst eventually by the 1950’s had their own restaurant in Lake Ronkonkoma L.I. It was a large place situated on a pond. I visited there any number of times with Mom and Pop. Lynn first got to know them during their infrequent visits to Mom and Pop in Stuyvesant Town. By the ‘60’s they owned a smaller restaurant called ‘The Inn at Napeaque’ out in the Hamptons further out on L.I.
Eventually, they sold the business and retired to Orange City in Florida. Lynn and I visited a few times there in the ’70’s before Ernst died suddenly of a heart attack. Erna passed soon after.
Irma (Beetz) & Paul Tarantino – Irma, Erna & Frida’s sister lived in Wilton Connecticut as far back as I can remember. Paul was not of German origin and I recall they had children but mainly because they were not in the general area, we did not visit together often. Many times, they were in attendance at ‘ceremonial’ events but never at holiday parties or with their children. They did not approve of smoking or drinking and belonged to a religion which did not seek medical assistance from professionals. As a result, they were very distant from the Muggensturmer events. Picture of Mom with them just before Mom’s passing in 1988.
Hugo & Hedwig Maack – Shipyard manager- Uncle Hugo and Tante Hedwig also had no children. My memories of them are best after moving to Stuyvesant Town in 1947. They, again with Pop’s connections with Met Life also lived there. So all during that long period the Maack’s visited my parents often. I as a youngster and after my parents moved to Lincolndale in 1966 kept in close touch with them also. They naturally were at all my parents holiday events. Uncle Hugo was very ‘American’ as I recall he had no accent, was a white collar executive. At a point, he passed on and Hedwig also returned to Germany to take advantage of that German retirement system.
Here are some pictures that show the early years of all these immigrant friends who came together in NY to establish a new life and maintain their ‘home country’ traditions.
And now here are our country Cousins who with their families moved out to live in the country side…..
Albert & Erika Wyrenbeck – ‘Waiter’ Here are my most beloved country cousins. Aunt Erika and Uncle Albert. The reason being that they had two children, boys about my age. Volker was the oldest, a year older that I and Albert was perhaps 5 years younger. Both great guys and we remained in touch and friends till they both passed some years back. We are still in touch with their children. Their entire story will be told separately because it is extensive under the “Friends and Family” section of this site. Here is the Link to their whole story. The Wyrenbeck’s!
For now though, the reason for the closeness was because when they moved to the country, they also chose Somers NY not too many miles from our place in Lake Lincolndale. This allowed me and the boys to be together weekends and summers growing up. A real attachment developed between Volker and I during this time. Uncle Albert was a waiter at an exclusive midtown NY restaurant called ‘Artist and Writers’ and he made long commutes by train back and forth for years. Many times, he would come late at night and stay with us. You guessed it, he slept on the daybed which my parents made available to whomever of their friends were in need. Erika and Albert lived a mini farm life on a road called ‘Moseman Ave’ in Somers. It was a German enclave with about a dozen houses on it mostly Germans, however none from Mom’s or Erika’s home town. I have many good memories of that family but will save them for the detail writeup later on. In the early years, Erika also went to Baltimore to visit Mom as she was in America early on.
Karl and Anna Zittel – ‘fine carpenter’ And a fine carpenter he was. They also had a child named Hilde who was my sisters age. When they lived in the city, it was in Brooklyn. Uncle Karl was from Muggensturm and his nickname was “Sesslemacher” which when you do the translation to English means ‘fine carpenter’. Well, early on during the late 30’s and into the mid 40’s, they often visited us and the Wyrenbeck’s in Somers. So the kids, all of us, became close and remained close till today. Hilde, now ‘Tompkins’ is still with us at this writing and lives in the town of Greenville NY with her children and Grandchildren. Their story is already on the site under “Family and Friends”, here is the link. please read more about our fine friends. The Zittel’s and Tompkins Family
Closing Comments and pictures of the time as move on into the ’40’s and beyond. A marvelous period in the Laubis Families growth in America considering the Great Depression going on all over America. Next Chapter is really where my Pop takes over the direction of our family on into the future.
You may run your ‘cursor’ over the pictures to see captions for each… Have Fun!
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