#1 Polly: Our Parents, Ida Boshan and Charles Politzer

There was an enclave of new immigrants in New York City in the early 1900’s where relatives congregated as they emigrated from their birthplaces for a variety of reasons.  My father; to escape the inevitable draft in the army, my mother; to escape an arranged marriage.  The emigres supported one another during the process of adjusting to their new way of life in the United States.  Eventually, they moved on to other parts of the country when opportunities arose.

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Ida Boshan is the lady in the middle, Charles Politzer is the gentleman in the middle

My mother, Ida Boshan, did not know my father, Charles Politzer, before arriving in New York.  However, each had gravitated to that area where their relatives had already settled and they found that they had relatives in common. Continue reading

#2 Polly: The Politzer Daughters

I do not know the story of how my parents met and decided to marry.

 

Josephine, Berth, Frieda

Josephine, Berth, Frieda

But, they were married in New York City on March 3,1907.  After they were married, they produced a daughter every year for four years.  My four older sisters were born in New York City. 

Josephine was born in 1907, Frieda in 1908, Bertha in 1909, and Gertrude in 1910. Continue reading

#3 Fritzie: The early years in Detroit with the Haveman family

When the families first met………

This story really starts in Detroit, Michigan where my family moved in 1913.   We lived on Gratiot Avenue (pronounced “grashet”).   We lived on the north side of the street at one end and the Hans Haveman family lived on the other end of the same block.   We were already a family of 4 daughters and the Havemans had only one child, Gretchen.  She was named after her mother.  So there were two Gretchen Haveman’s in that family.  We called her mother, Aunt Gretchen.

after 1913 Havemann & Politzer girls_2

Not that I was any more aware than any other child of what one’s friend’s fathers did for a living, but eventually I did know that Mr. Haveman was a brewmaster of the old world German tradition and he worked for one of the big beer breweries in Detroit.

I can remember that the Havemans celebrated Christmas.  They had a Christmas Tree.  Mrs. Haveman played the piano, and even though we were Jewish they invited us to come over, the whole family, on Christmas Eve.  We girls would sing Christmas Carols with Gretchen while her mother played the piano.  Aunt Gretchen wanted to hear our young voices singing all together.  She enjoyed this very much and we had a wonderful time.  There was usually a Christmas Punch and Christmas cookies served.  It was a regular party.

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Ida & Charles Politzer on the left side of the stairs, Aunt Gretchen & Mr. Havemann on the right side of the stairs. Aunt Gretchen’s parents in the middle and the children in the back.

I was chosen because I was the closest in age to Gretchen, and not too gregarious.  She’s a year younger than I am.   I was nine years old and she was eight at the time.  And they would take us out to dinner with them.  I enjoyed that.  And when they went on a day trip they took me with them, too.   So I became Gretchen’s companion and this lasted all through grammar school and high school until the end of our time in Allenford, Ontario in 1925.

The Haveman’s belonged to a club, and we always went to this club for dinner.  It was usually just the four of us, but once a French woman went out with us.  And she ordered Chestnut puree.  That’s where I first learned about Chestnut puree that you put on cakes and things for deserts.  I liked the puree very much, it was delicious.  I suppose that’s where I got my taste for chestnuts.

Aunt Gretchen, probably before she started a family

Aunt Gretchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4 Polly: Our Mother

Mother’s role was MOTHER.  She always did what needed to be done.  For the most part she was living the life she expected to live.

My mother was very much a loving, generous, caring person who was simply limited by her lack of education, but, strong in meeting human challenges. Continue reading

#5 Polly: Living in the Country

When I was 5 1/2 years old, probably in 1924, the family moved to the country so that my mother, who grew up on a farm in Hungary, could have a garden, that subsidized the budget for food.  My father bought a ten acre plot which had a large house with an apple orchard in the front yard and was located on Southfield Road and 8 1/2 Mil Road just over the Oakland County line.

0001tR_2Our Southfield house was a two story brick structure with a large screened in porch in the front and on the left side.  The porch was wide enough for double beds which the family took advantage of in the summer time. In the winter, the porch space was used as a “freezer”; barrels of smoked goose and corned beef would be stored there.  Vegetables from the garden were stored in the cellar.  A ton of sand would be poured through a basement window (just like the coal was poured through the window of the coal bin).  And before the ground froze, the root vegetables and celery were picked and “planted” in the sand.  That way we had semi-fresh vegetables for the Sunday chicken soup.  The carrots sprouted leaves, as did the turnips, parsnips, and celery.

My cousins, Fred, Leonard, and Lillian Greenhut, and Harry Blau, would spend many summers with us full time.  Not having any brothers, this was a very natural way for me, and my two younger sisters, to have contact with boys.  (The four older girls were away, either at jobs or were married already).

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#6 Fritzie: Growing up

Probably one of Fritzie's class pictures.  She is in the middle row, 3rd from the left.

Probably one of Fritzie’s class pictures. She is in the middle row, 3rd from the left.

I can remember that everyday when we sisters came home from school there was a fresh round loaf of rye bread with jam for us to snack on.  Continue reading

#8 Fritzie: My Early Influences – How I got my Professional Name

My mother was of course the one who taught me how to sew, so she was very important in my beginnings.  When my sisters and I needed a new dress, I helped her make them or I made them myself by the time I was 12 years old.

Mother made our winter coats and during World War I, she made my sister Josephine and I military style coats out of Astrakhan (a fake fur material).  And we had military caps to go with the coats; the kind that fold flat and can be slipped into a coat pocket.  During this time my Uncle Alex who was going to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor took Jo and I to our first Football game all dressed up in our Astrakhan military coats and caps.  I think it was Michigan playing St. Louis.

Mrs. Haveman was another one of the earliest influences on my life.  Continue reading

#10 Polly: The Fire

One October evening Dad came home and announced that we would be going to Temple after supper.  It was Succoth, a Jewish harvest festival, and there would be a special ceremony and treats for the children.  The synagogue was about 15 miles from our house, which resulted in our not going there very often.  But when Dad decided to go, we went.

On the way home, we noticed a bright light as we neared eight mile road.  Continue reading

# 11 Polly: The Butcher Shop & Advancing a woman’s education

…..after leaving Flint for Detroit, MI, Dad bought a Meat Packing Plant, hoping a son would arrive to take over the business, but when that didn’t happen, he opted for a retail butcher shop as a means of livelihood, which was located near where we lived.

Leslie 1-1I (Polly) worked at our father’s butcher shop from the age of 8 years old, probably in 1927 or 28, both inside and outside running errands, and continued through high school. Continue reading

#12 Fritzie: Allenford, Ontario……..after highschool

Rustic Culture in a Canadian Province


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When I was 17 and after high school, Gretchen and I planned to spend the summer and the winter of ~1925 with her parents in Allenford, Ontario.  I think we had already spent time there before.  Gretchen drove us up in her new red Chrysler Roadster that her father had given her for graduation.  Those were the years when the roadster was a very popular car and she always had to drive it barefoot.

1925 Fritzie & Gretchen at Stony Point, ONT_2Allenford is a little town south of Owen Sound and north of Port Huron, Ontario, Canada, about 5 miles from the Canadian edge of lake Huron; which means that we were close enough to lake Huron to have beach picnics sometimes.  This was more than just an ordinary picnic.  We would buy fresh fish right from the fishing boats and have a “fish boil” with new potatoes in a big kettle over a big hot fire.

1925 Fritzie & Gretchen at the house_2Aunt Gretchen and Mr. Haveman had gone there earlier in the spring and were working on the remodeling of an old farm house and added a big huge barn and garage that had room for 4 cars and 3 horses.  It was so spectacular that people came from all over the neighborhood to see it.  The farm house had 4 bedrooms, a large remodeled kitchen.  And if you can imagine, in those days, remodeled and it still only had a wood burning cook stove.  We kept that big stove clean and polished shiny black.

Gretchen and I were both paid $4.00 per week to share the duties of maid and cook.  We took turns with the maid’s duties which were house cleaning, making beds, etc.  One of our cook’s duties was learning how to use the big wood cooking stove. The Haveman’s hired a groom to take care of the 3 horses.  He lived in the huge garage/barn and he took his meals in the house, that we cooked for him.  He took care of the horses and kept them and the garage clean. With the money that we earned, we bought ourselves shoes and stockings and little gifts when they were needed.

There must have also been some kind of ice box or cooler in the kitchen, because Mr. Haveman would spend part of the winter storing ice for it.  The farm was very close to a little lake, Chesley Lake where there was a natural cave to keep the ice in.  Mr. Haveman would take his ice cutter and when the lake was frozen just right he’d cut these big uniform blocks of ice and store them just down the road in the ice house he had on the edge of the lake.  He’d cut and store enough ice in there to last us the whole hot summer.

1925 Fritzie at Allenford, ONT_3

other side of the post card of Fritzie on the horse

The family did a great deal of riding.  Even I had a few rides.  One of the horses was very tall and I think Mr. Havemann rode him most of the time.  He stood 17 hands high and that was considered a really tall horse.

Mr. Havemann was a marvelous cook and the village butcher was a personal friend of his and supplied him with very excellent cuts of meat, so he was able to teach us how they should be cooked.  The village baker was also an excellent baker and during the summer when we took our lunch to the baseball games, we roasted a whole calves liver and sliced it for sandwiches using the baker’s fresh bread.  Cooking it in the wood burning stove was exactly right for these cuts of meat and we really learned how to cook them.

I don’t remember just when it was that Gretchen and I got in her car and drove to Toronto.  Probably early on in the summer before we got so socially involved.  Gretchen decided we were going, we got in the car and she drove all the way without her shoes on.  We must have stayed about two days seeing the sights.  When we got there, she went into a hotel and later I went in to visit her, sort of, and just never left.  So that’s how we only had to pay for one.

1925 postcard of the King Edward Hotel between Victoria and Leader, Toronto, Canada

1925 postcard of the King Edward Hotel between Victoria and Leader, Toronto, Canada (maybe it was this one?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#13 Fritzie: Socializing with the young people in Allenford in 1925

Gretchen and I wanted to get to know the young people in town, so we took the road around Chesley Lake and walked to the presbyterian church in Allenford on Sunday mornings.  The choir master greeted us very kindly and we were recruited for the church choir.  Eventually, however, the choir master discovered that I did not have a voice and asked me not to sing, but to mouth the words with no sound, so I could remain in the choir.  I did not mind as long as I could stay in the choir.


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At first, when we got to Allenford, we were considered stuck-up city girls, but the young people soon learned to like us, and we liked them a lot, and we were allowed to join the group.  In Allenford, there was a big group of teenagers that did everything together as a group.  There wasn’t so much dating in those days.

We went to all the baseball games in Allenford.  This is one of the things everyone did together.  Aunt Gretchen and the two of us always wore the same dresses.  She wore a white polka dotted dress with a pink background.  Gretchen’s dress was blue with white polka dots and mine was violet with white polka dots.  They were our baseball dresses each with a sash to match.  I had made them all.

The baseball games in Allenford were very important because it looked like the team had a chance at winning the Canadian Farm Baseball Championship award.  And that was important to us, because Gretchen’s father had told the team that if they won, he would sponsor the Championship dance to celebrate their victory.  It was to be given in their big barn and he would pay for the band and everything.

By this time, Gretchen was dating both the Pitcher, Norman Wayne and the Catcher, Percival Noble, who when he grew up became a member of the Canadian Parliament.  I was dating, Garnett E. Montgomery, the Postmaster’s son.  He delivered mail, too, by horse and buggy in the afternoon and often invited me to join him for the ride and each time I went with him, he presented me with a bouquet of sweet peas.  They grew in his mother’s garden.

We wore the same dresses, which I had made, to the baseball games and the square dance socials.  And each girl had to bake a pie.  Gretchen baked mine and her’s.  They were always butterscotch pies with whipped cream topping and everyone knew that they were the best.  Then at the social the boys had to buy the pies and they would get the girl to eat it with them.  Usually there was a “box supper” that went with the pie.

You can imagine how excited Gretchen and I were when the boys won the Baseball Championship and we actually had the big dance in the big barn.  Gretchen and I helped Aunt Gretchen make all the food for the big occasion.  We made fried chicken, potato salad, vegetables and cakes.  That was the first time I ever made mayonnaise from scratch.

Gretchen

Gretchen

It got cold in October and November and the lake was frozen.  On Sunday we walked to town across the lake and we loved it.  Some days it was very cold, like 35F below zero, but we did it so we could get a ride home after church and sometimes we were invited for dinner by some of the girls and boys or we invited them home to our house.  It worked out very well.Frieda & Gretchen 1925_4

And in the winter time we went with the gang to all the hockey games with the hockey team.  They used a big sled.  In Allenford in the 1920’s the only form of transportation in the winter was by sleigh.  We went in a big sled that had straw on the floor and had enough room in it for the hockey players and all the young people of Allenford; the cheering squad!  We always kept on the main roads since the side roads were pretty narrow and our sled was so big.  To make sure that we got to the games on time, the driver would sometimes pretend that we were a “funeral sleigh”.  He’d tell us all to be real quiet, and cut out the teenage ruckus and then he’d signal the other sleigh that we were a funeral sleigh and they’d let us go right through.  We were never late for a game!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#14 Fritzie: The Accident, that changed so much.

THE ACCIDENT:

That December in Allenford, the groom was given a vacation and when he left, the Havemans discovered that he had been mistreating the horses.  And particularly the tall one; the one that Mr. Haveman rode.

One day, Aunt Gretchen decided that she would feed the horses.  She went out to feed them and the tall horse got very excited.  She was a different person than the groom and she tried to calm him down.  She had food for him, but he turned and kicked her in the stomach and that did it.  I wasn’t there, I didn’t see it.  All I know is that he kicked her in the stomach, bad, and next I knew she was being carried into the house.  I was probably in the kitchen cooking.  I don’t even remember if they brought her into he house, before they put her on the sled.

I don’t know who got her out of the barn, but they had a friend nearby who was a doctor.  He examined her and said she had to go to the hospital immediately, she was bleeding internally.  And by the time she got to the hospital peritonitis had set in.  When the intestines are punctured, the poison comes out.  So she had all this punctured intestine leaking poison insider her and she didn’t survive.  She died three days later.  Oh, how heartbreaking it all was.

Gretchen and I had to stay at home all that time and do our house work and chores and wait and worry and imagine.  When they put her in the sled and took her to the hospital, they must have used the same technique as the hockey sleigh driver to get the ambulance sleigh through as fast as possible.

About a day later they came and told us how serious it was, and then another two days later they came and told us that she had died.  There were no telephones.  I didn’t see her again until she was laid out in a coffin back in Detroit just before the funeral.

They took her body back to Detroit.  I think to a funeral home, but I’m not sure and she was prepared for burial.  We were told to go to Detroit for her burial.  I don’t remember how we got to Detroit.  Gretchen had her Chrysler roadster.  That must be how we got there.

I was so completely devastated.  I sat beside her coffin in their living room all night crying.  What else could I do.  I just sat there in the familiar surroundings and cried all night.  I felt very badly about her death.  She was great fun and we had a wonderful time together.  She treated me as if I were her second daughter and I felt about her as if she were my second mother.  And now she wouldn’t be there to help me grow up.  She wouldn’t be there to help me become a fashion designer.  My mentor had died.  I would have to do it all by myself.  With so many odds against me.

She was laid to rest in a cemetery in Detroit. I went to the funeral, I don’t remember it at all.  Gretchen and I went back to their Detroit house.  Her grand parents had already passed away so it was just her and her father.  So we three stayed there.  My father wanted me to come home.  I couldn’t leave right away.  It was a big house with just Gretchen and her father and she did the cooking.  I finally went home.  But I didn’t stay there very long.  Gretchen and her father needed me.  Gretchen was very disturbed by what happened to her mother and she didn’t want to stay alone.

AFTER THE ACCIDENT:

These were the famous years, the 1920’s “Prohibition”. 

It was in full force in both Canada and the United States.  And you could be put in jail if you were found to be making alcoholic beverages or selling them.  Mr. Havemann was really a Brew Master of good German beer by profession, not your big time hoodlum, but not the kind of thing to be making in those years.  And during this time of Prohibition he was eventually caught and put in Leavenworth prison where he stayed until prohibition was over.

He was caught right after the funeral for Aunt Gretchen.  Gretchen decided she wanted to be in Allenford living at the farm.  But her father didn’t want us living in the farmhouse way out in the country in the winter time.  He felt it was unsafe because of the fact that we had no transportation to get through all the winter snow.

So until the snow melted in the spring we went into Allenford to live with a widow named Mrs. Baker.  It was a pleasant place to live; warm and close to all the young people.  Mrs. Baker would heat sand bags in the oven to heat our beds, on the very coldest winter nights.

While we lived with Mrs. Baker we could join the young people in their winter activities.  Mostly we went to hockey games and square dances.  We also sledded on flat shovels and pots and pans.  One of the boys had a harmonica and played square dance music at the top of the hill and we would dance in the moonlight.

And those are my memories of Allenford, Ontario and my first friend Gretchen and most of all her mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#15 Polly: Fritzie’s many Influences on me & the dresses she made for me

Many, Many Artistic endeavors……….

the signature confuses me.  I always thought that my mother made the linoleum cut.  For sure she held on to this all these years.......

the signature confuses me. I always thought that my mother made the linoleum cut. For sure she held on to this all these years…….

Around the time I started high school, my older sister Frieda, who was already called Fritzie most of the time, began working for Olga Fricker at her School of Ballet, as the costume designer.  Fritizie lived in her studio on the top floor of the school which was a three story building on Cass Avenue near Wayne University.  Fritzie and I had become better acquainted with each other and were then very good friends:  I found in her someone I could talk to and she was very supportive.  I let her know how lonely I was living in the “boonies”, at home..  She made arrangements with Olga Fricker to let me join an after school ballet class and pay for it by being responsible for keeping Olga’s office clean. Continue reading

#25 1990’s

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In the 1990’s, Fritzie spent 7 years living in a senior residence near my middle brother Tim, in the Denver, Colorado area.  Tim & his wife, Ruth, took on the day care role and my youngest brother, Victor who lived nearby in Salt Lake City, visited her with his family often.  She was very happy to have this time with her sons.

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Fritzie made the colorful blouse under her jacket. She always loved bright colors.

They made sure that she was cared for, took her on outings, were in constant communication with her, were there in cases of emergency and… among other things made sure that she had her sewing machine with her.  When she did use it, she still showed a flare for design, color and style.