#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.

after 1913 Havemann & Politzer families_3

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

















#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

#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.



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.


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.


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

#16 Fritzie: Playing college student in 1940

I was a working girl in Detroit in 1939.  I was a freelance fashion designer making clothes for women in the more affluent Detroit suburbs, including wedding dresses, etc.

Through the work/study program at Antioch College, Polly took a summer job in 1939 at the Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  When she and I talked about doing something together the following summer, we decided to go work at the hotel again.  Then, at the end of the summer when Polly would go back to school, I would have saved some money and would go to New York City to try and find work as a fashion designer in the big city. 

Continue reading

#25 1990’s


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.


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.



















#26 the years 2000

In 2001, Fritzie, already 93 years old, came to live with me in Israel.  The only reason she decided to go, was because she was offered the thrill of taking a cruise on the Queen  Elizabeth II cruise ship to get there.  Still in evidence, her flare for design, color and style, continued…………………

Q. E. 2 portrait_4      Queen E. II -b_2

She had a team of young day-care helpers who she was very happy with.  They were totally charmed by her and stayed with her to the end, through a stroke that took most of her, the last 3.5 years of her life.   


From Elena: “I am Elena, I was one of Fritzie’s day-care helpers for 7.5 years and to this day my memories of that time and of Fritzie herself, are very good.  Usually older people are demanding and moody, while Fritzie was always very calm with a favorable temperament and in a good mood.

Fritzie thanked me for everything I did for her: for the food I prepared for her and for all help that I administered to her.  It was very pleasant to be around her.  I am very sorry that in her last years she was in a very difficult health situation and was stuck in her bed.  She was the nicest older person that I ever worked with.

May her memory be blessed.”

(Elena’s words were first written by her in Russian, then translated by her daughter to Hebrew and then translated by me to English.)

DSCN0456     DSCF0609   DSCN0537  Mom #5 pluss beit knesset and garden 092_2

I have one last story to tell……………………………………………………………………………










#27 Still Creating at age 95…..Contemplations…. (the punch line)

At the age of 95, my mother had another opportunity to express her artistic flare and sense of color.  She was introduced to the weaving of little rugs and produced quite a number of them with the help of one of her day-care helpers, Svetlana. 

DSCN0958From Svetlana:  “She was a good woman.  Communication with her was pleasant.  We all loved her and tried to help her in everyday life.  I worked with Fritzie mostly in the evenings.  When ever I arrived, I came up to Fritzie and we chose what to do.  Sometimes we read the newspapers, sometimes something cooked together (she helped cut), but most evenings we work on the rugs.  When we started to work with a new rug, she chose what colors yarn would be used.  She was already at the baskets looking at the colors, a few colors.  I put them on the table and she chose what we use each time.  She liked to work with a rug and often we did that a long time.  When it was hard holding out the yarn I helped her.”    

some of the rugs…

Svetlana would arrive as I was leaving to run errands.  I have clear memories of Fritzie eagerly going to the baskets that held the colored yarn for these rugs and watched her intently consider which colors to combine.  To me, these little rugs are another testament of my mother’s creativity.  Where would she have gone if she had landed a job with Valentina in New York City, or ………………………, if her life had been a little different.  The color combinations of these little rugs, remind me of some of the early 20th century “modern artists”,

……………..such as Piet Mondrian and

Josef Albers…………

I believe that my mother was happy to have married and had children, but I still wonder what else she might have accomplished in her life.