#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

















#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).













#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

#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