On February 11, 1911, the mail arrived in Hermannstadt, Hungary, where my grandmother, Lisi Ebner, worked for Mrs. Jickeli. I can imagine Lisi’s heart quickening when she saw a letter postmarked Cleveland, Ohio. Except for a brief postcard from New York, she hadn’t heard from her sweetheart, Josef, since December 30th—more than a month earlier.
So after she read how eager Josef was for her to come to America, to get all “legalities in order” so they could marry, I wonder how she reacted when she saw that he had also enclosed a letter from Eva Beer, the wife of the Neppendorfer man who helped him get settled in America.
Mrs. Beer starts by misspelling her name:
Dear friend, Miss Liesse,
Even though I’m an unknown friend, I would like to send you a few lines. Please forgive me if I burden you with my writing.
Then Eva Beer jumps right in with exhortations and advice. She extols Josef’s virtues to such an extent, it makes me wonder if he dictated it to her! I had to laugh.
Now, dear friend, don’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether to come here or not. You will be very satisfied with Josef and make him feel good for your entire lives.
Sepp is an entirely fine and solid young man. I know him perhaps even better than you because he has already lived three months [sic] with us. [note: she must mean weeks. Lisi responds to this letter on February 12, and he just arrived in New York on January 12th.]
He goes diligently to work and when he comes home in the evening, he puts everything in order so that his whole room sparkles.
Sepp is an upstanding young man and you won’t find another like him. He earns very good money and also gets his food at work so he can save everything he earns. He’s already bought fine provisions and dishes/tableware, and everything is certainly gorgeous when one goes into his apartment. He would have been able to marry here already a few times, but he wants no one but his Lisi.
I’m not sure how you would react to this letter, but I, for one, would not be happy with another woman telling me that she knows my sweetheart better than I! Nor to hear that he could have already married several times—in less than a month, even if true. Are the girls crawling over him? I mean, he was a handsome dude, but honestly! I am impressed, nevertheless, that a great-looking, twenty-one-year old man is so neat, orderly and focused. He does sound like a good catch!
Here I come to an end and remain your unknown friend, Eva Beer. Many greetings to you, Lisi, and your sister and brother-in-law and all your friends.
So how did Lisi react to this over-the-top letter? I know Josef didn’t actually write the Eva Beer letter, because the handwriting is distinctly different. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised if he told Mrs. Beer how desperately he wanted Lisi to come here, influencing her glowing praise of him. As we’ve seen already, he was a very determined young man.
On Monday, February 14th, I’m going to share a sweet Valentine post card. It’s neither dated nor signed, but the contents and Lisi’s response, which she wrote immediately upon receiving his letter, indicate Josef must have sent it along with the letter shown here (which explains no signature)—to arrive in time to wish his sweetheart a happy Valentine’s Day. We’ll see how she reacted to his Valentine message as well as to Frau Beer’s missive.
Think of love this upcoming Valentine’s Day by enjoying this vintage 100-year-old postcard.
Linda- This sounds like a Hallmark movie. Love reading your blog
What a treasure! I am descended from two Hungarian ancestors named Josef 🙂
Thanks Margel & Dorene! I love that you see a movie here? Maybe Sundance one year? 🙂 Dorene — that’s cool you have two Josefs in your family. My grandfather spoke fluent Hungarian too.