A son training to fight in World War II created worry for my grandmother—praying that her son would make it home alive and unharmed. But this letter shows her heavy heart is relieved of at least one worry. Her 54-year-old husband, who has worked sixteen-hour days at hard, physical labor, since arriving in America at age 21, is finally taking it a little easier.
My grandmother is thrilled to report he has more time now to join her on an occasional visit to friends so they can “live like people.” A mechanized device to help feed the coal-burning furnace gets some credit.
Those of you living through this tough 2014 winter can appreciate a guy who had to shovel coal for multiple apartment buildings, often in frigid weather, to keep tenants warm; a man who shoveled, by hand, heavy snowfalls like we’ve had, from three flights of back stairs and porches and from the sidewalks surrounding those buildings.
Life on the Chicago home front in 1944. I’ve left some of my grandmother’s misspellings and awkward syntax to give a flavor for her devoted struggle to write to her son in English.
Below her letter is a very short note from Frank to his mom. Picture this: a son is sending money back to his parents!
[Note: “24” was the postal code for 3 N. Keeler before zip codes]
Chicago 24, Ill
My Dear Ebner,
How are you? We are all feeling goot. No snow yet so our work is not so hard, you know. We have today a nice sunny day like in May. From Feb. 1, Dad [doesn’t work at] the 3 flat on Washington Blvd. Finally he gave it up. [For] the 3-flat next to us he got a stoker* on Feb 8th.
[A stoker was a big deal. It automatically fed coal into the furnace (see featured image) so my grandfather didn’t have to manually shovel in the coal, as he had been doing (and still was doing on many buildings) for the last two decades. It means he has less work now, as my grandmother describes below).
So your Dad is so more like a peach. He takes his rest. Once in a while he goes to visit a friend with me [and goes regularly] to church, so we starting now to live like people. If we only had no trouble with the War and you would never come in danger, then my worries would be all over.
But I trust in God. He will be with you by your studies, your tests, and your danger. And I pray he be with you by pleasure. In all ways, I feel it, that you will be safe. Ebner, you’ll never know how proud your dad is of you––that you try to make the grade where you are. I pray you get the best as you got until now. (Der Liebe Gott soll dich segnen mit seinem Lichte) [The dear God should bless you with his light.]
Sam, Ruth’s son, is home for the first time [since he left for the service].Dad talked with him about you. He said you are the very happiest and ? of all he knows. He did not have a chance [to write???]. He was drilling and maneuvering until now.
Then Frank Savish, our tenant at 11 N. Keeler, is home for 15 days. After he was in the service for 28 months, he was never a day home. On the same day, he came home in the forenoon to his Dad. They had to put him in an oxygen tank for breathing. He is in the hospital.
My Dear, you never told me if you got the 3 packages and how they arrived. Was nothing broken or spilled? Please send me a word about all.
We are all glad you found Esther Marie [Frank mentioned her in a previous letter. She’s a friend of the family] and hope you had a nice visit with them.
So we hear you took the test you were waiting for. So God bless you for the next and the next that comes. If you could see Dad’s face when he talks with the people. So many are asking how you are. His is so proud to say [how good you do.] So we will all be proud of him.
You done real well and showed us all what you are and what you can do. I am proud of you that you try to stop smoking. You have your dad’s willpower in you.
I asked you if you got word from Cooky. How does she like her ring? Is it so bad that you don’t want me to know? I tried to do the best as I could [with the rings. Ebner didn’t want his mother to ask Cookie, his girlfriend, for her ring for Ebner.] Have you got the Austin [High School] ring on your hand?
Oh, how I’d like to see [you] with the uniform. It looked so nice on Ted [Symon, who visited the Gartzes recently]. Please give me an answer how all went.
Cooky called me the day she got your letter, as you asked her. In this letter I’ll try to send you 2 dollar bills. How gladly I would like to send out a box with those slices from Steve [I think she means slices of bread from Steven’s Bakery, on Madison Street & Kildare].
Will is busy always (like you). Tonight he’s going to the YMCA with a man at the office and Sam [Fred] is there too. Lil is alright. We we all God bless you that all will be good with you.
Love & many kisses,
Mom, Dad & Will
Below is a very short letter from Frank. Amazing! A 19-year-old returning money to his parents!
I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner but I wasn’t able to. I had a nice weekend but didn’t do much and almost came back to camp late. I haven’t much more time but I’ll write a long letter to Will one of these days and it will tell you a lot about what’s going on here. Tell him to expect it any day after you receive this.
I’m feeling swell and am very happy with my school and all.
We were paid today and I received your letter with the 2 dollars in it but I won’t need it. So I’m returning it with 3 others and perhaps I can send more by the end of the month. I received your packages in good shape and also the money before the $2. Say hello to every one and God Bless you all.
Your Love son,