My grandmother starts this letter to her son Frank Ebner at 11 p.m. and doesn’t finish it until 1 a.m.  She’ll be up the next morning by 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. to start the daily routine of helping my grandfather with shoveling coal into furnaces and shoveling snow from the steps of multiple-story apartment buildings.

In winter  they have virtually no moments for rest, just constant physical work from awakening to bedtime. Despite this exhausting schedule, she sits down to write Frank at 11 pm in a foreign language: English. It’s probably why the end of this letter was almost impossible for me to figure out what she was trying to put into writing. She was probably falling asleep as she wrote.

At the end, she once again heaps praise on Ebner’s at-home girlfriend, Cookie, whom Grandma really likes a lot.


Letter No 4 [Note: My grandmother started numbering the letters so that she would know for sure if her son received them.]

Chicago, Ill.


My Dearest Ebner,

God bless you of all what you think and do. It is late, but I must write today [at] 11 P.M. first to tell you how proud your Dad is that you made that grade. He thinks you are the top. So do I. You got it in yourself. They brought it out. So beginning always with God, you have to be with him all the time and he will lead you to safety. Like I always said, be yourself. 

I see it with open eyes now. I will pray more to our Higher God. Over there you have it hard. Now we all know that but [if you] trust [in] God you get more help from him as from people. You must have a God on your shoulder (just see) otherwise that grade is not…so easy. I am so sure you will be one of the best Navigators and if we can help you send a telegram [if you] need it.  

How long is the schooling you have to go through and will you stay in California?  If you don’t have time you don’t have to send everyone a letter because every letter you send is seen by the whole family on the same day.

Mrs. Jickeli (center) and her household staff, 1910; My Grandmother, Lisi, seated 2nd from left

I hope you got the other 3 letters I sent you. From now on, as you see, I will put a number on it.  Fred and Lil sent you a letter to wish you all good luck for your navigator beginning, but I wish you had sent Will [a letter about his navigator classification].He got that telegram from you. He is a real brother.  Sam [Fred] was too [a “real brother”] so both were very pleased for you.  

We saw and read in the paper the responsibility [you have].You [would]have liked what it said….[difficult to interpret].  You have done so good as you have done it always.  So you can believe me. I saw plenty of that [when I worked for] Jickeli* for 6 years. [Hard to interpret].

*[My grandmother worked in Transylvania for a very wealthy and prominent family, the Jickelis, pronounced “Yah-KAE-li,” and learned much about hard work, discipline, and responsibility. See photo above]

So my dear Ebner I think a part of you is from the Ebner [von] Eschenbach* stem, the noble man of my great, great, great grandparents. Just be yourself. That will help you finish in safety.  

*According to family lore, the Ebner side of the family was distantly related to themvon Ebner-Eschenbach family, a noble family, which produced at least one famous writer, Maria Ebner von Eschenbach. I have no genealogical proof  that this is accurate.

Cookie, Ebner’s at-home girlfriend

Today we had snow in the porches.  We cleaned [it off] 3 times. So you see that white snow and black coal makes us [so] hardworking, so that no food tastes good. We rest [only a little while] and then again, we go ahead [with the work] but we are thanking God for all of you, [for Will, Sam [Fred] [and] especially for you. He [God] is with you.  They all believe it here.  God be with you.  

Love and kisses from M.P.W.S.L. [Ma, Pa, Will, Sam [Fred], Lil

P.S.  Cooky and Shirley was here on the 5 Jan….  Cooky is real happy for you.  Shirley [hard to decipher].  Dad and I will come to visit them, maybe tomorrow we both will go there.  Jerry was here before Christmas and on New Year’s Eve before he went to work. No other news.  [Sonny Rappaport] came home for 10 days and then will go over[seas] when he goes back [to his unit].  More love for you, Mom

P.S.  ….Cooky is a real girl and she looks so good. Tell me if she likes that ring that you gave her. I think she was pleased as her Birthday is the 4th. ….So once more [if] you need anything [let us know]. [Last sentences hard to decipher. She’s undoubtedly exhausted and can’t think straight.]

More good night it is 1 A.M.  Mom

Original letter