The Bookie

My father had an uncle, Arthur Manfroid, who owned a tavern in Chicago, Cook, Illinois.  My father claimed Arthur was involved with the syndicate (mob) in Chicago.  I remember my father saying that as long as Arthur didn’t cross them (the mob) he was OK.  I think that the mob may have financed his tavern and they probably owned the slot machines.  I was a kid when I heard my father talking about Arthur so I don’t remember all the details.

One time we went into Chicago to look at used cars and my father said that Arthur’s tavern was nearby consequently we stopped in at his tavern. While my parents had a beer or two, I had a coke and free snacks. 

Another time we took my great-grandmother to a shoe store in Chicago.  She was in an accident many years before that left her with one leg shorter than the other one.  She had to go to a special shoe store that built up the sole of the one shoe for her short leg.  Afterwards, she wanted to go see her son, Arthur, and by this time he was married to his second wife Josephine.  I remember there was a long flight of stairs up to their apartment, and Josephine stood at the top, while my parents helped grandma up the stairs.  I only saw Arthur and Josephine a few times and it was long ago, therefore I barely remember them.

Arthur Anton Manfroid arrived on 5 January 1901 to George I. Manfroid and Mary Fiderius.[1]  He joined his 4 siblings in their Chicago home.[2]  His father was an iron moulder while his mother kept house and raised the children.[3] Two-and-half months after Arthur was born, his brother, Isidor, died of a pneumonia at two years old.[4]  A few years later, two more boys were added to the family.  The last one born in 1907.[5]

Somewhere between 1907 when the last child was born[6] and 1910,[7] Arthur’s parents divorced.  In 1910 Arthur is found living at the St. Mary’s Training School for Boys in Des Plaines, Illinois.[8]  St. Mary’s Training school for boys housed orphans left without means of support by the death of one or both parents, and children whose parents were unable to give them the necessities of life.[9]   Arthur’s younger brother Theodore is found in 1910 living at St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum (orphanage) in Chicago, Illinois.[10]  Apparently, Mary was unable to support her two youngest children after the divorce.  There was no back up for single mothers in those days.   The father was not required to pay child support and there was no assistance from the government. It was through the charity of the Catholic Church that Mary was able to find help.  In 1911 Mary married Adam Beischer,[11] and I assume sometime after her marriage to Adam she was able to be reunited with Arthur and Theodore.   In 1920 both Arthur and Theodore are living with Mary and their step-father Adam.[12] 

Arthur had a car accident on September 27, 1923 in borrowed car.  The newspaper account reads as follows:

“Anton Manfroid, a young man living at 148 Lathrop Avenue, and until recently employed in the Ed Roos Factory, driving Clarence Troost’s car in Madison Street near Ferdinand Avenue, Thursday evening, struck and seriously injured William Kreino 510 Ferdinand Avenue, a truck driver for Standard Oil Company, was walking across the street.  Manfroid had borrowed the car a few minutes before the accident happened.  After Kreino was taken to Oak Park Hospital, Manfroid drove himself to police station and gave himself up.”[13]

William Kreino survived the accident and died in 1950.[14]  The car owner Clarence Troost was involved with local politics in Forest Park, Illinois.[15]  I was curious about the Ed Roos Factory and thought it might give me some insight to Arthur’s occupation in 1923.

The Roos Manufacturing Co. of Chicago was established in 1871 by Edward Roos, who died in 1906 when two sons Edward and Otto took over the business.  In 1916. Edward split with his brother and started his own company, which made cedar chests.  The Ed Roos Building at 7329 Harrison in Forest Park, Illinois opened 1918 and hit its peak in the 1930’s.  The company used 3 million feet of cedar per year and produced 200 chests per day.” [16]  

Unfortunately, I still don’t know what position he might have held at this factory.

On 28 September 1929 Arthur married Isabelle Kiniec.[17]  Arthur worked as a book maker (bookie) for a sports restaurant and Isabelle worked as a telephone operator.[18]  They lived at 6256 Wabansia Ave., Chicago, Illinois.[19]  In 1942, Arthur’s draft card lists his employment as the Kildare Club at 1550 N. Kildare, Chicago, Illinois and his employer’s name as Joe Nicholson.[20]  I found a matchbook for sale on Ebay with horses racing on the cover.  It lists the address as 1550 N. Kildare at Grand and North Kildare.[21]  I’m sure it was a place where people bet on horses.

I believe that it was during the 1930’s and early 1940’s that Arthur worked as a bookie, probably at the Kildare Club and maybe other places too. 

“The Torrio-Capone organization expanded its limited gambling operations, especially after Prohibition. Mobsters took over the slot machine business. In the 1940s, the mob forcibly took over the racing wire service, and some policy operations as well, though it never achieved total dominance. Mob gambling reached Chicago HeightsBrookfieldGlenview, and other suburbs by 1940. In 1959, the Chicago Tribune reported that 10,000 employees worked at 1,000 gambling establishments in Cook County. Postwar Chicago gangsters profited from gambling in many other cities.”[22]

Arthur was short at 5’4” and weighed 120 lbs., and he is described as having a ruddy complexion and gray eyes.[23]

I have often wondered why Arthur chose book making as a way to make a living.  I wondered if his early life in a boy’s school and being separated from his mother and siblings affected him.  The other brother that was in St. Vincent’s Infant asylum had many problems.  The older boys who were probably working by the time the parents divorced seemed to lead more normal lives.  It appears the Arthur was able to stay out of trouble with the law and the mob.  His name did not come up in any of my searches through newspapers except for the accident he had in 1923. 

I don’t know what happened to his first wife Isabelle. Arthur never had any children with either wife. Arthur passed away on 19 August 1967 in Chicago, Illinois[24] and is buried at Chapel Hill Cemetery in Oak Brook Terrace, Illinois.[25] His wife, Josephine, passed away many years later on 10 June 1992 in Virginia.[26]

[1] Birth Certificate for Arthur Anton Manfroid, 5 January 1901, Registration number 72637, State of Illinois, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, Illinois.

[2] 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 10, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T623 256; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 293.  Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623,

[3] Ibid.

[4] Death Certificate for Isidor Manfroid, 22 March 1901, Registration No. 12247, Department of Health, City of Chicago, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Chicago, Cook, Illinois.

[5] “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925.” Database with images. FamilySearch. : 6 April 2021. Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago.

[6] “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925.” Database with images. FamilySearch. : 6 April 2021. Catholic Church parishes, Chicago Diocese, Chicago.

[7] 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.  Original data: Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA

[8] Ibid

[9] Maryville History

[10] 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.  Original data: Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA

[11] Oak Park Oak Leaves (Oak Park, Illinois) 17 May 1962, p. 76, “Adam Beischer dies from stroke: Services held Friday”, location

[12] 1920; Census Place: Forest Park, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T625_362; Page: 20B; Enumeration District: 185

[13] Forest Leaves (Forest Park, Illinois) 3 October 1923, p.12, “Borrowed car hits man”.  Location Google Books.

[14] Chicago Tribune, (Chicago, Illinois), 21 December 1950, P. 18, Obituary for William Kreino.  Location

[15] Forest Park Review, (Forest Park, Cook, Illinois), 3 March 1923, p. 4.

[16] From website: Chicagogeek

[17] National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1991; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21

[18] 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00994; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 103-2256

[19] Ibid.

[20] The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1117

[21] From Ebay:

[22] From Website Chicago History:

[23] The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1117

[24] Cook County, Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988.  Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.Original data – Cook County Clerk. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008.Original data: Cook County Clerk.

[25] Chicago Tribune, (Chicago, cook, Illinois), 21 August 1967, P. 6, Obituary for Arthur A. Manfroid. Location:

[26] Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014:  Source Information Virginia, U.S., Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.  Original data: Virginia, Deaths, 1912–2014. Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.

Anna Marie Schwebler’s Life

In the small village of Bairertal, Baden, Germany, Anna Marie Schwebler was born on 20 January 1855 to Peter Schwebler and Friederike Liecht.[1]  Baiertal is a village in the district of Heidelburg in Baden (now Baden-Wurttemburg) in Southwest Germany.  Baden-Wurttemburg contains Germany’s largest continuous forest area, the Black Forest (Schwarzwald), which spreads westward to the banks of the Rhine River.[2]  This is where Anna was baptized Lutheran on 29 January 1855,[3] and where she grew up, married, and her first two children were born.  Anna was 22 years old when she married Johann Konrad Reinhardt on 26 April 1877 in Baiertal.[4]  Nine months later their first child, Eva Friederike Reinhardt, was born on 14 February 1878.[5]  A year and a half later their son, Johann Konrad Reinhardt, was born on 9 August 1879[6] (the birth record says Johann was born on 9 August 1879, but in all other documents he is listed as being born on the 10th.)  Shortly after Johann was born Anna and her husband left for America.  First, they traveled 284 miles through Germany to Antwerp, Belgium.[7]  Today it is a 5-hour trip,[8] but in 1879 it was much longer. It is unknown what form of transportation they used from Baiertal to Antwerp.  The Reinhardt’s probably left Antwerp somewhere between 19 November 1879 and 25 November 1879 on the ship Belgenland I (1878 Red Star Line).[9] The ship was 403’ x 40’ and went 14 knots,[10] and it was placed in Antwerp to New York service in 1879.[11]  The trip from Antwerp to New York was 3,827 nautical miles.[12]  If the ship went an average of 10 knots the trip would take about 16 days, and if it went top speed of 14 knots all the way it would take 10 days.[13]  The Reinhardt’s arrived in New York on December 5, 1879.[14]  At that time, they would have been processed through Castle Garden Immigration Center.[15]  Seventeen days later, on 22 December 1879 they arrived in Amana, Iowa.[16] Amana was the home of Johann’s aunt, Elizabeth Schuh.[17]

“The Amana Colonies are seven villages on 26,000 acres located in Iowa County in east-central Iowa.  The seven villages consist of Amana (or Main Amana), East AmanaHigh AmanaMiddle AmanaSouth AmanaWest Amana, and HomesteadIn 1714 in Southwestern Germany two men started a religious movement which later became known as the Community of True Inspiration.  A group of people from this movement came to the United States in 1842 settling in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York.  They built four villages known as Middle Ebenezer, Upper Ebenezer, Lower Ebenezer, and New Ebenezer in New York State.  They also built two villages in Canada.  The Buffalo area was becoming quickly urbanized so the group sought land to west, and in 1854 purchased the sight of the present-day Amana Colonies in Iowa.”[18]

“After arrival in this county, the group adopted a religious-communal way of life, with all property held in common and with all church and secular decisions being made by the same leadership.  The communal way of life lasted nearly a century until the people voted separation of church and state in 1932 adopting the free enterprise way of life that surrounded them.”[19]

“Mother and baby stayed home until the child was two and went to Kinderschule.  The child would be in school from 8AM to 11AM and then would be home for lunch with the mother, not the communal kitchen. After lunch Children went back to Kinderschule. The Children went to Kinderschule until age seven.” [20]

The Reinhardt’s settled in South Amana.[21]  Johann Americanized his name and went by Conrad.  Conrad worked as a shoemaker in Amana.[22]  Anna would have been at home and not working in the communal kitchen because she had two children under two.  On 10 February 1881, Anna gave birth to another daughter, Elizabeth, born in Amana.[23] Reinhardt’s decided that Amana was not for them and left there in April 1883.[24]  In 1885 they settle in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois and joined the Zion Evangelical Church in Ottawa.[25]

At this time, it is not known where they may have lived between 1883 and 1885.  In 1886 another daughter, Emma, is born in Ottawa Illinois,[26] followed by a son, Frederick, born in 1887,[27] Anna born in 1889,[28] and Agnes, 1891.[29]  Anna spent the rest of her life in Ottawa raising her children and keeping house.  My grandmother often visited her grandparent’s in Ottawa, but she didn’t tell us many stories about her grandparents.  Although, there were not many stories handed down about Anna and Conrad Reinhardt, there were traditions that were handed down.  I visited Amana, Iowa and ate at one of the many restaurants.  The food is served family style and when I took a bite, it was like being back in Grandma’s kitchen.  Apparently, Grandma learned to cook from her mother and grandmother.  In the museum, there were quilt’s just like the ones handed down to me that were made by my great-grandmother.  

Quilt made by my Great-Grandmother Eva Reinhardt

The family referred to their daughter Annie as being slow.  No one elaborated more than to say she was slow.  Anna Marie had a nervous breakdown sometime between 1900 and her death in 1910.  There is a gap in children between 1881 – 1886 so I wonder if she lost one or two in that time period.  It probably wasn’t easy in those days to have a mentally challenged child, and the possibility that she may have lost one or two children may have contributed to her nervous breakdown.  Plus, we will never know what else was going on in her life at that time that may have contributed to it.   

Anna Marie passed away on 11 June 1910[30] at age 55 years, 4 months, and 22 days.  She is buried in the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois.[31] A long way from Baiertal, Baden, Heidelburg, Germany. She shares her birthday January 20 with her 4th great granddaughter.

Other Ancestors born in January

George Manfroid – 1 January 1892

Arthur Manfroid – 5 January 1901

Charles Bowers – 7 January 1784

Johann Friedrich Reinhardt 10 January 1814

Mary Bowers – 13 January 1792

Sarah Bowers –13 January 1792

John Bowers – 22 January 1786

Hugo Kaiser – 26 January 1899

Augusta Gabbi – 28 January 1859

Copyright © 2021 Gail Grunst


[1] Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.  Original data:Mikrofilm Sammlung. Originale: Lutherische Kirchenbücher, 1502-1985.



[4]  Germany Marriages, 1558 – 1929,  LDS Library, Salt Lake Ciry, Utah, microfilm # 1272787.

[5]  Baden Germany Lutheran Baptism, 1502 – 1985[database on-line]. Operations, Inc., 2016.  Original data:  Mikrofilm Sammlung.

[6] Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.  Original data: Mikrofilm Sammlung. Originale: Lutherische Kirchenbücher, 1502-1985.

[7]Maps, Google. “Google Maps Heidelburg to Antwerp.” Google Maps, Google, 2021,,+Belgium/Heidelberg,+Germany/@50.2921341,4.2755556,7z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c3f68ebfc3887d:0x3eaf448482a88ab8!2m2!1d4.4024643!2d51.2194475!1m5!1m1!1s0x4797c1050eccdccd:0xefe6ea0044243ad7!2m2!1d8.6724335!2d49.3987524.

[8] Ibid.

[9]  Germans to America(Vol. 34). (1993). Wilmington, DE, DE: Scholarly Resources.

[10] Smith, Eugene W. Passenger Ships of the World: Past and Present. George H. Dean, 1978.

[11] Smith, Eugene W. Passenger Ships of the World: Past and Present. George H. Dean, 1978.

[12] “Port of Antwerp, Belgium to Port of New York, United States Sea Route and Distance.”,      antwerp,belgium/port-of-new-york,united-states/.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Germans to America (Vol. 34). (1993). Wilmington, DE, DE: Scholarly Resources.

[15] “Castle Garden”. Castlegarden.Org, 2021,

[16] Amana Church Membership Records, in archive collection of the Amana Heritage Museum, Amana, Iowa.

[17] Amana, Iowa,  Amana Heritage Museum, Anderson Cards, the Koch Verzeichnis

[18] Bourret, Joan Liffring-Zub and John Zug, Amanas yesterday: a religious communal society: a story of seven villages in Iowa: historic photographs 1900 – 1932. IA City, IA: Penfield Press, 2003

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Year: 1880; Census Place: Amana, Iowa, Iowa; Roll: 345; Family History Film: 1254345; Page: 146D; Enumeration District: 201; Image: 0155.  1880 United States Federal Census. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Iowa, U.S., Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data:  “Iowa Births and Christenings, 1830–1950.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.

[24] Amana Church Membership Records, in archive collection of the Amana Heritage Museum, Amana, Iowa.

[25] Daily Republican Times, Ottawa, Illinois,Vol XXXII no. 291, 13 June 1910, Pg 4.

[26] Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1871-1998,” database, FamilySearch ( : 16 March 2018), Emma L Mataway, 18 Aug 1956; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, source reference , record number , Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm .

[27] “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch( : 12 December 2014), Fred Reinhardt, 1917-1918; citing La Salle County no 1, Illinois, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,614,034.

[28] Illinois Births and Christenings, 1824-1940,” database, FamilySearch( : 12 December 2014), Anna Reinhardt, 28 Apr 1889; Birth, citing Ottawa, La Salle, Illinois; FHL microfilm 1,710,998.

[29] Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File.  Source Information: U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014.  Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.

[30] Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSallle, Illinois cemetery records, Cemetery card CCY-TS, Burial Location BU, 47C (N ½) Record # 5856.

[31] Ottawa Avenue Cemetery, Ottawa, LaSallle, Illinois cemetery records, Cemetery card CCY-TS, Burial Location BU, 47C (N ½) Record # 5856.

The Winter of My Life

Bruce and I on our 25th Wedding Anniversary 1996

Since my husband passed away last June, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my my life before I knew my husband and our life together. I found a post on Facebook that described how I have been feeling since June. I don’t know who the author is so I can’t give him or her credit. It is something for both young and old to think about.

And then it is winter you know . . .time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of passing years.

Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day. And taking a nap is not a treat anymore . . . it’s mandatory! Cause if I don’t on my own free will . . . I will just fall asleep where I sit.

It seems like yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But here it is . . . the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise . . . how did it get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter so so far off that I could not fathom it or fully image what it would be like. But here it is . . . my friends are retired and getting grey . . . they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better shape and some are in worse shape than me , , , I see the great change . . . not like the ones I remember who were young and vibrant, but like me their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we use to see and never thought we would be.

And so I enter into this new season of life unprepared for all the aches and pains and loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I done but never did. But at least I know that though the winter has come and I am not sure how long it will last . . . This I know that when it is over on this earth . . . it is not over . . . a new adventure begins.

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done . . . things I should have done, but indeed there are many things I’m happy to have done. It is all in a lifetime.

So if your not in your winter yet . . . let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly. Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by quickly. So do what you can today as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all seasons of your life . . . so live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember . . and hope they appreciate and love you for all the things you have done for them in all years past.

Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one. Live well and enjoy today! Do something fun! Be Happy! Have a great day! Remember it is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. Live happy in this year and every year.”

I love and miss you!

I haven’t posted in awhile.  My husband was sick for several years and in the last two years I became his full-time caretaker.  He succumbed to his illness on June 8, 2020.  Since his passing, I am having hard time getting back to my genealogy and this blog.  This last week I have worked on genealogy again.  Today I thought I would do a short post to let everyone know I am still here and hope to post more often now that I have more time and things (I hope) have settled down.  

We had a nice grave site ceremony for my husband with the Marines and a flag ceremony.  Afterwards, we had a picnic lunch at the state park near our home, one of my husband’s favorite places. 

He loved the outdoors and nature.  Before he got sick our favorite thing to do was to go camping in our trailer and before that in our pop-up trailer, and tent camping when we were young.  

He also loved cars and all things mechanical.  His first car was a 54 Buick that he inherited from his father.  When I met Bruce he owned a ’69 Plymouth Barracuda and ’69 450 Honda Motorcycle.  I have many fond memories of our motorcycle adventures.  He noticed me because of my ’69 Camaro Convertible. 

We traveled all over the United States and saw many of the National Parks. Our favorite is Glacier National Park in Montana.  We have been to most states.  Our plan was to drive to Alaska when I retired, but it was not to be.  By the time I retired there was no way that Bruce could have endured a trip like that.  But I have many good memories the trips we did take.

Bruce loved sports and played baseball, softball, tennis, and ran. He was an avid sports fan of the White Sox, Cubs, and Bears. He enjoyed working on his own cars and machines. He was very handy around the house building us a fireplace and cabinets. His last few years his physical activity was diminished until he was unable to walk. It was so sad to watch my once athletic husband unable to do things for himself that he once enjoyed.

We were together 49 years and hoping for 50.  If you count the year we dated, we were together 50.  

On Bruce’s last day I told him that we didn’t have an easy life, but we had a good life.  He told me he was happy and thank me for taking care of him.  There was no need to thank me, I would do it all over again. As he took his last breath, he held my hand and squeezed it. It was his last “I love you” to me.   I love him and miss him, but at least he suffers no more and is at peace. 

Man rescued from fiery trap

Last week’s challenge from 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was “fire”.  I am a little late in posting this time.  Today’s post is about my husband’s aunt, uncles, and cousin and the house originally owned by  his grandfather.

Early on Monday March 9, 1959 a fire started in the first-floor living room of 4916 W. 32nd Place, Cicero, Cook, Illinois and quickly spread to the rest of the house.  By the time the fireman arrived the fire was already eating away at the attic walls.  Fire equipment was called to the scene from Morton Park, Warren Park, Clyde and Hawthorne fire stations.   Bystanders alerted the firemen that a man was still in the building.  They rushed in and found Eugene Jelen, a tenant, unconscious on the second floor between the kitchen and a hallway door.  The Firemen carried him down a stairway to safety.  Eugene suffered from smoke inhalation and second and third degree burns on the left side of his body.  If the fireman had arrived a few seconds later Eugene would have died.  Leo Gorski, owner of the building, was also hurt with first and second degree burns on his hand.  It is not known if the others who lived there were home at time.  The firemen deduced that the fire started in the first floor living room by a cigarette. The damage to the 70 year old building was $8,000 and $4,000 for the contents.[1]  Leo had no insurance on the house so they were unable to rebuild.  What was left of the house was sold, torn down, and a new house built by new owners.  Leo and his brother Stanley rented an apartment across the alley.  Constance, John, and Eugene Jelen moved to another apartment in Cicero.[2]

My husband’s grandfather, Stanley Gorski, bought the house sometime during the 1920’s.[3]  Stanley emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1891 and settled in Cicero, Cook, Illinois where he and his wife Mary raised seven children.[4]  Stanley worked in a stone quarry and for a railroad during his life and somehow managed to save enough money to buy a house at 4916 W. 32nd Place in Cicero.[5] 

The building was a two flat with a ground floor basement.  In 1930 Stanley and his wife are living in one unit with four of their sons, Stanley Jr., Leo, Chester, and Felix.  Their daughter, Constance, is living in the other unit with her husband, John Jelen, and two children, Eugene and Geraldine.  Also living in the house is his married son, John, with his wife, Frances and their son, John Jr.[6]  My husband said that there were rooms in the basement so perhaps that is where John, Francis, and their son lived.  By 1951 the only ones left living in the house were Stanley Jr. and Leo living on the first floor, and Constance and her family living on the second floor.[7] 

In Cicero the houses are close together with a gangway between them, but on one side of this house is an empty space, room enough for another house.  But in 1930 – 1960 this space remained empty and was part of the property at 4916 W. 32nd Place.  The entire yard was fenced in and there was a garage in back.[8]   Mary passed away in 1933[9] and Stanley passed away in 1951[10] leaving the house to his son Leo.[11]  Too bad there was such a tragic end to this house that Stanley worked so hard to purchase back in the 1920’s.

Here is the original newspaper article:

img395 (2)

Copyright © 2020 Gail Grunst

[1] Berwyn Life , (Berwyn Illinois), 11 March 1959, Page 5.

[2] Person knowledge from their nephew, Bruce Grunst.

[3] Year: 1930; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 32A; Enumeration District: 2099; FHL microfilm: 2340233.  Source Information: 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Year: 1900; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 22; Enumeration District: 1150; FHL microfilm: 1240292  Source Information: 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.

[6] Year: 1930; Census Place: Cicero, Cook, Illinois; Page: 32A; Enumeration District: 2099; FHL microfilm: 2340233  Source 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002.  Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

[7] Personal knowledge from their nephew, Bruce  Grunst

[8] Ibid.

[9] Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: “Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916–1947.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original records.

[10] Chicago Tribune, (Chicago, Illinois), 18 December 1951, Page 45.

[11] Berwyn Life , (Berwyn Illinois), 11 March 1959, Page 5.

Water, Water Everywhere

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Bathing Beauties 1921

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this week is “water”.  I thought about this for awhile and all of my ancestors came over to the United States on boats so there is nothing new there.  Then I thought about my mother’s family always seemed to live near water or take vacations that involved water.  I decided on more of a pictorial history of my mother’s family and water. 

My maternal grandmother was born in Ottawa, Illinois and lived there for part of her youth. “Ottawa, Illinois is situated at the junction of the Fox and Illinois rivers, nearly the geographical center of LaSalle County.  The Fox enters the Illinois from the northeast and with its rapid currents feeds the Chicago and Illinois Canal, which follows the banks of the Illinois River.” [1]    Both her mother and father were brought up in Ottawa, Illinois.  Her paternal grandparents lived on Chapel Street in Ottawa and across the street from the river. While still a child her mother moved to Chicago and they lived not far from Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park Zoo.  As adult she and my grandfather moved to Villa Park, Illinois and there is no lake or river near by.  But they did take vacations to lakes.  The one place they went most was to Fox Lake, Illinois. 

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Grandma and her best friend at Fox Lake, Illinois 

They also liked Lake Como, Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Dells was another popular place with them.  In fact my grandparents went to the Wisconsin Dells for their honeymoon.  

Helen at Lake Como

Grandma at Lake Como, Wisconsin

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Grandparents, Mom and ? at Big Smoky Falls, Wolf River, Wisconsin 1929

Starved Rock was another favorite destination. Starved Rock was close to Ottawa, Illinois and on the bank of the Illinois River.  This was the family’s favorite picnic spot.  They still picnicked there when I was growing up.  If we didn’t picnic at Starved Rock we picnicked at Buffalo Rock across the river from Starved Rock.  My grandmother would say that there were at least 2 or 3 drownings a year in the Illinois River because of the undertow. 

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Great Grandparents at the top of Starved Rock

My grandfather liked to fish and some of their excursions involved fishing.

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Grandpa, dog Rudy and friend with 3 Pikes and a Bass at Sand Lake 1929

Copyright © 2020 Gail Grunst


  1. Ottawa Old and New: A Complete History of Ottawa Illinois 1823 – 1914 (Ottawa, Illinois: Republican – Times Ottawa, 1912 – 1914), p. 39.


Nearly forgotten Uncle Donnie

Uncle Donnie

Uncle Donnie

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this week is “nearly forgotten”.  The first person to come to mind was my Uncle Donnie.  I wrote his story in 2013 and am re-posting it today.  I loved this man, and I am sad about all the years that were lost with him. To find out about Donnie’s nearly forgotten life read on.

My father’s brother was mentally challenged.  Back when my father was growing up the term used was mentally retarded.  His brother, Donnie, was 14 years younger than him.  I don’t know if Donnie was born that way or if something happened after birth.  This was in the 1930’s, and they did not know as much as they do today on how to treat people with mental retardation.  He lived at home with my grandparents, and my grandmother did the best she knew how.  My grandmother died the year before I was born so I never knew her.  When she died, my grandfather had to make a tough decision of what to do with Donnie.  He had to go to work and could not leave him at home alone.  He could not afford to have someone come in and take care of him.  He decided to put Donnie in a state mental hospital.  My father and grandfather would go visit him regularly.   After my grandfather passed away in 1955, my mother and father would go see Donnie and send him clothes and things.  As a little girl, I would ask to go along.  My parents always refused to take me.  My father said “You never know what these people are going to do”, and he didn’t think it was safe to take me.  I asked why he couldn’t live with us.  My dad explained that Donnie couldn’t be left alone.  You never knew what he was going to do. He could set the house on fire, or hurt my brother or me.  He could not use the washroom on his own. There were more reasons, but now I can’t remember all of them now.  After many years went by,  my mom and dad quit going.  My father claimed that Donnie didn’t even know him anymore.  

In 1984 my dad passed away and my mother followed in 1987.  My brother and I had never met Donnie, and by this time it had been so long since my parents had visited that we didn’t even know where he was at.  We didn’t know how to go about finding him.  For ten years after my mother’s death, we didn’t try to find him.  Then one day my brother was going through some papers of my mothers, and he found some information that told what state hospital Donnie was in.  He contacted the hospital and Donnie was no longer there, but they were able to tell my brother that Donnie was still alive and where he was now residing.  My brother then called the hospital where Donnie resided, and he was told that Donnie was doing OK.  They invited us to come see him.  They seemed thrilled to find out that this man had a family.

In April of 1997 my brother and I made a day trip to see Donnie, and I met my uncle for the first time.  He looked at us with curiosity.  His nurse told him we were his family.  He shook our hands, and we sat on a porch.  He had a hard time communicating.  But you could see he was taking in everything.  I think he knew way more that he was able to communicate.  I asked him questions which he couldn’t answer, and told him that I was his Brother George’s daughter.  He repeated, “George”.  I told him George was in heaven with his mother and father.  He seemed to understand.  I asked him if he watched baseball and did he like the Cubs.  He said, “The Cubs suck.”  He would make hand motions when he wanted something.  He started pulling on his shirt and trying to unbutton it.  I asked him if he was uncomfortable and he said, “shirt sucks.”  He also said a few swear words that came out clear.  Other than that most of what he said, I could not understand.  But I felt we made a connection with him.  I asked him if he could give me a hug and he did.  When he was given commands he obeyed them.  He knew what was being said to him.  He was able to go to the bathroom by himself and keep himself clean.  They told us if we came back to bring pictures of my dad and grandparents.  He resembled my father and was a kind man.  He was not as bad off as my father had described.  Maybe it was because they knew more in recent years on how to help people with mental disabilities.  The administrator showed us his records going back to when he was admitted in 1946.  We did go back many times after that day, and brought my husband and children.  We went there for special events like Christmas parties, picnics, etc. We brought pictures of my dad and grandparents.  He ran his fingers over the picture of my dad and said, “George”.   I brought a picture of his mother and he said, “Ma”.  Another time he told me that his mother was with God.  He made me tear up many, many times.   Donnie would tear up when he saw us.  So I believe he knew we were his family.  My brother brought him a video of trains because we remembered my father saying he liked trains, and my father would take him to the train yards to look at the trains. I looked forward to each visit.  I had fallen in love with my Uncle Donnie.  Unfortunately, Donnie had a heart attack and died in 2002 at 68 years old.  The hospital had a memorial service for him.  I was unable to attend because I had Pneumonia at the time, but my brother went to it.  I am happy we had five wonderful years to get to know and love him.  Uncle Donnie is now free to fly without any physical or mental limitations.  May he rest in peace.

Coopyright © Gail Grunst 2013

Naughty Great-Grandpa part 2

A while back I wrote about my great-grandfather Rudolph Kaiser who may have left a family in Germany when he came to the United States and started a another family here. For back ground to this post you might want to read my original posts about Rudolph Kaiser at Naughty Great Grandpa and Letter’s from Germany to Rudolph Kaiser.

I just had the second letter from Germany transcribed.  It is dated 13 November 1910 and is written by his son this time.

Letter Transcribed:

Page 1

Allenstein, 13 November 1910

Mr. Kaiser,

After many efforts, we were able to determine your valuable address.  We only found out from Mother this year that our father is in America.  So we decided to write a few lines.  Hopfully, they will be received with pleasure.  Things are currently very bad for us.  Mother is alone with Ida because I have been drafted into the

Page 2

Military, Infantry Regiment 146. 6  Allenstein Company.  As a result, it has not been possible for me to work as I must now serve two years.  Ida works in a factory in Berlin.  Unfortunately, her earnings are very meagre.  Mother has been sickly of late so she is no longer abler to earn any money.  I Rudolf, have decided to move to America after my service.  Dear Father, write

Page 3

To me please and tell me how you are and how it is in America.  Hopefully, it is better than in Berlin because everything is expensive here and work is hard to come by.  Therefore dear Father, we ask you kindly, please reply.

Warmest regards

From your children


From afar


Rudolf                                                                                                                   Ida

Inf. Regt. 146.                                                                                                    Berlin S.O. 33

5th Company                                                                                                       Skalitzerstr. 54a



Page 4

Musketier [private]

Rudof Pielenz

Inf. Regt. 146.

6th comp.

Room 22


I have two more letters that I want transcribed and will do as I can afford it.  I am hoping one of them contains answers to all my questions that I have about these circumstances.  I can’t say it any better than I did in my previous post about my feelings toward this woman and her children and my great-grandfather.  I can’t help wonder about my great-grandmother in all this.  Did she know?  If so what did think or do about it?  Did this cause a riff in there marriage?  Did my grandfather know?  If he did, he never told anyone.  It was kept a secret, I think, except for the buried letters.  By the time they were found there was no one around that could read, write, or speak German.  Years ago my mother asked a German neighbor to read them and tell her what they said.  The neighbor did not transcribe word for word, but just gave my mother a summary of the letters so we had an idea of the information contained in them.  

Here’s my mother’s notes:

Mom's notes about German letters

Mom's notes about the German letters 2


I have a letter dated 1914 which corresponds to the note “wounded in Russia 1914 discharged”.  Story to be continued when next letter is translated.

Copyright © 2020 Gail Grunst



Long Line at Western Electric

This weeks 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompt is long line.

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In 1905 Western Electric Company built a large factory complex in Cicero, Illinois.  It was named Hawthorne works after the original name of the town Hawthorne, later incorporated into Cicero.  Hawthorne produced telephone equipment and also some consumer products such as refrigerators and fans.  The Hawthorne plant employed 45,000 people at the height of its operation.[1]

My husband had a long line of family members that worked for Western Electric that included his father, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Some of the family members working for Western Electric moved on to other jobs, but not his father and brother. 

His father, Elmer Grunst, started working for Western Electric in 1918.[2]  He started out as a draftsman and worked his way up to supervisor in the equipment engineering department at the Canal Street location in Chicago.  He was active in the science and the flower and garden clubs.  He was a member of Hawthorne Chapter, Telephone Pioneers of America.[3] Elmer retired from Western Electric in January 1962 after 43 years of service. A retirement party was held at the American Legion Hall in Riverside, Illinois, and in spite of 10 degrees below zero weather over 200 people showed up.[4] 

Elmer, Gary, Bernie Grunst 1971 (2)

Elmer’s son also named Elmer went to work for Western Electric shortly after serving in WWII.  Elmer as a newcomer in 1946 scored 11 points for the Western Electric Engineer’s basketball team.  Further down in the same article his cousin Elmer Weis is mentioned, another example of a family member working for Western Electric.[5]  Throughout his years he played on many teams for the Western Electric.  In addition to basketball, Elmer played baseball, football, boxing, golf, and bowling.  There may even be some other sport that I have forgotten.  Elmer was a very athletic person.  If my memory serves me right, Elmer retired from Western Electric shortly before it closed in 1983.[6]  Elmer retired with about 37 years of service. 

The two Elmer’s combined worked at Western Electric 70 years. 

Copyright © 2020 Gail Grunst


[2] Berwyn Life (Berwyn Illinois), W.E. To Honor 40-Year Vets, 7 December 1958, Sun, Pg.6

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brookfield Citizen (Brookfield, Illinois), 25 January 1962, Pg. 13

[5] Berwyn Life (Berwyn, Illinois), Four way tie in W. E. Cage Loop, 1 March 1946, Fri, Pg 8


Book Giveaway

pacific street

Read the book review for Pacific Street by Amy B. Cohen on the Book Review Page.  I usually get my books from the library, but I bought this one.  I would like to pass it on to some lucky reader. If you would like this book, please fill out the form below by January 24, 2020.  The winner will be drawn on January 25th, and I will notify you by email.  Don’t forget to include your address so I can mail it to you.