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Category Archives: Chicago

Welcome to the World of Trudel Adler

Welcome to the World of Trudel Adler

Trudel Adler, my mother, came to the United States 1934 when she was 21 years old. She frequently wrote long letters home to her family in Germany and asked them to save her letters and they did — over two hundred handwritten pages.

Trudel was an amazing young woman who grew into a fascinating warm wonderful woman, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was funny, serious, forthright, and considerate. She worked hard all of her life and gave to the world more than she ever got. The tale of the rest of her life was full of challenge,sadness and joy. These early years are more than that. They reveal the strength of character, the chutspa, the love, that helped her through all those years. Preparing her letters for this blog has been like entering a conversation with her and getting to know the young woman I never met.

Trudel as in Strudel

When asked how to pronounce or spell her name, Trudel, would reply, “Trudel, as in strudel.” She always said the “s” in strudel was for sugar and she was sweet enough without it. But all was not sweetness and light. In 1933, Trudel wrote in her diary, “There is no future for Jewish youth in Germany. I think I shall go to Palestine.”

Now in Chronological Order

On May 8, 1934 she sailed for the United States. What happened next is told in her letters which are now posted in chronological order. If you are on the home page just scroll down. Otherwise, start here.

(Note: Because the usual order of posts in a blog is latest first, the navigation links at the bottom of each screen are reversed – “older posts” will take you to the next set. “Newer posts” will take you to the previous set. I’ll find a way to fix that later. An alternative method would be to use the month by month archived posts.)


Here is a link to the most recent post:

  • September 7, 1937 – The Last Letter.
  • Trudel on the ship

    Trudel on the S.S. Manhattan, May 1934

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    May 31 1934 Goodbye NewYork, Hello Chicago

    May 31 1934  Goodbye NewYork, Hello Chicago

    May 31st 9:30 a.m.

    First letter from 1460 E. 57th Street Chicago.

    I am still in bed listening to Strauss Waltzes over the radio. How lazy can one be?

    Now to continue my report [about the last day in New York] Sunday afternoon Kurt D. picked me up and we tried unsuccessfully to visit some friends. The picture I was supposed to deliver from our landlord I left with the janitor since the lady was very impolite.

    Then we visited the German District. One beer stube next to the other. Typical German. The weather was so beautiful that we sat near the river in the park as long as the sun was out. Then we got seats the top of a double-decker bus in the front seats and rode along the river as far as the new George Washington bridge. This bridge is only a few years old and you have probably seen pictures of it already.

    George Washington Bridge (1934)

    We crossed over to the New Jersey side. It is all different there. Small single homes with large yards. Lots of rich people have their weekend homes there. When we returned home pretty late there were still a few people there to say goodbye to me. Everybody was so wonderful.

    At 8:30 Monday morning, Rudy H. picked me up with his car and a big basket of fruit to take me to the bus depot.

    At 10:00 a.m. we left. The trip was very nice. I am sure I could not have seen so much from a train. Since I picked my seat right behind the driver I could see straight ahead, right and left.

    Trudel behind the driver.

    Just imagine first we went underneath the Hudson across to New Jersey, then Ohio, beautiful view. Reminded me of the shore of the Achensee but the company was not that nice–it was o.k. So next to me sat an American and I had to talk English as well as I could, not too much since we both slept a great part of the ride.

    Photoshop 1934 -"Trudel on the bus."

    At 12:30 a.m. in Pittsburgh I had to change buses. I asked a German lady for a translation when we were having dinner and she then sent the only other German speaking person on board to me. It made it much, much easier for me. Since it was very hot in the bus I slept a lot again. I’ll have to get used to a lot of things.

    In Ohio I expected to meet Uncle Julius Seckbach’s older son thru whom I got the free travel pass. He works for Greyhound but he did not show up.

    on the bus

    "32 Hours in the bus to Chicago"


    At 5:00 p.m. I arrived in my new hometown. Both Aunt Henny and uncle Julius picked me up and we went straight to their apt. They both were very nice. Aunt H. has not changed at all since she has in FFM [Frankfort] 10 yrs. ago. Only maybe a little heavier. Uncle Julius I would have recognized immediately from his photo.

    Here in the apt. were 2 welcome signs with green decorations and a very big bunch of lilacs. Really very nice. First of all I took a much needed bath after traveling 32 hrs.

    I only saw 1 train on the trip. There are no gates on the crossings and the driver has to stop and check if a train is coming. Also I noticed that there are no crosses in the cemeteries, just plain slabs of stone. Has one of you been back at our cemetery? How does Mother’s grave look? Did you plant anything? How about getting a stone? I want to know everything.

    After walking along the lake a while we sat and talked for a long time. I am very much looking forward to swimming in that beautiful Lake Michigan. We live only a few blocks away.

    Yesterday after sleeping late we packed our food in shopping bags and went to the World’s Fair. We tried to meet people there but missed each other. We just walked around to get a quick look at things. Lots of it looks very interesting. For instance the very large Chrysler Exhibit would be interesting for Lu.

    Thank G’d it was not terribly hot and we stayed until 11:00 p.m. I only saw 1 acquaintance from the boat and we will try to get together some time. You have to go really several times to get to see most of it., but if it is as hot as today nobody can make me go there. Also the fair is all along the lake I rather go in the water than about the shore.

    After sleeping late I am sitting here in a very thin dress from Aunt Henny, listening to the radio and sweating. She also gave me a large brimmed straw hat, which I want to alter for myself to use instead of a sun umbrella.

    That’s it for today. Hope to hear from you soon again.

    Love & Kisses,

    Trudel


    Shortlink http://wp.me/p1yA95-16

     

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    June 5, 1934 “Feeding Ice Cubes to the Chickens”

    June 5, 1934 “Feeding Ice Cubes to the Chickens”

    June 5th, 1934

    Dear ones,

    You can get here so many things that we did not have at home or they were much, much too expensive. But I also miss some things. For instance malt bonbons, peppermint tea, good chocolate candies, and bakery goods.

    It is now Tuesday–11:15 p.m. On Sunday we took a 4 hr. bus ride. Our apartment is on the south east side of Chicago and the cemetery is N.W. so I could see a big part of this big city.

    Hyde Park Boulevard


    We sat on the top of the 2 decker bus so I could see more on that 2 hr. trip each way. We went along the lake on Michigan Ave, the best and the most expensive shopping area, along the Gold Coast where all the millionaires live and then across the city to the cemetery, then we walked for about ½ hr. west almost to the end of the city. It is hard to imagine the tremendous size of Chicago.

    We ate in a German restaurant. There are many Germans here. Yesterday morning I finally made acquaintance with Lake Michigan, at 10:00 a.m. I jumped into the nice cool wonderful water. The only trouble is the cover of soot on top and you feel dirtier when you come out and feels dirtier than when you go in. Also the sand on the beach is very dirty.

    Trudel in the Park

    Anyway the whole city is rather dirty and the people are very sloppy — not neat at all. There are beautiful parks all around and people sitting and laying on them throw papers and bottles all around. No matter where.

    Actually I like Chicago as a City much better than N.Y. It is not so much stores and has those beautiful parks but is much, much more stretched out. Also life seems to be much slower and more at ease.

    Pigeons in the Park

    Just think of it. I am wearing slacks all day. Even on the street and shopping. Except when I am going downtown. When we went swimming I wore on the way my bathing suit, swim shoes and a short rubber cape. No cap. My comb I took in my hand, and walked home the same way but wet.

    Of course I took a shower to get rid of the dirt. Aunt Henny only wore a bathing suit, white shoes and a cape she had made from the brown silk raincoat from 10 yrs. ago.

    The rest of the day we sewed, washed, and ironed. I received some clothes in N.Y. including a nice multicolor evening dress which I have to alter a little, Earnale? [Erna is Trudel’s other sister.] Do you need your black one that you loaned me for my trip? I certainly will not use it this summer. But it was perfect for the voyage.

    Last night I went with Aunty to her German Singing club. I had to bite my lips not to laugh out loud. It seemed very funny and strange to me. About 4 old women as old and ugly as can be. All German of course. Aunty H. is only Jewish member. I was very nicely received with applause. Afterwards we picked up Uncle at his Gesang Verein and the very friendly and intelligent conductor [of the singers] drove us home in his car.

    It is really funny that everybody asks me just about the same questions. First, how do you like it here? Next: How is your father Adolf? It seems all the people I meet know him and want to hear about him and his family and friends.

    There are several relatives here but some of them seem to be proches. I do not know why. This afternoon I was downtown with Aunty. We went by streetcar as far as the building made of chewing gum, the Wrigley Bldg. It is all white, very tall, clean and illuminated at night, and really stands out very much against all those other dark skyscrapers.

    Wrigley Building

    Wrigley Building


    We went first to a wholesale hat manufacturer.* One of the two owners is a nephew of Uncle. Unfortunately he was not in, but his partner talked to me and promised to see if they can use me. Aunty does not want me to start working before July 1st. Also I am pretty tired. But I would very much like to start tomorrow.

    I hope to get used to Chicago air.

    Maxwell Street - One source of Fresh Fruit

    [Comment (apparently inserted during translation): It turned out that Mr. & Mrs. Seckbach expected me to be their housekeeper: cooking, washing, ironing etc. But that was absolutely out. — O.K. Back to letter.”]

    Next we visited Alice Weil in the Post Office. She was like everybody — very nice — and we made a date for tomorrow evening. Then we visited a sister-in-law of Uncle. He is not on friendly terms with her as apparently with a lot of people. He has a son Martin I have not met yet.

    Next the Boston Store, a very large dept. store. The buyer in the fur department was the first lady with whom Auntie made friends when she came here 19 yrs. ago. A very nice lady who she made a date with me for lunch one day next week and introduced me also to the buyer of the ladies hat department, who will do his best in my behalf. Sure hope something will work out soon.

    Department Stores and "car elevator"


    After that we did a little shopping and then thru Marshall Fields the biggest, dept. store in the world. After picking up Uncle in his office we stopped to buy groceries for the next couple of days before going home.

    Uncle is one of the strangest persons I ever met. He seems to earn good money but is as stingy as can be as I have never met anybody before. Auntie seems to know just how to get along with him, also no matter what she says he insists on the opposite. And G’d forbid if one contradicts him. Then he will start talking about it 50 times again. Otherwise he is o.k. when he is left alone.

    I get along with him very well so far — also he is not on speaking terms with all his relatives but he seems to like me. It is a good thing he can’t see how I laugh about him behind his back. Last week the 2 had an argument and the next day he brought her a pretty dress from downtown. Apparently he is very fond of her.

    Downtown Chicago


    He is quite egotistical and can’t stand it if she talks friendly to someone else, and she cannot visit anybody. She wishes I would not got to work at all but keep her company all the time. She is really very good to me. There is not a lot of work here in the apt. except for the dirty soot that comes thru the windows. 5 min. after cleaning the window sills are black again.

    Today I had a letter from Gustl. Willy Bloeser called just as I was leaving. She gave him my Chicago phone number and address. When I look around the room here I see all my dear ones several times around the walls. There are even 4 photos of myself. It is now already 12:30 and we have a lot planned for tomorrow. Is it very warm in Frankfurt? It was 90 degrees here today. I do sweat a lot and hopefully will lose some weight.

    Aunt Henny

    Trudel's Aunt Henny

    Loads of love & kisses from your very happy Runaway.

    Trudel

    P.S. It is so hot here that they are feeding the chickens ice cubes so they won’t lay boiled eggs!!


    http://wp.me/p1yA95-1C

    *Trudel was trained in millinery [hat making] in Germany.

     

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    June 9, 1934 “I have already one order for a hat.”

    June 9, 1934 “I have already one order for a hat.”

    June 9, 1934

    My dear Goldkinder,

    Many thanks for Erna’s postal card from Strassburg. I hope you all are o.k. but wish you would write at least to Aunt Henny once.

    Wednesday morning I went with her to choir practice and met some very nice people there incl. the director who is from FFM. He is in charge of all the Gesang Vereins German singing societies) here. While they sang I wrote a few letters. Then we did a little shopping and had dinner in a Chinese restaurant.

    Did any of you ever eat chop suey? It is a real Chinese dish and I liked it very much. Vegetables I had never heard of. Shrimps and a very tasty gravy. The waiter a Chinese student kept coming to our table to talk to us.

    Afterwards we went to Weils. What a pleasure. We had so very much to tell each other. Aunt Jenny? told a lot of ancient stories. It was a lot of fun. Nothing about her sister here. They have not talked together since her husband died 2 yrs ago. What is the sister’s name? I’ll try to find out something.

    Jenny claims she wrote 2 long letters to Doddo after they were in Europe a few years ago but you never answered. Is that correct? I doubt it. We talked until 11:30 p.m. I will visit them again next week. The 2 daughters are very nice.

    Alice, the younger, works for the post office and Jenny plays piano in concerts and as accompanist for singers etc.

    I have never seen such an apt. It is a big hotel, you have to take an elevator up. Then you walk into 1 large room, with a sleeping couch. That is Aunt Jenny’s bed. Otherwise there is a sofa and 2 big easy chairs.

    Next to it is a kitchen as practical as can possibly be. In the middle is a gas range with a pilot light burning constantly. To get one of the burners lighted you only have to press a button and the pilot light will turn it on. All you have to do is turn the handle of the burner you want, push the button and the stove is on. Without a match or anything else. The other half of the kitchen is the dining room like in most homes. A table and chairs.

    Now back to the living room. There is a big double door and when you open it there is a double bed standing up against the wall. It comes out very easily and it is ready for sleeping. It is called an inador bed. That is where both girls sleep. Like in every apt there is a beautiful bathroom. The closet where the inadoor bed stands has room on both sides for a wardrobe.

    Every morning a girl comes to clean the place. All together this costs $60 a week. Can you picture it? It is certainly very practical but would be too small for my taste.

    On Thursday the weather was bad. We stayed in bed until noon, and all day at home. Uncle had taken some work home the day before and we just went for a little walk around the neighborhood. We tried to visit a friend of Auntie’s but only her very nice 20 yr old daughter was at home. We had a very pleasant visit although she understood very little German and I notice more and more how little English I really know.

    Trudel with uncle

    Trudel walking with her uncle on a chilly summer day


    She picked me up Friday morning and took me along to the University nearby where she is studying. It was very interesting. We went to 2 lectures but I understood only about 1/3. But I learned a few things anyhow. We ate lunch there and I met 2 more girls one of whom knows Aunt H.

    At 3 o’clock my 1st friend here named Edith Grossberg, put me on a bus to meet Auntie downtown. We went again to Marshall Fields which is more like a museum than a store and then to the busiest corner in the world right in the middle of the city corner State and Madison Streets. Here the city is divided in 4 parts. Everyone starts with #1 going east, west, north and south.

    There at the Boston Store I bought a very simple white linen suit. Actually a skirt with 3/4 coat for $10. I really needed it because of the terrible heat which I do not like. And then in between there are very cool days. No matter how hot it is one cannot go out without a coat or sweater. The weather can change so fast.

    White Linen Suite

    Trudel in her new white linen suit

    Auntie bought a very nice black wool coat. Also for $10. I will pick up my suit next week since I had no money with me. But they will hold it for me. You can go into the stores and try on all kinds of clothes and leave without buying.

    From there we went to pick up Uncle and to eat. Auntie and I went to a movie and Uncle Julius went to a stamp auction. We walked a little to see everything in bright lights. Really beautiful–especially along State St. with all the lighted up shop windows. Looks almost white.

    On our trip home at night we always pass the World’s Fair. You cannot imagine all those lights in different colors changing all the time.

    Worlds fair at night

    Postcard of the World's Fair at Night

    This morning we moved furniture around our apt. We all like changes. We re-arranged the furniture in our bedroom and like it better for the time being.

    Right now I hear on the radio a song I heard constantly on the boat and saw the movie. Every night when we danced they played it at least once. I liked the melody very much and kept humming it to myself. But now I am getting tired of it. The nice thing about it is the fact that it reminds me of that wonderful time on board. I am not trying to say that it is not nice now. I only worry that I may get too lazy here.

    World's Fair at night

    A reflecting pool at the World's Fair


    On the ship there was constantly something going. Uncle leaves the house at 7:30 a.m. Auntie fixes his breakfast and goes back to bed. We both do not get up until 10 or 11 o’clock. I could find a lot of things to do but don’t feel like it.

    Especially I have to learn more English. Unfortunately we only talk German at home. Uncle won’t do it otherwise. He is still more German than American. I too still like my homeland but I cannot understand that after 30 yrs in this country he has not adopted any manners or customs from here. Only what is from Germany is any good. He hates everything from anywhere else even the U.S.A.

    On the other hand he does not want to go back. His work is beautiful. It is amazing to watch him and see how diplomas etc. come out so fast and perfect. He is very proud of his talent. A typical artist. He is already 62 yrs old.

    Auntie told me a lot about her 19 yrs in U.S.A. this week. It sure had its ups and downs. Whenever she thought things were going well, something happened. Either sickness or a marriage. Now she is trying to do everything to make things nice and pleasant for me. In the beginning she went through a lot of trouble. But in between she also had lots of good times.

    Today it is awfully hot again. I am sweating. Yesterday it was so cold that I was freezing in a suit. I have already one order for a hat, but I have to buy myself a wooden hat block first. I am keeping myself very busy, sewing and fixing for Auntie and myself.

    Next week I intend to go to Weils 1 day to do some work on their sewing machine. We do not have one. (Actually, we have no furniture except 3 beds. Uncle has a closet in his room and we have a very little one in our room and actually live out of our trunks and suitcases.)

    Martin, Uncle’s son, is supposed to come here this evening. So far we have always missed each other. Tomorrow we are going to a picnic of the German choirs. I wonder how that is going to be. At least I will have a chance to dance again. I have missed that.

    I am here 6 weeks already and I am sure a lot of things have happened to you which would be very much of interest to me. You really do not have to write as detailed as I but a little more.

    Today I received a big package of things that I had left behind in N.Y. It got to be 4:00 p.m. now and I do want to write to a few more people and do some sewing. By the way both Auntie and Uncle asked me to send you their regards when ever I write.

    Love,

    Your Noodlesoup.

    p.s. Uncle just came home and told me that I should come for an interview to his nephew’s wholesale millinery business on Monday.


    http://wp.me/p1yA95-1D

     

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    June 12th, 1934 – “Do you notice in what good humor I am in today?”

    June 12th, 1934 – “Do you notice in what good humor I am in today?”

    June 12th, 34
    1460 E. 57th St.

    Oh my beloved dear ones!

    I have written today already 5 letters and 2 postal cards. Now I can wait before writing once more. As I expected, Martin Seckbach did not appear on Saturday, although we stayed home all day waiting for him.

    Between 10-11 p.m. Auntie and I sat in the park nearby to get just a little fresh air. On Sunday as planned we went to the picnic of the German choirs.

    After traveling 1½ hrs on the L and ½ hour marching we finally landed at a beautiful big park at the German Altenheim. There were long tables with benches and we picked a nice shady place to sit and eat our lunch we had brought along.

    Beer Garden

    German Beer Garden at the Bismark Hotel

    I was really in a gay mood and drank more than I have in a long time – 7 small glasses of beer and 2 hard liquor. I was dancing all the time when not eating.

    There was only 1 more Jewish person there. The president of one of those choirs. We spent quite a lot of time walking together Auntie, he and I. He is a very nice guy, 62 yrs old which he does not look, spends a lot of money. The only fault I could find is the fact that he does not dance, but there were plenty others who liked to dance like I do.

    Since I was a newcomer I was very popular but people sure have a lot of nerve here, and you cannot be insulted by what they say. I even went on a merry go round. About 10:00 p.m., the wife and 29 yr old son of this Mr. Max Hirsch came to pick him up. The son does not like to dance but did it just for me. He insisted on talking English with me and claimed he understood everything I said.

    We made a date for next Saturday. It is a dance from his father’s club and although he does not care about those clubs he will go because I said I was going. Do you notice in what good humor I am today? But that has another reason.

    Yesterday morning I spent one hour with Gus Bing, Uncle’s nephew and partner in the very elegant ladies hat factory, Budwig, Inc. The result was that

    1. I will start working there at the beginning of July, 5 days a week for $14.
    2. He gave me a very nice wooden hat block for nothing and a very pretty navy blue taffeta hat.
    3. He will be a delightful boss with loads of money, divorced with 2 children and 40 yrs old.

    Trudel working with hat on block (1936?)


    I sure hope it all works out o.k., that I know enough and work quick enough.

    He was extremely nice. His father was on the Frankfurt opera. He is a real Frankfurter boy.*

    From there we went shopping. I got myself a nice suit for $5 not the linen suit I saw last week. I am sorry I did not bring more jewelry, china etc along. You can get very much money for those things here.

    My things I have not unpacked yet. Auntie wants to look at it with me to see what I should sell.

    We were yesterday in the Italian neighborhood in a store where they buy all those things for good money. I was amazed how much they pay for things. Of course they sell it for double.

    Have you ever heard of “Maxwell St.?” We were there too yesterday. It is the Jewish part of Chicago. There is one little shop next to the other, displays and table on the sidewalk and in the middle of the street. Like a big market. Very crowded. One can buy everything there. Shoe laces, fruit, stoves, meat, sausage. You name it, you can buy it there reasonably if you can argue about the price. It is a real mad house. We finally took the streetcar home.

    Chicago Street Car

    Chicago Street Car (from Chuckman's Collection)


    We past by the neighborhood where there was a big fire recently and it was a heartbreaking sight. The homes are built so poorly like cardboard. No wonder they burnt so fast.

    Well I am getting a cramp in my hand from writing so much today. It is now 4:00 p.m. and I have been writing since 11:00 a.m. My stomach too is telling me it’s time to stop soon.

    Maxwell Street

    Actually this is the first day I have stayed home. It is so hot and I did not feel like running around. Tonight we are going to the only brother of Uncle with whom he is still on talking terms. I hope to go to the synagogue before long. Last night we could not go and this morning we did not know where there would be a minyan here in the neighborhood.

    I also wrote a long letter to Rabbi Salzberger today. Do you, Pappa talk to him sometimes? Tomorrow night we will go to friends. What is new with you? I will not write again until I get some mail from you Lazy Bones. Have you found an apt? Let me hear some news.

    Love and Kisses.

    Trudel


    *”A Frankfurter boy” means he is from Frankfurt.
    Some photos on this page from other sources including CHUCKMAN’S COLLECTION

    Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1yA95-1E

     

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