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June 3, 1934 – Life in Chicago (Storm Clouds Brewing?)

June 3, 1934  – Life in Chicago (Storm Clouds Brewing?)

June 3rd, 1934

Dear ones,

It is already 4 days since I wrote you last. Time goes so very fast a sign that I am having a good time.

It is really very nice here.

I get along very well with both of them [Aunt Henny and Uncle Julius Seckbach] and can play mediator once in a while. Not often necessary.

Every evening the 3 of us take a walk along the lake in the park. For 2 days it was awfully hot and I was glad to stay in the apartment. Not much happened in the meantime.

Walking in the park

Trudel walking past the World's Fair.

Yesterday we went window shopping. One dress or hat shop next to the other. People put much more importance on clothing than in Germany.

The table cloths I brought along were very much liked and welcome, the candies and cookies are almost gone. Please send me the recipe for the cookies soon.

So far I have not contacted anyone here. They are broges* [upset] with Alfred Hamburger since Xmas because of some business affair. Last nite we went to a movie. Now, Sunday afternoon we are going to go for a walk. I do not know where.

The newest sport here is riding bicycles. That is something for me. Tomorrow Aunt Henny and I are planning to go swimming early. I take a shower every day. That is great.

Gas, electric, hot water and heat are included in the rent which is pretty high. This apt. 2 rooms, kitchen and bath cost weekly $25.00. On the other hand clothing and food is very reasonable. Especially fresh fruit which is eaten at any time of the day is very cheap. In Germany I did not used to eat as much fruit in a month as I do here in 1 day. I like especially pineapple.



Lake Front on a Summer Day, 1934

*Trudel wrote “proches,” a French word for “near” in her hand written corrections to a typescript of these letters. However, “broges,” which is is Yiddish for mad or “upset” fits the context. Proches makes no sense in this context.


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December 2, 1934 “Here Santa Claus does not arrive until Xmas but I will try to celebrate on the usual date.”

December 2, 1934 “Here Santa Claus does not arrive until Xmas but I will try to celebrate on the usual date.”

Dec. 2, 1934

My dear Goldkinder,

It is again 1 week since I wrote to you last. Those seven days really go much too fast. Actually I have been writing to you too often lately and am neglecting all my other correspondence. But what am I to do if I always have so much to tell you. Yesterday I received Doddo’s nice letter with the “good luck” penny. It made me very happy. At the same time I received a birthday letter from Ilse.

The tin can from N.Y. has not arrived here yet and I am very much looking forward to it.

Here Santa Claus does not arrive until Xmas

Here Santa Claus does not arrive until Xmas but I will try to celebrate on the the usual date. [St. Nicholas Day is observed on December 6th in much of Europe. Presents were often opened the night before, which happened to be Trudel’s Birthday. Trudel’s Son]

Actually it makes sense that Santa Claus arrives here 2 weeks later. After all it took me 14 days to come here. Anyhow on my birthday it will be exactly 7 months since I left my beautiful Ffm. [Frankfurt am Main, Germany]

Trying to understand why some mail arrives opened

Isn’t it strange that only Doddo’s letter arrived opened? I used to think it was because of the business return address but the one I received yesterday had Beethoven Strasse as the return address. And it wasn’t because of that penny because Ilse’s letter had two hankies and a little box enclosed and was not opened. Anyway many many thanks for all your good wishes and the penny.

Postcard from the Rathskeller

Last Sunday after seeing “A Summer Nights Dream” in English we went to a new restaurant for a change. Just a block away from Leonard’s office. It is a real nice rathskeller, good food and nice dance music.

Monday we did not start work until 1:00 p.m., so I ate lunch with the very nice sister of Miss Samuel who works in a big department store downtown. She works on the 20th floor and when I am not busy I visit her sometimes.

By the way please excuse the ink spots in this letter. I dropped and broke my new 25¢ fountain pen.

Last week I made unintentionally a joke

Last week I made unintentionally a joke. Instead of saying about you girls sitting at your business all day I said on their business which means on top of the work.

Monday I was at Aunt Henny’s for a change. Tuesday eve I was home for a change. Actually, I was at the landlord’s. He gave me permission to sew on his sewing machine and we just visited a little afterwards with him and his wife and another couple who also live in the building. We listened to soft radio music until I thought it was time for me to retire.

Wednesday after work I went to see a German doctor who is here one year from Berlin. I got his address from a man in the wholesale millinery business.

After visiting for a little while we took the bus to the South Side together. On the way I stopped at Lindheimers who seemed very happy to see me. Since they had had supper already they heated up some German style red cabbage for me. I had not really intended to eat there but they did not let me leave until I finished the cabbage and the sausage. That is the big difference. Americans offer one only a cigarette or candy.

Aunt Henny took me to a new very rich customer

Then I met Aunt Henny who took me to a new very rich customer. I was there about 2 hrs and took only 6 hats with me to alter.

The only trouble is the fact that I have to pretend I am from France since only fashions from Paris are o.k. for her. While we were there her very snobbish daughter in a gorgeous evening dress was picked up by 2 young men in dress suits and top hats. Can you imagine?

Next Tuesday I will go there again and I hope she will be satisfied. I ripped all the hats apart and pinned them together as I thought they should look. She seemed to be satisfied with my ideas. She took a very beautiful gold bracelet, took it apart to put as trimming on 1 of the hats. It can always be repaired again. I wish I had 100 customers like that, then I would not have to work in a shop for somebody else.

Thursday we had a Holiday “Thanksgiving”

Xmas Decorations

Christmas on State Street

Thursday we had a Holiday “Thanksgiving.” Since I slept until 4:00 p.m. we skipped breakfast and had at 5 o’clock turkey dinner which is eaten here at this time of year like we had goose at home. On Tuesday we had a raffle at work so 1 of us could buy Turkey dinner. We will do the same once more before Xmas. You have no idea how much fuss they make here about Xmas although they only celebrate 1 day.

Friday we had a day off from work and I was bored all day which gave me time to work on those 6 hats. Yesterday morning, Chanukkah, I had intended to go to synagogue but was too busy.

I visited the uncle of the Berlin doctor. He is in the millinery business and he promised to let me hear from him when the season starts in January. He asked me a few questions in German and I did not realize till much later that I answered him in English.

For lunch I met Edith Grossberg plus father, brother and another lady. On the way I stopped to have some photos taken — 9 for 25¢. All very nice. Hope you like the enclosed.

Everything is beautifully decorated

Before going to Leonard’s office I did some window shopping. Everything is beautifully decorated, especially in the large toy departments. In the dept stores are so many people one can hardly get thru.

Mandel Brothers Tarzan Xmas display

Mandel Bros Dept Store Window

In the evening we had again dinner with the Singers, the portrait painter and his wife and then saw an excellent movie. Sorry I forgot the name. On the way home we stopped in a drug store for hot chocolate and afterward we sat for 2 more hours in their apartment.

Today, as usual on Sundays, I slept late. From 4 to 6 we were with Leonard’s adorable little girl in the Madison Park Hotel for dinner. I sang German songs to her.

And now as usual we are in his office. I really enjoy helping him at work. I can usually guess which book he needs next and I find it in his library of about 1000 books and after open it on the page he needs.

I hope we are going home early tonight. Before going to work tomorrow morning I want to work on those 6 hats.

I wonder if Aunt Henny will go to Florida this year.

I wonder if Aunt Henny will go to Florida this year. She keeps talking about it. But she wants to in the first place not give up her very lucrative Xmas card business now and 2nd she has not received any money from Julius yet and that has to be taken care of. He has paid the Aunt’s lawyer, Mr. Grossberg the 1st installment and Mr. Grossberg took me out for a wonderful lunch because of that.

I do not know what is wrong with Weils. After I explained that I am always busy on Sat and Sunday nights she replied that they are out every evening during the week and only home Sat and Sun. That is just the opposite of what other people do here. Well, we’ll get together 1 of these days.

I hope–I hope you are getting used to your new apt and feel as content there as I do in my Paradise here. Now I cannot think of anything else to tell you except that I ate oysters for the 1st time last week and did not like them.

My love and greetings to one and all.

Your loving,

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December 5 – A Birthday Tribute to Trudel

December 5  –  A Birthday Tribute to Trudel

A note from the editor:
Trudel was born on December 5, 1912 and died on October 12, 2007. By then she had had two sons, four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren, and now a third as well. She was known affectionately by all as “Omi.” A dozen years ago she was honored by her synagogue for a half century of volunteerism and participation. On that occasion, her granddaughter, my daughter Sarah Pelton, made some very special remarks. I thought that on the anniversary of her birthday I would share my daughter’s tribute with Trudel’s fans and followers, to give you an idea of the rich life the young woman you are meeting on these pages had over the next three quarters of a century. Today would have been her 99th birthday.

By the way the “Omi Cookies” Sarah refers to in this tribute are the same kind of cookies Trudel so eagerly awaited from Germany in her last letter and which she will talk about in the next. The recipe is at the bottom of the page.

A Tribute to Omi

Trudel and Sarah at Trudel's 90th birthday tribute

Trudel and Sarah at Trudel's 90th Birthday Party

I’d like to tell you a little story so that you can see my grandmother, Trudel Grossman, through her family’s eyes.

With two honks of the horn of her ‘88 Oldsmobile, Omi, my grandma lets us know she’s arrived for the usual Shabbos dinner at the Grossman house. Omi and Shabbos have come hand in hand for as long as I can remember. On Friday nights we have always alternated dinner at our house and dinner at Omi’s.

The car door opens and out climbs my tiny, high heeled, 86 year old grandmother. She makes her way to the top of our stairs loaded with shopping bags filled with all sorts of things from a dress she mended for me earlier in the week to slips of paper covered with questions she doesn’t want to forget to ask us.

As Omi comes through the door off comes her hat, which by the way she made herself, which makes her hearing aide whistle. Omi fidgets with her hearing aid for a few seconds until the high pitched sounds stops and then takes a seat on the stairs and hands out the goodies from her many shopping bags.

Omi then makes her way to the mirror in the front hall and pulls out her small brush and whisks her soft, thin, grey hair back into a short pony tail. I take a look into the mirror and see a strong, remarkable woman. A loving grandmother, mother, and friend who still drives all across the Chicago area doing errands for not only herself but other people.

After that we make our way over to the dining room. Each of us taking our usual spot. We say the blessing over the candles, the kiddish, and the motzi and then mom brings out dinner. With her usual appetite ( ya know she’s really got a somewhat surprising appetite for the 5 foot petite woman she is) Omi carefully chews off every last bit of chicken from the leg bone. Nothing is ever left on Omi’s plate, or left unused for that matter.

Even ripped nylons don’t go to waste in Omi’s house. She cuts them up and uses them as bands later to hold together anything and everything.

After dinner dad puts on the pot of coffee. While the coffee is brewing I take my place behind Omi’s chair to give her a massage while she tells about her week. She volunteered at the Mount Sinai Resale shop where she recently began doing their book keeping. Omi visited her friend Trudle at her Nursing home in Skokie twice, took her friend Maggie shopping, and did the synagogue’s shopping as well, she went the health club twice for her weekly swim and hot tub treatment, went to Friday night services at the Temple and somewhere in there she found the time to make a batch of her famous Omi cookies to send back to school with me.

For those of you who don’t know, Omi Cookies are a Trudel Grossman Specialty, she’s famous nation wide among her grandchildren’s friends because of these cookies. She has sent them everywhere. To Camp OSRUI in Wisconsin and with all of us on our various trips to Israel. Omi Cookies are simply very thin butter cookies.

But like Omi, looks can be deceiving, they may not look all that special on the outside but they are one of my favorite treats.

Some of you might remember the days when we all used to take a bus up to the Kallah [Synagogue annual retreat]. The bus ride home was never complete without the unveiling and distribution of Omi Cookies. I can remember being six years old and being so proud to pass out MY Omi’s cookies to everyone on the bus!

Trudel in Driver's Seat


As I finish Omi’s massage, Dad brings in the coffee and we have dessert. Once the last drop of coffee and the final bite of the desert she said she should not eat are gone, Omi gets ready to leave.

Hugging everyone goodbye and grabbing the now empty Jewel bags to reuse later Omi and I walk outside. Once she climbs back into her car, she gives us one farewell wave, and she drives away into the night.

Omi’s life has not been easy but through it all she has remained positive and has always given of herself. She has taught my Cousins Aryn, Maris, Seth and me the importance of perseverance and how to survive horrible things and never complain. She has really taught me who I want to be and what qualities are important to have in order to get by in life and still remain a person that you can be proud of.

Thank you Omi.

Trudel’s Famous Butter Cookie Recipe “Omi Cookies.”

Dough (which can also be used for pie crusts):
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla flavoring
2 cups flour

1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Trudel's Kitchen

Trudel in Her Cozy Kitchen

let butter soften
mix after adding each ingredient
roll dough into sausage shape
slice as thin as you can (Omi used a cheese slicer)
put on cookie sheet lined with wax paper
spread glaze thinly over slices
bake for 20 min. at 275 degrees

Guten Appetit!

Thanks to another of Trudel’s granddaughters, Aryn Froum, who reports that Trudel told her this recipe while they were baking them in her cozy kitchen several years ago.

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May 11, 1935 – “All afternoon today I was sitting in sunshine on my bed.”

May 11, 1935 – “All afternoon today I was sitting in sunshine on my bed.”

May 11, 1935

My beloved Love Ones!

Often I wish time would not go so fast so I would not have to write you so often.

The cookies, which I received Friday night, were gone by Monday. They were delicious, of course not enough. One half of them we ate already by Friday night at Samuels. I almost thought there would not be any left for me to take home.

What ever happened to mother’s jet dress? I wrote you a couple of times that we could use it very well here.

Slot Machine

I ate so many cookies on Saturday morning that I could not eat any breakfast. At 3:00 pm I finally had some hot chocolate and a little toast. After that I lay on my bed in beautiful sunshine. Later I picked up Leonard for supper.

On the way home we found a different slot machine that we had not seen before. I decided to try my luck for a change and won 55 cents. Of course about 1/3 of it went back into the machine.

Sunday after sleeping late I went to the “south side” for the bris of the newest Samuel baby. The father, Fritz, is the youngest of the 4 Samuel children. Leonard came later with Flora Mae. We ate as usual in the Madison Park Hotel and afterwards saw a movie, “Life begins at 40.”

Life Begins at 40

Click Image for YouTube

On Monday we worked only until 3:00 pm. It was miserable rainy weather so I had nothing better to do than to go to a movie again: “The Night is Young” after a novel by Vicky Baum and playing in Vienna. The main actor was Ramon Navarro and a small part played by Hermann Bing, brother of Gus.

Then I picked up Leonard and we met Louise and Alfred Hamburger. She is giving lectures to new German refugees on American literature. It was really very interesting.

Afterwards we went to the room of a lady in the same hotel and had very interesting conversation. In 10 years Leonard has not heard as much German as that evening.

The Night is Young

Click image to see trailer

Tuesday night I was at Aunt Henny’s. She moved into a nice, quiet hotel for the same amount of money. Wednesday I stayed home, ate dinner with Mrs. Saunders and went to sleep at 9:00 pm.

Do you remember the red sweater I started to make for Ellen? I ripped it all and made it very pretty, all new.

Thursday I ate at Fritz and Bertl Samuel. I am altering a hat for the new mother. Fritz worked in FFM at the “Flôrsheimer Stiftung” [Florsheim Foundation] Addie Eggner worked several years at Sigmund Strauss Jr. and the 3 of us talked about a lot of Frankfurters.

Both young men know Alex from the “Stift” although Fritzis much younger. He and Addie used to go often to Wehrheim to sell goods. Addie sends his best regards to Doddo [Trudel’s sister] and thanks her for the letter. He thinks you really should find time to write to me and described you as a “light blond goyishe girl.” What about that “light blond?”

By the way do you still have so much trouble with your stomach? I found a very cheap easy cure. From all that not so good restaurant food my stomach was in pretty bad shape. Now I drink a cup of very warm water with just a little sugar first thing every morning. At first I did not like it, but now I got used to It and my stomach is fine. After that I eat 3 or 4 cooked prunes with milk or cream.

Frozen Cream on Top

By cream I mean what is on top of the milk in the bottle. One can get milk here only in bottles, homogenized and does not need to be cooked. Just try my prescription for a little while and you will have no need for other medicine. Good Luck! Maybe you will feel so much better that you will write me more often.

Now back to my itinerary. Friday night again I went to the senior Samuels. Tomorrow, Mother’s Day, they will be married 40 years. I gave them a very pretty salad serving set and salt and pepper shakers. When they scolded me for spending my hard earned money I declared that I wanted to give to a mother who deserved something for Mother’s Day. After all she is the “mother” of a bunch of young people. As always, the meal was very, very good. Too bad we live so far away from each other. Maybe it is just as well. If I would eat there too often I would gain a lot of weight.

Mr. Eggener has not found a job yet also. All of us are trying to help him. It is always very hard to find work until one speaks better English.

Today I went downtown early to pay Leonard’s phone bill, then I spent $4 for a collar, cuffs, belt and some flowers to make the blue dress and coat look new.



Since [For] 3 days we were having gorgeous summer weather, but now it is starting to rain.

I am writing this in the office after dinner. Leonard is sound asleep in his chair again. The poor guy did not get home until 4:00 am every night this week and had to be in court at 10:00 am every morning. I do not know how he could do that if he did not sleep here 1 or 2 hours in between sometimes.

I really have to try to get more sleep too. I got a good start on Wednesday. All afternoon today I was sitting in sunshine on my bed and sewed, washed and ironed a little.

Shirley Temple Paper Dolls

Shirley Temple Paper Dolls

We are invited for Mrs. Gray’s birthday on the 22nd. At the same time they are opening their “roof garden” for the summer season. That is when I want to look very nice. I have no idea what I should wear. Hopefully I will have that pullover sweater ready by then. It would look nice with my white linen suit.

Shirly Temple Paper Clothes

When will I receive a photo of Ernst? Did you receive the underwear? Do not forget Erna Grünebaum’s birthday on the 25th. I will send her a Shirley Temple “paper doll” with paper clothes. I hope it arrives safely.

When do I get answers to my letters? I asked weeks ago what was wrong with Steffie O? I am giving up hope that my sisters will answer. At least my dear Papa writes to me now and then. What else is new?

I do not know any more to write.

Love and kisses
Trudel and Leonard

I am trying to learn more about the “Flôrsheimer Stiftung” or “Stift.” Flôrsheim is a city in the mountains near Frankfort. There also appears to have been a Flôrsheim street in Frankfurt. In my research, I discovered Dr. Max Scholl was a chemist who built a business specialzing in the chemical treatment of leather in Flôrsheim. Since Trudel’s sister and her boyfriend were in the leather business, there may have been a connection. Dr. Scholl’s tragic story is told in a series of letters in a 1997 NYTimes article Dear Cousin Julius, We Trust on Our God and on You…’

There does not appear to be any connection to Dr. Scholl’s shoes or to the Florsheim shoe company which was founded in Chicago in 1892.


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