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Archive for the ‘Chicago history’ Category

Here is a great pic of my dad and his twin brother Frank that Val at Colouring the Past colorized for me. Dad is the one with lighter hair.

And Val colored it with blue coats and hats, too, because I wasn’t sure whether they would have been brown or blue, although felt sure they would have been one of those two colors. Which version do you prefer?

A Story of Chicago and My Uncle

I recently spent time with my uncle, and he told me a story about something that happened to him. Or rather, it didn’t happen to him.

In the sixties, Uncle Frank worked in Chicago at Fohrman Motors as a car salesman. Today, the dealership is gone and only the vacant lot is left. It’s in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood and is nearly 2/3 of the 2700 block of West Madison Street. This post takes a personal look at an event that changed the world for some Chicagoans.

On 7 January 1966, when he was 37 years old, my uncle was working at the dealership and had to use the restroom. He went there, only to find the facilities in use by a man making a racket with something or other. Uncle Frank couldn’t wait so he ran across the street to the body shop, but that bathroom was closed for maintenance. Used to being able to drive a car from the lot, my uncle grabbed the keys of a nearby vehicle and told one of his bosses that he had to run down the street to use the washroom.

Uncle Frank had several bosses, in a way, because Fohrman Motors was owned by Benjamin Fohrman and his four sons. An Illinois blogger, John Ruberry, says this about the company:

Forhman Motors was founded by Benjamin Fohrman, who was viewed as an innovative and pioneering car dealer. . . . . Older relatives of mine tell me that Forhman’s folksy television ads were common fare on local television.

The history of Benjamin Fohrman’s auto business is well-described in his obituary:

Mr. Fohrman, a native of Austria, founded Fohrman Motors near Michigan Avenue and 22d Street in 1912. He sold such cars as the Stoddard-Dayton, manufactured between 1905 and 1913, and the Rickenbacker, made in the early 1920s.

His strong influence on merchandising methods was felt in Chicago and elsewhere in the country. Before World War I, he was among the first to “import“ cars over dirt and often muddy roads from locations then considered far-off such as Lafayette, Ind.; Davenport, Ia.; and Kenosha.

He offered new cars on payment plans as early as 1914, and he was among the first to see that a secondhand car dealership could be successful. He bought used cars in small towns in the Midwest and sold them in Chicago.

At various times, he owned new-car dealerships that sold Chryslers and later Packards, and for many years Mr. Fohrman was a television advertiser.

Beginning in 1963, his agency at 2700 W. Madison St. sold used cars exclusively. Among its 80 employees were his four sons, Sidney, Edward, Sherwood and Cary.

My uncle worked for this family business, and he was pretty happy there. The neighborhood the dealership was in was primarily African-American. Uncle Frank tells me that that at least one of the Fohrmans went to bat in court often times for customers who lived in the area.

In other words, the family wouldn’t have minded that my uncle took off in a company-owned vehicle to use a bathroom down the street. And they seemed to have a decent relationship with the community.

When he got to his destination, a call came in for Uncle Frank. It was a woman employee at the dealership. All she said over and over was, “They’re all dead. They’re all dead.”

Imagine the shock he felt at her words. And then to discover that the man in the first bathroom had been making that noise by loading his gun! If my uncle hadn’t had to go so badly he would have waited for the bathroom instead of running across the street and then taking off in the car. He would have been the first person shot and killed. That day, Robert Jackson killed brothers Sid and Ed Fohrman and salesman Albert Sizer.

The Fohrmans were important in their community. In a 21 January 1966 article about their deaths in The National Jewish Post and Opinion, Sidney had been president of Niles Township Congregation, and Edward was vice president of the Park Synagogue.

I was ten-years-old when this occurred, but I don’t remember hearing about it. Quite probably my parents didn’t let me know. This is what happened as I can piece it together from accounts found online–and it all dovetails with my uncle’s account. What is different is how differently people perceived what had happened.

This is the account from the Chicago Crime Commission:

In this account there is no mention of possible motivation, and the murders serve as prelude for the Richard Speck case. He killed eight student nurses just a few months after the Fohrman massacre.

On the other hand, the article from Jet magazine blames the victims and builds sympathy for the murderer by calling him a “dying cancer patient.”

 

The difference between those two accounts points out for me the intensifying race relations.

Caught between these two views are the Jewish owners of Fohrman Motors, both Sid and Ed who had been killed and their father and other brothers (co-owners). The idea of businesses (sometimes Jewish-owned) preying upon the poor people of the inner city was starting to be noticed. The way people talked after this crime and the resulting focus on high interest brought out a lot of anti-Semitism.

Ebony took a more nuanced approach to the murders than Jet did. I am posting their photo of the dealership so you can see what it looked like, but please use it as a link to the Ebony article. In this piece by Alex Poinsett, credit is seen as a hidden “pitfall” to consumers.

The Fohrmans had the last word on this subject by addressing their truth about the issue of Jackson’s car in Benjamin’s obituary. This shows me how hurt they were by the blaming of the victims.

Rumors spread throughout Chicago that the man had been cheated on the car and had been paying an exorbitant 51 percent interest rate. Documents showed, however, that the interest rate was 15 1/2 percent, the price he paid was average and the problems with the car resulted from a major accident.

Even then, the car was insured through the agency, and the firm had agreed to pay most of the damages. Chicago`s American columnist Jack Mabley, noted for exposing shady auto dealers, wrote: “I`ve worked on most of the schlocky auto dealers in Chicago and never heard a whisper about Fohrman Motors.“

What a tragic story. I am so glad that my uncle really had to go to the bathroom. He’s almost 90 now, and we’re lucky to still have him. The Fohrman and Sizer families were not so lucky.

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BENJAMIN FOHRMAN OBITUARY:

 

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I wrote about the death certificates of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Now it’s time for the men. This is part of my project of cross-cutting through my genealogy research to look at things from a different angle to find out what I am missing. Once again, I discovered I had very few death certificates and had to order some!

The grandfather I knew and loved was my mother’s father. He owned a gas station most of his working life. He was passionate about his vegetable garden and loved math and accounting. Most importantly, I learned most of my family stories from him, was given most of the antique family photos from him, and inherited his great long-term memory. He’s the grandparent (whose branch) I physically resemble the most, as well. The trait that I share with him that is very unusual is that we have/had amazing early childhood memories. He remembered so much about his eye injury and the afterwards, although it happened when he was three. I have two memories that go back to before age two, as well as a vivid slightly longish memory that happened when I was 2 3/4. Those are for sure, but there are others that I believe were very very early. My memories from before I was four (say 3 1/2 and 3 3/4) are quite complex.

I’ve actually written a lot about Grandpa on this blog, including sharing a series of posts based on an interview of my grandfather by a social worker (including the above link about my grandfather’s eye injury). He was born in Kalamazoo 31 October 1908. He died 13 April 2000, also in Kalamazoo.

Notice that his death certificate states the cause of death as cirrhosis. But, whoa. He never drank alcohol, so why does it say this? He had a rare hereditary disease, it turned out, that causes a form of cirrhosis. I believe it is called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (family: correct me if I’m wrong, please). Luckily, although he didn’t know about the disease, he lived a very healthy lifestyle and lived to be 91.5 years old!

I never knew my other grandfather, but I do have his death certificate. He lived to be 90 (we’re on a roll here!) and died of arteriosclerotic heart disease. I am not posting his death certificate, although I do have it.

Then, of my four great-grandfathers, I have the death certificates of three. The one I don’t have is my paternal grandfather’s father because I don’t even know if he immigrated from Alsace to the United States or not–and have not found a death record of any kind as of yet. (I have confidence that eventually I will find it).

Adrian’s father, also called Adrian, died at age 58 in Kalamazoo on 19 December 1929 of “uremia, Chr. Inst. Nephritis.” Chronic Interstitial, I would guess. He was born in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands on 3 January 1871. My grandparents used to tell me he died of kidney disease (yes), and that they believed it was exacerbated by the way he ate. He used to starve himself during the day (while at his store working) and then come home and eat a dinner plate-sized steak. Who knows if that is what really caused his kidney disease.

Next up is Charles Mulder. This is the man I knew and loved as my Great-Grandpa. He died at age 82 of a “Cerebral Vascular Accident” or Stroke on 27 April 1967. He was born 6 March 1885 in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands.

Then I can thank Ann Donnelly from Found Cousins Genealogy Service  for noticing my frustration in a Facebook group and helping me out with my great-grandfather Frank Klein’s death certificate. I was having the hardest time because his record was on Family Search, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to the actual document that way. I even visited the local Family History Center, and the assistant director told me I would have to order it by mail (and a fee). But Ann found it online using her amazing talents and sent it to me.

Frank is another one who died of Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease. With those two and a stroke, that’s 3 out of 5 died of heart disease, I guess. Frank passed away on 30 August 1944 in the nursing home where he was living. He was born Franz Klein in Budesheim, Landkreis Mainz-Bingen, Germany on 31 July 1861. The death certificate reads Bingen because Budesheim was a village so close to Bingen that the family used to just say “Bingen.”

I am working on the 2x and 3x greats, but I think the Budesheim ancestors are going to be tough, just as they are with the women. The records do not seem to be available online at this point.

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I’d never seen this photo until about two years ago when I received it from my uncle. This is my paternal grandmother and her siblings (all except for Helen who was not yet born).

The four children are:

Elisabetha Anna Maria Klein, born 1891 in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Maria Anna Elisabetha Klein, born 1892 (often documented as 93) in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Anna Elisabetha Maria Klein, born 1893 in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Frank Anthony Klein, born 1896 in Chicago, Illnois, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

I know that Elizabeth is the girl standing in back, the oldest and tallest. I know that Frank is in front. I had assumed that Grandma was next in height since she is child #2, and that that would mean that Anna is on our right.

But now I think I could be wrong.

Here’s a pic of adult Marie (my grandmother) with her three children (including my father on our right).

Now here’s a photo from the same general time period of Aunt Anna, her husband Martin, and their daughter Annamar.

I think that the face shapes and eye spacing would indicate that Anna is on our left and Marie on our right. That Anna is taller, in that case, than Marie is not inconsistent with their adult heights.

Therefore, I think it’s possible that my earlier identification of the sisters in this photo is a case of an assumption that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

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My father knew I loved family heirlooms, so he used to give me items as he came across them.

These are some of his mother’s costume jewelry with the jewelry box they were in. My grandmother always loved jewelry, but I only remember her wearing pearls (both cultured and costume) and diamonds and rhinestones. She may have worn jet, but I am not sure.

The items on the bottom row are button studs. They work like buttons in a buttonhole, but are removable. These are usually used for men’s tuxedo shirts.

On the second from bottom shelf are two hatpins. I remember those nasty little things from my childhood. You wouldn’t want to sit down on one by mistake!

I suspect most of my grandmother’s jewelry came from Marshall Field & Company at State and Washington in Chicago. That’s where my grandmother worked as Head Fitter for many years.

When I got married, it was only a year after my grandmother passed away. Her only daughter (who had three boys) sent me the wedding pearls Grandma had given her when she was married in 1955. They came in a Japanese black lacquer box. Aunt Marge did not wear them for her wedding portrait or on the day of her wedding.

Aunt Marge

I am quite certain that my grandmother would have made her dress.

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The above is the photo of Jeanette when she lived, obviously, in Chicago.

You can see she is the same person as in the image I found in the antique photo album.

 

And here is the photo of Jeanette with her younger brother Cornelius when they were 12 and 9 in 1900.

And at age 15.

Perhaps a wedding portrait with George Harter.

And in 1940 at age 52.

Woohoo, what a wonderful treasury of photos of Jeanette, my 2nd cousin 3x removed.

Interestingly, not only was Jeanette related to my family, but when she was born her parents lived at 1412 S. Burdick St. in Kalamazoo, right near my relatives.

On another note, something has budged in that brick wall of hubby’s grandparents from Ukraine and vicinity. First, Montefiore Cemetery has sent me photos of the headstones. Thank you to Sharon at Branches of our Haimowitz Family Tree for letting me know I could order photos directly! That gave us the Hebrew names of the fathers of both his grandfather and grandmother! And I found a passenger list for his grandfather. A professional is going to help us break down the wall a little further at this point because she can communicate in the proper languages to try to obtain birth records. I’ll keep you posted. Ukraine and Moldova are not easy to work with and nearly impossible for amateurs.

 

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I love the serious pintucks on the dress, and the watch or locket pinned to it.

How do I know it’s Jeanette? Because it says so on the back!Don’t you LOVE when the info is on the back of the image?! It says: Jeanette Bosman / Grand Rapids / 1906.

Jeanette was born 30 June 1888 in Kalamazoo. That would make her 18 in this portrait. Wow, she sure looks older to me. But then her skin does not, and maybe it is the type of looks that she has.

On Ancestry, I found a photo of Jeanette as an older woman in Chicago. I hesitate to post it here because I am not sure if we are allowed to take images off Ancestry and share elsewhere. But she looks like the same person, with the same hairstyle decades later.

When I first found the Bosman children (children of Dirk Bosman and my 1st cousin 4xremoved Johanna/Adriana Remine) I posted in two posts. Part II listed the children and Part I was focused on John, Jeanette’s older brother. Jennie was listed as second to youngest.  Jeanette is Jennie.

When she was three her mother passed away in Kalamazoo. Then I don’t have any information until she got married in 1908 to George M. Harter in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I don’t know if she had a stepmother, for instance, or if the family moved to Grand Rapids right after the mother’s death.

Jeanette had three children, all born in Chicago, so the family must have lived in Chicago after Grand Rapids.

Jeanette and George had three children, all born in Chicago, so the family must have lived in Chicago after Grand Rapids.

George, Jeanette’s husband, passed away in 1940, when she was 51 years old. She didn’t die until 1978 in Rochester, New York. I can’t help but wonder what her life was like for the last 38 years of her life and how she ended up in New York State.

Her son Wilmar died in Montana, and her middle child Georgia died in Cook County, Illinois, years after the death of their mother. So did Jeanette follow her daughter Eileen (Ellen) to Rochester? I don’t know because I can’t find what happened to Eileen after the 1930 census. She was 12 years old.

So what about Jeanette’s siblings? We know John survived until 1943, but most of the other children died in childhood. And apparently Cornelius, the youngest (and only one younger than Jeanette), survived. At age 63, he married Evelyn MacLeod in Cleveland.

Oh, by the way, I found a cute pic on Ancestry of Jeanette and Cornelius when they were 12 and 9 (so the year 1900), but again am afraid to share it. Their older brother John would have been 24, so was probably already out of the house and therefore not in this photo. He married Nellie Robb in 1903 at age 27.

Anybody know the rules for Ancestry.com photos?

I suspect there will be a Part IV eventually.

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This isn’t Kalamazoo history, unless you consider that Kalamazoo is pretty darn close to Chicago. My paternal grandmother, Marie Klein Hanson Wakefield, was from Elmhurst and Chicago, Illinois, and for much of her work life she was the head fitter at the 28 Shop at Marshall Field & Company at the corner of State and Washington in Chicago.

That was a job that took a lot of talent, and it was a pretty cool job. She fitted celebrities, as well as other wealthy customers of the store. She designed clothing for some, and she was asked to move to Hollywood to work for the movies as a costume designer (which she turned down).

When she retired, Grandma was given a pittance (IMO) monthly retirement and a book about the story of Marshall Field & Company.

The book was on our bookshelves when I was a kid, and I devoured the history of department stores in Chicago, which is a subject I still find fascinating.

And I still have the book today.

Is it just me or do you think that this generic inscription is a little too little for the years my grandmother gave away her talents to the company?

It’s fitting that my first real job (outside of family business) was with a department store in Kalamazoo–Jacobson’s, where I (what else?) fitted gloves (see the image on the book cover). Yes, pun intended.

 

 

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