Saturday, September 15, 2012

Alex's Story

Since the last blog, a few of the Metzner cousins have had a flurry of Facebook messages reminiscing about Aunt Helen and Uncle Al. It's been fun reading about everyone's memories and I've learned a lot!!!! Thanks everyone.  Since we are on the subject I thought I'd add a little more genealogical information...bear with me...genealogical facts can be BOR-RING!!!

First things first. After the last blog I went on-line and dug a little deeper and found that Aunt Helen's 2nd husband, Charles T. McCarthy, died on May 5th, 1935 in Lakewood, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland).  He had a heart attack at 57 years old.  Not only did he leave a widow, our own Aunt Helen, but two ex-wives.  I presumed he had no children but now hear from some of you that he had two adopted sons.  I'll keep digging and see what I can turn up about Charles "Mac" McCarthy.

What I really want to do with this blog is share genealogical information I've found for Uncle Al (Alex Kramer 1897-1969).

Last summer, as I was delving deep into the relationship between Al & Helen, trying to prove their two marriages, I knew I had to "leave no stone unturned" where it concerned Uncle Al.  First, and to my surprise, he was born in Grand Rapids on Feb. 25, 1897. You'll see in his birth record below that his first name was recorded as  Elias. In 1942 he had it officially corrected in the record. At the same time he corrected his father's name from Zachariah to Zachary.

My expectation was that Alex and his parents would still be in Grand Rapids in 1900 but, unfortunately, I couldn't find them there or anywhere in the U.S.  Finally! 1907 I found Zachary and three of his sons listed in the business directory of Albany, New York.  Zachary was working as a rabbi and Al's three brothers were salesmen.  Al (a.k.a Alex) was not listed since it was a business directory and he would have only been 10 years old. 

The family was in Albany in 1910 and recorded there in the census for that year.  Zachary was listed as Yiddish, born in Russia, and working as a butcher. The older boys were all retail clerks -- one in a dry goods store -- and 13-year-old Alex was listed as a student.

It seems the rabbi's work had him moving around a bit and in 1912 he and the boys (most grown men at this point) were back in Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids city directories and the 1920 census record the brothers in various lines of retail work.  One was a pharmacist and, in 1920, Alex was working as a salesman in a leather shop.   By 1921 the Kramers again have moved on -- but where? Probably Muskegon.  That's where we find Alex in 1924, employed at Kramer's Clothes Shop.   That same year Alex and Helen were married on Nov. 13th in Muskegon, only to be divorced eight months later (July 11, 1925). By 1925, Helen had moved to Cleveland.

A youthful Alex Kramer, date unknown
All of this data is nice but it doesn't provide any anecdotal information and, frankly, I'm a bit curious as to how Helen and Al met. They were both born in 1897 -- Helen in Ft. Wayne and Alex in Grand Rapids.  Aunt Helen and her parents and younger brother, Albert (Grandpa Al), move to Grand Rapids by 1912, which is the same year the Kramers return to Grand Rapids.  The families lived at opposite ends of the city so it's unlikely that they met in high school. Maybe Helen met him while shopping in a store where Alex or one of his brothers worked.  Or could someone have introduced them?  Helen was a bookkeeper and perhaps her work brought her in contact with the Kramers' business ventures. We don't know so, back to the story... 

Of course now we know that after the divorce Helen married Charles T. McCarthy on June 11, 1926.  While she is creating a new life in Cleveland, the Kramer brothers have moved to Chicago where, by 1930, they've established Kramer Brothers Clothing Company.  Whether Aunt Helen had a hand in the brothers pulling up stakes in Muskegon and reestablishing themselves in Chicago is unknown.  Some cousins recall hearing that she helped the Kramers get into business twice.  Since she probably didn't have money until her marriage to Charles in 1926, it's unlikely that she helped them establish their shop in Muskegon. It's certainly possible that she helped them relocate and set up in Chicago. We should also keep in mind that the Kramers' company was operating smack dab in the middle of the Depression, the 1930s.  Could Aunt Helen have helped them stay solvent through those rough years? Her money may have allowed her to pay debts they had with the banks, or when business was slow, help them keep their heads above water.  Again, we can only guess.

While the Kramers are running their business in Chicago, Helen is in Cleveland (Lakewood to be exact) until 1936 (a year after her husband died, probably to settle his estate), then she's gone.  It's presumed she went to Chicago to marry Uncle Al as soon as she could.  I've yet to find their second marriage record but by 1940 they were living together as husband and wife (according to the 1940 census) on East 50th Street in Chicago.  The value of the couple's property (real estate and personal property) is listed at $20,000.  By contrast, their two nearest neighbors are listed with $8000 (a proprietor of a rubber goods store) and $60 (a waitress).

Like any genealogical information, it can be overwhelming to try to keep names, dates and places straight. And while the above is a lot to absorb, I think it's interesting to read between the lines and imagine what was happening to these ancestors of ours.  I ask myself, and maybe you might too, during the nine years that Helen was married to Charles, what was her relationship with Alex, and how did she maintain it?  Did she travel frequently to Chicago to "check on the business" (wink, wink!)?  And what might have happened if Charles hadn't died in 1935? What if he had lived another 20 years -- would or could Aunt Helen have stayed away from Uncle Al for all that time?  Ah, so many questions to ponder and so few that can be answered. 

Next time I have a fun little letter to share with you so stay tuned! 

No comments:

Post a Comment