Category Archives: Remembered

The First Annual Letterer Appreciation Day!

I’m not sure whose idea Letterer Appreciation Day was, but I first heard of it from letterer Pat Patrick Brosseau and letterer/font creator Nate Piekos. Of course I heartily approve, especially since the date honors the birthday of my late inspiration, role model and friend, Gaspar Saladino, seen here on our last meeting in 2014. Below are links to previous articles I’ve written about his work, in some cases just the first of multiple parts.

Gaspar Saladino 1927-2016

Celebrating Gaspar Saladino

Gaspar Saladino’s First Lettering for DC Comics part 1

NYCC 2014 with Gaspar Saladino and friends

NEW Lettering from Gaspar Saladino!

NEW Gaspar Saladino logo for JOE FRANKENSTEIN!

Toth, Saladino, Schwartz

The DC Comics Offices 1930s-1950s Part 4

 

My Dad in World War Two

georgecklein1940suniformblogImages © Todd Klein.

When World War Two began, my dad and his family were living in Dunellen, NJ, and he was a student at Dunellen High School. In 1942 or 1943 he either enlisted or was drafted into military service, I’m not sure which. He was unable to finish high school, but granted a diploma anyway along with other young men who enlisted. George C. Klein was born on March 10, 1924, and was probably eighteen when he reported for basic training. I’m not sure where that happened. Fort Dix, NJ is a likely candidate, though we have some photos from High Point, NC, so he may have gone there.

georgephyllis1943Here’s George with his girlfriend, Phyllis Derr, home on leave from basic training. They would marry in 1948, after the war. Dad was tall and thin, but had been on the high school football team, so must have been in pretty good shape.

georgecard1943frontAt some point he was sent to this antiaircraft replacement training center in Virginia to train to be a bombardier, and sent this card home to his father, George Senior. “May we see the next one together as civilians,” he writes.

georgecard1943backMy Dad, writing to his own dad, on the back of that card. Unfortunately, his eyesight was not deemed good enough, and he did not complete this training and went into the regular infantry. He was sent overseas I think later in 1943 and served mainly in Germany.

georgeckleinservicebenchblogI think this was taken in Germany, but I’m not sure. My dad’s main duty, as my mom has told me, was to scout ahead of the main force to help determine enemy locations for bombardment. His mother and all four of his grandparents were born in Germany, and while I never heard him speak German, he could understand and speak it well enough to act as an interpreter for the scouts he was with. This was very dangerous duty.

My dad wrote two letters and a card while in Europe. Here’s most of the text of the first one:

November 16th
1944
Luxemburg

Dear Folks,

     This is just a line to let you know I’m fine. I received a box from Phyll today but still no letters from anyone.

     I can tell you now I was CENSORED on that Aachen deal and it was pretty rough. It was just south of there that “Jerry” caught me that time. There was one time back there with a strong wind that I could easily have spit on some of them. That was the time a “Jerry” sniper whistled two rounds close enough to make my hair stand up. I’d sure like to be hunting now instead of being hunted.

     I was telling Phyll that this dampness and cold was sure playing hell with us. I guess rheumatism is setting in. When my hair starts turning gray then I’m going to start asking for a discharge.

     That’s all for tonight. Say hello to everyone for me. My love to both of you.

     Your son
     George   

Some time before this he was shot by a sniper, and probably recovering in Luxembourg when he wrote the letter. He recovered completely and went back to active duty. He received the Purple Heart award given to those wounded or killed in service.

gckleinletter1944p1clipOne or two words are censored from this letter by being cut out of it. Luxembourg is a very small country between Germany and Belgium. My dad is writing about the Battle of Aachen which took place from Oct. 2nd to Oct. 21st, 1944. Aachen was on Germany’s western border, and part of the “Siegfried Line,” the main defensive network there. Much of the city was destroyed and both sides suffered heavy losses. It was one of the largest urban battles of the war and the first city on German soil to be captured by the Allies. The battle ended with a German surrender. “Jerry” was a soldier nickname for German soldiers.

georgecardxmas1944backblogDad sent this note in a Christmas card to his family in 1944, or more likely early 1945.

Dear Folks,

     This may come a little late but we can’t be on time with everything. This is the second Christmas that I haven’t been home for, let’s all hope the next one will see us all together again. Have a good Christmas.

Your son,

George

Dad was still in Germany in August of 1945. The war was officially over, he was in the “mopping up” operation. He sent this letter:

11 Aug. 1945
Bensheim, Ger.

Dear Folks,

     This seems to be one of the last days of World War II and once again our family seems to have come through with almost as much as we went into it with. These have been hard years for all of us, but now that they’re ending it seems that we did learn from them. At least I know I did. I’m afraid if it hadn’t been for the war I’d never have learned to appreciate a swell family like ours and know what it means to have someone back there pulling and pushing and doing just a little praying for you. You and Dad have made plenty of those rough humps pretty easy just by knowing that no matter how things turned out, there’d always be someone back there who would say, “You’ve done the right thing.” There’s a lot of lessons I’ve learned from you that my children will learn from me. Good sculptors leave fine statues and artists leave paintings, but good parents leave ideals, and a human being is a composite of great ideals. People are really what a family leaves behind and [I hope] someday my children look back on us with as much love and respect as I have for you. That’s all for tonight, my love for both of you.

Your son
George

I find this letter particularly moving. It’s the only thing we have written by my dad that talks about his hopes for the future and lessons learned. He never talked to me about his time in the war, and it’s only through these few letters that I’ve come to understand a little of what it was like for him.

While he never talked about his time in the Army, my dad did like to watch TV shows about it, and I watched some of those with him. I wish I had thought to ask questions then.

My dad died in 1978 from lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker from his teen years on. I still miss him.

 

Grandma Klein’s Story

harriettmassarklein16yrsThis is a story about my father’s mother, much of it in her own words. My grandmother, born Hedwig Massar, seen above at age 16, was born in 1900 in Germany. Her family emigrated to the United States in 1905. She never liked the name Hedwig, and around age 14 started calling herself Harriett. She met my grandfather, George Klein, some time around 1919-1920 we think, and they were married in 1921.

Growing up, I didn’t feel as close to my father’s parents as I did to my mother’s family, who we spent more time with, but I knew they loved me and enjoyed visiting me. Recently my cousin, Jody Andreatch, has been putting together a huge photo album/scrapbook for the Massar and Klein families, and looking through it got me more interested in that part of my family history. Among the documents included were pages from a 1981 book, “Grandma’s Story,” one of those books children or grandchildren can give their grandmother that has questions and places to write personal answers. It was given to Grandma Klein around 1981 by Jody, and I found her answers fascinating. They paint a picture of a childhood mostly in Queens, NYC in the early years of the last century, a time that seems like ancient history even to me, and I’m pretty old myself.

The questions and answers in the book are scattershot across time and topics, but I decided to put Harriett’s answers together to make a more complete narrative, combining some, adding small bits of connecting material where necessary, and putting my own comments in where warranted. This is mainly of interest to her family, but I thought some readers of this blog might also enjoy it. Here we go. Sections in italics are by me, the rest is nearly all in Harriett’s own words.

GRANDMA KLEIN’S STORY

I was born at home in Edigheim, Germany on November 5, 1900 at six o’clock in the morning. I was 6 pounds 2 ounces with green eyes and blond hair. My full name was Hedwig Massar, named after my mother’s sister. I didn’t like my name so I changed it to Harriett after I got out of school. I learned to walk when I was one year old, I was two years old when I talked. I looked like my mother.

I did not know or ever see my great-grandparents. I don’t remember my grandparents well. They stayed in Germany. I remember a few things about my grandmother. She was always selling bread. They had a bake shop. I also remember the walnut tree my grandfather had in his back yard. I sat under that tree and ate walnuts till I got sick and threw up. Then I got a licking. We were always with them for Thanksgiving until we came to America in 1905. Continue reading

Mapping My Childhood

BikeMapBlogI’ve always liked maps, especially ones of places where I’ve spent time. In 1960, when I was nine, our family moved to Somerset County, New Jersey, from a town not too far to the east. Above is part of a map of Somerset County from 1961 that used to hang on the wall of my room when I was a child. On it, marked with thin red drafting tape, are all the roads I rode my bike on from our house on Washington Valley Road in Pluckemin. It’s hard to make out here, but Pluckemin was soon to become the crossroads of two interstate highways: Route 287 and Route 78. They were already marked on this map as thick dotted lines. One of the most memorable rides was taken by my two younger brothers and I from our house (the yellow square) to Martinsville on the lower right. This was a round trip of about 11 miles, which doesn’t sound that bad, but it was a blazing hot day in July by the time we were done, and we foolishly took our middle-aged Labrador Retriever mix Pepper with us. We were all in sad shape when we got back, and Pepper hardly moved for several days. Continue reading

A Blog Post from 1968 (sort of)

FreddyBHNCover art by Kurt Wiese, first published in 1943. From my collection.

What follows is a letter I wrote, with input from my parents, to my two brothers who were spending much of the summer at our grandparents’ trailer in northern New York State near the St. Lawrence Seaway. It’s a fanciful look at life in our home in the rural town of Pluckemin, New Jersey. I was 17 and had my first manual typewriter, probably not for very long. I made the letter in the style of a local newspaper, perhaps inspired by Walter R. Brooks’ “Freddy the Pig,” who among many other avocations was the writer, editor and publisher of his own newspaper on the Bean family farm, as seen above. The Freddy books were fun and funny, and I identified with Freddy’s literary asperations. Here’s the entire four-page letter, notes follow. Continue reading