Category Archives: Remembered

A Christmas Message from 1513 A.D.

Kirkpatrick Chapel, Rutgers University
Photo © Jon Oliver.

Longtime readers of my blog may remember this entry. I’m rerunning it today in honor of the season.

For many years I attended the annual Christmas concert at Kirkpatrick Chapel, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. First because I had friends in the choirs that performed there, later because I loved the music and it had become an annual tradition for me and my friends. When I moved to southern New Jersey I couldn’t get to it any more, and I miss it.

I’m not a very religious person, belonging to no church or other organized religion, but I did grow up in a church-going family, and what I always liked most about it was the music. Particularly choir music. For over twenty years the annual concert at Rutgers gave me a joyful chance to hear some great choral singing. Between the songs, there would be readings from the Christmas story in the Bible, and also another reading. I don’t know where the tradition began, or how long ago it started, but most of the years I attended, there was a reading from a letter written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo. A google search will tell you more about the historical figure, though there seems to be some uncertainty that he did indeed write the letter. Whoever the author was, I find it very moving, especially at Christmas.

Fra Giovanni letter

Many years ago I lettered up this document and gave it out to friends as a Christmas present. I thought I’d do the same for all of you this year, in the spirit of the season. There’s a higher resolution copy HERE which you can download and print if you’d like.

Thanks to Linda for reminding me about this, share it with anyone you think might be interested. And if you ever get the chance to attend “Christmas in Carol and Song” at Kirkpatrick Chapel, don’t pass it up. It’s a wonderful experience.

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