Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fresh Bread

For the past several days I have been reading various rememberances of bread. All about the feel, the look and the taste of Wonder Bread, and all its gooey-gummy homage to American middle-class mediocrity. And also about the fresh bread pavilions in your neighborhood Kroger's or HEB, what with its attempts to provide "artisan" bakery goods for the modern family. And while these bakeries provide accessible breads for the hard-pressed Ozzie and Harriet, they seldom match the tastes of the neighborhood Daniel's Bakery of my youth. 

Daniel's Bakery was a small family-run operation that provided Dad his occasional indulgence of pumpernickle bread. Oh, they made more then that! Donuts, and pasteries, French baguettes and Italian loafs, sourdoughs and ryes. But pumpernickle was Dad's favorite, and mine.

I remember him usually bringing home two loafs at a time, wrapped in a plain brown bag. One loaf went on top of the refrigerator, while the other went on the cutting board. Mom or Dad would slice into that heavy brown bread with the utilitarian, one-size-fits-all, kitchen knife. While there may have been other knives in the house, I can only remember the wooden-handled smooth-edged with a 8 or 9 inch blade. It once was a good inch thick at the butt, but has, the last time I saw it, almost the look of a filet knife, narrowed down by years of sharpening.

But I digress.

After the pumpernickle had been sliced, Dad would slather a gob of butter (though probably margarine on our budget) across the small butt-end piece, which was, in his eyes, the filet mignon. While the heel was to most the least desired piece, a throw-away scrap to some, it was Dad's preferred slice. It's not like he was taking the heel because he was saving the rest for the family. I'd don't remember there being much interest in the bread amongst us kids, at least not until later. I think he actually liked the crunchy chewy texture of the heel, much like a good Chibatta-style loaf.

I don't remember the bread being used any other way. I don't think Mom or Dad ever schmeared jam or preserves on a slice. I never saw them toast a piece. My memory was of the bread, and butter. That's it. A slice of pumpernickle, cut off one piece at a time, and a pat of butter. Plain and simple.

As I grew up, after Mom had died, Dad would share his pumpernickle with me. Whether I liked it for itself, or was simply hungry (which I always was), I don't know. Maybe it was the desire to break bread with the Old Man, a chance to sit quietly with Dad and talk, during a period when all our lives were topsy-turvy. For whatever reason, I liked, and still do like, that thick bread made with rye and white flour, suffused with cocoa and molasses, and spiced with caraway seeds.

The smell and taste of a good slice of pumpernickle, slathered with a dollop of real butter, recalls the Old Man, and a calm point in our everyday lives, a time for reflection and a time for planning the day or week ahead.

I think I know what I'm having for dinner...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Clara Gruetzmacher (1857-1930s)


Clara Gruetzmacher was born about 1857 in Prussia to Louis Gruetzmacher and Matilda Schuler. She arrived in Galveston aboard the ship "Fortuna" out of Bremen, in either June or November of 1858 with her mother and 3 siblings.

On the 1860 census, she is found with her parents at Hollandale (renamed Navasota), Grimes Co., Texas, about 3 years old.

In the 1870 census, Clara is aged 13 and living with her mother Matilda and her siblings at Galveston, probably at 324 Market Street, which I think was between 18th and 19th Streets.

On April 24, 1876 in Galveston, Clara married Henry Lang, who was born about 1848 in Galveston to John Lang (1807-1859) and Christiana Ungerer (or Ongerry) (1823-1867). John and Christiana Land are both buried in Indianola

It is interesting to speculate how these two people met. Henry was most likely living in Indianola before 1860, which would be before the Gruetzmacher's had even moved to Galveston. Had he met her when he came to Galveston on business? Or did he have family still in Galveston, and they met through those relations?

Around 1877 Clara and Henry had a child, Sarah M. Lang. Her birth location is unknown at this time.

In the 1880 United States Census for Indianola, Calhoun Co., Texas (Page Number 303D), we find that Clara, her husband, and child:
Henry M. LANG Self M Male W 31 TX. Bookkeeper GER. GER.
Clara A. LANG Wife M Female W 23 GER. Keeps House GER. GER.
Sarah M. LANG Dau S Female W 3 TX. TX. GER.

The 1890 US census was destroyed by a fire, so there are no record of this family in this time period.

In 1875, the city of Indianola, located on Matagorda Bay, was then the county seat of Calhoun Co., and had a population of 5,000. On September 15 of that year, a powerful hurricane struck, killing between 150 and 300 and almost entirely destroying the town. Indianola was rebuilt, only to be wiped out on August 19, 1886, by another intense hurricane, which was followed by a fire.

It is currently unknown to me when and where Henry Lang died, but it must have been sometime between 1880 and early 1900's.

I have found no record of Henry and Clara Lang in the 1900 census. It is unknown if Henry Lang was even alive then. Neither Clara or Henry are listed in the lists of the dead from the 1900 Galveston Storm. Where Clara (and Henry, if still alive) were living from the destruction of Indianola in 1886 to 1901.

On September 4, 1901 in Galveston, Texas, Sadie Mathilde Lang, the daughter of Clara and Henry, married Oscar Andrew Tryon of Crockett, Texas. Family tradition says that she died in childbirth. She was certainly dead before June of 1909 when her husband remarried.

Oscar Tryon married for the second time on June 17, 1909 to Viola B. Bilger, in Chicago, Illinois. His occupation in 1911 and 1913 was listed as a "Telegraph Operator" and in 1915 as a "Test Board Man", whatever that is. They had several children.

Grace Newton told me that Clara died in San Francisco in 1924 or 1930. I believe Grace was mistaken as to the location, as a letter exists from Clara living in Los Angeles. I have not been able to verify her death date, as yet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

F. Missler, Bremen Wallet




Several years ago I purchased a ticket and document wallet given by the F. Missler company of Bremen and Galveston to one of his emigrant clients. While this item never belonged to one of out Gruetzmacher's, I suppose there is a chance that they might have received one similar to this.

Freidrich Missler was the biggest ticket agent in Bremen, and shipped emigrants out from Germany to Canada, the U.S., South America, and South Africa in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

He usually gave emigrants a small cloth folding ticket and document wallet to hold their ticket and other papers. That wallet has a picture of a steamship on the front (see the picture above), and the name "F. Missler" in large letters. On the back of the wallet his Galveston address at 210-212 21st Street, around the corner from The Strand.

The picture above is taken from another wallet similar to mine, only mine is rather dirty and doesn't photograph very well.