Monday, February 8, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Prosperity and Name Changes

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This post concludes the transcription of a tape my grandfather, Martin Deutsch, his older brother, Ted, and their sister, Berta (Deutsch) Freed recorded in 1977. I'm 2 hours and ten minutes into the tape, and at this point they're recalling odd jobs they had in their youth in Chicago.


Martin: I remember pumping a player piano in a movie house for Banowitz’s theater on Division Street, The Strand. No it wasn’t, The Strand, it was the Oakwheat Harmony. That’s right, and I pumped the player piano for a quarter a night, or something like that. Of course I’d see the movie, the nickel show, at the same time. So it was quite a good job I thought.
Ted: In those days Dad was only making twelve dollars a week.
Martin: I think two dollars a day was about it, and when I finally got to be fourteen, that is, at least I said was fourteen when I was thirteen, then I got a job with Western Union running telegrams downtown. Of course all of this we were doing after school or before school.
Ted: That’s right.
Martin: And we didn’t quit school. We carried on. You particularly had that night job.
Ted: Six hours nights.
Martin: That was the union scale, calling for six hours instead of eight. You had a big advantage working only six hours and then being able to go to school. At Law school. High school and law school. Carrying on.
Ted: The six hours was provided I worked from after school from 4 oclock to ten. Then I’d go home after that.
Martin: Yes, you didn’t have those midnight hours, did you.
Ted: Not yet, not at that time. But I had the midnight hours later. And those hours I only worked five and a half hours because of the midnight difference. But that didn’t come until much later.
Martin: Well you stayed with the Herald Examiner for many years. And Ed followed you there.
Ted: About 1917 Ed wanted to get in there. So I said, ‘well you can’t get in there, because you’ve got to be sixteen [and I’m sixteen] and you’re not my twin. They’re not going to take you until you’re sixteen.
Martin: He had to change his name.
Ted: I said, “you’re going to have to just get another name if you want to get the job.” So he said, ‘what the hell, sure, I can take another name,' so he took another name of
Martin: Kamerman
Ted: Kameran
Martin: Kameran, which of course is after Jean’s married name, and he kept that actually all his life.
Ted: He worked under that name, an alias, all his life.
Martin: At one time or another I suppose we thought it wasn’t a bad idea to change our name because it was such a difficult name, a foreign name.
Ted: It was during the war time.
Martin: It was not desirable, a German name
Ted: Wasn’t very popular, we figured it was a good idea to change the name, but I never
Martin: I had a feeling at one time I wanted to change the name, and simplify it, but I never did go through either. Of course, as it turned out, it seems to be a fairly popular name anyway. Does now.
Ted: Does now.
Martin: It’s still is hard to spell
Ted: People still call me sometimes Mr. Deeoochee, or Mr. Doosh, and so forth
Martin: I think we all have that problem, and actually you can’t spell it unless you have it for your name yourself.
Ted: So when after you started to work, Jerry came right behind you.
Martin: Yeah, we followed in each other’s footsteps really.
Ted: And whatever we earned after school, we furnished to the family.
Martin: Family pot.
Ted: We got enough money together finally we could buy a house.
Martin: That’s right. We were prospering, and it didn’t take too long.


Ted: No, it didn’t, because we bought a house before Dad was even eligible for citizenship. You had to work five years for that, and he didn’t get his papers until 19
Martin: 1922
Ted: 1922 after the war.
Martin: Five years or so after the war
Ted: By that time we had already had bought a house on Campbell Avenue
Martin: Yeah, the house was 1232 if I remember it, wasn’t it?
Ted: 1229
Martin: 1229 North Campbell
Berta: That’s right.
Martin: I think that’s right, and we stayed there maybe half a dozen years before we moved?
Ted: We paid 1500 dollars for that house, and we lived there until 1926, and we sold it for 4000 dollars.
Martin: To buy another house at 1110 N. Mozart
Ted: That’s right. With the (unintelligible) dollars we got from that and put it into
Martin: It was a two-story house so that it had a second floor with another tenant in it.
Ted: That’s right we moved into Mozart street. And we paid 11 thousand dollars for that house, I think that’s the price.
Martin: The house is still there.
Ted: We could swing it with a mortgage. We had a mortgage.
Martin: Eleven thousand dollars at that time was a pretty high price.
Ted: Well, remember this was in ‘26 and everything was high. ‘26 inflation was rampant, the stock market was high, everything was…we were fighting inflation.
Martin: And then we were caught in that 1929 crash, and houses sunk to the bottom
Ted: The ’29 crash of course killed practically all of the chances of buying a new house, which we were planning on buying a new house.
Martin: Oh yeah
Ted: We couldn’t sell the old one anymore. It was a price nobody would give, eleven thousand, we’d have to take a loss.
Martin: Yeah, it had fallen materially like all real estate. I was thinking at that time Dad in the meantime had been ill with TB and he had to go to a sanitarium and he actually retired. He never did get back to work.
Ted: No, he didn’t go back to work. I think that was quite some time before that, before 26.
Martin: It was in the teens, or twenties, I don’t know
Ted: It was, I would say just before the war
Martin: The second war
Ted: The first war. For a year he stayed in there and he came out cured, and he did go back to work, but not very much.
Martin: So you can consider him as retired from 1920 on, roughly, or 1925
Ted: I would say so.
Martin: He lived until 1937, '38, wasn’t it. '38 I think he died. Because I know he was living when I was married.
Ted: He was 76 years old.
Martin: 76 when he died? I had never been sure about his date of birth, but it was about 1960s [sic s/b 1860s], would you want to put a year.
Ted: When he retired?
Martin: No when he died [sic s/b born], I mean 1860 what… (tape cuts off)

My grandfather obviously brought 2 hours and 20 minutes worth of audiotape with him, and when the tape ran out, it ran out.

My great grandfather's Hungarian military papers say he was born in 1861. The family records his birthday as December 20th, and he would have been 76 when he died on January 21, 1938.

My grandfather's sister, Jean, married Bernard Kamerman on February 23, 1918. Ed undoubtedly chose the alias, Kameran, as a variation on Bernard's surname, but if he began using it in 1917, it was before Bernard married his sister. Though I suspect Ted could be a year off in his recollection. I knew the alias had been adopted so Ed could get a job in the same office as his brother, but I didn't know how young they were. I thought the newspaper had a policy against siblings working with each other, but according to the tape, Ed was unable to pass himself off as Ted's younger brother, and still be old enough to work. So instead of waiting a couple years, he changed his name.

I'm not positive when the alias became his official name. He's recorded as Ed Deutsch in the 1920 and 1930 census, but that's irrelevant since he was still living with his parents and siblings. I'm not sure he ever went through an 'official' name change, or if it was necessary. Now that the government tracks us from the day we are born, we need to fill out forms. But I think it was possible back then to just start using a different name, and no one really questioned it. Especially since he began using it professionally when he was a teen.

My grandfather mentions he considered changing his surname. Back in May I shared the letter he wrote to his boss making the request. He either later retracted the letter, or it was never sent.

Regardless of whether the dollar figures are accurate, I find it impressive that in 1913, when they arrived, the family was on the verge of being deported due to being unable to support themselves, and a handful of years later -- after everyone working who possibly could -- they had put enough money together to buy a home.

In these ten minutes, Berta manages to slide two words of agreement into the conversation her brothers are controlling. She said nothing the previous ten minutes. I wish they had let her speak some more. But she did contribute heavily when they were recalling the names of all of their cousins.

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