Keeping mum on the home front during World War II

Keeping mum on the home front during World War II
Lillian Gartz, Executive Secretary for the President of The Bayer Company. She probably typed this letter at work.

My mother, Lillian, writes this chummy letter to youngest brother-in-law, communicating with spunky joy. Marjorie, the girl met in California, again comes into the conversation.

Mom refers to a March 29th letter from Frank,which made her and my dad “howl; that letter is missing in the collection. Seems there’s a little collusion going on between Frank and my parents, and a bit of a double standard on Ebner’s part. Read on to see what I mean.

Frank also wants to keep certain information secret from his parents, especially his mother. Such secrecy can be difficult since my parents and grandparents lived in the same building, and Grandma could be aware of mail arriving from Frank to my parents.

Mom shares a anecdote that reveals a lot about Will’s (The oldest Gartz boy) personality. Read on for a fun letter full of machinations and revelations.

3 N. Keeler Ave Chicago 24, Ill. April 14, 1944

Dear Frank: First I want to tell you that both Fred and I enjoyed ever so much your most interesting letter received on March 29. Honestly, we nearly howled when we read that section dealing with finding out that Margie is 27 years old. Honey, you seem to have an affinity for those “older” gals, don’t you. You really seem a good deal older than your tender age, which is probably why you appeal to girls who are just a little older than you.

Frankly, I had always pictured Marge to be around 18 so can well imagine your surprise when you found out the truth. However, your resilience is a fine sign and we’re glad your feelings weren’t hurt. After all, what’s the difference? You weren’t going to marry the girl, and you did enjoy each other’s company. Don’t worry – we never said a word to Cookie, and neither did your folks so you can just relax. Furthermore, when you brought up the section about feeling Cookie out.

Even though I haven’t seen her since you left our fair and windy city, I just know you don’t have a thing to worry about on that score because Cookie is just not that kind of a girl. Also, instead of falling out of love with you, I think she will just remain all the more faithful – if you write her regularly and all that. Don’t be too negligent in that respect, for if I were in her shoes and didn’t hear regularly from THE MAN I LOVE, I might feel – “Oh well, what’s the use.”

However, I will take up your suggestion and have her over some night as soon as we get the chance. Here’s another thing, about the thirty bucks Fred lent you. We have kept absolutely mum on the subject and didn’t even tell your folks when we received your letter because then your Mother would have wanted to read it and we don’t think you wanted her to. So please be sure not to mention that you wrote that particular letter or ever tell her about wiring Fred because then she might be angry at us for not telling her when we got your letter, etc. etc. You know how that is. She is so fond of you, She likes to hear any and all news about you which is perfectly understandable. But then, too, we also understand very well when there are certain things which you would rather not have her know – sooo, you, too, keep mum, my pet.

Thank you for the $10.00 you wired us. We weren’t home when the telegram arrived, so Western Union put a note on our mail box. Your Mom saw it and called Fred, telling him about it. Since the wire was in my name, I picked up the dough and it’s good you did address it to me because Mom wanted to know what the wire was about, so I said my friend in Los Angeles told me her friend was coming through Chicago and that she wanted me to meet her.

Therefore, if you send us any more installments by wire, please do not send to our home address because otherwise your Mom might become suspicious. Of course, a money order is O.K. because that goes in our mail box. If you should send a sire, address it either of the following ways: Mrs. L. Gartz c/o The Bayer Company Div. 445 Lake Shore Drive Chicago, Ill. Or Best: Mr. Fred Gartz c/o National Die Casting Co. 600 N. Albany Chicago, Ill. This is just to prevent Mom thinking we’re holding out on her in the way of news from you.

I’m sure you understand – since we want to comply with your wishes and keep quiet about this. Easter Sunday I had your whole family and my Mother over for Easter dinner. Mom bought a 17 lb. turkey which we cut in half last Friday night. Then she purchased salt pork skin with which I sewed up my half, enabling me to stuff it. This was really a very clever idea on her part. We had the turkey, coleslaw, baked potatoes, string beans, corn, cake and coffee and it was really good, if I say so myself. After that we all sang songs and spent a very enjoyable day.

Incidentally, we have now received our slip covers and new drapes, which came in just two days before Easter. Neither Fred nor I said a word to our folks, wanting to surprise them. Honestly, you would be amazed how beautiful our living room looks now. The chair and the drapes are the same color – beige with rose and green flowers with a few other colors thrown in for good measure. The sofa slip cover has the same design, only with a rose background.

Here’s something funny that happened. Saturday night before Easter, Will came up for some reason or other and I was disappointed that the surprise would be spoiled because he would see the new drapes and slip covers the night before. I needn’t have worried! He comes right into the living room, looks right at everything but nothing registered. In other words, so far as he was concerned, everything was the same. Well, I nearly had a fit of laughter and couldn’t stop. He wanted to know what was so funny so I told him he would find out the next day.

Sunday, everyone Oh’d and Ah’d but Will. So finally your Mother said, “Can’t you see anything different?” He then noticed the drapes but still didn’t see the slip covers. Well, he did after Mom put his head right on them. Oh fun. He’s just so preoccupied with his thoughts that he didn’t notice, I guess. He’s really a swell guy, though, and I like him a lot.

Tonight we are going to eat the other half of the turkey at Mom’s house but I’m staying at work a little later tonight to be sure to get this letter off to you. If I say I’ll wait till I get home, you can rest assured you wouldn’t get it for another couple of weeks or so. Thanks from both your loving brother and sister for the nice Easter card. That was very thoughtful of you.

Hope to hear from you in the not far distant future, and love from

Lil and Fred

P.S. Your folks and we would like to hear from you as soon as possible as to what you would like for your birthday. Enclosed you will find an envelope all stamped and ready to use. Please reply as soon as you can. Your Mother received the little box of cactus and appreciates it very much.

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Original letter below as typed by my mother: Click to enlarge Ebner LTRs 1944-04-14 from Lil and Fred-1 Ebner LTRs 1944-04-14 from Lil and Fred 2-2 Ebner LTRs 1944-04-14 from Lil and Fred 3-3

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    Linda Gartz

    I was born and raised on Chicago's West Side, where the Gartz family lived and worked for most of the 20th century. After my mom died in 1994, my brothers and I poked around the the attic of my parents' home and discovered a trove of letters, diaries, documents, and photos that had been saved for almost a century. Taken as a whole, they focus a lens on the history of our city and life in another era, as seen through the eyes of regular folks. Go to where you'll find my blog, Family Archaeologist (a clickable link is on the "About Letters of a World War II Airman" page). There you can explore this historical treasure trove that illuminates history and our shared humanity. I started my blog, "Letters of a World War II Airman," on the 70th anniversary of the date my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, was drafted into World War II military service. You can see that first post and the first three months of 1943 letters at my website, All future letters will be posted on this blog. I'm an author, archivist and television producer. Please visit my website,, to see my published articles and an overview of my television productions.

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