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Chicago World's Fair -- In Trudel's Words
These are excerpts from letters written by Leonard Grossman's mother Trudel. Trudel was a young German Jewish woman who arrived in Chicago in May, 1934. There is much more about Trudel and her experiences on the blog Trudel's Truth by Leonard Grossman, one of Trudel's sons. That blog is a record of the young immigrant's letters home. The only parts of the letters that are included here are the parts that mention the Chicago World's Fair.
June 17, 1934
Afterwards we … went to the Worlds Fair.
Unfortunately it got all of a sudden very cold and windy and we could not see very much at the fair and all were happy when we got home again.
Anyway I saw a few interesting things. Cows being milked electronically, in 10 or 15 minutes they are milked and it is almost no work and it is much more sanitary than by hand. We also walked through a new aluminum railroad train. It has all possible comforts, has 1st and 2nd class and one could really enjoy traveling a few days and nights that way. We then went through the Hall of Religions where all different religions were displayed.
In the Jewish [exhibit] they showed slides of very many famous people and institutions. We also visited the Hall of Science. There is so much to see of everything that one could spend several days to see everything. That even we concentrated on different sicknesses and having babies.
On the way we stopped at the Hungarian exhibit where I met one of the people from the boat. Although we hardly talked together on the boat, he was very nice. He too comes from Budapest…
Then went home with the I.C. train, short for Illinois Central R.R., the best and fastest transportation between the south side and downtown.…
The I.C. train passed the whole World Fair and the many colored lights look beautiful in the dark. For instance the Ford Bldg has a big dome on top of which shine 3 different color lights rotating. From another building 10 blue flood lights illuminate the sky. Each building has its own distinctive lights shining into the sky. Anyhow the whole city looks marvelous at night with all the lights. Every skyscraper has its distinctive illuminations from its top and all lighted up at night.
June 25, 1934
to the Fair…
First we went to a beautiful concert outside at the Ford Symphony Gardens. They play everyday from 3 to 5 and from 8-10 p.m. [There is] no extra admission [charge]. Then we went through some of the exhibits. Sat in the newest model Chrysler. Then we went to the amusement park. He does not care for those rides so we only watched some of them. We ended up in the Canadian Club, direct in the lake.
Picture this — The Fair itself is on the beach. The amusement park on an island connected with the land with 3 bridges. This restaurant is on one of the bridges and you sit right by the water and all around are those beautifully illuminated buildings. My cavalier is an excellent dancer. There is a very good dance orchestra and also shows: dancing, acrobats, singing etc. Some of it really wonderful. One woman dancer is completely naked but painted with black laquer all over. Really interesting.
June 26, 1934
On Saturday night we were all together at the Fair. First at the Ford Symphony Gardens. Then Hans K. and I got lost in the big crowd. Henny worked until 9:00 p.m. She sells costume jewelry.
We two lost ones went again to the Canadian Club Cafe and while we were dancing a horrible storm broke out. Everybody ran for shelter.
I ran to the table where I had left my purse and gloves and my hat blew off my head and disappeared. It was a nice white cap which I got in N.Y. and fixed just right for me. Now it is gone.
I really never experienced weather like that. Everything that was not tied down blew over and away. And of course a real big thunderstorm with [lightning]. All day the weather had been beautiful but within 1 min it changed so drastically.
Everybody of course tried to get into the building and in spite of those very many people we were lucky enough to get a little table right next to the dance floor and we were also very honored to have Jewish Gov. Horner, the head of the State of Ill. at the table right next to us. He and his company of 6 men and 1 lady sounded very happy. One of his companions went on the stage with the dancing girls and just danced with them. It was a scream.
July 10, 1934
Also I have been at the Worlds Fair 8 times. I always help Henny a little and for that I get a pass for nothing and can go there anytime.
Too bad Lou did not exhibit here, I am sure he could have made a lot of money. That man from Dusseldorf is very busy with his line of cookware. Last Friday I had a date with him but have already enough of him.
On Thursday I finally met my Cousin Martin Seckbach. I knew he would be in town and I went to the house, owned by the Bus Co., where he lives. When the 2nd Greyhound bus came with 2 chauffers I talked to 1 and it was the right fellow. He sent somebody to keep me company until he came ½ hr later and we went together to the Fair. He is quite nice, has a pass for admission too and even does not have to pay for most of the rides in the amusement park. First we went on the skyride. Great.
After visiting Henny we had a very good Chinese supper and met there a friend of his so we then went around 3 of us together. Then on a big ? de ? or what you call it. Then on a giant Ferris Wheel. We also had to go on a real enormous slide and could not leave without a boat ride all around the exhibit. And then a ride I had never heard of–Fying Turns. You get into 1 of those little boxes and that thing races around like mad. Up and down and twirling around itself. It’s hard to describe but I enjoyed it so much that we did it twice.
Last Wednesday and Saturday spent most of my time at the Fair. Mostly I sit on the Swift Bridge and listen to beautiful concerts. The bridge belongs to the biggest parking company. And the free concerts are by the biggest and best orchestra. You probably notice that almost everything here is described as biggest and best.
Sure wish you could see me at the fair. The red dress I bought in N.Y. a red [hat?] very much on one side of the head, long red earrings, and pretty much makeup. Henny tells all the customers that I just came from Paris, do not know much English and then she talks German to me. We have been laughing tears. My job there is to look attractive and watch that nothing is stolen. I even sold already for $1.25.
July 16, 1934
Here everybody drives a car. Young, old, short, tall, fat, skinny, men, women and children. Except us–One can hardly find a parking place at the fair in the ? and ? home yesterday it was like a long black snake, going very slowly on the highway. The train went much faster. Actually it is quite expensive to keep up a car, the car itself does not cost that much.
One day last week I looked up all the people from the boat who I knew were at the fair. A couple and a friend from Vienna are cutting silhouettes of people. Enclosed me.
July 26, 1934
After work[one evening last week] I went to the Fair …
Last Saturday I intended to spent some time alone at the Fair, but of course I ran into people I knew.
Yesterday…We then went to the concert at the Fair. My travel companions from Vienna I see every time I go there. The wife and friend work now in an exhibit called “Black Forest”. But since it costs admission I only sneaked in once with my pass. It is one of the busiest exhibits they show [?] ice skating. Very beautiful to watch especially when it is so hot outside.
I do not know if I can get a pass again for the month of August, so this pleasure will come to an end soon probably. 50¢ is too much to spend for admission.
By the way in 1 of the exhibits is a statue of a big white dog, advertising of the “Voice of his Master”, he says something which I do not understand and moves his mechanical mouth. I recognized it from far away. Doddo, do you remember where we saw one like it? Was it at the big music show?
Yesterday we saw something terrific. 6 mechanical figures of American Presidents. They get up to make speeches into microphones and then sit down again. Fascinating how they work. That is about all I can tell you today.
August 5, 1934
I am very glad you are saving my letters for me. It should be interesting to read them again in 20 yrs or more.
I would love to take all of you to the Canadian Club Cafe once but just the admission to the fair alone is 50¢ each. For the month of August I do not have a pass anymore either. And then we would have to eat or drink something there and unfortunately my billfold is not holding that much yet. Hopefully some time in the future.
Of course I used my pass a lot last month. I could make a good [guide?] by now. My English is getting much better. I can now make people understand what I have to say. I can make a few English phone calls already. I do not feel like taking lessons. My newest boyfriend…talks and understands very little German fortunately. …
Saturday I went to the Fair in the afternoon…
Sunday…to the gigantic outdoor stadium called “Soldiers Field” to attend “Jewish Peoples Day”.
Several very interesting Jewish speakers and singers and dancers. Excellent orchestra. An 11 year old Jewish boy played fantastic violin. I think his name was Isha.
And the main thing a play called “The Epic of a Nation.”The program included:
1. Ancient Palestine with a cast of 500 people. The
12 tribes, each in different colors and their different banners, [coming
different sides to meet in the middle of this gigantic stage together.
They sang old Jewish songs and joined the orchestra as a chorus.
It was really very beautiful and impressive, only a little too long, the whole pageant was organized by some Jew.
Well, Monday I met … at the Fair. … Then I went to the Black Forest exhibit when my Vienna friend has his stand now to cut shadow pictures. Since his wife was [not there] a friend, Charlie, helped him and I kept them company until 11:30 p.m. Tuesday I did the same only until 11:00 p.m.
August 14, 1934
Can you believe that after only one week I already missed going to the fair?
And Tuesday again to the fair to my Vienna friends. I really enjoy all the commotion and goings on there.
They have three new rides at the park. One of them has seats that look like airplanes for one person. One gets ties on very securely and then it goes around, up and down back and forth, across and back, so one gets into every possible and impossible position imaginable between heaven and earth. Then there is an electric swing like boats and the one I like best is as follows. One sits inside a small camper of course tied on and goes up as high as a Ferris wheel and from there it goes slowly round and about the middle post down. It reminds me of a winding staircase. I have not tried either one of them so far but the fair will be here a few more weeks, and it costs only 7¢ by streetcar to get there. That is another great thing. For 3 hrs one can ride for 7¢ changing and going everywhere one wants. Of course I usually use the I.C. train which goes much faster and of course costs more.
August 17, 1934
In the evening we went again to the concert at The Fair. Since they had a terrific guest conductor that evening all the seats were taken already 1 hr before start! It was a fabulous Wagner concert. The concerts are always [crowded]. They are similar to Ffm’s [Frankfurt's] Palmengarten. Only that there are seats for about 1000 people and no admission charge. This evening at least another 500 or 1000 people were standing around or sitting on the grass.
They eat bread and butter with everything. Even people from nice Jewish homes eat kosher sausage sandwich and drink milk with it. I have not tried that yet altho at the Fair the kosher sausage stand and the milk stand are right next to each other. Instead I have eaten several “hot dogs,” Frankfurter sausages on a bun the same size. That is another favorite national meal.
Since my last letter I was again 2 times at the Fair. I like it so much there.
August 26, 1934
Thursday I met the Weils at the Fair. As many naked women as you can see one night at the Fair you probably cannot see in all Germany in a week on the stage. Most of them are excellent dancers and acrobats. But some of them do only strip teasing.
One of the dancers sat with us for a while. Also a little girl who had performed 3x that day was with us. Eugenie played for them at their rehearsals. She never plays for performing only at rehearsals.
September 5, 1934
The next night we went to the Fair. First to a concert at the Ford Symphony Gardens. Then I invited her to a free Auto Round Trip thru streets all over the world. The road we traveled was paved differently in small sections. Samples from all over all around on one big plaza. Even a sample of the “Bergstrasse.” We drove slowly around that Plaza to be able to see it all. We then went to a village called the Bowery. A copy of the one in N.Y. Do you remember that Papa? They had a nice program — real old town type.
Then we went to the Black Forest, the most popular and best place this year with excellent dancers on ice. It is such a pleasure to see that ice while it is so hot outside. After 4 days of rain it is thank G’d not so hot anymore. Unfortunately the weather was very bad over Labor day which caused a big loss for the fair.
October 5, 1934
Mr. Grossberg took me to lunch and then to the fair in beautiful weather, where he let me take a flight in a small balloon like a Zeppelin all over the fair. It was wonderful so high in the air. That 10 min long ride cost $3 per person. Later I met Aunt Henny and went on a sky ride. Also high up like a ride on a bridge in the sky criss-cross above the fairgrounds. It was getting dark by that time and all looked fantastic.