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1954 letters

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These are the letters written by Edward Wachdorf and his wife, Irene Pfleger Wachdorf, from Lawndale California to their children in IL. They made the move for Ed's health, as he had emphysema. Their son Larry joined them. The letters continued (increasingly from Irene Pfleger Wachdorf instead of Edward as his health slowly failed) until his death in 1966, and then her death in 1969. Some were to daughter Dolores, but just as often in later years they made carbons and sent out copies meant for children Ed, Art, Harry, Jerry, Frank (Bunky), and Dolores all at once.

Each heading is a summation of a letter. Click on the hyperlink at the beginning of the line to read a transcription of the full letter. Children of Ed & Irene are referred to by their first names with no further explanation of relationship. Other names followed by relationship. Included photos are in red type.

I have corrected spellings here and there, and broken Ed Wachdorf's letters into paragraphs, and added punctuation to Irene's letters. For some reason Ed Wachdorf repeatedly spelled the word "thick" as "dick." I left that, guessing it to be some German-American humor. He also spelled "conniption" as "knipshen" or variants, and again, I left that.


1954 Jan 5 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: a six page original, tallies letters he's received, mentions Dolores sent 21, Harry-3, Jerry-3, Ed & Marge-1, Art-2, Mae (his sister)-3, Diver (Hilda Grimm Diver, his wife's cousin)-1, Bunk-3, Judy (his granddaughter)-1, Louise (his wife's sister-in-law)-1, Dick (husband of his deceased daughter)-1, Howorka (Clara Howorka, wife's friend)-1, Nevell (unknown)-1, Viola-1 (Viola Marek Fries, friend of deceased daughter). Lists Xmas gifts from Frieda (unknown), Jerry, Hilda & Emmet (wife's cousin). Bill Collins (unknown), and tv set Larry brought from all his children. Wish Peanuts would write Larry. Holiday meals with Frank & Millie & her mother (neighbors). Doing laundry, sprinkling the lawn. "Wed 23rd I went out and bought a tree for $1.00. About six feet tall, just enough to say we had one for our little baby boy Larry."

1954 Jan 11 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: primarily about surprise arrival of Hertzy Stalzer (I added his photo), a friend of the Wachdorf children from Chicago ("Mom said it's an Illinois license plate...she lamped him and then she up and runs out to meet him"). Larry at a golf tournament. Rain. Offering enticements for her toddler son if she should come to visit. Hertzy drove them shopping and to laundry and "house full of clothes as it rained." (includes photos of Richard "Hertzy" Stalzer)

1954 Jan 16 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: Hertzy moving in for a while, paying rent. Went trap shooting w. Larry and to Redondo w. Ed & Irene. Gas bill $10.95 for two months though "we up it (the heat) to 75 degrees to sit in comfort and watch the telefision, using (granddaughter) Sandy's terminology." Mentions Jerry keeping track of Calif. weather, talks of flowers and swatting flies, and the game of Larry or Hertzy hiding jigsaw puzzles from Irene.

1954 Jan 19 Larry Wachdorf (Ed's son) to sister Dolores: started on 17th, finished on 20th. Miserable weather "ach himmel," to Santa Anita, to show with Hertzy. His first earthquake. Went to L.A. Open. Talks about golf, tries to talk her into taking it up. Turns down her offer to send him gravy because "Mom always has plenty of goodies around the house. C'mon out and see for yourself."

1954 Jan 27 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: landlady out to trim rose bushes; visit by Sabina & Larry Masonick (cousin of his daughter-in-law, son Art's wife Irene) and debating moving to Anaheim where his brother Harry used to take them. Hertzy (son's friend) still with them & desperate to find work. Says, "Him and goofy Larry sit up half the nite on television, then retire and laugh for another hour in their rooms or play the victrola, just to keep Mom and I awake." Calls them "nutty saps" for driving to San Diego. Says their only furniture is living room furniture and "one gorgeous telefision" again using granddaughter Sandy's term, elaborating a little. Tries to coax Dolores into visiting. Jokes about his wife's admonition, memorized by all, "You know it's good for you." Brags he's up to 144 pounds.


1954 Feb 7 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: on heatwave that has Irene drinking water and pulling a Lady Godiva in the backyard. Hertzy shoved off because he couldn't find work "here on the porch or watching television..." Went to visit Sabina (see previous letter) in Anaheim, impressed by citrus groves. Dolores' upcoming visit (arranging amusements for her son). Bunk's upcoming visit for Irene's birthday. Irene's "tantrum because I would not lay this important task aside to carve up a poor little lamb roast" with rhapsodizing about the full meal.

1954 Feb 11 Larry Wachdorf to his brother-in-law Les: joking about his sister Dolores refusing to paint the hall. Talks of golf and Emmy awards, a puzzle Dolores sent (calls her D and Boop). On Hertzy leaving for Oregon. Receipt of records in the mail from brother Harry (not commercial records, but recordings of Harry and family). Jokes about his own bad handwriting.

1954 Feb 13 Edward to daughter Dolores: Apology for lost letter and flirtation w girl on way to mailbox. "Saw a chest specialist at Crenshaw Medical Center this week with the encouraging news all is well, substantiated with x-rays to prove it. Tra la la and a ooh la la for wonderful California." Allowed wine again, but done smoking. Asked brother Harry's widow Lydia for doc advice and wound up accidentally with a "ladies' doctor." Bit of arthritis, using antiphlogistine rubbing salve (?), picked up some of late brother Harry's things and took Lydia to Clifton's in LA, 8 course dinner for 73 cents each. See you might postpone visit. Thank Les for letter. Flooding because of heavy rains; weather for jigsaw puzzles. "Mom looks around and slyly says is this the piece you're looking for? Gosh darn her subtleness"


1954 Mar 1 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: looking forward to visit (you will see how short the distance when you climb aboard a T/W/A), speaking of visit just past by her brother Frank & wife (Bunk & Jinnie). Asks her to bring place settings as they're borrowing from neighbors Frank and Millie Vrsak, and warm slippers. Waiting to see her son (We need a toddler again). (includes photos of Irene, Bunk, Jinnie, their sons, and Sabina Masonick and her sons)

1954 Mar 13 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: greetings to Les after his travels. Rec'd recording of wild Wachdorf party (possibly at Bunk's) from Harry ("for one room to contain so much din must have amazed the neighbors"). Ask Bunk for what to bring on upcoming trip, bring silverware. Chance to buy Lawndale house for $135,000, details. Irene still tending sick Millie next door.

1954 Mar 18 Harry Harry Wachdorf to sister Dolores: writing from work (at Wurlitzer Organ Co), discussing records made to send to California and testing to see if they were ruined, on playing the Shamrock Shuffle party, on blowing a spring and a sidewall on the Hudson automobile, invite to come visit

1954 Mar 18 Edward Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: Weather, earthquakes, Dolores painting her house with help from toddler Billy. Comparing grandkids, Dolores' firstborn and Bunk's daughter S*** ("She is worse than foam, bursting into bubbles and then disappearing"). "Mom" met Florence Wagner Lynch in church, meeting all the transplanted Chicagoans. Visiting neighbor Millie in hospital. "Now it's supper time and Mom wants me to clear away from the table. That settles it. Mom always picks up the marbles."

1954 Mar 24 Edward Wachdorf to daughter son/copied to Dolores: digs about Larry's handwriting brought about purchase of a new typewriter ("You must pass an engineering test before you can use one or you might end up building a bridge"). Neighbor Millie in hospital. Rain flooding streets above signs. Earthquakes. Doing jigsaws with "Mom" and Larry (Mom cops the berries with her suave manner by picking up a piece and coyishly asking, "Does this one fit in there?" as she submits the missing link). Larry shouting at the TV.


1954 Apr Irene Pfleger Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: sorry to hear you can't come visit, worried about everyone, have your son's picture on dresser

1954 Apr 14 Edward Wachdorf to son Ed & daughter-in-law Marge, copied to daughter Dolores: oblique reference to upcoming wedding of Ed & Marge's daughter, jigsaw puzzle vultures, alarmed at no word from Dolores ("Sometimes you chicks alarm us when you 're hibernating, so keep on scratching"), on neighbor Millie's health, which he misconstrues as hypochondria, blooming roses and cactus looking so good people stop to gawk, fishing, on whom they'll stay with on upcoming trip to Chicago.

PART TWO Apr 14 Edward Wachdorf to son Art & daughter-in-law Irene (nickname Renk), copied to daughter Dolores: tried to get Renk's cousin Sabina to take their cans of bacon grease, she says new house for Art & Renk; flowers, weather, neighbor Millie's health incorrectly perceived as malingering, thinking of buying the California house, Larry's travels, new fad of painting by numbers, names the tv shows they watch, from Cisco Kid to Frosty Frolics ice skating ("and the pulchritude, not bad, Larry says as he smacks his lips"), upcoming trip to Chicago.


1954 Apr 18 Edward Wachdorf to son Frank/Bunk & daughter-in-law Jinny, copied to daughter Dolores: got plane tickets and see they're for the grand seats. Thanks for getting Dolores writing again. On and on about the yard and the flowers (we have calla lilies so tall and majestic that their arrogance shames the other blooms) "so to speak like Poncho in the Cisco Kid, let's went..." Foggy weather closed airport so Larry worked Burbank airport instead from 2 PM to 6 AM. Planning trip in to catch Butch's wedding, first communion of Bunk's 2nd son, visit to Emmet & Hilda, and hoping not to find Larry letting the house lapse, then defends Larry as neat, laying it on thick. "As Larry would sing, And Casey was hit, with a bucket of plaster, and Mom would yell, Larry that's not what I expect to hear as he would hesitate before saying plaster..."


1954 Apr 23 Edward Wachdorf sent out 4 copies to his children: on death of neighbor Millie Vrsak. "Her doctor said he didn't even know what to put down as the cause. Something stinks." On helping Millie's husband and mother deal with things, and planning to come to Chicago on May 3rd.




1954 May 19 Edward Wachdorf carbon copied to all his kids: lots of detail on plane travel 1950s style, over Grand Canyon etc, rhapsodizing about the food, calls T.W.A  "There's Wachdorfs Away" only to get home and find dishes in the sink etc from Larry in their absence. Bustle of returning and Florence Wagner dropping by, going to see Violet (?) in Sherman Oaks about real estate, gloomy weather, can't shake a cold, the roses. (Includes photos of Irene, Edward and son Bunky on the tarmac at the airport next to TWA plane)




1954 June 3 from Irene Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: "once again dearie you have me so worried...going here and there looking at new houses being built or old ones that are for sale..." Spills the beans that Larry is coming to Chicago via free pass through his job at Western Air Lines (only as far as Minneapolis because he's only been there for 6 months). "I know you thought you were pregnant before we left..." (Yep.)


1954 June 19 Ed Wachdorf to Dolores, Jerry, Harry: Details on buying the house. Jerry called Larry the desert rat and a plutocrat landlord. On getting odds and ends as landlady took back her furniture. "As we were shopping I dropped a smile, but I got it back and as I told Mom she says was she a blonde or red head." Making keys for visitors because CA is not "so humid as in dear old Shy. We had the ball game on the other day and heard Dizzy Dean broadcasting that it was so sticky that everyone was suffering." On the lawn, now that it's his, including peach trees, oranges, avocado, guava, etc. On Larry rearranging furniture and getting his room just so. Visit by Bunk bringing "much needed dishes and his own presence." Implication that Dolores will be visiting soon. 


1954 June 28 Ed Wachdorf to Bunk, Dolores, Harry, Jerry: visit by Bunk bringing a big painting in TWA's cargo hold ("he says he can get away with murder and this proves his statements") and he rearranged the furniture ("says he gets his artistic touch from Jinny") so that neighbor Frank and Renk's cousin Sabina approved. Need screen doors. Got rid of rocker that was making Irene sick to look at. Jokes that last tenants (themselves) didn't keep up the place ("the place looked good all the while until we became owners and close inspection revealed the appalling neglect of the last tenants") and sunburned his dome keeping up the yard. Says Larry is coming to Chicago. Jokes about Chicago's walls of cooling water ("must be great to have a swimming pool in your yard on such short notice...Keep those White Sox out of that cooling stream--they're too cool already...") Larry wants to turn back yard into driving range.




1954 July 10 Ed Wachdorf to Ed Jr & Marge, copies to daughter Dolores and sisters Mae & Madge: trying to align visits of Ed & Marge in August to match Mae & Madge's. On his fruit trees and getting scratched up trying to get enough blackberries for pies. Lists all the kinds of grass including dog patch grass. "Larry is there now" in Chicago. Jokes about wet Chicago weather "Marge writes and tells about replanting the lawn over and again" after washouts. Fun description of fourth of July in the church parking lot "padre told all to come and shoot off their fireworks collectively...sparklers...what we used to call flower pots...whistling dago bombs...We took off being afraid to have some flying sparkler settle down the backs of our necks, thum fun." Mentions "no infernal skeetoes, but Millers"--also mentioned Millers in letter June 28, when talking about need for screen door--slang for gnats? Says Dolores planning to visit in July.




no letters, but there are photos of Dolores and Les' visit, including the beach, and Capistrano (which have been added to letter 9-6-54 page on which her visit is discussed), and this picture of Mae, Madge, Marge and Ed in Tijuana must've come from their August visit as discussed in 7-10-54 letter




1954 Sept 6 From Ed Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: on recent visitors including grandson. Jokes about finding more bugs for grandson to eat. Larry got a position (versus a job) at Hughes Aircraft. Much again about the yard and garden, flowers etc. (Includes photos of Les, Dolores, their firstborn at the ocean and at Capistrano)


1954 Sept 19 From Ed Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: sneaking in a letter to her out of turn, Larry getting ahead at Hughes Aircraft and taking night classes but "keep it on the Q.T." so he can tell everyone himself. Visit by previous landlords (Verna?) who approved of lawn. On the lawn again, the crab grass, the grapes so heavy they caved in despite the trellis, figs, etc. Neighbors the Kings planted dichondra and clover instead of crab grass. Bet your son would enjoy some of the bugs now...




1954 Oct 9 From Ed Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: despite making the novena to our lady of the miraculous medal, lost his unemployment compensation ("got my final refusal last week that's why I was so disappointed and too discouraged to write. Even Mom says it's a crime as others are getting it even the colored in the majority"). Larry taking classes nights at El Camino college ("he is just too darn smart for this native bunch out here"). Put plant food on roses and lawn. Hazy weather and cold nights ("Mom has been wearing her snuggies and two top coats, heavy wool stockings and mufflers with heating pads")




1954 Nov 25 From Ed Wachdorf to sons Jerry, Arthur & former son-in-law Dick Heagberg with copy to daughter Dolores dated "Gobbler Day": Irene "busy as a flea" in the kitchen preparing a "twelve pound hen with all the trimmings...ask Harry if he has any extra drumsticks." Foggy, rainy weather. Larry loses battle over whether he can watch football game or come eat. Trees died in yard missing "green thumb of our previous landlady," including Irene's pet poinsettia. Wrote letters and dished about being grounded in Shy, implying they just got back from a plane trip to Chicago?




1954 Dec 6 Larry: Larry Wachdorf to brother Harry & sister Dolores: sends the alphabet and says they owe him 25 letters. Mentions democratic ballot and election of French poet laureate where every man voted for himself. Traitor at the gas station ("having my chariot refurbished") spoke ill of Texas ("walk East until you smell manure, then head south till you step in it"). On cool, damp, foggy weather. Working days so golfing less. Anecdote about being unable to find "new oven big as a two story house" in Plastic Lab at work, and not living it down, but won the check pool playing poker with the check numerals. "Man, didn't have anything to say and have used up three pages saying it."


1954 Dec 17 Larry: Larry Wachdorf to all his siblings: checks for nieces and nephews ("Hate to set a flat price on them, sounds terrible, but can't think of any other way except shopping myself; that sounds worse"). Christmas poem involving smog. Got a ticket on S-D day ("that's safe-driving day, you ignorpoopuses"). About an auto accident ("Each man swerved out, and that left the end man, Mr. Bones, on the wrong side of the double line; he never made it back, may he rest in peace. Teach him to pick a F-O-R-D"). Squeezing in golf on lunch hour. Messages to Harry, Jerry, Marge, Art, Dolores, Les, etc on Jerry's problems with his Dalmatian, Dolores playing bingo, and advises her husband to take her for a ride down a bumpy road to get the baby delivered by New Year's. Threatens to pop Harry in the nose for sending nothing but a salutation and a signature. Plus a fart joke.


1954 Dec 19 Ed Wachdorf to daughter Dolores: amused by her son putting snow on neighbor's lawns, calls him a Bengal, a nixnutz and an atomic bomb. On the weather. "Imagine all doors open, Larry laying sprawled on the couch reading, and your Mom in the kitchen cleaning up after a pork loin dinner." Everything a hub-bub in Christmas prep, tried to get a tree but they wanted $4.95 "without horses and pistols." Larry and Mom "neaked" a present into the house. Thinking of getting her a briefcase as she is always trying to "sell a bill of goods, such as eat it anyway, it's good for you." Praises Dolores for letters, "life's blood for your Mom." Sore fingers from handwriting Christmas cards and pulling devil grass. Christmas wishes.


1954 undated Larry Larry Wachdorf to Question Mark (the unborn, overdue child of his sister Dolores): advice on how to exploit parents ("SMILE. Sparingly, of course. A weapon of this magnitude must be used with discretion...and if they've been especially attentive, GOO. These simple people become rapturous, ecstatic even, at that single syllable.")