Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Letter from "Frankie"

At a Cousins Reunion, Val suggested we expand our reunion to other branches of the Grala tree. A few days later I sent a note off to Frank Grala, Jr. (Francizek's son) explaining what we'd been up to over the preceeding years, with a copy of our newsletter.

Imagine my surprise when I received his reply. It was of special interest to me for two reasons: I'd found another member of the Grala clan who seemed to love writing as much as I do and discovered where I got that head of red hair I was born with!

Frank's 8-page letter was printed clearly and neatly in fountain pen ... at one point, where the color of ink changes, he writes, "Gee, I ran out of peacock green ink and must continue with blue black." However, there are places where I've added missing words (in parentheses) to make reading go a little easier:

Dear Judi,

Family Tree: This is not a memo but an odyssey. Thus the reply delay. (I) first had to find the lost key to the locked closet door, rattle the skeleton bones, insert a catheter into my brain and put my thoughts of the past together (into) a judicial, memorable presentation.

Gee: What a wonderful surprise to receive a message from a member branch! In my age it was only a small budding tree. Today a large and tall, solid oak tree. I must be living on the second or third floor limbs and do recognize the clan on the tenth floor limbs. But from there to the twelfth floor is a blur.

Observe: New Zealand is where you had experienced one of your happiest moments of your life. (He is making reference to Ralf & I getting married there.) Marvelous! In the early 40s this land was named as (a) rest & rehabilitation center for some U.S. troops returning from a journey visiting an island. The young men dreamed of basking in the sun and exploring the new outer environment. After three days of leisure and free from duties, the atomic bomb strikes again. The order of the day is the usual training, again preparing for another vacation island. The kiwi fruit is delicious. Your chronology of vital events has a GI flavor. Damn good job ... carry on!

Gatherings: The last time I spoke to your parents and the clan was at mother's wake. A year or so later, I received an invitation to attend a party for clan members only at the Crystal Ball Room in New Britain. At the same time, I was accepted as an armed security guard on probation with FBI involvement. Since the Wells Fargo grand robbery in West Hartford (involving a security guard), the FBI came into the picture. My situation (was explained) to Hedy who was to relay the message to the clan (as to) why I was unable to attend.

Grandparents: To emotionalism and stubborn, I think you should add these adjectives: industrious, strong-willed and disciplined. These have been (proven) by the generations as a roll-over from (my) grandparents.

(My grandfather) was sturdy-built with somewhat broad shoulders. The height (was about) 5'7" as (was) Uncle Bronislaw, my father and myself. He had a striking black mustache -- Hitler type. Anybody looking at him would focus on his eyes and mustache first. His looks? Look at Uncle B and you're looking at Grandfather Grala sans mustache. To me, when he was on the horse, the image was as a dignitary which the neighbors did not fail to notice.

Grandmother was to a Mona Lisa type. I don't remember too much of her because I spent most of my time with him (in activities such as) eating homemade cheese in the field. That cheese was damn good and tasty!

During the visit at Baba I had some exploring events, but the one I liked best is named "horse and master." One day, grandfather took Benny and me (around), explaining what we can and cannot do in the area. The last stop was at the barn with a horse. It was also "don't do." I explained my liking the horse because of the color (of its red coat). I once had red hair. At that age, one is only interested in the "cannot do." A few days later, with grandfather in the field, we went to the barn and the horse followed us to an empty wagon. We climbed aboard the wagon with the horse on the side. Benny got on first and I followed with a minor problem. Benny (gave the horse) a sharp slap and we went galloping. Your guess is right ... the horse stopped where the master was working. The next few days both of us had a difficult time sitting down.

I was told by a family member that my father was the youngest of the family and the only one to resemble his mother. It was a puzzle to me why I never met a red hair in the Grala clan until Joseph Gorecki came into the picture. He was a redhead. My parents had some problems with friends (and when) the conversation involved hair, the Gorecki name emerged. Thus, if you know it or not, the red gene is somewhere out there in that tree. At my stage of life I still have not run across a Grala redhead.

My parents:
Frank Grala
Born: December 8, 1898
Place: Same as Uncle B
Married: 1915 New Britain
Died: 1952 New Britain

Rose Swider
Born: 1900 Poland
Died: 1936 New Britain

Oldies but goodies: My father was also a teenager when he first saw Ellis Island in 1913. He was on his way to Lorain, Ohio which proves Uncle B arrived alone. There was a Joseph Gorecki living in New Britain (who) later (became) my godfather, but he was only two years older than my father.

Apparently my father had difficulty adopting to the environment. I don't know if it was the steel mills or coal mines, but I do know it was hard labor. Father got in touch with Gorecki and learned the Hardware City factories were hiring ... especially new arrivals. One item I wish to bring to your attention is (that) a strong bond existed between the two brothers.

44 Orange Street: I was born there on November 30, 1916. Across the street was the Sacred Heart Rectory and on the church property north was the church on Broad Street facing Horace Street facing where Uncle B lived ... about the fourth home.

Years later, when Benny married Pauline, their first living quarters were across the street (from) where Uncle lived. More years later Benny owned a grill and restaurant. I was with Armour & Co. and he was one of my customers.

The next street west was Gold Street where their home was located. Across the street was the church property. On my visits (to see them) I was always treated as a son. Both (brothers) were married here. A Christian mass and burial (was held) for the four of them (and they were buried at the) same cemetery. Both (my father and Uncle B) were church collectors. On Easter and Christmas they wore bright red military-type uniforms as security guards at the tomb and manger.

67 Grove Street: We lived on the third floor facing Orange Street. This is where (we lived when) Uncle B arrived with the children.

Remembering: From the bits of conversations overheard between the brothers, my consensus is that the American dollar was worth a bushel of Poland's zbtys and a better, comfortable living for them (could be found in Poland). We left shortly after (Uncle B and his family) did -- my mother was to lay the ground work. I never learned why father did not come with us. I do know he was attending night school to become a U.S. citizen at the Polish Club. At the same time, the U.S. government was very anxious to have the new arrivals become U.S. citizens. The bonus was if one became a U.S citizen, the spouse became a U.S. citizen also. Thus, my mother became one while in Poland.

Later, I learned the higher-ups at the club convinced my father (that) the future on the horizon would be (an) onerous (one) -- political and economic conditions there were not only (cloudy), but (there was) also a storm (coming). We were ordered to return to the U.S.

Stanley Works: Although I did not graduate with a higher education I had some experience in that field. This will reveal the management's respect for Bronislaw Grala. I graduated high school in 1936 and was seeking a means to continue. (During) the time of the Great Depression, even the dictionary deleted its description of "unemployed" and inserted the word "normal." Yes, Uncle B made arrangements for me to be hired at the plant (in order for me) to continue my education.

Baba: Translation -- female, women, she, etc. They had much difficulty with this word. At that time, the new arrivals in their own conclave environment would meet on weekends, in groups, including all sections. The idea was to find somebody who lived in your (area) of Poland.

The first question would be, "Where are you from?" Answer (father or uncle, "Baba." Again, "Hell, I know that. But where did you reside?" The answer, "Baba." Again, "Damn it! But that was only for nine months."

S.S. Batori: During the recall home, we also boarded it. size? Take your pick (from any) one of Columbus' ships.

Uncle's Travels 1929-1933: Perhaps, but while living with us, the answer is no.

Grala: If you do some research (you) will discover the name is unusual. But the name also has unexplained answers as (is with) the name Smith. Two unmarried brothers named Grala lived in New Britain at that time. Joseph sang in the church choir and Steve worked in the same factory as my father. Steve was a frequent visitor to our home. I never did learn (what) part of Poland they lived (nor did I) learn (of their) family ties (to us). Here is one to ponder before the next chess move.

Gee -- I ran out of peacock green ink and must continue with blue black.

I transferred from the parochial to public school systems. About a week later, one of the teachers called me after a classroom session. She explained (that) because of my name she wanted to know how my cousin was doing in Europe? My answer was positive. She went on (to explain what) maturity (he had) at that age and (that he was) an honor student before the family left the U.S. for Byelo-russia. My only answer was, "Yes ma'am," (before I) walked out confused. It is your move.

In closing: My humble words of dziekuje and bogudzienka plus my own design garden of roses to my uncle and aunt. It is a long list of good deeds, but I must mention some: The night they arrived for my son's wake in 1975 -- he was disabled then -- (they commiserated) with us until closing time. The same at my wife's wake in 1981. Also, since the death of my father in 1952, (they) never missed sending me a Christmas card -- always with positive, handwritten words (of) encouragement. The last time we met in person was at Tony's wife's wake.

Since they would never want to listen to my thank-you after a good deed, I now can speak: Lord, please grant my Uncle Bronislaw and two aunts eternal life, peace and happiness. I pray to thee.

Well: My journey is over and (I'm) back to port. Hope (this) may help in your research.

A family branch,

Frank J. Grala, Jr.

P.S. Your letter and its content are concise, short, understandable and to the point -- wonderful!

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