Family Stories


The Mystery of my Great-Grandparents, Johann Franz Seraphin Nahrhaft and Teresia Bilek (Bilekova)...

The detective work goes on to answer the question of why my great grandfather, along with his wife and child, immigrated to the U.S. from Bohemia, converted to Judaism, changed their surname, and then moved to Ottoman controlled Jerusalem.  There are several theories about this within the family, some of which are pretty way out.  I do have letter to my grandfather from his uncle, Christopher, which in part states that he felt obliged to keep silent on the reason for his brother's conversion. 


My Grandfather, Israel Noah, and his brother, Zalman, in the Tzar's army....

At the time when my grandfather was growing up, it was a common practice for the Russian Army to take Jewish boys from villages in Poland.  They were usually taken at a very young age and forced into the Orthodox Church; most never made it back home.  Luckily for my family, both my grandfather (who became a supply Sargent in the Crimea) and his brother (who was in the cavalry in Finland) made it out and made their way to the America.


My Grandfather, Israel Noah, and his brother, Zalman, settle down in Missouri...

After arriving in the states around 1909, Israel and his brother settled down in Kansas City and began working salvage on abandoned oil rigs in the Oklahoma Territory, which they sold to Kaminetzky (Kamens) in Wichita.  While working salvage, Zalman would occasionally race horses with local  Indians  in exchange  for eggs or milk, which supplemented the dried meat and salami that they carried.  According to uncle Ruby they stopped working salvage, which kept them away from home for months at a time, when their wives joined them in the U.S.


Where did my Grandfather, Israel, keep his horses...

While visiting Kansas City, on the occasion of Uncle Ruby's 99th birthday, Ruby told me that his father, Israel, had a few horses which he kept at the stable a few blocks from their home.  I asked if he remembered any of his father's horses, and he remembered one.  This was a brown horse named "Jim"."  I'm not sure what it was about Jim that made him stick in Uncle Ruby's memory, but I'm sure that there must have been something special about him.


Zalman's mobile chicken coop...

Per Uncle Ruby, his uncle Zalman kept an empty chicken coop between the back wheels, under the bed of his wagon.  As he went about his daily  business, if he was able to buy a chicken at a good price he had a place to keep it till he got home.


Why did Fetter Borach live in the woods ?

For many years I have heard about Fetter Borach (Baruch the Fat), a great grand uncle in Poland, who was a big man with red hair that lived in the woods.  Cousin Dorothy insists that she had seen a book about his life, and uncle Ruby insists that the reason he lived in the woods was that he smuggled things between Poland and Germany.  Whatever the case there is an interesting story there somewhere...

The Church Choir...

Well, I knew that my dad sang in a church choir when he was younger (dad liked to sing...).  Now, thanks to Ruthie Guetler, I know the name of the church.  It was "Roanoke Christian Church".  My dad and Florence (Suede) Kelly brought the number of Jews in the choir up to two (an odd piece of trivia... in later years, all the members of dad's synagogue choir came from the local arch diocese).  The Minister at this church was Elva Byron Shively; he also presided over the wedding of  Bill and Ruthie Guetler in the church's Shively Chapel.  The church is now known at "Riverfront Church".  Ruthie has a large photo of minister Shively at her house in California.

Dad, the watermelon truck, and the one month coma...

While on leave, while serving as in instructor in the Army Air Corp at Langley Field in Virginia, my dad was involved in an accident with a drunken driver.  When the police arrived they believed that he was dead, so they called the local mortuary.  Well, it seems that the mortician, like my father, was a Mason, so he double checked and found my father to still be alive.  He put dad into the hearse, and drove him to the hospital, where he remained for over a month.  While he was in a coma, dad apparently asked for a camera so that he could take a picture of heaven.  (When he was out of the coma some folks asked dad if he wanted to sue the driver, and he said "no."  The fellow was a poor farmer, and it would only hurt his family.)


Aunt Lil, and dad's accident...

At about the time dad had his accident, aunt Lil, back home in Kansas City, told her parents that she saw "Lou walking into the house through the front window," and that there was something wrong with him.  Soon after this, they received word of the accident.


Dad and his Purple Pontiac...

In his younger years, dad owned a purple Pontiac which was apparently a pretty fast car.  On one occasion he was speeding along to the golf course and somehow missed the police car, which couldn't keep up with him.  Upon finishing his game he returned to his car only to find the speeding ticket left nice and neat under his windshield wiper.


What can you do with road tar, aside from paving the street ?

One day dad's old friend Bill Guetler was visiting, along with his wife Ruthie, and the subject somehow turned to road tar.  Dad and Bill told me how, when they were kids  (before there was chewing gum) they used to chew on road tar, and how it used to make their teeth all white and shiny.


Back from WW II, Uncle Ruby goes rabbit hunting...

While visiting Kansas City, we were sharing old photos, and one caught my eye.  It was Uncle Ruby with a shotgun, holding up several rabbits.  Not knowing my uncle to eat rabbit, this wanted an explanation... and he provided one!

George Squires wanted to go rabbit hunting, so Ruby borrowed a gun from "Ralph May" (Of "May's Curly Crisp Potato Chips") and they went off to Mike Olsen's farm.  I suppose that wild rabbits are unwelcome guests on a farm, and Mike Olsen didn't mind bidding farewell to a few of them.  Anyway, after taking 8 to 10 rabbits they figured that they had enough, but neither hunter wanted to eat them...  At first they offered them to people that they knew, but they didn't want to clean the rabbits.  They ended up giving them away to needy people on 18th street, who had no problem cleaning the rabbits themselves.


Bill Guetler Narrowly Escapes Back Surgery...

While working at the General Motors plant in Fremont California, Bill Guetler developed  a spur (growth) on one of his vertebrae that prevented him from standing up straight.  Before a surgery that had been scheduled by the company doctor, Bill had an accident in the mens room at the plant.  The accident caused him to bolt upright, and scream.  Immediately after this, Bill noticed that his back problem had gone away, and the doctor told him that the spur had broken off and would eventually dissolve.


Stuart (Me) and the box of Exlax...

Because if you can't laugh at yourself  you have no business laughing at someone else...   When I was about five years old I found a box of chocolate Exlax, so I went into the kitchen and asked if I could have some of the chocolate I had found.  I was told that there was no chocolate in the house, and if I could find any, I could have the whole thing.  So, of course I set about eating the entire box.  When the family discovered  what had happened they called cousin Eddy (he's a doctor), and he called in a prescription for epicac.  By the time I arrived at Children's Hospital, the epicac had done it's work and the Exlax was all gone... (nuff said)