Sunset Inn – Chapter Two

No amount of Elizabeth’s inquiry about Grandfather Gustav Heim’s adult life in Germany went further than a mention of his job as staff trumpeter in the German Army. Nothing about his name surfaced, but many German Jews in America shortened their last names, covering up their heritage to survive and fit in.

            Elizabeth was a resourceful nine-year-old and an avid reader. She spent hours in the library next to the Annie Heald School, and she made friends with the librarian, Charlotte Hobbs. Elizabeth worked her way through The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories that she checked out at the library. Out of the 26 published her two favorites were Nancy’s Mysterious Letters (1932), and The Clue in the Old Album (1947).

            Charlotte Hobbs was the perfect person to ask for help. She researched local Lovell history and Lovell family genealogies including famous people who had lived in Lovell.

            Elizabeth brought back the latest Nancy Drew books to the library. She put them in the return box inside the door. Miss Hobbs was checking books in from the stack on a rolling cart. Elizabeth browsed the mystery bookshelf until Miss Hobbs saw her.

            “Elizabeth, is there anything I can help you find?”

            “Well, not books, Miss Hobbs. Mom said it was okay to ask, if you weren’t busy. Seeing as you do research on families, can you tell me some things about my grandparents, Gustav and Edna?”

            “I just finished checking in the books. I can help. There are some interesting newspaper articles and letters in a file folder. We can go over them at the reading table.”

            Miss Hobbs warned Elizabeth. “Some things I found out about your grandparents may be a bit shocking to you. We’ll read the material together, and you can ask any questions to clear things up.”

            Elizabeth’s interest piqued. “ Hope you mean mystery stuff like Nancy Drew.”

 

Charlotte Hobbs passion for reading and her personal comments kept Elizabeth’s attention, even though it took a few hours to reach the last file entry.

            Elizabeth learned her grandfather’s life in the US was rich with music. At the time of the 1900 St. Louis World’s Fair he was the member of a fine orchestra, and immediately hired as first trumpeter for the Philadelphia Symphony, Detroit Symphony, then fourteen years in the Boston Symphony, followed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

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            There was a letter about her grandfather written by her grandmother Edna May to the Annie Heald School in Lovell. It was the school’s project to gather information about important people who had lived in Lovell. Some of his personal history in the letter answered questions about his character and early life in Germany.

Gustav F. Heim was born in Hilberghausen, Thüringen, Germany, May 8, 1879.   His mother died when he was two-years-old, and his stepmother died when he   was nine-years-old. He had a sad life in his youth, and loved the musical songs of his childhood. His father decided that he should learn how to play the coronet or trumpet. Musical or any other class of education was always very strict. One time at nine-years-old, his music teacher chastised him severely for not practicing his two hours daily. He ran over a mile to his home, only to be met at the door by his father, who sent him right back to school to do what he was told. He became a wonderful musician; his tonal qualities were world known. His phrasing, which no other musician has so far ever compared, may never be heard again. It was strange but true that the finest musicians are modeled from a life of sadness and disappointments. The teaching of the old German theory was that a child must do  as he or she is told. There were no in-betweens.

Elizabeth’s grandmother was a strict, impersonal woman, but Elizabeth imagined she had tears in her eyes when she wrote these last words in the letter.

Although the golden tones, the fine phrasing, and interpretation of the finest  music is now silenced, (there are) countless thousands of listeners, as well as his widow, his three sons and a daughter, (who) will never forget him, Gustav F. Heim, and his keen affection for Lovell and townsfolk.

Miss Hobbs showed Elizabeth an old newspaper photograph of her grandfather. He stood tall in a suit, white shirt and tie, well dressed like many educated, accomplished German artists of that time. He had a kind, handsome face, a trimmed mustache, a slight smile, and dark hair combed straight back.

Untitled1 Gustav Heim

            Elizabeth exclaimed. “ Look, he’s holding his trumpet close to his chest over his heart. His eyes sparkle ‘cause he loved music so much. Someday, maybe I’ll ask grandmother to tell me more about him. But, I don’t know if she’d like that.”

Elizabeth’s Grandmother Edna was a no nonsense woman, who believed little girls should be seen and not heard. Similar to her grandfather’s strict upbringing of what children could do and not do. Elizabeth asking her grandmother questions would be sheer folly.

Miss Hobbs came to the shocking part of her grandfather’s life. A journalist wrote the article for a local newspaper. At first she thought of omitting it, but decided to paraphrase part of it, and carefully watch Elizabeth’s reaction.

            Gustav Heim died in 1933 at age 52. It was said that he was an alcoholic, and alcohol killed him. It was also said that he could be completely drunk, stand up in the orchestra’s front row, and play magnificently. In 1926 he became a bootlegger, was arrested and jailed in South Paris, Maine. The citizens of Lovell presented the governor with a petition of pardon at no avail. When he got out of jail he married Edna Ostermeyer, and they both ran Sunset Inn. They were married for seven years before he died.

            During his funeral service one of his neighbors described him as “brimful and good natured, radiating to all with whom he came into contact.”

His obituary recounted the following: Hundreds of times he paddled across Kezar Lake to a point where there are wonderful echoes, and there in the evening dews and damps would play the priceless gold trumpet with all the gusto of old military days, then the clarion notes of its strains from the old masters might echo and reverberate among the hills and across the placid waters of the mountain lake.

            In 1923 Edna and Gustav took out a one-year lease on Quisisanna Camps at Kezar Lake. During that time they began building their own musical retreat next door and named it Sunset Inn and Private Cottages. The townsfolk enjoyed Gustav’s beautiful trumpet solos, especially in the evening when he played Schubert’s Evening Star.

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            After Gustav died in 1933, Edna retained ownership of the inn until 1952. The Inn changed hands a few times over the years, until it was bought and named again Quisisanna, as part of an all-inclusive, music-themed resort. Edna will be remembered as a businesswoman ahead of her time, the first “ham” operator in the state of Maine, and a farmer, with a tagline to the Sunset Inn stationary, Poultry and Vegetables From Sunset Inn Farm.

Miss Hobbs put the last piece of paper down, and looked at Elizabeth. “What do you think? That’s a lot of information.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Wow, being famous and all that was pretty great, but grandfather didn’t have a lot of luck in his life, did he? I want to remember something good about him, like his eyes sparkled ’cause he loved music so much.”

Miss Hobbs sighed. “ Elizabeth, that’s very sweet.”

        Elizabeth added. “I remember hearing grandmother tap tap on her ham radio machine at the farmhouse. She never talked to me about it though.”

            “Well, I know something about that. It’s not in the file, but your grandmother got into a bit of trouble with her ham radio communications during WWII. The ladies auxiliary group discovered she had a contact in Germany, and found out about the soldiers from Lovell and surrounding towns. She would tell the soldier’s mothers when she heard news, especially that they were still alive. The president off the group warned your grandmother that certain people knew about her actions and she’d better stop before she got into trouble. Then she whispered in her ear. ‘Tell me if you hear anything about my son.’ “

            “Gee, Miss Hobbs, that was great, wasn’t it. But, grandmother could’ve gotten into trouble for doing something good though. I promise not to say anything to her about the ham operator stuff. I don’t think she’d like it.”

            “You must remember that during wartime, mother’s especially wanted news about their sons. Elizabeth, your grandmother took the risk for the greater good.”

            Elizabeth’s grandparent connection was with her only living grandmother, Edna May. For now Elizabeth stored away in her mind that taking a risk to do something good would not get her into big trouble.

             Miss Hobbs gathered up the newspaper articles and letters and put them back in the Lovell’s Famous People file. She knew of all the things Elizabeth heard about her grandparents, she would remember something good about each one of them. And her mind would be on other things before she walked out the door.

            “Thank you Miss Hobbs for helping me. I’ll go get the next Nancy Drew book, The Secret in the Old Attic to take out. I put the two I read in the return box.”

 

The next week Elizabeth returned The Secret in the Old Attic to the library. She put it on the desk in front of Miss Hobbs.

            “You know, I found some old German books hidden in my attic. I asked Dad to teach me German, and he said no. I asked him to tell me about our German name and he said no. I asked Mom, and she said to ask you, Miss Hobbs. So, do you know anything about my name Heim, it means home in German.”

            “We didn’t talk about that before, but I read something in a newspaper article that might be related to your grandfather’s heritage. It’s another shocking thing about your grandfather and his drinking, and it’s only a possible hint about the Heim name. There was an episode reported that your grandfather had been drinking and abusive to one of his private music lesson students. He told him. ‘Get out, Jew.’ It was unclear the reason he said that.”

            Elizabeth was quick to reply. “I bet that was his only way to get rid of him. The man probably knew grandfather was a Jew, and he’d tell everybody. Dad told me grandfather’s last words, and I memorized them. ‘No one should know about my life in Germany, that history dies with me.’ I think that’s a big hint he was a Jew.”

            It stunned Charlotte Hobbs that Elizabeth thought so deeply about this. “Elizabeth, remember it was not an actual fact about your grandfather’s heritage. I know you think it’s chancy to ask your grandmother about such things, but she’s the only person who knows the truth.”

            Elizabeth scrunched up her face. “ Boy, I’m gonna need a lot of luck to get an answer from her. She’s not easy to talk to.”

 

Elizabeth was left with only one grandparent, Grandmother Edna May. She missed out knowing her maternal Grandmother Madelyn Elizabeth, a saint of a woman.

            Her experience with maternal Grandfather Franklin was not a good one. He died of prostate cancer. Elizabeth remembered when he stayed with them under her mother’s care. Elizabeth visited him one morning in the sunny front room. She stood by his bed and watched him wake up from a fitful sleep.

            He looked at her and barked. “ Get me that tumbler.” He pointed at the bedside table full of medical supplies and personal things.

            Elizabeth hesitated and looked at the cluttered table not knowing the word tumbler. He yelled, “The tumbler, you stupid child.” She cried and ran out of the room.

          Grandfather Franklin had been a drinker and a poor provider. Her Grandmother Madelyn, called Maddy, was another story. She was a loving woman who took care of elderly people to make a living for their four children.

            Elizabeth’s mother told the story. “It was a hot, muggy fall day. The exact minute a heart attacked killed my mother; I felt a cool breeze touch my body. It was her soul going up to Heaven.” Elizabeth took it that Grandmother Maddy was a saint.

 

Elizabeth pieced together missing family history. The dark secret, verboten to ask, never answered in Truth.

            She wondered. Was grandfather a German Jew, and he shortened our last name? Was there a missing lich, mann or berg on the end?

     So far, the history preserved Elizabeth’s childhood memory of her parental grandparents and Sunset Inn. Part of a bigger family, their survival ups and downs helped her handle childhood troubles.

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About C.E.Robinson

Sunny southern California has been home for the past 25 years, a transplant from the east coast, Europe, Asia, and the northwest. In 2014 I retired as a nurse practitioner to be a stay-at-home writer, co-author, and blogger. From the blog beginning, Before Sundown has been honored with awards, and blog tours. I’m ever grateful for my dedicated worldwide followers who like, share and tweet posts. Before Sundown’s Welcome Page is full of glorious sunsets and sunrises. The New Featured Monthly Sunrise or Sunset Header and mini-bio promote and support blogger friends. What better way to keep the blog theme, “remember what made you smile” than to give visitors something to smile about! http://cerobinsonauthor.com
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25 Responses to Sunset Inn – Chapter Two

  1. Thank you Charlotte Hobbs for respecting a young girl’s curiosity and not fudge the facts.
    What a journey into family exploration. I am captivated, Elizabeth. ❤ :-D.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Timothy Price says:

    Very interesting and well told slice of life in family history. Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth!

    Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      Thanks, Tim! Family history so important for all generations. Probably why I’m writing this book. Sons are already asking about my life, and grandkids might be interested when they get older. I’m the last grandparent and have a big role to fill! 💛Elizabeth

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lbeth1950 says:

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Keep going, Elizabeth! Looking forward to more. Mega hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The curiosity is so familiar, and the stories of the past mesmerizing in their complexity. Our ancestors were real people with all that implies. Excellent story, Elizabeth. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      Diana, thank you for your kind comment. I’m amazed at what l’m discovering about my grandparents. At my age it’s an entirely different perspective on their lives and how they survived. Wish I could talk to them today to get personal backstory to include in the writing. Happy Weekend! 💛 Elizabeth

      Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      It seems to be that way for so many people. I’m making it up as I go. That’s why it’s fiction based on real events. Thanks so much Diana for adding you thoughts! 💛 Elizabeth

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dalo 2013 says:

    There is something so beautiful and freeing with history ~ recognizing for what it was and being able to put it into the right context…nothing quite like it, and you’ve done this so well Elizabeth. I’d like nothing better than to travel back 100 years and live with my ancestors just for a bit and absorb the stories – much like you’ve written. This piece is also very special, as I’ve been reflecting on my visit to Germany earlier this year…such an amazing place, made more special when understanding and experiencing their place in history if only from stories such as this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      Randall, thank you for your visit and comment. Happy that you identified with the story and reflected on your visit to Germany. There are many hidden stories about our ancestors that we will never hear! I’m thankful I found some from a historical society in my hometown. Thought it would be interesting from a young girl’s perspective. Much of the story is based on real events, the fiction part is dialogue and filling in the gaps from event to event. 💛 Elizabeth

      Like

      • Dalo 2013 says:

        Too many stories of our ancestors that are never told, it is a bit sad. My parents (well educated and successful) no close to nothing about why their parents (or their grandparents) came to the USA…still baffles me. I think it is in part to the USA always thinking ahead (which I do love about this great country), but it is sad to have large chunks of history gone. Kudos to you for piecing enough together for perhaps one of my favorite genres “historical fiction” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      Thanks for your comment, Randall! Think some ancestors wanted to assimilate into their American life and forget about hardships and why they left their mother country. Guess the book is in part historical fiction. Good that the history accounts are true, and other parts are fiction. I do elaborate on my opinion of their actions though! 💛

      Like

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