Martha Schultz

Martha Schultz was my father’s grandmother. She was the mother of my grandfather Bernard Carl Schultz, and his siblings John, Mary Catherine, and Paul Schultz.

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Martha Schultz
By George Schultz

The above is George M. Schultz and his wife Martha — my father’s grandparents.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know as much as I should about my Grandmother Schultz – and know practically nothing about my Grandfather Schultz (after whom I was named).

It is my understanding that they were both born in Munich – and met and married in Detroit.  They lived – for years – in a huge house (four bedrooms and bathroom on the second floor) located at 260 Englewood, in Detroit.

Grandpa died as a very young man – before my parents ever met.  The only thing I can remember Grandma telling me about him was that he’d passed away in bed – the bed in which she still slept.  “You could see his soul … Duane … going up to heaven”.

Grandma went to Church – 6:30 AM Mass – virtually every day!  I do not remember one day – in the many times I’d spent the night there – when she didn’t go to daily Mass.  Her house was 4 or 5 blocks from Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.  No matter what the weather was like, she walked to Mass.  Grandma did not drive.  There were times – when I was staying there – when the weather was positively atrocious.  And, each day, Grandma walked to and from morning Mass.  I remember two or three times, seeing her come home looking like the proverbial “drowned rat”!  It never fazed her!

In the thirties (I think), she donated one of the “Stations of the Cross” to the Cathedral.  I don’t remember which number it was – but, it was the one situated nearest to the altar on the right-hand side.  The “Stations” – as you can imagine – were very ornate!  It was, after all, the Cathedral – the home of the Archdiocese of Detroit.  The “Stations” were carved into bronze – as I remember.

During World War II (when Detroit was experiencing a critical housing shortage), my Uncle John and Aunt Claire – and their four kids – put their home, in Dearborn, up for rent and moved into Grandma’s house on Englewood.  As big as the house was, it was still quite crowded – considering the fact that “Auntie” (Grandma’s sister – my father’s Aunt Bertha) had lived in the house for decades.  And would continue to live there till Grandma sold the house.

I was amazed:  Uncle John had a chessboard set up in the den.  No one went near it!  The situation was similar to my kids knowing that they would be decapitated – if they were to jack with my records!  We all knew that no one went near that chessboard.

Uncle John was playing chess by mail with some guy from Toledo.  He’d get a postcard from the guy – with the opponent’s latest move.  Then, Uncle John would reflect the move – and study that stupid board for two or three hours.  Then, he’d make his move – and mail out the postcard to Toledo.  With all the time in the world to ponder their moves, they virtually never made a miscue.  I think the game had been going on for 3½ years – and each had lost only one or two pawns.  Amazing.

Though I was the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family, I was never that close to Grandma Schultz.  She loved me, I’m sure – and took me to many special places.  But, she related better to Aunt Mary Catherine’s four kids.  Her daughter’s children – which, I guess, is only natural.

When I was three-years-old, she took me down to New Orleans – for Mardi Gras season.  I remember virtually nothing about the trip – except that the home of the people we’d visited had double doors, leading off the porch and a bathroom of immense proportions.

I was told that I remembered seeing a man – during the Marti Gras celebration (obviously much milder in those days) – who’d had a “dishpan on his stomach”.  I can’t imagine such a thing – but, I’m told that I’d waxed eloquent about it for weeks, after returning to Detroit.  I do remember our taking a Pullman “sleeper” train on the return trip.

There were other trips:  Day trips to Bob-Lo – an island amusement/picnic park in the middle of The Detroit River, just before the river entered into Lake Erie.  Day trips to Put-in-Bay – a larger island in Lake Erie, which featured “The Crystal Cave”.  Trips to the zoo.  Picnics on Belle Isle – another island, closer in, in The Detroit River.  Trips to the State Fair.  Many times we walked to the Fair Grounds – a minimum of three miles.  She was always on the go.

We were all supposed to go to Niagara Falls – when I was in the first grade.  My parents and I had spent the night before at the house on Englewood.  This was before my sister, Dee, had been born.  Guess who came down with the mumps?  Blew the whole trip!  I think, though, that Grandma and “Auntie” actually did go to “The Falls”.  Took the train.

Grandma worked for herself – through the J.L. Hudson department store (Detroit’s largest).  It’s my understanding that Grandma actually knew the Joseph L. Hudson family – used to baby sit either Joseph himself and his siblings – or their children.

“Auntie” worked at the Hudson’s store, downtown, for something like 40 years.  She worked in – probably ran – the fabric department on the fifth floor.  Family tradition was that she’d never missed a day’s work in those 40 years.  I can’t vouch for the precise truthfulness of the nifty legend, but – knowing “Auntie” (a wonderful woman) – it wouldn’t surprise me.

Grandma had a little “hole-in-the-wall” “office” on the same floor.  Through the people at Hudson’s, prospective brides would contact her – to create their wedding gown.

She would meet the bride-to-be downtown and take measurements.  On subsequent occasions, she would invite the prospective bride back to her “office” for fittings.  But, she did all the work at home, on Englewood.  In the huge dining room, she had a window seat.  I seldom remember seeing her seated anywhere else – unless we were eating dinner at the table, or she was entertaining in the living room.  The hub of the place, though, was the dining room – and Grandma virtually never moved from that window seat.

She was immensely talented with her hands.  She could sew, knit, crochet – and a bazillion other things of which I know nothing.  She literally never “just sat”!  Always, she was sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc. etc. etc.

She could be very selective – as to the number of bridal gowns she’d create.  Could, for all practical purposes, work whenever she chose to.  I have the feeling that Grandpa Schultz left her quite well off.  But, every gown she did make was stunningly beautiful!

She was always knitting afghans, crocheting doilies, etc. etc. etc.  Every one of her kids – or kids-in-law – had oodles of those things!  We had three or four afghans – that I remember.

In addition, she was a wonderful cook.  We were at her house every Christmas – and the dinner was wonderful.  Sumptuous!  She made applesauce, jams, jellies and baked pies.  She canned tomatoes and peaches.  When we lived in the little house on Penrod, we had dozens of jars of home-canned peaches from Grandma.  (Some tomatoes, too, I think.)

There had always been a certain amount of antipathy between Grandma Schultz and my mother.  Part of it, I’m sure, stemmed from the fact that Grandma thought that Choody was spending too much of Popnik’s hard-earned money on clothes – despite the fact that my mother worked during most of her life with my father.

But, part of it also was based on the fact that Grandma firmly disapproved of a woman smoking.  It was all right for a man to fire up a cigarette – but, not a woman.  So, when we would be visiting, my mother would make numerous trips upstairs to the bathroom – to smoke – which, of course fooled no one.

One night – when we lived in the little house on Penrod – my mother hosted a bridge party.  There were 10 or 12 women visiting – including Grandma Schultz.  Choody had spread the word that smoking in front of Grandma was verboten.  So, between hands, there would be a mass exodus for the john!  I got up, while all this was taking place – had to “go”!  Man!  The bathroom was the traditional “smoke-filled room” – even when no one was in there.  I was practically asphyxiated!

Grandma remained in that house, on Englewood, until the late-forties – when the neighborhood was turning black, and she was just about forced to sell.

She and “Auntie” moved out – and into the basement, of my Uncle Cletus and Aunt Mary Catherine.

It had been a serious concern of mine – although I was only 16- or 17-years-old, at the time – that the heat for these elderly ladies’ “apartment” came from Uncle Cletus simply cutting an opening – an unfiltered hole – into the massive asbestos (I think) tube leading from the coal furnace.  It was one of the three or four “pipes” through which heat was furnished to the entire two-story house.  I couldn’t imagine that this would be healthful.

And the bus ride into downtown – for “Auntie”, who still worked for Hudson’s – was two- or three-times as long as the short streetcar ride down Woodward, when they’d lived on Englewood.

In 1952 or 1953 – I was in the Navy at the time – Grandma was diagnosed as having an acute case of arthritis in her hands.  “Auntie” had passed away.

No one in the family would speak of it – not that I’d ever heard, anyway – but, most  thought that it was more than coincidence that these tragic things happened shortly after the two women had moved to Aunt Mary Catherine’s basement.

Grandma paid for an extension on the back of the first floor of Uncle John’s house.  They had long-since moved back to Dearborn, from the house on Englewood – the war having ended, and the housing shortage having abated.

Aunt Claire acted as devoted – and efficient – nurse to poor Grandma.

The saddest – most poignant – aspect of Grandma’s ailment was that the joints in her hands disintegrated.  When I was discharged, and drove out to Dearborn to see her, I was shocked!  She had no knuckles!  For someone who was so wonderfully gifted – so beautifully talented – to have her hands rendered literally useless was a tragedy of major proportions!  A monumental waste!

She passed away in 1959 or 1960!  Her body had been reduced to virtual nothingness!  It was so sad:  She prayed for the Lord to take her.  At her funeral, the priest spent the entire homily speaking of the “great blessing” it was for her to now be with the Lord.

I can think of no other human being who suffered so much – mentally, emotionally and physically – for such a long period!  You talk about pathos.  One could not visit Grandma without feeling terribly dejected.  And yet – for the most part – she remained as upbeat as would be possible, for anyone with her ailment.

The first Christmas that Carmen and I were together, she and I and Choody and Dee and my Grandma Ville Monte drove out to spend the day in Dearborn.  Grandma Schultz was actually quite cheerful!  She had a cardboard Santa Claus on the nightstand.  Santa’s hands were slotted – so he could hold a number of crisp, new, one-dollar bills.  When you went in to say hello to Grandma, you also said hello to Santa – and pilfered a buck.

Everything after that was tragically downhill.  It is Christmas, of 1954, in which my prevailing memory of Grandma Schultz lies.