May 21, 2024

John Schultz

John Schultz was the brother of my father’s father, or my Grandfather’s brother, or my father’s uncle. The below was written by my father — George D. Schultz.


Bernard on the left, John in back, Paul in front and Mary Catherine to the right — as you face the photo.

My Uncle John was unlike any person I’ve ever known.  You would never know that he was only a year-or-so older than my father — both in physical stature and in personality.  Pop was not what people would consider rebellious, but — compared to Uncle John — he was the embodiment of “The Chicago Seven”.

I don’t know how true this is — but, legend had it that a marriage was set up, negotiated between my Grandmother Schultz and the Korte family (who owned almost as much of Dearborn in the twenties as Henry Ford), that my FATHER would marry Claire Korte.  I don’t know why THAT arrangement didn’t work out — but, I believe it was understood that Uncle John was recruited to fill that slot.  And he married my Aunt Claire.

How-ever-it-came-about, it was a MOST successful marriage.  It lasted 60 — maybe 70 — years.  It produced four children:  Bob is a couple years younger than me.  Mary Claire was a year or so younger than Bob — and Rosemary was a few years younger than Mary Claire.  Tommy was born substantially later than that.  He was always the baby.

Rosemary had GRAVE misfortune.  She was involved in an auto accident.  As I understand it, she was with my Grandma Schultz — crossing the street, near Grandma’s house.  And Rosemary got hit.  She wound up retarded.  To me, it was seriously retarded — but, most professionals in the field would probably dispute that.  She was able to operate, pretty much, on her own.  Her speech was noticeably slurred and slow — for, I imagine, the rest of her life.  As I understand it, she is still alive.  (Bob passed away a year-or-so ago.)

In the late seventies, Rosemary met — and married — a man who was ALSO retarded.  (From what?  I don’t know.  But, he drove a Plymouth Volare.)  As far as I know, they’re still married — and, I THINK they had a baby a couple decades ago; which would’ve been quite late in life for both of them.  It is my understanding that the kid is pretty much normal — thank God.

Bob had married a girl — in the late-fifties or early-sixties — named Mary Helen (in keeping with the “Mary has got to be part of the girl’s name” family-legislation).  As far as I know, they were still married when he passed away.

Bob was pretty much a professional student.  He went to college for more years than I attended K-12.  (K-11, in my case.)  He knew EVERY government-sponsored program that had ever been conceived.  The last time I saw him — circa 1978, when my father had passed away — he was advising my sister Dee (who he’d not seen in a long time — the families were never really close) as to two or three programs that he thought she could take advantage of.

He and I worked together — probably for six or eight months — at the Washington Boulevard Avis Rent-a-Car station, in “Beautiful Downtown Detroit”.  He was very good.  Mary Jane — who, next to The Polack, was my best friend, for the rest of her life — was managing the joint at the time, and she loved Bob.  Was terribly disappointed when he left.  (To go to college, I think.)

Mary Claire was, I think, my favorite girl cousin.  I haven’t seen her in 45 — maybe 50 — years.  Saw her at her wedding.  She married some guy — and they moved to someplace on the Left Coast.  I’m not aware of ever seeing her since.

Tommy — “The Baby” — was always pretty rebellious.  (Don’t know WHERE that could’ve come from.)  Dearborn — until the mid-sixties — was all-white.  NO minorities.  At Avis, we’d had a head porter (now called service agents) named Joe Barlow.  He was black.  He lived in one of the suburbs that bordered on Dearborn.  I forget WHY his house was so unusual — it had to do with the location.  He had always thought that he’d gotten his water from the City of Dearborn — but, they NEVER sent him a water bill.  He used to laugh and say, “Mister George, if THAT is discrimination … I’m all for it”.

When things started to get turbulent — in the sixties — all hell broke loose.  All KINDS of demonstrations.  And Tommy was in the midst of all of them.  I have no idea where he is — or what (or how) he’s doing.  Last time I saw him was at Mary Claire’s wedding.

Or course, now Dearborn has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country.  Progress — ya can’t beat it.

Tommy, though, also had a bit of misfortune — at Grandma Schultz’s house.  Apparently, when he was a little kid — maybe three- or four-years-old — he was wearing a celluloid bib.  Somehow, it caught fire.  Grandma jumped in and put it out — eventually.  I don’t really know what happened — but, Grandma wound up in the hospital for, literally, MONTHS from burns that she’d suffered in putting the fire out.  Tommy — for all the years I’d known him — always had a rather substantial scar on his neck.

Uncle John and Aunt Claire lived on a street called Korte — named after the family.  The Korte ancestral home used to be on the corner of Korte and Michigan Avenue, in Dearborn.  I’d been in the house many times — when I was a kid.  It was nothing overwhelming.  Had — at one time — been a farm house.  They had — at one time — owned all the acreage around there.  But, there WAS something special about the place.  I’d loved it.  It’s gone now.  I THINK replaced by a bar.  Progress — ya can’t beat it.

Uncle John’s and Aunt Claire’s house was about a block-and-a-half north of Michigan Avenue.  There were three houses in a row — probably the only houses on the street, at one time.  They were all members of — or married to members of — the Korte family.

The Schultz house was on the south end of those three — and they owned the lot next to them; to the south.  That was to assure that no “civilians” would ever move in next door.  (Cannot remember if anyone eventually built next to the north-most house.)

Doug went with me to the house on Korte in 1976 (I think).  We’d come to Detroit — from Buffalo — to visit Popnik.  And I think we’ had to go out to Dearborn to get Uncle John to sign something for my father.  Duffy and Danny and his wife had all came up for Choody’s funeral.  Aunt Claire and Uncle John attended — so THEY got to meet my aunt and uncle.  I don’t think that any of the rest of my kids ever got to see them.  I could be wrong.  Dave might’ve met them.  He was seven, when we moved to Texas, in 1962.

Uncle John did NOT drive.  And he worked something like 30 miles away.  (He’d stayed there for 30 or 40 — or maybe 50 — years.  Retired with the gold watch — the whole ge-schmear.)  Every morning, he took three buses to get to work.  Seldom — if ever — missed a day’s work.  That’s INCREDIBLE.

He was the most methodical person I’d ever met.  When Scrabble became a national rage, he’d spend — literally — HOURS every day, with his board and tiles, on the dining room table; devising different words, to meet any eventuality when in a game.

During the war (WWII) — there was a terribly all-encompassing housing shortage.  Detroit WAS “The Arsenal of Democracy”.  Jobs ABOUNDED at the automobile factories — churning out trucks and tanks and planes.  You had a real problem, in the forties, finding a place to live in The Motor City.

Uncle John and Aunt Claire rented out their house in Dearborrn — and moved in with Grandma Schultz.  (It WAS a big house that she’d had — like, four bedrooms.)

My mother had always maintained that the main reason that things were “strained” (for decades) between her and Grandma Schultz was that she and my father were the only ones of Grandma’s children who hadn’t — at one time or another — LIVED with Grandma.  I have no idea as to when the Werthmanns (my Aunt Mary Catherine was Grandma’s daughter) lived with her.  It HAD to have been before I was three or four.

While Uncle John and Aunt Claire were living at Grandma’s, my uncle was playing chess-by-mail — with some guy in Toledo.  He’d had the board set up in the den — and God help anyone who’d go NEAR the latch-up!  Kids were BANNED from the sacred room.

He’d been playing that same game — with that same guy — for three or four years at the time.  He’d get the postcard with the opponent’s move, move whatever piece was involved — then, sit there (for, literally, hours) planning HIS move.  (One would have to imagine that the guy in Ohio was doing the same thing.)  Finally, at about 11 o’clock, Uncle John would’ve made his move, filled out the requisite postcard, and would see that it got sent off the following day.  (I have no idea how complicated it was for him to get to work, during the three or four years that he and his family had lived with Grandma.  It could NOT have been easy.)

Once Bob was old enough to drive, they bought a car.  Aunt Claire got her license too.  As stated, Uncle John never DID drive.  Popnik used to have to transport the family — in his 1937 Ford club coupe — practically EVERYWHERE.  Well he did that for Grandma and Aunt Bertha — Grandma’s sister.

“Auntie” was a SAINT.  Never married.  Raised Grandma’s (and, I guess, Grandpa was alive then) kids.  Grandma and Grandpa had a few bucks — and were always on a trip somewhere.  My father spent a number of years at Barber Hall — a military boarding school.  Presumably, so did Uncle John — and Aunt Mary Catherine MUST have been shipped off to school too.

“Auntie” was reputed to have worked for 50 years — at J.L. Hudson’s department store in “Beautiful Downtown Detroit” — and never to have missed a day’s work.  I don’t know how true that was — but, it would not surprise me.  She was a WONDERFUL woman.

As I understand it, Grandma Schultz used to babysit for Joseph L. Hudson — in the late 19th century — and used to make made-to-order bridal gowns, through the store, up through the forties.

I last saw Uncle John and Aunt Claire (both RIP) at my mother’s funeral.  Aunt Claire was still driving.  Uncle John never did.  They were a nifty couple.  My favorite family — from that side of the brood (although Bob and I used to argue a lot about the comic strip, Smoky Stover, when we were kids).

I’d almost “lost it” — when I’d heard Aunt Claire talk about getting their dog an abortion.  To her, “damn” and “hell” were horrible curse words.  I’d NEVER heard her use either one of them — or anything worse.  I’d had a hard time adjusting — when I’d heard her use the word “fanny”, one time.

Legend has it that every one of Uncle John’s children was born on one of his paydays.  He’d always maintained that this meant that he’d had “perfect control”.