inancy

Jack Gruenberg: a chronology of his life in Minneapolis, Los Cruces, and Los Angeles 1911-28

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Jacob ‘Jack’ Gruenberg at the time of his Bar Mitzvah In Minneapolis c. 1911

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Jack Gruenberg c. 1916. This might be Jack’s high school photograph taken for use in his high school yearbook .

In addition to the above photo perhaps taken in his senior year of high school for use in the high school year book (c. 1916), there are 10 pieces of information which are helpful in determining the historical sequence of the events in Jack Gruenberg’s life from 1918 to 1928. These episodes culminate in the birth of his son, Merrill Gruenberg, and Jack’s untimely death by his own hand eight months thereafter.

Exhibit 1a. A photo of Jack (born December 20, 1898 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) from a set of two which he dated February 28, 1918, and which were sent by him to his sister Rose; and an additional undated photo showing Jack with a World War I biplane. These photos appear to be related to Jack’s duties during World War I.

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Jack in 1918 during the cooler months. Across the street is a railroad station. Location unknown. This is one of two photos labeled ‘To Rose from Jack’ and dated February 28, 1918.

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Jack leaning on the fuselage of a Curtiss JN2 ‘Jenny’

Exhibit 1b. An additional photo of Jack in Minneapolis taken c. 1918.

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Jack in Minneapolis. Note on the back: ‘To Rose from Jack Feb. 28, 1918’

Exhibit 1c. Two photos of Jack in Minneapolis following WW I.

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Jack Gruenberg Minneapolis. February 8, 1921. Jack arrived in LA In May.

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Jack Gruenberg in 1919, shortly before he left Minneapolis for Los Angeles. The back  of the photo reads: From Brother Jack to Sister & Father. Taken Apr 27 – 19.

Exhibit 2. A photo from an extensive series featuring Rose, Jack, and friends (perhaps Max Lauber and his relatives) dated Labor Day: September 6, 1921 and taken at Port Los Angeles in San Pedro where a ship is coming into port. This series was printed by Kodak on their Glossette paper which was still being advertised in the LA Times as late as 1928:

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LA Times: June 24, 1928

According to his death certificate, Jack arrived in Los Angeles during May of 1921:

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Port Los Angeles in San Pedro CA

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Jack and Rose Gruenberg with Rose’s husband Max Lauber,  at Port Los Angeles in San Pedro.  The Steamship Avalon, which shuttled tourists between the port and Catalina Island, is seen in the background. This photo is one of the series printed by Kodak on their Glossette paper taken September 6, 1921.

Exhibit 3. A list of names on the back of a photo taken at the seashore of a small boy with a woman looking on from a distance. The names of four Gruenberg brothers: Jack, Hyman (Hy G.), Wallace (Wally), and Charles (Chuk) appear in the left-hand column.

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Exhibit 4. A set of photos of Jack taken on the beach in front of the Ocean Park Bath House (between Venice and Santa Monica CA) with two of his brothers and Anne Goodman).

The Bath House at Ocean Park: inside was a huge swimming pool.

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Two Gruenberg brothers: Chuck (perhaps) and Jack with their friend, Helen, who appears in an extensive series of photographs in the Bonar Family collection taken at Ocean Park Beach and elsewhere.

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Jack (right) with two of his brothers at the Ocean Park Beach. Perhaps they are Chuck and Wally whose names appear in a list on the back of the photo mentioned in Exhibit 3.

Four of Jack’s Driving Jobs

Exhibit 5 a. Photographic documentation finds Jack working for the Pacific Baking Company in Los Angeles by 1923 when the company purchased their Walker Electric trucks. Jack was fortunate to be assigned to drive one of the new electrics in which he delivered Holsum Bread.

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Pacific Baking Co. Letterhead

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Ad for Pacific Baking Company, maker of Holsum Bread. LA Times: December 21, 1915

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Holsum Bread and their Walker Electric Trucks. LA Times: September 9, 1923

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Jacob ‘Jack’ Gruenberg (1898-1928) in front of Walker Electric Truck No. 205 which he drove for the Pacific Baking Company in Los Angeles.

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The truck driven by Jack Gruenberg for Pacific Baking Company: Walker Electric No. 205

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Holsum Bread Co. Beverly Hills 1924

Pacific Baking Co., Beverly Hills 1924. The word Holsum is seen in large letters high above the entrance. The trackage appears to be that of the Pacific Electric Co.

Exhibit 5 b.

Pic Jack Gruenberg and a friend at a Bakery

Jack Gruenberg and John Myers at the El Paso Baking Co. which made Betsy Ross Bread.

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Jack with the truck he drove for the El Paso Baking Co. in Los Cruces, New Mexico

Exhibit 5 c.

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Jack and a friend. The sign in the truck reads: Iris Food Products

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Jack sitting with two friends on the Iris Food Products truck.

Exhibit 5 d.

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Jack in LA when he drove for Haas Baruch & Co.

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Jack in LA when he drove for Haas Baruch & Co.

Exhibit 6. A series of photos of Jack Gruenberg at the beach in Santa Monica with Herman & Tillie Lentzner, Anne & Ed Goodman, and Margie Steinman, the latter of whom who would become Jack’s wife. Margie had arrived in Philadelphia from Eastern Europe during the early summer of 1921. She lived in St. Louis MO with half-sister Tillie Wyman and husband Herman Lentzner until late in 1924 when they all moved to Los Angeles.

According to his death certificate of January 20, 1928, Jack had lived in LA for 6 years and 9 months; that is to say, Jack arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1921.

In following photograph taken in the summer of 1926, Margie stands in back of Jack who is being ‘crowned’ by Tillie as Herman looks on. One suspects a bit of matchmaking was involved on Tillie’s part, since she seems so proud of her ‘selection’, but one cannot rule out Anne as the co-culprit as she looks straight into the camera with an impish grin. Margie and Jack were married not long after this photo was taken, in the Fall of 1926 on October 13th. Margie was already two months pregnant at the time. Their only child, Merrill, arrived in the Spring of 1927 on May 10th.

Keeping in mind that the era in which these photos were taken was the Roaring 20s, the question remains: how did Margie meet Jack? Could it be that Jack was making book (according to Merrill Bonar, this was common among bread delivery men) and that Lentzners and Goodmans were his customers?

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Herman, Margie, Jack, Tillie, and Anne at Santa Monica Beach

Exhibit 7. Margie and Jack’s marriage certificate of October 13, 1926. Margie was already two months pregnant  with Merrill when she married Jack.

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1926 Marriage Certificate of Jacob ‘Jack’ Gruenberg and Margie Steinman (typed on the document as: Steiman)

Exhibit 8. A series of photos taken at an apartment building in Los Angeles on the corner of Hoover and 42nd Street which includes Tillie Lentzner, Margie Steinman, Anne Goodman, and Jack Gruenberg. These were taken sometime between late 1924 and late 1927. Merrill Bonar believes that Anne Goodman owned this apartment building.

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Present day view of the apartment building directly across from the similar one at 4214 Hoover Street (now torn down) where the Lentzners, Goodmans, and Margie Gruenberg with her son, Merrill,  lived in the late 1920’s.

Prior to her marriage to Jack Gruenberg, Margie lived in Hollywood at 124 ½ South Westmoreland, just a block below Herman’s apartment building project of 1926 whose architect had been Leland Bryant. Jack, on the other hand, lived in a residence at 3815 Harvard Boulevard, in the same general area around Exposition Park where the apartment building on Hoover Street, shown above, was located. After their October 13, 1926 marriage, Jack moved into Margie’s apartment on South Westmoreland; and it was during this period that their son, Merrill, was born. After the death of Jack, Margie took an apartment on the 2nd floor of the Hoover Street apartment building. Merrill recalls that his Uncle Herman and Aunt Tillie lived downstairs.

It is interesting to note that Esther Kalkopf, Herman Lentzner’s niece, was living at the South Westmoreland address (mentioned above) by February of 1928 when she married Harold McTeer. In July of 1933, Esther and Harold were residing on Hoover Street, but at number 4182 ½ (South Hoover). By August of 1934 when Esther and Harold stood as witnesses for Margie and her second husband, Sam Bonar, the McTeers had moved to 1207 West 99th Street.

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The apartment building at 4214 Hoover Street where the Lentzners, Goodmans, and Gruenbergs lived in the late 1920’s. L-R: Tilly, Margie, Anne Goodman’s son, and Anne.

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Jack Gruenberg in front of 4214 Hoover Street

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Margie Steinman in front of 4214 Hoover Street

Exhibit 9. Birth Certificate of Merrill Gruenberg born May 10, 1927, seven months after Margie and Jack were married; by this time Jack was delivering bread for the Weber Baking Company. Merrill’s was just 8 months old when his biological father, Jack Gruenberg, died.

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Margie’s fsecond son, Donald Bonar,, is shown here with his arm around Selma Wyman Brustin, as his mother, Margie, looks on.  Selma’s dog, which she has in hand, was named Manuel, coincidentally the name of her ex-husband!

Exhibit 10. Gravestone and Death Certificate of Jack Gruenberg. Jack Gruenberg died in Los Angeles from an overdose of laudanum on January 20, 1928 at a residence on 1171 Belevedere in Boyle Heights. He was buried on January 22 in Mt. Zion Cemetery (Plot NE08-31) in Los Angeles. Jack was a just 30 years old at the time. The cause of death in the coroner’s report reads as follows: phenol laudanum poisoning, suicidal.

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Several questions remain regarding Jack’s passing: why was he taking laudanum? That is to say, was Jack in physical pain or had he become an addict of a drug popular during the Roaring 20s? And why did Jack commit suicide? Was it from an accidental overdose, or was he in the process of confronting serious problems in his life for which he could find no appropriate solution?

Merrill Bonar has commented that ‘all’ bread-men are gamblers and that some are even bookies. Merrill has postulated that his father, Jack Gruenberg, had probably gotten into such deep debt in gambling, that he sought death as the only way out.

A few observations can be made concerning the use of Laudanum during the age of Prohibition (1920-1933). The following items from the LA Times are indicative of the era known as the Roaring Twenties:

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Ad for Fletcher’s Castoria containing information about Laudanum: LA Times, September 16, 1920.

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Script for a play of the 1920’s which includes information about the popular use of Laudanum during Prohibition. LA Times: March 22, 1924

JACK GRUENBERG’S COLLECTION OF BOXING PHOTOS

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Back of the photo above

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Jack G and buddies

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Jack’s nephew, Bobby Gruenberg, his brother Al’s son.

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  1. This is a picture of my husband’s father as a child. I would love to have access to this picture as well as the one of Bobbit Canter with her daughter for our family history album. If you have any photos of Genevieve Namer Gruenberg or Mendel Canter, I would be interested in acquiring these as well.

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