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Our Family’s 20th Century History in Biographies .. 11
Alison D. (Berger) Boor

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Calvin Albert Unger (Grandpa Unger) June 15, 1876 - Jan 7, 1950, age 74,
Buried at Zion Blue Mountain, Strausstown

Calvin Unger & Family Calvin and his family moved to his grandfather DeTurk’s farm on the southeast side of Strausstown when he was less than a year old, moving off of it when he was 12. He was baptized in Strausstown on July 27, 1876 and attended school in Strausstown, including several summer sessions. When his older brother became principal of Emmaus High School, the family packed up and moved from Strausstown to Emmaus in 1888 so that Calvin could continue his schooling. He was confirmed at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Emmaus on April 12, 1891 by Pr. Wynn Rath. After Calvin graduated from school in 1892, he passed his teacher’s examination and found a teaching job at the Spoke Factory school, about 1 ½ miles from Stroudsburg. At this time he won a spelling bee in Stroudsburg; his prize was a book, “Birds of Pennsylvania.” In 1893 he completed a short course in teaching at Kutztown Normal School, returning at several points for more education, and receiving a degree on June 25, 1896. Between these courses he taught school at Wagner’s school in Jefferson Township, Strausstown primary school, Keim’s school, Botz’s school and finally Strausstown Grammar School.

A newspaper article from March 7, 1913 details “Patriotic Literary Exercises” that were held by the grammar school society (Helen M. Unger, secretary). Among those items featured: a recitation of “The American Flag” by Albert Berger, an oration, “Washington” by Helen M. Unger, and a recitation, “Saved by a Hymn” by Carrie A. Unger, with introductory remarks and an oration “Lincoln,” by Grandpa Unger. Uncle Dan helped judge the debate (subject: “Resolved, that there was more patriotism and heroism displayed in the Revolutionary War than in the Civil War.” The negative won.) They collected $2.35.

He left teaching in 1918 to serve as a Clerk in the Recorder of Deeds Office in Reading, shortly becoming the private secretary to the County Superintendent of Schools, where he served under three different Superintendents. (This position no longer exists; now each district has their own superintendent.) In this job he was known as the “key man of Berks network of rural public schools” (which had 800 teachers and about 25,000 pupils) and was responsible for correspondence, visitors, and so on. He organized a county teacher’s institute.

The last Superintendent he worked for was Newton Geiss. They were both members of the Fersammling, a Pennsylvania German society that had yearly dinners (Mom has various favors from them). “Der Kal Unger” of West Laan was on Die Zellel Kommittee and was also Der Fohrsinger (song leader).

While he lived in Strausstown he was elected Justice of the Peace of Upper Tulpehocken Township and was re-elected three times. He also taught a singing school and Sunday School, and was Superintendent of the Sunday School for 20 years; he was also “chorister” (organist and choir director) of Zion’s Blue Mountain Church for about 16 years. He was a member of Camp 664 POSofA, and Camp 38 POofA in Strausstown, IOOF, and the Williamson Lodge 307 F&AM in Womelsdorf. He also helped organize the Strausstown Fire Company in 1915, serving as its first president. He played tuba in the Strausstown Cornet Band for 10 years. He was president of the Strausstown Homecoming Association. He served as Bank Director in the Bernville National Bank for several years until the Strausstown National Bank was formed, and he became a director there. He frequently tutored young men to prepare them for further education. He never owned a house in Strausstown, but rented four different houses during his family’s time there.

For a time he presided over the Unger Reunion, where anyone with the surname of Unger could come and try to figure out how they were related. Poppop was frequently in charge of games; sometimes Uncle Jake even came over from New Jersey for these occasions. Aunt Flora and her brother Bill Unger also attended.

In March of 1919 he moved his family to West Lawn to be closer to his work in Reading. He helped organize Advent Lutheran Church in 1924, serving at various times as a deacon, president of the Sunday School, chorister (leading the singing with a pencil as baton), and secretary of the building committee. He was appointed School Director of Spring Township and was re-elected at least three times. He served as President of the Board of Education during the construction of Wilson High School, and was a member of the West Lawn Fire Company, the PSEA, and the Masonic Chorus of Berks County. He also served in various other positions in the county church and teaching organizations. He was a staunch Democrat, attending quite a few state and county Democratic conventions, and once serving as a delegate.

He married Alice Diana Spengler on February 13, 1897 and they had four children, Helen May, Carrie Alberta, Earl Alfred, and Grace Sarah, who died at 8 months. He was a big, tall, powerful looking man, with a large mustache. He had a very deep bass voice (“Asleep in the Deep” was his special number). Aunt Carrie used to talk about cuddling up to him, but most people found him a little intimidating; she remembered him putting his arm around her mother and kissing her. He might have been a little hurt that his grandchildren paid more attention to Grandma Unger than to him. He liked to listen to baseball games on the radio while working his crossword puzzles; he and Grandma also liked to listen to Amos and Andy.

Every Saturday morning, Sam Berger would drive Grandpa Unger and Helen to market, and every Saturday Grandpa would buy a piece of mackerel, which Grandma would soak in the dishpan overnight, and then serve it to him Sunday morning for breakfast. He liked catching fish and he liked eating them! Grandpa, Sam and Sis Wenrich’s father would sometimes drive to Maryland to fish. He also played pinochle regularly with Mr. Wenrich, with whom he served on the county board of education.

He died of a heart attack while he was shaving one morning, after putting in a full day’s work as usual the day before. His funeral was a big one, with lots of teachers and school officials in attendance. Six leading school officials were pallbearers, including his boss, Newton Geiss, and William Kutz, principal of Spring Township schools. The county superintendent’s office was closed for the day so that the staff could attend the funeral. More than 500 attended the viewing, and Masonic rites were conducted by Williamson Lodge 307. There was also a memorial service at Wilson High School.

The “family file” has copies of numerous speeches that he made, including one really wonderful address entitled, “Why Go to Church?,” which was presented on November 21, 1937. He was truly a man who lived as we are supposed to, with devotion to his church, his family, and his community.



Linked to  Alison D. (Berger) Boor
Calvin Albert Unger (40106) 
Albums  Ungers 

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