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Our Family’s 20th Century History in Biographies .. 15

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Carrie Alberta Unger Spatz (Aunt Carrie) April 24, 1900-July 12, 1988,
buried at Zion Blue Mountain, Strausstown

She was expected to be a boy and would have been named Calvin Albert, Jr—she became Carrie Alberta instead, but her father used to bounce her on his lap saying, “Toddie, Toddie, Toddie”—and that became her nickname. (Uncle Norman always called her Toddie.) She remembered playing with paper dolls with her best friend Minerva Dierwechter. As children, she and Helen and Earl had chores to do; she remembered cleaning lamps on Saturday morning, and sweeping out in front of the house. She washed and dried dishes with Helen (who used to say that Aunt Carrie would try to get out of drying dishes by having to go to the bathroom!) Saturday nights they would often go to the hotel across the street for ice cream. She learned to play the organ from her father, and she sang soprano in the church choir. She was confirmed as a Lutheran by Rev. Klick on October 30, 1915. She remembered liking singing and reciting poems, spelling and gram
mar—her weakness in school was math. She performed in at least one piano recital with another girl and the pastor’s wife. When she was a teenager she worked stripping tobacco, which she hated (she got 25 cents a week!); she also worked in the Anthonys big factory for a time. She was a lively, active girl with lots of friends and boyfriends.

After stringing along two boyfriends at once, her father told her to make up her mind and she chose Norman Spatz, whom she first met when he came to visit his cousin Esther Spatz, and Esther brought him along to a hiking party at Ketner Spring on Blue Mountain. His father had a peach orchard, and she remembered being impressed with his English when he came to town to hawk peaches. (Nobody spoke much English in Strausstown in those days.) Of course, she also liked his looks and his sense of humor!

She attended Albright College (which was then called Schuylkill Seminary and located in Meyerstown), in 1917 to study music, but we can find no records that she graduated—perhaps the war intervened. At Schuylkill she became very good friends with Mary Druckenmiller.

Her most famous date with Uncle Norman was after he and his family had moved back to the family farm near Strausstown and he took her for a ride in a sleigh (pulled by his horse, Prince) that had a sign on the back—“For sale, Cheap.” He always brought her candy, which she didn’t like and gave to her mother! She passed a teaching examination given to her by her father at his office in Reading. She stayed with Mammy and Pappy Spengler in Strausstown on weekends while she taught for part of a year—she came down with laryngitis and Samuel Berger finished out her term for her--he had just gotten home from the army. She thought this was 1918. Her school was close to Hamburg; about 35 kids; she remembered getting about $35 a month. While she was teaching, she boarded with the Grubers, and helped out when Mr. Gruber had to visit every farm to take inventory of the stock because of an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease. She enjoyed teaching the kids to sing, but had some difficulty teaching math: “Honestly,I was just one page ahead of the class.” She would go to the school and build a fire every morning in the winter. She also remembered doing a Christmas program with the students. This was the only year she taught.

She sometimes spent weekends in West Lawn, and lived there for a time before she married. Uncle Norman also taught around this time at Schommels School; he taught at least two years.

She and Uncle Norman were married in a large, fancy ceremony with many attendants on Saturday, August 14, 1920 at 2:00 in the afternoon; Rev. Frank W. Ruth, the Reformed pastor, married them at Zion Blue Mountain. Her sister Helen was not in the wedding because she was pregnant with Russell, but other attendants included her friend Minerva, Ella Anthony, and Uncle Norman’s cousin Esther, with Amy Stupp of Bethel as maid of honor. Uncle Earl was the best man. Kathryn Strauss (Uncle Claude’s daughter) was a flower girl. Ura Troutman sang. The church was decorated with flowers and potted plants, and included an arch under which they said their vows. She wore a crepe de chine dress trimmed with Valenciennes lace, carried a bouquet of cream roses, and wore a veil trimmed with forget-me-nots. The rest of the wedding party were in light blue, pink and light green. She spent the night before the wedding at Mammy and Pappy Spengler’s house (the Ungers had already moved to West Lawn), and got dressed there.

The wedding reception was at the Spatz farm (same reason—the Ungers had already moved), a dinner for about 50 people. They had a 10 day honeymoon train trip, with her parents, to Vineland, New Jersey to visit Uncle Jake and Aunt Kate (just as Helen and Sam had done), but then they extended the trip by going on to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Mt. Vernon, and then to Harrisburg. When they left for the trip, Boppy famously said, “Bye Middy Batts!” They stayed a day later than they had thought, taking the train from Harrisburg to Hamburg and then coming home on “Bench” Berger’s stage—but they missed their coming home party, which Grandma Unger had prepared for the day before! They got some interesting wedding gifts: $100 from “Mother and Dad,” a mahogany clock from “Mother and Father,” a white spread from Mammy and Pappy and a silver gravy ladle from Helen and Sam.

They began married life on the Spatz farm (their wedding invitation places it in Bernville), but moved due to Uncle Norman’s allergic problems with farm life and his educational ambitions. Aunt Carrie enjoyed farm life though (this was her first time on a farm), and Mrs. Spatz taught her many things, including how to make butter, for which Mrs. Spatz was well known. They moved to West Lawn where Uncle Norman attended Albright College to prepare for entry into Lehigh University in Bethlehem; he had been encouraged to attend Lehigh by a professor there who was from Strausstown, Stanley Seyfert. While in Bethlehem, Aunt Carrie worked for a department store, where she sold boys pants. While he was going to college his mother sent them all kind of foods from the farm, including eggs! His father wouldn’t give them a cent.

After his graduation from Lehigh in 1927, they moved to an apartment in Irvington, NJ, with a real neat washline that reeled in and out the window and a dumbwaiter to put the garbage on. They then moved to a little house in Union which they called the “doll house.” Their next move was to 1057 Sterling Road in Union, where they lived across the street from the Gills, who became very good friends of theirs; their daughter Barbara and her family were another family to Aunt Carrie and Uncle Norman. In 1941 they built their house at 153 Indian Run Parkway. Their friends had three surprise housewarming parties for them!

When they moved to New Jersey, Aunt Carrie met up with her old friend Mary Druckenmiller, whose husband Fred was pastor of Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church in Union. Aunt Carrie joined the congregation in 1930, serving in every way possible, from singing soprano in the choir to becoming the first woman elder in 1962. She taught Sunday School and was superintendent of the Primary and then Junior Departments of Sunday School. She was president of the women’s association, eventually becoming president of Elzizabeth Presbyterial in 1949 for four years (the head of all the women’s associations in the area—more than 55 churches). She worked hard on the Major Mission Fund and visited missions out West and possibly abroad when they traveled.

She was also very active in the Red Cross during the war, earning a pin for her many hours of volunteer work; it didn’t count the hours spent knitting. Another activity was her study group; individuals would research a topic, write up a report and read it at the meeting. One time she researched pretzels, and then served pretzels and ice cream for refreshments.

She and Uncle Norman were a main vacation destination for their nieces and nephews. Vacations in Union usually included a trip to New York, movies, day trips to historic sites, and shopping. Shopping in Newark or New York usually consisted of hours of window shopping, with perhaps a purchase of bobby pins in the 5 and 10 cent store at the end of the day. Aunt Carrie (and Mom) liked to shop for china, Aunt Carrie trying out the cups to make sure that her finger fit comfortably in the handle. She would have a number of hats or shoes delivered to their home, try them all on, and then send them all back! (This was a very different lifestyle from 103 Perkasie.) The trips to New York were especially exciting, since they often included a show at Radio City, or checking out the Christmas decorations; once, they paused in front of Lord and Taylor’s windows to look at a ring Aunt Carrie found in the street, and a crowd gathered around them to see what they had found.

Aunt Carrie sang “Oh Promise Me” at her sister Helen’s wedding in 1917 and sang a solo at the 100th anniversary program of Zion’s Blue Mountain church in 1939. She was the soloist at Russ and Betty Mae’s wedding in 1941, singing “At Dawning” and “Ich Liebe Dich;” at Betty and Dorsen’s wedding in 1950 she sang “O Perfect Love,” “Entreat Me Not to Leave Thee” and “Ich Liebe Dich.”

Aunt Carrie and Uncle Norman were always interested in traveling, beginning with a trip to Niagara Falls in 1930. In 1932 they toured Nova Scotia with Grandma and Grandpa Unger. In 1938 they made their first trip to a resort at Lake Minnewaska in the Catskills of New York, and returned there nearly every year in the 40s. Lake Minnewaska at that time was run by Quakers; the food was great but there was a “light’s out” time, and on Sundays there was to be “no noise, no purchases and no rentals for pleasure,” as Poppop told Boppy in a letter. In the 50s they began making trips out West, seeing nearly every national park and monument to be seen. On a 1960 cruise to Bermuda Aunt Carrie got a certificate from the “Queen of Bermuda” health club for doing a two mile marathon. In 1962 they traveled the West with Kathryn; on this trip Uncle Norman was named the billionth visitor at Cedar Breaks National Monument on August 22. After Uncle Norman’s retirement in 1966 they were able to take longer trips, and made their first one that year to Europe (England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany), taking the New Amsterdam over and the Queen Elizabeth back. They continued their vacations at Lake Minnewaska and Lake George (with the family) as well as trips to the Canadian Northwest (1958) and Bermuda. In 1970 they traveled back to Europe to see the passion play at Oberammergau, as well as tulip time in the Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal.

They had a memorable 25th anniversary party on August 14, 1945, a surprise party given to them by their friends the Gills. No one in the family was able to make the party because of the gas rationing during the war. During the party, it became known that the Japanese had surrendered, making it a double celebration. Their nieces and nephews (this includes Barbara and George Martin) gave Aunt Carrie and Uncle Norman a wonderful 50th anniversary party at Connecticut Farms on August 15, 1970. The whole family helped serve guests, park cars, decorate the church’s gym, and make punch. It was a very hot day (no one drank any of the coffee from the enormous urn), and the punch went fast! They received several gifts from the family, including a gold bracelet and pen, and a memory book with illustrations drawn by Boppy. They took the family out to dinner afterwards. Their 60th anniversary party was held at Luther Crest on August 17, 1985.

While Uncle Norman was working, the family didn’t see too much of Aunt Carrie and Uncle Norman; he had to work on a lot of holidays. On holidays she probably went to church and spent the rest of the day alone, or with friends. She might have spent a lot of time alone. She liked to entertain and was a good cook; she liked experimenting with new dishes on her guests. Some of their friends because friends of the rest of the family as well, particularly Kay and Jeanette and Dot Morris.

On a cruise to the Mediterranean in 1973 Aunt Carrie was helping a friend climb over slippery rocks on the Rock of Gibralter, when one of the Barbary apes rushed for her, she stepped back, fell and broke her left thigh. After surgery to place a pin in her leg, she spent several painful weeks in the hospital in Gibralter, looked after by Uncle Norman and their driver, Tom. Her diary from those days is filled with reports of sleepless nights and bad food, wonderful nurses and hopeful prayers. It was always better when Uncle Norman was around. The next year she required a “correcting operation” in Elizabeth, NJ, but she suffered from that accident for the rest of her life.

As they aged, Uncle Norman’s mental health began to fail and more and more fell on Aunt Carrie. In 1984, the difficult task of cleaning out their much-loved home for sale began. Mom, Dad and Boppy spent many weekends in Union, filling a dumpster and sorting through what they could take to Luther Crest and what they could not. Boppy made a map of the new apartment and worked out where to put everything; they were able to take quite a bit. Dave and I also spent many weekends taking the bus from Jersey City to help out. On their last day in Union, the congregation in church gave Aunt Carrie a standing ovation; we went home to a leg of lamb dinner, washed and packed the dishes, and then they left, careful not to look back. Barbara Martin and I waved at the doorway and cried. They moved to Luther Crest in Allentown, PA on October 1-2, 1984.

They really enjoyed living at Lutheran Crest, although the situation with Uncle Norman did not ease much by the move. Weary, Aunt Carrie died on July 12, 1988 after three weeks at the Lehigh Valley Medical Center. Her pastor delivered a lovely funeral sermon where he spoke of her graciousness, intelligence, politeness and style, calling her gifted and charming, as well as saying, “She was the most committed person we’ve ever known.”

A faithful and devoted Christian, her life can be summed up in the front page of one of her travel diaries: after she filled out her name, address and phone number, she filled in the line marked “Policy” (I’m sure what was meant was “insurance policy”): “To live in a Christ-like manner.”

Linked to  Alison D. (Berger) Boor
Carrie Alberta Unger 

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