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Our Family’s 20th Century History in Biographies .. 17

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Earl Alfred Unger (Uncle Earl) June 6, 1904-March 23, 1975, age 71
Helen Gaffney Unger (Aunt Helen)-Dec 31, 1909-April 24, 1969, age 59
Buried at Philadelphia Memorial Park

According to Aunt Carrie, Earl was the cutest baby you’ve ever seen—she used to love to hug him in his nightshirt, and he wanted nothing to do with her! She also thought Earl got away with murder at home. When the family moved to West Lawn, Earl was able to go to high school—the first in his family to do so. He had a choice of schools to attend, and he chose Sinking Spring, where he was elected class president (out of a class of 9!) and graduated in 1922; he gave a key presentation at the class exercises. When, later in life he was given an honorary life membership in Reading and Berks Basketball Old Timers he recalled that the most effective way to score at Sinking Spring was to bounce the ball off the low ceiling into the basket!

He attended Temple University, where he played two years of basketball as a guard, also second baseman in baseball and as center in varsity football. His basketball coach at Temple was Harry Litwak, who coached Temple for 30 years and is in the National Basketball Hall of Fame. Bob says that, like Bob, Uncle Earl was always interested in sports and liked to win! Two years at Temple gave him a teaching certificate. He taught Boys Health and coached basketball at Quakertown and Freeland; taught and coached football and baseball at Windber, Somerset County; and Wilson, West Lawn, where he taught and coached basketball, soccer and baseball. Mom remembers him emphasizing sportsmanship, and Wilson won a number of banners for sportsmanship while he was coaching; they hung in the gym.

While he was teaching at Freeland, Luzerne County, he coached the girls basketball team; one of the players was Helen Gaffney, who he later married. Their son Bob was born in Freeland. Bob describes his mother as “a good sport. Subtle and dry. She always stayed in the background. Very smart and quick.” They eloped to Maryland, escorted by Grandpa Unger (he had the car!).

In 1936 he began a sporting goods business in Pottsville, doing well enough to buy out his partner in 1937. During the war he could no longer get rubber and leather goods, which pretty much put an end to the business; in 1943 he closed the store. He went back to teaching at Schuylkill Haven High School until Bob graduated in 1949; he taught Business Administration and was the assistant coach in football and basketball. In 1949, the family moved back to West Lawn, where Uncle Earl worked for Sam Hettinger’s beer distributing business (he had coached Sam in high school). They lived in an apartment on Penn Avenue about three blocks from Grandma and Grandpa Ungers. In 1952 he began working for C Schmidt and Sons brewery in Philadelphia. He retired in 1969, around the same time Aunt Helen died of cancer. He moved back to West Lawn, where his last residence was 117 Riegel Avenue in West Lawn (Mom and Dad’s first apartment in 1950).

I n 1941 he won the Pennsylvania State Flyer League Championship at the Bucks County Shooting Association for trap shooting. Once he was third in the country in the nationals at Vandelia, Ohio. There were three or four years when he did a lot of shooting; he had a jacket with patches on it, 100 straight without a miss and so on. He had a couple of 500 straight shots without a miss. Bob says, “I hated to go hunt pheasants with him; I was too quick. I’d shoot and miss and he’d wait and bam.” He was a hunter and fisherman as well. Aunt Helen was a champion archer in the late 30s, early 40s.

He had one of the family legacies to its men—a fine bass singing voice. He had a wicked sense of humor, playing especially well off of Uncle Norman. He smoked cigars, and floored me as a child by reciting “B-A-Obble Dobble, D-E-eckle Deckel, Bobbadeckel.” We have family movies of him swinging on swings at Trout Lake, and he was known to play a practical joke or two; especially enjoying confounding Uncle Norman on his ability to win at solitaire (I can tell it now—I saw him cheat once and he asked me not to tell Uncle Norman!) Actually, he and Uncle Norman were quite a pair as far back as their childhood days in Strausstown.


Linked to  Alison D. (Berger) Boor
Earl Alfred Unger 
Albums  Ungers 

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