Census Data: Babe’s Father Earned $810 in 1939

Sometime on the afternoon of Thursday, April 11, 1940, a man named Albert R. Eisberg knocked on the door at 491 Lexington Avenue in Mount Kisco. Eisberg had a job to do. He was an enumerator with the U.S. Census Bureau, and it was time for the constitutionally required decennial count of Americans.

A 15-year-old boy with a year of high school behind him named Frank Mauro answered the door, then answered Eisberg’s questions. Of course, this is all speculation based on what I glean from the handwritten ledger sheet I found among the Census Bureau’s recently released 1940 census records.

The records show Babe was the one who answered the enumerator’s questions, which is why I speculated that the encounter happened in the afternoon, after school. The ledger lists the five members of the family at the time: My grandfather Frank; grandmother Florence, 16-year-old Vince; 15-year-old Babe; and 13-year-old Bib, my Uncle Bob. My grandmother was very pregnant at the time; she would give birth to a daughter named Rosemarie — my mother — about six weeks later. Read more of this post

The Only Photograph of Babe That I Know of Is On This Page

I have no other photographs of Babe.

The next letter I will transcribe is something of a capper to a series of letters that have all mentioned photographs. Babe asks for photos of his family. His family, apparently, has asked repeatedly for Babe to send home photos of him. They have even made some sort of “threat” to go around Babe, possibly, and seek photos from other sources. It’s hard to tell.

But this next letter actually had some photographs in it — five of them.

Babe will describe each of them, and they all seem to be in a silly or humorous vein. The photographs didn’t survive along with the other letters, however. I don’t have them and as far as I know, nobody does.

In fact, the more I work through these letters, the more amazed I am that virtually no photographs of Babe exist beyond the one that appears on this page. I wrote long ago about how that photograph had gained something like iconic status in my mind, as it held a prominent position in my grandmother’s house all the years we would visit her.

In this day of instant photography, when everyone carries a camera phone and the silliest of life’s moments are cause for a gallery on Facebook, it’s hard to imagine a time when a photograph would be so precious.

But that photograph in the upper right side of this page is it. My mother inherited so many of the keepsakes from my grandmother when she died — things like these letters, his ribbons, badges and patches, for example — that if there were any other photographs of Babe, I would think I’d have known about them by now.

None of my mother’s family is left anymore. I have an aunt who was married to my Uncle Bob (known in these letters as “Bib“). I can consult her, but again, I’d have thought by now any other photos of Babe would have come to light. I also have some cousins — the children of my Uncle Vin — that I could consult. But I’m skeptical they’d have anything.

Where Is the USO Movie That Includes Babe in the Front Row?

Babe reveals a fascinating piece of information in his last letter: “I was in the movies about two months ago and if you saw it, you wouldn’t have missed seeing me. I was right in front and it was a movie of a USO show with Ella Logan.”

So now, of course, I’m wondering: Where can I put my hands on that movie? Does anyone have any ideas?

In a couple of other posts, I’ve covered some information about that USO tour with Logan, dancer Edith Delaney and accordionist Jerry Skelton. The threesome performed for the Fifth Army in Italy on at least one and probably several other occasions. Babe writes in this letter of Dec. 16, 1943, that he saw their show “tonight” — that night, the night of Dec. 16. That said, I’m not sure Babe is entirely reliable with his dates.

This post from a retired Air Force colonel makes reference to the same threesome’s show in Foggia, Italy, “right after Christmas,” and includes a photo with several servicemen, along with Logan and Delaney. And my earlier post detailing some information about the war widow/USO performer Delaney refers to performances in Italy that must have been in November 1943.

The tour was obviously noteworthy because it include Delaney, who forged on after her husband was killed in a key battle in North Africa in May 1943. Babe himself notes to his parents that “you will have read all about it.” Newspaper articles documented, so it’s not hard to believe there was a movie or newsreel about it.

But where would I find it?

A Word Cloud of the 1943 Letters Transcribed on My Blog

I did one of these before to illustrate a post from several weeks ago. It’s a word cloud created on Wordle.net. The size of the words illustrates the relative frequency of their appearance. I used the RSS feed from the “1943 Letters” category on this blog. So it takes in things such as the word “postmarked,” which is oft-repeated, and “PDF,” which is used for the links to the .pdf versions of the letters. What the heck. Click the picture to see a larger version.

‘Red Bull Attacks’: A Television Documentary About the 34th Infantry

This is a television documentary from the 1960s. The series was called The Big Picture, and this film is called “The Red Bull Attacks.” It chronicles the history of the 34th Infantry Division — the Red Bull division — and its roots in the Midwest, as well as its movement in Operation Torch in 1942 into the western part of North Africa, across the top of the continent into southern Italy and northward until the Germans capitulated on May 2, 1945 (two days before Babe was killed).

The film was posted in a YouTube channel called “Vintage Military Films.”

According to Wikipedia, the series ran on the ABC television network from 1951 to 1964: “The series consisted of documentary films produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service, showing weaponry, battles, and biographies of famous soldiers.”

This episode is nearly 28 minutes long and features some interesting footage of infantrymen slogging through mud and battling German troops. It also recounts the movements of the division pretty clearly, including the defeat the division took at the Kasserine Pass in 1943 — around the time Babe joined the army. The episode includes, as something of an aside, an explanation of some of the medals that the military awards for distinguished service.