Part 18 – The Letters

While in Bergen, we were able to actually see the four or five letters written to Jeff’s dad, Frantz, in 1951-1953 and addressed to him at the Bowaters Nfld Pulp & Paper Company in Corner Brook, Newfoundland (where Jeff’s mother worked at a boarding house). Frantz was working on the M/S Elg, a ship built in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1930, which served in WWII between 1940-45.

Additional letters were addressed to him in Miami, New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Houston, Port Sulphur, LA and Norfolk, VA; Hamburg, Germany; and Havana, Cuba. The man got around! Jeff’s cousin, Ellen Wingerei graciously agreed to translate and email the content of the letters (16) to us. It was enlightening to hear about life in Bergen/Manger during the early 1950s. Ellen, thank you so much!!!

This letter, dated July 27, 1952 would have reached Frantz within the month when Jeff was conceived. From the letters, it appears Frantz was in Corner Brook from April – August, 1952 (Jeff was born April 24, 1953). We doubt he even knew that Jeff’s mother was pregnant before his ship sailed again.

In the letters, from his mother, father and brother (Olav), Frantz is affectionately referred to as “uncle Fant” by the children (Audun & Grethe) who were toddlers at that time; or as Frantzeboy by his mother. Frantz’ father, Olaf, was a pastor and his mother, Karen, was a very religious woman, who urged her son to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” and reminded Frantz to “live well and do not take part in everything you see and hear about. There are lots of temptations these days. Remember that there is One who sees everything, but He is full of love and mercy for everyone who seeks Him.” Mom adds to another letter, “Yes, Frantz, I can tell you that we pray a lot to God for you. He is your only Savior and His promises are good to rest in.” Again she writes, “…behave properly, you know what I mean, and then God will protect you and bring you safe over all seas.” Clearly, mom was worried about her 19 year old son who was half a world away on the high seas with other sailors! Her older son, Frantz’ brother, had been overseas for five years during the war. Not knowing where he was for years, she had to be reluctant to have her younger son go off to sea.

This form states “in accordance with the applicable rules, I can then testify that he does not present symptoms of any malignant infectious disease, including tuberculosis in infectious shape”. As mentioned in an earlier page about Jeff’s mother, TB was a very real threat in ports around Newfoundland. (Thank God for Google Translate)

Ellen shares that Frantz came home in the summer of 1953 but was at sea for many years after that. He brought them a TV set, so they were the first family in the area to own one. At Christmas he would send fruit, nuts, chocolate, and coffee to the family. Apparently, he was not much for writing letters himself since many of the letters say, “It would be very nice to hear from you.” and “I suppose we will not hear from you until you arrive in Puerto Rico.” His parents kept up with where the M/S Elg was sailing via the Handel- og Sjøfartstidende, a newspaper for seamen.

Ellen read, edited and corrected so much in the blog, for which I give her my deepest thanks! Huge help, Ellen!

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