A few years ago after my grandmother passed away my father and I found a box of photographs and documents in a closet. At the top were photos we recognized: family trips, cousins, weddings and births, but as we sifted through the box we went further back in time until finally reaching the turn on the twentieth century.
At the bottom of the box were photos of her father—my great-grandfather—during World War I, his Army discharge papers, and paperwork for things like apartment leases and life insurance. As we assembled the pieces a portrait of a man began to emerge.
In this series of posts I’m basing assertions only on the documents and photographs I found. If I can’t find a document to support something, I’m going to leave it out for now. Then, if I can, I’ll fill in the blanks in later posts.
The Great War
We join our story already in progress in Europe, 1918. 27 year old Charles Gerber serving in the United States Army in France, having been inducted in December of the previous year. During the summer of 1918 young Charles had the opportunity to visit Nice, France, and Monaco with members of his company.
They saw the sights and visited the Casino at Monte Carlo.
They visited the beaches along the Mediterranean.
And they posed for a number of photographs in Nice’s public parks, including this one with some locals.
Charles served in the Allied Expeditionary Force from March 1918 to July 1919, rising from the rank of Corporal to Supply Sergeant. On July 31, 1919, he received and honorable discharge and travel pay to New York from Camp Lee in Virginia. According to his discharge papers, he was sent back in “Good” physical condition with “Excellent” character.
After the War
29-year-old Charles headed back to New York where the document trail runs dry for a few years. But after the war Charles obviously found love because he and Dorothy (Dora) Levy invite friends and family to celebrate their wedding on June 19, 1921.
In 1926, their first child (my grandmother) Bernice was born on March 17.