Friday, January 26, 2018

A VOYAGE TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. 1939. Another ocean, another ship, and war.

Vancouver. The take-off point for the Pacific Ocean. Here, Fritz seems to have had a little time to walk about and snap a street or two

More Chinatowns! Well, I guess they don't have them in Vienna ...

And then to sea, again, on the Union Steam Ship Company's Aorangi scheduled to sail for Australasia on 30 August. A shipping historian tells us 'On the first southbound sailing of the year, the Aorangi departed Vancouver with a passenger list including 120 mostly German Jewish refugees headed for New Zealand & Australia'.

Farewell to the Americas .... in the fog!

And next stop, Honolulu ... 
The royal Palace still looks much the same, but there is no King any more ..

Our historian also reports 'On September 6th whilst heading south in the vicinity of Honolulu the Aorangi picked up radio transmissions from four German vessels sailing in the North Pacific. The Aorangi was operating under blackout conditions and steering a zigzag course'. 

Thence to Fidji I guess there wasn't much to photograph in Fidgi!

And, finally, on 18 September, the ship docked safely at Auckland.

Fritz had arrived in his new 'homeland'. And the war had begun.

A VOYAGE TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. 1939. America and out ...

My knowledge of American geography is pretty slim, so I hope I have these photos of what seems to have been Fritz's quick tour of American 'spots' in the days or weeks following his arrival in New York. Sadly, he seems to have photographed mainly public buildings, which may account for the limited number of snapshots of the 'tour'. Now, if it had been mountains ..

First in the pile is Chicago. Fritz is not quite anglicised yet. He has labelled the beach 'Strand'. Or maybe it was called that.

Minneapolis ...

St Paul ...

Was there any particular reason for these cities ... I don't know ... but next stop was Niagara with its inevitable photo opportunities

And then the American leg of the trip was over, and the train headed through the Rockies towards Vancouver ...

New Zealand was getting nearer.


I don't know whether, when Fritz headed for New Zealand, it was his intention to spend the rest of his life there. I think, probably, not. He didn't apply for naturalisation for nearly a decade (23 October 1947), during which decade I was born, making me an official Austrian. And, it was not until over thirty years later that he now rather unwillingly returned for a holiday in the old world, to where his children had both 'returned'.

So, on 22 August 1939 when he sailed into the port of New York he was effectively an emigrant. I've looked through the boxes, but sadly I can find no diary for his trip. But I can find his little bundle of 'snaps', which tell a story he never told us...

The emigrant's traditional first glimpses of the New World, photographed from the deck of the Ile de France...

And what seems like a fairly brief skelter around the sights of the city: Wall Street, The Metropolitan Opera House, Times Square

The Rockefeller building, Grant's tomb, the Art Gallery ...

And the 'bread and circuses' pavilions of the World's Fair. He must actually have visited it. Why did he never tell us?

And that is the complete bundle of New York pictures. So I imagine he was on his way across America fairly quickly ... via ....? Let's open the next little packet of pictures ...

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Our father’s English diary finishes on 22 July 1939. Unless the shorthand bits hide something, I haven’t seen anything about a plan to emigrate to New Zealand. But on 14 August, he boarded the lush French steamer, the Ile de France, at Southampton, with an exempt visa to New York, and listed as a ‘teacher’ in transit to Wellington Technical College, New Zealand.

Fritz's photo of the Ile de France in Southampton harbour

The manifest shows the odd anomaly, however. Next of kin was given as his mother, Rudi, at 28 Jagdschlossgasse, Vienna. 

The summerhouse at the Jagdschossgasse (1940)

Yes, father Pepi was already dead. He is listed as speaking German, English … French and Italian. Hmm. The last two must have got seriously rusty in the New Zealand air. But most interestingly he has given his nationality as German. Well, I know Austria was in trouble at that time. But the customs at New York have crossed that out, and replaced it with ‘Hebrew’. Poor father. Already trying to ‘sanitise’ his background.

On the ship, he obviously didn’t socialize with the other foreigners, but rather with the young Americans. They had a ‘team photo’ taken.
Robert Delmas Bowman (29) from Tompkinsville, Kentucky
Eddie Davis Shake (25) from Bedford, Indiana
William Nagel (32) from Canton, Ohio
Martha Alison Stone (26) from Steubenville, Ohio
Ruth Amelia Meister (28) from Marietta, Ohio
Evalyn Hastings Felty (32) from Kenton, Ohio
Imogene Forsythe (34) from Fremont, Ohio
Mary Chadwick (28) from Vermilion, Ohio

On board the Ile de France

The ship landed at New York 22 August and those young folk all went back to Ohio et al, nine 'aliens' were detained -- three of them jews ... but Fritz Gallas (as he was now), staunchly labelled 'Hebrew', started off on a trip across America and Canada to join his second ship, which would ultimately lead him to New Zealand. And his trusty little bellows camera (I still have it) went with him …

By the way, the little group of shipboard pals seem to have had something in common:
Delmas Bowman born Tompkinsville 21 August 1909; died Morgantown Ky 1987. Teacher.
William Nagel b Youngstown Ohio 16 March 1907 d Canton 29 November 1962 ‘French teacher’
Martha Alison Stone b Steubenville 20 May 1913; d Santa Clara, Cal 8 May 1983
Ruth Amelia Meister b Marietta 21 August 1915; d Charlottesvile, Virgina 14 August 2001 ‘teacher’
Evalyn Hastings Felty (Mrs Lowell V Hagemayer) b Kenton 22 July 1907; d Toledo, Ohio 14 May 1991
Imogene Forsythe b Fremont, Ohio, 24 May 1905; ‘school teacher’ in Fremont 1940
Mary [Rosalie] Chadwick b Corning NY, 3 February 1911; d Vermilion 10 April 2010. ‘school teacher’ (French)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A ticket stub with a tale to tell ...

Today I picked up a small volume imprinted with my grandmother's maiden name, Rudi Stojetz, and the date 1898.

But she clearly didn't use it. It is filled with German shorthand, which I cannot read, but the handwriting is unmistakably recognisable as that of my father. And the year in which the little diary was used was forty years later. 1939. Father, aged 27, was teaching at Bishop's Stortford College, on a PE teacher's wage, but he had 3/6d to spare for a Good Friday treat. Tucked inside the front cover, with lists which look like his school sports teams, was this ticket stub ..

What did he see from the gods at the Albert Hall, I wondered. So I looked.

The Royal Choral Society in -- well, it was Good Friday -- The Messiah. Conducted by Malcolm Sargent. Soloists: Isobel Baillie, Muriel Brunskill, Walter Widdop and William Parsons.

Thirty years later, I sang in a New Zealand choir under Sargent. It was a group made up of all the choirs in Canterbury and I qualified as the current soloist with the Männerverein Liedertafel. The concert was quite an affair and a magazine carried a full double spread of the Choir singing "Blest pair of syrens". Every chorister's eyes were glued to the conductor and his baton. Except one teenaged basso on the top tier. He was deep in his ill-learned score. I never sang in a choir again.

The last page of the diary illustrates a key period in the life of Fritzl Ganzl (now Gallas). He was apparently planning a yachting holiday on the Norfolk Broads. But more telling are a handful of addresses ..
K Roth, c/o the Rev W H Bardeley, Barton Vicarage, Preston, Lancs
Mr V R P Bonsoon (?) 15 Mark Lane, London EC3
but also
O Schmidt c/o Mr Abel, Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia
Kurt Krieser 10838 Deering Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio

He was networking. Planning his escape. Within three months of Good Friday he had the offer of jobs in Canada and New Zealand. And weeks before the invasion of Poland he was on his way. Just weeks. The diary stops on 22 July 1939.

I had better see whats in all the other volumes.

Addendum: Well I guess I found Kurt Erich Krieser in the US in 1940. He was from 'Austria', jewish of course, a tailor, a couple of years younger than Fritz ... married to a nurse names Elise Scheiner ...  arrived in December 1838 from Vienna .. no obvious connection. I guess just a friend of a friend. And as far as I know Dad never went to Ohio anyway..  Kurt died 4 May 2010 aged 97.

And oh goodness! Here is a tiny envelope, full of tiny photographs ... the voyage of Fritz Ganzl-Gallas from Southampton to Auckland ... next episode coming up!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The 1980s theatre strikes back ...

Today has been a gloriously happy day of 'looking back'.

When you are a theatrical agent, you are not allowed 'favourites' amongst your clients. You have to work for each actor and actress with equal vim and vigour. But, of course, there are some clients who become dear friends as well ... and there you may, if you wish, have favourites!

In the years when I was active on the West End scene, I looked after some fine performers and made some dear friends, and one of these was the delicious Diana Martin. Who could ever forget her performance, for example, as Minerva in the 1983 London revival of the twenties musical Mr Cinders, duetting with and pinging comic sparks off the utterly inimitable Graham Hoadly? Or as the coloratura telegraph girl in the film Brazil (1985)?

I retired from agenting and went off to write mega-books in the south of France. A couple of years later Diana, who had carried on soubretting until her mid 30s, decided to 'grow up' and became a business lady, married, had a daughter ... and we sort of lost contact. Until the invention of Facebook.

This year, with retirement looming, Diana and Barry decided on a New Zealand tour. It ended today in Christchurch, but not before they had grabbed the most efficient of Uber drivers (Christchurch taxis are inefficient and overpriced) and driven out to ... Gerolstein!

And so, we had three hours together, catching up, flinging memories about, wandering round the acres meeting the animal population, and so forth, fuelled by good old Jacob's Creek chardonnay  ... the merriest of times!

I may bear the traces of a stroke, Diana has arthritis and hip replacements, but for three hours we were Kurt and Diana of the 1980s, making recordings together at Chappells -- the original demo of Peg, Leslie Julian Jones's A Queen for Sunday, Peter Coe's Husbands and Lovers, The Geisha -- such happy memories.

And now Diana and Barry are on a plane, headed for Warwickshire ... until next time, dear friends!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Books in the blood

I have always, since an early age, been connected with writing and books. My juvenilia were published in the New Zealand press, and even in some Enid Blyton magazine (I forget which), my first slim volume of drama was published when I was seventeenish … which must be about the same age that the work of my poet brother, the now celebrated John Gallas, was unleashed on the world. It was just something we ‘always did’, alongside music, athletics, theatre … I blame our Jewish ancestry.

Well, I took an initial turn towards music and theatre, and notably musical theatre, and was in my late twenties before, thanks to my mentor Ian Bevan, I again began writing seriously. The bulging result can be seen on amazon or Wikipedia.

John has gone from prize to prize and volume to volume, and to the very top of his tree.

 Strange, in a way. None of our immediate family was a writer. Great-grandfather Stojetz penned lengthy ‘Social Democratic’ and ‘Naturfreund’ pieces for the devoted Viennese press, but …

It wasn’t until I dug further into our ancestry that the books in the background started to appear, notably through our great-grandmother’s connection with the famous Rosenbaum publishing and printing family of Vienna.

But today I found another author, also on the Jewish side of our family, to whom we are related. Admittedly only by marriage. So far, he is only a name to me, but I shall work on it.

Israel Gánsl of Mór, Fejér, Hungary had four sons. Abraham Hirsch otherwise Hermann (1800), Joszef (1807), Ignáz (1813) and Fulop (1817). Joszef’s grandson, also Jos(z)ef, was my grandfather. But the big boy of the family was eldest son, Hermann. In the church registers, he can be seen godfathering and circumcising a wide circle of local children. His son, Mór or Moritz also took a prominent place in similar circles, and himself gave birth to five daughters and finally one son, Aladár (1886).

I haven’t yet discovered why, but Aladár changed his name from Gánsl (just as my father did), and called himself Aladár Gáspár, so that his daughter was born Julianna Gáspár (1930). And Julianna married a gentleman named Miklós Marót. Who, unless I have muddled my Miklóses, is the author of the standard guidebook to Budapest.

He is apparently also the father of Edit Tüske, and Ezster Vincze and the grandfather of Annamária Adrienn Tüske, who, if they are still around, would be the first living descendants of the Gánsls of Mór, apart from John and myself, whom I have ever tracked down.

Hello, cousins! ?