Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Did Grandmother go to the grand Vienna City Ball (1911) ...?


Vienna. February 1911.

Rudolfine Gänzl was a young, married woman of 24. And six and a half months pregnant.

Rudi and Pepi

After the second war, some years widowed, she emigrated to New Zealand to join her son. And brought with her a slightly odd collection of bits and pieces, from a vast dinner service to a stamp collection to father's childhood toys, to ...  this little box.

Its a Damenspende. Ladies attending a ball would be given one, containing the programme of dances for the night ... and this one is dated 2 February 1911.  The 21st 'Ball der Stadt Wien'. Topbilling the Erherzog Karl Franz Josef followed by an immense list of public officials and industrialists of all kinds ... the ballroom at the Rathaus must have been huge!

Was Rudi really there? Amongst all those nobs. A respectable shopkeeper's daughter from Floridsdorf. Puzzlement. Or did someone give her the Damenspende ...  ? She kept it for half a century, carried it through two world wars to the other side of the world ...

The only possible reason for her presence could have political. Her father, Eduard Stojetz, was prominent in the Naturfreund movement in Floridsdorf. But that movement was more than a camping, hiking and skiing outfit. It also stood staunchly to the left ... with the so-called Social Democrat Party of Viktor Adler. My father's earliest days are recorded as being spent at Hinterholz bei Kirchstetten 'the home of Professor Adler'. Who is to know? Unfortunately' Rudi's diary only starts with her son's birth ... a 'baby book'.

I really opened the little box to see whether there was a dance card. Sadly, not. A series of photos of the 'Stadt Wien' and ... the musical programme. Fascinating! What was 'in' for official dancing in 1911?

The usual occasional pieces 'dedicated to the committe' but otherwise loads of Strausses, Fall, Lehár, Eysler and Ziehrer, Joseph Müller ... who in the heck is Willy Wacek?  1864-1944. Military conductor. Well, that's one I didn't know about!  Lots and lots of waltzing. And waltz arrangements of things that weren't originally waltzes ..

So did my father dance around the Rathaus at minus 2 1/2 months of age?  Or merely watch from the sidelines ...

I imagine that I'll never know.

PS I see that the Damenspende was manufactured by the firm of Wilhelm Melzer, headquartered at 24 Mariahilferstraße

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