Contributed by Victoria Hess and Joan Meijer — Nov. 2, 2010
After Dr. Franz Herbert Hirschland received his engineering degree in 1902, it was time to see the world, and perhaps do a little business along the way. Franz, our grandfather, left Essen, Germany, for New York with a business proposition in hand: he was to determine the opportunities for Goldschmidt Chemical to build its first American factory. He got that job done, opening Goldschmidt Detinning, and soon becoming its president. But like many young men, he found certain distractions along the way, a principle one being a stunning young woman named Gula Vixie Anderson, our grandmother.
Of course, I could end the story there, but there were a few events along the way that made this more than the usual courtship. They courted, fell in love, and wanted to marry, but the problem was that Franz needed to get his parent’s blessing because Gula would take him away from them, and also……. She was a goy. Nothing against goys, of course, but would you want your son to marry one? So Gula made a plan.
Victoria’s & Joan’s Lineage
We know the wedding happened in 1909, but first Franz had to go home to Germany. Six weeks later, he came back with his parents to meet his intended. They came prepared to reject her, but she charmed them instead. While her fiance’ was gone, Gula spent her time learning to speak German. Depending on which family member you talk to, she either learned to speak with some fluency (which I doubt having studied German full-time for six weeks through the State Department and not reaching a conversational stage), or she learned enough: enough to impress her future in-laws when they thought they were speaking discretely to one another in German about her, and she interrupted them, in German, to tell them how delighted she was to meet them. We always learned that it is rude to speak about someone as though they are not present, and obviously using a different language doesn’t necessarily help.
My sister, Joan Ellen Meijer, adds a few twists to this story:
Gonny and Papa were married in September and Uncle Georg came over to represent the family at the wedding. While he was here he got seriously ill with something that required surgery. He decided to have the surgery in Germany and booked passage immediately. Gonny elected to go with him and act as his nurse.
On the trip she and Carl Jung, the noted psychiatrist, struck up a strong friendship. He spent hours talking with Georg and Gonny. One day Georg asked him, “Tell me Dr. Jung, are you so interested in my condition or is it my sister-in-law that intrigues you?” Gonny and Jung kept up a correspondence for years.
After Uncle Georg had been delivered safely to the family in Essen, Uncle Kurt took Gonny to the ship that would return her to New York. Six months later Papa and Gonny returned to Germany on another steamship to introduce her to the rest of the family and celebrate their honeymoon.
One day the purser came up to Papa. “Dr. Hirschland,” the purser said – Paps was a Doctor of Chemical Engineering – “There is a gentleman on this ship who is very curious about the lady with whom you are traveling. He has seen the Mrs. Hirschland who is traveling with you on a voyage with another Mr. Hirschland. A few weeks later he saw her getting on a ship with another Mr. Hirschland. Now she is traveling with you. Please sir, the gentleman wishes to know, who is that woman?”
Gonny and Papa’s marriage lasted ’til death parted them.