19 Year Old Ernst Müller's Reisepäss (click to enlarge)
Our Friend Ernie
(December 18, 1903 - September 13, 2001)
Me, Cousin Ed, and The Boys are the last ones to get mushy about anything. Indeed, we
pride ourselves on our too-jaded-for-you core. But when it comes to Ernie, we get a
big lump in our throats. Because of Ernie, we will never again wonder where we're going to
spend the night or where our next meal will come from. In short, because of Ernie,
we are free to torment you fine folks with our little piece o'cybercrap!
What follows is our truly pathetic attempt to honor Ernie and what he called his
"hard but good life":
Ernst Konrad Müller was born in Ostheim,
a suburb of Stuttgart, the youngest of six children of Gustav, a cobbler,
and Marie, a housewife. He was named after Gustav's brother, who had immigrated to Ann Arbor.
It was through Uncle that Ernie would get his start in the exciting world of pastries, but we're getting a little ahead of ourselves.
When The Kaiser
was at Das Wilhelmspalais,
he held at parade every Sunday at noon. Ernie and his sister would sit on the curb and watch Wilhelm lead his calvary as they marched up and down the main street.
Ernie with Mother and sister Berta (click to enlarge)
Ernie wanted to be an architect,
but his father couldn’t afford to send him to school. So he apprenticed as a model-parts maker at a Mercedes
Gustav and Friends (click to enlarge)
Ernie's brother Gustav served on a U-Boat
in The Great War. When he was in
South America, Ernie asked him to send some bananas.
But he sent them ripe, so by the time Ernie got them, they were black and mushy!
Adolf in The Kaiser's Army (click
Ernie's brother Adolf was just 17 when he was drafted into the Army.
He was killed at
The Battle of Mulhouse.
When Ernie was a teen, Gustav began an affair with a waitress. He even took
Ernie to meet her. Gustav and Marie separated, but never divorced. Having lost all
respect for his father, Ernie wanted to leave, but didn't know where to go. He
had a friend in Argentina;
Ernie's brother Albert was in Michigan
with Uncle Ernst. He decided the person he heard from first was where he would go.
Fortunately for us, he heard from Albert.
Taken into the U.S. through Canada by
coyotes, 19 year-old
Ernie found himself at a coal mine
in Montana. He said every time he went down into the shaft,
he thought for sure he was going to die. Albert somehow found him, paid off the coyotes, and it was off to Uncle's.
Albert got Ernie a job greasing pans at the bakery he managed while Uncle Ernst's wife,
Daisy, taught him English. She even saved his life when he came down with appendicitis. But Daisy's generosity had a "price tag", which lead to tragedy.
As Uncle Ernst was on the road all the time selling flour,
he suspected Albert was the real father of he and Daisy's two children. Neither ever fessed up, but, somehow, Ernst knew. He committed suicide by
gassing himself in his car.
Needing to get away from Daisy, Ernie left in the middle of the night. He eventually wound up in
Cleveland. Every Saturday, he and his fellow German expats hit the bierhall,
and got shit-faced. One night, his buddies hooked him up with Gertrude. How they wound up getting married, Ernie couldn't say.
Gertrude looked down on him because she was from Berlin,
center of everything, and he was from Stuttgart, center of nothing.
Gertrude concerned herself with her looks as Ernie put in 10-hour days.
Saturday, his only day off, was when Gertrude would throw her weekly parties! He left, finally, giving her everything he had, including the life insurance policy Daisy took out for him.
Like millions, Ernie got caught up in The Great Depression. He spent
many nights at a movie theater because he didn't have the two-bits to crash at a flophouse. Yet, he considered himself lucky as he never went longer than two weeks without a job. Even during a depression, people need to eat!
Ich bin ein Amerikaner! (click to enlarge)
Now an official American, Ernie received a notice from his friendly neighborhood draft board. Because of his age,
he knew he wouldn't see any action. And because he was German, he knew he wouldn't be shipped off to Europe! Instead, he was shipped off to Camp Beale, where he taught soldiers how to
make bread using a
fender! Albert showed up one day to get Ernie to work at his bakery in
Vallejo. His captain tried to get him to stay, but Ernie was more than ready to go. He was discharged on March 6, 1943, 9
months after he was inducted.
Ernie - second row from top, third from left - and fellow graduates of
the Baking School (click to enlarge)
When Der Führer
was thought of as a harmless guy with a funny mustache, Americans could hear him on the radio! Listening to Hitler, Ernie realized two things: one,
he was nuts; two, in scapgoating the Jews, he never made the differentiation between German and non-German Jews. The Crash and the
demands imposed by the Treaty of Versailles triggered super-hyper inflation in Germany.
So when Jewish families began leaving their homes, their neighbors assumed they had been foreclosed on; many of those properties were sold to non-German Jews, who paid in hard currency.
As reading or listening to non-Nazi sources of information was punishable by death, Ernie's mother and sister, who
survived the Allied bombings of Stuttgart, told him they had no idea what was going on until the War was over.
Ernie got fed up with Albert's wife criticizing how he made cakes, so he quit. He found himself
in San Francisco,
feeling life was empty and had no meaning. One day, he drifted into a lecture by a
Yogi. After a few more lectures, he pestered the Yogi to allow him to join his order. The Yogi
resisted, as Ernie was "a man of the world", but he finally relented. Thus, began the what Ernie called
the happiest time of his life.
The monks kept a vow a silence, and were banned from reading the paper or
listening to the radio. The order had a retreat in Lake Tahoe
that Ernie went to often. The Yogi sent two monks to San Francisco to get supplies once a month. The monks
would come back with news from the outside world. The tug eventually became too strong, and, after four years, Ernie
told the Yogi he couldn't stay any longer, just as the Yogi had predicted.
Ernie remained a practicing Buddhist the rest of his life.
He told us stuff we had a hard time wrapping our wee minds around. He believed that the
miracles attributed to Jesus were true, as he had reached the state of
super-consciousness. He also said The Big Bang Theory was hooey,
because the universe has no beginning or end, and it is always expanding!
Ernie moved to Los Angeles,
and got a job making doughnuts.
He worked in a cellar with open kettles of hot oil and no ventilation. When he
took the bus home after work, the other passengers would move away because he smelled like a doughnut! He bathed every day, but he'd still smell like a doughnut! We'd laugh
our butts off at this, but he never thought it was funny. While at his next job the
Brown Derby, Ernie acquired his boss's desk,
which he kept until he died.
Ernie and Fran (click to enlarge)
One day, he met Fran at a bus stop and they struck up a friendship. Fran was from Prague.
Her father, Dr. Jan Šimsa (1865-1945), was a reknown psychiatrist who ran two sanitariums, and authored three books. Fran, who aspired to by an actress in her younger years, worked as a milliner.
Ironically, she and Gertrude had the same birthday, October 9th.
They decided to pool their resources and buy a house. Fran found this Grande Dame that had fallen on hard times. Built in 1897,
the gable had burnt down.
To add insult to injury, she had been converted into
a rooming house. Dipshits that we are, we lost the picture we had of her in all her glory. She and her sister Victorians are now part of the
Register of Historic Places.
Ernie and Fran's house as it looks today (click to enlarge)
Plaque in front of Ernie and Fran's house. It was built in 1897, not 1894 (click to enlarge)
They kicked the low-lifes out, fixed her up, and paid the mortgage off in
8 years! Ernie and Fran married in 1957. He raved about her cooking, which
complimented his baking. He got an offer to buy a doughnut shop. Problem was,
Fran was the only person he would have trusted to work the front, but she
refused to learn how to handle money. She wouldn't even let him show her how to write a
check! He had to turn the offer down.
Ernie, Der Künstler! (click to enlarge)
Ernie was working at Du-Par's when he
retired in 1968. He dabbled in painting, and the ponies.
He became so good at the ponies, he won a $85,000 pick-six at
Ernie continued to live in the house after Fran passed away in 1984, and rented out rooms, which is how we stumbled into his life.
In his lone moment of senility, he left us The Old Gal, which we sold to this guy, who
later sued us for $3,000 he claimed he overpaid us in the deal he hammered out with our guy!
When he didn't show up in court, the "case" was dismissed!
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