Based on the letters of Earl Philip Reinhalter (1922-1953). Edited by his son, Earl Philip Reinhalter (1950-).

Catherine Reinhalter Phone Call
February 11, 1985

  On February 11, 1985, I phoned my grandmother long distance to wish her a happy 85th birthday. I recorded the call, planning to interview her about family history. Two and a half months later, she went upstairs for her afternoon nap and died in her sleep, victim of a heart attack. So this was likely the last time I spoke to her, and the last chance I would have to ask her such questions.

Below are excerpts from that phone call. To hear each segment, click the white triangle within the grey rectangle. If the audio player does not work in your browser, try the standard MP3 link to the right. In the transcriptions, I used ellipses (…) to indicate where I could not determine what was said.

- Earl Reinhalter [Jr.]

Oster family immigration

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Q: How did the family come over from overseas? How did the family get started?
A: My father was born over in Germany, and his parents came here when he was maybe about one or two years old. His father was in the war over there. And it always seems like wars going on over there. And he was born in 1872, my father was. And he [meaning her grandfather] deserted the army and hid somewhere. To get over here, he came over here to the United States. And they settled up in New England, and up there they raised I think four or five children. And as they married and separated, some moved to California, some stayed up in New England.
Q: That’s the Osters?
A: Yeah. It seemed like the family grew and, uh-
Q: Now was part of your family the Oster, Osterizer, the blender?
A: I think so. But we pronounced it “oh-ster,” the German pronunciation. And every time I look at it, I think, well, it must be some distant relative somewhere. But they do say “ah-sterizer,” but we always said “ah-ster,” but in the old days it was “oh-ster,” you know, the German pronunciation.

Reinhalter family immigration

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Q: How did the Reinhalters come over?
A: They came over from France. They were born in France, most of ’em were. And they settled over in this country. I don’t know what part they settled.
Q: Was your husband from Germany or his-
A: He was born in Germany, yes. In Leipzig or Berlin or something over there. He came over here and then we had-
Q: Did he have to learn English? Or he came over when he was little-
A: He only came over when he was about two. He hadn’t learned to really speak yet. And then it seemed like the family came over here from the old country, they called it in those days. So it seemed like the years have grown so, and sometimes I can’t get to sleep at night, and I lie awake listening to ‘em all, you know - I mean thinking of them all - and how they got over here, they didn’t want to stay over there at all. I don’t know, conditions weren’t such that they were happy over there. There were always wars, or rumors of wars going on, you know, and they were always waiting to get to this country.

How she met her husband

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Q: How did you meet your husband?
A: He lived in our neighborhood in West Baltimore years ago. And when Phyllis’s mother died, we knew them real well. Phyllis was only six when her mother died. And her mother, oh it’s been about, oh, 65 years now, ‘cause Phyllis’ll be about 72 in September. So we got to know them, too, and he used to come down and he played the violin and I played the piano and that way. And his wife never bothered much about music. She’d just sit in the living room, and I would play the piano and he played the violin. Phyllis was only about four or five, and she would dance around the living room. Right pretty little girl.

Her husband’s work as a blacksmith

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Q: Was Poppy a blacksmith?
A: Yeah. He was a blacksmith most all his life.
Q: What kind of stuff did he do?
A: Well, he sharpened tools for all these people who, in construction work. And he worked for Hilgartner Marble Company [now called Hilgartner Natural Stone Company] for a number of years. Then he went into business on his own. And that’s all he ever did was blacksmith work.
Q: Did he actually do blacksmithing with horses?
A: No.
Q: Horseshoeing?
A: Just tools.
Q: Oh. Working the forge.
A: Yeah. Construction work.
Q: Did he actually make any tools?
A: Yes. He used to make tools. Forget what it was just now, but he was right good at it. And he went into business for himself. And it was right, not too far from where we lived in Irvington.
Q: I remember going to visit him there one time.
A: Yeah, down there in his forge, right near Duffy’s, the saloon down there on Frederick Avenue.
Q: Did he do okay after he went into business for himself?
A: Did very well. Until his age got so he couldn’t see too well, and then he gave it up. And then he just rested. Like I say he got-
Q: He got bored.
A: Yeah.
Q: How old was he when he stopped?
A: When he stopped work?
Q: Uh-huh.
A: Oh, about 68, 67. He was 71 when he finally died. Not old by today’s standards, but in those days it was considered quite elderly. One of those things. You never know what’s before you. But he did pretty well once he went into business for himself.

More about her husband

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A: If my husband had been living, he would have been 98. There were 13 years difference in our ages. I was, you know, 85 today. He was, he died with cirrhosis of the liver, he drank so dern much, it just get him crazy. He was not old by today’s standards when he died, he was only 71.
Q: Uh-huh. Yeah, I remember that.
A: Yeah.
Q: So he probably would have lived a lot longer if he took care of himself?
A: Yeah. He didn’t take, when he quit work, and he had to stop working because of his age, where he stopped, he would sit all day, and he wouldn’t eat, all he did was look at television. I’d come in the house and he’d hear me come in, and hop up and let the rocker bang against the wall and come out and he’d get his beer and drink it.
Q: I know he smoked a lot, too.
A: Yeah, he smoked a lot, and drank a lot. And he was very, very sick before he died. He was in the hospital. He just made so much noise in the room, they had to move the other patient outta there …

Earl Sr.’s aviation career and death

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Q: Do you remember the first time you ever saw an airplane?
A: It was way back in 1927, when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, the only time-
Q: They weren’t too common until then?
A: Not until then. Your father was only five. And the kids would run around every time they’d see a plane they’d go out and scream and holler and carry on.
Q: So it was like Star Wars, it was a real big deal?
A: Yeah. All the kids were interested in planes from then on. And it seems strange, isn’t it, he died in one, you know. They developed engine trouble in the air and the … and they crashed. His body was just burned to pieces, but the other fellow lived. But he was so badly marked up that they hardly knew who he was. He lived, but I guess he’d rather have died, the way he looked after the crash. There was nothing anybody could do. They took it up to test it and it developed engine trouble at about two thousand feet in the air, and it just crashed to the ground right there near the airport…
Q: I remember going down the road [at Eastern Airport] with my mother and she was crying, and I think that’s when it was.
A: Yeah, it must have been, yeah. But before your father got his license, we used to go out to the airport out there in Woodlawn many times, and he was taking lessons. And he didn’t get his license to pilot a plane until after the war. He enlisted when he was only twenty rather than be drafted and get stuff he didn’t want, and he wanted to go into the Air Force. So we had to sign for him, he was underage, wasn’t twenty-one yet. So when he came home, of course, he went and he got his license. I’d always go up with him, but after his death in the plane I never wanted to go up anymore.
Q: I don’t blame you.
A: ‘Cause my sister [Ginny] and I were going to Florida one year and we couldn’t go anywhere unless we could fly, and neither one of us would take a plane. So we just said never mind. But I look at ’em as they go by, and quite a few of ’em come by now. We live near the airport down here.
Q: You said every time, whenever you go to the cemetery, a plane goes overhead.
A: Yeah, yeah.

Earl Sr.’s marriage, death, postwar job etc.

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A: She [Loretta] was only seventeen when she and your father got married. She was nine years younger than he was. They got along pretty well, although they weren’t married too many years, then he got, you know, killed in that plane crash. I have the write-up for it in the paper if you ever want to see it, if you don’t have a copy.
Q: Yeah.
A: Shows pictures and everything.
Q: Yeah, I’d like to see it. I know it’s not fun to read, but I never have read it.
A: It’ll be, let me see, in 1953 it happened, when he was killed, so …
Q: He would have had quite a career during all that time.
A: Oh, yes. Yeah, he would maybe been ready or retired by this time from Glenn [L.] Martin. He never worked anywhere else. He was always interested in getting a job, you know, with planes. He really loved what he was doing. After the war years, they gave his job back. He enlisted, you know. And then after the war was over, he was in there three years, he never got home once to see us because they needed him, and he was under MacArthur, you know, in the Philippines. So when he came back, why they gave his job back.
Q: What did he do? Did he work on planes? Or did he fly?
A: He learned, working on ’em. And he learned about the parts of it, and what were the risky parts of a plane. And then he got into the department where they had to take these planes up and try them out. The plane that they took up, they developed engine trouble in the air. It seemed to be safe enough when they took off. But when they hadn’t gotten to over two thousand feet, there’s nothing they could do, they had no way of really getting back safely. Of course, then he crashed right then. They almost hit somebody’s house at the time. The other fella, like I said, was badly marked. He was hurt pretty badly. He was in the back. So, I don’t know, these things happen. I wonder why they have to happen, but they do, regardless of how you feel about things.
Q: My mother said he used to always try to take courses and learn stuff. He would have gotten along pretty far, I guess.
A: Yes, he would have. Yes, he was on the road to a very promising job and a lot of money. And he just happened to, he took that plane up, it was unsafe, they didn’t know it ’til they got up into the air about two thousand feet. They couldn’t do a thing, they couldn’t control it because it was, I don’t what it is failed, something entirely failed, and they couldn’t guide it, they couldn’t steer it, and so they just crashed. And it was a sad thing. We had seen him the Sunday before. It was Father’s Day, the 21st of June. And the following Saturday, the 27th, is when it happened. It was a terrible thing for all of us, it happened so suddenly. And your mother went on, so hard. I mean she went on really bad. Then she married Joe Scott. I don’t know how long they were married. Seven or eight years at least.
Q: They say that she married him pretty soon.
A: Yeah. Three months, I think.
Q: I guess she was lonely, I guess.
A: She was lonely down there in the vacant house. And she was taking care of you. And he [Joe Scott] knew your father real well. I don’t know whether they worked together or what, but they were good friends ... He [Earl] died in June, I think they [Loretta and Joe Scott] were married the last part of September [9/13/1953]. It didn’t last but I think seven or eight years.

Reinhalters in Boston, and other older relatives

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Q: Weren’t there some Reinhalters in Boston that Aunt Phyllis used to correspond with?
A: Yeah, but she hasn’t heard from them for years. And a lot of them, one sister moved way out to California, Marguerite.
Q: Yeah, I remember I visited her.
A: And one named Caroline went with her. But they’re all up in years. And the youngest brother, Jerome, he must be close to 90 years old, if he’s still living.
Q: That would be Poppy’s brother?
A: Yes. 1895 he was born. He was, himself was born in, let’s see, 1879. There was quite a lot of children, a lot of difference in their ages. But the youngest one now, Jerome, I think was 1895. And he’d be 90 years old.

Conclusion of call

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Q: Well, it’s been great talkin’ to ya.
A: Well, it sure has. And I really appreciate you callin’.
Q: Okay. This is part of your birthday gift.
A: Oh.
Q: I wanted to talk to you a long, long time. To make up for not bein’ there.
A: Oh, this is really nice. Well, I hope to lord I see you in summertime and I live long enough for you to make another visit.
Q: Oh, I’m sure you will.
A: And you’ll come down and stay for a while. And I wish you all the luck in the world in your recordings of the tapes and all that you send us from time to time. They’re really nice.
Q: Thank you.
A: We always enjoy hearing you playin’. It brings us back to the days, you know, years ago when you were just a little kid.
Q: Back when I didn’t know anything.
A: I’ve got a lot of old snapshots that were taken when you were little and your father and you were all together. And I want to put them all in the album and keep ‘em. Maybe tomorrow when I have time.
Q: Okay.
A: Well, thank you again for calling me, hear.
Q: Okay. Happy birthday.
A: Thanks a lot.
Q: And I love you.
A: I know you do. And I love you, too.
Q: Okay.
A: You take your father’s place with me.
Q: Oh, my.
A: Bye now.
Q: Thank you. Goodnight.
A: Bye-bye.

Catherine Reinhalter (seated) with her sister Ginny [Virginia Kendall (née Oster)] in 1982.


The Kindle book includes Earl Reinhalter’s World War II letters; all 23 issues of the unit’s wartime newsletter “The Squadron Pulse,” which was originally edited by Leonard Stringfield; all 12 issues of the “Pennant Parade” newsletter that Stringfield published while sailing home after the war; complete text of the U.S. government booklet “Pocket Guide to Australia,” which soldiers heading Down Under were given to read; more than 200 photos; pre-war and postwar family history; and over 700 explanatory endnotes.


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