Thursday, December 22, 2016

Grandpa Ralph, Family Humorist

Grandpa Ralph was known in his earlier years for creating grammen and satirical presentations for family occasions.

On one of those occasions, in 1979, he created a "last chapter" for the book, "The Warburgs," by David Farrer (1975) (written about "the other Warburgs"). He entitled his pseudo-chapter "The Uptown Warburgs," and inserted it inside the book, so that it looked as if he were really reading from the book during his performance.

Chapter 22: the Uptown Warburgs

In the late 1930s, a new branch of the Warburg family arrived in the United States. If someone would question a member of this family whether they were related to the Warburg banking family, the glib answer would probably be, "Yes, there is supposed to be only one Warburg family, they are our poor relatives." A member of the Midtown and Wall Street branch of the family, when confronted with this remark, replied somewhat coolly, "No comment." But it seems that relations between the two branches have been cordial, although contact has been sporadic over they years.

The first-born of the Uptown Warburgs, whose original name was Hans, later changed to Joseph H., arrived in the United States first, with lots of clothing, a camera, and little else. One of the Wall Street Warburgs had provided the affidavit required for his immigration to the U.S.

Joseph was to be a pioneer for the family - he established himself and then the rest of the family was to follow. Joseph's younger brother Rudi, who showed independence at an early age and changed his name to Rolf without asking anyone, came to the United States less than a year later and again changed his name to Ralph M. No information is available on what the M stands for.

Ralph moved in with Joseph H. and soon decided to change a few things. First, there was an immediate change in the breakfast menu. Ralph was dissatisfied with tea only and insisted on changing to coffee, although this entailed an additional expense because the purchase of milk now became a necessity at 8 cents per quart. The next thing Ralph objected to was the living quarters because of a lack of light and air. Joseph H. was finally persuaded to move five streets uptown and closer to Central Park West, to a luxurious one-room apartment in a brownstone, with it's own kitchenette.

Ralph excelled at preparing frankfurters and baked beans and made them nearly every day, of which Joseph H. soon tired.

The two brothers showed evidence of their entrepreneurial acumen early on. They teamed up with a friend, and because they were now three solid customers, they managed to convince a hapless restaurateur in the neighborhood to reduce the price of their seven course dinner from 45 cents to 40 cents each.

Joseph H. was now a very eligible bachelor, and played the field extensively. He established two firm guidelines for himself: 1. To date at least two young females at a time, to establish that he was independent and not really serious. 2. To eliminate what Joseph H. called "G.U." - geographically undesirables. Any candidate had to live in Manhttan or The Bronx.

By this strategy, especially adhering to principle #1, Joseph H. continued as an eligible bachelor for quite a few years.

When the brothers' parents arrived, the family moved further uptown to a luxury apartment on Audobon Ave. and 185th St. As the reader may surmise by now, there seemed to be an urge to move farther and farther uptown. This is why the writer chose the term "The Uptown Warburgs" for this family.

Joseph H. was soon informed by the family that he was at an age when he ought to begin to think seriously of estalishing a permanent relationship with someone suitable of the female gender. Thus urged on, Joseph H. produced a lovely young lady of charm, intelligence and the best of upbringings, by the name of Ilse Bravmann. The family immediately took to Ilse and invited her for dinner at the Warburgs.

One episode connected with this dinner has been kept secret within the family for many years. However, a personal interview with one of the dinner paricipants who chose to remain anonymous, elicited the story of a crisis in the Uptown Warburg household.

Ilse charmed everyone with her wit, intelligence and perfect table manners, especially the latter, which always were deemed to be of supreme importance by this family. That is, all through dinner, until a dessert of pudding with strawberries was served. As is customary in the Uptown Warburg home, the invited guest was served first. It seems that all the strawberries had descended to the bottom of the bowl, but this did not deter Ilse. While the family was looking on with deepening anguish and despair, Ilse deftly pushed aside the pudding, with a proper serving spoon, of course, and managed to retrieve most of the strawberries for herself. The informant added, however, that to Ilse's credit, she did leave at least one strawberry for each of the other diners.

The dinner conversation is alleged to have become somewhat strained after this occurrence.

The family council convened the next day to discuss the matter. After a somewhat heated debate, it was decided to bestow the family's approval on Ilse, after all, but a resolution was passed that a different serving order would be followed at future dinners to prevent a recurrence of this near crisis.

In the middle of Joseph H's distinguished career in the United States Army, in November of 1944, Joseph H. and Ilse became husband and wife with the blessings of both the Bravmann and Warburg families.

No information is available about brother Ralph's social activities during those years. All members of the family have consistently declined comment.

However, he did manage to start a hardware manufacturing business shortly after the Bravmann-Warburg wedding. Of course, Ralph started in the style he was accustomed to, in one of the most modern industrial buildings of the decade, on Center Street. It seems that the late model coal-burning stove and the high-speed elevator were especially noteworthy. By the ingenious method of pulling a rope, it was possible to move the "elevator" up three floors in less than an hour.

Ilse ingratiated herself with her brother-in-law by sending a plant in a ceramic camel planter for the grand opening of this major industrial establishment. (This camel is still on display at the brothers' new Englewood plant.) Thereupon, Ralph invited Ilse for a visit to his opulent office. In order to let Ilse inside the office, Ralph had to get up and move his chair out of the way. Ilse was so impressed with all this splendor, that she decided to join the firm as soon as possible, which she eventually did, and has not left her post to this day.

To Ralph's dismay, because of the shortage of office space occasioned by the presence of Ilse, his penchant for hiring a young, single and "interesting" private secretary was squelched.

In 1946, Joseph H. completed his earlier mentioned distinguished career in the military service of the United States. He had probably planned some years earlier what was to follow.

In a typical takeover maneuver, which became commonplace only in the 60s and 70s, he had first conspired to install his wife and probable accomplice in the inner circle of the business. Then he moved in for the kill. Within two weeks, Joseph H. had acquired 50% of the shares of this now allegedly tremendous industrial enterprise which now occupied two whole floors of unknown size.

So much for the business venture of the Uptown Warburgs, except for the fact that Ralph is now vastly outnumbered because Joseph H's oldest son Ronald has entered the firm and is speedily climbing up the corporate ladder.

Joseph H. is reported to have become so prosperous that his main occupation in the firm consists now of engineering a fail-proof burglar alarm system to protect his assets. He is also a reknowned expert on all kinds of electronic gadgets and owns a vast and invaluable collection of calculators, short and long wave transistor radios, and alarms.

Joseph H. has developed a habit of disappearing for long vacations without notifying employees of the firm. This keeps the employees in constant fear of having Joseph H. reappear unexpectedly. A postcard from wherever Joseph and Ilse are vacationing will usually arrive a day or two after Joseph's return, which is of little solace to the firm's workers.

Ilse and Joe have moved even further uptown and north, beyond the confines of New York City, all the way north to Rockland County, where they live in great splendor surrounded by whispering pines and birches.

Ilse became a noted interior decorator and is constantly besieged by friends and acquaintances from far away for advice on their home decoration problems, which advice Ilse graciously despenses.

Joseph H. has become the "Kissinger behind the scenes" for the Jewish community. (note - Kissinger is another landsman from Nuremberg. DW) Joseph H.'s favorite remark is reported to be, "Don't make waves," when he is approached by anxious citizens regarding a crisis in community affars.

Ilse has developed a penchant for giving large and elaborate parties, and, according to local gossip, likes to "invite the whole world." She has a widespread reputation for her culinary capabilites.

This is also true of Ralph's wife Anita, who is the only Yankee in the family. When guests admire her dishes and ask for her recipe, she will invariably respond that they are from the "Moriah Cookbook," of which she is the editor-in-chief. Inevitably, two or three of her guests will purchase the cookbooks. At a price of $6.95 per cookbook, Ralph is often heard to mutter that it hardly paid to invite 20 or 30 or 50 people just to sell a few cookbooks.

Again, little is known about brother Ralph's activities, except that he seems to fancy himself to be the humorist of the Uptown Warburgs. His humor is so appealing, it is reported that every time he gives out with one of his rare puns or "jokes" at the dinner table, his children exclaim in anguish, "Oh, Daddy!"

It seems that he comes up once about every 6 years with one of his supposedy funny productions at some family affair. He claims that he has his audiences glued to their seats on these occasions, but none of the glues have really worked in the past. According to local sources, he has perfected a new kind of quadruple glue that really will hold his audience spell- and seat-bound. He just never gives up.

Since the scope of this book is necessarily limited, the writer will have to dispense with a detailed account of the two new generations of the Uptown Warburgs that have appeared in the 40s. 50s, 60s, and 70s. Although it would be well worthwhile to do so, at this point in time, the writer will leave this to an additional chapter to be added to this book about the Warburgs at a later date.

Just before the editor's deadline approached for this chapter, the writer was advised by reliable sources that Joseph H's and Ilse's children have conspired to hold a huge party in honor of their 35th anniversary at the home of their first-born son and his very lovely wife, Resa. Purportedly, Resa decided to match or surpass her mother-in-law's vast entertainmant endeavors. It is also rumored that Ralph will again be on hand with one of his "hilarious" productions. "The worst is expected," a family member confided glumly.

Since this writer has become so deeply involved with the fame and fortunes of the Warburgs, it semed appropriate to close this chapter by wishing Ilse and Joseph H. a very happy 35th anniversary and many happy and healthy years together with their whole family.

Postscript: The writer was informed that a special, valuable gift will be presented to Ilse for her exclusive use by one of Ralph's offspring. (I think that was me and the gift was a hand-calligraphed Ayshet Chayil - DW)


  1. Wow, this was so fun to read! Grandpa really is funny! Thank you so much for posting this!

  2. Wow! Now we know where your writing talent came from!

  3. love the story and the pics. It was like reading a book I couldn't put down! Yasher Koach!!!