Tag Archives: Paul Kaser

A Slice of My Life: Birthdays are Like Escalators

In 1963 my husband and I packed up our 18-month-old and moved from Columbus, Ohio to Scottsdale, Arizona.  Both sets of our parents stayed behind in Ohio.  Grandparents missed their first grandchildren and  particularly hated to miss birthdays. By September 1966, our oldest, called Butch back then, was turning five, our middle boy, Mike, had turned three in July and the youngest, Brent, was about to turn two. (This picture was about 5 months earlier.)

Badertscher sons 1966

Brent, Kenny (Butch),  and Mike Badertscher, Easter 1966

On our budget, land line long distance cost too  much to use frequently, so we would exchange calls on Friday night, and write letters almost every day. (Today we call by cell phone across the country for no extra cost, and across the world for nominal charges. It is easy to forget how special long distance calls were before cell phones.)

I kept most of the letters I received and my mother kept all the letters I wrote her.

Lost and Found

The bad news is that a rainstorm flooded the storeroom with the letters I wrote and for decades, mother assumed the letters had been ruined. The good news is that one day my sister opened a long-stored box and discovered a cache of letters from Arizona to Ohio.  So we now have a record of all those cute things our boys said and our own activities through the very busy 60s.

The letters from our parents and other relatives likewise seemed to disappear. Then we moved, and had stacks of boxes to deal with.  I opened a box that turned out to include treasures like this letter from my father, Paul Kaser, to our oldest son, on the occasion of his fifth birthday.

*In the letter he refers to F & R Lazarus Department Store, a fixture in our lives in Ohio as long as I could remember. The main store, in downtown Columbus, carried everything from refrigerators to gloves in eight stories of delights (Six above ground and two basements).

Lazarus Department Store

F & R Lazarus, Columbus Ohio, in an earlier day.

Birthdays are Like Escalators

Paul Kaser, 325 Conklin Drive, Hilliard, Ohio 43026

Monday Sept. 12, 1966

Dear Butch,

Congratulations on your birthday. You have not had enough birthdays to know very much about them, so let me tell you. I’ve had plenty.

Birthdays are like an escalator. Remember when you were here and we went to Lazarus Department store. We went up and down in the store on those stairs that move. You step on and the stairs move up. Pretty soon your head gets high enough so that you can see out onto a new floor. Here there are different things than you saw on the floor you just left. It is like a whole new world with new things to see. And then you look around and see all these things and do all the things you are supposed to do on that floor and then back onto the stairs and up to another new floor and new things to see and do.

Now you can look back and see for yourself that this is true. A while back you became old enough to go to nursery school. Since then you have gone up on the escalator (stairs) of time and now you are on the Kindergarten floor. Another year and up another stair and you will be in regular school.

Then will come high school and college and each year when your head comes up so you can see around on the new floor you have reached you will see things and do things you never thought of before.

One thing is different about the birthday stairs than the escalator stairs. Every time you go up another birthday the stairs move faster instead of all being the same speed as they were in Lazarus. And you will find that you don’t have much time before the birthday stairs move you up another year.

Above all things when you have reached a new floor (birthday) with all the new experiences and things to do, you must get busy and do everything that is to be done in that department. Because you will never be back there again, so don’t miss anything. Your mother was very good at this and can tell you what I mean.

Well be good and say hi to mother, dad, Mike and Brent for me,



Another Blow To Young Paul Kaser

Two final blows came to the young Paul Kaser as he made the abrupt transition from carefree youth to independent adult.

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser late 1920s

September 1926,If you have read the two previous stories about a letter and a life-shifting death in the family, you know that at 17, Paul left Millersburg Ohio to start college in Washington D.C.

October-November 1926. But shortly after school started, he was called home because his mother died. His father decreed that he could not go back to school.

April 1927. Therefore at 18 he was home, when his younger brother, Milton Kaser, got pneumonia and ultimately died. Not only was this a blow because he loved his younger brother, but now he had to live alone with his father. But that was not to last long.

Marriage License-Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser’s 2nd Marriage. To Mildred Dailey

December 1927.  Cliff Kaser, Paul’s father, married Mildred Jameson Dailey in Millersburg and they set off on a trip to Florida. I did not know her name until I found this marriage license.

The way my father told it, the woman his father married just wanted to go to Florida, so she married Cliff on the promise that he would take her there. Within a week, Cliff was back in Millersburg–without Mildred.

I have not dug deeply enough to find a divorce record, but their is a mystery hiding in this story.  I know from the records that Mildred continued to call herself Mildred Daily on census reports, and all official papers.  And when Clifford Kaser died, the death record listed Mame Kaser as his wife, and he shares a burial plot with his first wife, also. They both apparently wanted to forget that day in December 1927 when they were officially married.

That is the problem with family stories. You only hear one side.  And the essence of a story is that there must be a conflict between a “bad guy” and a “good guy.”  Now, maybe my Dad’s recollection is true and Mildred just wanted to get out of town. Maybe unemotional and strictly religious Cliff didn’t turn out to be the man of her dreams and she bailed.  But maybe Cliff deserted Mildred down there in Florida in a fit of pique.

Maybe they were just two lonely widowers looking for company when they married.  Cliff’s wife had died a few months earlier and Mildred’s husband had died at the end of 1925.  Find a grave says that the cause of his death was “alcoholism.”  If that is true, it could lead to all kinds of twists to the story.  But I don’t know.

All I have to go on are my father’s admittedly biased report, and some official documents.

At any rate–his father’s marriage and the brief trip to Florida disrupted my father’s life once more. At 19 he was thrown on his own, expected to find a way to make a living.

End of 1929-January 1930. Toward the end of 1929, back in Millersburg, and once again working on building duct work for furnaces, Clifford Kaser began to feel bad.  He had a hernia and went to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Mt. Vernon Ohio for treatment and surgery.  His death certificate graphically describes the cause and contributing factors in his death. Too graphically, for me to add here.  As my father said, he died of complications from an operation that today would be totally routine.  (Ironically, my father also died of complications of an operation).

Death Certificate - Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser Death Certificate

January 13, 1930. Paul Kaser officially becomes an orphan when his father dies. Paul is now approaching his 22nd birthday.  For more about his rootless life during the early years of the Great Depression see “Paul Kaser: No Permanent Residence.

A Lively Letter from Teen Milton Kaser Makes Me Sad

Why do I say that a letter from the fourteen-year-old Ira Milton Kaser to my father, Paul Kaser makes me sad? The letter itself is cheerful and full of life.

For my father, the year 1926 was “the best of years, the worst of years.” (Apologies to Charles Dickens). The 17-year-old graduated from Millersburg High School in Ohio in June that year and in September he set off for college. The gregarious dark-eyed boy with a shock of dark hair and a flare for dressing well, made friends easily and had an endless curiosity. His mother had instilled a love of reading.

His strict father would only allow attendance at the  WashingtonMissionary College run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington D.C. Although Paul secretly had no plans to become a minister or a missionary, he was eager to learn and happy to board the train for the trip east.

The family in 1926.

Keith Kaser and family

Clifford Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton and Keith with Cliff and “Mame” in front. About 1926

When he went to college, Paul left behind his doting mother (looking much older than her 54 years in this picture), task-master father, and beloved younger brother, Milton Kaser. Their sister Irene was working as a maid in other people’s homes.  Their much older brother Keith was married and farming nearby. Milton would have been fourteen in this picture and when he wrote a letter to his older brother, Paul, away at college. Ira Milton Kaser looks and sounds (in his letter) more mature than 14, although the letter is unmistakably that of a young teenage boy.

letter from Milton to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to Paul Kaser, October 1926, pg. 1

Milton to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to brother Paul Kaser, pg 2

Milton Kaser to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton to Paul Kaser, October 1926, pg 3

Letter from Milton Kaser to Paul Kaser

Letter from Milton Kaser to his brother Paul Kaser, October 1926 pg 4

Milton spends two pages describing the latest high school football game, a description full of details and nicknames. The description is also notable for his use of a derogative term for the quarterback of the other team, which reflects a time less concerned with tolerance than our own time.

Milton Kaser then says “I’m doing fine in school” which is an understatement, as he gives his grades of A’s and B’s in subjects that sound advanced for a fourteen-year-old–at least the Algebra and Latin. Later we learn that he is a Freshman in High School.

He then moves on to the family. “Everybody fine here. Irene just went to Kenmore and “dad” and “Mom” just returned from Glenmont. Since Irene is gone we get bigger pieces of pie. Keith was to Mt. Vernon today and brought some  Cero (?) meat home.

We’re sending you your overcoat and a comfort[er].”

Darned Freshman class had a party Friday night.”

These passages take some explaining.

  • Irene may have been going to serve as a live-in maid with a family in Kenmore, a neighborhood of nearby city of Akron.
  • Glenmont is a town in the same county as Millersburg, where many of Mary (Mamie) Butts Kaser’s relatives lived.
  • Why are “Dad” and “Mom” in quotes?  In the 1920’s these words would probably still qualify as slang–not the kind of words you use in formal writing. However, later Paul’s father signs himself ‘dad.’
  • I’m still giggling at the fact that his older sister’s absence mainly means Milton gets a bigger piece of pie.  Wish I had recipes for Mamie’s pie.
  • The word that is missing in the sentence about older brother Keith looks like Cero.  Milton’s writing is quite clear, so I’m really puzzled by this one.  However, since Seventh Day Adventists manufactured vegetarian meat substitutes, and Mt. Vernon was a center for the church in that part of Ohio, I’m guessing that is what it refers to. Perhaps a brand that disappeared so thoroughly that even Google can’t find it.
  • sending your overcoat”  Apparently the D.C. area had some early winter weather that my father was not prepared for. He might have preferred to get some of that pie!
  • And why would a 14-year-old say “Darn” about a class party? Probably because of religion again. His father was very strict about keeping the Sabbath. No work between Sundown on Friday and Sundown on Saturday.  And that would no doubt include no parties.  So Milton would have preferred that the party be scheduled at another time.

On the fourth page, Milton Kaser closes the letter, and their father adds a note.  This is a rare–in fact unique relic of Cliff Kaser.  When my sister read it, she felt it reflected his concern for his far away son (sending the overcoat) combined with his practical side (weather report). It seems to me to reflect, the rather cold man, unable to express emotions, that was reflected in my father’s stories about Cliff Kaser.

“Rained from Saturday midnight to Sunday midnight then snowed about 1 1/2 “. Sloppy snow on ground this a.m.  your overcoat and comfort to forward today.  dad.

To return to the question at the beginning–why does this letter make me sad?

Because just five months after the lively letter, Milton Kaser was stricken with pneumonia. Three weeks later he died in his brother Paul’s arms. He had not yet reached his 15th birthday, which would have come in September. My father, Paul, never entirely got over Milton’s death, and we had heard the story from him many times.  But this week I finally saw the death certificate, and could more clearly understand the tragedy of this young man’s life and death.

Milton Kaser Death Certificate

Milton Kaser Death Certificate, April 9, 1927

Milton Kaser is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Millersburg, beside his parents and other members of the Kaser family.

And why was my father, Paul Kaser, at home with Milton instead of in the spring semester of college in Washington D.C.?  That will be the subject of my next post, when I continue with Paul Kaser’s year 1926–the best of years, the worst of years.