Trefzger Families: TFF_Fran


'Franz' Francis Frederick Trefzger
1900 -1999


'Fran' was born Francis Frederick Trefzger on 12/7/1900 in Peoria, IL. On 11/24/1925 he married Marie Niland. He died on 1/15/1999 in Cincinnati, OH.

We will let Fran tell you about himself in his own words with excerpts from his autobiography:
"In order to get started I will of course have to be born, which I was on December 7, 1900, at 1017 N. Ellis Street in Peoria, Illinois. In those days it was not necessary to be born in a hospital - as far as I know I was born in a bedroom. Now, to get back to Francis Frederick (that's me) and my first name. How could a mother of am American boy call her son Francis? Here's how it happened. Mother had a very close girl friend and the two of them made a pact that each one would name the first born of the other. I have no idea what my Mom called her friend's child but you know what her friend named me! Perhaps the handicap of a "girl's name" was a blessing - a kid has to be tough to go through life with a name like that.To add insult to injury my mother after naming me Francis decided that my hair (golden brown) should be allowed to grow long (like a girl's) because it was so beautiful."

"I was about 5 when they decided to send me to kindergarten at Sacred Heart School which was connected with the downtown Peoria Franciscan Church on Fulton Street."

"Mom wanted to go back home to Cincinnati. My father, being a true Trefzger, must have said "Yes, dear," and we moved to the Queen City. I was about 5 1/2 years of age."

"Of course living on the Hill then, as throughout the years was a great delight to me. As a small boy those 27 acres seemed to be the great outdoors, and the big old house with its deep cellars and many rooms was a palace. What a place to play hide'n seek, and "haunted house.""

"How long we lived on the Hill during this period I cannot say. While there I did start to St. Bonaventure School in the valley on Queen City Avenue, near St. Francis Hospital. As my folks had no carriage it was often necessary to walk to school - and I judge that the distance was close to two miles."

"The little boys at St. Boniventura School were given a choice - they could be singers or servers. I want to be a server because I thought that singing was for sissies. Now when I think of it, we servers probably looked pretty sissy-like in our red cassocks and white embroidered surplices."

"The years that I spent at St.Bonaventura School were important ones in my development - both good and bad. For one thing, I became more conscious of the difference between girls and boys."

"After the birth of Elsa the Fred W. Trefzgers bought a home in Westwood, at 2929 Lischer Avenue."

"Well, we settled in at 2929 Lischer. Electric lighting and the telephone were two of the conveniences we enjoyed not too long after we moved there. Herb and I attended St. Catharine School."

"However, I continued to be interested in music, particularly singing. Mother, who had a lovely voice and could play the piano, taught me many of the old songs. We loved to sing together. I could not read music but had a very good ear."

"My debut came when I was in the eighth grade. The St. Catharine School performance was presented at the Westwood Town Hall. Dressed in overalls, with my face blackened with cork, I sang "Dixieland." I think I was a success -but I'm not sure."

"To get into Hughes High School from St Catharine School I had to attend summer school in 1914. I was thirteen years of age and went downtown to the old Woodward High on Sycamore Street."

"I am sure now (after sixty-odd years) that I was in the wrong course at Hughes High School - the Commercial Course. My father believed it was right for me because I had to get a job immediately after graduation from high school, and therefore I should be trained in office work. They had no money for a college education for me. But from my point of view he was wrong about what course I should take. I had little interest in bookkeeping, stenography, commercial law, accounting, and mathematics. I particularly liked English, literature, and history. The foreign language I had to study was Spanish, which did not appeal to me. My high school record is somewhat of a disaster. I did exceptionally well in English, and I loved literature and plays. Science (chemistry) was difficult, and not-to my liking. Perhaps the year I skipped at St. Bonaventura put me at a disadvantage. Most of my classmates were at least a year older than I."

"I liked music. I tried out for the Boys' Glee Club, but was not accepted. I joined the Mandolin Club, but for some reason it did not hold my in interest for long. In singing class Mr. Aken, the professor, told me that I had a very pleasant voice but that I insisted upon singing the melody which was unusual, in the soprano part. I looked at the notes but could not read them. All my singing I had done with my mother was on the tune or the melody."

"Probably because Elsa was getting too old to sleep in with our parents (there were only two bedrooms on Lischer Avenue) in 1916 or '17 the Trefzgers bought another home, situated at 3450 Cheviot Avenue (Cheviot and Urweiler)."

"Upon graduation from Hughes High School I was faced with the necessity of finding a job. I had thought about becoming a dentist, but the family did not have the money, and I did not have the grades, particularly in science. My first job was at the Western German Bank located at 12th and Vine Streets. At the bottom of the ladder I was called a "messenger" and my pay was $25.00 a month. Not much, but I saved $5.00 each month because my parents allowed me to live at home without charge."

"They advanced me rapidly at the bank -to the credit department, then to the bookkeeping department where I operated a banking bookkeeping machine. It was electrically operated and handled checks, deposits, and statements. I was a fast operator, but I must admit that running the machine six or eight hours a day made me very nervous."

"My years between high school and twenty some years of age are rather misty. I was consistent in my interests, however, which were (1) girls, (2) sports, and (3) becoming ever stronger, music."

"About this time Father Tieken, our pastor at St. Catherine Church, wishing to improve the choir for his young organist, Joe Seiwert (recently returned from study in France) hired a singing teacher, Bert Rogers Lyon. He instructed us once a week, and certainly improved the quality of our choir. After awhile I took private lessons from Mr. Lyon, which resulted in my singing solos. I can remember the first one, an "Ave Maria" as I recall. My knees knocked together so hard they actually hurt - but I managed to keep my voice firm. Unfortunately, then, as well as through the years, I was always nervous when I had to sing."

"In the month of November just before my twenty-first birthday, something really special happened to Francis F., now called Franz Trefzger. Because of my singing engagements and notices in the newspapers referring to me as Miss Frances Trefzger I felt constrained to change my name. I chose "Franz": which is simply the German for Francis."

"During the period 1920-l923 I was working for my dad at The Cuban Cigar Company which had moved from 111 E. Sixth Street to 1421 Walnut Street."
"Dad was the president and treasurer of this little cigar company, and I was Secretary. We had only hand-rolled cigars and we used good tobacco from The John Berger & Sons Co."

"Our old Ford was of much use because of the great distance between Westwood and Norwood, and by Decemher of 1921 Francis F. (now Franz) Trefzger had decided that the trip was nothing compared to the prize. So, a-courting he went, usually on the streetcar - the Westwood, then the Crosstown, finally the Norwood car."
"My persistency finally got her interest, however. Marie was a girl who had plenty of dates and many friends."

"At our home, the Trefzgers, in Westwood, this special moment came when all our family stood together and sang, in German, "Ihr Kinderlein kommet, o kommet doch all" (Oh Come Little Children, Oh Come One and All)."

"The story of our courtship is long and involved. Unfortunately not being a writer, I could never do this beautiful period justice. Because of my singing engagements it was necessary for me to keep date books which I still have in my possession and which go back to the year 1922."

"In addition to my work at Proctor's, my singing engagements, my three church choir jobs, I was a registered student of Lino Mattioli at the College of Music, sang in the Zoo Opera Chorus, May Festival Chorus and Orpheus Club Chorus. Wow!"

"As our wedding plans developed Marie informed me that before we became formally engaged and she wore her ring, I had to ask her father for her hand."

Franz' obituary summarizes his working life
As a young lyric tenor, he studied voice and languages at the College of Music of Cincinnati, where he was awarded the gold medal in Voice.

While in college, he sang In Cincinnati churches of various denominations, in the first Zoo Opera chorus and in the May Festival chorus. Upon graduation, he was granted a fellowship for operatic performance and study abroad. Mr. Trefzger and his family lived in Italy, France, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe for five years. He made his operatic debut near Florence, Italy, in 'Lucia di Lammer- Moor' in 1930. In 1932-33, he was the leading tenor pf the opera house in Liege, Belgium.

In Cincinnati, he sang leading roles with the Zoo opera, was a soloist with the May Festival, and fulfilled opera and concert engagements in cities such as Chicago and Boston. He received master's degrees from the College of Music and the University of Cincinnati.

In the late 1930s, he joined the faculty of the College of Music, teaching voice and languages. He served as chairman of the Faculty Senate. He later taught voice and languages at Edgecliff College, where he was chairman of the foreign language depart- ment.

Franz was a great man. He was 98 years old when he died.


Fred's 'Stories'
Fred Berger has written an excellent book 'Stories from The Berger History'.

For information about 'a squabble on the Hill' see the link to "Fred's 'Stories'p.70".


My comments on Fred's 'Stories'p.70
1. “After a generation the rift was healed…”
I do not believe there was a big rift. Dad just accepted that Paul was not welcome on the Hill. In the over 20 years until Dad died I never heard him utter a disparaging word about uncle Franz, and I never heard uncle Franz utter a disparaging word about Dad.




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