One Postcard, Two Destinations, Three Continents, Six People, and One Hundred and Two Years
The postcard above was mailed on October 5, 1910 from Camden, New Jersey to Miss Ella Kremo at the Tivoli Theater in Sydney, Australia. When the postcard arrived in Sydney, Miss Kremo and her family, a troupe of acrobats who appeared on stage around the world, had left, leaving a forwarding address of Das Programm in Berlin, Germany. Postal authorities sent the card to Germany. The address given was insufficient, the card was never delivered, and it lay, unclaimed, in the post office in Berlin Germany until the spring of 1945.
In April of 1945, World War II in Europe came to an end when units of the Red Army took Berlin. A young Russian soldier serving in the artillery, Sergeant Major Ivan Terekhov, found the postcard and took it home with him. There it lay in a drawer, all but forgotten, for many years until his granddaughter, Anastasia Andronova, found it.
Anastasia tells her story:
The postcard was sent from Camden, New Jersey on October 6, 1910 to Sydney, Australia by a man named Theodor. There is no surname and address, but I am sure he was an actor. The card was written in German, which I do not speak. A German man, Hartmut Branz helped me a lot to find the addressee and made the approximate translation into English (approximate because Theodor’s German was very bad!).
All my life I wanted to get to know who were these people, Ella and Theodor, and when I got connected to the Internet I started to search. The postcard didn’t reach Ella in Sydney and was sent to Berlin. It lay, undelivered, in the Berlin post office until 1945.
My grandpa took it from there in 1945 and brought it to Russia, where it lay in his house until I found it when I was little. I decided to find out who sent it and to whom.
This is what I found:
It was sent to Miss Elvira Kremo. The Kremo family were acrobats and they performed around the world. Kris Kremo is the grandson of her brother Karl Kremo. Kris is a juggler you can find him in Youtube.
Theodor, who sent the card, was writing about theatres in Australia and New Zealand, and about the owner of the Tivoli theatre in Sydney and theatres in New Zealand, Mr. Rickards.
Here is a translation of the card, by Hartmut Branz.
Dear Ella, Many thanks for your lovely postcard about which I was very happy. Hey you, I think I will lose the First [this could be a tourney program or a magazine], since I have heard Rickard does not have [maybe: does not own] the theaters in New Zealand any longer. Well, if you [plural – so he means the whole group] just stay for one or two more weeks, then I will have won [he will win at least a bit]. Hope your are fine, I’m fine too. Regards … TheodorAnastasia Andronova
The Rickard referred to in the card was Harry Rickards, who owned the Tivoli Theater in Sidney and had other theaters operating under the Tivoli name in Australia and elsewhere. In 1911, the year of his death, Rickards was described as ‘the largest single-handed music hall manager and proprietor in the world’. Born in England, Rickards was a music hall performer who, after relocating to Australia, went into the theater business in 1892. From 1895 on, he went overseas annually, visiting music-halls in search of performers. He brought the cream of variety artists to Australia: acrobats, ventriloquists, instrumentalists, impersonators, singers and animal acts, including the legendary Marie Lloyd, Little Tich, Houdini, the quasi-Chinese conjuror Chung Ling Soo and Paul Cinquevalli, the unrivalled juggler.
When translating, Hartmut did not recognize the “£” symbol for British pound currency. On the night of October 20, 2012, Anastasia Andronova e-mailed scanned images of the postcard and Hartmut’s translation to Phil Cohen in Camden, New Jersey. She also asked him about “the strange character in front of the numeral 1”. On examination he recognized the British pound symbol. “Lose the 1” obviously was “Lose the 1 pound” and referred to a bet that Theodor had with Elvira Kremo regarding the length of time the Kremo family act would stay in Australia and New Zealand. Phil amended Hartmut’s translation as follows:
Dear Ella, Many thanks for your lovely postcard about which I was very happy. Hey you, I think I will lose the one pound, since I have heard Rickard does not have the theaters in New Zealand any longer. Well, if you just stay for one or two more weeks, then I will have won. Hope your are fine, I’m fine too. Regards … Theodor
As of October 31, 2012, when this page was first posted, Anastasia’s quest regarding the postcard was almost complete. The text had been translated accurately. She then knew a good deal about the street… Broadway south of Berkley Street… and the city… Camden, New Jersey… on the postcard. “Rickard” had been identified, and his life story was known, and much too about the Tivoli Theater in Sydney, Australia.
Two questions remained. The smaller of the two concerns “Das Programm, 4 Berlin, Germany.” It appeared that Das Programm, like The Tivoli, was a business, and the Kremo family had left “Das Programm, 4 Berlin, Germany” as a forwarding address when they left Australia. Was “Das Programm” a theater in Berlin, or perhaps was it another entertainment oriented business?
The greater question…. and perhaps the mystery that could be solved…. surrounds Theodor. The spelling indicated that he was not American or British, in these countries the name was, and still is, spelled “Theodore”. Hartmut stated that his German was not very good, however, and seemed to think that German was second language to Theodor. The Kremos had been to America at least once prior to October of 1910. Two newspaper articles had emerged, from July 20 and July 23, 1903, referring to a scheduled appearance in Elkhart, Indiana.
That he was on good terms with Elvira Kremo was obvious, and that he was involved in show business enough to have information about goings-on in New Zealand and Australia who he was on the other side of the planet in Camden…. in 1910, long before the Internet…. was quite apparent. Other than that, nothing had been ascertained about him.
The Mystery is Solved!
In December of 2012 Phil received an e-mail from John Wember. His great-grandfather, Theodor Kremka, sent the postcard so many years ago. His father, Paul Wember, continues:
Postcard’s Author Found! How? Around Christmas time, my son John asked me, “Dad, what was grandpa Kremka’s first name?” I replied, “Theodore”. He said, “There is something that you have to see,” and he E-mailed me “A POSTCARDS STORY.” I knew of Elvira from grandma”s stories, and I recognized grandpa’s signature.
I was amazed by Anastasia’s story, and the unlikelihood of events that led through Phil and www.dvrbs.com to us. I asked John how he came about finding the article. He said that he was feeling melancholy about his Mom and Grandma over the holidays and did a search on “Kremka” and found the web-page.
Theodor is Theodore Kremka who passed away in 1955 and was married to Anne Heimericht (stage name Anne Salvano) around 1912. Anne lived to be 96 with a strong mind and heart. During her long stays at my home, she entertained us with stories of her travels, the “Kremka Brothers” history and some of the Kremo family. Grandpa sent picture postcards from the places that he traveled around the globe. When grandma Anne died we found a collection of cards that he sent home and a scrapbook of picture posts that he received. My brother-in law has the collection and I have the scrapbook and a number of bogus stocks that grandpa invested in, thus I was able to match the signature. Grandpa was a gambler, but not a good one. He made a lot of pay, but did not bring it home, hence the “BET” referred to in Elvira’s postcard fits perfectly.
Theodor is a very interesting man, even though I have never met him, he was very near and dear to my wife. I am hazy on details of his youth, but I know Grandma’s stories. Grandpa Kremka was probably trained by the “Kremo’s” and was most likely part of their act early in his career. I have seen pictures of Elvira in an old album, and grandma did not think much of Elvira, so I don’t think that they were brother and sister, but probably were cousins.
The oldest of six children, Grandpa and the next oldest sibling, Anton “Tony” Kremka, worked for a time as part of the Kremo Family Kremo act. Theodore and Tony established their own act, “THE KREMKA BROTHERS”, artistic and humorous, eccentric gymnasts. They had mainly a head balancing act with illusions & humor doing what looked to be impossible. They were very successful headliners and performed all over the world.
In your article “Postcard Story”, you include some history of the Kremo family. I then checked the old postcard collection (1898-1899) to see if any of the cards might have been sent by one of the Kremos. The cards are in an album, and I had never looked at the mailing address. Was I surprised!
The entire collection of cards are addressed to Theodor Kremo. It appears that Grandpa and Tony reverted to the original family name when they went on their own.
I will continue with the brilliant. In going through the family records after Anne died, we found three patents by Theodore Kremka for a “boot fastener” with interlocking teeth and slide patented in London, Munich and Brussels. It is identical to the modern day Zipper patented in the USA ten years later by Mr. Zipper. Unfortunately, in those days a fee had to be sent in to renew patents, and since the boot fastener was never marketed, the renewal was never paid.
Theodore and his brother’s act was extremely successful, and they traveled Europe on the Orpheum circuit and overseas on the Tivoli circuit and the USA on the Pantages. They were also at the Palace & Rialto. During some of his travels he must have crossed paths with the “Salvano Family” trick cyclist, and his future wife Annie.
Annie was born in 1891 in Germany. We think that her maiden name was Heinrich [Records indicate that her maiden name was Heimericht]. Her father had a bicycle manufacturing shop. A part of the sales included instructions in how to ride. He built a training course behind the shop. He also taught his children trick riding. They were quite talented and good enough to form an act. ‘The Salvano Family” trick cyclists. I guess Salvano sounded better than Heinrich, He managed their show and took them on the road. They became a headline act.
Grandma told stories of travel to all parts of Europe, of spending the summer performing at the Lido in Paris, of beautiful places on the Mediterranean Sea and the highlight of traveling to Russia (yes, they traveled to Russia, Anastasia) to entertain at the palace for the eighth birthday of the Crown Prince Alexei Nikolaevitch, son of the Czar of Russia Nicholas II. Grandma also talked of getting stuck in Russia during one of the revolutions, and losing all their possessions to pay bribes to get back to Germany.
When watching bicycle acts with Grandma on TV she would comment “Those people have seats, much easier”. I didn’t know what grandma was referring to, until I saw a bicycle act at Disney performed with no seats on the bicycles. WOW! The Salvano act adopted a street child in Alexandria, Egypt, and incorporated him into the act. They had a pet lion and a pet monkey also in the act, and grandma talked about turning heads when riding to town with her brother on their chrome motorcycle.
Grandma told us of dining in Egypt with the camel herders, and riding a camel to the pyramids. Egypt also brought sad memories in that her father contacted malaria and died while the were traveling Egypt. It was a very difficult trip to return to Germany and inform her mother.
I am somewhat hazy on dates here, and I hope my niece, Susi, who interviewed Grandma on tape, will be able to fill in.
Annie & Theodor were wed around 1913. They had 3 children, Thea (Weaver) in 1914, Anne (Shobert) in 1916, and Alex in 1918. Alex was killed during World War II. Thea had 3 children, Theresa, Tom, and Paul. Anne had two children, Ted and Linda. My spot in the family is through my wife Linda, who passed 2003. Theodor & Annie are my children’s great-grandparents.
Theodor’s amazing trip: After their marriage, Theodor & his brother continued to travel with the.ir gymnastic act. And with WWI, they also got stuck in Russia. They went the other, I call it “The Dr. Zhivago way”, across the entire country and through Vladivostok, then Japan, he spent some time in Australia, then through the US to London where grandma was very happy to hear from him alive. Amazing, Theodor was among, probably, only a handful of people who had circumnavigated the entire globe. I am sure that it took him more than 80 days.
Somehow, Anne was able to leave Germany, and the family moved to the United States. The “Gremka Brothers” signed on with the “Sells Floto” circus. In those days, the whole family worked and Linda’s mother, Anne recalls riding the elephants in the circus parade when she was just a toddler.
The circus career did not last long and Theodor and Tony took their act on the vaudeville circuit. The family traveled along. They again achieved top billing and did very well They covered the entire US from coast to coast. While in Seattle, Washington, Grandma finally decided that hotels were not a place to raise a family. The had bought some property in Sunbright, Tennessee. and Annie moved there with the children while Theodor and Tony continued on the road.
Grandma Annie would sometimes join them, and a lady whom the children called “Grandma Schishal” would take care of them in Sunbright. I don’t know if she was related.
Things were a little tough for grandma, as grandpa was a stunning figure and grandma did not trust the ladies hanging around vaudeville. Grandpa was a gambler also, and some of his friends were Eddie Cantor & Harry Houdini. Would you want to play cards with Harry Houdini?
The act stayed on the road into the 1920’s when, while performing, they had an accident and Tony fell off Grandpa’s head and injured his neck. He could perform no more.
Theodor moved the family to Cleveland, Ohio and worked as a carpenter until he died in 1955. Annie lived to be 96, and shared her life with her family.
Well Anastasia, as unlikely as you in Russia and me in McHenry, Illinois, USA would be comparing notes about a postcard mailed to Australia in 1910, I look forward to your reply. …thank you for your web site and making this fantastic story a reality.Paul Wember, January 4, 2013
Were They Kissing Cousins?
The answer to that particular question we may never find out, but we do know that Elvira & Theodor were cousins.
The postcard mystery is further being resolved with the addition of two more of Theodore’s grandchildren checking in. A box of Anne and Theodor’s collections were found in an attic in Cleveland, Oregon, and another in a basement in Atlanta, Georgia.
A postcard from Elvira to Theodor was discovered and the match of Ella’s signature is confirmed. She also refers to Theodor as “Dear Cousin”.
It looks like Elvira was a few months older than Theodor and in 1910, the date of Anastasia’s postcard, they both would have been 26. A publication of act’s touring in 1910 found in the Weaver attic also shows the relationship of the Kremo family and lists Tony (Anton) and Theodor as nephews.
Whatever the relationship was between Elvira and Theodor, Anne Heimericht, Salvano family cyclist, was definitely the winner. I will be back in February to add some more. See you then.Paul Wember, January 2013
About the Kremo Family
A good article concerning the Kremo family was found on a website about the town of Groß Koris, Germany. The web page and article are in German, however. Phil used a translation program and did what I could to get it into English. [Note: Nowadays, translation services are built directly into many browsers!]
The father of the family, Josef Kremo (1854-1917), left home at the age of ten years to go into variety and the circus. At the age of eleven he began training with Johann Karl Schaffer, in Vienna, Austria. He lived with Schäffer and his family during the entire apprenticeship. Schaffer treated Josef Kremo as his own son. In 1873 he left the Schaffer family on good terms.
In the following years he worked in various ways as an artist. In 1880 he married Franziska Allinger (1858 to 1940), a famous equestrian. The marriage took the Kremos to great heights in the show business world. The Kremos had thirteen children in the years between 1881 and 1897. The children icluded, in order of birth, Sylvester, Karl, Elvira “Ella”, Karolina “Lina”, Eugenie, Mark, Franziska, twins Victor and Leon, Siegfried, one of whom died while very young. The children were at an early stage made familiar with the show business life. It is thought that by the age of four the Kremo children were already accomplished acrobats, doing cartwheels, dancing, hand and headstands, as well as stilt walking. As their artistic skills developed, they were included in the programs. It is therefore not surprising that ten of the twelve Kremo children pursued careers as a performing artists. By 1894, the Kremotruppe Ikarischen (Kremo Icarists) were on tour with an act in which one acrobat lay on his back while juggling their partner through the air. One of the sons was able to do a dangerous triple jump from the seat of the foot.
Their number “Stilt walking on the skyline” was a favorite in the circus story of the Kremo family. Josef Kremo also worked “high in the air” as a tightrope and trapeze, and he was also a versatile tumbler and contortionist. Josef Kremo died on December 26, 1917 in Groß Köris, after having been confined to a wheelchair for a few years due to illness. The Familientruppe Kremos dissolved in 1915.
Several of the Kremo children thereafter started their own artistic careers. Karolina Kremo (1885-1945), was first known with the presentation “Kremolina and Partner”. She worked with her brothers Franz and Otto Kremo in of the number “La Kremolina and Darras” and continued the tradition of the brothers and sisters with the Darras Tanzduo “Kremolina & Darras”. In 1926 Otto married Karolina Kremo Muller-Darras . They lived together at the “Villa Linerl” (now Patzerstrasse 24). The wrought-iron entrance gate to this Villa today still bears the inscription “Kremolina & Darras.”
Elvira Kremo (1884-1973) began before the First World War to work as a dancer. Her debut was in 1901 in Graz. In her act she completed the deadly jump on the rope, a jump that only she performed at the time. She married an artistic photographer, Johann Hötzl. Elvira resided up to the time of her death on the Karbuschsee in Groß Köris.
Currently the last representative of the Kremo-Artisten is Kris Kremo. He is a great-grandson of Josef Kremo and son of the famous juggler Bela Kremo. Kris Kremo is married with the Russian ring acrobat Yelena Larkina. He is today one of the most famous jugglers of the world and is known as “King of the Jugglers” and “Gentleman-Jongleur”. His trademark is three balls, three hats, and cigar boxes, a virtuoso which he, with great speed, juggles in diverse variations. Kris Kremo was in 1994 in Germany where he visited the home of his ancestors and has reports and anecdotes of people and visited with his relatives still in Groß Köris.
The Kremo’s were widely known in their trade as specialists in the “Risley Act”, also referred to as icarists, where one acrobat juggles another acrobat with his feet.
The Kremos produced two generations of remarkable icarists. The original Kremo troupe was created c.1880 by Josef Kremo (1854-1917— real name: Kremka, of Czech origins), with at least two of his older sons, Sylvester and Karl. Josef Kremo had been trained by the Schäffers, an Austrian family of acrobats and the most prominent Risley act of the late 19th century.
Josef and his wife, Austrian-Hungarian equestrienne Franzisca Allinger (1858-1940), had thirteen children, twelve of whom eventually participated in the family’s Risley act; at least three of them, Anton, Franziska, and Viktor, could perform a triple somersault on the feet of their father. Sylvester, Josef’s eldest son (1881-1962), and Karl, his younger brother (1882-1958), continued the family tradition, each with his own troupe.
The Sylvester Kremo Family troupe consisted of Sylvester and his daughters, Sylvia and Selna. More important, the Karl Kremo Family consisted of Karl, his brother Mark (1888-1945), his wife Margrit (1891-1923—born Hanus in Hungary), and their children, Bellona, Béla, Bianca, and Bert, along with occasional partners. The Karl Kremo Family brilliantly continued the Kremo tradition, performing in Europe’s leading circuses and variety theaters until the 1930s. One of Karl’s sons, Béla Kremo, later became a world-famous juggler, as did Béla’s son, Kris Kremo.