1877 - Alphonse Schuller
Alphonse Joseph Schuller was born on March 5, 1877 to Michael Schuller and Salome Thomas in the town of Mühlhausen in Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen (the Imperial Country of Alsace-Lorraine) in the Deutsches Reich (German Empire). His grave marker lists his place of birth as Paris, but other documents, like the 1920 U.S. census, list the place of birth as Alsace or Alsace-Lorraine.
Alphonse, or Alfie as he was known to his family, had a great sense of humor. He often claimed he was born in a town named "Infillibippi." To date, I have not been able to locate a town in France with anything resembling that name.
Alsace is an eastern region of France that is separated from Germany by the Rhine river. It has always been a region of both French and German influences. Control of the region went back and forth between France and Germany for centuries. In 1871, control of the region moved from France to Germany as a result of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). The German name for the province was Elsaß-Lothringen, commonly known in English as Alsace-Lorraine, because the Germans merged Alsace with the neighboring French territory of Lorraine. So in 1877, Alphonse would have been born in the Deutsches Reich (German Empire).
The 1910 census records the birthplace of his parents and his European-born siblings as Germany and lists their native language as German. Actually, his parents were born in Alsace when it was a part of France. Alphonse and his siblings were born in Germany.
1881 - Emma Bauer
Emma Bauer was born to Gustav Bauer and Christine Bauer on May 19, 1881 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Gustav had been born on April 13, 1846 in the town of Heilbronn, in the kreis or county of Neckarkreis, in the Germanic kingdom of Württemberg. His name was variously spelled as Gustavus, Gustave, and Gustav. He emigrated to the United States in 1857.
Emma's mother, Christina (Christine) Bauer, was born on July 25, 1847, possibly in the town of Stuttgart which is also in Neckarkreis, Württemberg. (One census record lists her birthplace as Stuckhardt which leads me to believe that the census taker misspelled Stuttgart) Christine emigrated to the United States in 1854 or 1855.
Christine Bauer married Gustave Bauer in St. Louis, Missouri on April 13, 1871 at St. Marcus Evangelical Church in St. Louis. We don't know if they were somehow related, since both had the same surname and both came from the same region of Württemberg. Of course the name Bauer, which means farmer, is very common in Germany.
1888 - Schuller family emigration
Michael and Salome Schuller emigrated to the United States with their family in 1888. Their last two children, Minnie and Marie, were born in Missouri.
1890 - 1899
Unfortunately, no census record is available for 1890. The Federal Census of 1890 was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, D.C. on January 10, 1921. The surviving fragments of 1,233 pages list only 6,160 of the 62 million people counted.
Gould's St. Louis City Directory for 1899 listed Michael "Schuler" as a blacksmith residing at 1724 South Broadway, with Alphonse "Schuler" as a "shoer" at the same address.
Gould's St. Louis City Directory for 1890 records that Gustav Bauer, a molder, lived at 1004 Russell Avenue. A similar record appeared in Gould's St Louis Directory for 1895, but the residence was now 1010 Allen Street.
1900 - 1909 - marriage and children
In the 1900 census we learn that Michael Schuller (55) and Salome (45) were living with their six children at 316 Lafayette Avenue, between South 3rd Street and South Broadway, in St. Louis. Michael's occupation was a blacksmith. Sons Alfonso (23), Joseph (20), Anton (15) and Mike (13) were working as a blacksmith, a laborer, a clerk and a machinist's assistant respectively. Minnie (11) and Mary (9) were in school.
In 1900, the Gustav and Christina Bauer family were still living at 1010 Allen Street. Sophia and Frank were no longer in the household. Lena was a dressmaker and Emma a bookbinder.
Alphonse married Emma Bauer on July 18, 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri, most likely at Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in the Soulard neighborhood. Emma's family was Protestant and Alphonse's Roman Catholic. Their children were baptized at this church and his parents were later buried in Sts. Peter and Paul cemetery in South St. Louis. Alphonse was 24 and Emma was 20 at the time of their marriage.
Alphonse was initially not well accepted by Emma's family. He was Roman Catholic and they were not. By occupation, he was a blacksmith and farrier (horse-shoer). Some of the Bauer's evidently thought that Emma had married beneath her station.
Perhaps another, and more important, issue was that Emma was six months pregnant when they were married in July 1901. Their first child, Alice, was born in October of that year.
Emma and Alphonse Schuller had four children during the first decade of the twentieth century, three of whom survived to adulthood.
Alice Elizabeth Schuller was born on October 7, 1901 at home at 2021 Menard. She later claimed that her name was originally Elizabeth Alice, but the birth record shows her listed simply as Alice Schuller.
The house on Menard Street was between Allen and Russell in the Soulard area of South St. Louis, an area just south of downtown.
There is a bit of confusion about their second child who died in infancy. One record shows that Alphonse Joseph Schuller, Jr. ("Little Al") was born on July 20, 1902 at home at 1010 Allen Street. He died just 3 months and 24 days later on November 23, 1902. The family home on Allen Street was between 9th and Menard, just around the block from their previous home. However, another record shows an Alfred Schuller born to Al and Emma Schuller on July 30, 1902 at 4468 Delmar, where Elmer was born the following year.
Elmer John Schuller was born on September 8, 1903 at home at 4468 Delmar Avenue. By now, the family had moved from Soulard to North St. Louis. The address on Delmar is about five blocks east of North Kingshighway and about a block east of the 4543 Delmar Avenue where based on his draft registration card Alphonse ran the Schuller Auto Repair Company fifteen years later in 1918.
Kenneth G. Schuller was born on September 27, 1909.
Alphonse Schuller was a talented musician. He played both the mandolin and banjo, and as a young man was part of a string band in St. Louis shown here in a 1903 photo.
The band included three guitars and four mandolins. (Alphonse is second from the left in the front row of the photo.)
The band played regularly at the Royal Hibernian Hall in North St. Louis, where the music was mostly Irish and so were the clientele.
1910 - 1919
In 1910, Alphonse (33) and Emma (28) were living at 4609 Easton Avenue with their three children: Alice (8), Elmer (6) and Kenneth (7 months). Alphonse's occupation was "horseshoer." At this point we don't know if he owned his own shop or worked for someone else.
Michael Schuller was a carriage maker and a blacksmith. As the eldest son, Alphonse learned to be a blacksmith as well. Eventually, as automobiles replaced horses, he transferred his skills into auto body repair.
In September 1918, on his World War I draft registration card, his business was listed as Schuller Auto Repair Company, 4543 Delmar Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri. His residence was 1343 Walton Avenue.
Alphonse encouraged his children to be musical. His children Alice and Elmer were taught to play various instruments, accompanied by Kenneth, the youngest, who provided percussion on pots and pans.
Later, Kenneth Schuller became the most musically talented child in the family. He developed spinal meningitis and a heart problem as a child and had to avoid strenuous activity. Alphonse bought Kenneth a piano and paid for music lessons. When Kenny practiced, Alphonse would accompany him on mandolin or banjo. Later, Kenneth mastered a number of different instruments and went on to have a career in light classical, classical and theatrical music.
1920 - 1929
In 1918 and 1920, Alphonse Schuller and his family were living at 1343 Walton Avenue in St. Louis. The 1920 census states that his birth place was Alsace-Lorraine and his "mother tongue" was French. He was a repairer of automobiles.
At heart, Alphonse Schuller was an artist. After the auto bodywork was completed and the sheetmetal painted, Alphonse would don a beret and paint the pinstripes on the vehicle with an artist’s palette and a fine bristle brush.
Alphonse's granddaughter, Betty Lee Sagner, would often stop by the auto body repair shop on her way home from grade school. Her grandfather would hand her a beer bucket, and she would walk to Mrs. Seroni’s bar in the neighborhood to fill it with draft beer for the workers. When she returned, Alphonse would show Betty his books of automotive paint color chips. They would talk about the quality of color, and Alfie would draw pictures with Betty. These experiences with her grandfather had a great influence on Betty. She eventually became a very accomplished artist.
According to Betty, Alphonse Schuller was a child at heart and loved to play. He especially loved to tease and torment his children. Weeks before Christmas, he would go into a room with a locked door, and prepared toys for his children. Once, he assembled a model train set. His children could hear their father playing with the train, but weren't’t allowed in the room. Then, occasionally other sounds could be heard. His daughter Alice said that one time she heard the sound of a doll crying. The children would listen quietly at the door trying to figure out what they were getting for Christmas. Alphonse delighted in building their anticipation for Christmas morning.
His daughter Alice remembered one time when the family owned several dogs. The rooms of their home were arranged so that there was a circular flow around the house with a long hall down one side. Alphonse would set up low barriers of boards and chairs in the doorways and start the dogs racing around the house in a steeplechase. Alfie and the children encouraged the dogs on and on, until the shouting and barking became too much for Emma, and she would demand an end to the ruckus.
One of their dogs was named Shep. He was one of Alphonse's favorites and his granddaughter claims that everyone in the neighborhood, especially the children, loved the dog as well. When Shep died, Alfie summoned all the neighborhood children to the funeral. Alphonse placed Shep's body in a wagon and pulled his corpse around the neighborhood, followed by all the children in a slow, mournful procession. When they returned home, Alfie buried Shep in the backyard with a tear-filled ceremony.
Alphonse Schuller was an excellent card player. As soon as his children and grandchildren were old enough to learn, he taught them to play. His granddaughter Betty recalled that on the days spent at her grandparents' house, they would play cards after dinner. They always played for money. With the grandchildren, Alphonse played for nickels. Alphonse supplied the money. Betty said she would start with a stake of twenty-five cents. As they played, she would begin to win. But as it neared time for her to go home, she would inevitably start losing, until she had only one nickel left. She was allowed to take that nickel home. This happened nearly every time she played cards with her grandfather.
Betty also remembered that about mid-way through these card games, Alphonse would turn to Emma and say, “Em, is it about time?” Her grandmother would giggle and say, “Yes, Al, I think it’s time.” Emma would then slice ripe cantaloupes, remove the seeds, and fill the centers with vanilla ice cream. When dessert was finished, the card game would continue.
Alphonse loved to mystify young children by performing magic tricks for them. His tricks included apparently making an equal number of pencil marks on each side a butter knife blade and then revealing that all the marks were on one side only. He also played brainteaser games using match sticks and coins. With a penny, nickel, dime, and a quarter, Alphonse challenged young children to work out a system by which a farmer could transport a fox, a chicken and a bag of seed across a river in a boat two at a time without anything being eaten, particularly the seed and the chicken.
Alice Schuller and Ernest Sagner
Alphonse and Emma's daughter, Elizabeth Alice Schuller, was known throughout her life as Alice Elizabeth. She married Frederick Ernest Sagner on January 3, 1920. He also went through life with his first and middle names reversed—Ernest Frederick. (See Ernest Sagner and Alice Schuller)
Elmer Schuller and Audrey Vollmer
Elmer John Schuller married Audrey Volmer sometime in the early 1920s. They had one child—a daughter—Betty Schuller, who was born about 1924. By 1930, Audrey had left Elmer for a career in New York City where she became a Rockette at the Radio City Music Hall. Elmer claimed that they never divorced.
Audrey Vollmer and the Rockettes
The Radio City Rockettes first appeared in 1925 as the "Missouri Rockets" and made their show business debut in St. Louis, the realization of a long-time dream of their creator, Russell Markert. He was inspired to form the group after watching a performance of the Tiller Girls, a popular English group, but he was intrigued by the idea of a bolder, all-American version, with a lineup of taller dancers who could kick higher and master more complicated tap routines than their predecessors.
They were an instant sensation. Markert had created the quintessential American chorus line—an exciting precision dance company with great style, flair and glamour. The Rockets were such a success that a countrywide tour began, ending in New York.
At the invitation of Samuel L. (Roxy) Rothafel, Russell Markert brought his troupe to the newly opened Roxy Theater in New York. Roxy, a consummate showman, doubled the group's size and changed their names to the Roxyettes.
The 1930 census shows that Audrey was living and working in New York city at that time.
When John D. Rockefeller Jr. approached Rothafel to oversee the opening of a new theater—Radio City Music Hall—on December 27, 1932, the opening-night performance featured 19 diverse acts, including the Roxyettes, various vaudeville stars, an opera diva, a ballet troupe, the Flying Wallendas, Ray Bolger and Martha Graham.
In the 1930s, the format at Radio City Music Hall included a first-run film plus a 40-minute stage show featuring the Roxyettes, with six or eight performances daily. The dancers were required to be at the Music Hall from 9 AM to 9 PM, from the morning rehearsal call until their last performance, seven days a week. They worked three weeks straight before getting a fourth week off to recover.
It wasn't until March of 1934 that the Roxyettes became the Rockettes. In 1936, the troupe won the grand prize at the "Paris Exposition de Dance." During World War II, the dancers were a mainstay of the USO Tours. Starting with just 16 women, the numbers grew over the years to what is now a 36-member Rockette kick line.
Apparently, Audrey Volmer joined the group in St. Louis as one of the original Missouri Rockets in 1925. She then traveled to New York to appear at the Roxy theater and remained there to further her career. I've been told that Audrey's mother Mary Vollmer was a true stage mother, pushing her daughter to succeed in spite of the cost to her marriage. Audrey's younger sister Virginia also went to New York to pursue a theatrical career.
The 1930 census shows Audrey and her daughter, 6-year-old Betty Schuller, living with her 70-year-old grandmother Mary Volmer and her sister, Virginia Volmer (18), on West 55th Street in Manhattan, New York. Virginia and a lodger, Estella Zerita, were listed as theatrical actresses.
In later years, Audrey remained in New York with the Rockettes as a chaperone/coach to the younger dancers.
Elmer Schuller and Tillie Strub
Back in St. Louis, Elmer eventually found a new partner, Tilly (Matilda?) Strub, who worked in a beauty shop. Although they never married, they lived together for many years until Elmer's death in 1965 from complications of diabetes.
1930 - 1939
Classical music became Kenneth Schuller's passion. He taught voice and piano. He studied German, French and Italian in order to understand the language of opera. In the late 1930s Kenneth formed the St. Louis Light Opera Guild with some friends. His young niece, Betty Lee Sagner, was invited to dance in a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis.
Gould's St. Louis City Directory for 1937, shows Alphonse Schuller living at 3044A Thomas.
1940 - 1949
Elmer Schuller (see photo at left) served in the Navy during World War II.
Kenneth Schuller was drafted into the Army during World War II and did special service work. His service did not last long. By 1943, Kenneth was living and working in University City, Missouri.
He eventually got his high school diploma through a correspondence school. Then he entered Washington University in St. Louis where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the American Musicological society. He then pursued a Master of Arts degree, also at Washington University. He studied piano at the Strassberger conservatory with Clinnie Dill Pavlick and conducting with Gennaro Papi at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and with Vladimir Golschmann at the St. Louis Symphony orchestra.
A listing in the 1943 Polk St. Louis County Directory shows Kenneth G. Shuller as a music teacher in University City at 6267a Delmar Boulevard. He must have been teaching with Edward E. Menges, also listed as a music teacher at the same address.
Before and after World War II, Alphonse Schuller and his son Elmer ran the auto body business together, known as A. J. Schuller and Son. It had that name as early as 1937, based on Gould's City Directory for that year. In Gould's Directory for 1940, the shop was located at the rear of 4975 Easton Avenue and was one of seventeen companies listed under the category of "Painters - Automobile and Carriage." In 1943, the company was located at 2314-20 North Union Avenue.
Gould's St. Louis City Directory of 1944 lists A. J. Schuller and Son Auto Painting at 3349½ Olive Street. Alphonse and Emma were living at 5028 Wells Avenue. Gould's listed Elmer, with the occupation of "USN" (U. S. Navy), at the same home address.
After World War II, Elmer, back from his military service, was full of new business ideas. Alphonse had managed the auto body repair and painting business for over twenty years. On one occasion, Elmer drove out of town to an Army depot to bid on a couple of military surplus cars that needed repair. The idea was to buy them cheaply, repair them, and sell them at a profit. While Elmer was gone, Alphonse arranged for a sign painter to stop by the shop and cover the sign that read “A. J. Schuller and Son Auto Body” with a temporary canvas sign. The new sign read, “Elmer Schuller and Father Auto Body.”
In June 1946, Elmer Schuller purchased a flat at 5119 St. Louis Avenue. By the 1950s, Alphonse, Emma and Elmer were living there together.
1950 - 1959
In January 1950, Alphonse and Elmer purchased a cemetery plot at Laural Hill Memorial Gardens for $371.75.
Around 1950, Kenneth Schuller was appointed assistant musical director of the Municipal (Muny) Opera of St. Louis. He was also the choral director of the St. Louis Symphony orchestra, where he conducted a series of pre-symphony lectures in 1953.
In January 1954, Kenneth left St. Louis to become the manager of the Tulsa Philharmonic Society in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he stayed for about six years. An article in the The Tulsa Tribune in 1954, mentioned that Kenneth was a candidate for a PhD degree at Washington University. He earned one of the first PhDs in music awarded by the university.
In 1955, Alphonse and Emma Schuller moved to the flat at 5050A Easton Avenue owned by their daughter and son-in-law Alice and Ernest Sagner, who lived next door at 5048A. Lee and Betty Struckmeyer, who had occupied the flat for the five previous years, had just moved to South St. Louis after purchasing a two-family flat at 4928 Loughborough.
In 1958, Alphonse and Emma Schuller purchased a four-family flat at 4206-08 Arsenal Street in south St. Louis. They took up residence in a lower flat (4208) and rented the other three apartments.
1960 - 1969
Around 1960, Kenneth Schuller returned to St. Louis where he taught piano at the St. Louis Institute of Music.
On April 26, 1965, Elmer Schuller died at age 61. He is buried in Laurel Hills Cemetery, 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, St Louis, Missouri 63133. The cemetary is located south of St. Charles Rock Road in Pagedale. The Schuller gravesite is on lot 263 in an area wast of Pennsylvania Avenue called the Garden of Prayer.
On November 4, 1965, Alphonse Schuller died in St. Louis, Missouri at age 88. He is buried in lot 263 at Laurel Hills Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri.
In September 1968, Kenneth Schuller was appointed an associate professor of music at the St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley.
1970 - 1979
On February 13, 1972, Emma (Bauer) Schuller died at age 90 in Edgewater Nursing Home. She is also buried in lot 263 at Laurel Hills Cemetery.
Her death certificate information was supplied by Kenneth Schuller who was living at 407 Lee Avenue in Webster Groves, Missouri.
Ernest Frederick Sagner died on November 1, 1978 at St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood, Missouri. His last residence was on Lake Montowese at 3624 S. Lakeshore Drive, House Springs, Missouri. He was buried on November 4th at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Cedar Hill, Missouri.
Kenneth Schuller died in February 1979 at age 69. At the time, he was the head of the Humanities Department at Florissant Valley Community College in St. Louis. He died due to complications following gall bladder surgery. A blood clot caused a heart attack. Kenneth's body was cremated and his remains were placed in a columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
On March 15, 1980, Alice (Schuller) Sagner died in House Springs, Missouri. She was 78 years old. She was buried on March 17th at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Cedar Hill, Missouri.
Helene Schuller died in October 1984 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.