July 28, 1914: “In mid-ocean received news by ‘wireless’ that war had been declared between Austria and Servia. Great excitement and anxiety.”
Eva Fenyes noted this pivotal moment in history, the start of World War I, on the cover of the S.S. Vaterland’s Bordspiele – Games & Amusements booklet, which depicts a carefree group of fashionable ladies and gentlemen at deck quoits. Eva and her husband Dr. Adalbert Fenyes, New York-bound from Hamburg on the great German liner, grew more anxious by the hour as they worried about their daughter and granddaughter who were still in Europe. When she disembarked the next day, Eva noted on a postcard, “Arrived 29th July – Cable Leonora extra funds and advice to come home instantly.” Along the bottom of the same postcard she also wrote, “Left evening of 30th.”
Eva and Adalbert boarded the Lakeshore Limited and continued their long journey home by rail to Pasadena, California. On August 1st, Germany declared war on Russia. On August 3rd, Germany declared war on France, and Eva and Adalbert arrived home in Pasadena. Daughter Leonora and granddaughter Leonora (Babsie) were still in Europe, delayed indefinitely, perhaps stranded in Switzerland surrounded by a rapidly escalating war.
Hindsight has its assurances, but in August 1914 the political situation was fluid, military troops were mobilizing, and even Switzerland felt compelled to protect its mountainous borders against a possible German invasion. Eva and Adalbert must have been frantic, wondering how and when Leonora could bring herself and her ten year old daughter safely out of Europe. Studying a tidy group of documents in the family papers, one may follow the Leonoras’ movements as they try to come home. We feel their anxiety when plans are thwarted, share their relief when they make progress, but mainly we wonder how their situation came about.
The family vacation, which Eva dubbed “Our Short Trip Abroad” began in the spring of 1914. Early morning May 6th, Eva, Adalbert, Leonora, and Babsie boarded the S.S. France, and by 10 a.m., the luxury liner was underway steaming across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to La Havre. The passage took seven days, a smooth and uneventful crossing except for the unfortunate state of Eva’s health. She was in bed the entire week. Weariness had descended upon her, but Eva still found pleasure in her family’s shipboard activities. “Good room, fairly good food. Excellent Steward. I’m in great pain. Dr. Forbes Hawkes in N. Y. said I might venture to make the voyage, if I lay perfectly still. Dr. [Fenyes] & the two Leonoras very well. Join in all the exercises and amusements. The Connells of L.A. have been very kind to Leonora…Many notabilities on board from Anna Held to the Vanderbilts.”
At La Havre, the family boarded the train for Paris, and Eva noted in her journal, “Train de luxe – We have a salon car to ourselves.” With evident enthusiasm, Eva wrote page after page describing in detail their picturesque train route. Obviously relaxed, she thrilled to see all the birds, flowers, trees, and people at their occupations after her long week in bed. The beauty of the scenery made her “squirm for joy,” but she confessed she was still feeling weak when they arrived.
“Paris 14’ May ’14…Babsie & I trolled over the Seine to see the tomb of Nap I. I gave out and had to take a taxi to Les Invalides. Babsie was much impressed with the tomb & ‘all that marble’ & the golden light on the altar. She seemed very intelligent.” Eva enjoyed her days in Paris with her Leonoras at plays, lectures, and the Salons. “Out to the two ‘Salons’ – overwhelmingly big – The Salon Nationale – seems in some respects inferior to that of the ‘artistes francais’ – The general impression which the work gives is a striving after some new & more truthful way to represent nature. There are life & light & colour. The old stiff browns & greys are mostly eliminated.”
Two days later, Adalbert, an entomologist as well as a physician, left for Brussels to deliver his beetle manuscript to his publisher, “the man,” Eva wrote, “who is bringing out his work on Aleocharinæ…miss Dr. very much already.”He returned to Paris the evening of the 22nd. Eva had returned to bed with severe stomach pain.
The family remained in Paris another week, but on June 3rd the party separated. Leonora and Babsie joined family friends Dr. and Mrs. Behr in Geneva while Eva and Adalbert boarded the train bound for Berlin.
Parts 2 & 3 of “Come Home Instantly!” will follow Eva and Adalbert Fenyes, and Leonora and Babsie Curtin on their separate journeys in Europe as the first months of The Great War unfolded one hundred years ago this summer.
Julie Stires, Project Archivist
Pasadena Museum of History
470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena CA 91103
 Postcard of Hotel Belmont, New York, 1914. Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers, FCP.51.1. Pasadena Museum of History Archives, Pasadena, California.
 Travel journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 6 May 1914. FCP Papers, FCP.35.9 vol. 1. PMH Archives.
 Travel journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 13 May 1914. FCP Papers, FCP.35.9 vol. 1. PMH Archives.
 Travel journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 14 May 1914. FCP Papers, FCP.35.9 vol. 1. PMH Archives.
 Travel journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 15 May 1914. FCP Papers, FCP.35.9 vol. 1. PMH Archives.
 Travel journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 17 May 1914. FCP Papers, FCP.35.9 vol. 1. PMH Archives.
 Probably Dr. Arno and Mrs. Eva Behr who are listed in the 1913 Southwestern Blue Book as well as in the 1911 and 1912 Pasadena City Directories as residing at 432 Arlington Drive, Pasadena, California.