Yentzen
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A HISTORY OF THE GEORGE J. YENTZEN FAMILY

By W. T. Block

In 1925, the New Encyclopedia of Texas carried the following account of George J. Yentzen and the business he had built up in ten years time, the Nederland Bakery, as follows:

"George Yentzen, for around a decade, has taken an active part in the development of Nederland, and during his residence here, has built up a commercial bakery which ranks as one of the largest in Jefferson County, and is one of the most modern plants in the state. Mr. Yentzen is the owner of the Nederland Bakery, which was established here in the early days and which he bought out in March, 1915, at the time of his arrival in the city. At that time, a small plant, alone, gradually expanding as the quality of his bread became known, until now he has one of the largest bakeries in Jefferson County, equipped with the most modern bread-baking equipment, and employing a force of eleven persons. The plant has a baking capacity of ten thousand loaves of bread per day, Mr. Yentzen specializing in this product, and he has built up a trade with a fleet of four motor trucks. The product of the Nederland Bakery is regarded as the finest bread in this section, and in addition to the trade supplied by truck, Mr. Yentzen handles a large shipping business."

Marya Koekoek (Munson) was a little girl of about ten when she was living on Chicago Street in Nederland in 1918. She wrote that her father had given her a nickel to spend, but her parents being strict Baptists, and it being Sunday, she was forbidden to buy anything until the following day. However, she and a little friend walked one block over to the Nederland Bakery, from whence was emitted the enticing smell of freshly-baked cookies. Her yearning for cookies was much stronger, however, than her religious convictions, so she instructed her young friend to go inside the bakery and purchase a nickel bag of cookies. And in her own child-like mentality, she had thus avoided disobeying her parents.

One would have to have lived in Nederland during the 1920s-1930s in order to visualize a Boston Avenue filled with the marvelous aroma of freshly-baked bread, cookies and pies. The writer knew those pleasing fragrances perhaps as well as Marya, since he had to pass the bakery daily on his way home from school. Actually there were two bakeries in Nederland in 1935 that I had to pass, because as the writer prepared to cross the highway and railroad tracks, he was opposite the Bartels Bakery, located at Twin City and Chicago, presently (1991) occupied by a flower shop. However, Bartels' Bakery was considerably smaller than the Nederland Bakery establishment. The early 1930s was a period of innovation, automation, and adjustment for both bakeries, for each of them had to install automatic slicing equipment, as well as packaging machinery that sealed bread in air-tight wax paper wrappers. Should one include Adams Bakery of Port Neches, there were three bakeries in the Mid-Jefferson County of those days.

The memoirs of Samuel Kirtis Streetman told the story quite well as to what happened to all three of those bakeries, as follows:

"Mr. George Yentzen was one of the taxi drivers who hauled sailors here during the war (1941-1945). He also ran a bakery here for 25 years. I used to buy his bread either at the bakery or at the store. He started the "butter-split" bread way back there, and he had a large delivery area. It was the two big Beaumont bakeries (Rainbow and Taystee), who came to this area about 1938 and, by dropping the price of a large loaf to ten cents, succeeded in running all of the little bakeries out of business. They just couldn't buck the big bakeries. Mr. Yentzen was a great sportsman and duck hunter too. In fact, he invented and patented the "Yentzen duck call," which is still being manufactured in Groves at 6835 Capitol Street. Away back there, you could hunt ducks in the rice fields where Central Mall is now located and out where Airport Addition is located too."

George Yentzen was born on August 6, 1886, in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, the son of Smith Yentzen and Josephine Barbier. His father was the pioneer baker of Donaldsonville, having been in the baking business there for 36 years. George Yentzen attended all the school grades that were available in the Donaldsonville of that day, but his greatest education of all was that learned at his father's knees. From the time that he was "knee-high to a duck," he was already molding dough and preparing loaves for the oven. In fact, New Encyclopedia of Texas observed that Yentzen:

". . . . began making bread before he could reach the top of the bench, using a box instead to stand on, and at as early an age as eight years, he was to be found in the baking shop, engaged in this work. He has continued in this business all of his life, with the exception of several years during which he played professional baseball with the old Gulf Coast League."

Very few details are known about George Yentzen's baseball career, except that it ended in 1909. He probably began playing professional ball about 1904 or 1905. His obituary noted that he "remained actively interested in baseball and other sports, and he was well-known over the area for his hunting and fishing activities."

George Yentzen married Miss Louisette Heriard, a native of Plattenville, Louisiana, at Donaldsonville on June 2, 1908. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. Jean Marie Heriard. The Yentzens became the parents of five children, as follows: Norman Yentzen (b. September 15, 1909-d. March, 1987); Vurrell A. Yentzen (b. June 28, 1915-d. January, 1976); Velma Rae Yentzen (b. January 17, 1918); Maryon Ruth Yentzen (b. December 28, 1919-d. April, 1980); and George J. Yentzen, Jr. (b. November 8, 1922).

Norman Yentzen was born in Deweyville, Texas, and died at Lake Charles, Louisiana. In 1954 he was elected to one term on the Nederland School Board. He married Cora Cappel, and they became the parents of four children: Norman J., Jr. (b. July 17, 1934; Cora Marcella (b. September 8, 1935); William Michael (b. July 22, 1940); and Patricia Louisette (b. November 15, 1951).

If you should visit the old battleship Texas at the San Jacinto battleground, you would quickly note on the ship's muster roll the name of "Vurrell A. Yentzen," imprinted on the aluminum register of the ship's company. The old Texas fought the Japanese fleet in the early days of the war, but later transferred to the Atlantic, where she did convoy duty and on June 6, 1944, shelled the French coastal fortifications during the Normandy invasion. Vurrell Yentzen married Maureen -------, but there was no issue of their marriage. He died at San Antonio in 1976.

Velma Rae Yentzen married Warren White, and they became the parents on one daughter, Linda Rae White (b. November 6, 1942), and three sons, Larry Thomas White (b. July 19, 1947), Lance Warren White (b. November 8, 1948), and Lew David White (b. May 28, 1952). Velma Rae White resides in Houston.

Maryon Ruth Yentzen married Monta A. Miles, a gas company employee. As a young married woman, Maryon Ruth worked variously for the gas company (as did also her husband), the Nederland Post Office, and elsewhere. She was the mother of one son, Jack D. Miles (b. November 14, 1939), and a daughter, Jane Susan Miles (b. July 8, 1948). Maryon Ruth Miles died in 1980 while on a visit in Bombay, India.

George J. Yentzen, Jr., married Maurene Houston, and they reside in Grand Prairie, Texas. They are the parents of one son, Joseph Edward Yentzen (b. December 21, 1946). George Yentzen, Jr. graciously provided most of the information for this story.

In 1909, whenever George Yentzen's professional baseball career ended, he wisely decided to return to the baking business, the trade he had learned on his father's knee. Hence, he soon migrated to Port Arthur and began working in a Port Arthur bakery. Hearing that the small bakery in Nederland was for sale, he rode a bicycle to Nederland, bought the bakery, and he then quit his job all on the same day. In July, 1920, George J. Yentzen, along with the writer's father, W. T. Block, and three other men organized and for many years, served as directors of the First National Bank of Port Neches.

George J. Yentzen also bought the site where the old Orange Hotel had formerly stood, and he built his large home there, where four of his children would be born. In 1940 he sold his home (where NCNB Bank stands today) to D. X. Rienstra, who then moved the house to 1220 Helena Avenue, where it became the Dick Rienstra home and still stands today.

Also in 1940, George and Louisette Yentzen moved to 412 South Twin City Highway, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. After closing the bakery, he began the Yentzen Taxi Company, and like all Nederland taxi drivers of the 1930s-1940s, a large percentage of his business came from hauling sailors to and from the Midcounty docks. For the last twenty years of his life, he likewise concentrated on the manufacture and marketing of the "Yentzen duck caller, of which he held the patent, and which had to be made from a special kind of hardwood.

Louisette Yentzen pre-deceased her husband, dying on November 3, 1949. George Yentzen Sr. survived his wife by nine years and died on April 2, 1958, at age 72. At the time of his death, he was also survived by two brothers, Wilfred and Wilmer Yentzen of Port Arthur, and three sisters, Mrs. Arnaud Mire, Mrs. Gabriel Placette, and Mrs. Felix Heriard, also of Port Arthur, and twelve grandchildren.

As of 1991, only two children, Velma White and George Yentzen, Jr., survive their parents. A loving couple, who reared their family in a gentle, but disciplined, environment, George and Louisette Yentzen are still remembered and sorely missed by their many descendents and a whole host of friends.

Copyright 1998-2012 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, the material published on this site is copyrighted by William T. Block.
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