Saturday, December 12, 1964
Not having anything better to do, I joined the team at the library. Sarah decided to treat the day as an education in library science. She started first with the Official Catholic Directory, which had the ordination date of current priests. We easily found one Bernard John Fox, CSC with an ordination date of 1954.
Next, she took us up the elevator to the 11th floor, which housed a number of items particular to the Holy Cross order. She pulled off a volume of congregation newsletters, selected one that contained newsletters between 1951 and 1961. This produced a bio of Father Fox, which said nothing about his Nazi background but did say that he was born in Austin, Texas, and attended St. Edward's High School."
"Attended, not graduated. Interesting," I said.
"You were expecting it to say, 'Father Fox served in the SS from 1940 until 1944?' "
"No, Sarah," I said. "That would be silly."
Sissy giggled at this.
Sarah smiled, looked at Sissy, and said, "Your job is to write up a to-do list for us. Here take this notebook this and write down: 'Number one: Contact St. Edward's High School to verify Bernie Fox attendance. See if there are any yearbook pictures of him." Then she turned to Butch and said, "Go downstairs to where we were. Grab the current Official Catholic Directory, latest year, and take down the name and phone number of the high school. Look in the table of contents and find the section where it lists schools. We'll meet you down there."
I liked how she was getting the kids involved. "What's next?"
"Next we need to find a marriage record for Father Fox's parents, and that should give us his mother's maiden name. A newspaper notice about their engagement or wedding might provide some useful information. Then we need to get a birth record for Bernie Fox—and maybe a baptismal record."
"How do we do that?," I asked.
"County and church records should do it," she said. "That is, assuming all this happened in the vicinity of Austin, which is probably the case. If it didn't, it'll take longer. If you want copies of the records, it'll cost us something. Sissy, get out your notebook and add the following. Item: Check newspaper records for Fox marriage or engagement. Item: Check for marriage with the county clerk in Austin. Item: check parish records for marriage and baptism."
"What if none of it happened around Austin," I asked.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Odds are it did. Why? Because we know that his father taught at St. Edward's Universtiy, which is a good point. We should see what we can find out about him. Do you remember what his discipline was?"
"History," I said.
"And was he a full professor?"
"What's his first name?"
"Don't know. Try Bernard or John," I said, figuring the odds that the boy was junior or at least got a middle name from his dad.
"Okay, let's go downstairs and work the card catalog. He probably had to publish somewhere along the way."
We went downstairs, where Sarah showed Sissy how to use the card catalog. We found a ton of Foxes in the author catalog, including one Bernard Fox with several articles on the history of Germany ranging from 1921 until 1934. Hs seemed a likely candidate for Bernie Fox's father. The most recent article suggested that he may have retired or died shortly after 1934.
Sarah put Sissy to work writing out catalog numbers. When she had exhausted the list of articles and books by one Bernard Fox, we returned to the elevator and went to the seventh floor to look through historical journal, mainly for articles by Bernard Fox that had his bio. We each found something and compared notes. Yep, this was the man who taught at St. Edward's. He was a full professor by the 1930s, though it wasn't clear whether he had tenure. He probably did not, which was why he had so many publications.
Sarah capsulized what we knew. "So, we know he taught at St. Edward's after World War I, perhaps before, until at least 1934, perhaps after."
"Bernie the younger was born in 1920," I pointed out. "If he was the oldest—or an only child—perhaps Bernie the older got married in 1918 or 1919, which was just after World War I."
"Maybe his wife was a war bride," said Sissy.
"Maybe his bride was German," I said.
"You guys are jumping to contusions," Sarah said. "But you may be right. In any case, we'll find out—though it may take some time. Let's go downstairs and catch up with Butch."
We found Butch sitting in the reference section, flipping through the back pages of Newsweek.
"Why is he reading Newsweek backwards," Sissy wanted to know.
"Because the chances of finding a scantily clad woman are better in the feature section than in the front," I said. "Am I right, Butch?"
His face got red. He closed the book and handed Sarah a small shred of paper that had the phone number of St. Edward's High School.
"That's my boy," I said.
Sarah gave me one of her looks, trying to suppress a grin, and said to Butch, "Thank you, Sir. I'll call them on Monday."
We went down to the vending bar to discuss where we were. I coughed up some money to get drinks all around and gave it to Sissy, who took orders and fed the machine.
Sarah said, "We're on the way to getting a good picture of Father Fox's American upbringing, but tracing his Nazi background will be more difficult. If his mother was German, that'll give us a clue. It's going to take a couple of weeks to get the American info, though."
"While we're waiting for that, I'll talk to my lawyer," I said. "He's a Jew and might be able to point me to a Nazi hunter."
"There are such people?" Sissy wondered.
"It's quite a thing, from what I understand," I said.
"They are often children of holocaust victims—or sometimes survivors themselves," said Sarah. "Among other things, they have up considerable expertise in navigating German records. The irony is that Nazis, being German, tended to be quite religious about recording everything they did."
"A nation of librarians," I said.
"Watch it," she said.