By Dan Shine
See Part 2
The year was 1912: Arizona and New Mexico became the 47th and 48th states and Alaska became a U.S. territory; The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank, killing 1500 passengers; West Haven was just a borough of Orange; it had unpaved roads with no traffic signals; residents of West Haven were either farmers or laborers who commuted to work in the factories of New Haven by trolley; the Armstrong Rubber Company had just established a business on Elm Street producing automobile tires, and the only other significant industry was that of two small buckle companies.
And it was also in 1912 that Wolfe’s Bakery opened for business in West Haven. Wolfe’s was destined to grow exponentially and become the largest multiple unit retail bakery in Connecticut.
Two years earlier, in 1910, two German travelers of different stations in life were destined to meet while on the same ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean to America: young Fritz Wolfe (he would later anglicize his first name to “Fred”) was a passenger in the steerage while Xaver Pfaff was returning to his home in Connecticut on a first-class ticket.
From that meeting, a most memorable friendship was born. Pfaff suggested to Wolfe that West Haven would be an ideal place to open a bakery; Wolfe concurred, and upon his arrival began to put down roots in West Haven.
Soon after, Fred Wolfe also met Xaver Pfaff’s eldest daughter Florence, and they began to form a loving relationship. Wolfe asked Pfaff for Florence’s hand in marriage, but Pfaff deferred.
“Why don’t you travel around the country for a year, and if you are still interested after that, come and see me,” he said.
Wolfe complied, and in due course the next year the couple were married.
Now Xaver Pfaff had a son-in-law who had demonstrated his skills as a baker, so Xaver offered to support the opening of a bakery, which initially became known as Pfaff and Wolfe Modern Bakery (and shortly thereafter would simply become Wolfe’s Bakery).
And meanwhile, Fred and Florence Wolfe started a family, raising three children: Fred Junior, Katherine (who would die of leukemia at age 9) and Robert. In the years to come, the sons would take over and run the business; this offered fifty-year old Pop free time for his hobbies–raising quarter horses and carrier pigeons.
To be continued.