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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Gretch and the Girls: 1924

Gretch and the Girls: 1924

July 7, 1924. Washington, D.C. "Madame Prochnik and children." Gretchen Prochnik, wife of the Austrian charge d'affaires, poolside with some little friends. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Gretchen - Stephanie Cont'd.

My Uncle Peter Spalding just zipped me his comment on your website, with an e-mail in which he writes:

"Loranda the oldest was actually not Gretchen's daughter. Loranda's mother, like Daddy's [Francis Lecompte Spalding's] mother, died in childbirth. Gretchen was Edgar Prochnik's second wife."

So no, Gretchen was not my maternal great-grandmother, or the grandmother of my mother Stephanie and her siblings Jick (Francis), Sheldon and Peter. She was Loranda Stephanie née ... Something (stay tuned for updates), because I'm the fourth and final Loranda Stephanie.

This is my grandmother Gretchen Prochnik

My niece Stephanie Zimbalist sent me these photos. I can attest that they were taken at the posh Chevy Chase Club in Washington, D.C., in the 1930s. They show Gretchen Prochnik and her children. All the comments are generally correct. Loranda Leavitt of Jackson, Wyoming, was my mother and Stephanie Zimbalist's maternal grandmother. I have photos of the Nazi Swastika over the former Austrian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, where it flew from the balcony from March 1938 until the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the U.S. into the war.

Ambassador Prochnik was invited to become foreign minister in the Austrian puppet government, but refused. He never returned to Austria. He later taught Europen Diplomatic History at Georgetown University.

[That's fascinating. Thanks for your comment! - Dave]

Zimbalist connection

If I'm googling right, Gretchen's granddaughter Loranda Stephanie Spalding married the actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. So she's the great-grandmother of Stephanie Zimbalist.

[Granddaughter Loranda went by her middle name -- she's the Stephanie Zimbalist the commenter below was referring to. - Dave]

Pass, set, spike

Perhaps for this suit Mrs. P drew inspiration from the game of volleyball.

FBI Grandma-in-Law

Gretchen was the maternal grandmother of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s wife, Stephanie.

Nanny Nyet

"And boys & girls ... what DON'T you want to be when you grow up?"

Children answer in unison:


Garden lattices

They were never intended to be worn about the hips.

Strange Interlude

If you keep this up, the Nanny will start to look good. And please, no colorizing.

Extra Spaetzle

I bet she was a good cook; skinny women are usually lousy in the kitchen.

Va va voom!

This lady is ALL WOMAN! I like her! Along with her droopy belt and silly hat.


"Awesome!" he whispered, eyes wide, jaw dropping open.

Wardrobe Designer

Maybe the reporter meant armoires, he said, trying to be helpful.

The Case of the Immodest Modiste

This lady "designed wardrobes"!? I see two things she overlooked.

She was a clothing designer....

Maybe she designed the "dazzle" camouflage used on battleships too?
It seems the effect is in use on her swimsuit, and I can't see those hips at all. She could have used some more of it above the poop deck.

Little faces

These kids look like they could have modeled for Hummels.

Second Look

I returned to this photo a while after the first look and I still have the same opinion. The middle kid is one evil looking individual.

Embassy Row

As noted below, Madame Prochnik was an American. This Associated Press item dated March 19, 1938, describes a vexing social conundrum posed for Washington hostesses by the German Anschluss on March 12:

Ambassador of Austria Saves Embarrassment

Capital hostesses received a temporary respite today from the first major problem of who-sits-where since the Dolly Gann-Alice Longworth feud. Edgar Prochnik, Austrian minister who has been placed under the German embassy, and his American-born wife quietly canceled all invitations for the next two weeks. "We're not going anywhere during this unsettled period," said Madame Prochnik, the former Gretchen James of St. Paul and Boston. Their decision cleared the social air considerably, for Prochnik, as the second-ranking minister in diplomatic seniority here, has been entitled to a seat near the head of the table. But after the two weeks are up, hostesses are asking, should he and his wife be seated above or below the salt?

Cute kids, though

And the "Life-Guard" suit is funny.

Susan Boyle:

The Early Years.


As modest as the swimsuit might be, it certainly leaves little to the imagination. Thank God the nurse wasn't interested in swimming!


Washington Post / Nov. 2, 1984, Friday, Final Edition

Gretchen James Prochnik, 92, a resident of Washington for more than 70 years and the widow of Edgar L.G. Prochnik, the envoy of the former Austria-Hungary government to the United States, died of pneumonia Oct. 30 at Talbot House in Easton, Md.

Mrs. Prochnik was born in Boston and came to Washington as a bride before World War I when her husband was posted in Washington as the Austro-Hungarian representative.

After the war he became the new Austrian government's representative to the United States, and he served in that capacity until 1938 when he was granted political asylum after Adolf Hitler annexed Austria. During that period, Mrs. Prochnik became known as one of Washington's more accomplished hostesses at the Austrian legation.

A talented designer, Mrs. Prochnik later helped support her family by designing wardrobes for her friends.

She lived in Washington until moving to Easton about 1½ years ago.

Mrs. Prochnik's husband died in 1966. Survivors include a son, Edgar Jr., of St. Michaels, Md.; three daughters, Valerie Ragland of St. Michaels, Patricia Nakasian of Charlottesville, and Loranda Leavitt of Jackson, Wyo.; a sister, Violet Gilmore of West Palm Beach, Fla.; 13 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

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