Anna Mehl Radl was 82 years old when interviewed by Kathleen Lear in 1991.
My name is Anna Mehl Radl. I was born in Sulzfeld, Baden, German 1909. I spent my life there until I was 19 years old. I was born December 23, 1909. My father’s name was Frederick Jon Mehl and my mother’s name was Katharina Schmidt Mehl. I lived all of my life in Germany. My father and mother were both born in Sulzfeld. They lived their entire lives in Sulzfeld. My father died when he was 67 and my mother died when she was 91. There were six children, five girls and one boy. There names were Ernest, Luise, Rosa, Emma and Frieda. We all lived together. I never knew my grandparents as they died before I was born. But I know my father’s brothers and my mother’s sisters. My mother’s sisters there were eight girls and my father’s there was one girl and four boys. They all were born in Sulzfeld, too.
My grandfather was a weaver, that weaved clothes from flax and made linen. That was my Mom’s Dad. Both my father’s parents were dead and I don’t know what they did for a living.
My sister, Luise was the oldest and then came my sister Rosa, Emma next , my brother being the fourth oldest, I was next and my sister Friedl was the sixth. I remember one other child who was named August who died when he was very little. He was younger than my sister, Friedl.
I lived at 94 Hinterestrasse in Sulzfeld. As much as I know, when my mother and father got married they lived in rent for awhile and after that my mother’s parents house was up for sale again and my mother and father, bought my grandparents house. That’s the house where I was born, where we were all born. That’s a very old, old house. Some of the things I can remember about living in that, house, was when my mother got us all up in the night when there was a thunder shower, she got us all together in one room until everything was over. She was always afraid of lightning, especially in the summertime. We had a lot of fun with my sister Emma, my brother Ernest and myself. We sang a lot together, we played a lot together, we fighted a lot together too sometimes and called each other names. Shall I tell you some of those names? No, I guess I won’t tell you about what we called each other.
My Mom was a very good person. She done a lot of good things. She had a lot of love for us and she corrected us in whatever we did wrong. She never hit us but punished us sometimes for things. As we got older in the winter time we went to different uncles or aunt’s houses in the town; the ladies were knitting and crocheting and spinning ‑ the men sang all sorts of songs. We came home very late at night. The men played cards‑ no, they just sang songs. Women spun their own wool from their own sheeps.
My Dad was a stone mason and later on when he couldn’t do that anymore then he went into farming. The stone were used for building, gravestones ‑ anything. A lot was sent to the cities for building big buildings, with all kinds of designs in the stone. The place where he worked was in the forest. We had to walk sometimes and bring him his hot meal in the lunch time. It was about an hour walk from our house. I don’t know how my father learned his trade, whether he had to go to school or not. I know when I was finished with school then my male fellow classmates had to go to trade school but I don’t know if this was true for my father, when he started. And my mother was a housewife. When we were then farming we had cows, pigs, geese, chickens and ducks too. We sold the milk, but kept enough for ourselves and made own butter our own cottage cheese; we done that all our selves. I started kindergarten when I was three years old. In the morning we went from 8 a.m. until about 12 and them from 1 p.m. again until 5 p.m. When I was six years old, we started first grade. When I went to school in first grade we started at 1 p.m. in the afternoon and went for about four hours. And from the fourth grade on, we went in the morning from 8 a.m. until twelve, everyday, even on Saturday we had school. And we got confirmed. Religion was taught in school. The Pastor came to the school, about three times a week. And we had to go for two years, and we had to learn songs too. At our Confirmation we were ask all kinds of questions, and we had to answer them in the church in front of all the people who were in church that day. And the day we were confirmed the church was full. And if your Godmother lived in town, you had to go and say a pray and ask forgiveness. If your Godmother didn’t live in town, you had to send a letter. We were confirmed one Sunday and then the next Sunday you were give communion. That was the first Holy Communion you could take. After you were confirmed you had to for one or two years go every Sunday to Christiandom.
I was very nice to grow up in the town of Sulzfeld. We knew almost everyone, wee played together a lot. After we came home from school we had to do our chores …. helping feed the animals, get wood in, get pitchers of water in, pump the water. We didn’t have our own well; we had to walk about 100 meters to get the water that we had to carry with the pails, even for the animals. If we didn’t get our chores done we didn’t go out playing. At six o’clock the pray chimes rang at the church and when we hear them, we had to run home. And when we came home, our mother was in the room and we all got together and prayed the Lord’s Prayer.
For fun we play ball, we jumped rope, we played all sorts of games‑‑funny games in the summer. In the winter we went sleigh riding. We done a lot, a lot of sleigh riding. On Sunday afternoon we could go sleigh riding. We had lots and lots of snow in the town of Sulzfeld. The size of the town was about 2000 people at that time. It was small yet but now it is about three or four times as big. A lot of people were related but then also like one of my sisters lived in Durlach, one of my father’s brothers lived in Cologne, but it was mostly people who knew one another.
Our school was nice. First we learned the real German writing, and then after the fourth we learned script. We had head figuring, we had signing, every teacher had to pay the violin. We had arithmetic, writing the boys had gym once or twice a week, but not the girls. Where I come from we just had brooks in the town but they damned the water so the boys could go swimming. When I grew up in our town the girls did not go swimming but now it is just like America, the girls go swimming too. We went to school for eight years and the boys then had to go to trade school. And the one wanted to go onto college they went onto college but a lot of them stood
in the farming business. You had to learn four years like a shoemaker, carpenter. The girls of the family mostly stood home or went to work outside the town in domestic work.
We had a factory in the town that made cigars, a lot of them were working there. Then we had another brewery in the town too, that made beer. The wine industry when I grew up only the people had grapes for their own use, there weren’t any sold. But now it is different, now they have and they sell it and everything. They sell the grapes, they don’t make the wine they sell the grapes.
We killed usually a pig or two, but we had about four butchers in town. They killed almost every week and made their own bologna, all kinds. And that is when we had no meat is where we went and got meat and bologna. We had no refrigerators, we bought the meat the way we used it. We never kept it. It was cooked right away when we got it. The meat was usually fresh, it was killed the same week as we bought it. We had a root cellar and some of the milk was put down there to get like a sour milk. Then it got very heavy and then took the cream off. It was quit a bit of cream in a cup for a quart of milk. Then it was kept until we could make butter out of it. We had a big gallon jar that had like a eggbeater in it and you worked it until you had butter. We had a butter churn too. We had more then we used the butter churn. Our mother made our own cottage cheese, out of that milk when it was sour and heavy. It got real heavy and then she, but she made our own cottage cheese. I can’t remember anymore, I only know how dripped it. She done something and then she put it into a bag and then let it drip the water and then pressed it out and then it was cottage cheese.
I remember yet when we had no electricity we burned kerosene lamps. The house we kept warm by wood burning and coal. That is what kept the house warm, upstairs and downstairs. We had no hot water, we had to go and pump the water out of the pumps and bring it into the house. We had to walk about 100 ‑ 200, at least 100 meter to get our water and bring it in, even for the cows. And I remember yet we could have gotten electricity 1921 or 1922 we got electricity. And then I remember yet just before I left in ’29 we got running water. But it was so hard that they had to do something about it. We had no inside toilets, we had to go to the outside. In the rooms where there were no heating we warmed our beds with bed warmer, hot water. They were metal, they made your bed nice and warm. We had a heavy feather bed and we had feather bed to cover us all. You know to cover us. But years and years back there was no mattresses. They had a big, it was shaped like a bed and then they filled it with some kind of straw. Then on top of that they put the feather, like a feather quilt on top of that. And then you put your sheets on and then you cover it again with feather quilts. When they filled them with straw they were very high in the beginning, but then they flat down. You almost needed a ladder in the beginning to get in and then all of a sudden it went down. It was fun, yea. Every year once the straw was changed. Every year when I was home yet everything was taken out of the rooms and everything was cleaned. And new paint put on. Ya, new paint. It wasn’t really painted, white washed, but color. On the wall there was tint in it, not on the ceilings but on the wall. But the furniture that you carried out could carry out was carried out. Everything even the bed. They took apart and carried it out. And then every couple of years the house had new stucco put on too, because it was bricks. Then the stucco was every couple of years and color too and not white. Color too.
I remember yet the day, our father went to war. He was 45 years old, he had to go. I remember going to the train station when we know that he was coming home for vacation. And then he was a couple of years maybe two years in the front and then he came home to watch the prisoners. He had to see that they were in every night. They were given out to work to the families for farm work. He had to give them out and then he had to see that they were in every night that none of them run away. That was his job for a long time. Because he got sick like that and that is why he came home and he had to do that. They were French prisoners and they were held in two buildings just across from the town house. They were lose, they got fed by the families where they worked. They got good eats because they worked with them. They were treated well because they worked with the people cause the men were alone and they could not do their own work. So they were given out to work. Until the war was over he had to do that, till everything was finished. The war was far away from us.
After grade school I worked at home with the family helping with the farm work. I helped at home until I left for United States. Usually you graded at age 14 about five years I worked with my brother. I can remember my sister Emma, we worked together sometimes with my parents. My younger sister she was five years younger and that I can not remember so much. She was only about 14 when I left for United States.
In the morning we had to get up and had to do some chores and then it church. Most of the family went to church one stayed home and cooked the dinner. Sometimes after the church our father sent us to the baker for a pretzel. We got a pretzel and some wine sometimes in later years. Then we would have dinner. After that we went for walks out to the forest, picked wild flowers and sang until we came home to do our chores. After the chores were done then we went out again until about 9:00 in the evening. Our father said that the girls had to be home, the boys could stay out longer but not the girls. So we had to be home. In the evening we learned how to dance someone would make music and we learned how to dance in the street. We did this until we knew how to dance. It was really fun. On some Sundays when we were bigger and we had a bike. We would ride our bikes for hours and then one of my girlfriends her father came from Kimbach, the next town, and her grandmother lived there. Some Sunday afternoons we would walk over to her and walked back again. We did a lot of walking when we were young. Our shoes were bought or sometimes we had shoemakers in the town. They would measure our feet and they would make the shoe for us. Our parents always that we had a good pair of shoes on our feet. That was very important to them. The clothing was made at home. What we couldn’t do was made by a seamstress. We had a lot of seamstress in the town. The man’s clothing was made by a tailor. We had quit a few of them also in the town.
How I came to the United States, I had two aunts here. It was my mother’s sisters, one was Aunt Williams and the other one was Aunt Liabley. Aunt Liabley’s name was Christine. Aunt Christine let my two sisters come over here in 1923. My sister Rose left Germany the 21st of June 1923 for United States. My sister Emma left Germany in October 1923. They were over here and they always wrote that I should come too, but my mother always said that I am not
going to let anybody go anymore until they come home once and I see how they look. They came home in 1928 and after they were home my mother said that you could go too. So I left and March 29th 1929. I arrived in United States April 7th. By the time that I came over here my sister Rose was married and she allowed me to come to the United States. She was my sponsors. I came with boat Munchen. It left from Bremmen and it took 8 days. My father went with me to the boat. it was a beautiful ship. When my sister Rose came 1923 it made the first trip over to United States. I came all by myself, I did not know anybody. I do not remember how much it cost to come over. Rose was the one who bought my ticket. We had to pay it off when we came to United States. I paid Rose back for the ticket. I was with my sister Rose for about the first four weeks.
We left about 4 p.m. from Sulzfeld by train, but we had to change trains twice and we got to Bremmen about 6 o’clock the next morning. I wasn’t scared because I knew there would be someone there at the boat to get me; and it was my sister Rose, my cousin Adolf and his wife, another cousin Anna and her husband. There were plenty of people there to get me. The crossing‑‑wasn’t too bad ‑ but I was seasick for a few couple of days but after that I got “ok” again. It is just beautiful, just like a big floating hotel if you don’t get seasick. I was a great, great big boat. I wouldn’t know how many people on it but it was big.
When I left Sulzfeld, there was my sister Luise, she had two boys by then and my brother Ernest and my sister Friedl. My sister Luise had three children by then; Emma was born by then in 1926. They done the farm work together ‑ the field work. They were growing potatoes, sugar beets, chicory, rye, oats everything that you needed. We kept what we need for our use and sold the rest. Chicory, sugar, beets, potatoes, was completely sold. We raised everything. We had apple trees, pear trees where they made apple cider out of it and some of it we kept for the winter, for the pears we made like a cider out of it, we didn’t have wine right away but later on we planted grapes and then we had our own wine too. And that’s what they drank. It was just for you own use but we didn’t have much coffee. You drank coffee in the morning and then that was all. We usually ate a cup of coffee and some bread or something and then by 10 o’clock in the morning you had a little sandwich and a glass of apple cider; noon was our main meal and by 4 o’clock you had a sandwich again and something to drink and for supper you had a light supper,
like soup and potatoes and milk and things. And sometimes when we walked to the fields, we had to walk an hour to the field so in the fall when we dug potatoes out ‑everything was done by hand yet ‑ some of us left in the morning and one stood home and cooked the dinner and brought the dinner out completely warm and then we ate in the fields out there.
I landed in New York. My sister Rose got up to the boat right away. They had to get you up there; they wouldn’t let you off, until the one what sponsored came and got you. That time you didn’t have to go through Ellis Island. See the ones what had a sponsor they didn’t have to go through Ellis Island. Why you had to have a sponsor is in case you got sick or something that they would have to take care of you if you didn’t have any money. I was the seventh of April when I got here, so the crossing took about eight days. It was beautiful, if you didn’t get sea sick. My sister Rose was married and she lived out in Bay Shore, Long Island and her husband worked as a baker and she was home as a housewife. We went the first couple of weeks I was here we went to visit relatives, and my brother‑in‑law’s relatives, they had a big bakery in Sayville, Long Island. I loved cakes and I ate all kinds of cakes and stuff what I never had in Germany. We had enough to eat but not that much sweets. The first time I ate lamb by my sister Rose ‑ she fooled me. She said it’s pork ‑‑ otherwise I wouldn’t eat it. After I was done she said, “You know what you ate?” She said “It was lamb.” I said “It was good.” Because in Germany we don’t get the young lamb; they usually have mutton. And then after that she brought me to a job where there was housework; in Jamaica ‑ no Garden City. No New Garden, not Garden City. I was there about three weeks, I was so homesick, I cried. Then my brother‑in‑ law’s sister came and got me and put me up to where her other sister worked. It was like a nursing home ‑like an old people’s home there wasn’t that many sick ones there and I was the second cook there then. It was very nice there. That was up in New York about 180th Street ‑ the Isabella Home was the name. It was run by a German who they called Doctor and Mrs. Doctor. There were a lot of people working there but there weren’t that many sick people like you have here in a nursing home. They all could do something yet. I slept there. That is where Tilly met her husband too. We had a day off during the week and then the first cook had to take over my responsibilities. I cooked for the people what were there; we had to do no dishes. We just had to do the cooking, no cleaning up and we were done by six o’clock in the evening. The doctor’s wife made the order out what was
to be cooked and we always had to see that you had your food out on time. On my day off we went shopping sometimes and I went to my sister sometimes and sometimes in the evening we went shopping. It was safe at that time. There was only English spoken in this home mostly, but others in the home spoke German even the Doctor and his wife spoke German, so it wasn’t bad ‑‑ but you learned very fast. We made mistakes when we went out shopping. It was funny sometimes. We wanted once a frankfurter and we said we wanted a weiner and she didn’t understand us. We told her and told her, “We want a weiner” all of a sudden she said, “Do you want and ice cream cone?” and we said “Yes.” There was the girl along what worked with me. Once my sister and brother‑in‑law came and I said “Look Rose what I bought on saley.” That means sale. We made mistakes but we learned. I was there about one year and then I changed and went to private. And their name was Levine and very, very nice people. I cooked, cleaned and did everything but I didn’t have to do laundry. Just cooking, baking and cleaning. That was in 93rd Street and Broadway. And then I was there awhile and they moved to Central Park in a New Place and I went with them. But he lost in business quite a bit, and they gave that place up and moved into a hotel and then I went and worked for someone on 72nd Street. For a year or so. And in 1934 I got married then. But Levine’s was a beautiful place to work. I had Saturday afternoon and Sunday off. I got that job through another friend; she got married. Cause when someone usually knew a good job you told each other. At Levine’s I made $75. a month, but then there came bad times and they cut us. At the second job I started for $50. but then they gave me more because I wanted to quit. I was suppose to do laundry there and I said I don’t like it, and I didn’t like my pay and my room so they got a laundress in, fixed up my room and gave me more money. That was on 72nd Street on Riverside Drive ‑ down on the river. There I did my own shopping and everything. I had to walk to Broadway where there were all kinds of stores. Everything was delivered for you. You didn’t have to carry a thing. The milkman came everyday.
That time we had to bake a lot and we had to do all the cakes by hand; there was no machine. and sometimes when I had a party, my sister Emma who worked on worked on 72nd Street, she came and helped if it was her day off. There was no dishwasher. You had eight to ten people and you did the dishes all by hand. And there were some dishes.
My friends were usually the people from my home town in Germany. We stuck together. We had telephones and would call each another if we needed to know how to make a recipe that was asked. That’s how we learned. Rose had a car but in New York you can get around real good. You could ride the subway for five cents and then walk. I wrote to my family in Germany and that’s how I kept in touch. We had an ice‑box where the ice‑man came and put every morning ice in. And our milk was delivered. There was an extra elevator that the stuff was brought in. The front elevator was just for the people that lived there in the apartments and there was a doorman and an elevator man. We went in and out of the back way.
I met your Dad through my friend, Anna. We went to a sports club for exercise and that where I met my husband. Then we went out together with Anna and her husband, and my sister Emma my husband and I went out a lot together. Emma was not married at that time and she married in 1939. We also went to my cousins place in Flemington, New Jersey. Your Dad let a friend of his coming over and he had a car what had a rumble seat. We would go up to the farm in Flemington, N.J.; Emma was in the front seat and your Dad and I would be in the rumble seat. I said I wanted to learn how to drive a car and I tried it once and I put my hands up and said, “Oh, there is a car coming.” We were married in 1934 and lived in Brooklyn and bought a car in 1938.
When you first came over here you had to take out a first paper and you had to study for it. And then you had to have your first paper for I don’t know how many years. and then you could go for your citizen papers. You had to study for it. No, I didn’t go to class at night. You had papers‑ books to learn it from. You had to have a person going with you to get your papers. I think it took about five years. It wasn’t as easy as it is now. You had to give up your German citizen up. I always wanted to be an American citizen. Right away when I left the time in Germany you didn’t have much. You could see that you got much further ahead here than in Germany. Over here people had cars where in Germany only the rich people had cars.
Your Dad was a machinist when I met him and he worked in Brooklyn. He could walk to where he worked. He was there a couple of years and he tried to change to get more money.
Then he worked in Sperrys for awhile and then he worked for Remington Rand. During the war he worked for Remington Rand. We were married at City Hall in the Battery of New York
City. We lived at 55 Church Avenue for seven years. The apartment was very nice. We had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a large kitchen. It was on the third (top) floor with lots of windows all around. The apartment was heat in; we had steam heat and the rent was $35. And your Dad made $25 a week. I didn’t work right away but then I started in a book binding place and I started out with $15 a week, and by the time I stopped I got $16 per week in 1939, which was pretty good pay that time. The book bindery was in New York between Lexington and Third Avenue. I worked 5 and a half days and that time my sister Rose had a bakery up in the Bronx and she had a child, Dorothy and sometimes when I was finished working I went up there and got her for the weekend and we brought her home usually again on Sunday nights. Saturday after I came home I cleaned and we went shopping in Brooklyn. There were some push‑carts yet down on Thirteenth Avenue. That where we usually did the vegetable shopping. They had beautiful fish markets there too. You could buy live fish there. It was a Jewish section. The trolley‑car was running in front of the house but after awhile you didn’t hear it anymore. Sometimes on Sundays my husband would take the niece to Coney Island, that wasn’t too far away for us. He took her on rides and all that.
A friend who was Dad’s sponsors, Willy Simmons, what let him come over here they lived that time already on Long Island and sometimes we had another friend, Joe Maier, and Joe Maier had a car too ‑ he worked in the same place that your Dad did ‑ and they lived out in Jamaica. Sometimes on a Sunday out to Elsa and Willy Simmons on Long Island. After your Dad’s parents came in 1938, we got a car. We lived seven years in Brooklyn in that apartment. Your Dad went to night school for a couple of weeks. He learned English a lot if you read a lot. He only went to school for a couple of weeks. I sewed all kinds of books by hand, put the books together, and we made beautiful book for the first World Fair. When was the first World Fair? We did a lot of hand sewing. Was a small shop. Your Dad did the housework when I worked on Saturdays until I complained. Most of the time on Saturdays your Dad went to steam baths.
We got out to Merrick, Long Island through Willy and Elsa Simmons. They lived our there. There was property for sale, and we then bought a piece of property. We bought a property on the same block. (as Willy and Elsa Simmons). And then we pick the house out what we wanted. Dad wanted a cape cod but I didn’t want it but I said I wanted a house where the walls are straight, complete two story house they were and are always still built. So we picked it out and we had it built from a builder. Just the house. The garage we built ourselves. Your Dad made the driveway, the sidewalks and much of the other work. It was fenced in completely by your Dad. It was wire fence on the side and picket fence in the front which was all made by your Dad. The house cost $5300 and the property $250. It was a tax sale ( the property.) It was 87 wide and 170 deep. Your Dad worked in Remington Rand and traveled everyday with the train to New York. He worked for Remington Rand until 1947 or 1948 and then Remington Rand moved up to Connecticut and they wanted him to go along. But he said “no, I don’t go.” I have the house. And then he was out of work for quite awhile. He done all kinds of work to make a couple of dollars. And then finally he got another job in Strattus. He didn’t like the work on a milling machine where you do the same thing over and over. He had more applications in different places. And then he asked Strattus for a raise. They didn’t give it to him. But then he get notice from Fairchild Camera and Instrument that he should come there. He went there and they said he could start. When he told Strattus that he was leaving, they didn’t want him to leave and sent a telegram that they would give him more money but he stuck with Fairchild and Camera. He worked for Fairchild and Camera for twenty‑one years. We moved to Merrick, Long Island in October 1941. We started during the summer of 1941 and already the builder had trouble finding supplies. The property was bought in the spring of 1941. We looked for a builder.
During the war years, I only remember standing in line for the meat. We had a big garden and I canned everything. I think I always had enough flour and sugar. I didn’t bake that much. We always had enough to eat. We heard nothing from Germany. The first letter we got was after the war, someone was out in Sulzfeld, Germany and they gave them a letter along and they sent it off. But it was still addressed to 55 Church Avenue, Brooklyn and it was delivered out to Long Island. I don’t know how they found out after them years. I remember your Dad working out on the car outside in the garage, and I came out and said, “Look, we got a letter from Germany.” It was from Luise (sister). That was the first time that we knew who was alive and how they made out during the war.
In 1948 my mother came after Christmas. My mother was seventy years old when she came and she stayed for two years. My sister Rose and her husband didn’t have a bakery at that time and lived in Rockville Centre, Long Island. My sister Emma lived in Weehawken, New Jersey. Emma had her own hairdresser shop and her husband worked out of his house as a pattern maker.
During the latter part of the 1940’s I did yard work, walked you to school everyday , which was a good mile each way, canned, cleaned and did everything. Until about 1949 and then I start working a half a day house work again once a week. But I still was home with you when you were home from school. We canned everything for the whole winter. We canned our vegetables until the late 60’s. We bought our fruit, apples for applesauce, pears we canned them we bought prunes and canned them. We done all that ourselves. We had everything in the cellar for the whole winter. Your Dad fenced a piece off in the cellar so that there was no heat going in; it was like a cold storage room. I never drove car. I never tried to learn; what I feel very sorry about.
We were close with my sisters and their families. We always had holidays together; once in that sister’s house and then one had Christmas, one had New Years and the other had Thanksgiving. There were all a lot out in my house.
During the fifties my life didn’t change that much. I pick another days work up. And I went two days then and done the same things again; washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, baking, and all that again. I didn’t have an automatic washing machine until 1947. I done all the wash, even bed wash by hand from six beds ‑ all the sheets by hand. And then I had a washing machine with a ringer. Where you had to hand lift quite a bit yet but it helped with the washing. And I always dried my wash outside out on the line. Sometimes in the winter it was so cold that it froze on the line. And then we had to iron everything too; even the sheets we ironed that time. The dresses you wore, those little fancy dresses, they all had to be ironed. And a lot of hand wash which was wool. And my husband’s mother she went to a friend of ours, Simmons, they bought a boarding house up in the Catskills and she went every summer there to help out there and so I was left alone every summer with the children, to do the yard work, and the wash, and to take care of my husband’s father. He worked once in awhile but he didn’t work all the time, so I was quite busy. With canning, taking care of the house, going to work for two days. These were very difficult times. It was very difficult with my in‑laws because they had different ideas than we had. Was very difficult; because your Dad was the only child. His mother just, you know, what she hung on. She left every summer her husband for me from about Decoration Day all summer, until about Columbus Day ‑ October. He (husband’s father) worked in the yard ‑ he planted and seeded and all that but I usually had to weed and I had to pick everything. We he didn’t work he helped along but when he worked he couldn’t and then we had to hand pump where we pumped the water by hand to water the garden. And then in later years, your Dad put an electric pump there. We dug the wells ourselves. I think he put two or three down because the points would plug up We did that all ourselves.
My father‑in‑law died in October of 1964 and my mother‑ in‑law died in April 13th, 1976. They never lived with anyone else. They always lived with us as long as they were here ‑ for thirty‑seven years. My mother‑in‑law was almost 90 years and my father‑in‑law was almost 74 years old. sometimes we thought they would go by themselves but they never went. They didn’t contribute that much financially to the house. They bought sometimes stuff, but they would never say here is money go ahead and get it. They would go ahead and get stuff what they liked. But mostly we bought the stuff. I went shopping.
When during the summer months, when I had to go to work, I usually took you and your brother ‑ Sonny ‑ along so that you weren’t by yourself. Wherever I go I took yous. When I started worked for my sister Rose, I took you too on Saturdays, from morning till the night. But where ever we went your father and I took you along from little on up. I never left you with your grandmother and grandfather. Because there was once a New Years Eve when we came home late (I think six o’clock in the morning) and she said here everything is here and she went back to bed. I stood up all the time, take care of you, cooked a big dinner for lunch and she got up to eat. And I said to myself that was the first time and no more. They often ask that I leave you home and I said “no.” If we couldn’t take you along ‑we didn’t go; didn’t go no place then.
Your brother and you were very different. Sonny was much more livelier than you. He was a terror. He had quite a few broken bones. Whenever they played and somebody go hurt it was your brother. He chopped his thumb once because he wanted to pick flowers for you because you were sick in bed and instead of chopping off the roots he chopped of the thumb. I never forget that. He had a broken shoulder, broken toes, he had a complete of set of stitches in his head ‑he had quite a few accidents. But they always turned out “ok.” And often, often poison‑ivy. If he smelled poison ivy he gets it. Often, often. Where you never got it. You never got poison ivy. Then when he got bigger he went up to Uncle Adolf to the farm in the summer time. They had three girls but no boys; he was like a son to them. And then one summer he was older he went up to Vermont to help waiting on a table where the people had summer guests. But he was a boy. I talked to the doctor once, I don’t know what it was, but he (the doctor) said if he would sit down on a chair and not do anything you would have more worries then this way. And that was true.
During the 1960’s and 70’s Dad spent a lot of time working and I worked right along with him in trying to save money and think about retirement. Dad had in the mind to retire when he was sixty‑two but I wouldn’t got no Social Security then because I was about three years younger than Dad. So, all of a sudden he decided he was going to work until sixty‑five and then I was sixty‑two. So that we both could collect Social Security. And do d little work besides yet. So after Dad retired he stood home because he took care of the yard and certain things then. I worked yet for a couple of years. And then we bought long before to move up state New York because we had friends what retired up there and we liked it up there. We builted a house up there. We had a fellow started already the garage and we gave him money; we gave him first a thousand and he started and then he wanted another thousand (dollars) and we gave it to him and he went bankrupt then; and the garage was just a little bit started. So that’s the way it was. We tried to sue but nothing came out of it. He owed us quite a bit of money. That was up in Copake, upstate New York. And we seen another piece of nicer property what we like better so we bought another piece up there. But then we went to Germany in 1972 for a visit and Kathleen, Dale and the children came out too but they came different time and left a different time. They flew over Iceland where we flew direct to Stuggart (Germany) and then after we come back, the next year we visit my cousin Gus Labile and Olga his wife in Florida. They lived in Barefoot Bay that time and Dad liked it so we bought a piece of land to settle down there. But after we came home, Sonny (son) was divorced and he by himself and there was other guys living with him, there was some kind of trouble and so Sonny (son) moved home. So Dad said he should come home and we gonna sell the land down south. So we sold the land again in Florida. And then we went again in 1976 I think, and because we looked before, we looked for a building lot or a corner lot ‑ a bigger lot and then when were down (Florida) visiting my cousin again they (developers) opened a new section and the lots were bigger, so we bought then. And then we bought a house in 1977 and had it put up. We didn’t move in then until 1978, October. Kathleen, Dale and their family lived up in Vermont and they said you come up to us in the summer time. So they made a beautiful apartment up there for us ‑ a living room, kitchen, bedroom and a bathroom. Very beautiful. Then we went every summer‑ for about four year ‑ about five months ‑ up there to Vermont and the other time we were in Florida. But then your Dad got sick. He wasn’t good that time already (1982) and then we lived completely in Florida. Then his sickness got worst and worst and the last five years he was alive we had to do everything for him. He died 1988 ‑ October the 20th. Then I still live in Florida and I visit Kathleen, Dale and the family a couple times a year ‑ what I always like and look forward too. That was my life…..
My advise to get through the difficult times is to work hard, save that you always have a penny when you need it (that’s what we had to do) and see that you get ahead they would get along too. We had tough times, I mean, but we always managed. Your father was out of work, he done all kinds of jobs just to make a couple of cents so we could go. He even cleaned peoples yards with leaves in the spring. And that time when Remington Rand moved the time was so bad
he done all kinds of work, our car was so bad ‑ he done a motor job on it, he done a cracked motor block. Because during the war you couldn’t get no car and he needed a car to go to work back and forth. And after all kinds of work and jobs all of a sudden another friend what didn’t go with Remington Rand his father‑in‑law built houses. Him and the other friend done the electrical work there until he got work again. But we went tough. But we got through, we got through.
For entertainment, we going out for dinner once, go dancing and things, out by Elsa in the beginning and every other house on Saturday night we played every other night pinochle. Nobody had that much money so they played for very little and the money they made went in a cigar box and when we had enough in it then we went into New York City East Side for dinner and dancing and a good time out. In the beginning when we didn’t live out there (Merrick, Long Island) we went out with Joe and Pepie (Maier) we always went swimming then in the summertime out to Bayberry Point, where you were with us too as a little baby ‑ out in Bay Shore. I was a little private beach but it was beautiful. The men swam and then they swam to a sandbar and then they were standing a digging clams with their feet and they came in with clams, and we went home and made clam chowder. I have pictures yet where you sit on the swing with Wilma and you as little babies on that beach.
The holidays and the birthday were really important family celebrations. When you were small you always got a birthday party. Sonny got it out in the yard, where all the aunts, uncles and children came, and yours was inside all the time. Where everybody came all the time. They never missed it. That was always nice ‑ the birthdays and things. On Sundays I always cooked and I cooked always more that if somebody dropped in that I have enough and usually somebody dropped in. We had lot, lots of parties …. get togethers in Merrick. Once my neighbor in the back asked me “oh, you don’t have so many people coming anymore on Sundays, “What happened?” But we had very good times together, I mean, with little money. But the holidays we were always together. Once I had over twenty for Thanksciving or Christmas. We had a lot of good times in Sayville (Long Island). My brother‑ in‑law sister had a bakery too out: there. Once they even had a masquerade party ‑ Halloween Party. We had wonderful times where everybody was in a costume and things. We went to my brother‑ in‑ law’s sister for dinner, they came to our house. We always were together. Good times together.
Happy times were a whole group of things‑‑just a group of them. It was a very happy surprise when you gave us that 25th Wedding Anniversary party at Aunt Rose. That was some surprise. That was some happy occasion. How many people did you have? Forty or fifty‑‑‑ After the eats you cleaned everything out and had the dancing. And the way it went, was that Sonny said that he had to go to Aunt Rose’s to rake leaves, but it rained that Saturday. So Aunt Rose called and said Oh, you can come and do some other work over there. But that wasn’t the case. He suppose to help moving furniture and clean the room out for Sunday. All of’ my cousins and all our friends were there. Your father didn’t know anything about it. He wore a red corduroy shirt. When we walked in they hollered “Surprise” and he said what Surprise?? Could you know it? That was a wonderful time. Everybody enjoyed it. I don’t know how you cooked all that eats and baked all that. You had to go out almost every night for two weeks, and you had to go every night somewhere else, but where you went was out to Dottie’s to bake cookies. And then we went shopping and I said lets put that in the trunk, and you said “no” let’s put it on the seat because you had the trunk all full of stuff. You done some baking. We had lots of fun at Aunt Rose’s house. We had one, two, three, four 25th Wedding Anniversary parties there. We done the work all by
ourselves. That was at 636 Hempstead Avenue in Rockville Centre. Some people couldn’t believe it that we had nothing brought in. We helped together. By our house, after the eating was done, we always had dancing in the back room. Daddy loved his music. He didn’t care for tv but he love his records.
I am very happy that I made my decision to stay in the United States. That’s my home now. I am here for almost 63 years and that’s my home now. No, I said I am very happy here and I wouldn’t like to go back to Germany. It is pretty out there. The town where I come from (Germany) is very, very pretty ‑ it lays pretty but still in all this is my home. That’s where I made my living and that’s where I stay. I am going to be 82 years old on the 23rd of December.
My life in Florida is very nice. It is warm all the time. I like it. I have a lots of flowers what I take care of, I have shrubs I do all the work myself, lots and lots of flowers, only the grass I have cut. The other work I do myself. Someone on the block said Anna, everyone knows your house with all the flowers you have. I am, always active around the house and yard. I never am lonely. Sometimes I don’t know that I get done with cleaning and outside work and going shopping and we go out to eat once in awhile ‑not so much as years ago ‑ and then I have friends over for dinner all the time, I bake a lot and I give it away. I bake an awful lot ‑ chocolate chips ‑ double ‑ cakes. Nobody bakes down there. I don’t drive so they take me shopping and things and they get bake goods for it. They take no money and that’s the way I do something for them. I have no more desire to come north. It’s hot in the summer down there. But if it hot you have the air‑conditioner what makes you comfortable. You don’t have the house that cold but you still could wear shorts in it. I walk about five to six miles every single day. It is all according if I have to go some place then I go three or four miles but usually I do five or six. You meet a lot of people walking. There are a lot of things going on if you want to go active, we have three swimming pools, ballroom dancing where you could learn, square dancing, there are a lot of clubs, there is golfing, shuffleboard, there is grass bowling, there is so many things going on you can’t be lonely down there. If you want to be active you could be active everyday. It is fun to get away but it also good to come home again. To take care of the place again.
Let’s think back as to how many times you have been back to Germany ‑‑‑‑‑‑ I was back in 1938 because our father was so sick. We were out a long time ‑ I think three months. I was there with my sister Emma. My father was sick. About a week or two before we left the sister‑nurse came and ask if we would stay longer ‑ our father wouldn’t live long ‑ maybe about four weeks. My sister Emma said “no, we are going otherwise he would know there is something wrong, because he was up and around, he feel good and said look I could whistle again. And so we left and when we came to Frankfurt, my husband’s uncle said I wonder if you get out and we thought “Gee, what’s that?” We were in Hamburg, we checked our suitcases and everything, and the next morning someone came and said you should come to the travel agency. They said your boats are not going out. My sister ask “What should we do?” And he said, “Go home.” But it was so far for us to go home. I was an American citizen yet but my citizen papers were laying in the post office in Brooklyn, but my husband couldn’t get it. So I had a German passport yet, and my sister said we wait a couple of days and if not we go into Switzerland. But then after two days it came that the boats went again. So they paid us for the two days we were off there. We had very, very stormy weather. My sister, Emma, never was seasick, she crossed the ocean twice, but that time she got seasick. It was nerve wrecking when they said here is your ticket ‑ our boats don’t go out. Hitler invaded some country but I don’t know what he invaded ‑ was it Poland or another. I was back in the U.S. about three and half weeks before my Dad died. He was sick for a long time. He had very bad arthritis. I think he got really sick from an awful cold. I remember before I left (Germany) that he had awful pain sometimes and laid in bed.
I was back to Germany in 1961 with the whole family ‑ Sonny, Dad and you. We had a really good time too. We spent six weeks out there. I didn’t want to go back. My sister Rose and her husband were suppose to go back for my mother’s 90th birthday. They had their passports, injections and everything. My sister’ Rose wasn’t home since 1928. My sister Emma was out quite a few times. So they said they would go home. Then 2 weeks before they should go, my
sister (Rose) came and said Karl isn’t going and I’m not going either. Your father said, you go with her. I said, “I don’t want to go I just was out there. He said, “You go with her that she goes.” The next Sunday she came and said, “I’m not going, because you’re only going because of me.” So I stood up and said, “Rose, if you don’t go then I go by myself, because mother is waiting for somebody to come for her 90th birthday.” And she said, “OK I’ll go.” So my sister Rose, my sister Friedl and I went home for her 90th birthday. Somebody ask her (Mother) of she thinks anyone would come out of the U.S. for her 90th birthday. She answered them, “If they don’t know that they have a mother what is going to be 90 years old, then that’s too bad then.” I called a neighbor from my niece from Frankfurt (Germany) and I was on and she said, “Oh, hello Tante Rose.” I said this is not Tante Rose but she is with us. My husband had a cousin living the outskirt of Frankfurt; we stopped there and then they brought us to Sulzfeld with a car. They gave us their car so we had a car as long as we were there. We had a wonderful time. We gave a great big party in a restaurant. All the relatives were there and she was so happy about it. We enjoyed it very much. We were glad we went out there because the next year just about two months before her birthday she died. We had a wonderful time and she was glad for that party.
The next time was 1972 when you went with us. We flew into Stuggart. We went a week ahead of you. We went with a Schwaben International flight, they had that time. You flew over Iceland and Luxembourg. Then you came by yourself. Pam and Dee went and helped picking potatoes and all that, we visited relatives again. Then we brought you back to Luxembourg. We stood a week longer and then we came back. Then I went in 1986 by myself to visit out there what was nice ‑ short but nice. Then I went in 1989 because Pam went out there in college in Salzburg and she was finished, so Kathleen, Dale, Dianna and I went out to pick her up. We were there for two and a half weeks. We had a wonderful time. We went all over. And now I just came back Tuesday, October 21st with Pam where I went out for the grape harvest, what I wanted to do again (harvesting grapes) because I didn’t done it for sixty three years. That’s my life story…..