Patz family to America part III
MONTGOMERY – “On Sundays we walked to church which seemed a long way as I was five or six, but in reality it was two to three miles from our house. My recollections was it was a beautiful building with a big pipe organ. The collection bag was unique, attached to a long metal wand which the person collecting could pass from one end of the pew to the other. Sundays were special because of always having baked goods to eat. As mother was very religious, we were not allowed to do anything except spending afternoons at prayer meeting or other religious events,” Erika said.
The mother loved flowers, beautifully planted around the bungalow plus a sizable vegetable garden. We had chickens, a goat for milk, and a pig which when butchered was canned to make sausage and bacon, enough to get through winter.
According to Erika, “My brothers Egon, Ozzie and I rode our bicycles into the woods for blueberry picking. Vendors came to the woods from Hamburg and Luneburg to buy them with all monies given to mother. Some days, she packed sandwiches and we’d pick until late afternoon. Mother made jams and jellies from all kinds of berries we gathered.”
As a kid, Erika followed sister Gisela around. One day the older sister was getting water out of the well when Erika offered to put the cover on. “I put half the cover over the well and fell in almost drowning when reaching for the other half. Dad was fixing the roof on the shed and when Gisela yelled, jumped off, ran over and pulled me out by my hair. He laid me on the ground and I remember water coming out of my mouth. Mother gave me a treat of bread and cocoa and made me go to bed. I never learned to swim very well as I could not put my head under water without panicking thinking I was drowning.”
Erika attended a two-room school with one room having grades one through five, and the other six through eight. As we walked, we passed a house having geese. These nasty creatures would chase and hiss at us, so my brother Ozzie would take Ericka’s hand and run past the house.
Erika said, “My class had three girls where I was the only one having brown hair. In addition to regular subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic, we learned to knit, crochet and embroider. I went four years to this school and my fifth year to a school in Ulzen where I traveled by train.” Students were off a month in summer. In winter was lots of snow and very cold.
A highlight was receiving packages from uncle Sigmund Kunke living in Massachusetts who sent cloths and a jar of peanut butter called Katzen, it was heavenly.
Sisters Gisela and Agnes finished eight years of school then went into training to work at an orphanage. At some point, the mother decided it would be better for the children to immigrate to the USA. Somewhere she learned of more opportunities in America, but the father was against the idea. As a strong women, the mother convinced her husband it was the best thing to do.
So, with paper work completed, they all had physicals and shots at Hamburg. Erika looked out the train windows seeing acres of rubble. However, before final arrangement could be made, the USA closed that years immigration quota except to young people. Therefore, it was thought if Nellie immigrated by herself, the rest of the family would have a better chance later. That was 1952 when Nellie arrived at Montgomery, PA, and worked for farmer Fred Tebbs. She stayed and worked in their house while also working in a factory.
In 1955, immigration opportunities were again opened and the Patz family immigrated to America. They were sponsored by St. James Lutheran (Brick) Church and placed on the farm of Fred Tebbs.
Erika recalls, “What a sad time that was, giving most of our meager possessions away, packing our cloths leaving our little town of Weste. Nearly the entire town came to say goodbye at the train station as we headed for the port at Bremer-Hafen. When we pulled out of the dock, a band played “God be with you till we meet again.” We cried as the ship left port until we could no longer see land. I didn’t get sea sick but my brother Egon did. For the first time we tasted grapefruit deciding we didn’t like it and threw it overboard to the fish. The ship had shower stalls our first experience at taking showers.”
General Langfit was the war ship’s name. Women and children were separated from men in different parts of the ship. They slept on bunks fastened to the side of the ship. It took nine days to cross the Atlantic where land was seen early the last day. Almost everyone stood on deck and cheered as New York came closer. It was good to see land.
At the Port Authority was a large hall with people everywhere. The family met the person in charge giving them name tags printed with their final destination. A huge crane with a giant net held the suitcases which were lowered, separated and claimed. After taken to a hotel and assigned to a room, the father went to a delicatessen buying bread and cold cuts which were eaten in the room. At some point that evening they accidentally locked themselves out so Egon climbed out a bathroom window, walked across a balcony opening the window and door the room.
(Next week – Brother left behind, to Montgomery via Milton, to school in a dindle dress with hair in pig tails).