The New Life Begins

Then came the big greetings and hello's. We had not seen each other since 1938 and it was now June 1941, three years later. It was a very nice moment. We all noticed that Rita and Jerry had an American accent when they spoke German. We thought that they were showing off a little. Later on we found out this was not the case, when we speak German we have an English accent, and when we speak English we have a German accent. Mother actually has hardly any German accent. Our introduction to life in the United States began on the docks in Staten Island, "How?" The baggage carriers were on strike and we had to carry our own luggage, not that it hurt us, but we had not heard about such strikes.

We took the ferry to New York and I was figuring out, it cost five cents per person, thirty five cents together, that would have been enough for seven meals in our little restaurant in Lisbon. When we got to Manhattan, we took the subway to 96th Street and again we paid thirty-five cents for seven people, New York is a very expensive city, I thought. Coming from Staten Island by Ferry we had naturally the magnificent view of downtown Manhattan, but, I also remember that so many things had happened that day, that I am not sure if my brain could still absorb this tremendous picture. The subway ride was very interesting, I thought it would never end. It was a "local" at rush hour and I remember people were everywhere in huge numbers. I have to assume that the rest of the family, the parents, John and Yvonne felt the same way I did, too much for one day. Our Mother had a sister living at 96th Street near Broadway, she gave us a welcome party with a lot of people I did not know.

We had contacted the "FEAS" in Manhattan and they had a job for John and me lined up, for John in an automobile repair shop and for me downtown Manhattan in a storage garage with repair shop. I lasted one week and I was fired, because I did not tell the customers they needed a water pump if the radiator hose only was bad, and I could not be a Yid because I did not speak Yiddish. This happened on a Saturday. On Monday I asked for a job as a mechanic's helper at a storage garage, new car agency and repair shop called "Packard Uptown" on Broadway and I was hired at $12.50 a week for 40 hours. I felt like a King. I gave some of my earnings to my Mother towards the household and had some left for lunch and pocket money. Lunch was twenty-five cents: ten cents for a sandwich, ten cents for a piece of pie, five cents for a cup of coffee, and I was the last of the big spenders, I gave a five cents tip. The bus fare was five cents, so was the subway. Mother and Yvonne found jobs with garment manufacturers, those jobs were tough. I don't remember what Father did. John and I bought our first car after a couple of months. It was a 1933 Chevrolet four door sedan and the family started to go on Sunday picnics to some parks around New York, it was nice.

World War 11 started November 7, 1941, not quite five months after we arrived in the U.S.A. John was drafted a few months later in 1942. It was difficult to think of marriage at that time, I did not know if I would be drafted. I was called up to the Army for some time in 1944. After I had been discharged I started to chase your mother until she caught me, or she chased me until I caught her and we got married August 5, 1945. At that time we had known each other for nine years.

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A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida.
©1991 Kurt Lenkway.

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