Claire’s young life story, now revised, but now done with more detail and feeling about each event!

I, Clara Bubendey Cuni Bianco, would like to tell you about my young life as I slowly remember it today.

 I was born on December 14- 1934 in Brooklyn New York. My Mother is Erna Wulf Bubendey. My Father is Herman Bubendey. My Brother Herman Bubendey was born November 28- 1931. In 1939 my maternal Grandfather (Opa ) August, was very ill and had Terminal Stomach Cancer. So my Mother made the decision to travel to Germany to be with her dying father. She had to think very carefully about going over there at this time, as World War Two was about to start. She was torn but made the decision  to go, and took my Brother Herman who was then 7 years old and I, who was 4 years old. It was very exciting, and I can remember a very small portion of that trip. I remember getting a desert of Vanilla Pudding and I did not like it. They had  Games and Music and party’s, and the adults had beautiful dinner dances. My Mother said the food was delicious. And the weather was good. I don’t remember much more than that, don’t forget, I was only 4 years old.

So now we arrive in Germany at the city of Hamburg and went to visit my other Grandmother ( my Fathers Mother ), and his sister as well. They where not very nice to us, went through our Luggage and stole some things, so we only stayed over night, and then we took a train to my mothers home town, Hagenburg. When we arrived, they were all so happy to see us, and I met my Grandmother, Grandfather, my Tante Clara, for the first time. The sad part was that Opa,(Grandfather), was so sick he was dying with stomach cancer. We stayed in my Grandmothers House, and my Opa was at his sisters house which was much bigger, and right next door. We would hear him mooning and crying, actually, screaming . There was nothing anyone could do. 

I’m sorry to say he died soon after we arrived. I did not know him that well, but my Mother told me that while at the Burial site, that I cried and wanted to jump in the Grave. They had to take me home, but please don’t forget I was only 4 years old. 

So life goes on. My Grandmother( Oma ) was lame . She could not move her. Legs or arms she had Rheumatoid Arthritis. I remember her vividly laying on a chase lounge and her Cat laying on her lap. She was a Beautiful Lady with long grey hair tied in a pony tail flowing down her back. She always smiled and never complained. My Mother did not want to leave but it was time to make a decision, but It was hard for her. She had left her Husband in America and she had her Mother and Sister and other Relatives in Germany. So she hesitated and heard rumors that the War had started and no one would be aloud to leave,but had one last chance . We had to go to the American Consulate to get permission to leave. As faith would allow, my Mother was told that if we leave at this time, my Brother and I would go on to America because we were American Citizens, but she was told that if we all leave at this time, she being a German Citizen would be removed from the Ship and may never be seen again. So she had to make a choice and  of course we stayed in Germany.

Now our new life begins! We were able to stay with my Grandmother and my Aunt Clara  for a short while. The House was a little Cottage it had a Kitchen, a living room , an upstairs  bedroom , a tiny bedroom in the front of the house, and a hall entrance so it was a little tight to say the least.  The bedroom in the front had just enough room for a single bed and a night stand with a wash basin on it, as there was no running water in the house. The Kitchen had a couple of cabinets and a very large round copper tub, that was used for Laundry, for Baths, and for making Sugar Beets to make Syrup,so it certainly had a lot of uses. also on the wall was a tall tile stove that heated the house, with a pipe coming out of it that went into the ceiling to heat the bedroom. In the living room, there was a couch, a big kitchen Table ( Stube), on the wall was all our pictures so our Oma could see them and remember her family. She also had this beautiful old wall clock that chimed beautifully and I always loved to listen to it chime counting the bell strokes. (It’s now finally in my home after many years of it being stored, awaiting for me to come get it.). 

My Aunt, Tante Clara,  was a very good seamstress so she made everyone’s cloths especially mine. Now our new life began of course School for my Brother Herman and myself. We did not speak German so it was difficult. My Brother adjusted, but I found it frightening. I cried a lot and did not like the male teacher. I think it took a couple of weeks before I settled in and little bye, I became acclimated to my new life.

So our Daily life began. My Mother is looking for a Job while we are in School. Then my Mother was looking for an apartment to rent, it was to small at my Grandmothers. It was not fair to my Oma and my Aunt as they were so generous. My Mother  looked and looked and found a place for us to live until the War is over, as then we could go back to America and to my Father.  The House with the Apartment is an old Farm house and it had several  apartments in it. Ours had a living room, Kitchen combination, a Bedroom upstairs, and a Bathroom that was in the Barn. There was another nice Family in the other apartment and they had a Daughter and a son. The Daughter was about 16- or 18, the Boy was my age. 

Living close by Oma I had made a Friend, her name is Hildegard and believe it or not, we are still friends writing to each other after 76 years. Hildegard never left our hometown in Hagenburg, Germany, in a simple easy life, but I  came back to America when I turned 16, not knowing or speaking English  with no real formal education to begin a new life, with no help from anyone.

The  years past and the War came closer and closer. We heard horrible story’s about so many young men and older men never coming home again. My Mother got a job in the  Bomb  Factory, where all the locals had to work.

The Bomb Factory and my Mother is at the red x

The Bombs where being especially made for this big Cannon nearby, called BIG BURTHER, that was located in Wunstorf, two Towns away from our Town. Every time that they would shoot BIG BURTHER, we could hear it go off, followed by a high pitch whistle that would follow, so we had to throw ourselves on the ground, cover our ears, or our lungs would burst as the sound wave passed us distroying many things as it past.

bigbertha
This cannon was wheeled out on a track… shoot… then back into a small mountain

 

It just couldn’t be hit by the daily bombers that came to destroy it, dropping tons of bombs throughout the entire area, but hitting only the things that were the people and their homes. Much later, a British RAF pilot had an idea that he tried, and that was to use torpedoes taken from a submarine and put on his  plane, then flying very low, he dropped it like a person throwing a flat rock to skim across a lake. He did the same and it did what none of all the bombing could, they bounced and bounced till one went into the mountain and destroyed BIG BURTHER, and all inside.

My Mother went to work and we went to School. The War was getting closer each day and it was a scary time for all of us. 

My Brother and I would wait for our Mother to come Home and be very relieved when she arrived. Now we had a lot of bombings in Town, and we were always afraid for our Mother. One Day she did not come home her usual time and my Brother and I thought that she got killed. Luckily, she was OK, and was at her friends house on the next block which had been bombed, so she went to see if they were OK, and maybe needed help. We did not know what she had done, so we thought the worse. When she came home we were crying. She said that she wasn’t thinking, and was worried about her friend and family. We thanked God that she was alright, when she told us that she was sorry. One time she was coming home on her bike, and went right into the little Lake across from our house. You see, no lights were allowed at night, so it was very dark, so when she walked into the house she was very wet. Lucky the shore of the lake is not very deep as It gradually descents as you enter it.

Now, the war was getting really close, and we had very little food. My Mother asked me to go to the Farm houses and ask them for some bread, milk, potatoes or anything for us to eat. The farmers did not like us. Sometimes they would send the dogs after me, so I sure ran fast to get away. My Mother sent me because she thought that they would give to a little child rather than a grown up. Sometimes the farmers would allow us to go out in the fields and pick over the ground for potatoes that they missed or carrots or whatever was planted. It must have been so difficult for my Mother not to have anything to eat for her children. 

Again the War was getting closer and closer. We kept hearing that if the Russians got to us first they would  rape all the Woman and girls and do unspeakable things. We were all so scared so we were praying that the British troops would get here first. 

My Grandmother was petrified  that the Russians would get to her and torture her because she was not able to move. She decided to get her children together  to have a serious talk, as it was very difficult for her and her children, my Aunt, Tante Clara, my Uncle August, and Mother Erna. She said to them, if you know that the Russians are really, really close, I want you to give me the pills that will put me to sleep, because I cannot defend myself against them, and you all must promise me you will take care of me that way. Well can you imagine your Mother asking you to kill her. It must have been  like a nightmare for them. Well, the Russians were two towns away, and her children and she decided it was time, can you imagine how they felt. I was to young and did not know what was happening  as they did not tell us. My Mother told us a long time later, when we were old enough. 

It was very sad for my Mother, my Tante Clara, and my Onkel August, but that was her wish, as afterwards, it was just tragic, that the Russians did not get to us first, but the British did. 

It was a time now that a lot of the German Soldiers and Officers  were retreating from the front lines and coming our way to avoid the Russians. They would come into private homes to hide out, and we did not have a choice, they would just move in as they still had there guns. When we heard the British coming down the road with big Tanks, so we got really nervous and we did not know what to expect. We were also concerned about the German soldiers being in the house. It turns out, which we found out later, that one of the German Officers was out in the front of the house and saw the British approaching with the Tanks so he ran inside and closed the door. So the British, seeing him as well, did not know what to make of it, and decided to surround our house and started shooting. We were all inside and went to the back side of the house were the Garden was. The house was on a corner of two streets, so they situated their Tanks only on three sides, and just kept shooting. There were 9 of us altogether, 3 were  Children, I was 10, my brother was 13, and  the other boy was 9. It was very scary bullets flying all over the place we were all in one small bedroom on the second floor. The whole room was white with smoke and dust . I had to use the potty, and  as I sat on it, a bullet went right through it. Needles to say I was very lucky. It still amazes me, that no one got shot with all the bullets flying. One more thing, my Mother’s friend was there with us and he was a German soldier still with his uniform on. The other adults there decided that he better change. They found some pants and a shirt he put them on. My Mother took his uniform and hid it in the bed.

The shooting finally stopped, and we did not know what would happen next. The German soldiers were still in the house. We saw movement outside in the garden it looked like the German soldiers, as they must have found some cloths in the barn, put them on took a shovel or a rake and walked away. 

Now we heard the British soldiers come in. We are all very scared. My Mother decided that she would talk to them because she spoke English. The soldiers pushed the door open with there rifles . We were so scared but they looked just as scared as us. They were so young, sweat running down there face. My Mother took the opportunity to talk to them at that time, and said I speak English, and they said, shut up. The next thing they asked us were the German soldiers are, we said we did not know. They did not believe us, and one of them said if they find them here we would all be shot. We were really scared we did not know if some of them were still in the house. They got dogs to look for them, luckily they never found them. It was a pretty frightening day and  we did not know what was going to happen to us. The  British  Soldiers finely  left the house after hours of interrogating us about the German soldiers . We really did not know we’re they went we were just very happy that they left, and headed north to where all the fighting was still going on. 

Now as the first group of British soldiers left out area, the next group came, and they were much nicer to us. They were the ones that would stay in our area . So, slowly, we got to know them pretty well, they were very kind to us when they realized that we were just caught up in the war and had no part in it.. We saw all their food trucks come through and we were so very hungry. One of the soldiers befriended us and would give us some canned food, which was very generous of him. One day a truck was driving by and wound up in a ditch and tipped over on its side. It was full of hard candy. Well you can imagine how excited all the children were. The soldiers aloud us to pick up all the candy that fell out of the truck. Oh my God, we were in heaven we had not had candy in years. By now these soldiers were settling in as much as they could. In our town was a old Castle with a family still living there who were a Prince, his wife and children, and when the war came closer, they moved to a safer place, up North. So the British Officers and their soldiers decided to move in, and made it their headquarters. 

We had big  gigantic bomb craters all around the town, and children being children we would play in them. Pretending that they where swimming pools. They were wherever the bombs would fall. Still, at least now we did not have to listen for planes dropping bombs or Big Bertha’s whistle, and then having to lay on the ground. Thank God that was all over. We still had our problems, as my poor mother had been saving as much money as she could that was to be our money to go back to America, but by the end of the war the money was worthless, so poor thing, had to start all over again. 

My uncle August lived in a city called, Celle,  near Hanover, and he was part of the black market were he lived,  so he was able to get things that we needed, like some sugar, flour, or other useful things. He would come on weekends and bring us whatever he could. My uncle August was the one who before the war got so close to us, would come and take me and my  brother and my friends into the forest and teach us all about the different trees, birds, mushrooms and flowers of the area. As we walked he would  have a branch and carve with his knife to make a toy for us. Then on our back home he would take another, bigger piece of wood and shape it in a plate with holes around it’s edge and then put little birds that he had carved before, and put strings through the wholes and attach the birds, then you could make them move, such fun for us children. 

One beautiful memory from when I was 5 Or 6 years old . The anticipation of Christmas and Santa Clause was very exciting. First came St Nicklaus Day, on December 6th. The night  before we had to put our shoes on the window sill so St Nicklaus could deliver the presents. It was told to us that if we were  good we would get a nice surprise, but if we were bad we would get charcoal . So as you can imagine we tried very hard to be good, at least I did but my brother not so much. 

Now came Christmas  cookie baking time, and oh what fun with Tante Clara, Oma, mama and my brother, Sonny, as we called him. We made Sugar cookies, Butter Cookies, and Gingerbread cookies. We would roll them out in different shapes, put them on cookie sheets, and then bring them to the town bakery, because we did not have the right kind of oven. We would have to make an appointment for our time to use their oven, bring them there then wait for them to be done. Wow, they were delicious. Now came Christmas Eve we would all go to Church at 6:00 o clock ( one of the adults would stay behind with some kind of excuse. Church would take 2 hours with Sermons and prayers and all the children singing in the chorus. Different ages sang at different times. The Church had been decorated beautifully, and  the children would act out the nativity. After the services, everyone would start to go home, and as we walked we could see everyones Christmas trees in there Windows. The person that stayed home had decorated ours, as it was never done before Christmas Eve. As we walked home we could see Santa Clause (weinachtsman) all the way down on Main Street, running from house to house and his sleigh was in the street. As a small child of 6 it was very realistic and exciting. 

When I was I guess about 7, or 8, my Brother Sonny ( Hermann) decided to teach me how to ride a  bike, but my Brother always played tricks on me, so i  should not have Trusted him. It started very nice And smooth, and He told me: “i am not going to let go”. There was a shed in the back yard, and he let go of me so I went right into that shed. I did learn how to ride the bike, eventually. Another time while I was walking to school, as I passed a yard that had large geese, they came running after me, Honking and honking, trying to bite me. I had to run real fast to outrun them. In the summer time,  as I walked along that road each day, I would pass apple trees, and pear trees, and plum trees and I would grap a piece of fruit and enjoy it…     D-E-E-liscious.

Also in our yard was a cesspool in back,where we always played, and one day we were running around it, when I slipped and fell right into it. Thank God only up to my waist, afterwards my mother always said that’s why I grew so tall. 

Life goes on and now my mother had a boyfriend, called Willy, cause she was very lonely. At the time, he seemed to be very nice, and eventually, my mother became pregnant with his child. It was very embarrassing for her and us, as in those days there was no way to end a pregnancy safely. My mother was married and her husband was in America, and he was not a good husband, cause he had declared us dead, and then remarried. But still even with the people in our town knowing this, did not treat my mother very nice. One lady kicked my mother in her stomach, and it was scary cause we thought she would loose the baby.  When I would see the midwife in town I would ask her what the baby would be, she would smile and say there is only one left, and it’s a girl with red hair. In Germany, at least in my part, no one liked red hair. My little sister was born November 5th 1945  and guess what? She had red hair. Since she was 11 years younger than me, she was more like my child than my sister, since my mother worked, so after school, she was my responsibility, and I thought it was great. I could dress her up, fix her hair, and play with her, it was so much fun for me. I did everything with her just like a mom.

We all tried our best to make things work, but one day we got a little bit of bad news, because the owners came back now that it was safe in our area with the British in Charge and wanted to move back into the apartment we were living in, and we had no were to go. We did not know what to do, but they suggested to us that they could move us into the barn, and could put temporary walls up to give us privacy. My mother said, yes, please and thank you, and we moved in soon thereafter. It was difficult to move in there but we had no choice, and it was kind of weird at night, cause I could hear the mice running around above the ceiling. I was not afraid of them, it was just annoying when you were trying to sleep.

By now “uncle” Willy moved in with us, and I did not like him and he did not like me. He is the father of my little sister, Renate (I gave her that name), so I tried to get along with him. Sometimes, I would just stay by Tante Clara and she would protect me from him. One time he was drunk and threw a concrete dog dish at me, thankfully, it missed my head by inches. There were other incidents, my Tante Clara would let me stay with her from time to time. She did not like Willy and she did not like that the Town was gossiping about her sister. 

By this time I had a paper route so I was able to help my mother a little bit. My Tante Clara was a fantastic  seamstress she would take something old and make something new for me. She made a skirt from one of my mothers dresses. I remember it had butterfly’s on it it was so pretty. 

 We befriended this very gentle man from Scotland that was a British soldier helping us as much as he could. He gave us food when he could and cloths for us kids. He had a family in Scotland and when his time was up, he went back to his home. He did not forget us, as he wrote to us frequently, and sent us care packages, and things for the baby. He was a very caring man.

 In the house that we were in was another family, and their mother’s name was Charlotte, who had 3 children, a girl who was around 19 or 20, a boy 14 and another boy that was 10. A very nice family  but the 10 year old was sick all the time and died, so, it was very sad for me, as I would play with him all the time. 

 Years went by so fast now, and Tante Henny, my mother’s sister who was living in Glendale, Queens, New York, sent us our first care package. It had coffee for Mamma, and all kind of can foods, and even Crisco. My Mother was so happy for her coffee, because she had not had coffee for a long time. She had tried to make something like coffee with wheat, and would put it in a frying pan to brown it and then pour hot water over it in a cup, and drink it, so you can see why she was so happy. Also she would use the Crisco by toasting bread on the stove, then put Crisco on the bread. When your hungry you will eat anything, but she did sprinkled salt on it for flavor. By now we had  some chickens, and one day my mother sent me into the yard to get a chicken for dinner. She said to me “Just twist the neck and that will do it, just like you see when I do it” I did not want to do it but she said “If you want to eat, bring me that chicken.”

 I was now getting older and started to work, and my first job was to take care of a small child for a the family who owned a small delicatessen and the lady of the house ran it. They were a very nice couple who had “money”, and a car, and used to go to the opera. It would be a dream for me to be able to go in a car and then even to the opera. After this job I worked in a Restaurant, and  helped to make ice cream, set the tables, and put the day’s news paper on a hanger so the restaurant guests could read it. I would take the daily newspaper and place it between 2 sticks that held it at the ends, so people could read it for free, and then leave it for the next customers. I was now at the age to go to High school, but I could not go because we could not afford it, so after 8th grade I worked full time, or I could have gone to trade school to learn how to run a house. 

 Tante Clara who was never married  because she was the caretaker of my Grandmother but later met a very nice man, who was called Karl Spreier and soon thereafter, they were married. We were so happy for her, because now finally she had a life too.  

When we were able to afford better meals and bake again, it was so great. Tante Clara, Mama, and me would make delicious  butter cookies, sugar cookies and  Butter  Kuchen Zucker Kuchen  so much fun and all was delicious . We did not have an oven so we would make an appointment at the local Bakery and bring the shaped  cookies  cakes and breads there To be baked.  

My friend Hildegard and I made friends in school, and on weekends we would all get together, and go dancing . There was a Restaurant and Bar in town called Habelas that had a barn in the back of the restaurant that they made into a ballroom . We could go there on the weekend and we had a great time. 

We could just to go by bike into neighboring towns. There was one place called Conditory  in  a town called Steinhude that was about 45 minutes to an  hours ride by bike . It had the most delicious Pastries, cakes and ice cream, that I can still taste it. Or, we would go to the lake itself (Steinhuder Meer) where they had little booths set up, that you could have a sandwich, a drink, pastries, or ice cream and gifts. So I would get a Herring sandwich aaaawwwwsum it was sooo good! (Later when I went back with Sal it was one of our important stops.)

We also had a great time in the winter at the lake. We would ice skate and ice-sail with our little sail boat. Can you imagine with a high wind, how fast we  could go.  To get to the lake we had to go on a path that went to the Cassel, (Castle) . The walk was lined on either side with huge Rhododendron bushes that had a beautiful color of deep purples. absolutely gorgeous. We would pass the Castle on our right and then go to a stream where  we would put our little sailboat into the water and sail to the Lake itself. It would be my brother Hermann, me, Hildegard, and her brother Wilhelm, and sometimes, Hildegard’s other sisters, Irmchen , Gerdtrud or Dorchen.   

Now as more time passed, things were changing. Uncle Willy, (Mamma’s friend and Renate’s father), began starting to drink a lot. He also decided to bring his other family that we did not even know about, to live in our town, he had a wife and four children. Can you imagine what nerve? But by then, my mother had already kicked him out, as he was drinking way to much. One day, since he did not like me, he threw a  concrete doggy dish at me, barely missing my head. So good riddance. He became the town drunk and was always walking it’s streets swaying, and could hardly walk. 

 My mother was starting to think about us going back to America. My brother was turning 16, so she thought it would be a good time to send him to his father. The sad part is that our father had already decided to declare us all dead, because after 7 years, with the war on, if you did not hear from a person you can declare them dead, and get on with your life. The only flaw with that was, we were communicating with him during that time, and we had proof. So, he remarried in the mean time as he was never concerned about us. My Brother left 1948 or 1949 for America, as my father said it was Ok for him to come. I don’t know my brothers story when he arrived there, and thereafter. 

After my Brother left, my mother decided that I should learn English. She knew this man, I don’t remember if he was British or American, and he was living with Farmers close by. So I started going to him for lessons. The first couple of times it was OK, but then suddenly he started saying things to me that made me very uncomfortable. Then one time he tried to kiss me and he was grabbing me very tight. I was really scared, and pushed him away from me, and ran away from him, and never went back. When I told my mother, she went to talk to him, but he was already gone and we never saw him again.

When we were still in the house part of the apartment, before we moved into the Barn,  and I was 11 years old, there was a male tenant living in one of the other rooms, so my mother asked him to keep an eye on me when she at work. One morning he came into our apartment while I was still sleeping, and scared me to death, and then started touching me. I screamed and screamed, until our nice neighbor  came in and chased him out. He had also tried something before that, when I was in a hallway, he pushed himself up against me and I felt something wet. Again I screamed, and ran out to our neighbor. He was then asked to leave , and being only 11, I had no clue what he was after.

When I was about 15, my Tante Clara  started to make cloths for me, and once she took me shopping and bought me shoes, under wear, stockings, a dress and a coat. It was a wonderful experience since I had never been to the city of Wonstorf. We had a fantastic lunch, and afterwards she showed me around  the city. It felt like I was in wonderland  and it was so exciting. I had never eaten at a Restaurant. I had also never had new cloths always hand me downs. My Aunt was such a good person to me.

hildagard

Riding bikes with Hildegard just before I left for America in 1951

We had beautiful trees in the back of the house . Apple , Pear, Peach , and Plum.  And Raspberry ,Blackberry , Blueberry and Gooseberry bushes. Plus a great vegetable Garden. This of course was there long before the War destroyed  most of it. We had a beautiful Holiday around Harvest time. All the Farmers would bring the best of there crop of fruit and vegetables to the Church and to the Alter for Blessing. . The church choir would sing, first it was the adults and then the children.

My girlfriend Hildegard  (my best Friends ) and i would Ride Our Bikes to Steinhuder Meer, where we would get a Herring Sandwich-hm! hm! Sooooo good. We would then go into Town to The Konditorei And get Ice cream  or  a delicious Pastry , After all These years I can still taste it. This is The Time When Things were geting better for us.    Well I’m trying to remember all but I’m sure I have forgotten some thing, but when I remember I will then add it in.             

Now comes the time when its time for me to think about leaving to go to America. I do not want to go . I am scared and don’t know what the future  has in store for me. But my mother wants me to go as she says the opportunity will be much better for me in America, as I was an American citizen. The Man ( my Father ) who I did not know what he looked like, was to pick me up at The Pier.

So my adventure began. My Tante Clara took me shopping in Hanover. She was so generous. Her and I had a special bond. She always took care of me. After years of being alone and even while she took care of her Mom ( my Grandmother Oma). When my Oma died she only had herself to care for and me . Then she met a wonderful man named Karl Spreier, and eventually they were married and we’re happy . He used to make his own Liquor in our kitchens big copper tub. I haited the smell, but it was wonderful to see Tante Clara so happy, as she deserved Happiness. 

When Tante Clara and I went shopping she bought me Shoes stockings a dress and a winter coat and other nessesary items. We also went out to eat I had never been out to eat at a Restaurant . It was quite an exsperiance for me. So now I was ready . My  Mother and I had to get all the paperwork for the trip. Then it was time for me to go. It was very emotional and sad to leave my family and friends. Just emagine I had to leave my Mother and little sister who was just 5 years old. And very attached to me. Because I took care of her when my mom worked. She was like a Daughter to me. We did a lot of crying. My Tante Clara came part of the way with us but my Mom and my sister went all the way to Bremerhaven to the pier. I was going on a Freighter, cause we could not afford a fancy Cruise liner. We all went on the Ship, and were introduced to the other passengers, I think there weren’t more about 8 of us. My Mom asked the nice two older women who were sisters, to keep an eye on me, and they were really nice to me.(pictured below)

Now came the time for them to leave the Ship, and I was able to walk back to the bus that was waiting for my Mom and sister. Oh my God, it was Heart breaking. They got on the Bus and my little sister did not know that I was not going with them . She started to cry and then scream and banging on the window. I had to walk away crying my eyes out . The bus pulled away and I was all alone for the first time in my life. I wanted to run after the bus but could not. 

My Mother told me the bus driver felt so bad he went a bought a doll and a doll  carriage for my sister to make her stop crying.  

 

ontheship
Me, my mother, little sister Renata, with two other passengers on the boat just before I was leaving Germany.

So now I am truly on my Own and can’t believe I’m leaving a very small Town in Germany, to go to the biggest City in The world, New York City. I am so scared, but also very very excited . On the ship the accommodations were limited because it is a small freighter. The Captain tried his best to make us all comfortable, so we all had our meals at “The Captain’s Table” and all got to know each other. One of The passengers was a  Young man about my age. I don’t recall his name but he  was nice. 

I did not know tha we were going to make a stop. It turned out that we stopped in Antwerp Belgian  . One of the passengers was getting off. It was in the morning so we stayed for the day and left the need morning. Some of the passengers ask if I wanted to go and see the City. It was great we saw beautiful Churches and ate lunch there. And later a few of us went to see a movie. I was so impressed  it was so exciting for me.  The next morning we were on our way.The Captain allowed us a certain amount of money  to spend in Belgian . 

This is a letter that I wrote to my Mutti ( mother ) when I was on the ship to America which was a Freighter ( no, not a luxury  liner or Cruse ship, but was a small ship) called Adolf Finnen. I am now translating the letter from German to English, and it was written on the ship on May 28th 1951, 72 years ago.

My dear loving Mutti  and my little sister Renatchen. 

Hope are you at Home, did you arrive safely? We left Bremen  sunday at 1:10 lunch time . It was a funny feeling all alone without you by my side all the time. Frau ( Mrs) Gotz,  and I went on the back of the boat together. She is traveling with us, and Mutti, she was the lady you asked to keep an eye on me. She is a very nice lady, and she treated me like a Mother. She give me chocolates and other goodies, and also let me use her Bathrobe because the bathroom is down the hall and I don’t have one, so she does not want me to walk down the hall without one. Dearest Mutti, enough for today as we are ready to eat dinner, and I will write more tomorrow. 

Dearest Mutti I will now continue writing. I woke up at 8:30 AM, and washed and got dressed, and then went to the Dining Room to eat Breakfast. They had a feast ready for us. Mrs Gotz and I went together everyone else was there already. We had Cornflakes with cold milk,sunny side up eggs with potatoes, rolls with butter,  and bread with Wurst and Ham and cheese, also Marmalade. It is now a 1/4 to 11 in the AM. 

Last night we arrived at 9:15 pm in Antwerpen it’s a port for Belgium, and it’s a very big Port. A young man of 17 who I had met, was blind, and was getting off in Antwerpen.  He departed on May 30th . 

Yesterday afternoon I went with some of the Passengers, and a Mr Hollweg, into the City of Antwerpen. We went to the post office first, and then explored a City in the morning, which was a small town near the port. We went to a Movie Theater that was showing a English speaking Film, and I was able to follow the story.

Dearest Mutti send my loving regards to Weillers, Reinhards’, Rabens, Shaers’, Krauses, Edelers,Rubores, Ziemers, Siefried and Hildegard.  I can’t wait until we are together again. Give a big hug and kisses to my little sweet sister Renatchen also regards to her Papa. And the biggest Hug for you sweet Mutti and lots of kisses Auf baldiges Wiedersehen. Your Loving Daughter Clarachen

We all had a great time and then it was time to go back to the ship. The next morning we were on our way. The Ocean was so big and for 2 weeks we saw nothing else. It was interesting to see the different Fish. It was also strange not to see land. For me it was the greatest adventure of my life. The food was good the people were all so nice to me including the Capitan .it certainly was a long trip 2 weeks  and nothing but water all around us. We played games and red books. I also wrote to my mama and every one back home. I missed them so. I was a little nervous about what to expect when I got to New York. I did not know anyone they were all strangers to me. Even though they were family, I did not know them. The Days went on and we got closer to New York. At one point we started to see birds and the Captain said when you see birds, land is near. We were all excited, as we were getting closer to our destination. 

I was so excited to be going to AMERICA !!!!  I don’t remember  to much about the trip, but one  incident stands out. The weather turned bad, and I was just fine as the Ocean was getting really rough.  Some of the passengers and crew were getting sea sick, but to me it was so exciting. The waves  were getting higher and splashing on into the ship, and the ship was going from side to side and really rolling. I, being 16 years old, had no clue just how bad it really was, until I saw the sailors starting to pour oil over the sides into the Ocean. I said to myself, I think I should be worried, so I went down into my cabin which I shared with a very nice older woman, and she was not feeling to well. The rest of the trip was good once the sea calmed down, so I spent most of my time on deck watching the sea, the flying Fish, and other sea creatures.  As we got closer to land we could see birds and knew we were getting close. The last night, the Captain gave us a farewell party. a nice dinner and desert and drinks. I had not had an alcoholic drink before, but they all convinced  me to try just a little bit. So I did it, and it was called Gold Wasser. It was not bad, as it had little Gold flex in it, but being I had never had alcohol before, i got sick and threw up !!!! I did not get sick when the weather was so bad, but the drink I had on that last night on the Ship I got really sick. 

goodversionofclairesship

                               Claire’s ship going to the America, on a rough day

When we actually arrived in New York harbour, it was at night, so we could not dock at the port until the next morning. So I stayed up all night, because I just was to excited to sleep, and as I was looking over the right side of the ship, leaning on the railing, I saw The Statue of Liberty. Oh my God! I could not stop looking at it. I was finally here in America, in New York City where “The Streets are Paved with Gold”. 

Image result for picture of the Statue of Liberty from a boat

Here we all are on the ship after it docked with everyone getting ready to disembark. All my fellow passengers had family to greet them, pick them up, and take them to their home.  I, in the meantime, was waiting as well, but no one came, as my Tante Henny and Uncle Karl were supposed to come get me. Hours went by and no one came. I’m so scared as  I don’t speak English I don’t have any information, no address or phone #.

The Captain saw how worried I was and reassured me not to worry he would let me stay aboard as long as I had to. He said someone will come. After several hours they came, but it was not my Tante Henny or Uncle Karl, it was my Father and his new wife Elsie. Since I had not met them before, I was confused. What I did not know was that my Uncle Karl had a heart attack in the 2 weeks that I traveled and had since died. So my Tante Henny was in no shape to pick me up, and I was so sad because I was so looking forward to meeting them as the first persons for me to see in America. My tante Henny and uncle Karl had 2 children, a boy Fritzy 14, and a girl Helenne that was 5. 

Well my Father acted like a jerk, big shot, and they decided to take me out to eat for lunch. He ordered me a steak. I had no clue what a steak was, not having a lot of choices of food while living in Germany. so I could not eat it and they were not too happy about it. My Father had a car, and I had never been in a car before, so that was a new experience. I did not like the gas smell when he got gas at a gas station, and it made me nauseous, and we then drove to Glendale Queens to my Tante ( aunt ) Henny’s House. I did not know what to expect on what I would find there, because I was told by my father that while on my way over, aboard the ship, my Onkel (Uncle ) Karl had died. So what was supposed to be a happy event for all of us, turned out to be very sad one. It was good to see my Aunt and my cousins, Fritzy  15, and Helene 7 years old, but everything was so different than what I was used to. After my Father left, I started to settle in, and they had a Tv, something I had not seen before. It was so strange for me to see people talking, and moving around, and cartoons, that was a whole new mystery to me. 

After a week or so, my Tante Henny had gotten me a job, and it was working in a private home, as a live-in nanny, taking care of a 10 year old Boy, and a little baby girl who was 1 year old, as well was taking care of the laundry and taking the children down to the playground. They were Jewish family and lived in a high rise apartment, and I was German girl who had just come from Germany, so I don’t think I was in the best situation. I had a bed in the baby’s room and got one day off a week, but a lot of times the lady of the house would make me stay, with one excuse or another. The man of the house owned a factory that made Ladies cloths. 

Little by little, I made friends while I was down in the playground with the children, with some of the other Nannies, and we talked about what we were paid and how many days we had off. They were very surprised when I told them what I was getting paid and that I only got 1/2 a day off on Thursdays. They said that was not fair I should do something about it. I was there 6 months and  by that time it was Christmas. Them being Jewish, they naturally did not celebrate Christmas, but they were very generous to me they gave me a beautiful navy blue Suit. So I had a very nice Christmas with ny family, as my Mother and little sister had just arrived in November. 

So after  Christmas, I told the woman that I was quitting. When I went back to get my things everything was thrown in the hallway they did not talk to me and she took the suit she gave me, back. Now I had no Job!!!! 

S0 now we all moved in with my Aunt Henny and  my 2 cousins. My Aunts house was very small, all she had was a living room, a front enclosed porch, a small kitchen, a upstairs back porch, one very small bedroom and one master bedroom. I can’t recall where she put all of us, but I do remember sleeping on the back porch. As soon as my mother could, she got a job cleaning houses, and of course, I too got a job cleaning houses. My aunt was able to get us the jobs because that is what she herself did. 

I really did not like doing it, so I looked and found a job working as a waitress in a small place called Middle Village Dinette. I stayed there for a little while until I heard that there was a better job opening at a big Diner at Woodhaven and Queens boulevards, and that was actually very famous. I applied and got the job, and I got paid  29 dollars a week plus tips. The funny part was that I made great tips. I think all the guys liked me because I did not speak very much English. So they would talk to me and I did not understand most of it, so I just smiled a lot and they loved it . I made around a hundred dollars a week in tips. That was a lot of money in 1952, and it was really a lot of fun for me. The other girls that worked at the Diner did not like me, as all the Guys wanted to sit at my tables because I was only 17 and they all gave me  the good tips. This is what I looked like at 17 in the back yard on my Tante’s house dressed for work!

metaking

I did not care about the other girls because we needed the money so my mama and I could pay our bills, and take care of my little sister who was just six years old. We both worked very hard to make a go of it, especially my Mama and together we did. My brother had his own problems so we did not see much of him, except when he lost his job and then would always come around, and move into my bedroom, and I would get so mad.  

 My sweet Mama found us an apartment in Brooklyn, NY  and it just  happened to be in the exact same building that we lived in when we left to go to Germany. The apartment was a nice size but it was a railroad flat, and when you walked into the 4 storey building and into the main hall, there was one entrance on the right in front, and also one where you walked all the way down the hall to the last door on the right and then into our Kitchen.  Once you entered into the kitchen and walking along the right  wallthere was the living room, and then down the hall was the first bedroom, and  then further down the hall in the front was the  second bedroom . The bathroom was in the hall with just a toilet and it was also shared by the tenants next door. We had a big bathtub in the kitchen with a white metal cover on it, and a small fireplace that heated the whole apartment, as it was a “cold water” flat. One day I got home before my mama and as I opened the door, there was a mouse sitting on the kitchen floor. I went “choo,!! choo”!! “Get out of here”, but it just looked at me, but when I got really close to it, it finely left.  After that we got a cat, and  did not see the mouse again. We also had a very nice neighbor that took care of my sister when she came home from school, because my mama and I both worked. I was always the one that came home first. 

When I first went to see the apartment, it needed to be cleaned and painted, so when I went to help with my mom, I walked in and when I saw all the Cockroaches I started to cry. My mama said don’t you worry I will get it all clean, and once we paint, they will  all leave. Sure enough they all left, but we did have some once in awhile, and my mama would spray and it was fine again. So little by little we got furniture from friends of my Aunts, which was really nice of them. We started with nothing and really not much money. so we slowly got beds, then a couch, a kitchen set, and other things as time passed and we settled in. My little sister was enrolled in school but we had a problem because she did not speak English, and it took a little while for her to learn, as it did me. 

This is a letter that I wrote to my Mutti ( mother ) while I was on the ship to America, which was a Freighter (no, not a luxury liner or, Cruse ship, but a small ship called Adolf Finnen. I have had to translate the letter from German to English, and it was written on May 28th 1951, 66 years ago.

My dear loving Mutti  and my little sister Renatchen. 

Hope are you at Home, did you arrive safely? We left Bremen  sunday at 1:10 lunch time . It was a funny feeling all alone without you by my side all the time. Frau ( Mrs) Gotz,  and I went on the back of the boat together. She is traveling with us, and Mutti, she was the lady you asked to keep an eye on me. She is a very nice lady, and she treated me like a Mother. She give me chocolates and other goodies, and also let me use her Bathrobe because the bathroom is down the hall and I don’t have one, so she does not want me to walk down the hall without one. Dearest Mutti, enough for today as we are ready to eat dinner, and I will write more tomorrow. 

Dearest Mutti I will now continue writing. I woke up at 8:30 AM, and washed and got dressed, and then went to the Dining Room to eat Breakfast. They had a feast ready for us. Mrs Gotz and I went together everyone else was there already. We had Cornflakes with cold milk,sunny side up eggs with potatoes, rolls with butter,  and bread with Wurst and Ham and cheese, also Marmalade. It is now a 1/4 to 11 in the AM. 

Last night we arrived at 9:15 pm in Antwerpen it’s a port for Belgium, and it’s a very big Port. A young man of 17 who I had met, who was blind, was getting off in Antwerpen.  He departed on May 30 th . 

Yesterday afternoon I went with one of the Passengers, a Mr Hollweg, into the City of Antwerpen . We went to the post office first and then explored  the City in the morning, and where in a small town near the port. We saw a Movie Theater that was showing a English speaking Film, and I was able to fallow the story.

Dearest Mutti send my loving regards to Weillers, Reinhards’, Rabens, Shaers’, Krauses, Edelers,Rubores, Ziemers, Siefried and Hildegard.  I can’t wait until we are together again. Give a big hug and kisses to my little sweet sister Renatchen also regards to her Papa. And the biggest Hug for you sweet Mutti and lots of kisses Auf baldiges Wiedersehen. 

This was the very first time I was away from my family . And from a very small home town  One hour by car away from Hannover . So it was very frightening  and also exciting . It took two weeks to get to New York it was a long journey . We hit a very rough sea in the middle of the journey . The ship was bouncing around like a toy. The waves came over the ship. But silly me I found it very exciting. I stayed on the deck and watched the waves hitting the deck and me until the sailors told me to go below. I went as soon I saw that the sailors were worried . T.hey were pouring oil into the sea  to calm it down. I thought to myself if they are worried maybe I should be too. So I proceeded to go to my cabin. Almost everyone was sea sick not me I don’t know why.

7-6-2017 

The bad storm lasted for a few days. After that the weather was nice. We started to see all different kind of Fish one kind was the flying fish it was interesting to see.  The people that were on board with me were very nice. I was the youngest person on board . There was one passenger he was about 19 or 20 years old. Thought the end of the trip he befriended me. On the last evening of the trip everyone was celebrating  our arrival to New York were there is gold in the streets. And everyone’s dreams can come true. And FEDOM !!!!  The Capitan  served all a drink my new friend invited me to have a drink called gold Wasser  it looked gold and it had gold specks in it . Here I was 16 years old I had not had a drink before . It was powerful  I did not drink the whole glass just a little but it still affected me. I did not get sea sick when we had the rough sea but I got sick when I had the drink. They all felt bad  bit it was just for a little while. The next day we arrived in the. New York Harbor it was so very exciting. We arrived in the evening so we could not dock. We had to wait until the morning. So I went up on deck . And what do I see The STATUE OF LIBERTY !!!!! Oh my God it was a site to behold. I could not believe I it I am in AMERICA !!!! 

So begins a new journey . Everyone departed and met with there family’s. It was a little sad we had spend two weeks together. We all say our good beys and hugged and wished each other well. Now they are all gone and I’m still waiting for my Tante Henny and Uncle Karl to meet me and take me to there home. I wait and wait and no one comes. I’m scared . I don’t know anyone I don’t know were to go. The Captain so me and came over to me and ask me what’s wrong I told him and he said don’t worry you can stay as long as you have to . Someone will come to get you.  About four hours later my FATHER and his WIFE came strolling in like nothing was wrong. ( if you remember he had declared us all dead ) so I was not so happy to see him. I asked what happened to my aunt and uncle ? They proceeded to tell me that my uncle Karl had died of a heart attack a week ago. That was a chock for me. I was so looking forward to meeting him. My mama had told me what a wonderful man he was. It was a very sad beginning for me. Well back to my Father they proceeded to give me my first ride in a car ( a Cadillac )  that was fun. Then they took me out to eat. They ordered me steak I had not had a steak before . I could not eat it. I don’t think that his wife Elsie liked that . Not a good start. We then went to Tante Hennys house were I met my cousins Fritzy and Hellene . He was 15 she was 6 years old . And of course Tante Henny who was very very sad . But she greeted me with love.

I also got to see my first TV  wow what is that. People are moving and talking and singing. There were a lot of first that I got to enjoy. 

Tante Hennys house was very small but she let me stay with he until I went to my first job as a nanny. 

I think I stayed with Tante Henny for one week and then started my job at the Jewish family inForest  Hills NY . It was a family of four. Mother father one son 11 and a daughter  1-1/2    . I was to take care of them the boy was in school so I mostly took care of the baby . I also had to do laundry and feed the children. 

7-8 2017 

So life went on . I was taking the Baby down on the playground which had swings and monkey bars . As I went down every day except when it rained . I was able ti meet other Nannys. We started to talk to each other. So I found out that I was under paid and also they did not give me the time off that was due me. I only got Thursday afternoons off and sometimes she would ask me to stay then too. It was after Christmass  when I decided to quit .  I was at my Tante Hennys house for Christmas. The Wife of  my employer  was not happy that I quit. She had given me a beautiful  navy blue suit for Christmas  . When I went back to get my belongings she had put it all in the hallway and taken away the.suit my Tante Henny got me a job cleaning houses, this is what she did. I did not like it . I did it for a little while . Somehow I don’t remember how I got a job working in a small Dinnett . Which I  liked a lot. By now my Mom and sister arrived. 

My Brother Sonny and I went to Baltimore by the dock that where they arrived on the ship from Germany. We went by Train. It was a very happy day. To finely be back together as a family. But my poor Tante Henny hardly had another  spot for two more people. I was on the coded in back porch . She gave my sister and my mom one of the cuz ins room. She was very generous It was a tight fit. But we all made due. My cousin Fritzy took me to my first Movie  ( singing in the rain  Debbie Renolds and    Gene Kelly ) it was wonderful . He had  a big collection of fish tanks in the basement. And he loved Opera. 

Now my Mutti started to look for work and an apartment for us. She started with house cleaning at first. Then she got a good job at a knitting mill doing piece -work so that was a good start. Now next was finding an apartment for us. She went back to the old neighborhood that we lived in one before, and guess what, she found the very same apartment that we had when we left for Germany in 1939 and now it’s 1951, 12 years later , with the same landlady . My mama was so excited and wanted me to see it. So we went together. The address was 412 Grove street Brooklyn N Y . Well she was so happy that she found it. We walked in and the first thing I saw was cockroaches, and I said ( me being a little brat ) no way am I staying here. My poor mom didn’t need to hear that and she said to me, that in a few days once I clean and we paint it will be fine. The roaches  will disappear when you paint, as they don’t like the smell. So in a week all was done we could now move in. But we did not have any furniture. So my Tante Henny  and her friends started to give us stuff. Like beds, then a kitchen table and chairs, then a couch and so on. The people were so good to us. We now had our own home. It felt really good. Cockroaches poked their heads out every now and then but my mom had it pretty much under control. 

My Mama was a very special person. She had to start her life over 4 times. She was never angry about it just pulled herself  together and did what she had to do. So my Mama and I put our money together to make a comfortable life for her and my 6 year old sister and me. We did ok and sent my sister to dance class, bought her nice clothes and just  made her life happy, as it was our pleasure to please her. I was working at the Knitting Mill by now  and made a few nice friends . One day we won free dance lessons at Arthur Murray’s dance studio and we were so excited. The show was on TV called The Arthur Murray Show . So 4 of us went and it was so much fun that I decided to take a few lessons. When I was finished with the lessons, the people running the studio asked me to stay and begin teaching. So I did but just at night and on weekends. I still had my job during the day I would not quit that . (At this time I worked in the knitting mill.

I loved The Dance studio, as we went to different Clubs with  all the dance teachers and performed on stage. I loved it as we did the Tango , Mambo , Cha Cha , Waltz , Merengue, Polka, Foxtrot, Lindy, and the Bossa Nova and it was so exciting. I felt like a star, but besides that, I enjoyed every minute of it as I made lots of friends . My Mama was not happy because I stayed out so late andshe was worried , but I was 19 years old. I would leave our home at 8:30 pm and would dance until around 12:00 12:30 then have to travel home  by subway, so she had good reason to be worried.  I was young and did not think about danger. The clubs we went to were the Orchid room, The Boulevard and we would go into Manhattan to the Roseland, where one time Pupe’ Canto was there, and another time Cuchi Cuchi the Wife of Xavier Cugat.

 I went dancing every weekend  and sometimes  during the week . One time I went to a club and met a nice couple, Rita Aprahamian and Tony Genovese who were with a  and a friend of theirs called Tony Cuni . Afterwards, we started dating, and at that time he was always fun  telling jokes and besides he had a good voice, kind of like Perry Como. We had met in 1955 and then was married 21st of October 1956.  Rita’s boyfriend Tony did not dance, so Rita would dance with other guys, which was ok as all we did was dance as it was just what we liked to do. Rita and Tony got married in September 1956, and we have been friends for 61 years, a really good and lasting friendship. Tony passed away last year, but me and Rita are still strong friends. While going to dances, I won 7 first place trophies in each of their dance contests with my teacher as my partner. I wish I could remember all the clubs we danced at: Add when you remember

 I don’t want to forget my little sister Renate Charlotte Gisela . She was very much a part of my life, as my mama and I did everything for her that we could. We pooled our money together for our food and rent. And then we put her in dance School for lessons . She had tap and acrobatics she loved it she was very good at it. I use to take her to Arthur Murrays  sometimes and we would practice  all the dances that I knew so we had such a good time. I also loved buying her pretty dresses , as there was an expensive store  that had such beautiful things for her. It was on  Martel Ave in Ridgewood  Queens. I took her everywhere as she was my little companion but I don’t know if she remembers as she only 6 or 7 years old. Ask her!

When I came to America I did not speak. much English. I was not able to go to School as I had to go to work, so I could send  the money I made  to my mama in Germany . This way she could get her American Visa to come to back to America . . I missed her very much as this was the very first time I was away from my mama .  In order for me to learn English I took the German / English dictionary  and would take a new word  that day and write out the spelling – the meaning- and leave it on the refrigerator until I remembered  and understood it. Then I started to read children books . I did know  the English alphabet  and phrases like “Thank you”,  “Please”, and “Hello”,  so that helped a little ha ha ! It was ok I thought myself, as I was courteous and people accepted me. It took a while to learn, but it got better and I went along.

We were really close with Tante Henny and her children, Fritzy and Helene, so the days went by quickly. My dancing with Arthur Murray’s crew was so enjoyable that I just loved it. Little by Little, Tony and I were seeing each other a lot and we double dated with Rita Aprahamian and Tony Genovese all through 1955. They decided to get married in September 1956 and we got married the same year in October. A new life started for me and at first it was very rocky because my new husband,Tony, said that we would have to live with his parents for a while until we could have a house built. His parents lived in Babylon out on Long Island. I was not too happy about it, but I gave in and it turned out to be a big mistake. In the beginning I was still working in Queens and my boss said that I could continue out on Long Island in Belmond and worked there till I became pregnant with my son Perry. The Doctor who was very old fashioned said I could not work any longer, so I stopped. It was the worst choice I could have made, as his parents were not very nice to me. I could not do anything right in their eyes, as I was German and didn’t know about Italian cooking or their ways. On top of that I was Luthern, so that too was wrong in their eyes, as they were Italian and Catholic, and how dare I to marry their son! Tony was no help and didn’t stand beside me or protect me from their meanness. I should have left at that time but really did not know what to do… I was not world savvy and grew up in the middle of World War 11 and had no schooling there or here.

 

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