I hope you will consider my story about my father, Vincent Gondol Jr. This is a reverse story. He was born on February 23,1911, at Youngstown, Ohio. His Hungarian parents, Vincent Gondol Sr. and Esther, had settled upon coming to the United States. When my father was 18 months old, my grandmother took him and his sister to Tiszatarjanban, Miskolc, Hungary. My father lived in Hungary for 15 years, while the communist were rounding up all the young men for the military. My grandmother told him, "You are an American citizen, go to the United States." Although my grandmother lived in a communist country, she did not want her son fighting in its army; she just didn't believe in communist ways.
In 1928, my grandmother saved money to pay her son's ship fare. My father left Hungary at 4:30 in the morning; the entire town's population showed up to see him leave for the United States, the land of freedom. Even the band played while he was leaving. My father came back to the United States and didn't know one word of English.
On the ship, my father was seasick for days. He spent all of his money on the ship, even the money for his train ticket when he reached Ellis Island in New York. He stayed with some nuns until his uncle, Steve Adam, sent him money to buy his train ticket to Lorado, Logan County, West Virginia. He arrived at Lorado on November 29,1928.
He had a job waiting for him at the mines in Lorado. He learned English while he worked; he didn't attend school here. My father didn't have a diploma or a degree. He mastered English but never lost his Hungarian accent.
He married my mother, Julia Ann Kohari, on August 25,1934. My sister, Julia Esther, was born on September 20,1935; I was born on January 29,1939.
My father retired from the mines in 1964. He and my mother moved to North Palm Beach, Florida. During the 1970s, my father's nephew's son, Bela, came to Michigan on an agricultural program. My father sent him a round-trip plane ticket to Florida, and they got to spend a week or two together. When it came time for Bela to go back to Michigan to join his group returning to Hungary, my father told him, "Stay here in the United States." Bela told him, "I have to go back to Hungary. If I don't, my country will send my parents to Siberia."
On December 8, 1981, my father died. His ashes were spread on the Atlantic Ocean. I would like to think they reached Hungary once again, as he always wanted to go back there for a visit.
In September 1992, Bela died. Today I write to Bela's 14-year¬old daughter, Katalin. I am so thankful to have her to correspond with; it means that the chain isn't broken. It's like having a part of my father again!
Elizabeth "Gondol" Walls
Kistler, West Virginia
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.