In December 1905, Mama and Papa-recently-married Gustave and Paula-decided to take up their lives in the "Land of Opportunity," possibly to avoid conscription in the army.
They left Budapest, Hungary, for a German port and boarded a steamship headed for America. There was no sponsor for them in America, so they must have had some money. They did have skills: Mama was a hotel cook and Papa, a pastry chef.
Seas were rough. Mama's motion sickness was compounded by her pregnancy. She became very ill, spending most of the 14-day trip in the ship's hospital. Papa remained with the regular passengers. The food wasn't good there, so when he visited Mama, who couldn't stand the sight of the more delicate victuals that she was offered, he gratefully did her a favor and consumed them. He regularly visited her at mealtimes.
Although Papa was Hungarian and Mama was Slovak, they both spoke German, a language common to that European area. After seeing the Statue of Liberty and being released from quarantine, they sought out a German turnverein, a bakers' guild where jobs were posted. Papa earned $4 a week for long hours and Mama, $6. They lived in a poor area in lower Manhattan. Some of the other immigrants they met there became lifelong friends. Six years and two children later, seeking the American dream, they opened their own bakeshop in Brooklyn. Papa soon went bankrupt when he trusted people who bought "on credit" and then refused to pay.
In later years, after becoming naturalized, Papa became Head Pastry Chef for the famous Longchamps Restaurant in New York City. Although he took a drastic pay cut, he worked throughout the Depression.
My folks taught us to love and appreciate our wonderful country.
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.
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