Family Traveled to America in Search of a Better Life

After three weeks on a ship, a mother and her children were excited to see the Statue of Liberty.

| Good Old Days

In November of 1912, our mother, with her mother and two sisters, journeyed by ship, The Martha Washington, traveling 21 days across the ocean in search of a better life and prosperity. She was 12 at the time.

Her family had lived in a small town called Store, near the big city of Celje in Slovenija. At that time it was part of Yugoslavia; as of June 1991, it is independent. They went by train to Trieste, where they boarded The Martha Washington the following day. Mother said it was a huge ship, which was later sunk during World War I by the Germans. The passengers were all given physical exams before they were allowed to board. For awhile they enjoyed smooth sailing and a sunny sky, then suddenly it got cloudy. The wind began to blow and rock the vessel. Mother and one of her sisters who was on deck grabbed a pole so they wouldn't be swept into the ocean, as all the dishes and everything that was not attached were. The sailors came to their aid and took them to their room, where Grand-mother and another aunt were in bed, seasick. The sailors closed the heavy windows, which made the room dark. When the storm subsided and the heavy windows were opened, they could see fish as large as oxen or buffalo, which were following the ship. Mother said they were afraid they might never see land again, so they were very happy when they saw the Statue of Liberty.

When they came to shore, they were told to watch for their trunk and possessions. When they claimed theirs, they were told to proceed. They rode on a small boat for a short while. When they reached land again they were taken to a railroad station in New York. There, for $1 each, Grandmother bought boxes containing salami, cheese, canned meat, bread, fruit, oranges, apples and bananas. They had never seen a banana before and were not sure they were edible. By then they were getting tired but still had a long journey ahead.

They rode the train from New York to St. Louis, where they transferred for the rest of their trip. Their destination was Breezy Hill, Kansas, a small settlement where immigrants came to live near Mulberry, Kansas. At the Mulberry station a man with a horse-drawn wagon was waiting to take them to their home. Grand-father and my uncle were already in America, having come a few years earlier to find employment and a place for the family to live.

My father came from Slovenija to Breezy Hill, too, where his sister and family lived. Our mom worked as a cook at the boarding house where the men without families lived. This was a coal mining area. Mom and Dad became acquainted and were married in 1917. They borrowed the money for three acres of ground in Camp 50, Girard, Kansas. There they built the home where my two sisters and I were born. It cost them $800 to have the new four-room home built, complete with pantry and clothes closet. There was no electricity in the area until later. They had a cow, two pigs and a good number of chickens. They worked hard in the garden to grow a lot of vegetables, which Mother would can in preparation for the winter. With no refrigerators, our mother and the neighborhood women had to prepare everything at the time it was needed. Mother was a good seamstress and made all of our clothes, as well as all the beautiful handiworks: embroidery, knitting, and crocheting, which she did after the rest of her day's work was done.

This was considered a melting pot. People of all nationalities were our neighbors: French, Belgians, Germans, Poles and Italians. Our community was called Camp 50; most of the settlements were named after the numbered coal mine nearest them. The language barrier was a problem but somehow the people seemed to understand one another. Mom and Dad attended adult education classes and learned a lot. They both became naturalized citizens of the United States, and we were very proud of them. I attended classes at the night school because I was afraid to stay at home alone in the evenings. The night school teacher gave me a group of people to teach English to, and when they understood the language, they were promoted to his class, where he taught the Constitution and government.



September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pennsylvania

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