Land of Opportunity: Emigrant Left Germany to Farm

My father was born in Husun, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, in 1887. In 1904, at the age of 17, he came to America, the land of opportunity. His passage was paid by a farmer near Atlantic, Iowa, in exchange for farm labor. He traveled with a friend, sailed the ocean, came through the emigrant station at Ellis Island, and traveled by train to Iowa. My dad and his friend got separated while boarding the train and ended up in separate train cars. His friend had the good fortune of having their lunch in his possession. Daddy got very hungry before realizing that one could pass from one train car to the next. He also was introduced to his first tomato on this trip. Thinking them to be apples, he bought one. One bite assured him that this apple was rotten, and he threw it away!

He worked hard to earn passage for his brother and two sisters, leaving three brothers in Germany. My father Americanized his name to William Frederick Molek. When he realized that he could not maneuver in Iowa soil in his clogs, he simply discarded them for more American-type shoes. He taught himself to read, write and speak English. He was awarded his citizenship papers in 1939 at the age of 52. He started our Christmas morning tradition of singing “Silent Night”: we in English, Daddy in German.

Though he died when I was only 8, I learned from him that Germans are hard-working, fun-loving people. Daddy would sing and shodish (“schottische,” dance) around our home when he was in a light-hearted mood (which was often). His heart was as big as he was, and he taught my Scot mother to offer callers hospitality, even if it was the last crumb of bread in the house!

Vicki L. (Molek) Christensen
Anita, Iowa

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.