Chapter 9

 

Chapter 9

 

Back home and I can sleep or do anything I want now.  Dad is having some good country ham for breakfast and I am really enjoying it.

Monday I go out with some of the guys and we bought a watermelon from a man that is selling them from a truck. We ate the melon and I began to get sick. I am home in bed I am so sick. Dad called Dr. Raymond Snowden and he came out to see what the problem was. He is not able to diagnos the problem by the symptoms and a couple of days Dad asked Mr. Robert Kelley to take me to Richmond to see Dr. O.F.Hume. We are sitting in front of Dr. Humes office waiting for him to come to his office  and this is in the evening.

We are sitting in Mr. Kelleys car listening to the Joe Louis and Billy Conn fight. Someone had a window open in an apartment and we could hear everything on the radio. Soon Dr. Hume came to his office and after he examines me he said, This young man has a ruptured appendicts and to get me to the hospital as soon as possible. They drove me to the Patty A. Clay Hospital and I was admitted. That night I was operated on and my appendics removed. I woke up with two tubes in the incision for drainage and was feeling lousy from the ether I had taken for anesthetic.

They made me lay for 17 days on my back in bed until I was able to go home. I was still pretty tough from the Army but this took a bit out of me. When Dad and Mr. Kelley came to bring me home Mr. Vernon Thacker came with them. When we got home Mr. Thacker carried me piggy back down the steps to the house as I couldn’t walk I was so weak and they didn’t want me to strain myself walking. Dr. Hume told Dad if it hadn’t been for the penicillin I wouldn’t have made it. I had stayed home so long after I had gotten sick that the appendics were infected. I thought, I escaped the war only to come home to almost die from appendicitis.

I rested around home and began to get my strength back and a few days I was up and ready to go again. No more watermelon for me, And I didn’t eat melon for years after that. I signed up for 52/20 club as we called it. Veterans could get $22.00 a week for 52 weeks or until they were employed. I decided to go back to High School and get my diploma. Now Margie was in school and we would go together. I had some bonds and I cashed them in and bought a car from Virgil Ashcraft. Margie and I would ride to school in this car. It was a 1932 Chrysler convertible coupe. A nice old car with a rumble seat and two tires mounted on the sides in the tire well in the fender. So we were off to school now and I had stopped my 52/20 money and was getting $65.00 a month educational fee under the GI bill of rights. I  enjoyed school now and was really getting into it.

They let me start as a junior since I was given some credit for being in the service and Ms. Happye West was very interested in the fellows that had returned from the service and wanted to finish high school. Ms. West was the Principal of Estill County High school then. There was about ten Veterans that had come back to finish. The coach asked me to play basketball but I was too old now as I was 20 years of age. Margie and I was driving to school and she liked that as we didn’t have to wait for the bus to ride home. We got out of school at 3:30PM and we could be home at 4:00PM instead of after five O’clock in  the afternoon when we rode the bus.

One morning in October the old car wouldn’t start and Margie got a ride to school. Later I got it started and drove to Irvine to get a part at Roy Fikes Auto Parts. It was a small part so I installed it and she started right up. That was the first or second Monday in October as I remember it was County Court day and most all of the men in the County went to town on that day.

 

I was going home and Bill Barnes and Cannes Thacker was riding with me. We were driving up Cow Creek approacking Tip Alexanders store. There was a man ahead of us driving a pair of mules hitched to a wagon. As we got closer the man made a left turn in front of us without looking back to see if the was any traffic coming. I swerved to the left of the road hoping to miss him and the back end of the car hit a culvert and a wheel broke down and all three of us went out the door on the drivers side sliding on the ground. We missed the team of mules and the wagon, But when I went out I had thrown my left arm out to protect myself and my elbow hit the ground with so much force that it was broken and I was bleeding from a compound fracture of the left elbow. The car had gone across the road and hit a small bank and was setting there running.A man came along in a pick up truck and drove us to Irvine and to a Doctors office. He suggested that I go to the Hospital in Richmond due to the survere injury.

Bren Smith owned a Taxi in Irvine and Oscar Thacker was driving it for him that afternoon. Oscar, Bill and Cannes  rode to Richmond with me and checked me into the Pattie A. Clay Hospital. Here I am again in the Pattie A Clay Hospital.I bled all over the back seat of the taxi. I had rested my arm on my left leg and blood had run down the front of my pants and through my clothes and on to the seat of the car. I thought, What a mess Oscar must have had to clean up that back seat. I owe Bren and Oscar one as Bren would never take any money for that trip as I offered later.

I thought what have I done to deserve this? I stayed a few days there with a cast on my arm went back home. The Doctor said I needed an Orthopedic Surgeon and Neuro Surgeon as I had a shattered elbow joint and a Radial Nerve injury. As I was a Veteran he suggested I go to Nichols General Hospital in Louisville, Ky. That was the Veterans Hospital. I made the necessary arraingements and was admitted there in December 1946. That would be a long and painful affair. Finishing High School now had been interupted and I was feeling pretty low. As I got into the recovery schedule I had some free time on my hands and was bored. There was a GED program in the Hospital for Veterans who was convalessing and I decided to attend the school and get my diploma. My records were transferred from ECHS and I started classes in the school. Between my operations and healing time I went to the school. I finally completed the school and took final tests and had been sucessful in passing all subjects. My records were transferred back to ECHS and I received my High School Diploma and graduated with the class of 1947. I wasn’t there to receive it, But Etta Clay represented me at the graduation cermonies and received the diploma for me as I was still in the Hospital.

Since my elbow had been damaged so badly and The radial nerve had died over time I would have limited use of my elbow and I could not raise my hand up with the palm down. The Doctor had given me a choice of a stiff and strong arm, or a weaker limited use arm. I chose the latter and I didn’t want a stiff arm with no control. Time has proven that I made the correct choice. I had finally finished with my surgical program and was taking physical therapy. I told the Doctor I lived on a farm and could get all of the exercise I wanted, so based on that I was discharged from the Hospital and went home.

The hay season was in and I helped Dad put the hay in the barn and got a lot of exercise. This was good as the soreness in my arm was beginning to go away and it was feeling better.Even tho I had limited use I could do many things and soon I didn’t notice it very much anymore. I decided to get a job, The L&N Railroad was hiring station operators so I went to Ravenna and they hired me as an operator with my home base being texola. That was the closest station to my home. Texola had two shifts there. John Chambers ran the day shift and his wife Lucille ran the second shift. I was to learn the job as a student and then I would go on the Extra Board and would go out on a job as needed. I filled in where people were on vacation or they were sick etc. I had a pass so I could ride the train free. I have rode to the end of the line at Neon,Ky. and worked two and three weeks without coming home. I also worked the Mine Run stations in some of the lonliest places in Eastern Ky.

The trains would go back in those mountains and pick up cars of coal and before they could come out on the main line they had to have train orders. I would copy orders for them from the Dispatcher located in Ravenna, Ky. and give the orders to the Engineer and the Conductor. They would follow those orders and enter the main line of the track. There was a lot of traffic on the main line and if they got on the main line without orders and a big freight loaded with over a hundred cars of coal came barreling through there could be a real mess if they collided.

I had a job and was earning some money, But I knew I would be a short timer as an automatic system was being installed and soon the Dispatcher in Ravenna would control the system from Ravenna to Neon, Ky by just turning a switch.This was the Eastern Ky. Division. There was a lot of operators and I didn’t have seniority so I began to think about another job before this one played out.

Mr. Vernon Thacker had been to Michigan working as the employment office in Lexington had sent him there. Since the Texas Company had shut down the operations at Pryse, Ky many men were left without a job and Mr.Thacker had been sent to Michigan to work. He had gotten a job on the Milwaukee Clipper a boat that carried cars and passengers between Muskegon and Milwaukee and return. He was given a job as a waiter serving food and drinks to passengers. He made one round trip and he was back home. That was not for him. When we would loaf at BJ Pendergrasses store he would tell about his experience in Mi. and we would get a big kick out of it. He didn’t drink and didn’t associate with anyone that did much less serve drinks to people. He would say, All they do is drink and dance in Mi. But he said it was a good state and there was lots of good jobs there. I think he was homesick and wanted to come home.I was still working on the Extra Board and the work seemed to be getting less as the regulars didn’t know how long their job would last so they were working more with less time off.

I had saved some money and I thought maybe I would take a trip to Muskegon, Mi. and maybe get a job and stay there. I made final plans and left home on Monday morning September 20, 1948  I rode the bus to Muskegon,Mi When I arrived at Muskegon I went to the employment office and they didn’t have any jobs available. Norge Co, A large appliance company had closed its doors and there were a lot of people looking for a job.

I bought a copy of the Grand Rapids Herald a morning newspaper and it was full of jobs in the Grand Rapids area. I got on a bus and started for Grand Rapids. I was there in about an hour and found a place to stay room and board. I paid the landlady the required weeks room and board and set out to find a job. The boarding house was located at 944 Turner Ave. N. W. in Grand Rapids located on the west side of the city. There a lot of fellows from down South. Ky, Ala, Ind. and Miss. Man I felt right at home. The fellows from Ky. were from Harlan, Ky. I went to a Company name of American Seating Co. for a job. The weren’t hiring so I went back the next morning and the same answer. I went back the third day and I was interviewed for a job. I was hired and was to report for work the next morning September 23,1948. I went to work in the veneer department. The Foreman, Bert Schaendorf gave me a tour of the department and then assigned me a job. There was a great demand for educational seating and desks for classrooms and American Seating was a leader in that field.

It was a very diserfied company. They manufactured School desks, Bus seating for General Motors, Theatre seats, Steel folding chairs, Seating for Baseball Stadiums, Church Pews and Chancel furniture. When I joined the Company there was over 2000 employees working there. They had made parts for the Army during the war and now was was changing back to their regular product lines even though they had continued to manufacture some of their own products during the war. Ernie Pyle, A War Correspondent during World war II sat on an American Seating folding chair up near the front typing his report to send back to the States. Just about all classrooms were equipped with American Seating desks and teachers desks. If you rode a Greyhound Bus you sat on American Seating seats. Also in Baseball Stadiums and in MovieTheatres. They made the finest Church Pews and hand carved Chancelery Furniture in the world. There were three hand carvers employed there when I went to work  for the company. They were Master Carvers.

In my department, We would select the veneers and they would be plyed up and sent to other departments for machining and on to finish. We did theatre backs and Church parts also. Anything that was wood we did it or started the process. I would select the outer veneers and they would be used on the outside of a desk top, Theatre back or chair seat. The plys would be sent through a glue spreader and put in a hot press and allowed to cure for a few minutes and then removed and placed on a skid to cool. We had flat presses as well as curved presses and compound curve presses for seating.  When I joined the company I was asked to give two  references. I gave Mr. Vernon Thacker and B.J.Pendergrass as references. There was a probational period of thirty days I had to serve before I could become a regular employee to see if I was capeable of doing the job. After 30 days I was a permanent employee and they had checked my references. Mr. Thacker and B.J. told me later that they had been contacted by the company and they had sent the references. I suppose they had done a good job as I worked for the Company  21 years before I left for a better position.

I had met a guy from Indiana at the boarding house. His name was Clement Baumeister and he was from Tell City, Ind. He was a tall guy about 6’6″ and had red hair so we all called him Red.  He said, Lets go out tonight. I have a girl friend and she has a friend so maybe you can date her. We went down on Leonard St. which was a busy place away from downtown.

There were all kinds of stores, You could shop there and get just about anything you wanted. We hung around the bars and restaurants. We played shuffleboard and drank beer. A lot of the fellows from the boarding house hung out there too. That evening we were to meet the Ladies at a restaurant. We walked in and they were sitting at a booth and Red introduced me to the girls. Reds Girl was named Yvonne Hicks and the other Girls name was Sena Clay. Yvonne was wearing a cast on her wrists and Sena was wearing a cast around her waist.

They had fallen from an upper level porch and Sena had broken her back and Yvonne had broken both of her wrists several weeks prior and they had just about recovered now. We sat around most of the evening eating and drinking pop and talking.  Sena and I seemed to hit it off and  later I walked her home. She lived only ten minutes away. When we got to her home she invited me in and we sat and talked. She said her Mother had been divorced from her Dad earlier in 1947 and that her Mother worked and she baby sat for her younger sister and brother. She had an another brother younger than she was but he could take care of himself.

Sena was 17 years old and her brother Archie, sister Lorraine and baby brother Billy. Billy was four or five years old then. Her Mother was out for the evening and she came home while I was there and Sena introduced me to her and soon I went back to the boarding house for the night. The next evening Senas mother said to her, Who was that old man you was with? Why are you hanging around with an old man? I was 22 years old. We would laugh about that later.

Our relationship was growing. I would see her as often as I could and we began to walk to her to her Grandparents home to visit them. They were nice people and were in their Golden years as he had retired many years before. Their names were Hiske and Klasina Onstwedder.He was a cement contractor and built sidewalks and driveways for a living. They were from the Netherlands. Mr. Onstwedder was a Seaman in the Netherlands and sailed all over the world. He started at a very young age as a cabin boy on ships and as he grew older became a seaman. He would go out on ships and be gone as long as a year before he could go home to see his family. How he happened to come to the United States was his ship had sailed to New York and his ship had been quariteened with small pox and they would not let the ship go back to sea. He was healthy but other sailors were sick so he had to stay in N.Y. He had some relation in Grand Rapids that had migrated to the US earlier and after an exchange of letters Mr. Onstwedder came to Grand Rapids and lived with his relation for a time. After he was established he sent for his family and through a Churches help was able to bring his family to America. This was in the early 1900s. Senas Mother was born in 1909 and they came to America when she was 4 years old.

The family lived in a small city called Stadskannal ( Canal owned by the State or Province) in the Province of Groningen, the Netherlands. Mrs. Onstwedder ran a grocery store and saloon and attended the canal and let boats through and earn money to feed and clothe the children. Mr. Onstwedder would send money home when he had the opportunity. They had quite a large family. They had seven children,two sons and five daughters..By age there was Miner,Henrietta,Sadie,Grace,John,Christine and Sally. Their names in Dutch were very different than the names they took when they came to the Srates. Christine was Senas Mother and would later become my Mother in Law. They all came through Ellis Island and became naturalized American citizens with the help of the Church in Grand Rapids that represented them.

This is a story  Mr. Onstwedder wrote about his life as a seaman

 

Brief Stories of My Life As a Seaman

Hiske (Henry) Onstwedder, Grand Rapids, Mi. 1875–1953

 

My earliest recollections go back fifty two years ago to a small quiet country community in the Netherlands known as Nieuwe Pekela. It was there I was born on September 16, 1875.

I was only 14 years old when I decided to become a sailor so in the latter part of 1889 I left my home to go to Delfshaven, a suburb of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Here I boarded a schooner by the name of “Anna”. We took on cargo (ballast) and were towed through Nieuw Waterweg, or Maas River into the North Sea.

I already thought I was a seaman, but when we came out into the open sea, I found I was not. After I overcame the initial shock of it, it wasn’t so bad. As we travelled on we came to the English Channel. On one we could see France (Calais), on the other side England (Dover). After passing through the English Channel, we entered the great Atlantic Ocean. We passed Finnestrere and after some days we again saw land. we were now entering the Strait of Gibraltar. In very clear weather it is possible to see land on both sides. On your left the Rock of Gibraltar and on the right Africa. This is said to be the strongest fort in the world. It is very high and you are able to see it from quite a distance. Every vessel, no matter from which country is compelled to show its colors both day and night when passing the fort. On another trip I actually entered the harbor of Gibraltar, and have more to say of this fort later.

As we proceeded we had a stoong headwind to contend with, but were very fortunate in having a strong current with us. Perhaps you did not know, but there is a stream or current for about five miles into the Mediterranean Sea. Where all  this water goes no one knows, since the Mediterranean Sea is just like a lake with no outlet and not much of a tide. In comparison, England, Holland and other lands have a tide which is known as the “Spring Tide” with a variance of 20 feet and at times even more.

We were gaining all the time and the coast of Spain came into view now and then. Finally we saw what we had been looking for, namely, a pilot ship. It had the name “Benicarlo” in its sail and the Spanish flag on top. We put our flag in the front mast, this being a sign we were looking for a pilot. They came close to us and shouted “espanjols” (hello). Our skipper said “Si sinjosa” and explained he wanted to go to Bencarlo, so the pilot boarded our ship and took over command.

 

It was the first time I had ever seen a Spaniard, and I did not receive a very good impression as I compared  this pilot  with the Holland pilots I had seen back home. They were always very tidy and clean in their neat uniforms, but this pilot was just the opposite as he was not even wearing a uniform. Soon we came in sight of Benicarlo and as there is no harbor there, we had to anchor about a mile from shore.The Spaniards came along side with all kinds of fruits such as grapes, oranges and even wine. What a tough looking bunch, so ragged and dirty. As I said before, my first impression certainly was that I didn’t think too highly of them. Their conduct and filthy language did not at all change this. As a boy of 14 years, I was indeed stunned by such a low class of people.

 

We were unloaded of our ballast which consisted of barrels of water. These were emptied and refilled with various qualities of fine wines. After the cargo was loaded we left, bound for Rotterdam. We had stormy weather most of the way back and I was getting a good many bumps. The older seamem told me that I didn’t have my “sea-legs” yet. Finally we reached the Netherlands and went to the Depot Harbor in Rotterdam to unload our cargo.

 

I did not go out on this same vessel again. It probably was a good thing since this boat was captured by pirates coming back from the Mediterranean sea. These pirates who live on the coast of Morocco are fishermen by trade. In calm weather it is just too bad for the vessel that falls to their prey. They would take anything they wanted, loading their small a boats and then going to shore to dispose of their loot and returning for more.

 

The current of which I spoke before would bring the large ships quite close to shore, this of course was to the pirates advantage. Coming in groups of 30 to 40 small boats with 3 or 4 men in a boat and being well armed, it was easy for them to board large vessel. The Skipper and the First mate were the only ones on the ship to have guns to resist their brutal attack. Sometimes they went so far as to kill the crew and sink the ship after looting it.

 

While raiding the ship of which I am speaking (the schooner “Anna”), the Captain and Mate were both wounded. When the pirates came aboard the crew hid away. As the pirates were taking some of the loot, a stiff breeze came up affording the crew an apportunity to escape. They hoisted the sails and set course for Gibraltar under direction of the Mate who had been wounded in the legs. The Captain, J. Velris died. The Mate, Wieger Smit. was a cousin of my then future wife, Klasine Meyering, both coming from Nieuwe Pekla, Holland. The Holland government was notified of this brutish attack and sent a Man O’ War ship to Algiers to demand restitution for all the damage that had been done. The Government of Morocco settled it. I could write much more of this trip, but it is not my intention to write a book.

 

After spending some time home on furlough, I went to Rotterdam aboard a Brigg, a vessel that has more sails than a schooner. We had a mixed crew on this trip, Germans, one Norwegian, etc. We went from Rotterdam to the North Sea, then through Skagerak and Kattegat. We could see Copenhagen, the capitol of Denmark, and on the other side lay Helsingborg, the capitol of Sweden. We came to the Hallbo, a “light-ship” and then on into the Baltic sea. We also saw Oland and Gottland, Swedish Islands.

 

We at last saw Kronstadt the fore-harbor of Petersburg (now Pedrograd) and there I made my first contact with the Russians. I had already been warned to place my belongings under lock and key before entering the port, as the Russians would take everything but “hot irons’and “millstones”. The Russians are a hard looking bunch and again I was disappointed with such people.

 

Everything in the harbor was built of wood, so as soon as ths ship moored, two cossacks (soldiers) were sent out to do fire duty. About all these cossacks wanted to do was to eat and sleep. It was the middle of May, but there was still plenty of ice in the harbor. The weather was clear with a lot of sunshine, but it was still cold. There also was quite a bit of sickness on shore. (cholera)

 

As we were unloading our cargo the next day, the skipper asked me to accompany him to the market to get a supply of fresh vegetables and meat. After making the purchases, he asked me if I could find my way back to the ship. I told him I though I could, “good” said he,”then I will go to see the ships broker to arrange for our return cargo and you can return to the ship”. I thought it would be a simple matter to find my way back, but I must have taken a wrong street, for I soon realized that I was lost. Being unable to talk the Russian language, I found myself in a bad situation. I asked a policeman standing on the corner, in German language “bitte cannen sie mia sagen sher du schiffe liegen?” He answered “nyet pojaemajo” Meaning “I don’t understand you”.  I at last saw the milkman from whom I had bought milk aboard our ship that same morning and he could speak the German language and so could direct me the way back to the ship. He knew I was lost and he came running after me. It was very late in the afternoon when I finally got back. The meat that I carried was intended for the noon meal. So you see I was not the only one that suffered from my unpleasant experience. The skipper had been back some time already.

 

Never before had I seen as many prayer booths. People walking along, and when coming to a statue would kneel right in the street and make crosses until they were out of sight. Some would drop money in boxes provided for this purpose near the altar. I could not help but notice that it was just the poorer class of people that went through these elaborate cermonies. The richer class merely lifted their hats as theY passed by.

The laboring class seemed to be a rather dirty and uneducated group. They seemed to spend most of their time out of doors, wearing very heavy clothes, and never bothering to clean them. When they got new clothes they did not bother to take off the old, but would put the new on over the old. you can well imagine how, through this neglect of their personal appearance, they would soon become “lousey”. Much of their spare time was spent in going through their apparel for “cooties”

 

The men worked ten hours a day for the sum of 37 copek, (25 cents American money). When at work, they had a man standing over them with a whip, watching so they would not lag behind in their task. If they failed to do the required amount of work, he would shout” rabbotam, rabottam” (work work) and strike them on the back with his cruel looking whip. All they had to eat was course, sour rye bread and salt herring. I was told that there are only two classes in Russia, the rich and poor, no middle class.

After our cargo had been unloaded we went to a factory where fertilizer was made. This was pressed into packs of 200 pounds. These would come down a chute and into the ship. Once our ship was loaded, we set sail for Rotterdam. Reaching there we mustered out and I was glad to be home again.

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My next trip was aboard the Nedl. Barkship “San Francisco”. The Captain was H. Leeuw. It was a very beautiful ship and was formerly an American ship before it became stranded on the coast of Holland. After the winter storms had subsided and with the approach of spring, some Holland men found it and after examining the hull, decided to tow it in and repair and rig it up for use again.

Taking on a cargo of coke in Delfzyl, Netherlands we set sail for Oseelosund, Sweden. There are many foundries there due to the abundance of iron, avery iron too (about 80%). We secured the services of a pilot and tow boat and were towed down the Eems River. Directly across from us we could see Emden, a town in Germany. Soon we entered the North sea and our pilot was taken off our ship to a pilot ship which lays in the North Sea almost continually for service of incoming boats. We passed Kaltegat and then came into view of Elseneur, Denmark and so into the Baltic Sea.

 

We passed Aland and Gathland and then proceeded toward the coast of Sweden. We saw the light-house of Oseelosund. Giving the necessary signals with flash-lights the pilot ship came to us and inquired as to our destination. After telling them, they put out a life boat to bring us a pilot. I was at the wheel when he came aboard. After greeting the captain and officers he looked at me and said “kan du tale Swenska?” I answered yes” he then looked at the compass and directed the course we had to take. As we entered the pier, anchor was dropped and we waited for a tow boat. After being towed into the harbor (about 9A.M.) they started to unload our cargo. In a few days we again were on our way, further into the baltic to a place known as Hernosand, also in Sweden. Here we took on a load of lumber which was to be taken back to the Netherlands.

 

We were treated well by the Swedish people and I enjoyed my short stay very much. They are a tidy and deeply religous people. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a Swedish boy of my own age, Albert Strumland by name. He helped me to gain a better knowledge of the swedish tongue, and by the time I left I was able to both read and write the swedish language.

Alberts parents lived on a farm far back in the woods. They were pretty much isolated from any contact with the rest of the world, espically during the winter months. Their winters are very cold with plenty of snow to accompany them. Their summers are very short. during the winter they had times when they would see no one outside of their immediate family, for about three months. Caring for cattle was all they had to do during these times of isolation. The women made their own clothes with large spinning wheels. Coming back to Holland I took my leave of the “San Francisco”

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Next I boarded a three mast schooner of which L. Veldman was the Captain. We went to Germany for our cargo and from there to Helsingfors, (now Helsinki) Finland. When we arrived here I heard the Finnish language for the first time. Swedish and Russian is also spoken here. Finland formerly belonged to Russia, then Sweden later secured its independence. Helsinfors was a nice town, reminding you somewhat of a Swedish town, as most of the people spoke Swedish. We took on a load of lumber and set sail for the town of Delfzyl, Netherlands. Here I mustered off and spent a few weeks at home.

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After my brief vacation, I went aboard the schooner “Regnerus”, J. Arends was the Captain. The ship was laying in at Harburg, Germany a suburb of Hamburg. Harburg is Germanys largest port. I reached here by train. The ship was in the Wharf being repaired and the growth on the bottom of it being cleaned off. This took about two weeks. We were towed to Hamburg, and took on a load of clay. This clay is pressed together in squares and is used for making dishes and other pottery. This load we brought to Russia. Here we reloaded with long logs to be taken to Hamburg, Germany.

Hamburg is a very large city, the ships lie mostly in stream on so called “duck-dalfs”. When one wants to got to shore,a flag is raised. This is a signal for a small passenger boat to come out and get you. You must know which flag to raise as each dock has its own flag. If the A flag is put up, then a boat from the A dock comes  to get you, if the B flag is raised, a boat from the B dock comes for you, etc. These boats ard always ready to serve you, wheather it is night or day, Sunday or Holiday. The charge for bringing you to  shore during the daytime is 10 phenning (4 cents in American money). It is double this amount for night service.

At night, lights are used for signaling in place of the flags. Three lights above one another and a flashing of them as per instructions constitutes the signal. The signal is answered at once except in the winter time when there is ice to contend with. The charge also is much higher then, about four marks (1 dollar American money).

One night three sailors and myself decided to go ashore, so we signaled for the Jollonfound, as they are called, and we were taken to shore. But it so happened that we were taken to the wrong dock. there we stood , stranded, as there would be no more boats coming to this dock that night. We were really in quite a situation; our ship at least 600 yards away. How could we get back? To swim in that cold water was out of the question, to remain there in the open didn’t seem so desireable either, as the temperature was near zero. We decided to get the attention of someone on our ship, but everyone was asleep so our yells were of no avail.

We walked to and fro to keep warm but soon tired of this. We did find an old discarded fishing boat and after looking  it over decided to take our chances with it. Using old boards for oars we set out for our ship. The discarded fishing boat leaked so badly that two of us were kept busy bailing out the water. We approached the ship as close as we dared for we had to be careful lest the ice and current would dash us against the large ship. We jumped for the valreep and so on ship. One of the fellows missed the ladder and fell into the water, but we soon rescued him. Giving the old fishing boat a shove, it went down stream and that was the last we saw of it. We were cold and soaked to the skin but then a sailor is used to that. After retiring we dreamed of the old fishing boat. The next morning we had to explain how we got aboard and had to tell a little white lie, as we didn’t care to be punished for pushing the old fishing boat down stream.

Leaving the mooring place,we went to the pier to load cargo for the Baltic. We went to Sweden for a load of lumber which was to be taken to the Netherlands and so home once more.

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My next trip was aboard the Adelaar, a three mast schooner, J. Middel was the Captain. We took on cargo at Delfzyl, Netherlands and went through the North and Baltic Seas to Copenhagen in Denmark. From here to Sweden and Russia and home again.

 

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I made another trip with the “San Francisco with H Leeum as captain and what a trip that was. With our cargo loaded we started for Finland. As we entered the North Sea a terrific storm came up.  We had left Friday afternoon and by Sunday the storm had become hurricane. The waves were as high as an average house, the crew stood by prepared for any emergency that might arise. In the afternoon I had the watch below and with my oilskins and boots on I attempted to get a little rest by lying in my bunk. The ship-boy (14 years old) was in the lower bunk.

I was suddenly aroused by a ear splitting crash, it seemed as though the ship was being split to pieces and was about to capsize. I jumped out of my bunk and the water came up to my hips. The water rolled from one side to the other. I grabbed for the boy as he was in the lower bunk covered with water. He was very frightened, as this was his first trip on the sea. I did my best to retrieve as many of our personal belongings as possible which was floating on the water. I told the boy to stay below deck and I tried to go on deck to see what had happened to our ship and men.

The boat lay on its side making it hard for me to reach the passage to the deck. Finally, through a sliding door I managed it. I looked about and what a sight I beheld. Our reelings and masts had washed overboard, our life boats gone and not a soul in sight-nothing but the hulk left. On hands and knees I started to crawl to the cabin. The wind was blowing so hard that it made it impossible to stand up and even while crawling. I reached the cabin and fortunately found the rest of the crew unhurt, they had taken refuge in the cabin.

They were looking at the map to determine our position, and we were trying to decide what would be the wisest thing to do.The Captain said that they saw the breaker coming and all went below.They had thought the boy and I were “goners” The Captain said that we could drift for about 24 hours then we would strand on the rocks of Jutland, so let us get the life boats ready. I told him this was not necessary as the waves had taken our life boats. There was nothing left for us to do but wait.

The mate asked about the condition of our ship, so we made an inspection tour and found it leaking badly. Our only hope was to keep the vessel afloat was to keep pumping the water out, and this we proceeded to do.

There were twelve men in the crew including the Captain, mate, second mate and cook. We started to pump, two men at a time, changing off every fifteen minutes, making one  turn every ninety minutes. We continued pumping  from Sunday evening about 6:00 P.M. until Wednesday 8:00 A.M. We were fortunate in keeping the boat afloat that long, and running aground on the coast of Jutland. The storm in all its fury subsided. The wind died down and shifted to the opposite direction so that instead of pushing us toward shore, it was slowly taking us sea-ward. as I look back over this near calamity, I see the hand of the Almighty God was certanly leading us and guiding us to safety. These waves, or breakers as they are called by seamen, almost demolished our vessel. The wind pushes them from a long way off, and when they roll toward shore, where the water is shallow, they destroy everything in their path.

Our cargo had shifted over to one side so the ship could not be straightened up again. On Wednesday morning, we sighted a steam boat. They saw our distress signals and came close asking if we were sinking and if we wanted to leave the vessel. The Captain told them that we did not want to leave but rather, be towed in. The weather was good and we were in higher spirits, although we had not had a single warm meal, coffee or sleep all this time. Our cooking utensils were ruined, and our bed clothing was soaking wet. During this time we lived on hard bread, dry meat and water.

The boat which came to our rescue was a German steamer bound for Hamburg, Germany. We gladly accepted her aid. After the Captain had made the necessary arrangements, we started our slow journey to the Eoms River,Netherlands. We had to proceed slowly due to a defect in the sterring mechanism. Thursday morning we reached the coast of Netherlands,secured a pilot and by noon had gotten another boat to tow us into the harbor. Here we got a well earned meal and a much needed rest. We sure felt better after we cleaned up and put on some dry clothes. the cargo was taken off, and after a thorough inspection it was decided that the vessel had to be rebuilt before the next voyage. In two months time it was ready to again take to the sea. We set sail for Sweden and this time did not have any trouble. We took a load of lumber back. It was now the last part of December and winter had set in. The vessel was laid up for the winter and we went to our homes to wait for spring.

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With the coming of spring I signed up as first mate with the two mast schooner Hannanna Alberdina. Smit was the Captain. The skipper lived in Appingedam, Netherlands, near to where we lived. The ship lay in Hamburg, Germany with a few men aboard, and the Captain asked me to go there and get things in order as he wished to spend a few more days home with his family.

I reached Hamburg on the train at midnight and had quite a time finding the ship at that hour of the night. I located the ship at last. It was laying on the duck-dalfs so I had to figure out some way of getting out to it. The men on board were sleeping so it was useless to even try awakening them. I finally got a boat from another ship to take me out there. After I got aboard, I had to awaken the crew. The first one to greet me was a Frenchman. He asked what I wanted and I informed him that I was to be their mate. I used my papers to establish my identity.  They helped me get my belongings on the ship and I turned in for the night. The next morning I took over command and we started to get things ready to go to sea. After a few days, I contacted the ships broker and employed a tow boat to take us to our loading dock. Here a load of merchandise was taken on for Inverness, Scotland. when the ship was about half loaded the Captain came aboard with his wife and three of his children. We went down the Elbe River and out into the North sea.  In a few days we came to the coast of England and thence to the harbor of Inverness. Here we unloaded and took on a cargo for Stavanger, Norway. After this we took a load of sea grass to Sweden. This grass is processed then used for various things such as iodine, etc. From England we took a load of pressed clay through the Baltic Sea to Koningbergen.

By this time it was getting late in the fall with storms and winter weather again at our door. The Captain tried to get a cargo to return home and lay the ship until spring. The crew was anxious to get back home, as was the Captains wife who was getting lonesome for the other children at home.

Not being able to get a cargo home, he was offered a high price if he would make a trip further north up the Baltic. As first mate, I advised him not to make this trip due to the bad weather that soon would  be upon us.  He still insisted on going so I gave him a good excuse and he granted me permission to leave. I left by train from Koningsbergen, going through Prussia and in three days I was home with my family.

About ten days later we read in the paper that the ship was lost. It was never heard from again, nor was any wreckage ever found of it. The Captain, his wife, the children and crew went down with the ship. How glad I was that I had not gone on that last trip with them, if I had you would not be reading this now.

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It was in the spring of 1903 when I started out aboard the German sailing vessel “Viduia” for the west coast of South America. Part of the crew had been mustered in Rotterdam and the rest in Hamburg, Germany. We were loaded with a load of miscellaneous merchandise.

Crossing the Equator  on the east coast of South America, we entered the strait of Magellon and Cape Horn, the furtherest point south of the Americas. Here we ran into a fierce storm. A raging north wind had to be bucked and in order to do this we had to use the small sail. We counted at least fifteen large steam-ships that were also battling the storm. Most of these were of the Kosmos line, a German company.

At times we took on so much water it became necessary to turn our ship about, with the wind, to save ourselves and the ship. This is called “halzen” or sailing for top and tackle. After the storm had blown itself out, we checked our position and found we were way off our course. We returned to the place from where we had drifted and again proceeded. We stopped at Valparos, Chile and from here to Falcahuano, Peru. While here we learned that our ship was not to return to Europe. Freight rates were so high on the west coast that it was decided they would gain financially by remaining perhaps, for two years and just sailing between the local ports and the states.

When one signs up to sail with a ship it is understood that you must stay with the ship until it returns to home port. On this particular trip  we signed up with the understanding that we would go just to the west coast, dispose  our cargo, reload and immediately return back home.

The companys position could easily be understood. As long as they could make big money they would stay. What did it matter if the crew dissented? They knew that according to International Law we could not leave. We had contracted with them for a set wage and the fact that they would now make much more would not in the least increase our wage. (I am taking time to explain this so that you may somewhat realize our position.)

Five of us made up our minds to desert the ship and try to get a job on another boat back to Europe. If they did not care to be loyal to us, neither would we be true to them. I was sailmaker on the ship and shared a room with the ships carpenter. We had priveleges not held by the rest of the crew. When in port we could go to shore if we wanted to.

We were anchored about a quarter of a  mile from shore and the officers had a small boat hanging over the  side which they used to go to and from shore. We came to the conclusion  that this would be just the thing to carry us to shore. So, one dark night we made our plans. We placed our belongings in this boat and at 2 A.M. planned to make a dash for shore. Someone must have become suspicious because when we returned to make the break, the boat was pulled up out of the water.

This did not keep us from making the attempt, however. The five of us got in and I had the command to lower the boat. What a noise it made as it was being lowered. It seemed a long time until we reached the water. we finally reached the water. Since I was in the back part of the boat, I unhooked the tackle there. I told those in the front to unloosen theirs but they were too late. The Captain and first mate stood above us and threatened to shoot if they did. The alarm was given and the crew all came on deck. They pulled the front part of our boat out of the water and the order was given to rehook the stern tackle and come aboard up the rope ladder. I refused to obey and they pulled the boat all the way up. We were licked but secretly decided to try again at the next port.

The penalty for desertion is very severe. They can confiscate your wages and put you in prison but in spite of this we decided to try again at any cost. Two weeks later we reached the large harbor of Callao,Peru. This time we anchored along side the shore so we could walk ashore, however, there were certain obstacles to overcome. The port was protected by a high fence and a guard house which had a guard on duty 24 hours a day. Without a written passport signed by your officer you could not gain entrance to the town. Under the circumstances the Captain did not think there was much chance of us trying to escape.

I contacted a man that operated a seamans boarding house and informed him of our plans. He gave me four forged passports to be used in passing through the gate. I was warned not to mention his name in case things went wrong. Later I found out that the harbor police were in the same business as this man. They make their money by trying to get seamen to desert the European vessels and then hire them out to different ships. In this situation, it sure was true that “money talks”.

That night the others and myself took as many clothes as we could carry and left. Again our well made plans went astray. someone must of seen us packing and told the skipper. We just got a short distance from the ship when the 2nd mate ran to tell the guard at the gate that we were attempting to get away and not to let us through. He also notified the harbor police. He returned and started to fight with us. however, he was on the losing end and got plenty. It was not much trouble to evade the harbor police. We saw them at various times, searching for us and at last to our relief they gave up. It was 2:30 in the morning when we came out of our hiding place to talk things over.

We hid our clothing on other anchored ships. Mine was stowed aboard the English ship “Eaton Hall” but unfortunately my companions hid theirs on a German ship of the same company as the boat we deserted. The passports that we carried were of no value as the guard knew of our escape. Since I was the only one who could speak some Spanish, the other fellows wanted me to go to the guard alone and see if I could persuade him to let us through. They kept out of sight as I went, although they would be at my side in a moment if I got into and difficulties. As I approached the guard the first thing he said was ” you are one of the four fellows who ran away from the German vessel. I told him that he was right. He replied that he was sorry but could not let us pass through. I explained to him that we had mustered this trip with the intention of returning home immediately after this trip to the west coast, but now the company was to charter the ship for at least two more years. I told him that we were married men and had already been away from home eight months and were anxious to return home.

He said that if he let us through and it was found out he would lose his job. He suggested we swim across the harbor to a town about a quarter mile distance. This did not appeal to me as we would then be apt to be picked up by the harbor police who guarded the harbor night and day. I continued to talk to him and finally he started to give ground and asked me where my buddies were. I gave the signal and they came thinking I was in trouble.

Upon our promise not to tell on him if we got caught but to say we swam across, he passed us through the gate. Using much caution we entered the town which was strange to all of us. It was 4:00 A.M. and the people were already going to work. The town police eyed us suspiciously when we asked the location of the boarding house to which we wanted to go. We met an old seaman and he offered to take us there.

By daybreak we reached the hotel and after having lunch we were shown to our rooms. We were told to remain in our rooms until the police gave up searching for us. The following day someone was sent to get our clothing from the ships on which we had hid them. He succeeded in getting mine but could not get those of my companions. Theirs had been found and the crew on the ship refused to turn them over.

My partners decided to slip out under the cover of darkness to go after their belongings. I warned them of the danger of doing this and told if they did this I might never see them again. In this I was correct as they were caught by the harbor police, returned to their ship, and placed under arrest. When the boarding master heard of their plight he was very angry because they went without  his consent. He warned me to be especially careful. After a few days I became restless and wanted to see the town. Being alone I knew I would not be recognized as readily and this gave me added courage.

Almost at once I was stopped by the police. I had the forged identification papers with me and this caused them to let me go. As soon as I was out of sight I did my best to put as much distance as possible between them and me.

According to International Law, when a ship leaves a port they have no claim on anyone that has deserted that vessel. In a few days my ship left the harbor and when they were three miles out I became a free man. I could now come and go as I pleased. I visited the harbor looking for a ship bound for Europe.

I met two sailors who looked rather downcast here. I could see they were German and addressed them in their native tongue. I learned that they too had deserted their ship and did not know where to go. I offered to take them to my boarding house and they gladly accepted. Their ship was still in the harbor so they had to remain under cover for the time being. Since a seamans belongings are expensive and valuable and hard to replace, they asked me if there was some way for them to retrieve their clothes from off the ship. I told them perhaps we could figure out some way.

About this time a ship entered the port of Callao to be loaded for England. We were very fortunate in getting a job on this ship. The name of the boat was “Luck Finlass”, the Captain was “Evans”. We set sail for Greenock, Scotland and arrived The three of us got jobs on a local boat that sailed between harbors. We did not intend to stay with them very long as our only aim was to get back to Europe. We had to work hard but we were well paid and enjoyed the best of food. We stayed on this boat for two months. After we were paid off, My German friend and I took the train  to England and from here we got a boat for Rotterdam. We had encountered a bad storm and most of the passengers became seasick. Early the next morning we arrived in Rotterdam and here I took leave of my friend. We corresponded for a time but later I lost track of him.

So now finally I was headed home to my loved ones. I did not know ,just what to expect as it was two years and four months since I had seen or heard from them. I later learned they had all but given me up for dead. I found my dear wife and children in good health and we were certainly happy to be reunited. My heart was saddened, however, when I learned that my loving mother had departed from this life to be with her Lord six months before. This was my longest voyage, and surely a trip full of adventure.

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Next I made a voyage on a schooner that had just been built. The skipper had sailed on lakes but had never had any experience on the ocean. He was well educated but lacked the necessary experience. This time I was hired as first mate. He had just been married a short time before we set sail. We loaded in Delfzyl, Holland and went to England. From there we sailed to Stavaneger, Norway, then on to Gevle, Sweden and finally back to the Netherlands with a load of lumber.

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After 15 years of sailing I had my first experience with a steamboat. This was a weekly boat named Perth, an English ship. We sailed between Delfzyl, Holland and Grange Mouth, Scotland. We carried food supplies between the harbors mentioned, such as potatoes, butter, eggs, meat etc. I did not remain with this vessel long as it was impossible to sail in the winter months due to ice in the Eems River and also in the harbors.

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On the boat named Mars,(Co. Kkoningklyke Maatschappy) I sailed as second mate. We went to Barcelonw, Spain and brought back a load of oranges which we picked up in Valancia. On one of our trips we had a Belgian stow-away. We usally stopped at Gibralter for coal. The fort is always well guarded by English soldiers, but since we were at peace and since we were sailors we were permitted the opportunity of inspecting the fort. After making several trips I left this ship and looked for something new.

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My next job was on a weekly holland ship named Maarstroom, sailing between Amsterdam and London, England We would leave Amsterdam every tuesday night regardless of the weather conditions. At times we went out into storms that even the large American boats would not attempt. You could not even get a pilot boat to take you out in such weather and they are well constructed and considered capeable of bucking the strongest of storms. But when a storm sweeps for days from the northwest, even they are compelled to stay inside. We were able to secure a pilot and took him right along with us to England.

We also carried passengers. Most of them were Jewish businessmen who traveled between London and Holland. We used to get quite a kick out of some of them. When they came aboard they be in a very jovial mood but after getting out from shore they soon became extremely seasick. At a time like this they would not care wheather they lived or died and would give the sailors their liquor and cigars, etc.

Our dock was near the London bridge. It is said that 70,000 people pass over this bridge every morning before 9:00 A.M. basides those who ride in busses and street cars. London has the appearance of being a cold spooky city and is quite misty most of the time. One thing that did strike me was the two extremes represented, the very rich and the real “down and outers”. The rich would drive past in their mile long limousines and the poor could be seen delving through  garbage cans for a crust of bread to keep body and soul together.

There are thousands of unfortunate people there who are in such circumstances without a home and using the park benches for beds. There is little wonder that there so many uprisings and strikes in a world in which conditions exist.

At this time London was the largest tobacco market in the world. Ships from all over the world would come here to barter, and London owes its growth to this fact.

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On the large ship Celbes, Maatschappy Netherlands, I made my next voyage. This ship is named after one of the Dutch Indies Islands. From Amsterdam we sailed to Marseile, France. Here we took on cargo and sailed to Geneva. From Italy we went through the Mediterranean Sea stopped at Port Said, the entrance of the Suez Canal, to refill our coal bunkers. The men that loaded the coal were low class Arabians and Egyptians. As we passed through the canal a powerful search light was focused aboard the ship and we were also given a pilot.

The canal is not very wide and sand-suckers are in operation continuously to keep it open for ships. It takes about 20 hours to go from Port Said to Suez. It took 13 days to reach Suez from Amsterdam. From here we went on to Sumatra, Dutch Indes which took 19 days in all. In Sambang we took on more fuel and also engaged a man to take charge of loading our ship. He had 120 coolie employees to do the actual loading. They were colored and spoke Saendanese and Malay. They took along their own cook as well as food which consisted of about 50 sacks of rice or maase as they calll it. I had to learn a litte of their language as I had to take charge of 25 of them for the front hatches.

We spent a total of seven weeks in the Indes. We stopped at Java, Sumatra, Borneo Celebes and other islands unloading and taking on cargo. Sabang was our last stop before leaving the Indies. Here we set the coolies ashore and took on more fuel. The weather  was very warm here  with plenty of mosquitoes especially in Tand Jong Prick, which is the foreharbor of Batavia. The white people are found mostly in Buitenhorg. There are also many Chinese and Japanese in the Indies, who as a rule are engaged in running some form of business.

On some of our trips we carried pilgrims who were traveling to Mekka, the Holy Land to visit the grave of Mohammed. We left them off at Djedja which is located on the Red Sea and from here they traveled in caravans to the Holy Land. some of these would be accompanied with much misfortune for them. I recall one trip on which the Cholera broke out among them. We had a doctor aboard and he did the best he could to check it. He had several obstacles to overcome because they are very reluctant about accepting aid from the “White Devils”, as they call those of the white race. The sick ones would try to hide themselves and this makes it especially hard to keep the disease from spreading. Sixteen of them died on this one trip. We had to bury them in the ocean. The body was rolled in canvas and weighted down with iron, the ship comes to a stop, the flag is lowered to half- mast and then the corpse is lowered into the sea. The relatives and friends have services at this time which usally consists of prayer and a sermon.

There is a serious race hatred between these people and the “White devils”. As I pen these lines there is a war raging there. I am not a prophet but I am afraid that the white race will have a tough time convincing  them that this war is for their welfare. I hold that the only way of winning their true confidence is to bring them the Gospel of Christ, and to show thereby that we are sincerely interested in their welfare. For as we read in the Scripture in Christ there is no racial distinction, neither male or female, but all are one in him.

I made several trips to the Indies and had various experiences, but if I were to relate all of these, I would be doing just what I have said I was not trying to do, namely, write a book.

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I was next employed as 2nd mate by Smit Co., Rotterdam, who are well known throudgout the world. They have many tow-boats. the home port of the larger ones is Maasluis, the smaller ones operate in around Rotterdam. They are named for the different seas, such as the North Sea, the Louwer Sea, etc. I was stationed on the Louwer Sea. We sailed to the English Channel to remain there for emergency duty.

Large ships coming in from America and other countries would rather pay the towing charge and reach their destination in safety than to chance it in the narrow waters with their large vessels. We were also on the look out for stranded ships, and the Captain would not hesitate to take advantage of such a situation. He realized that they were at our mercy. After contacting a ship that was in need a stiff price would be set to tow them in. It was almost like a pirates life.

In calm weather we would have nothing to do. We would then spend our time by fishing near Wight, a small island off the coast of England. From here we could see the beacon lights of Dover and Calais.

We once towed a huge dry-dock from Plymouth, England to Port Said, Suez Canal. One tow-boat was unable to move this dock alone, so we  were aided by our sister ship,”The black Sea”. There were also a crew aboard the dry-dock. This dock was said to have cost a million dollars to build. The firm that built these docks always had English tow-boats to move them. This time however, The English ran into some misfortune and could not get insurance on the docks while they were transporting them, so the job fell to us.

At the time we were towing this dock, Russia was at war with Japan and as we neared Gibraltar a Russian warship played their searchlight on us and circled around us a few times. We hoisted our flag and they permitted us to pass.

We halted at Malta to refill our bunders. It would cost alot to bring the dock inside the break-water so one ship stayed outside with the dock while the other refueled. We reached Port Said and anchored the dry-dock. After a few days we set sail for Maasluis, leaving our sister ship to take the crew of the dry-dock back to Rotterdam. Maasluis is a port where much herring fishing is done. Claardinger and Schiedam are also noted for this.

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And so I bring to a close this story of my travels throughout the world. I have visited many countries: the East and the West Coasts of both North and South America, every country in Europe and many other places. After giving up the seamans life, I operated a grocery store and saloon in the Netherlands. After staying here for a time I left the Fatherland and came to America, and settled in Grang Rapids, Michigan.

While here I had the greatest of all of my experiences, I found lasting peace with God. Through his Grace I have come to see that in this world all things are of a temporal nature and must pass away, but those who are ingrafted into Christ Jesus by a true and living faith, shall never pass away but shall live with and through Him forever and ever. Do you too have this Pease dear reader? If not, I recommend that you flee with all your sins and burdens to this same Jesus who has given me the joy and pease that passeth all understanding”.

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A further note,

Mr. Onstwedder did go back to sea and on a voyage to New York, his ship was qurantined in the New York harbor with yellow fever and the authorities would not let the ship leave so he was stranded in the United States.

He had an acquaintance who had come to the States earlier  and lived in Grand Rapids.

This mans name was Weiger DeBoer and he had a home and owned an appliance store here. With the help of Mr. DeBoer he came to Grand Rapids and got a job and a place to live. Through the help of Mr. DeBoer and the Reformed Church, Mr. Onstwedder was able to bring his family to this country.

Mrs. Onstwedder sold their business in the Netherlands and took all of her children and boarded a boat for The U.S.A.. They arrived in New York and came through Ellis Island and on to Grand Rapids and joined her husband here. This was in the year 1913. With the help of the Church they were established here and lived out the remainder of their lives. The youngest child a daughter, Sally Cnossen is still living in Holland, Mi. at this time and she is in her mid 80s. She has two sons, Jim and Casey. She was the only child born in this country.

All became naturalized citizens except the eldest child who was a son and he lived out his life as an alein.

I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Onstwedder until his death in 1953 and he was one of the finest men I ever knew. (I married his Grand daughter.)

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Sena and I were going steady now and things were beginning to get serious. Her Mother would invite me over every Sunday for dinner and she was a very good cook. I liked this as I didn’t have to eat boarding house food and it was more like family. The Lady who ran the boarding house was a good cook also and the food was good but sitting around a table with a lot of men was not the greatest especially on Sunday.  Her name was Freda Heinkel and she had been divorced and had a  live in lady helped her.

She had a nice clean house and I stayed there quite a long time. Sena and I was getting serious about our relationship and early in 1949 I asked her to marry me. She said yes, But I told her I wouldn’t give her a ring until her 18th Birthday so we played it low key until then. Her eighteenth Birthday was March 23, 1949 and we were married September 8, 1950. She received the ring and was showing everyone and had our engagement announcement in the local paper. I would go home to Ky. and visit the folks as the Company closed the plant the first two weeks of July for vacation and I would go home. One year after I went home Sena rode the train to Winchester and I picked her up there and she stayed with Etta Clay for a few days and then we rode back to Grand Rapids with a couple that was driving back to Grand Rapids after spending their vacation in Tenn. The fellow and I worked at the same place.  We started making preparations to get married. Her mother owned a two family house at 1321 Scribner Ave. N.W. and lived upstairs and rented out the lower unit. She said we could live there and pay her rent. So now we had a place to live and Sena could still look after her younger brother and sister. We started saving as much of my paycheck as we could and when we had enough money to buy furniture we would buy and the store would keep it for us until we needed it. With showers and wedding gifts we had everything we needed and paid 50% down on our refrigerator and paid that off soon. (From Weiger DeBoer) The people that was renting downstairs had moved out and we had painted and fixed things the way we wanted it and had all of our furniture moved in and had a place to live when we got married.

We were married on Friday evening September 8, 1950 at 8:00 P.M. in Seventh Reformed Church at 1135 Jeanette St. N.W. Grand Rapids, Mi. We had our Wedding Reception at the Ranch House located in Belmont, Mi. a suburb of the City. We stayed at our new home the first night and was going on our Honeymoon to Ky. for two weeks. We were very busy at work and I had a hard time getting two weeks off but my Supervisor was a good man and he let me go.By now I had bought a 1939 Plymouth four door sedan and we were going to drive to Ky. in that. We left the next morning on Saturday and drove to Richmond, In. and stayed overnight. We drove on to my parents the next day. We stayed there most of the two weeks and ran around with Etta Clay and Harold. Also we went to Margies home and ate with her and her husband Clinton Parke.  They lived on a farm near Richmond, Ky. We had a good time there and soon it was time to return home. I had asked Glen to go back and stay with us and he could get a job In Grand Rapids. He decided to go back with us and we left and drove to Louisville the first to visit my Cousin Galena and her family. She and Clearance still lived on Tennessee Ave. in Louisville. We stayed overnight at a local motel and started for home the next day. We arrived home and I went back to work on the next Monday.

Glen was looking for a job and found one at Bill Elders Tire Service. He helped in a tire recapping shop there. Glen was a big fellow but since he was under 18 years of age he had to get a work permit. He worked there for a time and when he became 18 years of age he got a job at American Seating Co. He hung around Karl Wheelers drug store with a group of his friends. Jim Wilson, The Noppert boys and others. The Noppert boys were Senas cousins and the family lived on Scribner Ave. near us. That was her Aunt Graces family. John Noppert was a truck driver and had been for years. We all used to get together and have a good time at weddings in the family. It seemed like someone was getting married every year. There would be a big recepton in one of the Polish Halls on the west side(Of Grand Rapids) and there would be food,drink and dancing. I had never danced so I would just sit and watch. Sena was a good dancer and she would dance with the fellows and I would watch. She tried to get me to dance but I guess I was too bashful. We had our first Christmas at our new home and we put up a Christmas Tree. We were going to cook a turkey and invite Senas Grandparents and her Uncle and Aunt Case and Sally Cnossen for Christmas dinner. Case and Sally had been Master and Mistress of Cermonies at our Wedding. We had a great time.

After everyone went home, Sena and I decided to go to a movie. It was very cold out and as we were on our way to the movie my old Plymouth froze up as we were driving and we went into a Town Talk Gas station and got a gallon of anti-freeze and put that in the radiator. The station was on the corner of front and sixth st. We went on to the show but it was really cold out.

 

 

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