Conversation between Lydia Hass Knadle,
Joyce Brown Middleton and Joy Hass Stefan
August, 1993 - Session 3
Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman
Lydia: That's the only name I remember of a town...Nikolaevski.
Joy: Nikolaev-sky? Well, now that's different. I
have two different spellings for it, but I've not heard that one.
Lydia: I think that was the name of it... Nikolaevki.
without the "s".]
Joyce: How big a town was it?
Lydia: Gosh, how would I remember?
Joy: Yes, she was only eight or nine years old when
they moved, so what would seem tiny to us might have seemed real
big to her.
Joyce: That's right.
Joy: Yesterday when I asked you about the ship,
I think I asked if you remembered playing with other kids. Of
course you wouldn't know how many families there were, but you
said that you had your own compartment, like sleeping compartments
on a train, and that each family was confined to one of those
Lydia: Yes, I can remember that. That was on the
Joy: Do you remember if most of the families on
the ship were
German, or were they from all over?
Lydia: Oh, gosh.
Joy: It seems like if they weren't primarily German,
you would remember a communication problem with the other kids.
Lydia: I'm sure there was a mixture of different
kinds; they weren't all German.
Joy: I asked you if you remembered any games you
played while you were on the ship. You said you remembered being
up on the deck and looking over the railing.
Lydia: Oh yes, I remember that. Watching the water,
But I couldn't tell you much else.
Joy: Do you remember what the living conditions
were like? Was it sparse? I don't imagine it was like being at
the Ritz, but, on the slave ships, they just slept on bare boards...
Lydia: Oh, I think we had beds. We had our beds,
had our room with the beds.
Joy: When you ate meals, was there like a central
Lydia: Gosh, I can't remember anything like that.
I can't remember a dining hall or a big room where we ate...
Joy: You don't remember if you ate in your little
Lydia: We must have. I think that we probably had
to take food along.
Joy: Well you said that the ship's cook gave you
your first banana. That was the first time you ever saw a banana
and you thought that was just the neatest thing in the world.
Joy: I can imagine if you had never seen a banana
before, that would have really been a treat. Does that mean that
you didn't have a lot of fruit in Bessarabia, like apples or...
Lydia: I don't remember anything about having any
Joy: You never had apple trees or orchards of any
Lydia: I suppose we had some, but giving me that
banana that I had never seen before, or had before, just impressed
me so much. I just forgot all the rest of it.
Joy: Do you remember anything else about that cook?
Was he big and burly?
Lydia: No, I don't think so.
Joy: It just sounded like he was someone who really
got a kick out of kids.
Lydia: Well, he was just one of the crew in the
Joy: Do you remember if he was German? He would
have been able to communicate with you then.
Lydia: I have no idea what he was.
Joy: You don't remember sitting around and him telling you tales,
or anything like that?
Lydia: No. That's the only picture or remembrance
I have of him, was when he gave me that banana. It sure was something!
Joy: Well, did you go to him everyday after that,
wanting a banana?
Lydia: No, I'm sure I didn't.
Joy: Well, when you got your banana, did you...
Lydia: Did I take it home and give everybody a bite?
Joy: Did you share it or...
Lydia: Sure, they had a taste.
Joy: Or did you say this is mine, it's special and
it's all for me.
Lydia: No, no. I don't think so. I think that that
was such a treat that I had to let everybody taste it.
Joy: Well, that's why I wondered if maybe you went
after that wanting another one; that's what most kids would
Lydia: Ha ha. Well, I don't remember having another
Joy: Do you remember what your parents did to pass
the time coming over? Did your dad try to set up any kind of schooling
on the ship?
Lydia: No, I don't think so. I don't think he was
trying to do any teaching on the ship.
Joy: I know your mom had her hands full with the
baby, and of course he died. So I can appreciate that she wouldn't
need anything extra to try to keep her from being bored. But I
would think that a trip over would have taken weeks rather than
Lydia: Oh yes, I'm sure it did.
Joy: And that's why I'm wondering if he didn't try
to set up any kind of schooling for any of the kids that were
Lydia: I don't think so. I don't remember anything
Joyce: But do you remember anything that he did?
Joy: Well, do you remember the first time you saw
the Statue of Liberty, since you came into New York harbor?
Lydia: Well, I really don't. What impressions it
did make, I just don't remember.
Joy: But do you remember seeing the Statue of Liberty?
Lydia: Oh yes, sure, we saw it.
Joyce: Were you happy to see it because it was the
end of the trip?
Lydia: Probably so, ha ha.
Joy: I just wondered if you could remember what
you thought when you saw the Statue of Liberty, since that is
supposed to be the big symbol of America; that you had finally
Lydia: Well, I'm sure we were all glad to see it.
Joy: I guess all the people on the ship probably
got up on the deck and...
Lydia: Got up on the deck and watched and looked
to see it, sure.
Joy: Was there cheering and celebration, or do you
remember anything like that?
Lydia: No, I don't remember them hollering or doing
anything like that.
Joy: Or did they just say, "Okay, get all your
stuff together, you have to get off of here."
Lydia: Ha, ha. We had to do that.
Joy: When you came through Ellis Island... do you
remember if it was really really crowded?
Lydia: I don't remember it being really crowded.
Joy: You didn't have any fear of getting lost from
the rest of the family?
Lydia: I don't remember anything like that.
Joy: Did you think New York smelled any different?
Usually when you go in a place you've never been before and it
smells different, that smell stays with you the rest of your life.
Lydia: Ha ha. I can't remember anything like that,
so I don't think it smelled any different. It didn't bother me.
Joy: You've said that Rudy had a problem with his
eyes; it was some disease...
Lydia: I don't know whether that is something they
do to everybody, because you have your eyes checked after you
get off the ship. But there were so many people that they held
back and put in this place to keep...
Joy: To quarantine...
Lydia: Yes. And why they took him, I don't think
his eyes were any worse than ours...
Joy: Well, I do know that one of the things they
checked for was a contagious eye disease; that if it were not
treated it could lead to blindness. And of course, with the medical
knowledge as limited as it was at the turn of the century, in
comparison to what it is now, I can see where it would cause panic
if they thought, "oh my gosh, everybody can catch this and
we'll have a nation of blind people running around." So I
can understand why they would check their eyes, or for any diseases
like that, and quarantine, but...
Joyce: I imagine they did...
Joy: Well see, Rudy and their mom had to go back
over, because Rudy had a problem. He couldn't pass this physical,
and it was something with his eyes. They went back... What I don't
understand is why they sent them back instead of just holding
them in a quarantine area. [other family members said Rudy and
their mother were held in quarantine at a hospital in New York.]
Joyce: Probably didn't have a place to hold them.
Lydia: I have no idea why that happened.
Joy: You said, when you talked to Michelle on the
phone that time, that you remembered your dad piled you all inside
- or in the back of a carriage, or it was like a taxi carriage.
It was a horse-drawn thing and the older ones sat up front, or
maybe he held the baby and the luggage got piled in the back of
this, and some of the kids got piled in the back with the luggage,
leaving Ellis Island.
Lydia: Sure, sure.
Joyce: Do you remember the children that were there, at that time?
Can you name them?
Lydia: Well, there was me, Emma, Rudy was in the
hospital with his eyes. He was quarantined.
Joyce: But you remember him on the ship, don't you?
Lydia: Oh yes.
Joyce: Well that's what I'm talking about.
Joy: This was on Ellis Island when they came through;
they did physicals on them, and he didn't pass it. There should
have been Lydia, Emma, Rudy, Nettie, and Hilda...
Joyce: And who else?
Joy: And no more, because the baby they had in 1908
was the one that died...
Lydia: He died.
Joyce: Okay. So they buried him at sea.
Joyce: What was his name, do you remember?
Lydia: Oh gosh.
Joy: It was Wilhelm.
Joy: Yes, they had two Williams that died as babies,
and then they came along and got Herbert William who lived. Okay,
when you left in this horse-drawn taxi, did you go to a hotel?
Do you remember anything like that? After you said goodbye to
your mom and to Rudy?
Lydia: Well, we went to where we could get on a
Joy: I think you said you went on a train, and did
you go to Lydia Young's [their mother's sister in Archer City,
Texas] then, or... I thought maybe you stayed around in New York
City for awhile before you got onto the train and on with your
Lydia: I don't think we stayed around New York,
because you know, we had to get on. We didn't have any money to
pay for a hotel...
Joy: So your dad already had this planned, that this was just
another part of the trip?
Joy: And there wasn't any use staying around New
Joy: He didn't have to say, "Well now where
do I go from here?" It was all already planned.
Joy: So you went to Lydia Young's, isn't that correct,
or did you go to another place first?
Lydia: No, we went to North Dakota first.
Joy: You went to North Dakota first?
Lydia: Sure, that's where Uncle Dave and them lived
and we went up there before we...
Joyce: Who is Uncle Dave?
Lydia: He was Mother's brother.
Joyce: Oh really? How many brothers did she have?
Lydia: I can't remember. This was Dave Seefried.
Joy: Okay, now you had said... Is he the one who
kind of recruited more families?
Lydia: No. No, no. That was a cousin of Dad's. And
he did the recruiting of more people to go, to take over [to the
Joy: Well, he was a cousin, so his name wouldn't
necessarily have been Hass.
Lydia: I think his name was Mueller [pronounced
Joy: Miller. Okay, I wonder if he was...
[interrupted by arrival of company]