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Conversation between Lydia Hass Knadle, Joyce Brown Middleton and Joy Hass Stefan


Kerrville, Texas
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. [note:
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.

Lydia: Yes.

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 little compartments.

Lydia: Yes, I can remember that. That was on the ship.

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, the waves.
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 dining hall?

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 compartment?

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.

Lydia: Sure.

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 fruit.

Joy: You never had apple trees or orchards of any kind?

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 kitchen.

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? Yes, oh
yes. Sure.

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 back everyday
after that wanting another one; that's what most kids would
do.

Lydia: Ha ha. Well, I don't remember having another one.

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 days.

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 there.

Lydia: I don't think so. I don't remember anything like that.

Joyce: But do you remember anything that he did?

Lydia: No.

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 arrived.

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.

Lydia: Right.

Joyce: What was his name, do you remember?

Lydia: Oh gosh.

Joy: It was Wilhelm.

Lydia: William.

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 train, or...

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 journey.

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?

Lydia: Sure.

Joy: And there wasn't any use staying around New York.

Lydia: Right.

Joy: He didn't have to say, "Well now where do I go from here?" It was all already planned.

Lydia: Sure.

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 US].

Joy: Well, he was a cousin, so his name wouldn't necessarily have been Hass.

Lydia: I think his name was Mueller [pronounced Miller.]

Joy: Miller. Okay, I wonder if he was...

[interrupted by arrival of company]

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