Telephone interview with Lydia Hass
Knadle and Emma Hass Conine
Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman
In February, 1988, our daughter, Michelle, was working
on a family research paper for a high school assignment. Since
my dad had died over 3 years prior, she decided to call his oldest
sister, Lydia Hass Knadle. It so happened that another of his
sisters, Emma Hass Conine, was visiting with Lydia at that time.
Here are notes from Michelle's telephone interview with Lydia
and Emma in February, 1988:
Michelle: What do you remember about your life in
Lydia: It was a little village on a pond. There
were geese, and I remember grass and water.
Michelle: Did you feel poor at all?
Lydia: No, we weren't poor. Only when we first got
Michelle: Tell me more about your place in Bessarabia.
Lydia: There was a grape orchard. Dad made wine,
and the barrels were underneath the house.
Michelle: What was the rest of the village like?
Lydia: There was a church across the street. The
school had one teacher, a man.
Michelle: How old were you when you left for America?
Lydia: I was about 8 or 9.
Emma: I was a year younger, so I was about 7.
Michelle: Who decided to leave Bessarabia?
Lydia: Well, there was a cousin of Dad's in America.
He was kind of like a real estate agent who recruited people.
Michelle: What do you remember about the trip?
Lydia: One thing I remember on the ship was one
of the stewards, or maybe he was a cook. He gave me a banana,
and I just thought it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen.
Michelle: You hadn't ever seen or tasted a banana
Lydia: No. And I just thought it was great. I'd
never had anything like that before.
Michelle: What else do you remember?
Lydia: Not a whole lot.
Michelle: Didn't you have a baby brother who died on the trip
Lydia: Yes. Mom had just had another baby before
we got on the ship. And I guess he wasn't very strong or something.
Anyway, he died.
Michelle: What else do you remember about that?
Did they have a funeral for him?
Lydia: Well, they put him in a little box, and they
put pieces of lead in the bottom of the box. I remember thinking,
"what a hard bed that would make for a tiny little baby."
Michelle: How did you feel about losing your baby
Lydia: Well, we were sad, but it was just one of
those things, you know.
Michelle: What happened when you got to Ellis Island?
Lydia: We were all checked for health, and Rudy
was sent back. There was something wrong with his eyes. Mom stayed
Michelle: What else?
Lydia: Ellis Island was a big room, but that is
about all I remember about that part.
Michelle: Then where did you go?
Emma: Dad took all the rest of us kids to Texas,
to Aunt Lydia Young's house.
Lydia: I remember we rode in a horse and buggy from
Ellis Island to the railroad station, where we got on a train.
We went to stay with Aunt Lydia Young at Archer City, Texas.
Emma: Dad got a job there and we started to school
there while we were waiting for Mom and Rudy to come. It sure
seemed like a long time before they came.
Michelle: Then what happened?
Lydia: Well, we moved to North Dakota, to Fredonia.
Dad bought a hardware store there.
Emma: At first we lived with Mom's brother. I remember
riding horses to school, about 2 or 3 miles, in town. Then we
lived in back of the store. It was a big room.
Michelle: All of you?
Emma: Yes, Dad, Mom, Lydia, Rudy, Nettie, Hilda
and me. Then we moved to a house.
Lydia: I went to high school in town.
Emma: I remember going to school in Fredonia too.
Eventually I think most of us kids were attending that school.
Michelle: Did you feel any prejudice, because you
Lydia: I don't remember any. Most everyone in Fredonia
was German, I think.
Emma: If they weren't German, I think they were
immigrants of some kind or another. We were all in the same boat.
Michelle: When did you move to the Rio Grande Valley
Emma: We moved down there in 1915. Dad bought 40
acres north of Mission and we had a small house there - 2 bedrooms
and a screened porch.
Lydia: Yes, we moved to the Valley and Dad started
a citrus orchard.
Michelle: Did you feel any prejudiced against you
in the Valley?
Emma: No, people were nice. No one abused us.
Michelle: What else do you remember about living
in the Valley?
Emma: Well, Nettie died when we were down there.
She was going to school in Kingsville and got spinal meningitis.
Michelle: How did you learn English?
Lydia: We spoke German at home, and learned English
in school. We played with English speaking kids and gradually
learned the language.
Michelle: What foods do you remember eating?
Lydia: Oh, we had sauerkraut and dumplings, and
potatoes, nothing fancy.
Emma: And oatmeal.
Michelle: Did you give up your German heritage and
become American citizens?
Lydia: We became American citizens.
Emma: But I don't think you would say we gave up
our German heritage. We just gradually learned the American way