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14 June 1979
He told me that his uncle, a Russian army colonel, advised him to migrate to Milwaukee since the climate, geography, culture and people were very similar to his home. So Pa sailed (I’m not sure of this) from Hamburg on what I think he told me was the Hamburg America. I questioned him on that as I though he meant the “line” and not the steamer but he said it was the steamer. After a most uneventful crossing during which he never suffered seasickness and got some refreshment for hoisting beer kegs from the lower deck to the saloon. He landed in Baltimore, MD and passed thru the immigration process with no trouble. He was 19 at the time so it was 1905. I don’t know but I suspect he took the Baltimore & Ohio to Chicago and then to Milwaukee.
Exact dates and places are hazy but I heard he boarded near St. Casimir’s Church. This parish was an offshoot of St. Hedwig’s. At any rate a great number of Polish people populated this area. Though they were Polish, most if not all came from countries which held Poland’s pieces. They came from Germany (and different ports like Posen, Westpbota [?] etc.) from Austria (Silesia Galicia Kielce etc.) and Russia (Lucow, Cracaow etc.) Pa came from the Russian sector.
He talked at times of how close he lived to the German and Austrian borders. That he spoke Russian, Polish, German and understood some of the other Slavic tongues like Croatian and Slovak. I wish he had passed these on to us but he insisted that this was America and English was the language. So we had little except English. Yet I spoke only Polish until I was six. I don’t recall any but feeble attempts later to “learn” it. I still understand most of what’s spoken provided its not the high brow stuff Ma and Pa used when alone and we eavesdropped from the bathroom above the kitchen. There was a ventilator in the floor (like Dave’s room [at 8447]) and we sometimes heard Ma and Pa argue in classy Polish. Some sessions were really lulus. But on to Pa.
His first job was unloading hides from wagons at A. Hallurn tannery on commerce Street just east of the Holton Street Bridge. The hides he said were loaded with maggots and stunk so that he could hardly eat. He managed because just across the street he could get a pitcher of beer for 5 cents. He told me that if he had the money he would have a gone back to the old country. This story would be over had he done so.
The year was 1907. Allis Chalmers had opened a new plant in West Allis, having moved from what is now S. 15th street ( the old Reliance Works). Pa was one of about 200 who appeared there seeking work. It was a depression year and jobs were scarce. Pa said the man who hired him simply felt his arm muscle and asked in German, “Arbeit” (work)? Pa answered Ja and so began a fifty year plus stay with Allis Chalmers. Pa saw the company grow from #1 shop to the 160 acres of buildings now there. He always favored going to work on the National/Greenfield Ave. streetcar. The fare was 3 cents then and the street car company had run tracks to the plant with a turn around at the main gate on Greenfield Ave. All the time he worked at Allis Chalmers he went that way. I used to work there too in 1935-37 in the same shop (#6 erecting) and the Wells St. car line was closer to that shop yet Pa always went in by the main gate.
I figured it out that going that way and walking all the way to a shop through the Erecting floor about 3 blocks, that he met all his friends, got the scuttlebutt and most important kept tabs on all the jobs that were bound to end up in our shop for erection and testing. He never told me because he was close mouthed most of the time about what was going on.
Anyhow, he served two apprenticeships, and as a machinist and as an electrician. He was married by this time and how Ma survived on that pittance is another story even she never told me.
How Ma and Pa met. He told me “It was a Sunday after Mass at St. Casimir”s”. He saw her standing near a tree and crying. He asked her why and she told him her father had kicked her out of the house, (for what I don’t know). Anyhow from there on they apparently dated (he had some competition, she told me) and they were married. Just where, whether at St. Casimir or in St. Mary Czestochawa I don’t know (Bernice does I’m sure) It was on Nov.10, 1910(?). Their romance I never heard more about. It was not the custom in those days or when I was a kid for the old folks to admit to any kind of lightness or frivolity. But I do remember how one time Ma was showing us some old pictures (Bernice must have them) and one had her seated next to a mustached young fellow. She got a bit pink when she explained who he was and how he stole a few kisses now and then . Why she chose Pa over him I don’t know. So there must have been some sparking around even in those old days. I’m in the dark as to where they went on dates. There must have been spots, carriage rides? I don’t know but compared with today 1910 must have been real “cool” yet it was enough to do the job.