My adult life 1<br>
A gloomy outlook for the future in Berlin. No steady employment that would pay sufficiently well to start a family, with me as the bread winner, so that Carmen was able to stay at home as a housewife and future mother of our offspring; Not even proper housing. Carmen put all her trust in me and consented to go with me where ever I wanted to go. So we went to visit the Canadian Consulate in Dahlem and inquired for literature depicting the living standards of Canada. judging what we had read there, the living standards in Canada were worse than in Germany. So we went to the upper part of the building where the Australian Counsel had their offices to find out about the conditions there and what we read about Australia was more attractive. So we applied to go to go Australia but to no avail. The german government put a halt to permitting germans to immigrate to Australia. In the meantime my cousin Marlene and her husband Wolfgang immigrated to Vancouver, B. C. in Canada. They sent photos of Vancouver and wrote that Wolfgang immediately after arriving found a job in his profession as a carpenter. Rents were reasonable and food cheap. So I thought we should try our luck and apply at the canadian counsel for permission to immigrate to Vancouver, B. C. We were told that the only jobs available in Vancouver, B.C. area were in lumber camps which included married quarters. We took along an application form. One document for the police department to verify that we had no criminal records, an other for a health clinic designated by the immigration department where we received a thorough health check, including chest X rays. We needed to apply for passports and even after we completed all the requirements, all the applicants had to strip off all their clothes, in individual cubicles of course, and a canadian doctor listened to heart and lungs, looked at the general body structure and examined the genitals for venereal diseases. I did not mind that examination of the genitals because I was used to penis inspections when I was with the soldiers; once a week the soldiers had to stand in a row and have their penis hang out till the medic inspected them. Afterwards they were always reminded to make use of the Pro Kit, a small packet containing some antiseptic powder and a tube of ointment to use before and after sexual intercourse. Condoms were handed out like candies. For a joke I had to stand in line and hang out my penis. Only Carmen was very ashamed to have her genitals examined. The doctor discovered a slight heart abnormality, so that Carmen was sent to a heart and lung specialist. The specialist found nothing wrong with her heart but noticed some weak heart muscles. So we passed muster, the approval was stamped in our family passport. It was one passport only, containing both my identification and the identification of Carmen. Our passage tickets for on the Rosa Star of the Rosa Shipping Line Company and the railway tickets for the Canadian Pacific Railway from the point of landing in Quebec City, to Vancouver, B. C., were advanced by the Canadian Immigration to be repaid within three years without additional interest charges. The day of our departure was approaching rapidly ( I never thouht that a sleeping berth and meals for the four day journey on the Canadian Pacific Railroad were not included; so we had to buy our food along the way stops and sleep sitting up).
A couple of days before we left Berlin, my brother, his wife, Eva and daughter, Doris came to my mother where we were staying, to bid us farewell and good luck. Early next morning my mother and her fiancee Fritz, accompanied Carmen and me to the bus depot in Berlin. As we said our final good byes, my mother broke out in tears and cried. When our bus left and we waved back from the bus she was waving back and was still crying. We arrived around noon in Bremen where we had a few hours to spend, before we went on to Bremer Haven, where we boarded the Arosa Star, the ship which was supposed to carry us safely across the atlantic ocean. In Bremen we walked around the city, taking care not to spend too much of our miserly few Marks. We did spend a couple of Marks in a cathedral where the church had a racket going. Apparently the cellar of the cathedral radiated lead, which, as they claimed, slowed down the decaying process of cadavers. They had several of those cadavers stretched out on stretchers and makeshift open coffins, which, as they told us were there for at least 200 years. Some even showed pink skin under the fingernails. Thinking back now, I think it was a big hoax and money collecter. It was also disturbing the deserved peace and privacy of the dead. At six O clock in the evening we boarded a commuter train for passengers of the Arosa Star only, from Bremen to Bremer Haven and boarded ship. There were several decks on ship and different size cabins. Carmen and I were lucky to receive a two person cabin for ourselves on C deck, right below the sea level. At night when I looked through the port hole and saw the water smashing against it, I became a little scared, thinking, if the ship was damaged, we would drown like ship rats. I never told Carmen of my feelings and was glad she felt safe. The ship heaved her anchor next morning, November 12, 1956 and we traveled into the english channel and docked in Calais, France to pick up some more passengers. We were moored right behind a passenger ship bound for New York; a monster of a ship which made me realize that our ship was only a nut shell in comparison. After that, we stopped outside of the harbor in Dover, England where a small vessel brought some more passengers on the way to Canada and others leaving the ship to go to their destinations in Britain. Up till now the sea was calm and the sun was shining. Dolphins were swimming along side of the ship, waiting for left over scraps of food from the kitchen and the dining hall filled with hungry passengers, enjoying gourmet style meals. Soon the sea began to heave the ship up and down, more and more and the mess hall became emptier and even more empty. Most passengers became sea sick; they were vomiting and no food stayed in their stomachs. Carmen was sea sick during most of the voyage. I persuaded her to leave the cabin and lie in the deck chairs on the top deck where I was able to feed her some broth. I was able to control my stomach; maybe because of the experience I already had when I crossed the english channel, the first time, to England from Dieppe, France in 1947, where I was also sea sick. Anyway, this time I made it without vomiting and never missed one meal during the whole voyage. After the second day at sea the wind got stronger and the sea wilder; the ship rose straight up towards the cloudy skies and back down, nose first into the ocean. The waves seemed like giant mountains.That went on until we safely reached the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. We were told afterwards, that a freighter which was only a few hours behind us sank, because the wind turned into a wild storm. The last night there was a dance on board ship which Carmen would have liked to participate in but her good dress and shoes were locked in the suit case in storage. On the 19th of november the ship laid anchor in Quebec City harbor. We had a three hour long waiting time in Quebec City Harbour but to be on the safe side we stayed close to the train out of fear we might miss it. We hated to become stranded in Quebeck. In order to reach the city of Quebeck, up on a hill, we would need to climb quite a few stairs. Near the harbour we were appalled to see so many hovels and houses on the brink of collapse. The train went to Montreal, Que. first, where we would transfer to the Canadian Pacific Railroad, which would take us directly to Vancouver, B.C., a four day journey. We had a four hour wait in Montreal and decided to walk around town to pass the monotony. We entered a coffee shop where I read on the menu something like Ice Coffee. That, I thought, was ice cream with coffee and I asked Carmen if she would like some and she eagerly said yes. So I ordered two ice coffees. You can imagine how disappointed Carmen and I were when the waitress brought us ice cold black coffee with ice cubes floating on top. We only had the basic train fare tickets which did not include meals or sleeping berths; so we went shopping for some groceries in one of those small family owned grocery stores. The owner was french canadian who spoke french and english. Carmen spoke neither and was terrified, thinking, I was spending more money on the groceries than we could afford to pay for. I reassured her and asked if she would like that large giant panda bear sitting on the distant shelf; she said yes and I added it to the bill which added up to a very small amount of money. I brought along four cartons of cigarettes from the ship duty free for $4.oo, four dollars, 10 cents for each package. We were actually only allowed one carton each but I told the duty officer my situation that maybe I shall be low on cash for some time; he let me keep the four cartons duty free. Then we went back to the train station just in time and nearly too late. The train stopped often for short periods and a longer stop over in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where we nearly had frost bite from walking along the streets, window shopping, during our short stop. It was a very long and boring trip; nothing but fields and run down little towns with only one solidly built building which was the church, built from solid boulders but the other structures inhabited by the people looked as if they were collapsing at any moment. Many of the immigrants got off along the way at different places. One lady with two little children and a cat called Bonifarcius, was met by her husband at one of the stops. But then, the last day on the train, we traveled through the magnificent Rocky Mountains. We were very pleasantly surprised and amazed by such beauty. We traveled in and out of tunnels dangerously close to the edge of high, rugged mountain slopes and crevices and along the Columbia Ice Fields. We bought a large album of photos of the scenery but I am sure that even these beautiful photos could not reproduce the true splendor. Then on the 24th of november 1956 we arrived at the C.P.R. train station on the waterfront of down town Vancouver. Waiting to greet us were my distant cousin Marlene, the daughter of a cousin of my mother, who originally came from Neu Ruppin, a village close to Berlin which became a part of East Germany. Her family defected to Berlin because her father was a highly qualified electrician expert and West Berlin Power Authority offered him a much better paid position with lucrative benefits. He was one of the Eastern Brain Drain Scheme committed by the West against the so called communist countries during the cold war. Also, Marlene's, my distant cousin's, then ex school class boyfriend, Wolfgang, a carpenter by trade and sweetheart love from Neu Ruppin, followed her to West Berlin where they got married and right afterwards immigrated to Vancouver, B.C. He immediately found employment on the B.C. Electric high rise Building Project. And a friend of them, a proud owner of a partly run-down, used car who transported our luggage, consisting of two cheap reinforced cardboard suitcases. Because of all the abuse during handling by transport they had large holes in them. They drove us to their humble little apartment suite, consisting of one room in which we all slept, Wolfgang and Marlene in a bed and Carmen and I had to share the space of a one person couch and a large kitchen where they also ate their meals. The B.C. Electric Building Project in the meantime was finished and Wolfgang was laid off with no Unemployment Insurance Benefits. He had not contributed to the unemployment Insurance long enough of the required time. Of course, such a thing like welfare for new immigrants did not exist in those days. He and a few of his german pals found jobs as dishwashers for a pittance in payment. Marlene was unable to go to work; she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. So we could not expect them to feed us too, while we were not working and unable to contribute our share of the upkeep. That day they fed us anyway, which made me feel ashamed.
The next day after our arrival in Vancouver, Carmen and I walked down to the Immigration Building at the foot of Burrard Street to notify them that we arrived safely and were staying with my cousin and her husband. We also mentioned the financial state we were in. First of all they informed us that the season for lumber camp work was over and that there were no jobs vacant, due to strikes all over the province. They issued us each a meal card; a monthly card for three meals daily, in the dining hall of the building, to be repaid for within three years, no interest added. Every time we presented the meal card, the concerning mealtime of the day was stamped. This way they kept track of how many meals we received. The Immigration Department employees looked through the advertisement section in the local news papers with us to see if there were any potential work offers advertised. When we saw some, they would phone ahead letting the people know that we were on our way and who we were. This way I received some menial jobs lasting from one to three days. A week after, there was an opening for me at Fittwell Garments as a steam doll operator. I was not too keen on an inside job but Carmen took the job instead of me because she had experience on iron boards in a Dry Cleaning outfit in Germany, where she worked for two years. Carmen did not speak a word of english but the workers at Fittwell Garments,near West Cordova and Burrard Streets, were very kind to her and one of them spoke german to explain when anything needed to be explained. She started work there only three weeks before Christmas, and also received the Christmas bonus; a choice of either a large turkey or ten dollars. We needed ten dollars more than a turkey. In the meantime my cousin went with Carmen trying to find a place for us to rent. They found a place only two blocks away at 1516 Comox Street. In those days 85% of downtown Vancouver consisted of english colonial style houses of varying sizes, most of them converted into rooming houses. Our landlady and husband came from Saskatchewan, of scottish background; Mr. and Mrs. Mac Pherson. Her husband was a retired station master from the C. P. R. and in order to supplement his meager pension they bought this rooming house on installments. She ran the operation of the rooming house and he went on part-time work as a clerk in a hotel. They were single rooms for singles and couples without children. The attic they converted into a small one room suite where they had a couple living of whom the wife was expecting a child. The house and every room was spic and span, very clean, with practically new furniture. Mr. & Mrs. Mac Pherson invited us down into their living room to watch Television and treated us as if we were their children. They told us that their son lived in Florida, U. S. A. and wished that the people there also accepted him as well. She said he owned a beauty parlor in Florida and was quite prosperous. In the meantime I got familiar with the surroundings of Vancouver and knew where to go to find a few days of employment, at least. The most popular place was the Dunsmuir House For Men of the Salvation Army. At least two or three days every week I received some work from there; Various kinds of jobs: cleaning back yards, emptying junk out of cellars, window washing and from time to time on construction sites, pouring cement etc. I only possessed one pair of shoes; shoes that Carmen bought me while still in Germany for my birthday. During the week I worked in them and on weekends they were polished up to become my dress shoes. I became a familiar face at the Dunsmuir House for men.The Dunsmuir House was like a shelter hotel combination which was run by the Salvation Army. Most of the people living there were able to pay for their lodgings but they also had temporary overnight shelter for homeless, mostly alcohol addicts, and also a drop-in center for the down and out. Every morning they had a prayer service, which they encouraged everyone if possible to attend but there was no must. Most of the men did not bother, but some did attend. I attended a couple of times and even sang a few church hymns along with the others; I was quite surprised that my voice even sounded good. One of the salvation army officers approached me and asked me about my situation; so I told him about Carmen and myself. He put us on a list for recipients of a christmas food voucher from Woodwards Stores. Then a week before Xmas, to my embarrassment, a salvation army officer knocked at the door of the rooming house where Carmen and I was staying, with the food voucher. Mrs. Mac Pherson opened the door; I could have crawled into a hole with shame to accept charity in that manner. The officer made a big fanfare about it so that all the tenants in the house found out about it. Three days before Xmas I received a phone call from a Mr. William Baker. He told me that at the salvation army he found out that we needed some work; he said that his wife needed some help with cleaning the house before Xmas; If Carmen was willing to come over to 3515 West 35th Avenue in Vancouver to help her. Carmen had the days off and was willing to help. When we arrived and Carmen wanted to help, Stella, the wife of Bill did all the hard work herself and gave Carmen hardly anything to do. The idea of Bill and Stella was to invite us to their Xmas party and not to make it seem like charity; they wanted to be helpful to some foreign young people far away from home, without friends or relatives. They were the kindest and loving people we ever met before or ever since and we never saw a table spread with such an elegant table cloth, collection of cutlery and dishes, so plentiful with turkey, dressing, vegetables and all the trimmings, all in individual bowls from which everyone could help him/herself, as much as he/she could eat. They invited some more people; their friends. Bill was a junk dealer, a giant of a man, who in his younger days was once a prize fighter. His wife Stella was a loving, heavy built woman, whose parents were from Yugoslavia. They asked us if we were ever in Yugoslavia and could not understand it when we told them that Yugoslavia was quite a distance from Berlin; They always thought that all of Europe was so small that one could spend a weekend camping trip in each country one by one. When he told me about his job, I told him I do not like bartering. But he insisted that was the only and best way to make business. Sometimes he outsmarted his best friend who was also a junk dealer and on other occasions his friend would outsmart him. I could not understand that. He told me that everything in business, love and war was fair. They had a son, William Baker Junior, who, as Bill told me many years later, joined the NFL ( National Football League ) and was quite happy. I had very little contact with this family afterwards, because I had a minority complex and thought that such an accomplished business man would not like to associate with me on a social level. I met Bill for the last time in the late 1960-s, when Carmen, Marian and I were living on Cotton Drive, west of Commercial Drive in Vancouver. In fact he was the one who recognized me because his appearance had drastically changed. He was suffering from diabetes and from that giant of a man remained only a skeleton; partly blind and he lost at least 90 pounds of his body weight.
At one of the meal sessions at the immigration building we made the acquaintance of an other german couple with two little girls; Claudia, age 2 1/2 and Evelin, aged 7. Franz Kurzynski, we called him Frank and his wife Grete, whom we called Gretel were already in their early forties I think and spoke not one word of english. From time to time I translated a few basic english words to them on the Immigration. Frank was born and raised in the disputed area between Poland and Germany, East Prussia and served in the german army from 1940. He was barely 18 years young then, till 1945. He was taken prisoner of war and transported off to Siberia, in Russia and was set free in 1949 . He was sent to West Berlin on his request. There he met Grete, a recent divorcee, with Evelin, her daughter from her first marriage; they got married and soon afterwards their second daughter Claudia, was born. Frank was always cheerful and a pleasure to have around, he radiated a warmth of his being and probably saw in me a son and was always there when we needed help. We became close as if we were family. He was a millwright-welder by trade but had difficulty finding work in Berlin. So they took a chance here, by immigrating to Canada. He received many good paying jobs here but he also had a drinking problem. We remained best friends until they passed away in the 1990 s. An other time we met a scottish couple by the name of Emilio and Isabelle Frankiti. Frank, as he wanted to be called, seemed very friendly and good to talk to. He told me that his parents immigrated to Scotland from Italy and operated a pub and small boarding house in Glasgow. Isabelle was an ex employee of his father. She found employment as a secretary in Vancouver but he was going around, looking for employment all over town, just as I was doing. So we decided to go together to break the monotony. Frank was a nonstop talker whom I had difficulty understanding in the beginning because of his Glasgow accent. I was ashamed to let him know about his accent and said yes to a lot of things I misunderstood but after a few days of listening to him talk, it seemed to me that he spoke the best english I ever heard. Only to my regret I was very disappointed when I heard from my landlady, Mrs. Mac Pherson, that he said to her, that scottish people should stick together and begged her to let me go so he could occupy the room from Carmen and me. Emilio and Isabelle were living in a rundown rental apartment which was quite dirty. Isabelle was afraid to touch anything because she was afraid of germs; she never thought of taking a few pails of water with soap and disinfectant to wash away the germs. Thanks for the enlightenment of Mrs. Mac Pherson, to whom humanity mattered more than nationalism, I learned about the true nature of that phony smiling face of Emilio. I intended to go looking for work without him now, when he bragged to me that the Immigration Department told him in confidence, he should go to the Vancouver General Hospital, that had a few openings but only for british subjects. Probably because in the hospital they wanted to make sure that all applicants spoke english. I said to myself: just go ahead and I shall follow you to the personnel manager of the hospital, to say that I was also sent by the Immigration. So I was first accepted by the secretary of the manager and after some time was sent into the managers office. He could not find my name on the list. I explained to him that I was told about some openings at the hospital from Emilio and that I was desperate, even to lie in order to find employment. The manager, a good man, must have liked my reasoning but had no more vacancies and was just turning me down when the secretary walked into the room with a note. I saw a smile on his face, as if he was really happy to give me the offer as cleaner on the night shift with three months of trial before becoming a full-time employee. I accepted with joy and at last the heavy burden on my mind of THE gloomy unemployment situation ceased. When Emilio found out that I had a cleaning position and he only as a dish washer, he was jealous and mad at the same time. We stayed on speaking terms but a friendship never developed. Isabelle seemed ashamed of what he was trying to do to Carmen and me, at the house of Mrs. Mac Pherson. I met Isabelle many years later when she told me that she divorced Emilio and she had a good position as a secretary and was very happy. Emilio and Isabelle had no children together. So I started my first real job after three months in Canada on the graveyard shift, as it was called, at the Vancouver General Hospital. I worked from 2300..hours until the following day at 800. hours. At that time there was only the Heather
My adult life # 2
Pavilion as the main building and they were just adding the parking lot area. I had to clean the area most affected by the sand and mud of the ripped up soil; so imagine how I felt when I came back to work every night at 2300.hours over the state of the floors that I slaved to get clean on the night shift before. I had more of a problem than the other cleaners in other areas of the hospital. The foreman was unhappy with me because I neglected to clean some of the adjacent rooms like the telephone booth and toilet floors. I told him that there was not sufficient time for me to clean everywhere because I refused to clean the way he instructed me to. All the other cleaners did as they were shown to do: they added the liquid soap and liquid wax to the water in the pale and then they dipped the mop into the it, squeezed the mop completely dry and then wiped the mop over the floors, picking up all the loose dirt which was left over from sweeping the floor with a broom but never attacked the caked in dirt inside the dried wax from the day before. Now they took a polishing machine and cut the dirt loose sending all the dirt in powder form into the air to settle on nearby couches and other furniture. Then they put a soft cloth under the rotating polisher disk and dusted the floors again leaving them shiny but were they really clean and freed of germs???When I washed the floors, I also used disinfectant liquid soap and wax but I completely soaked the floors, then using the rinsed mop to pick up all the water and dirt loosened by soaking. That required more time and energy. At the end I polished the floor which did not come out as shiny; I used less liquid wax in the water. Four months after I started on the night shift there was an opening for a cleaner on the mental ward, on B floor in the day-time. I asked for it and they let me have it: steady days from 800. hours till 1600. hours, two 15 minute paid coffee breaks and one unpaid 30 minute lunch break. When I started to work on the ward, I washed the floor the way I usually washed it. The lead hand was not happy and reported it. I was called into the office of the head nurse with the lead hand in attendance. She asked me how and why I washed the floors in such a way and I explained why. She totally agreed with me and from that date on I was never again harassed and no one complained if I could not finish all the work I was scheduled to do. A few months after that, they were looking for people that wanted training as an orderly: male healthcare worker, at the Heather Annex, a building where they housed extended care patients with no means to pay for a private nursing home. I applied and was accepted, again, on a trial, 3 months trial basis. 90% of the patients suffered from dementia, we called it Senility. For a visitor everything seemed well but most of the patients there were those who were already down and under and no one cared about them. They all slept in two big halls, one on each end of the building. Each hall was divided into two halves by a wide center, separated by large tables. Three rows of beds, eight beds in each row. One quarter of the patients were so far gone that they had no idea where they were or what they were doing. They walked around like zombies, would urinate or have bowel movements where ever they were, standing, sitting or lying down. Many ate without assistance; some were placed onto an easy chair from the time they were forced out of bed by the orderly, early in the morning, until night time after supper they would remain there day in and day out, unable to walk or even feed themselves. Some, who were able to walk on their own, like one of the patients, who walked for hours all around and around the building; he had made his own path on the lawn from walking always along the same way. He was always in a trance and when he was pulled out of bed and not immediately dressed, he would walk around with only his night gown, which exposed his whole backside. The orderly had to bring him inside, dress him up and then let him go back outside. Some others often walked away before the orderly had a chance to dress them up. The patient was not even noticed missing until the office received a phone call from somewhere in the area that an old man was seen walking along the sidewalk, sometimes ten blocks away, to Main & Broadway, dressed only in a night shirt with his nude backside exposed. So an orderly had to put his work on hold and retrieve the old timer. That happened quite frequently. It was the duty of the orderly to: when he came on duty to first get the patients out of bed and most of them had to be dragged out of their sleep and meagerly dressed, dumped into an easy chair by the bed side and hands and face rubbed with a damp washcloth. After that the beds were made by the orderly; then most of the patients needed help with their food after the Orderlies delivered the food trays. After the empty food trays were collected, the orderlies took turns to go for their coffee breaks. There were six orderlies and two floats for each hall; on the day-shift , four orderlies and two floats on the afternoon shift and besides that there was one chief orderly, always on day shift and two assistant chief orderlies on each of the day and afternoon shifts. The night shift had only one orderly on duty in the one hall and an other Orderly on the other end of the building in the other hall.The building was a wooden structure, an annex left standing where the victims of the asiatic flu epidemic after the first world war were housed. If that structure ever caught fire, it would be a disaster). After our coffee breaks the real work began of which there was plenty. Each bed had a complete linen change twice a week, the bedside tables and chairs had to be washed daily; patients were bathed twice weekly; ( bed baths ), dressings on sore spots of which there were many (from lack of time for proper care), had to be changed. In the meantime some patients had involuntary bowel movements in bed or while fully clothed. Our work never ended; still, some orderlies stood around, cracking funny jokes which were not very funny at times. The building, ( as also the other buildings of the Vancouver General Hospital) was infested with mice and cockroaches and other pests every where; when we went to shake out a blanket from a patient sitting in his easy chair after he finished eating some cookies, two or three, cute little mice escaped from within the blanket where they were peacefully munching on the leftover crumbs. Compared to the german mice, these little mice looked cute. The mice in Germany were at least three times the size. The mice crawled into bed with the patients, knowing they were so far gone that they will not mind. I found a nest with baby mice in it, inside the pocket of a lumbermans jacket, belonging to a patient that was hung over a chair by the patient's bedside. I was steadily relieving the orderlies in my hall on my side of the building. They always left me the heavier workloads which they neglected to do, like complete bed changes. One day I came to the bedside of one of the patients of which it became my turn to look after again. He was expected to die any day now. He had already been laying in a semi coma for several days. When I folded back his top sheet I found dry, caked stool up to his shoulder blades. The regular orderly did not bother to clean up his bowel movements any more. I cleaned the patient, gave him an enema and cleaned him again. By all that twisting and turning which I caused, the patient awoke and actually two days later got out of bed and walked around. He died two months later. This patient was once a high ranking police officer, the assistant chief of police in Vancouver who was implicated in one of the biggest scandals. He was a very tall man with bushy black brows and staring dark eyes; by now he was only skin & bones. ( Walter, the patient who came home and lived with Carmen, me and our young daughter Marian, told me that he took money for allowing prostitution and gambling casinos to operate in Vancouver. He was fired from the police department ). I liked these old, senile oldtimers who had many stories to tell of the depression; the mass unemployment, the riding on box cars from town to town, the rejections of the local inhabitants, the clashes with the police, relief camps and food stamps. These people forgot every thing that happened to them in the present from about twenty years ago to the last five minutes but any thing before that time they remembered very clearly and well. They were happy to have someone spending some time with them; one could see that in their eyes, how their eyes began to shine. Just imagine sitting in a chair or laying in bed, day in and day out without anyone to visit you except to clean and feed you; and that went on for many years for many patients. If that does not effect your mind, what will? This depression also rubbed off onto many of the care givers. Some time after I quit there, maybe even because I complained to the personnel manager about the conditions there, they finally brought in some occupational therapists and fumigated the premises to rid them of all pests.)
One of the orderlies had bought a brand new 500cc BSA Motorcycle which I took a liking to. I had no money saved but would have liked to have a motorcycle also. He told me to go visit Fred Deelys Motorcycles on Broadway and Fred Deely would surely work out some deal with me. I never really rode on a large motorcycle before and was afraid I could not handle it. in Berlin I made friends with a fellow at work, on a construction job. He was very tall and muscular, a hard worker and a very giving person. Once he lent me his inflatable rubber boat which I wanted to spend some time on with Carmen on the (Wannsee). Carmen was a poor swimmer and panicked when the water went higher then her head. I assured her that the boat was safe; we had no swim jackets. As we got quite a way out I noticed that the boat had a leak. Carmen nearly began to panic but I calmed her, saying we would reach the beach before the boat filled and we made it to the beach safe and sound. I am a good swimmer; I could have swam with Carmen in tow for some time and also there were other boats nearby. This friend also had a very light class motorcycle where one needs a drivers license class 5, the lowest basic motorcycle drivers license but never the less a license. If the police caught you drive one of these, you could be paying a fine and it would go on a criminal record; also the owner who lent me the bike would be fined. He knew I had no license but let me have a spin on it anyway, telling me to ride very carefully. This motorcycle was as easy to ride as a bicycle. I rode it elegantly into town past the big catholic church towards the city hall around a corner just as it began to rain. I was showing off and leaned over towards the left to make the left turn. I did not know that the cobble stone pavement would be slippery after the rain started, so the rear wheels slid away and I landed on the street with a few scratches on my legs and arms. Before I could manage to comprehend that I was lying on the street, a young policeman helped me to my feet, asking if I was all right, he inspected the motorcycle which was also in good order. He then asked to see my drivers license. Now I thought to myself to be very calm; I felt and looked into all my pockets and then apologized to him for having forgotten the license at home. He did not write out a citation, ticket but told me to push the bike home and then carry my drivers license with me at all times. I thanked him, pushed the bike around the corner, out of view of the policeman, got back on and drove it straight to the home of my friend. I told him about the matter and he laughed and told me I was very lucky. I think the policeman was a member of the Berlin swat team, Bereitschafts Polizei. So now in Vancouver at Deelys I bought a used motor scooter which gave me a lot of mechanical trouble. So I took it back and demanded the return of my down payment. He said he could not return the down payment in cash but I could choose any of the new motor cycles on display. I picked the 250cc BSA motorcycle, half the size of the 500cc BSA. I said I never drove such a size motorcycle before. One of the mechanics pushed the bike outside into a side street and explained to me that after I pulled in the clutch and shifted into the first of three gears I should slowly turn up the throttle and at the same time slowly releasing the gear shift. Well said; not so well carried out in practice but after two or three tries I managed to ride the bike home safely. I had studied the Motor vehicle regulations and had a minors learners license because I was under 21 years of age. To receive the minors motorcycle license, I drove the bike to the Motor Vehicle License branch in Vancouver and after I drove the motorcycle around the yard with the inspector watching from a distance, he took me back in and issued me a motorcycle drivers license for minors and told me to come back as soon as I turned 21 years of age to exchange it for an adult drivers license. When I became 21 years of age, I went back for the adult license and was issued an adult drivers license for motorcycles and automobiles. I was surprised and asked if that license really entitled me to drive an automobile; he said yes, but I should practice driving a little on not so busy side streets. Six months after our arrival here in Vancouver my brother Wolfgang wrote me a letter, asking how the prospects were for him to get work in Vancouver. He had to quit working on the construction jobs, pouring cement because he had developed a skin problem. He was at that time working in our weaving factory, Die Spinnstoff Fabrik Zehlendorf but could not make ends meet with the pay he received there. I told him that for a hard and conscientious worker there should be work here to be found. I was also happy to have at least one of my brothers or sisters living close by. So in July 1957 he, with Eva and Doris, who was now four years old, arrived at the CNR, Canadian National Railway station on Terminal Avenue and Main Street in Vancouver. We had scouted the city already four weeks ahead of time to find suitable lodgings for hem but no one wanted to accept children; the same old sarcastic motto: God Bless The Children but we do not want them. All we found for them was some basement which was primitively converted into a basement suite. We hunted for work together because Wolfgang and Eva spoke no english at all. We found only some one or two day temporary jobs. My brother was always hard working and was never without work. Also his Asthma was acting up which could have been because of all the stress he was under. I told him to be patient and that Carmen and I would support them financially until they were able to look after themselves. A combination of all this seemed to have caused a mild nervous breakdown; he broke down crying and the rest of us, Carmen, Eva and I, cried with him. Against my advice he accepted work with the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railroad) as a section worker. He was sent to Revelstoke alone while Eva and Doris waited in Vancouver until he found a place to live for them all. Eva was concerned he may have some communication problems there. I told Eva, to set her mind at ease, that I would drive up there with my motor cycle to make sure everything worked out well for him. At the same time I had the chance of trying out the bike on a longer distance. Carmen packed me a whole suitcase full of sandwiches, boiled eggs, pork chops etc. to last me a whole week. It took me the whole day nearly to arrive in Revelstoke due to all the road construction going on everywhere. When I at last arrived in Revelstoke I was informed that he was sent on to Golden, B. C. I only had two days off from work and also because I was warned of the bad road conditions, I made my way back home. During the night, while driving through the mountains near Princeton, B. C. the temperature dropped quite a bit. I stopped at a public campsite where I found a trash can filled with paper and card board that I lit to warm up from the flames. When that was burnt out I felt much more comfortable and a sudden warm air flow made me sleepy and I lay down on the ground trying to get some winks of sleep. But the warm air flow soon turned into the opposite; very cold that made me shiver. I could not sleep, so I drove on. I had no proper clothing for the occasion. I drove a little way, then stopped to rub my nearly frozen fingers and that went on until in Pinceton I found an over night open coffee shop where I stayed until the sun came up, drinking coffee. The next afternoon I returned to Vanouver having accomplished nothing but consume the suitcase full of all the food. A few days later we received a letter from Wolfgang that he had a job on a railroad section of the CPR in Harrogate, B. C. and living quarters for the family: Wolfgang, Eva and Doris. He received free railway tickets to bring Eva and Doris to Harrogate. There they lived in primitive housing without electricity, no running water and only an out-house. So he had to improvise of which he was an expert. He knew enough about running an electric cable and to tap off some electricity, enough for lighting from the main house of the landlord, the local proprietor of the General Store and he attached a hollowed out log from a nearby mountain stream to the house to get fresh water right into it. They were transferred several times to even more primitive, very remote areas onto sections of railroad track, isolated by surrounding mountains and Forrest, ( no water or electricity; they had to use oil lamps for lighting and carry water from a nearby creek ) from any human contact and the only way out was by train. They had free travel passes and had to do their shopping by train. Once every two weeks they came to Vancouver, 700 miles away, to do their shopping and to stay with us while they were here. Like us, they could not accustom themselves to canadian groceries, such as: bread, over excessively salted butter according to what we were used to in Germany, sausages, etc. Vancouver had enough german immigrants to form a regular german community. Robson and Davie Streets became to be known as the german streets. We did all our shopping on Robson Street. There were three german delicatessen stores in one block between Burrard and Thurlow Street. There was Prince, Vincent on the south side of Robson Street and Freybe was on the north side. We did most of our shopping at Vincent's. He had the best smelling and tasting fresh, german bread, much better tasting than the german bread now in Vancouver. In those days there was a large flour mill at Hastings Street & Clarke Drive, that ground the flour the German way, by stone grinding. There was everything contained inside the grain left in the flour. When they demolished the mill, the so-called german bread was only a farce, german by name. Also in Berlin, where Carmen and I came from, they would use salt and sugar but very sparingly, not like here, where everything is overly salted or over sweetened. They had excellent german style sausage as we knew it from Berlin; different areas in Germany would also bake differently and make different tasting sausages, etc. The only item that was superior in Vancouver in those early days until the middle of the sixties, was the milk. We had our milk delivered fresh daily. On top of the milk the cream was floating and in the cream were lumps of butter. The milk was still unadulterated; when it aged, it did not go bad but became sour milk. One would drink it, with sugar added, which made it a delicious drink. If the milk aged even longer, then the white solid would separate from the greenish water. You pour all that into a cloth and fold both ends of the cloth together and twist them more and more, squeezing out all the water and then, when you opened the cloth, you had the most delicious tasting cottage cheese.
At last they found a brand new house to buy in Canoe, B. C. near Salmon Arm. In the meantime they had a son whom they named Rick, seven years younger than Doris. At that time Wolfgang was already a gang foreman. He worked far away from home and stayed away for two weeks at a time. He always had a dream of building his own house. This dream came true when he was permanently working on a section in Salmon Arm, about five miles away from Canoe, as a foreman and when he became near to the end of his career, an assistant roadmaster, a member of the big family, as he said, he now was. ( The big Family tried to get rid of him when, after all those years, he became worn out and needed a hip replacement from which he never recovered and which made him useless for work. ) He inherited a few dollars from his uncle Richard in Germany. Wolfgang was his favorite nephew and together with some of his savings, he built a house from large bricks and reinforced steel in cement between the brick to make the house earthquake proof, from his own drawing. He then was the only, proud owner of a house built from solid brick and cement in the whole village of Canoe. ( it also helped to make his, and Eva's back to degenerate even faster because of the heavy work, handling the building materials). Then Eva, his wife, died and he died two years later after a long struggle with cancer. Doris with husband Brian live only a couple of blocks away, in a beautiful house by the Shushwap Lake and their son, Jason and his family, live in the house, his grandfather built. Rick and his wife Sharon, live in Tappen, B. C., only a few miles away in the distance. I have got ahead of myself. Back to the end of 1957:
In the meantime Carmen was pregnant because I neglected to use condoms; I did not like them. That was irresponsible of me; I thought that if I pulled it out just before the fluid rushed down my penis we would be safe. We were not planning this to happen because we only started to feel comfortable and were able to save some money. We wanted to be able to offer a secure home to our first born child. When the landlady, Mrs. Mac Person was told about it she told us we must vacate the premises before the child arrived because the rooms for rent were intended only for single people or married couples without children. There was one complete suite on the top floor that she rented out to a couple with one infant child who were soon moving into their own house but the landlady did not want to rent that suite to us; which is understandable because no renters want or should be exposed to little children crying and running around in the house. So we went looking for a place which would accept children but without avail. We were told at many places that God Bless The Children but they did not want to have them living in their house.
At the hospital an italian cleaner by the name of Ciro Rossi offered us a room until we found something better; that was before Marian was born but when Carmen became closer to giving child birth he raised the rent that steep that we felt betrayed and took his determination to evict us in earnest. I started looking for some other place to rent. Ciro was maybe two or three years older than Carmen and I. His wife was his childhood girlfriend who told us that in Italy her family was well situated and she never needed to do any housework there. Ciro had been in Canada before her, and his brothers in Italy, persuaded her with a cunning tale, to go to Canada to marry Ciro who was the proud owner of a house there. She imagined he had become one of those rich americans of whom she heard and read so much about. When she arrived in Canada and saw the run down structure, she nearly died of hate for Ciro and his brothers and pity for herself but what could she do? She was ashamed to return to Italy and so she married him. She said that he regards her only as a baby making machine. Many nights we heard screams of anger coming from their bedroom. They already had three little children and the fourth was on the way. Ciro made his own wine in the basement and also had a little still. The crushed wine was fermenting in a large barrel and while it was still milky and fermenting he would fill up some glasses and drink it. Not only to me he offered a glass of wine but he would give wine to his three year old daughter, Nelda and Carmen told me she saw her leaning against the wall, slowly sliding to the floor and pass out from drinking that wine. He used to offer me some and not to hurt his feelings I accepted a glass of that milky ferment but told him I would drink it upstairs; you can imagine where that wine went; down the sink in the upstairs kitchen.
Ciro came to Canada from Italy as an immigrant and worked for some time on the railroad gang. He told me that he had very little schooling, he could not read or write italian and spoke only a local dialect. He said that he worked together with an other foreigner for several months before finding out that he was also italian from an other area in Italy. One by one all his brothers and sisters immigrated to Canada and together they saved up enough money to buy a new house for their parents whom they brought over last. One by one they all worked for the down payment of old houses which they repaired and moved their families into. The house from Ciro was large but ready to disintegrate. He bought the house in a commercially zoned area on 3rd Avenue near Main Street in Vancouver; he was hoping to sell his property for a profit in the future. In the meantime Carmen and I adopted a terrier type puppy from some german friends whom we named (Purzel). While Carmen and I were at work we left the puppy with the wife of Ciro and little children to play with but whenever Carmen or I was home we spent our time looking after it. I took it along for rides on the gas tank in front of the motorcycle, with my arms surrounding him, so he would not fall or jump off. He
My adult life 3
was always happy to go on rides. Whenever I rode the bus I would hide him inside my jacket. I am sure that most of the time the bus drivers knew what I was hiding but never once was I refused to board the bus with Purzel in my jacket. Frank and Gretel whom we met first at the immigration building moved to Ioco, a few miles from Vancouver. Frank was offered a job there in the local Oil Refinery as a welder. As we had the motor scooter we were able to visit them there and from then on we grew strong ties as if we were related to one another. They told us of a property with a small house on it in Pleasant Side, five minutes of walking time from where Frank and his family resided, which stood vacant, for rent and the owners allowed children. So we decided to move out there. Carmen stopped working because she was advanced in her pregnancy and I used the motor cycle, the 250cc BSA to commute to work in Vancouver and back. The previous renters, a swiss family, by the name of Schnäbele, with several small children let the house and property become a shambles but the owners renovated and painted it before we moved in. The owners were originally from Norway; a very friendly and honest couple who worked at the River View Hospital, a mental patient hospital in Coquitlam, near Vancouver. They wanted to sell the house to us at a very reasonable price. We had no credit rating yet and no one would sell us anything on credit . Frank told us to go and see Henry's Furniture in Vancouver who sold us furniture on credit but with inflated prices and high interest. Henry was jewish but said, he liked the ordinary german people. We bought a bed to sleep on for Carmen and me, a table for eating from and three chairs. The previous renters gracefully let us have an old crib for our coming baby which needed some repairs and a paint job which we got done in time. All we needed for the crib was a new mattress, which we also bought at Henry's. Baby clothe we had none because the kind of baby clothe in Canada did not appeal to us, we sent money home many months before the arrival of our child. My mother took her time sending them so that they arrived after the birth of our beautiful little girl whom we named Marian Christina. While I was at work Carmen was home by herself; she did not speak english because it was difficult for her to learn foreign languages and when I was with her we spoke german because that was easy for her. We had an arrangement with our family doctor Grimson in Vancouver, that, if she felt cramps in her abdomen, all she needed to do was to call the doctor in Vancouver and he would make all the arrangements: sending a cab to our house in Pleasant Side and all the arrangements with the maternity ward at the Vancouver General Hospital. The doctor told us that the baby was not due till May 12th but Marian decided she did not want to wait that long, she was as stubborn as her father. She was born on April 30 of 1958. When Carmen felt the pain she phoned doctor Grimson in Vancouver, somehow she gave him to understand that the time has come. Before she knew it she saw a taxi parked in front of our doorway. She was still in her house coat but her suit case was all ready; only she had to look and call for, was the dog in order to lock him into the house. It must have taken her ages, she admitted but the taxi driver was patiently waiting. Then as she got into the cab she did not even know where they should go but he knew where; from the instructions he received from Dr. Grimson, an other good person, already more than over 65 years old. I was notified when Carmen arrived at the maternity ward which was right next door to the Heather Annex, where I worked as an Orderly. In those days husbands were not encouraged to stay with their wives during child birth. When I was notified of Carmen's arrival at the maternity ward I asked permission to go see her which was granted. I went up and arrived when she was going through one of her pain cycles.I felt so sorry for her but I did not know what to say. I asked a stupid question: if it was really that painful; she nearly jumped up from the bed to strangle me. She told me that this was the first and last time she would suffer from a child birth.
I stayed at the hospital all night, sleeping on a couch in the Heather Annex. After 22 hours of painful labor Marian made her grand entrance into the outside world. Marian weighed 5 lbs. 8 ounces and it is too hard to describe the happiness I felt when I first saw her there from outside the infant hall, from behind glass. Some little being that I shall be responsible for, that I shall always love and that she shall return my love. Frank and Gretel bought her the first outfit to dress her with when she came home. In the meantime all the articles such as clothing, clot