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$50 IN MY POCKETI'm off to see America An Historical Memoir
By Lis Clark
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Lis Clark
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Trip at Sea
S/S United States Friday June 2. 1916
Dear Mom and Dad,
We left Copenhagen Thursday, June 1st, on the ship S/S UNITED STATES. The trip to Kristiania, Norway was good. The wind was strong, but I was not seasick and had a nice cabin with three other young men. I had a lower berth and slept well. This morning June 2nd, we were docked in Kristiania. The next stop will be Kristianssand on the lower coast of Norway then to Kirkwall, Scotland. We left Kristiania this afternoon at 4 o'clock. The wind had increased and big waves were running up Kristiania Fjord. I stayed on the top deck so I wouldn't get seasick, but as we rounded the South Coast of Norway and headed west toward the North Sea, the ship started rolling from side to side. It takes ten hours of sailing to get to Kristianssand and by 6 p.m. dinner time, not many showed up to eat. Big waves splashed over the lower decks, and I felt sick. I kept going until 10 o'clock, when I finally went down and managed to get to bed. I found I felt better in bed with my head low and on my back, and stayed like that until I fell asleep.
Saturday June 3
At 3 o'clock in the morning we pulled into Kristianssand and it was nice to have a deck under your feet that didn't heave and tip and jump. We were not allowed off the ship and we left again at 4 o'clock in a storm that sent huge waves up the harbor. We were now in the North Sea, and I tried to stay up, but I started to throw up and had to lean over the railing - I was far from being the only one to do that - so it was back to bed. The old ship was dancing and jumping and shaking. I stayed here and I felt fairly good when in bed, but if I tried to get up I would get nauseated again. We got to Kirkwall, Scotland, Sunday morning at 6 o'clock, and left again in the evening, so I had a chance to eat something that day and keep it down.
Monday June 5. Morning
We are now in the Atlantic Ocean. One hour after leaving Kirkwall last night in the storm, I started to throw up and it was back to bed for me - I feel fairly good when I stay there. My clothes hanging on the wall are swinging out when the ship rolls at a 25 degree angle, and I keep watching them to make sure they don't jump off the hook. I am writing this in bed and I know it will be four or six weeks before you will get it. I don't feel so well now, but I have to try to get on the deck today.
Monday 6:30 p.m.
We are now a good bit out in the Atlantic, and I have been thinking of the saying that the North Sea is more choppy than the Atlantic, and makes people seasick much faster and worse than the Atlantic - I know I feel better, not much appetite yet and I have a headache, but I can begin to talk to people and notice what is going on. There are people of all nationalities - Danes, Germans, English, Americans, Swedish, Norwegians, Finns, Russians, Polish, Armenians, Turks, Spanish, Italians and Persians, and you hear all these languages spoken. We all try to talk to one another and usually can make out all right. I am eating my meals at a table with three Finnish people - two young girls and a young man - I talk to them and already know some Finnish. They are nice clean and well-dressed people like the Danes, and they tell me there are two kinds of people in Finland. The Finnish Eskimos in the North and the other Finnish people in the city are mostly of Swedish descent.
We have one hour of music every afternoon from 4 p.m.. to 5 p.m.. The ship's orchestra plays special string music sometimes, and sometimes dance music. Sometimes it is on the deck, and this afternoon people were dancing and a big wave hit the ship and splashed over the deck everybody got soaked.
Tuesday, June 6
One week from today we should be in New York if we make it in 11 days. It is not easy to believe that we are moving. We see water and water and more water, and it looks to be the same every day. This ship is the center and nothing changes. Even the seagulls flying around the ship seem to be the same ones we saw yesterday. We are now about 800 miles from the nearest land - we are moving about 300 miles every day and night (23 hours and 33 minutes) and I am told that it is about 3500 miles from Copenhagen to New York. There is six hours difference in the time, except now that you have advanced your clocks one hour there will be seven hours difference. The weather is better and it should be warmer as we are going farther South as well as West. New York is about the same parallel as Lisbon and Madrid or Napoli.
Today we saw a dolphin jumping and following the ship. It looked to be about four to six yards long and it easily followed, jumping entirely out of the water every few seconds.
Wednesday June 7, 10 p.m.
It's a nice day, still on the cold side, no wind, and we can feel we are farther South. Today we saw three sharks - they were big and ugly looking. They are looking for garbage thrown from the ship. We are hoping for weather like this 'til we get to New York.
Thursday June 8, 10 p.m.
One week ago we left Copenhagen and today we entered the Gulf Stream. We will follow that for a while. Now the air is warmer and the water is a warm 65 degrees. The daylight is getting shorter and we are getting farther South, and it is now dark by 9 p.m.. We miss having daylight in Denmark until 11p.m., with the sun up at 1 a.m.. Today we saw a whole colony of sharks following the ship, and the seagulls are still with us. We hope to get to New York by Tuesday next week.
Friday June 9
Yesterday's good weather is no more. Today it is blowing up to a storm, but now I am getting used to the sea, and the ship's pitching doesn't bother me too much. Some people here are seasick, The waves are getting real bad and break over the deck, so no one is allowed on deck. We are locked in. I am sitting here on this chair holding on with one hand and writing with the other to keep from sliding all over the place. I am glad I am not sick and I hope to stay that way. We are now on a parallel with Paris.
Saturday June 10
The storm didn't last long - it is much better today, but last night it was rough. After I got to bed, a big wave hit the ship and everything on the stand by my bed fell over on my head, but today it is nice on deck, the ship is fairly steady.
We passed an iceberg floating in the Atlantic about in the spot that the Titanic went down; luckily it was daylight and we could see it for a long distance. The ship changed course to go closer and when we passed it, it was 400 to 800 yards away. It was beautiful, shining like a marble in the sun. It was higher than the ship and as only 1/10 of it is above water, it was a big iceberg. It must have been frozen snow, white and clean. I am glad we didn't hit it.
I am sorry to see the sun go down so early now - about 8 p.m. - and it gets real dark at night except for the moon. Tonight the moon is bright and I was standing on the aft deck by the railing and the wake of the ship made a silver river flowing away from us. It is completely calm weather, and I was thinking of you and Denmark so far away. Now it is toward morning there and you are all in bed and asleep. How is your weather? Where at night, it is light enough to read a newspaper outside at midnight. That is the North and it is known for that. And that I must do without now. It is something you miss and think about when you don't have it anymore. Now, near the end of my ocean trip I miss you all, and now when the serious part soon will begin, I think of Denmark. I hope Mr. Moldenhaver has a job for me as he promised. I have 50 dollars in my pocket. That is a must when you land on Ellis Island. That should last me for some time.
Saturday June 10
Tomorrow is a holiday in Denmark (Pinse) and as usual also the day after 2nd Pinseday. Here is one day like other days, and you lose track of the time. I wonder where all the seagulls come from, there seem to be 1000's of them following the ship. Are they the same ones we saw in the North Sea? Now off to bed.
Monday June 12
I am still thinking about you and Denmark. Today is a holiday as was yesterday (Sunday). We had some fog last night for about one hour, and you could hear the engines slow down. We were barely moving and every few seconds the whistle blew. It was not very nice to hear some people were afraid and dressed and went up on deck. If we don't get slowed down by more fog, we will be in New York tomorrow or tonight after 12 midnight. What is ahead? I don't know. Time will tell, but I'm looking forward to whatever it is.
Chapter TwoArrival at New York with $50.00 in My Pocket
Tuesday June 13
It is wonderful and unbelievably beautiful here. We are stopped at the entrance to New York Bay, with Long Island on one side and New Jersey on the other side. It is 6 a.m. in the morning and the sky is clear and the air is warm. We are waiting for the Customs and Immigration officials, then we will proceed up the Bay while we eat breakfast. We can't see New York yet, but soon we will be there at Ellis Island and we have to go through the tough entrance to the New World. I can see beautiful estates along the shores on either side, one after another as far as I can see. All have gardens and parks and walks going down to the ocean.
Tuesday evening June 13
Now we are in New York and I am sitting in a hotel room as I write this. Going through Ellis Island was not as bad as we all thought it would be. Everybody was nervous about it, but it was relatively easy. We started up the Bay and had breakfast, and I got a letter from Mr. Moldenhaver. He said he could easily get me a job on a farm if I wanted that, for about 25 dollars a month, plus keep. He is a high official in the State Agricultural Department and he had been transferred from New York to Albany. That is, I was told, about 10 hours by riverboat from New York. We reached Hoboken after about 1 hour and had to wait some time for the baggage to be unloaded and for all the Americans to get off.
We immigrants were put on a small ferry to Ellis Island, where my eyes were examined, the luggage inspected and I had to show that I had $50.00. I had it in my pocket so that went well. Then I was put on another ferryboat that took us to Battery Park in lower Manhattan.
We were a whole bunch of Danish immigrants, and I got talking to a Missionary Petersen who told me of a hotel I could go to. He also introduced me to another Danish man and son named Christiansen who were also looking for a hotel.
The older Christiansen had a farm in Nebraska. He had it rented out on shares to someone so he could take this trip to Denmark and get his son. The son was a telegrapher and had never been to America before, so he was as green as I was, but his father knew his way around. He was also going to Albany to talk to Mr. Moldenhaver as he was interested in buying a farm in New York State, then go to Nebraska and sell his farm there. Missionary Petersen got lost in the crowd but then it was time to get off the ferryboat.
All the immigrants going farther West had big badges pinned on their chests with the name of the place they were going. An officer from the ship herded them together and took charge to get them to the train station and put them on the right train. The rest of us were left to find our own way.
The Christiansens and I walked up the street after collecting our luggage, and we saw this hotel named Swedish Mission Hotel. We went in and got a room for the three of us for $1.00 each per night, including food. (The room itself was 40 cents.)
The people in this hotel spoke Swedish and understood us all right. The rooms were dirty, but we couldn't afford to pay more, so we stayed. It was about 2 p.m., so we had something to eat in the dining room and then took a walk to look over the neighborhood. It looks like a dirty city and the cars are going very fast. I saw a lot of horses and wagons loaded so the horses could hardly pull them. Streetcars are racing down the streets; they are much bigger and longer than in Copenhagen. Electric trains are running overhead on bridges built right down the middle of the street. They go fast and make a racket, and disappear around the corner. It looks dangerous. I am afraid they may run off the track and fall down in the street.
We were on Wall Street and saw some banks and some of the highest buildings; they don't look that high, but they are. The highest building in the world is here, it has 58 floors above the street and 8 floors below street level. This was a long day. I mailed all my letters to you, but I don't know how soon you will get them with that war going on. I hope you don't get in it. It is still Tuesday evening and my first day here.
Wednesday June 14, 7 a.m. Water Street no. 5, New York City
That is my address here and I slept here for the first time. I am planning to leave and go to Albany, New York with the Christiansens on the riverboat in a day or two. I got a letter from Mr. Brown in New South Berlin, near Oneonta. It was sent here from the ship's office. I can't understand how they know I am here. Mr. Brown has a farm and invited me to come and visit him. He can get me a job, but his place is not on the way to Albany, so I will go to Albany first and talk with Mr. Moldenhaver. Now, I will mail this today and send you my address when I get settled somewhere.
Love to all, Haldor
Friday June 16. on board steamer "Hendrick Hudson"
I am now on the riverboat going to Albany. I was in New York City two days and used the time to see as much as I could of the city. I am here to see the country, but on $50.00, I have to find work too. New York is a big place and it would take a long time to really see everything. I have been on the subway train and the elevated train, been over the Brooklyn Bridge and on ferryboats and found my way around all right. The young Christiansen goes with me and we talk English to the policemen, and they take our arms and lead us to the subway entrance, tell us how to get there and sometimes tell the conductor where to let us off.
The traffic is terrible. The streets are undermined with tunnels where the subway trains rumble under your feet. The elevated trains are over your head; the streetcars in the street are fairly slow on account of the traffic. The subway stations underground have big platforms and some places have entrances to stores and buildings that have several underground levels. Several tracks run here and the trains come fast and stop suddenly, and all the doors slide open. People come out and others fight to get in; if you get in a crowd, you are forced along into the train, the doors slam shut and the train is off again in 1/2 minute. For 5 cents you pay to go all over New York and back again if you want to. The trains are electric and are made up of 5-7 long cars. The seats are along the sides and you sit facing the people on the opposite side. A broad space is in between for standing. There are no doors between the cars and you can see from one end of the train to the other. The train starts so fast that you have to hang on to your seat to keep from sliding. There is a train about every three minutes. The elevated train is about the same and they run in a height from 2nd floor to as high as the 6th floor, and in places they go underground. There are usually four tracks, two in each direction. The street underneath is dark and the houses are shaking when the trains go by.
The view from the Brooklyn Bridge is wonderful. I took the train over the Bridge, then got off so I could walk back over it. I was then in Brooklyn, and the first train stop was some distance from the Bridge, so I got lost in the streets and had to ask for directions. The street was filled with Negroes, some light and some dark, so I must have been in a Negro section of the city. We do not see any Negroes in Denmark, so to me it was an unusual sight; Negro men, women and children playing in the street, and Negroes running the stores. I even saw a Negro family in a beautiful new car, driving down the street. I have also been in Central Park in the center of Manhattan, but that park is so big I couldn't walk to the other end, where the Harlem Section of the city is (that is also mostly Negroes living there). The park is full of squirrels and they are almost tame. There are big ponds and groups of rocks, flowerbeds and a few stands that sell soft drinks and ice cream. There are plenty of roads where you see rich people drive cars, or beautiful horses and carriages with a coachman and another man on the front seat in full uniform. We found a big museum on one side of the park and there we saw big expensive paintings, sculptures and many things from all over the world. We were tired from walking around all day, so we went back to the hotel, as we had to get up early in the morning and get to the riverboat. The hotel we stayed at in New York, we found out, is run by the Swedish church for the benefit of the immigrants who are coming by the shipload every day - and it was real cheap. It cost us 40 cents a day for a bed, 10 cents for morning coffee and a bun, 30 cents for a dinner and 25 cents for supper. The food is not very good. I saw people buying something they called "hamburg" - it was two pieces of bread with a piece of chopped beef between. There was no gravy, but they poured some kind of tomato sauce on it (it said "ketchup" on the bottle); but I would like gravy. The bread is white only and you get a small pat of butter in the middle. Always two slices for a sandwich, and there is no pumpernickel or French bread.
Excerpted from $50 IN MY POCKET by Lis Clark Copyright © 2010 by Lis Clark. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER ONE The Trip at Sea....................1
CHAPTER TWO Arrival at New York with $50.00 in My Pocket....................9
CHAPTER THREE Finding A Job....................17
CHAPTER FOUR A New Job....................29
CHAPTER FIVE Finally, I Got the New Car....................49
CHAPTER SIX Off to Bermuda....................65
CHAPTER SEVEN We Say Goodby To Bermuda....................101
CHAPTER EIGHT Meeting "Teddy....................119
CHAPTER NINE The Trip South....................135
CHAPTER TEN Back Home To Chatham....................167
CHAPTER ELEVEN New Job In Connecticut....................191
CHAPTER TWELVE Tragedy Strikes....................201