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Conversation between Lydia Hass Knadle and Joy Hass Stefan


Kerrville, Texas
August, 1993 - Session 1

Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman


Lydia was 94 at the time. She died in February, 1994. The village she calls Nikolaev has since been determined to be Neu Nikolajewka, Bessarabia. Joy is Lydia's niece and was taking Lydia to visit her only remaining sister, Hilda Hass Smith Brown, in Kerrville, Texas.

Joy: How big a place was Nikolaev; was it like a farming community?

Lydia: No, it was a little town. I think that's all they had then; they don't live out in the country like they do here.

Joy: Was it like the little villages like you see in movies, with
little narrow streets?

Lydia: Yes, yes. Just a little town.

Joy: Did they have paved roads?

Lydia: Oh, no.

Joy: They were all dirt roads?

Lydia: Sure. Too long ago for pavement, ha ha.

Joy: Well did you guys travel by buckboard, or carts, or...

Lydia: Yes, yes.

Joy: Did they have carriages?

Lydia: Well, the rich people did, I guess. No, we never did.

Joy: Sometimes you see in the movies, like Czar Nicholas and Alexandra, they had all these regal carriages.... I guess
that's what you mean that the rich people had carriages.

Lydia: Yes, yes, sure.

Joy: There was you and Rudy and Emma, and I guess Hilda was born
there too... so there were only the four of you kids before
you came over here...

Lydia: Let's see... Yes, I think so.

Joy: Nettie I think was born there too...

Lydia: Yes, Hilda was the baby.

Joy: Okay, then Nettie was older than Hilda.

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: Did you have grandparents that lived there, or other cousins
or aunts and uncles?

Lydia: Where?

Joy: In Nikolaev.

Lydia: Oh gosh, I can't remember that! But we must have had because, you know, that's where they originated.

Joy: You didn't get together for family celebrations or anything
that you remember?

Lydia: I can't remember that far back.

Joy: Well, you celebrated Christmas, didn't you?

Lydia: Well sure.

Joy: Did they have Christmas trees there?

Lydia: Ha ha. I don't know, I really don't remember that far.

Joy: Well, you remembered that you celebrated Christmas...

Lydia: Well, we always had Christmas, of course...

Joy: Did you have special meals, like where we have turkeys or
hams, or...

Lydia: Oh I think so, yes. I can't think what we had, but I'm
sure we had the Christmas dinner that was in the family.

Joy: Well, did they make a special cake or...

Lydia: Ha ha. I'm sure they did... I can't remember just what
we had, but I'm sure they had things they fixed for the
holiday.

Joy: What kind of work did your dad do there?

Lydia: He was a school teacher.

Joy: What did he teach?
Lydia: Gosh... everything, I guess. Because there was only one teacher.

Joy: They just had like one-room school houses?

Lydia: Yes, just one room where everybody was in that room going
to school.

Joy: So he was your teacher, your school teacher too?

Lydia: Sure, to start with.

Joy: What was it like, having your dad be your school teacher?

Lydia: Ahhh... Gosh, I don't remember.

Joy: Well, did you ever feel like he expected you to know it all,
or know more than the other kids?

Lydia: Ha ha... Oh, no, I don't think so.

Joy: Well, that's good. I think that would be kind of awkward,
having a relative for either a student or a teacher.

Lydia: Having your dad for a teacher, sure. Oh, I think we just
made it fine.

Joy: So he was a teacher and a farmer and a hardware store owner, kind of a jack-of-all-trades.

Lydia: Sure, well after we came over here, of course, he was in
the store mostly.

Joy: I wonder why he didn't try to continue as a teacher, or was
the store a better job. I mean, did it bring in more money?

Lydia: I suppose so; I have no idea. All I remember is the store.

Joy: Do you remember taking any trips or vacations or anything like that when you were still in Nikolaev?

Lydia: No, I sure don't. The only thing I remember about there was that we had this big room and it had a fireplace in the wall, you know, and bringing in hay; we had stacks of hay
that we kept the fire going with.

Joy: Oh, you burned hay?

Lydia: Yes, well, grass or hay, whatever. It was mostly hay, I
guess.

Joy: Well, was it cold there most of the time, or did you have
a chance to...

Lydia: Well, I remembered that much about it. Now, whether it was cold all year round, or cold just in the winter time or how, but I remembered that... bringing in that hay stuff and how I sat close to the fireplace.

Joy: Did they tie it together in bundles to make it burn a little
slower?

Lydia: No, no...we'd just throw bunches of hay on...

Joy: Your house there, you said you don't remember a whole lot, but was it like one big room that had a table sitting in it
and a fireplace in one end, and I guess... did your mom cook
over the fireplace, or was there a stove?

Lydia: No, I think she had a stove. Because I don't remember them
cooking in the fireplace at all. All I remember is having
that big pile of hay and keep throwing it in to keep the fire going...

Joy: Well, I can imagine doing that if it were really cold out- side, and wanting to be sitting close to the fire...

Lydia: Well, sure. I'm sure it was cold there then.

Joy: Well, were the houses made out of stone or wood, do you
remember?

Lydia: Well, the best I remember, it was kind of a stucco house
that we had there, that's the only house I remember. It was white and must have been just stucco.

Joy: Did they have... thatched roofs rather than boards and shingles or something like that?

Lydia: Yes, I remember them too.

Joy: Do you remember if you had a thatched roof?

Lydia: I think that's the only thing I remember; I don't remember
shingles.

Joy: Since you were in town, you didn't have farm animals or any-
thing like that, right?

Lydia: No, I don't remember any animals. I wish I did remember
more about that part of my life.

Joy: Well, sometimes if you start thinking about one thing, it
will make you remember another. Do you remember any of the games that you played or things that you did?

Lydia: No.

Joy: Now you said that your dad was a school teacher, so I guess
there were books around, and did you sit around and read in
the evenings?

Lydia: Oh, I can't remember that. I'm sure we did too. But that's a long time ago and I can't get it clear in my mind what all went on.

Joy: Do you remember if you had a pump in the house, or did you
have to carry water from someplace?

Lydia: Mmm... I don't remember where the water came from even. Do you realize that that's nearly a hundred years ago?

Joy: You guys immigrated in 1908, maybe?

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: Let's see, you came over on a ship. Did they cars then?

Lydia: Oh, no.

Joy: But they had trains.

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: Okay. Did you ever travel anywhere over there by train?

Lydia: Well, we landed on the shore you know, and got in...

Joy: So you took a train to wherever the ship left?

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: Do you remember where you boarded the ship, or even what
country it was?

Lydia: Oh, no. I sure don't. That's too long ago.

Joy: I'm not even sure what the ships looked like then. I've been on a replica of ships like the ones Columbus sailed on, and they seemed so small.

Lydia: Well, I'm sure they weren't as big as they are now. All I
remember about that ship is that there was a steward or
someone down there who gave me a banana.

Joy: I think you told Michelle he was the cook.
Lydia: Well, he was the cook or one of the stewards.

Joy: Were there a lot of other families on the ship?

Lydia: Oh sure, sure. It was loaded.

Joy: Were most of them also German, or were there a lot of different nationalities?

Lydia: There were some different ones, but most of them were
German on that one because it came out of that region of the country.

Joy: Do you remember if any of your other friends you had there in Nikolaev decided to immigrate at the same time?

Lydia: I'm sure they did, but I sure can't remember now.

Joy: I don't imagine it was a real quick trip across...

Lydia: Ha, ha. Well, I don't think so...

Joy: What do you remember about things you did to entertain your- selves; did you play tag...

Lydia: No, no. I don't think we did anything like that. I have no memory of what we played or what we really did to entertain ourselves.

Joy: Do you remember anybody getting seasick?

Lydia: Oh yes, a lot of people got seasick. We did too.

Joy: Did you get seasick?

Lydia: Oh sure. You can't help it when you get on those ships and you're not used to any of that.

Joy: Did they have little compartments like they did on trains
that you'd sleep in?

Lydia: Um hum. Yes, you had a little room that you stayed in.

Joy: Well, did you pretty much just have to stay in that little
compartment all day, or did you...

Lydia: No, I remember walking around on the deck and watching the
water from along the edge of the deck. They had the deck
railing and I remember standing there and watching that water, you know the ship throws the water like that. It was
fun watching it.

Joy: That ship was a steam ship, rather than one with great big
sails, wasn't it?

Lydia: Oh yes. Steamers.

Joy: Do you remember how many smoke stacks it had?

Lydia: Oh, no. Ha ha.

Joy: Or watching the smoke come out of those smoke stacks?

Lydia: Gosh, no. Do you realize that that was a long time ago?

Joy: Well sure. What did you think when you first saw the ocean?

Lydia: Ha ha. Water, water.

Joy: Were you the least bit scared?

Lydia: I don't think so.

Joy: Well, when you got out on the ocean and got out far enough
that you couldn't see any land anywhere...

Lydia: It was kind of boring.

Joy: I guess it would be, especially if you got seasick.

Lydia: Well, I don't remember being too seasick. I don't think
I ever had much of that.

Joy: That's good. Now, your mom had just had a baby before you
got on the ship.

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: And he died while you were on the ship. Was he sick from the time he was born, or I wonder if she just didn't have things to really take care of him with.

Lydia: I really don't remember how that happened. All I know is
that we were on there just a couple of days when he died. And they buried him in the water. They dropped him down in
the sea.

Joy: What do you remember about that?

Lydia: Not really anything special. They had a little box to put him in and sealed it up and had a little service and dropped him down in the water.

Joy: I know you had told Michelle when she called you when she
was researching the paper she had to write, that they put
pieces of iron in the coffin...

Lydia: Oh yes, they weighted the coffin so it would go down.

Joy: You told her that when they put the iron in the bottom of
the coffin that all you could think was "that's not going
to make a very soft bed for a baby.!"

Lydia: Ha ha.

Joy: Well, when they did sea burials like that, did they use a
flag from the country to drape over...

Lydia: No, I don't remember anything about the flag other than that it was just the flag that was on the ship all the time.

Joy: Probably whatever country the ship was registered in...

Lydia: Yes. Could have been.

Joy: Do you remember your folks ever telling stories about other
relatives or when they grew up?

Lydia: No, it was just too long ago. Too much was going on. You
had to work too hard to keep living when you got here so you
kind of forgot those things.

Joy: Were either one of your parents very religious? Do you
remember going to church?

Lydia: Oh sure. We went to church every Sunday.

Joy: They were Lutheran?

Lydia: Um hum.

Joy: Do you remember going to church when you were still in
Bessarabia?

Lydia: No, I sure don't.

Joy: Well, was church kind of an all day thing, or...

Lydia: No, I think we just went to church and came home for dinner.

Joy: They didn't have everybody taking their picnic to eat after-
wards or any of that stuff?

Lydia: No, I don't remember anything like that. No, I think we
just went home.
Joy: I forgot to ask you what your first impression was when you
saw the ship that you came over on. I'm sure you hadn't
seen anything that big in your life, right?

Lydia: I was pretty young.

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