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Telephone interview with Lydia Hass Knadle and Emma Hass Conine

February 1988

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 Bessarabia?

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 to America.

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 before?

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 coming over?

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 brother?

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 with Rudy.

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 were Germans?

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 in Texas?

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 of life.

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