Why did you want to go to Vienna?
Because I was thinking right away to go to Hamburg, to go to America.
Weren’t you going home?
No, I didn’t want to go home.
Because, you know if a young man comes home from the Army, they want to give you right away shothunen [Yiddish – “matchmaker”] and they want you to get married and I didn’t want that.
So you didn’t see anybody at all? You didn’t see your family?
You went straight to Vienna and then where did you go?
In Hamburg, I bought myself a ticket.
From Hamburg you took the ship. Do you remember the name of the ship?
The Victoria. Where did the Victoria go? From Hamburg it went where?
To New York.
Did it stop anyplace? England?
You didn’t go to Liverpool?
No…to Liverpool? That was before–with a small, that’s what I was going to say, we come to Liverpool and from Liverpool we took the Victoria.
The Victoria left from Liverpool. And then how many days did it take you?
About eight days.
Eight days to come to New York. Oh, we had a wonderful time.
What kind of trip did you have? Were you in first class, second class….
First class? You were rich! The fellow with all the money!
You know when I came here, nobody came with me, I came myself, I didn’t have any addresses and I found my uncle [garbled].
That’s where you went first–to your uncle? What was your uncle’s name?
Where was he living then?
In (New York?)–yeah, New York. Suffolk Street. 131 Suffolk Street–I remember this all my life.
All right–and what did you do–did you move in with him?
The first time I came to my uncle, it was on a Friday, so he took me after the first supper I had, he took me to a room and he said, “come here my child, I want to tell you a nice story.” So I went to the room and it was him and me in the room. He said he was going to tell me a little story but that I was to remember it all my life. In America [in Yiddish he says, “if you go, there’s no father, there’s no mother, there’s no sister, there’s no brother, there’s no uncle”] if you’re going to work, you’ll be all right and everybody will like you but if you don’t work, don’t ask, no one will like you at all. Even, he said, for that supper that you just ate today with me, you’ve got to pay me for it and from today on you’re going to pay $3 every week. So, I said “all right” and I asked him how much it was for the whole month and he said $12 so I said, “here, Uncle” and I took out money from my pocket and said, “here is the twelve dollars for a whole month you don’t need to worry at all.” It was nice.
How much money did you have when you came here?
I had in American money about $175 in my pocket. I had over a thousand dollars in Austrian money. I had it in the bank and I took it out when I left from Tarnów to Hamburg.
What did you do here in the United States?
So, I paid him the board and I said “don’t worry about it.” And he said (my uncle), “now we got to think what to do–what are you going to do?” And I told him not to worry, I would do something. So he told me that he wanted me to be all right. So he said, “do you want to be a tailor?” So, I said that I would be a tailor as long as I could make money. He told me that I could make a whole lot of money. On a Sunday morning, he would leave the house maybe 5, maybe 6 o’clock and he came running by and said [garbled], “Kind, I’ve got a job for you.” So we went to a big shop, the machines were working like anything and he said, “you see, there is a big boss and you’re going to pay him $10 and he’ll learn you for a whole month and you’ll be an apprentice and you’ll make a whole lot of money. That’s the best trade there ever is now.” So, I said all right–I was a good boy and I took everything that somebody told me.
So I said, “all right–I’ve got to learn something.” So, the boss told me, ” you have to pay me $10 and you have to work four weeks and when you come out from my place, you’re going to get money.” So, I sat down right away at a machine and by the end of the second day, I knew more than the people who had been working a year there. I took everything up so quick so the apprentice saw that I could make pockets, I could make collars–I could turn the collars out–and then they gave me sleeves to put together and then they gave me linings to put together and everything I saw, I did. So I was working two weeks and I came home and said to my uncle, “why should I work for that man? I gave him the $10 and I’m going to look for a job. And, I’ll get a job.” So he said, “well, you said 4 weeks….” And I said, “what is the difference–so he got my $10.”
So, Friday, I come and I see him and I said when we stopped work–we didn’t work Saturday–we worked Friday and I said, “Mr. Wolf, I won’t come to work on Sunday.” He said, “why?” And I said, “why I should I work for you for nothing. I gave you the $10 and I don’t want to work anymore. I’ll get myself a job.” He said, “why do you want a job somewhere else–get a job from me. Take a job from me and the third week, I’ll give you $2.
Two dollars for the whole week?
For the whole week–give me two dollars. So, I told him OK that I would take the $2 but first I want you to give me the money, right away, because I told him “I know if I work it, you won’t give me the money.” He said, “I’ll give it.” So, I told him all right and that I would take his word. On Friday, he gave me an envelope with $2 and I said, “now I quit.” He said, ” why do you want to quit now? I’ll give you $3.” And I said, “$5.” So, he talked to one of his partners and the partner told him to give me $5. And I told him I wanted the $5 first and he gave me the $5. So, I got $7 back again and it cost me $3 and I worked 4 weeks.
What was his name?
Wolf. So, after the 4th week, I left. I told him that I was going that I didn’t want to work anymore there and I went to Broom Street, they used to call it a chuzzamach [Yiddish for pigmarket]. They need all the operators and all the tailors used to go to that place. It was near [?] Ritz Street. We used to get jobs and the bosses used to come and get the working men, whatever they needed–they used to get there. So, I remember like today, there was a high man there and he was looking around, looking around and he came to me and said, “are you an operator?” I said, “no, I know [?] Ishbanel Rosenfeld” and he said, “come with me.” So I went with him–his name was Pesach, I remember like today, he took me in on Fifth Street, I don’t remember the number but it was between Rivington and Stanton on a stoop and there was about 4 rooms there. In the front, he had one machine stand and he said, “you’re going to operate and you’re going to sew on the machine and I’m going to baste and I’ll put it in your hand and I’m going to make you an operator.” And that’s what happened. He was a very nice man. He basted everything for me. He basted in the sleeves. Everything he basted and I used to sew it around. And I was working with him for about 6 weeks and I was a full operator. See, I was the head. So, he used to pay me $20/week. And he made me an operator, that Pesach, and I was working with him for 2 years.
When did you come to the United States?
I came on a Friday, 1888.
It was March. March, it must about the 8th or 9th.
What happened after that?
After we had a big blizzard.
That was the big blizzard of…
And that was when?
Three days before Purim.
Three days before Purim in ‘88.
How old were you then?
I was going on 19.
You weren’t 19 yet, you were 18 ½. In March of 1888 you were 18 ½ years old.
That’s right. And I was here for three years………..TAPE ENDS!
This booklet is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Julius Bier, with gratitude for the hardships he endured as a young man in an effort to seek a better life for himself in getting to this country. I am also grateful for the foresight my cousin, Gerald Frolow, had in sitting down and making this tape with Grandpa back in 1956 when it wasn’t fashionable to do so. Our family will be long indebted to him for not allowing a large and significant portion of our family’s history to pass into eternity unnoticed.