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Fred's Story > Chapters > Planning to go to America

The Ocean Crossing 

Date Range: 03/04/1952 To 03/15/1952   Comments: 4 Views: 11514
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The trip.

The time period involved here is only 11 days.
Yet, these were eventful days whose experiences are with me to this day. There were a lot of firsts. By nature I'm off immediately exploring the boat from top to bottom or at least were they let me go. The women and children were deposited in the front portion of the ship while the men were assigned bunks in the rear. The middle contained the dining areas, the hospital and various other facilities for washing clothes etc. The bunks were like hangers which swung if you pushed them. Navy stuff I guessed. I get one up at the top so that I have a good overview of the place. On my first reconnoitering trip I see my first black man up close. I had seen some at the holding place but always from far away but here was a huge Negro right in front of me leaning over the railing. He sees my shock and smiles with big white teeth just like I had imagined them. But his lips weren't as big as the pictures I had seen in books. As I stand there somewhat transfixed the man speaks to me - in almost accent free German. Now that was wierd. I don't remember our discussion except that he lived in Bremerhaven and not New York or in the US. Later I find out that living on the strong dollar was much more attractive in Germany than in the US. I now spend much of my time at the railing watching us leave the harbor. There were many other boats docked which had their own fascination to me. There also were huge cranes which could reach right into these ships. Eventually it got a bit cold outside and I try to get back to where I had come from. You try to remember all the corners and gangways but I was already lost. I just kept roaming the ship until a saw a familiar point which then lead me to my mom and sister. The whole time I was walking around there was this strange smell everywhere. Once we got to the eating area where we learned to line up and grab trays for food I found out that the smell was Navy coffee. That same smell came back to me as I shipped across the ocean as a GI a few years later. I dodn't know how they make the coffee on these ships but it certainly doesn't smells as if you walking by a Starbucks restaurant. I've never experienced hat smell except on a ship. The food was terrible. Everything was much too salt. Even the butter was salty. Salty butter might as well have been sweet as sugar it was such a strange taste. Whatever butter we ever had was never full of salt, it was just natural like butter was supposed to be. Then they had all tjhis jiuce at every meal. Who ever had seen orange or pineapple juice before? An orange was a Christmas treat. Up to that point I had eaten one small banana in my life and here they had bananas all over the place but real big ones. My first banana I bought myself with 50 Pfennigs which I had for the carnival rides at our local Kirmes in Essen. Once a year they came with many wagons and set up all these wonderful rides espcially with buper cars. My mother would give me a little money every day while this entertainment lasted and one day was simply sacrificed for a banana. I had been up on the ferrieswheel the day before and was scared to death of the hight up top when it stoppd to let other off and on. That was the last time I've been on a ferris wheel.

Anyway, back to the ship and strange American food. They had lettuce just like I used to feed my rabbits and you put stuff on it. Not me. The only lettuce I knew was how my mom made it with sour milk or something. That was real salad. I called lettuce by its proper name of rabbit food for many years before I eventually gave up and went with the flow. What else was wierd? Oh yes, pig food. They actually expected you to eat what we only fed the pigs. American corn was what we called Mais and humans just didn't eat that. But the worst was all the salt in everything. Pew, why did they do that? 

The English Channel came up the next day and the ship started to rock. At first it was fun tipping this way and that but a sqeezy feekling came over me and the beginnings of seasickness made their appearance. It wasn't so bad at first. Just a bit wierd and uncofortable. My dad often had kitchen duty. Apparently the passengers had to do all the cleaning and general type KP work I later became familiar with. I wa sfree to roam though. 

The open ocean is a frightful thing. Nothing but menacing black waves. It was cold and stormy and not at all as much fun as I had imagined. As a matter of fact it kept getting worse. But how could I just sit down below and do nothing? That was against my nature. I could go on top deck up at the front and watch the ship go up and down against the waves until someone would chase me away and told me to go below. I would just pop up in some other place. 

As the weather kept getting worse I was also getting more seasick but I couldn't miss the show above. I could hear the waves smash into the ship and had to see waht that looked like sick as I was. So up the stairs I went holding on for dear life as the ship would go way up in the front and then pound down that wave only to plow into the next and then lift again. I was inside the stairwell  but could see out some kind of window as the front of the ship simply disappeared into a giant wave. That is when I got voilently sick. Water spray was everywhere and I just slumped down into a corner of the steps and layed there throwing up all over myself. I was now so sick that I didn't really care of a wave just took me and threw me overboard. Seasickness makes you give up very quickly. You just want it to stop regardless how. I don't know how long I laid there unable to move but all of a sudden my dad found me. He was sick as hell to. Even the crew was sick. We were in a violent March storm in the Atlantic and ship was simply trying to ride it out from wave to giant wave. The next thing I remember I'm in the hospital ward in the middle of the ship where the up and down slamming motion wasn't so bad. It tunred out that I had the mumps. I was really, really sick. I was hurting and always had a bad headache.My glands were swollen and I could do nothing but feel miserable. Yet, later I found out that the conditions front and aft of the ship were just as bad as people were heaving all over the place and thought the ship was going to go under. My dad kept coming around and smiled at me. I could see he was sick as a dog himself. I think the bad weathr lasted about 4 or 5 days. Our trip to NY was several days late in arriving because of it. I got better and left the hospital as the sea also calmed down but the rotten feeling didn't really go away.  From then on I hate pineapple and grape fruit juice, actually not just the juice. I just dodn't eat either fruit. Why? That damn ship smelled like those juices mixed with the crazu coffee and nausiated me to this day. The subconscious memory of smell and affect of everybody throwing up has lasted a life time. We have many grapefuit trees in our garden. What my wife doesn't eat goes itno the garbage. 

It was announced that we would hit NY harbor early in the morning. All of our thigs are packed and we get up real early to witness the scene. Horns blow in the fog. We are all standing at the railing waiting to see New York. Nothing but fog in the early morning hours. All of a sudden the Statue of Liberty pops up out of the fog with her arm raised high. Everybody screams with delight. My dad has me sitting on the rail as he is holding me. While the statue was nice, I really wanted to see the sky scrapers. I see my father with tears in his eyes. I had never seen him cry before. He was staring at the statue and I sort of got the meaning of the thing as everybody became still. The ship slowly slid past the statue and there were the skyscrapers for me to see too. It was a blissful moment. Never did I forget my dad's eyes and the joy they expressed. For him it was a lifelong dream come true. He had made it to America. 


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Member Since
Jul 2008
Greta Schäfer said:
posted on Sep 04, 2008

Oh - i would died. You poor thing. The mumps are so terrible. You on a boat with them too......

Member Since
Aug 2008
Fred Rump said:
posted on Sep 04, 2008

In a way mumps made life liveable. The seasickness was worse. At least here I was in a relatively even part of the boat. Seasickness makes you want to just die or fade away or something. You lose the will to live. Mumps gave me ice cream and lots of care and ation. That helped. :-)

Member Since
Jan 2008
Suzan Kilner said:
posted on Sep 04, 2008

I also thought you had mumps AND seasickness at the same time.... hoo boy. I never had mumps but I had my adnoids and tonsils removed and had lots of ice cream and popsicles.... :)

Member Since
Aug 2008
Fred Rump said:
posted on Sep 04, 2008

I don't remember the exact sequence of events but I know I wound up in the hospital from what was thought to be just seasickness. I guess I thought it was all the saem too. I just looked up mumps and they say it gives you real bad headaches but how foes one know what causes headaches when you're vomiting all over the place? I should explain that one can only vomit so much and then out come your guts. :-) It was not fun. I suspect that the seasickness slowly subsided in the hospital. They must have had some medicine against it even back then. I have more seasickness stories to come but this trip was one for the books. Think of this huge ship being tossed about like a toy and and you get the idea. Fred PS I too had my adoids removed as a child. Don't know about my tonsils. I think I still have those.