Emil Wagner was born in 1938 in Landshut, Germany but moved to Eger (now Cheb), Czechoslovakia. At the start of the war, he and his family were forced to evacuate to Vilsbiburg, Germany, where he remained until the age of nineteen, when he emigrated to the United States. This 2021 interview details his struggle to adjust to life in Cleveland, Ohio, serving in the military, becoming a member of the Donauschwaben, and working as a master cabinet-maker.
Wagner, Emil (interviewee)
Franklin, Bill (interviewer)
Cleveland German-American Oral History Project
"Emil Wagner interview, 04 March 2021" (2021). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 195016.
Bill Franklin [00:00:03] So my name is Bill Franklin, and today is March the 4th, two thousand twenty one, and we're interviewing Emil Wagner. That's correct, right Mr. Wagner?
Emil Wagner [00:00:18] Yeah that's correct.
Bill Franklin [00:00:19] Good. So the first thing I wanted to ask you was where where are you from? What was your hometown?
Emil Wagner [00:00:29] I am from Germany, from-
Erika Wagner [00:00:32] Landshut.
Emil Wagner [00:00:32] I was born in Landshut.
Bill Franklin [00:00:35] In what city?
Emil Wagner [00:00:37] Landshut
Bill Franklin [00:00:40] How do you spell that?
Erika Wagner [00:00:41] L A N D S H U T
Bill Franklin [00:00:47] Landshut. OK, very good. All righty.
Erika Wagner [00:00:53] Landshut.
Bill Franklin [00:00:53] And um, why why did why did you leave? Were were you drafted into the army or?
Emil Wagner [00:01:00] No, I left because where it was it wasn't very good over there at the time. It was very bad after the war.
Bill Franklin [00:01:08] I see how old how old were you when you left?
Emil Wagner [00:01:13] I was 19.
Bill Franklin [00:01:16] Good. And where did you go from Landshut, where was your destination?
Emil Wagner [00:01:24] Well, I was in Vilsbiburg for that's where I grew up then later on.
Bill Franklin [00:01:34] What town is that?
Emil Wagner [00:01:35] Vilsbiburg
Erika Wagner [00:01:37] V I L S
Bill Franklin [00:01:39] I'm sorry, what was that?
Erika Wagner [00:01:41] V as in victory. V I L S B U R G no B I B U R G
Bill Franklin [00:01:50] B U R G? OK, very good.
Erika Wagner [00:01:52] V I L S B I B U R G. That's where he grew up and that's where he left from to come to America.
Bill Franklin [00:01:59] I see. And how long were you in the Vilsbiburg?
Emil Wagner [00:02:03] Until we were. Since I was about six years, seven years old, 17 or 19.
Bill Franklin [00:02:18] So um you were-
Erika Wagner [00:02:20] It's Vilsbiburg, it's there's a B I in the middle there too. Vilsbiburg.
Bill Franklin [00:02:28] Oh how do you spell that? Sorry.
Erika Wagner [00:02:29] V I L S B I B U R G
Bill Franklin [00:02:35] Ah OK, good.
Erika Wagner [00:02:38] Thank you.
Bill Franklin [00:02:38] Thank you again. So you left Landshut when you were 19?
Emil Wagner [00:02:44] No, my my father used to work on the railroad. He was a conducter on the railroad and we got transferred from there.
Erika Wagner [00:02:54] From Landshut.
Emil Wagner [00:02:55] From Landshut into Eger Czechoslovakia. I guess right now, it's called Cheb. And those days that used to be called Eger.
Bill Franklin [00:03:08] Eger?
Erika Wagner [00:03:12] And in World War Two, you had to, you were, evacuate.
Bill Franklin [00:03:15] And when he got transferred to, did you go with him or was that?
Emil Wagner [00:03:22] Yeah, we we went there we lived there. That's were I started school first grade.
Bill Franklin [00:03:28] I see.
Emil Wagner [00:03:29] But then after the war.
Erika Wagner [00:03:29] The city was bombed out during the war
Emil Wagner [00:03:33] And that's when we had to leave.
Bill Franklin [00:03:37] Uh huh.
Erika Wagner [00:03:38] And went to Vilsbiburg.
Emil Wagner [00:03:40] Well, I went Geisenhausen.
Erika Wagner [00:03:44] Well it doesn't matter.
Emil Wagner [00:03:44] Oh okay.
Bill Franklin [00:03:45] And then when you were in Vilsbiburg, how long were you there?
Emil Wagner [00:03:50] In Czechoslovakia?
Bill Franklin [00:03:53] Ah, yeah, what town was that in Czechoslovakia? What was the name of that?
Erika Wagner [00:03:58] E G E R Eger
Bill Franklin [00:04:03] E G E R?
Erika Wagner [00:04:04] E G E R.
Bill Franklin [00:04:04] OK? Yeah, and you were there for how long?
Emil Wagner [00:04:11] Probably for about the same time was my mother passed away so it was about three years I would say. Four years.
Erika Wagner [00:04:23] Till 1945, right?
Emil Wagner [00:04:25] Yeah till 1945 when the war was over.
Bill Franklin [00:04:28] Wow.
Emil Wagner [00:04:29] And there were. Well, we had, we had been over to. My stepmother's brother visited them, that was the last train we got out of there.
Bill Franklin [00:04:43] Wow.
Emil Wagner [00:04:45] And after that, the whole railroad station was bombed.
Bill Franklin [00:04:50] Gee.
Emil Wagner [00:04:50] It was just there was nothing left.
Bill Franklin [00:04:54] Wow, so you were pretty young when your when your mom passed away?
Emil Wagner [00:04:59] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:05:00] You was four right?
Emil Wagner [00:05:01] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:05:02] He was four.
Bill Franklin [00:05:04] Four years old, my. I'm sorry, that was... So your dad remarried and you had a stepmother.
Erika Wagner [00:05:12] Right.
Emil Wagner [00:05:12] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:05:16] And how how was your stay in Vilsbiburg then, was that um, traumatic?
Emil Wagner [00:05:25] It was a house.
Erika Wagner [00:05:27] Rented house.
Emil Wagner [00:05:29] From the railroad, really.
Erika Wagner [00:05:31] A road house.
Emil Wagner [00:05:34] And we used to live here before. But, my, my, my older brothers, they were born in that house. And we used to live there and I mean he got lands for it. In Landshut my father bought a house. And well we got lands for it again, so it got sold. And after that, we came back. My grandmother used to live in the house in the old one in Vilsbiburg. And that's where we moved back into.
Erika Wagner [00:06:07] But it was a rented house. It was from the railroad.
Emil Wagner [00:06:10] It was from the railroad it was rented from them.
Bill Franklin [00:06:14] So you had family then in Vils- Vilsbiburg?
Emil Wagner [00:06:19] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:06:19] A grandmother.
Bill Franklin [00:06:21] I'm sure that must have helped.
Erika Wagner [00:06:23] And you were there, how old? When did, when did you start there? You were there about two years in Geisenhausen?
Emil Wagner [00:06:31] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:06:31] So about at age eight, right?
Emil Wagner [00:06:35] Eight yeah. No seven, seven.
Erika Wagner [00:06:36] Like in about 1947 or so, they moved then to Vilsbiburg to to join the grandmother there to.
Bill Franklin [00:06:46] 1947. What year were you born?
Emil Wagner [00:06:48] 1938.
Bill Franklin [00:06:50] 1938. OK. And then you were four years old when you when you landed in Eger.
Emil Wagner [00:07:01] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:07:04] So that was about 1942 or so.
Erika Wagner [00:07:08] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:07:12] And did you did you live with your grandmother in Vilsbiburg?
Emil Wagner [00:07:19] Mhm no, when I get back to Vilsbiburg, where we're, uh, living all together again.
Bill Franklin [00:07:28] I see
Erika Wagner [00:07:29] Yeah, with the grandmother, right?
Emil Wagner [00:07:30] With the grandmother in the house.
Bill Franklin [00:07:32] Uh huh.
Emil Wagner [00:07:34] I had two older brothers. And I had one sister from my mother, yet.
Bill Franklin [00:07:44] I see
Emil Wagner [00:07:45] And then after that I had four sisters from my stepmother.
Bill Franklin [00:07:48] Jeez. And everybody made it out OK?
Emil Wagner [00:07:56] Yeah, we made it out OK, but like I said, we saw the planes coming in at the time.
Bill Franklin [00:08:01] I'll bet yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:08:04] It wasn't the first bombing I saw a lot of bombings in Eger. Because they were trying to go and hit the train station a lot of time, but they have everything around.
Bill Franklin [00:08:16] I wasn't, it wasn't as accurate bombing as it is now. So Eger was in Czechoslovakia and that was a railroad hub?
Erika Wagner [00:08:30] It was a-
Emil Wagner [00:08:30] Yeah
Erika Wagner [00:08:30] It was a railroad hub.
Emil Wagner [00:08:34] It was a big one, you know.
Bill Franklin [00:08:35] Yeah. And after you left Vilsbiburg, where did you go from there?
Emil Wagner [00:08:45] Well, I was there and I learned a trade. My brother, my brother, in the meantime, moved to America, came to America and he was here and he told me to go and learn a trade and come over here. Things were bad over there. I was just going someplace, anywhere. I always had planned to go to South Africa.
Bill Franklin [00:09:05] Really?
Erika Wagner [00:09:06] His family, but they, his family had no money.
Emil Wagner [00:09:13] They were very hard times.
Bill Franklin [00:09:14] Yeah, I could imagine. And was your dad able to work during the war or what did your dad do?
Emil Wagner [00:09:25] My dad during the war, yeah, he was, he was on the railroad conductor. And after the war, he didn't have a job. Because they had to go, and be
Erika Wagner [00:09:42] He was a party member-
Emil Wagner [00:09:43] A party member.
Erika Wagner [00:09:43] Because he worked for the railroad.
Emil Wagner [00:09:46] You had to be a party member to have a job over there at that time period. And after that, they had to go to court and everything. And that got delayed for a long, long time.
Erika Wagner [00:09:57] You have then, the unpartied, so to speak, to have them cancel their party membership.
Bill Franklin [00:10:03] Right.
Emil Wagner [00:10:04] He got he got back and he was back in the railroad, again, in, that was 1957, he got back in there. And all the other times, he was just
Erika Wagner [00:10:20] doing manual labor,
Emil Wagner [00:10:23] Just trying to go and pick up whatever he could.
Bill Franklin [00:10:25] Right, right. How did your brother make it to America? Did you have any other relatives here that sponsored him or?
Emil Wagner [00:10:32] No he ran with a friend.
Erika Wagner [00:10:34] With another family,
Emil Wagner [00:10:36] With another family. That came from Hungaria.
Erika Wagner [00:10:42] They were from Hungary, the other family. And they
Emil Wagner [00:10:45] were German descent from Hungary
Erika Wagner [00:10:48] And because said, because they were evicted, evicted from Hungary, they it was easier for them to get immigration status and they took him along. They took Emil's brother long because it was a large family-.
Bill Franklin [00:11:02] I see.
Erika Wagner [00:11:03] And they didn't really have enough money for all the kids anyway.
Bill Franklin [00:11:09] And you kept in contact with him, he was able to, you were able to communicate, and he was?
Emil Wagner [00:11:15] Yeah, well, he was in the American army. Matter of fact he was stationed in Landshut.
Bill Franklin [00:11:25] Is that right? Wow. You came full circle.
Emil Wagner [00:11:28] He was.
Erika Wagner [00:11:28] He was drafted and then he ended up being stationed in the same town where Emil was born
Emil Wagner [00:11:34] It was only about 15 miles, 15 miles away from Vilsbiburg.
Erika Wagner [00:11:40] Where the family was living.
Bill Franklin [00:11:43] That must have been an advantage for him to speak German and to be stationed over there.
Erika Wagner [00:11:48] Yeah, it was.
Emil Wagner [00:11:51] That's where I wanted to go when I was in the service.
Bill Franklin [00:11:57] I bet.
Emil Wagner [00:11:57] But I wound up in Korea. Little did they know.
Bill Franklin [00:12:03] So were you able to come over to America before your dad?
Emil Wagner [00:12:10] No I was just the only one then. To my brother.
Erika Wagner [00:12:15] His father and his, the rest of the family stayed in Germany.
Emil Wagner [00:12:17] Yeah they stayed, they stayed in Germany.
Bill Franklin [00:12:18] Oh they did.
Emil Wagner [00:12:20] They passed away three months after I left.
Bill Franklin [00:12:20] Really?
Erika Wagner [00:12:24] Yeah, he was heartbroken that Emil left.
Bill Franklin [00:12:27] Wow. That must have been tough to to separate. And were you able to go back to Germany to visit your your siblings?
Emil Wagner [00:12:45] Oh yeah, I've been back. We've been back quite often.
Bill Franklin [00:12:51] So when you came to America, how old were you?
Emil Wagner [00:12:55] I was 19.
Bill Franklin [00:12:57] You were 19 when you came to the States. And what did you do when you. So when you were 19, that was about 1957, you came over?
Emil Wagner [00:13:11] Fifty eight.
Bill Franklin [00:13:12] Fifty eight?
Emil Wagner [00:13:14] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:13:14] And how did what where did you go to school from? Like junior high and high school?
Emil Wagner [00:13:24] No I didn't go to any high school.
Bill Franklin [00:13:25] No high school.
Erika Wagner [00:13:27] He finished eighth grade in Germany and then he had
Both: Speaker 3 and Emil Wagner [00:13:30] to learn a trade.
Bill Franklin [00:13:31] Oh you learned a trade, OK. And what trade-
Erika Wagner [00:13:35] He was working already.
Bill Franklin [00:13:36] What trade did you did you learn?
Emil Wagner [00:13:39] I was a cabinetmaker, cabinetry.
Bill Franklin [00:13:39] Oh really?
Emil Wagner [00:13:39] Finished cabinetry cabinetmaker. I was a journeyman when I came over here.
Bill Franklin [00:13:46] I see. Uh huh. That's interesting, I had a uncle in London, my family was from England, and he was also a cabinetmaker.
Emil Wagner [00:13:58] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:13:58] It was kind of a family business. So did you, was that still useful when you came to America?
Emil Wagner [00:14:09] Yeah, that's what I did over here. For the rest of my life.
Bill Franklin [00:14:15] Is that right? Did you work for a company or were you on your own?
Emil Wagner [00:14:21] Oh different companies.
Bill Franklin [00:14:23] Different ones?
Emil Wagner [00:14:23] Yeah. From high rise buildings to cabinet drops and you name it.
Bill Franklin [00:14:33] Yeah, it's quite a skill. And so how did you find life in in America? How did you come to Cleveland, of all places?
Emil Wagner [00:14:49] My brother lived here.
Bill Franklin [00:14:50] Oh he did?
Emil Wagner [00:14:53] Yeah, that's why I came to Cleveland.
Bill Franklin [00:14:55] I see. And was your brother also a cabinetmaker or did he?
Emil Wagner [00:15:00] Yes, he was.
Bill Franklin [00:15:04] And you were probably, in business together or closely associated?
Emil Wagner [00:15:09] No we were not.
Erika Wagner [00:15:12] Ever worked at the same place?
Emil Wagner [00:15:14] We worked only for about, when I came over here, about one year at the same place.
Bill Franklin [00:15:21] Is that right?
Emil Wagner [00:15:22] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:15:27] And you said he was older. Is he still alive?
Emil Wagner [00:15:31] Yeah, he's about five and a half years older.
Bill Franklin [00:15:34] Oh, I see. Good.
Erika Wagner [00:15:40] Yeah he lives here in Cleveland.
Emil Wagner [00:15:42] He's still living.
Bill Franklin [00:15:44] Very good. And how did how did you find Cleveland? Was it a culture shock for you to come to America? Was it an adjustment?
Emil Wagner [00:15:55] No, it really wasn't because we belonged to some German. My brother used to belong to some German groups. And I got in there immediately with everything. So, even the language was no barrier, because you all spoke German.
Erika Wagner [00:16:12] What about at work though?
Emil Wagner [00:16:17] At work they spoke German most of them. Most of them and uh when I learned English, that was in the service. That's the kind of English I learned. You just sometimes never get it good.
Erika Wagner [00:16:33] He was drafted, in when was it? Nineteen-.
Emil Wagner [00:16:34] Sixty one.
Erika Wagner [00:16:36] 1961 he was drafted.
Bill Franklin [00:16:37] In 1961. So were you in Korea or. That was over already. It was just before Vietnam.
Erika Wagner [00:16:48] Yes.
Emil Wagner [00:16:48] It was just before Vietnam, yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:16:54] And how long were you in the service?
Emil Wagner [00:16:56] Only for two years.
Bill Franklin [00:16:58] That's good. And then you came back to Cleveland again and picked up where you left off?
Emil Wagner [00:17:08] Yes.
Erika Wagner [00:17:08] But didn't you when you first came, didn't you have to take a class English in at the, ah, evening classes?
Emil Wagner [00:17:17] Yeah, a couple of times. Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:17:19] Yeah, that was very, very typical in those days, that when a new immigrant came over, you had to go over and take English classes at evening school. I think that was over at John Hay.
Emil Wagner [00:17:32] Yeah, I don't, I don't remember.
Erika Wagner [00:17:33] I'm not sure.
Bill Franklin [00:17:35] Right.
Erika Wagner [00:17:36] On east side.
Emil Wagner [00:17:38] No it wasn't east side. It was west side.
Erika Wagner [00:17:38] On west- east a hundred- was it?
Emil Wagner [00:17:40] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:17:42] So there were a lot of classes, English as a second language days.
Bill Franklin [00:17:48] That's good. So you were already an American citizen. But these classes were after the citizenship test?
Emil Wagner [00:17:55] No.
Erika Wagner [00:17:56] No, he was not a citizen at that time. He wasn't a citizen when he was drafted even.
Bill Franklin [00:18:01] Really?
Erika Wagner [00:18:02] Uh huh.
Emil Wagner [00:18:03] No. No, I did have to sign up for it before I came over here.
Bill Franklin [00:18:07] Oh, I see.
Erika Wagner [00:18:08] Sign up for the draft before he came to America.
Emil Wagner [00:18:11] So, either way, then, if not in the German service. I would have been here, so either way, there was no way around.
Bill Franklin [00:18:18] Yeah. That's interesting. And you met your your spouse then at one of the German clubs. I assume.
Emil Wagner [00:18:32] German clubs?
Erika Wagner [00:18:34] Yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:18:35] Well, I mean, we were in the dance group, which we still are.
Emil Wagner [00:18:40] He met, we met, in late in 1958, in August I think.
Emil Wagner [00:18:45] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:18:46] Right. So and I tried I helped him learn English also. We always talked in English so that he would learn English. And then we were, he was-. We were in the German groups together.
Bill Franklin [00:19:05] Very good. And then you got married pretty soon after you met 1958?
Erika Wagner [00:19:16] No. 1962 after he was in the Army.
Bill Franklin [00:19:19] Ah, OK.
Erika Wagner [00:19:22] 1962, when he was after he was drafted.
Bill Franklin [00:19:27] Yeah. So you kind of had a different experience then Erica.
Erika Wagner [00:19:36] Yes.
Bill Franklin [00:19:38] As far as coming to the states. And we were talking to Erika and she's telling us about some of the traditions that you still you still carry over and you still have connections to. Right? You still belong to some of the German clubs and have connections to Donauschwaben and that that community.
Erika Wagner [00:20:09] Right. Actually, he's one of the volunteers over at the Donauschwaben Club. Now they the retired people, retired men, come over there once a week to work and do odd jobs and clean up and stuff.
Bill Franklin [00:20:24] Oh, very good. Do you do any cabinetry work at Donauschwaben?
Emil Wagner [00:20:30] Repairing and stuff like that, repairing and whatever, whatever comes up.
Erika Wagner [00:20:33] Remodeling
Bill Franklin [00:20:35] Ah, very good. I'm sure that's a big help for them. Very good.
Emil Wagner [00:20:42] There's always, something like something to do in a big place like that.
Bill Franklin [00:20:47] Yeah, I'm sure they'll keep you busy. And you say you've been back to Germany quite often since since you've been here
Emil Wagner [00:20:59] Yeah, especially with the later years, yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:21:02] Uh huh,
Erika Wagner [00:21:03] Just the class reunion's.
Emil Wagner [00:21:06] The first time when I came over here that was, ah OK since 58 I guess. The first time, we went over it was in what 70?
Erika Wagner [00:21:13] When we went back in 70. Yeah, we went back.
Emil Wagner [00:21:15] 1970 was the first time.
Erika Wagner [00:21:17] Maybe, no before that. In sixty-, sixty nine.
Emil Wagner [00:21:21] Sixty, no, sixty nine yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:21:23] In 1969, we were over there.
Bill Franklin [00:21:26] And was, was that in West Germany or?
Emil Wagner [00:21:29] Yeah, it was West Germany.
Erika Wagner [00:21:30] Bavaria.
Bill Franklin [00:21:30] It was West Germany?
Erika Wagner [00:21:32] Vilsbiburg is in Bavaria.
Emil Wagner [00:21:34] I was afraid to go to East Germany
Bill Franklin [00:21:37] I could imagine.
Emil Wagner [00:21:40] But after they open up the wall, we've been over there a few times
Bill Franklin [00:21:46] And I'm sure you've noticed a lot of changes since. You were you've been here and when you left.
Emil Wagner [00:21:54] Boy, it's all different. I mean, the town is expanding on everything else, you know, it's different. Except for delaying the treatment that changed.
Bill Franklin [00:22:09] Is that right?
Emil Wagner [00:22:11] Oh yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:22:12] He went for several reunions over there from his school. From his elementary school.
Bill Franklin [00:22:19] Uh huh. And, do you do you feel any homesickness or anything as far as-.
Emil Wagner [00:22:38] No.
Bill Franklin [00:22:38] When you go back, do you feel like you're you're missing out?
Emil Wagner [00:22:41] No. It's nice over there, but living over there is going to be a different story again.
Bill Franklin [00:22:46] Yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:22:46] It's different, you know?
Erika Wagner [00:22:47] The culture has changed.
Emil Wagner [00:22:48] It changed so much. It's nice to go back and see things, but it's not the same anymore.
Erika Wagner [00:23:00] We really enjoy ourselves, when we go over there, because we go to places where they have traditional music and traditional dancing, but the young people all like the American stuff. They like American music on the radio and they like like to do modern stuff. So when we go over there, we go back to the old traditional ways.
Bill Franklin [00:23:22] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:23:22] But it is it is it is enjoyable to go back and see the old landscapes and the buildings. It's it really is nice.
Bill Franklin [00:23:33] Right. Right. So when you say that the culture is different, it became more westernized and more-
Erika Wagner [00:23:40] More American.
Bill Franklin [00:23:40] Or it became globalized, really.
Emil Wagner [00:23:44] It's I don't know, it's, it's altogether different.
Erika Wagner [00:23:47] It's more Americanized.
Bill Franklin [00:23:49] More Americanized. Interesting. And. That's basically about all the questions I have. Are there any stories that you'd like to relate as far as family, family connections or family stories that you remember in Germany growing up that, that stand out? I know you were pretty young, but.
Emil Wagner [00:24:25] Well, nothing really.
Erika Wagner [00:24:28] Well, when he was-.
Emil Wagner [00:24:29] You remember some things about the war and bombing, yet when we watched the planes and things and. We saw a lot of dog fights.
Bill Franklin [00:24:41] Is that right?
Erika Wagner [00:24:41] Of the airplanes.
Emil Wagner [00:24:41] Oh yeah. From the airplanes, you know. And they had like a couple a couple of German jets and they always, when the thing came in they came in. Well later on the problem was they didn't have any gasoline.
Erika Wagner [00:24:57] The Germans had no gasoline, yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:25:00] So that's what probably broke the back, which was good.
Bill Franklin [00:25:06] Yeah. Did you have, I'm sure you had like air raid drills and things like that when you have the bombings.
Emil Wagner [00:25:16] We had those, yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:25:16] That must have been quite frightening at that age.
Emil Wagner [00:25:19] Yeah, it it's another story.
Erika Wagner [00:25:24] Yeah, it was. And, you know, when over there, you know, about I don't know if you know that much about the trades and how they have to learn their trades, but, you know, when you were when he was 14, right?
Emil Wagner [00:25:41] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:25:41] When he was 14, he left home. No?
Emil Wagner [00:25:45] No.
Erika Wagner [00:25:45] He had to go and work at-
Emil Wagner [00:25:47] Had to work, like, like, go to work in the corner shop and you learned your trade and.
Erika Wagner [00:25:55] Did you have to live there with the?
Emil Wagner [00:25:57] No, I didn't. I didn't have to live there because it was in the same town, but some other they were from a little farther away. They lived together at the same place.
Erika Wagner [00:26:06] They had to live at the at the employer's place. Or the,
Emil Wagner [00:26:09] Employer's place the church, yeah. And.
Bill Franklin [00:26:13] I see.
Emil Wagner [00:26:13] You got about five mark, five marks a week. For about 45, 50, for the 45, 50 hours.
Erika Wagner [00:26:23] Of work.
Emil Wagner [00:26:23] Of work.
Bill Franklin [00:26:24] Yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:26:26] The second year you got 10 marks and the third year you got 15 marks.
Bill Franklin [00:26:31] Wow. It's like being an intern.
Erika Wagner [00:26:35] Yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:26:36] That's exactly what it
Bill Franklin [00:26:36] You're doing it just basically for the for the experience. You're not really.
Erika Wagner [00:26:40] Yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:26:40] Then after that they got about a mark an hour.
Erika Wagner [00:26:45] And then didn't you go to Munich to work?
Emil Wagner [00:26:48] Yeah. Over there. Yeah. There was not. I worked in Munich for a little bit. A couple of months. Different places, but I knew all day that I was going to come over here.
Erika Wagner [00:27:00] He had planned all along to come to America from when he started his trade.
Bill Franklin [00:27:05] I see.
Emil Wagner [00:27:06] It was just a matter of fact what time they let me come.
Bill Franklin [00:27:10] Uh huh. And how was that process coming over to the states was that, um, burdensome or did you find it pretty easy?
Emil Wagner [00:27:21] Well, I guess you had to apply for it and had to go to the American embassy.
Erika Wagner [00:27:26] In Munich, right?
Emil Wagner [00:27:28] To immigration.
Erika Wagner [00:27:30] Didn't you go to Munich for that?
Emil Wagner [00:27:31] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:27:33] And you had to go by train, right? Nobody had a car in those days.
Emil Wagner [00:27:35] No, I had to go by plane.
Erika Wagner [00:27:37] So he had to go by train. Do you know how many, how long it took for the application?
Emil Wagner [00:27:42] Oh, I don't know it was a couple of years.
Erika Wagner [00:27:44] Took about two years
Bill Franklin [00:27:46] About two years.
Emil Wagner [00:27:47] So it wasn't a speedy things.
Bill Franklin [00:27:52] So the immigration location was in Munich?
Bill Franklin [00:27:56] Yeah. The nearest to us, yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:28:00] And that's about an hour train ride or how long?
Emil Wagner [00:28:03] No, well, well, I had to go and take two different trains, so it took, ah.
Erika Wagner [00:28:11] Three hours?
Emil Wagner [00:28:11] It took, no, it took about 45 minutes to go to Munich, and then. But right now you drive to Munich in half in less than a half an hour, about twenty five minutes.
Bill Franklin [00:28:26] I see.
Erika Wagner [00:28:26] It took you a good hour to get there because you had to change trains.
Emil Wagner [00:28:31] Yeah it probably took an hour.
Bill Franklin [00:28:35] And when you came over to America did you, did you take a boat or did you fly or?
Emil Wagner [00:28:41] No I flew.
Bill Franklin [00:28:42] You did?
Erika Wagner [00:28:45] Did your brother pay for it?
Emil Wagner [00:28:47] Yeah, my brother paid for and had to pay him back then late.
Bill Franklin [00:28:51] With interest? Well, that's good. So you flew into New York and your brother met you there?
Emil Wagner [00:29:01] No, I flew all the way to Cleveland to New York you had to go and change and come to Cleveland.
Erika Wagner [00:29:07] How was that changing planes with not knowing English?
Emil Wagner [00:29:11] I don't know. I don't remember.
Erika Wagner [00:29:16] Because that's not easy. Those airports are big.
Bill Franklin [00:29:21] Yeah, especially flying over the Atlantic, coming from a destination like that, it's quite a trip.
Erika Wagner [00:29:32] OK.
Bill Franklin [00:29:33] Good. So unless you have something, do you have anything you'd like to add, is there any other stories you'd like to have since you were here in Cleveland at?
Emil Wagner [00:29:49] Well we like to go back every once in a while and on like maybe going back to the Octoberfest. We're in the dance group and being invited to go over to the Octoberfest.
Erika Wagner [00:30:02] Actually, yeah we're invited to march in the Octoberfest parade in 2022.
Bill Franklin [00:30:07] Oh good.
Erika Wagner [00:30:09] I don't know if you've ever seen that
Emil Wagner [00:30:11] We've been over their in dance competitions.
Bill Franklin [00:30:15] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:30:16] We've danced in a dance competition over there in Germany a couple of times, actually. Once we made second place.
Bill Franklin [00:30:24] Oh, that's good.
Erika Wagner [00:30:25] In the senior group.
Bill Franklin [00:30:28] And what is that, what is that group called?
Emil Wagner [00:30:30] The Schuhplattlers.
Bill Franklin [00:30:33] Schuhplattlers.
Erika Wagner [00:30:36] Schuhplattler, yeah it's shoe slapping.
Emil Wagner [00:30:37] Schuhe and schuhe. [00:30:38]And platten, [0.1s] it's slapping. You slap your shoes and your thighs.
Erika Wagner [00:30:45] That's the-
Emil Wagner [00:30:46] Some Clapping. It's like I don't know if I've ever been to Octoberfest or something.
Erika Wagner [00:30:51] It's the Bavarian dancing where they wear the lederhosen.
Bill Franklin [00:30:56] Yeah, I saw that at Donauschwaben, but it was it wasn't any dress, you know, you weren't dressed up for it. It was just like a Friday night kind of social event.
Erika Wagner [00:31:07] Oh. Oh, I see. So you saw us practicing.
Bill Franklin [00:31:11] That was it. Yeah. Yeah.
Emil Wagner [00:31:14] Yeah we used to dance all the time for the Octoberfest on Saturday, every Saturday, we'd dance for the Octoberfest. We also played soccer out there for 20 for about 40 years.
Erika Wagner [00:31:27] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:31:27] Oh really?
Erika Wagner [00:31:27] And the other thing Emil didn't tell you when he came to America, he joined a soccer club right away. A Germans they had several, I think three or four German soccer teams at that time.
Emil Wagner [00:31:40] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:31:41] And he joined his soccer team and played soccer into his fifties.
Emil Wagner [00:31:46] We played against some German teams. Like VfB Stuttgart was here once.
Erika Wagner [00:31:54] German teams came from Germany to Cleveland to play against their team.
Bill Franklin [00:31:58] Wow.
Emil Wagner [00:31:59] And we played a lot of times against the, if they have their ships coming in. And the sailors we used to play with them all the time.
Erika Wagner [00:32:08] Yeah they would have German ships coming into Cleveland and then they would contact the German hall and ask if anybody was interested in playing soccer. We've hosted like sailors at our house and we've played showed them around the area. And then they played soccer against the their team from the ship. Actually, they didn't have a team, they were just a group of guys, but but they enjoyed playing with the German guys here.
Bill Franklin [00:32:44] Yeah, Cleveland is quite a destination then I guess word got around in Germany that there were german folk here.
Erika Wagner [00:32:55] Yes, that's why soccer was popular, there were also other nationality soccer teams that. The Serbains had.
Emil Wagner [00:33:03] Yeah, Croatians, Serbians, and all
Erika Wagner [00:33:06] The Pole, did the Italians?
Emil Wagner [00:33:08] Poles, Italians
Erika Wagner [00:33:09] Did the Polish? The Italians.
Emil Wagner [00:33:13] They had an English, English team. They had different one's, you know. We used to have a pretty good team, we've been traveling pretty much,
Erika Wagner [00:33:25] Yeah, with this soccer team. They travel to other cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Kingston, Ontario.
Emil Wagner [00:33:36] We were-.
Erika Wagner [00:33:37] Saint Louis.
Emil Wagner [00:33:38] An amateur club, but we played against the semi-pros a lot of times.
Bill Franklin [00:33:41] Really, you were that good?
Emil Wagner [00:33:45] Oh yeah, we were Ohio State Champion a lot of times.
Bill Franklin [00:33:49] Gee.
Emil Wagner [00:33:49] But once going past New York it was tough.
Bill Franklin [00:33:57] Were you very athletic when you were in Germany, did you play soccer a lot in ah?
Emil Wagner [00:34:02] Yeah, I played we had a good team. We had a good junior team. That team is still in Vilsbiburg is still famous. Today yet. The best junior team they ever had.
Bill Franklin [00:34:16] Is that right?
Erika Wagner [00:34:16] When did you start playing soccer Emil?
Emil Wagner [00:34:20] Organized? When I was about 12 years old. I've played it before, but on an organized team about 12 years old. Didn't have any soccer shoes we played in high boots
Erika Wagner [00:34:38] Yeah, that's right. They didn't have soccer shoes. And they sometimes didn't even have a ball. After the war.
Emil Wagner [00:34:44] Right after the war. We played soccer with an American football, barefoot.
Erika Wagner [00:34:50] Because they had American troops there and that had football. So they had the football from the American troops.
Emil Wagner [00:34:56] That's the only ball we had.
Erika Wagner [00:34:59] They also had, sometimes they made a rag ball, where they wrapped rags around and around and around till they had something the size of the soccer ball and then used that. And you should tell the story about there was one guy who was there was a little bit, well, well-to-do, and he and he was the only one in town who had a soccer ball. So if they let his team win, he would take his ball.
Emil Wagner [00:35:25] Ball and went home. But they wasn't too long. Then we had two balls.
Bill Franklin [00:35:36] I mean, we're all set.
Erika Wagner [00:35:37] To go to soccer games in those days. You had to ride your bicycle. So to go to if you played in the next town, you had to ride your bicycle to the next town.
Emil Wagner [00:35:47] We had a it was a truck
Erika Wagner [00:35:49] Sometimes a truck-
Emil Wagner [00:35:50] We had a-
Erika Wagner [00:35:51] Would take 'em.
Emil Wagner [00:35:52] Big truck and they put benches on there and that's how we traveled. Then later on it got better. We went by train and everything else. Playing a lot of them in the mountains. Our games, we had a lot of it in the mountains going to Berchtesgarten and the-
Erika Wagner [00:36:11] In the Alps,
Emil Wagner [00:36:13] In the Alps. You know, that's where we were.
Erika Wagner [00:36:16] Some of their games were pretty far away, so they had to go by train. In Germany.
Emil Wagner [00:36:24] And later on, later on by bus.
Bill Franklin [00:36:29] Uh huh.
Emil Wagner [00:36:29] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:36:32] And your your experience with the Schuhplattler did. Do you play any musical instruments or you just pretty much dance?
Emil Wagner [00:36:42] No we're just dancing with. We dance to the thing. To the music, what they had and every every tune, got a different, you know, little different style of dancing.
Erika Wagner [00:36:54] But you don't play an instrument.
Emil Wagner [00:36:56] No, I don't.
Erika Wagner [00:36:59] Except maybe the harmonica.
Emil Wagner [00:37:03] I don't call that an instrument.
Bill Franklin [00:37:08] Oh, very good. So.
Erika Wagner [00:37:15] Can you think of anything else?
Emil Wagner [00:37:16] I don't know.
Erika Wagner [00:37:19] So really, that e-mail was sort of lucky, came into into the German society right away when he arrived. And even at his work, he was able to speak German because a lot of the tradesmen in those days were immigrants.
Emil Wagner [00:37:37] Well, the boss, where I think the boss was German and all, everybody was.
Erika Wagner [00:37:42] So he gravitated towards the places to where the the employer and where the employees could speak German.
Bill Franklin [00:37:51] Right. Right. That's a big advantage.
Erika Wagner [00:37:55] Yes.
Bill Franklin [00:38:01] Well, very good. So other than that, I think that's probably all the questions I have. Unless you can think of anything else to.
Erika Wagner [00:38:21] We have our two daughters, we I went to college and my two daughters went to college and both of them have master's degrees in environmental professions.
Bill Franklin [00:38:34] Oh, very good. They went through the Cleveland school systems and went on to college from there?
Erika Wagner [00:38:44] Right, Parma actually the Parma school system.
Bill Franklin [00:38:47] Oh, very good.
Erika Wagner [00:38:48] And from college. Yes.
Bill Franklin [00:38:55] And I'm sure your children both speak German and are pretty fluent in it.
Erika Wagner [00:39:01] They do speak German, but that's about it. The grandchildren tried to speak German, but they didn't get very far.
Bill Franklin [00:39:11] Is that right?
Erika Wagner [00:39:11] They went to the German language school out at the Donauschwaben Club. And my children. But and the grandchildren tried it. But, you know, it gets harder and harder the farther removed you are.
Bill Franklin [00:39:25] That's true. Yeah. After a couple of generations, it's hard to. To keep that.
Emil Wagner [00:39:31] You know, they figure it out once they're about 20, 25,
Erika Wagner [00:39:40] But, because English is spoken at home, it's very difficult to go and pick it up on your own. So you-
Bill Franklin [00:39:48] Right, right.
Erika Wagner [00:39:50] You can only do it with the formal classes.
Bill Franklin [00:39:52] Yeah. And when your children were growing up, you had German spoken at home. So that was different.
Erika Wagner [00:39:59] Our children have traveled with us to Germany quite a few times, probably five or six times, and the grandchildren have probably gone about three times.
Bill Franklin [00:40:10] Ah.
Erika Wagner [00:40:11] So they, they know they know where we came from. They've seen the places. Except they have not seen where we were before the war, just where we were after the war.
Bill Franklin [00:40:25] I see. Uh huh. So at least they know your roots, they know.
Erika Wagner [00:40:33] Yes, they know some of it.
Emil Wagner [00:40:36] I know when we went in Czechoslovakia, I went to the place where I used to live and you could see. Even at these days, yet, you could see the bullet holes in the walls
Erika Wagner [00:40:52] Of the houses.
Emil Wagner [00:40:52] Of the houses.
Bill Franklin [00:40:54] Is that right?
Emil Wagner [00:40:55] Yeah, there was nothing done. Absolutely nothing.
Bill Franklin [00:40:58] They did no repairs.
Emil Wagner [00:41:00] Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:41:06] It's like the time froze.
Erika Wagner [00:41:08] Yeah. OK.
Emil Wagner [00:41:11] But that's about that's the way it was over there, I guess. After the war there was nothing done in those areas. In Germany itself, about four years after the war, you wouldn't know that there was anything
Erika Wagner [00:41:27] Now where they lived, where they were in Bavaria.
Emil Wagner [00:41:29] In Bavaria, yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:41:30] They were not it was not damaged that much and out in.
Emil Wagner [00:41:34] Well some, in Munich yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:41:35] In Munich itself, yes.
Emil Wagner [00:41:35] Munich had quite a few.
Erika Wagner [00:41:35] But the smaller towns didn't get that much damage.
Erika Wagner [00:41:39] Four or five years afterward. You wouldn't know the different. But in East Germany, the eastern sections all like the war,.
Erika Wagner [00:41:48] They didn't do anything.
Emil Wagner [00:41:49] There was nothing done.
Erika Wagner [00:41:50] They did very little to go and restore the areas to the way they used to be.
Bill Franklin [00:41:58] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:41:58] But now that the, since 1990 when the borders opened, then it's been different.
Emil Wagner [00:42:03] Well, they've been they've been
Erika Wagner [00:42:05] They've been they've basically caught up with the rest of
Emil Wagner [00:42:08] They rebuild them all there.
Bill Franklin [00:42:14] Very interesting. Did you know anybody on the east side of Germany, in eastern Germany, that
Emil Wagner [00:42:24] Yeah, my wife, you've got a she had a cousin there.
Erika Wagner [00:42:27] Yeah, we had family there.
Bill Franklin [00:42:29] Oh right. Yeah, you were talking about that.
Erika Wagner [00:42:30] Yes, we did. But you didn't right?
Emil Wagner [00:42:33] No.
Erika Wagner [00:42:34] Emil didn't, did not.
Emil Wagner [00:42:36] We only went into Czechoslovakia, a coup- once.
Erika Wagner [00:42:36] To visit.
Emil Wagner [00:42:36] Or twice. Just to go and see what it was.
Erika Wagner [00:42:43] What it's like now.
Emil Wagner [00:42:45] What it's like right now. So the train station and everything it was all, that was about the only thing that was.
Erika Wagner [00:42:54] It's rebuilt.
Emil Wagner [00:42:55] Rebuilt, but the houses, there was nothing done on it.
Erika Wagner [00:42:58] Well, they didn't really have bombed out houses anymore.
Emil Wagner [00:43:04] No they were, they were. Well,
Erika Wagner [00:43:06] The city's been rebuilt, but it just, there's still some damage available.
Bill Franklin [00:43:10] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:43:13] Not available, visible, what am I saying.
Bill Franklin [00:43:20] Interesting. OK, very good. Well, I appreciate your time.
Erika Wagner [00:43:31] OK.
Emil Wagner [00:43:31] Alright.
Bill Franklin [00:43:34] And, um, like I say, we're going to be transcribing this, then it'll be online, eventually you'll be able to hear it. It's on ah, Cleveland Voices. It's part of the recording of history and online from Cleveland State University. So we appreciate your your time and your and your input.
Erika Wagner [00:43:59] OK.
Bill Franklin [00:44:03] It was very nice to meet you.
Emil Wagner [00:44:05] Well, that was nice meeting you.
Bill Franklin [00:44:07] Yeah.
Erika Wagner [00:44:08] Thank you. OK.
Emil Wagner [00:44:10] Bye.
Bill Franklin [00:44:11] I'll turn it off from here.
Erika Wagner [00:44:13] OK, bye.
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