Abstract

Frank Awender was born March 5, 1924 in Neuburg, Romania. He is one of the founding members of the Society of the Donauschwaben in Cleveland which is now the Donauschwaben German American Cultural Center (DGACC). Frank served in the German army and tells many stories about his service in the Third German Panzer Division. He was captured at near the end of the war and eventually escaped and joined his mother in Kolberg, Germany. There he learned the construction trade. In 1952, Frank came to Cleveland. After working at Ford, he decided to start his own construction company, Metropolitan Builders, which become very successful, including building the now PNC building on Public Square. His company also contributed greatly to the building of the German American Cultural Center in Olmsted Township, Ohio. Frank was one of the founding members of the Society of the Donauschwaben and served as it’s second president. He tells the story of how the club formed and his contributions to the success of the Donauschwaben German American Cultural Center.

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Interviewee

Awender, Frank (interviewee)

Interviewer

Welker, Michael (interviewer)

Project

Cleveland German-American Oral History Project

Date

3-18-2019

Document Type

Oral History

Duration

45 minutes

Transcript

Mike Welker [00:00:02] OK, we're going to start off, I'm Mike Welker, I'm doing the interview today and our guest is Frank Awender. And what year, when were you born?

Frank Awender [00:00:15] 1924.

Mike Welker [00:00:16] OK, what date?

Frank Awender [00:00:18] March the 5th.

Mike Welker [00:00:19] March the 5th.

Frank Awender [00:00:20] I was 95.

Mike Welker [00:00:21] Just had your birthday.

Frank Awender [00:00:22] Last March.

Mike Welker [00:00:24] And where- where were you born. What what was your hometown?

Frank Awender [00:00:27] Well my hometown is in Germany called Neuburg. The postage name actually was Uivar.

Mike Welker [00:00:39] OK.

Frank Awender [00:00:40] We've I mean, the same in Hungarian Neuburg. I don't know why their was never a burg.

Mike Welker [00:00:46] And that was in in Hungary?

Frank Awender [00:00:50] Well that's now Romanian.

Mike Welker [00:00:51] Oh oK, so it's not part of Romania.

Frank Awender [00:00:54] Yeah.

Mike Welker [00:00:54] OK. So 1924. So you were before the war. You got to grow up in your town for a while. So how long were you there for.

Frank Awender [00:01:05] Well, I was there until I was 18.

Mike Welker [00:01:11] Oh, OK.

Frank Awender [00:01:11] I was drafted at 18, you know.

Mike Welker [00:01:13] And what do you remember? What kind of traditions did you have or what types of things did you do?

Frank Awender [00:01:19] Well, I was about I was preparing schooling to go to Germany to the Realschule to the agricultural school.

Mike Welker [00:01:31] Oh, OK.

Frank Awender [00:01:31] And when I was supposed to go there, uh Hitler decided they need more, Ger- more, more, more soldiers then they need agriculture studies.

Mike Welker [00:01:44] Oh, OK.

Frank Awender [00:01:44] Students.

Mike Welker [00:01:52] So you grew up, you grew up there. Were you involved in any sports or did you do any?

Frank Awender [00:01:59] Oh, yeah, well we were the same as we are here. We're in soccer and no golf. No golf at that time.

Mike Welker [00:02:08] And what did your family do were they farmers? Were?

Frank Awender [00:02:11] Yeah, actually they were farmers, but my father was, you know, all kind of other stuff. He had the first busses, you know, and a boat under the canal to Demisch ware. To Temeschburg. And, ah.

Mike Welker [00:02:26] So did he deliver goods on the canal or?

Frank Awender [00:02:32] No, people.

Mike Welker [00:02:32] People?

Frank Awender [00:02:32] People. Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Welker [00:02:33] So he was public transportation.

Frank Awender [00:02:38] He had, but he had, he had a farm. My uncle actually was working the farm until we grew up, the kids, you know, then we started doing ourselves.

Mike Welker [00:02:46] Oh OK, so 18 you went into the army.

Frank Awender [00:02:51] Yeah.

Mike Welker [00:02:51] So where did you go? Where did you go to with the army.

Frank Awender [00:02:55] Well, uh, we started out our basic training was in. In Bavaria, north of Nuremberg, and when we weren't even through with the basic training. When the Italian surrendered. They took us to Croatia. To disarm them.

Mike Welker [00:03:23] Oh, OK

Frank Awender [00:03:25] And we were actually a tank unit, but we had no tank. We had just done basic training in infantry,

Mike Welker [00:03:33] OK.

Frank Awender [00:03:33] And but they had tanks and so we disarmed them and we took the tanks. So be. That was in June. I mean, I was drafted in June 44- 34. 43. Four-Four-Four

Mike Welker [00:03:48] 43

Frank Awender [00:03:49] 43, and this was in late, late 43, and we were doing some training then either in Italian tanks. Until, Christmas, and this was a time when the Russians. Prepare to attack the Germans. By Leningrad, because Leningrad was certainly encircled, you know.

Mike Welker [00:04:20] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:04:21] And it took us there and no tanks naturally left the tanks to the Ustashe, the Croatian army, and we were first used as infantry, too. And I was wounded right away the first few few weeks, not badly just a, grena- a, a, what I call it that.

Mike Welker [00:04:49] A mortar?

Frank Awender [00:04:52] Yeah, I guess the one with stuff in there.

Mike Welker [00:04:54] Yeah, mortar shell.

Frank Awender [00:04:56] Mortar shell. We were laying in a ditch and I think the grenade exploded. The tree and the...

Mike Welker [00:05:05] Shrapnel came down-

Frank Awender [00:05:07] Shrapnel came down and I didn't even know I was hit, I just felt some warm here and then I wasn't bad. I was in the hospital for a few weeks and that was it. Then we finally got some tanks there. We were, well, Estonia, actually, we were at that time was in Estonia because we pulled back from Leningrad. We were so close to Leningrad's Infantry, we could see the streetcar going Leningrad. But we were pulled back and thought that the Russia attacked and we went back to Estonia, you know, and there we got the tanks some from all over. We got what they called tank five than what the Panther and a few tanks, six that were the Tiger a few. But because we didn't get the whole company, we got one.

Mike Welker [00:06:13] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:06:15] Delivery of them through them. They got picked them up from any place, you know?

Mike Welker [00:06:18] Right.

Frank Awender [00:06:19] And we were there all summer then. Actually, we went back then. During the winter, we were lay- laying on or sitting on the, on the, Narva River in Estonia and then in the summer we pulled back to Latvia. And then all summer. The one called Kinderlein Hugel, that means a hill where there was a child ah.

Mike Welker [00:06:55] Yeah,.

Frank Awender [00:06:55] Home, you know.

Mike Welker [00:06:56] A child- yeah.

Frank Awender [00:06:59] And that went all summer. One day. We attacked.

Mike Welker [00:07:08] Go ahead.

Frank Awender [00:07:09] And took the, knocked the Russians out of th, the position.

Mike Welker [00:07:18] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:07:19] Well, then. A few days later, Russian came and knocked us out, of it. That went all day, all summer long back and forth, when every time there was calculated we had so many losses that was already calculated in there. And then finally we are went back again and they came when they occupied Estonia and part of Latvia and we retreated to Lithuania, Lithuania, and there there were several fights we were encirciled a few times. We were, actually the only intact tank unit. So every time there was something going on, we were like the fire department, they caught us and we had, you know, and actually from my point of view, I didn't know where we were and what we're doing, you know? But I mean, in the meanwhile, I read a lot of books by, my own general wrote a book. The volunteers, they call it, you know, and. It's like. A dairy, you know.

Mike Welker [00:08:34] Yeah, diary, yeah.

Frank Awender [00:08:36] He got everything in there. Maybe I should go back a little bit and say how we, they, created our unit. Our unit was called The Dritten Germanischer Panzerkorp. And there were mostly foreigners, there were the staff first, the basic staff. They were Germans, you know.

Mike Welker [00:09:04] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:09:05] But they filled it. They started that was a wiking and then Nordland and they filled the divisions with us. Germans from Donauschwaben.

Mike Welker [00:09:19] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:09:20] And Norway and Norway, uh, Danes. And.

Mike Welker [00:09:31] OK, keep going.

Frank Awender [00:09:33] Yeah. And Netherland, you know. We had various regiments, they called one was, a, Regiment, Netherland, one the Norge, which is the Norwegian and. Uh, Denmark. From Denmark.

Mike Welker [00:10:00] So how many Donauschwaben from your hometown all went into the. From you, from you, from where you were from. Were there a lot of people that you, a lot of your friends that you grew up with go?

Frank Awender [00:10:12] No, no, no, no.

Mike Welker [00:10:13] No, no?

Frank Awender [00:10:13] I was the only one. Oh, yeah. They, funny thing, when we got to to to Vienna. There was a sergeant he said, you will just pile go to the few piles you will just do this or this or this. And what he based, his decision is a

Mike Welker [00:10:33] Who knows

Frank Awender [00:10:36] I think because they didn't know our background. My education background or anything?

Mike Welker [00:10:44] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:10:44] It's just from the face, you know?

Mike Welker [00:10:46] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:10:46] But I suppose because three of my my hometown, we were first in the same unit the tank unit.

Mike Welker [00:10:53] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:10:54] And we were slender young kids, you know, and I suppose they thought we can get in and out of the tank easier then the 200 pounder, you know.

Mike Welker [00:11:03] Right.

Frank Awender [00:11:03] I just it's my explanation. I know because others did this you know.

Mike Welker [00:11:08] So when the war was over, were we able to still go back to your town or...

Frank Awender [00:11:12] No, no.

Mike Welker [00:11:12] No?

Frank Awender [00:11:13] Well, anyway, we went from, from, Latvia, then all over East Prussia. Through Pomerania to Poland, you know, backwards.

Mike Welker [00:11:29] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:11:29] Back, back, but we had a few tanks here then, but not enough for everybody. So we were rotating, you know, we were-.

Mike Welker [00:11:37] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:11:37] And but we had. Other vehicles to we did, we did, walk you know we did what we were told. So we went back all the way to the Oder, you know, to Frankfurt, Odershtatein actually. And then eventually over the Oder, we made a stand on the, on the, Oder again, you know, but only temporarily. And then we went all the way to back to Berlin. And in Berlin, our division was encircled by the Russians, already, but my general, General Steiner was his name. He was supposed to pick up the loose guys who were running around because the army was deteriorating, you know?

Mike Welker [00:12:23] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:12:24] They were going all over and. He north east of Berlin is supposed to start a build up a unit for the defense of Berlin.

Mike Welker [00:12:36] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:12:38] Well, before he could get in. We were encircled, you know, so we got the order of tank unit, we were the only intact while we had a few, few, days.

Mike Welker [00:12:48] Right.

Frank Awender [00:12:48] To break through north east of Berlin and get Steiner with his group in. And we broke the rule was very easy, was that that wasn't that great, that. And naturally, neither Steiner nor us made an effort to go back to Berlin. And it's tragic enough. All my division, you know.

Mike Welker [00:13:18] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:13:18] All those other guys who were not with us, the tanks, they were captured by the Russians who worked for five years in Russia. Prisoner of war camp.

Mike Welker [00:13:28] Oh, wow.

Frank Awender [00:13:30] So I we were out there and then in front was the Russian and the back with the Americans, so we were asked, where do you want to go? Go to the Russian before the capitalization, you know?

Mike Welker [00:13:43] Yes.

Frank Awender [00:13:43] And. Naturally, we turned around and went to the Americans so we didn't hear a shot of the American.

Mike Welker [00:13:51] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:13:52] But became an American prisoner and the, the, the, news got around that we're going to give up the fighting against the West and the West goes with us against Russia after the war as bad or worse as that is. And, uh, were walking on a street, there towards the American line, you know.

Mike Welker [00:14:22] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:14:22] And American airplanes came. And we were waving them, you know, those [00:14:31][unintelligible], [0.0s] you know.

Mike Welker [00:14:32] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:14:33] And when they were circling around I thought maybe they made a mistake. When finally they recognized we were German they start shooting at us. Well they didn't get the order yet.

Mike Welker [00:14:43] Right.

Frank Awender [00:14:44] Anyway, make a long story short. We went all the way to, ah, The Elbe, and then. And, we there we had no vehicles anymore at that time.

Mike Welker [00:14:58] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:14:59] By foot. And. Then they said well nobody is allowed to go over there unless you have a vehicle. So we went in a parked lot there was, um, picked up our our tank driver. You know he was the driver. Picked up a little truck and got in and made it over to Oder. And, from then on, there was American and then later on, ah, English englishman, when they were directing us, they said, we're going to go home.

Mike Welker [00:15:41] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:15:43] So we went south. South east towards Bavaria where we came from where my parents were.

Mike Welker [00:15:49] Right.

Frank Awender [00:15:50] And. No one on one crossing, they want to direct us in another direction. They say "no we want to go this way. No, no, you go this way." So it turns out that they directed us in the prisoner of war camp.

Mike Welker [00:16:07] Right.

Frank Awender [00:16:08] Without any help of them.

Mike Welker [00:16:11] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:16:11] Any, any, uh.

Mike Welker [00:16:15] Force

Frank Awender [00:16:17] Any, uh, what do you call it? Ah? But anyway, we landed. In a camp there. Which I just read, not too long ago, very famous camp. Yeah, or infamous I could say. There were a lot of people died in there. Rheinberg. That was on the Rhein.

Mike Welker [00:16:40] Oh, OK.

Frank Awender [00:16:41] When they took us in there. And, uh, nothing to eat, we ate grass. And, uh, we all had were constipated.

Mike Welker [00:16:58] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:16:59] And I know I went to the doctor and I said to him I have not had a bowel movement for 15 days and he said but that's normal at that food. And, uh so we were there for the rest of May because we would be we made them with the war. At the end of the war.

Mike Welker [00:17:25] Right.

Frank Awender [00:17:25] On May the 8th.

Mike Welker [00:17:25] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:17:27] And, then. The English to over, so what, the English zone. They took over. When they start to separateing us. Because we were actually Romanian citizen.

Mike Welker [00:17:46] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:17:46] Born and raised in Romania, and according to American law, whatever country you are born in that the citizen, you are.

Mike Welker [00:17:56] Right.

Frank Awender [00:17:57] Irregardless of your ethnic heritage or lineage. So they put us in a camp. But it took us from there them to separate us. They took us to Belgium. And in the Romanian camp at that time.

Mike Welker [00:18:18] Oh, OK.

Frank Awender [00:18:20] And there were Romanians from the, uh. Romanian allies, army, you know? That didn't want to go to the communists..

Mike Welker [00:18:31] Right.

Frank Awender [00:18:32] They went to the Germans and we stay there, they dug holes about three, four feet. And put the tent over. And they said, we going there because the winter isn't that bad in Belgium.

Mike Welker [00:18:54] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:18:56] And we stayed there all winter. In that tent, you know. We had some stuff on that sailor from the (indecipherable).

Mike Welker [00:19:10] Now had you had-, did you have any contact with your parents or your family?

Frank Awender [00:19:15] No, I didn't, not at that time. Yeah. We were just to put some plastic on the bottom. Becuase it was cold and wet and that's what I got, my hip problem, I guess, for because I lay on the left hand side all the time on there.

Mike Welker [00:19:30] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:19:31] I was also all winter there. And, ah, we were there all, all winter. And some of my friends from back home, yeah, school. They were working at the, uh, discharge office. They filled out a discharge paper, you know.

Mike Welker [00:19:59] OK.

Frank Awender [00:20:00] So they took one of us, one of the other buildings there, so we were working there. Filling out the discharge paper. Everybody got their discharge paper. And but see I was a pretty difficult situation for the English or, or, the Allies because we were supposed to be shipped home to Romania, but we didn't want to go. We need to do the Romanians or ethnic German. The Romanians didn't want to go home to Communism.

Mike Welker [00:20:32] Right.

Frank Awender [00:20:32] Yeah.

Mike Welker [00:20:32] Right.

Frank Awender [00:20:33] And so that's why they're doing nothing.

Mike Welker [00:20:36] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:20:38] And, in the spring we got we had our discharge paper. Another trick of the thing. And we, they took us by train from Belgium to Munsterlager that is in Hesma, you know, in Germany. They said all we need, there to get another signature or whatever, and then we go we discharged.

Mike Welker [00:21:14] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:21:15] So they didn't have no. Ah, soldier on duties for us, you know.

Mike Welker [00:21:22] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:21:22] Except in the last the last ramble if you, when we got out at on the railroad station we could have walked away.

Mike Welker [00:21:30] Right.

Frank Awender [00:21:30] But why should we walk away? Because we go there to get another signature stamp and we're going to go home legally. And when we got there, there was a basket that everybody throws the discharge paper in that basket. That wasn't a good sign, you know.

Mike Welker [00:21:50] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:21:51] And then we stayed there a few weeks or months, and then I have made contact with my parents. My father died and was killed in Russia with the Romanian army, you know, already in 42. And my mother and my brother came and brought some money, which was worthless.

Mike Welker [00:22:18] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:22:19] But, yeah, you could. Hop a train with it and pay for a meal. And naturally brought some bread and some other food item. And I had some.

Mike Welker [00:22:38] Now, did they just come to visit you or had they left their town also to come to-?

Frank Awender [00:22:42] Now they, well, there's another chapter, you know.

Mike Welker [00:22:48] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:22:48] Before the Russian came. They, evacuated some of the Germans there, and they were all my brother, two brothers actually, and my mother, they took two horse and a buggy and their belongings tied up.

Mike Welker [00:23:10] So they left before? The Russians came?

Frank Awender [00:23:12] By train. They were the train was the one empty baggage, you know.

Mike Welker [00:23:18] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:23:18] Because they took her off from, Divischware [spelling], because they were bombed there, you know, and they put them on the, the, train wasn't working running there anymore. And they put the empty bags on that empty pins? And so they put them in there they filled up the wagons, I don't know how many there were. When they brought a locomotive and took em and then the next one and took em.

Mike Welker [00:23:49] Yeah, OK.

Frank Awender [00:23:50] And just how they came out.

Mike Welker [00:23:53] Oh, OK.

Frank Awender [00:23:53] Some of them they went by horse and wagon.

Mike Welker [00:23:55] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:23:56] Yeah.

Mike Welker [00:23:57] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:23:57] But they were lucky enough that our our people, my mother, my my town, that they were actually transfered by train and to Austria for they took up one third of that train load. In Austria, one third Kolberg with another part of Bavaria north of Nuremberg. And the other part of the next, the good part, in fact, Saxonia, in Kemnitz. In the lay, the Russian zone.

Mike Welker [00:24:36] Go ahead. So what brought- how did you end up coming to America then?

Frank Awender [00:24:46] Well, I actually escaped of the prisoner of war camp. I mean, I paid off those Romanian that were working.

Mike Welker [00:24:53] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:24:54] When, we were not.

Mike Welker [00:24:55] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:24:56] And I gave them some bread then because I had already, or give my ration, let's put it this way. When I stepped into there. And it's a long story. At first they captured me and then I tried again and and I, I up the train and I went to my mother, my, in Bavaria in Kolberg the north of Nuremberg. And I was there, and, that was when? 46? Till 52. Now, I I came to the realization at that time that here you are a farmer without land.

Mike Welker [00:25:43] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:25:43] Yeah. Now that's about the lowest on the totem pole. Yeah. And I was working as a laborer in construction because construction work was plenty. Everything was destroyed. And one of, a friend of mine who works there he was a German officer until when he said, uh, look, we can. Start a trade here, you can become bricklayer or carpenter or whatnot and work in the summertime or in the wintertime, you can go to the construction, ah, college, you know?

Mike Welker [00:26:24] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:26:24] Structure, ah, college, so I worked there for two, two years, first year, we just worked in the field all the time. Wwll then I realize I got to do something with me, you know?

Mike Welker [00:26:43] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:26:44] I went to the Schtatsvalschule in Kolberg it's called, which is the structural engineering school, but I only made three semesters and then I went to America because I was my wife, I mean, by I got married to my wife, came from right from the border. That was right on the line.

Mike Welker [00:27:11] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:27:12] At first sometimes in the morning, the Russians were there, but then they enforced the.

Mike Welker [00:27:17] Yeah. The boundaries.

Frank Awender [00:27:20] The boundary of the-

Mike Welker [00:27:22] The territories.

Frank Awender [00:27:23] Boundary. And but I was so afraid because I was running from Leningrad to Berlin away from the Russians.

Mike Welker [00:27:28] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:27:28] And I didn't want nothing to do with the Russian.

Mike Welker [00:27:30] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:27:31] So I decided to go to America and my professor said, why do you want to do this. Look, Germany is totally destructive. I mean, you know, and you would have if you lived here.

Mike Welker [00:27:46] Had a job forever.

Frank Awender [00:27:48] For the next, several generations, we have work there. But as I said, I went only because-

Mike Welker [00:27:54] Now did, you know, somebody did someone sponsor you in Cleveland or?

Frank Awender [00:27:58] No that was another thing. See I was a Catholic, my wife was Lutheran.

Mike Welker [00:28:01] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:28:02] When I was, we were married Lutheran. And it must have came out through the church.

Mike Welker [00:28:08] Oh, OK.

Frank Awender [00:28:09] And I went to Lutheran, and they said well, I says, and you had to sign a contract when you got married that you raised your children in that particular-

Mike Welker [00:28:17] Right.

Frank Awender [00:28:17] Religion. And I said, well, no sir we can't tell you, I said why not? Because your thing is not valid yet. Your contract, if you were had children, you know.

Mike Welker [00:28:28] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:28:30] That's different than I would. But so I was like, no, no. First off, first off, first I went to the Catholics one day. Well, since I was married they rejected me right away. Say you wanna go to Lutheran they going to welcome me, you know, and they told me the same thing then you know.

Mike Welker [00:28:50] Yeah, yeah.

Frank Awender [00:28:51] So I was, I read some notes in the paper that the Americans are looking for farm workers know. So I applied there and actually very fast then.

Mike Welker [00:29:10] OK.

Frank Awender [00:29:10] And I went in 50 in May 52 I already landed in Medina, a farmer before not a farmer but.

Mike Welker [00:29:20] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:29:22] Yeah all farm equipment is for sale you know this and that. But they had a hundred and fifty acres.

Mike Welker [00:29:28] OK.

Frank Awender [00:29:30] And that was my beginning. And then oddly enough a few weeks later somebody came. Said, we're looking for a farmer's garden tractor, when you asked me, I showed him and said, how much? I don't know. I didn't naturally I don't speak English, second, second thing (language). And "Where are you from?" and I said "From Romania." So I started Romanian. He could have spoke as much Romanian as I did. But if you come from Romania, and you can't speak your way. You must be German.

Mike Welker [00:30:13] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:30:13] Sure enough. He said where are you from? I told him Uivar, Uivar. Oh, my my brother-in-law is from Uivar. Turns out the guy I didn't know him because he came out the in 28 already. But I knew his family, his dad and everybody. When he had a grocery store on 117th and he came out on Wednesday, was closed, went right the next week you know he came out right away. We had our first contact there.

Mike Welker [00:30:42] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:30:43] When he wanted me to call right away. I said no, I want to serve my- they said you're supposed to stay a whole year with your sponsor, you know, but actually the way it was once you were here and if you didn't apply for welfare, they didn't care who you were, where you are, what you do. Anyway then I stayed until till January.

Frank Awender [00:31:12] Julie (referring to the phone call).

Mike Welker [00:31:13] Alright let me pause.

Frank Awender [00:31:18] And he had an empty, empty suite above the store that he was renting out, that they moved out when he came out he said look now is the time when we had very bad lodging yeah we had the walls. There was no siding on just inside the things the. What do you call it? Gypssum blocks, you know.

Mike Welker [00:31:50] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Frank Awender [00:31:54] And the thing that we had a stove there we used for the coals and wood, of which we had plenty of burning, burning material, you know, but that stove was hot the top and the feet were cold, you know. My wife was sick almost all the time, too you know. So we decided in January to call Cleveland. And I worked a little bit at Ford for the foundary, and luckily I did and the lady there my countrymen's wife, she said my uncle is to. C, CEO you know?

Mike Welker [00:32:45] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:32:47] From [00:32:47]*____* [0.0s] , obsession on Madison Avenue, you could get a job there, but they paid a dollar twenty five. I remember when I got at Ford, I got a dollar eighty one. I say why should I work for a dollar twenty five.

Mike Welker [00:33:00] Yeah, yeah.

Frank Awender [00:33:01] Anyway, after ten days I was totally kaput, you know.

Mike Welker [00:33:05] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:33:07] In the foundry there.

Mike Welker [00:33:08] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:33:09] So I went there and started there [00:33:11]{ ]? [0.0s] and then I got the guy up there. I got the big machines then and I was running and done some piecework and I done made more and more of work. And, but I want to go out because I was still an unskilled worker there.

Mike Welker [00:33:31] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:33:31] And I want to go out in construction where I know some about it. I wasn't much of a bricklayer because I didn't have much practice, but I had knowledge. More knowledge.

Mike Welker [00:33:43] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:33:43] Yeah. So I went to but he took me to the Banater Club, you know, he was singer there. So I joined the singer, and then I got to know people there and one contractor and I started, there and you worked until four and then I was the last to come and first to go you know, so I was discharged and I was unemployed. And then I went in the spring, I went to another German contractor there and worked until 1960. And in 60 a local guy who worked with me, he worked there for a long time, he was a better bricklayer then I was but other then this he could run the business, you know. So we started out to just him and me and his dad. His dad was our labor. Which we done, we started out in the spring. And by midsummer or late summer, we already hired a lot of people and did commercial work and uh, commercial work. And what the we grew pretty fast and the fact of the matter is the guy who want to hire me from the club, he went bankrupt I hired him. The foreman from where I used to work they were folding up. He was worth well he was an older guy with much more experience than I had, you know.

Mike Welker [00:35:38] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:35:39] And we hired him, too. And we had and at one time we had 70 people working for us. We were doing the Howard Johnson Holiday Inn in the tristate area.

Mike Welker [00:35:53] And what was the name of the company at that point?

Frank Awender [00:35:54] Metropolitan Builders.

Mike Welker [00:35:56] Metropolitan Builders.

Frank Awender [00:35:56] Yeah. And in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. And I was on the road constantly, but we didn't make any money because anyway, we we we grow and we done a lot of big buildings then later on. The biggest one is that former National City Bank building on East 9th and Euclid forty two storey high. That was the biggest job we done.

Mike Welker [00:36:27] OK.

Frank Awender [00:36:27] But we done a lot of that Ohio State building- Ohio Bank Building across the street there. A lot of schools and.

Mike Welker [00:36:34] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:36:34] And stuff like that. Mostly commercial. You know, we didn't do any we have a few accounts. They were running a few streets in there and mostly basements. We had one crew working there just to keep them busy, you know.

Mike Welker [00:36:52] So let's talk about the club a little bit now. How did you get involved? You said you knew somebody you started with the singers at the Banater club.

Frank Awender [00:36:59] Yeah. Well.

Mike Welker [00:37:01] How did you get involved with becoming a leader?

Frank Awender [00:37:04] Well see that was it. I was the only one connected with the Banater.

Mike Welker [00:37:10] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:37:11] And Mr. Rumpf. Remember Rumpf?

Mike Welker [00:37:14] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:37:15] Uh, we were talking about it and I says well look Banater to, to, closed of a circuit, you know.

Mike Welker [00:37:25] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:37:26] Of people. It doesn't encompass a whole lot much of.

Mike Welker [00:37:31] Right.

Frank Awender [00:37:32] And I said we have to do something to get them in and uh, we all kinds of negotiation. With those old people in the Banater Club that wasn't easy. And we, we started the Donauschwaben. And uh, what amazes me today is there was just a time when we started the business.

Mike Welker [00:37:59] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:38:02] I became president there.

Mike Welker [00:38:04] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:38:04] In 60s, but I know I did it. Running a business and starting a new organization. Anyway, we grew leaps and bounds, you know, and then.

Mike Welker [00:38:19] So what did you do first? What did you have? What groups did you have or what how did you.

Frank Awender [00:38:23] Well, we started out, well we just started the Donauschwaben as such. Then we started a youth group and then the German language group and the women's society, you know,

Mike Welker [00:38:39] Frauengruppe, yeah.

Frank Awender [00:38:40] Yeah. And so it encompassed almost everything there by that in a few years.

Mike Welker [00:38:46] How many years were you, you, no you were the first president. Right?

Frank Awender [00:38:49] No, I was the second.

Mike Welker [00:38:50] Second.

Frank Awender [00:38:50] Rumpf the first.

Mike Welker [00:38:53] Oh Rumpf was the first oh OK.

Frank Awender [00:38:54] But they, they told me either he goes or we go. I mean.

Mike Welker [00:38:58] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:38:59] But I didn't want them because I said I was too busy.

Mike Welker [00:39:02] Right.

Mike Welker [00:39:02] I can pause this again. OK.

Background Noise [00:39:02] *Phone Conversation*

Mike Welker [00:39:34] All right, so. How many years were you president then when you took over?

Frank Awender [00:39:43] I was two years president.

Mike Welker [00:39:47] And, and it grew and the club grew

Frank Awender [00:39:50] Oh yeah. And then as I said, it was a little bit too much and the Wintergast. I'm not sure, you know, he was my accountant, but he knew I him back from school year from Divishwar.

Mike Welker [00:40:01] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:40:02] But he was two years younger than me. He was not in the same class you know. And he was the secretary the first secretary.

Mike Welker [00:40:10] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:40:11] And I said, Fred, why don't you make the president. I make the secretary.

Mike Welker [00:40:16] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:40:17] To make a change. And he was very reluctant. But finally he said yes. But he if he got up on stage, he forgot his name. He was a very smart guy, but he could not

Mike Welker [00:40:32] Speak in front of people.

Frank Awender [00:40:35] So he said, I can't do it. So I had to go in again.

Mike Welker [00:40:38] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:40:39] So I worked another year there.

Mike Welker [00:40:39] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:40:40] And and that time I groomed Joe Holzer. He was my Organisationsleider.

Mike Welker [00:40:46] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:40:46] I said, Joe, you do most of it anyway. He did.

Mike Welker [00:40:50] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:40:51] He did most of the work you know.

Mike Welker [00:40:52] Right.

Frank Awender [00:40:53] Why don't you make the president and he wanted no part of it. And finally he said yes and that was the best move we could have could have done. But then, which wasn't easy, we took the soccer players in.

Mike Welker [00:41:08] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:41:09] From the GBU.

Mike Welker [00:41:09] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:41:10] But they came on in only with the condition that we add some rooms there showers or whatnot, you know.

Mike Welker [00:41:18] Right.

Frank Awender [00:41:19] We did that and we made those all but now they're going to get to do that. You know, it's like pulling teeth, you know.

Mike Welker [00:41:28] Yeah. Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:41:30] And uh, but I said, you know, we're going to get a lot of people then the business going to.

Mike Welker [00:41:36] Right.

Frank Awender [00:41:36] Go up as well. And it was a good move. And, uh, it worked out that way, too.

Mike Welker [00:41:41] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:41:42] And then we naturally we realized that the place is too small.

Mike Welker [00:41:48] Right.

Frank Awender [00:41:48] And we are looking for, for, land and we found that land on Columbia Road.

Mike Welker [00:41:53] Right.

Frank Awender [00:41:54] And we start building there. And, uh.

Mike Welker [00:41:58] Now you had a lot of, used, a lot of your labor and a lot of your people there to help build it.

Frank Awender [00:42:02] That was the actually that was the biggest asset.

Mike Welker [00:42:05] Yeah. Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:42:06] We had all kinds of trade in our our within our community.

Mike Welker [00:42:11] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:42:12] And laborers too, naturally. And we done, uh, we done the masonry work. We done practically. We put one of our foreman in charge, you know.

Mike Welker [00:42:23] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:42:24] And whenever necessary we took some more people to to to bearing height, you know, for the project or whatnot. And uh. Well I guess the rest of history.

Mike Welker [00:42:43] Yeah. Well that's good. That's a that, we did very good with that. Good story. So are you happy with how everything turned out? Are you proud of the club that you started?

Frank Awender [00:42:53] I'm happy. I hope it keeps on, they keep on going.

Mike Welker [00:42:55] Yeah. Yeah. And so now there's thirt- what is it? Twelve groups that are all in there all together. Twelve different organizations that are part of.

Frank Awender [00:43:05] Well I don't know how many there are now.

Mike Welker [00:43:07] Yeah. OK, well that's that was perfect. Mr. Awender, thanks a lot for your interview.

Frank Awender [00:43:12] You know, I just wanna to tell you that, you don't have to put that in. See at first before the First World War.

Mike Welker [00:43:21] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:43:22] All the Donauschwaben, they were united in one country Austria-Hungaria.

Mike Welker [00:43:26] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:43:27] Yeah. And in twenty one after the war was over and they cut up.

Mike Welker [00:43:34] Yes.

Frank Awender [00:43:35] Hungary and things. The Trianon Pact in, uh in France. They carved up Hungary and Austria.

Mike Welker [00:43:46] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:43:47] And the Banat was the biggest part actually, you know. They carved up they came three parts. The biggest parts stayed in Romania where I was. Were three hundred fifty thousand and a smaller part was Yugoslavian. Yeah. And the other part remained Hungarian.

Mike Welker [00:44:07] Yeah.

Frank Awender [00:44:09] And that for us actually being a Romanian was the best choice. I mean you had, didn't have a choice but because we ,we, they didn't kill us.

Mike Welker [00:44:22] Yeah, yeah.

Frank Awender [00:44:23] Yeah. They sent us to to Russia to die you know.

Mike Welker [00:44:28] Right, yeah.

Frank Awender [00:44:28] In the labor camp.

Mike Welker [00:44:29] Right.

Frank Awender [00:44:29] But they did not outright kill us like the Yugoslavians.

Mike Welker [00:44:33] Yeah yeah.

Frank Awender [00:44:33] Or Serbians.

Mike Welker [00:44:34] Right.

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