Margaret (Gretl) May Rein and her brother Leonhard Rein were born in Velimirovac, an area of Croatia and Slovenia which was in the former Yugoslavia. Leonhard was born in January of 1940, and Margaret in May of 1941. Their journey west began in this western part of the Osijek-Barnaja County, near the town of Nasice. Their father, Emanuel, as a German speaker, volunteered with the German army after serving in the Serbian army.
Their journey headed west, with their mother and grandparents, to Hungary by wagon, to the town of Pecs, through Silesia, and Seifersdorff, then south to Hirschberg, being taken in by farmers along the way. Once they reached Austria, the family was able to stay until the end of the war in Enns and Wartberg, where their story continued, with assistance from The Church of the Brethren, to the town of Creston, Ohio. Leonhard May was a successful business owner and president of the German Central at the time of this interview.
May Rein, Gretl (interviewee); May, Leonhard (interviewee)
Franklin, Bill (interviewer)
Cleveland German-American Oral History Project
"Gretl May Rein and Leonhard May interview, 05 May 2021" (2021). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 195007.
Bill Franklin [00:00:00] Already today is Wednesday, May the 5th, 2021. My name is William Franklin and I'm here today interviewing Gretl Rine and Leonard May, so we could start with you from your family background and where you came from, where you were born.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:00:24] OK, doing OK. My name is Margaret May was me. I was born in May 20th, 1941, in Velimirovac Yugoslavia. It was Yugoslavia then. It is now Croatia.
Bill Franklin [00:00:43] And how do you spell that town V
Gretl (Margaret) [00:00:46] or W you know v v e l i m i r o v a c and
Leonhard [00:00:55] w yeah.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:00:56] W in German it's w but yeah. Yeah. I think in all our papers it's a V you know. Yeah. Yugoslavia. And like I said, it is in Croatia. It was also in the region of Slavonia. You know which Slavonia s l a. Oh yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:01:19] Right. And so you were pretty young when the war broke out.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:01:24] Yes. Well it was born in forty one. Yeah. The war was on already in Europe. My dad was gone and I'm the second oldest of then but ended up to be seven children. Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:01:40] And what's your dad drafted was the first one that's.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:01:46] Do you want to answer that Dad.
Leonhard [00:01:49] You know, the situation was at the time, you know, when the Hitler movement was going on, it was like triumphalism. You know, it was. And our dad was in favor because it's going to be no more crime. There's going to be just all honest people and whatnot, you know? So he volunteered, you know, when when the Germans came in into Yugoslavia, OK, and he you know, because they spoke German and they they were dead. German schools. They had German churches, they the German village, you know, so but they in the village, they did have also Hungarians enough, you know, to Croatians. OK, so but as a whole they were all Germans, OK? And I spoke German and the and the Hungarians, they spoke just as good German as the Germans did, you know. But they were of Hungarian or Croatian descent. OK, and so Dad, he he volunteered but he was first he was in the Serbian army, OK, that was a draft. OK, right. And that was in the late thirties. OK, and then later on when he came out of it, when the Germans invaded, you know, there was no Serbian army, OK, so that's when he volunteered and joined the German army, OK? And then he was gone from, uh, well, she came home one time and didn't come back. We didn't see him till after the war was over. OK, and luckily, whatever unit he was in, he survived, OK? Nothing happened to him is to the whole OK, he was never injured, OK?
Leonhard [00:03:39] And you know it sometimes I'd like to know more about it. You know, where he was, what he was doing, you know. Exactly. And but you know that we get too soon old. Too late. Smart, OK? And he did it. And now you go back and you say, boy, I wish, I wish, I wish, you know, and unfortunately didn't happen.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:04:02] And it was also a prisoner of war an American prisoner of war. And then he was released.
Leonhard [00:04:08] Yes.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:04:09] Quick, you know.
Mark Cole [00:04:10] What was his name? What were your parents names?
Gretl (Margaret) [00:04:12] Emmanuel. Emmanuel E, M like Emmanuel in the church, you know, and Catharina, May
Bill Franklin [00:04:21] And your mom had no contact with your dad either?
Leonhard [00:04:24] Well, yes. Oh, they always had contact. Yes, they always had contact. You know, the, uh, the German Red Cross did the Postal Service was like a wonder of wonder works, OK, because we got all the all the letters, we got all the telegrams. We, you know, a very excellent communication from those days. You know, when you think about it, OK, but you want to say, in effect,.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:04:51] Well, he was he came home then what? Forty...,.
Leonhard [00:04:55] 43. OK, about 42. 42. OK.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:04:58] Yeah because, yeah because, our brother was born in 43.
Leonhard [00:05:00] But, you know, after that, he was not allowed to come back. He could have, but at that time, the partizans, you know, they were looking for him, OK, because at that time there was they were looking for all the Germans, the Germans that that ran over OK. And they were if they would have caught him, they would have killed him, you know, and even though he had, you know, my dad, he was a very honorable guy. He served his duty and in the Serbian army. OK, but there was always some some conflict, you know, because they they just did not like the ethnic Germans living there. OK, but, you know, they were that, you know, they came there in the 16th, 17th and 18th century, OK? And cultivated the land out of nothing. I mean, that was bare land. And they started, you know, from zero. So they said the first generation was the north, which was the hardship,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:06:03] Death even.
Leonhard [00:06:03] The death, the death first and then the hardship and then the third. And the third thing was the the finally was the bread. OK, and yeah, I'm not sure if that's translatable OK, but the first step
Gretl (Margaret) [00:06:18] to make it. Yeah, I was the first one, many of them died, the second ones, you know, they worked very hard and a third generation then were able.
Bill Franklin [00:06:26] Reap the benifits.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:06:27] Yeah. Yes.
Leonhard [00:06:28] And you know, this was under the time at the time under the Austrian, you know, that there was no Yugoslavia, OK? Yugoslavia was created after the First World War. OK, 1922, I believe. OK, so my dad, he was actually not born in Yugoslavia. He was born our mom and our mom and dad were born in Austria. So that's what that, you know, that stretched the whole, you know, a big area all the way down to Italy, you know, in parts of Spain that belonged to Austria. OK, and so there was no there was no Slovenia. There was no Croatia. There was no Serbia. There was no Bosnia. There was that was all Austria. OK.
Bill Franklin [00:07:09] That was the Hapsburg Empire, right?
Leonhard [00:07:11] Yes. Yes. The Hapsburg Empire. Yeah. And that ended after the First World War. OK, and then in 1922, they created Yugoslavia, which means South Slavic, you know, South Slavia, OK. And but that never worked because they were of different nationalities, different religions, different beliefs, you know, so that there was always fires burning, you know, and it's the best time was when Austria, Hungary controlled the whole thing, OK? And after that it didn't work anymore. And then in nineteen ninety nine was it nineteen eighty nine in the nineties. OK, it fell apart. Yugoslavia split up then you know that the Balkan war OK. And since then it, you know they, they were fighting and to this day they're still fighting. OK, but the Germans, they, they did you know, they cultivated the land and you know they had to leave our grandfather. He was a very well-to-do person. He was he had a farm. He had a blacksmith shop. And he he was he was also a deacon at the church, OK? And he was the butcher of the village. OK, the people that didn't didn't quite weren't as good as him. They all knew how to butcher. But he was a supreme butcher, you know, he was an excellent blacksmith, a very proud man. And he had butchering was his his love. You know, he he really was good then. I still remember as a as a a child, you know, it's amazing how how you how far you can think back. And, you know, our we had an uncle, my dad's brother, who died 1942. And I can still remember when they closed the coffin, you know, when he died and nailed the coffin shot, you know, and so I was maybe close to three, you know, because I was in, like, September, October. OK.
Mark Cole [00:09:19] When is your birth date?
Leonhard [00:09:20] My my birthday is January 7th, 1940, and
Bill Franklin [00:09:29] Was your uncle killed in the war with?
Leonhard [00:09:30] No, no. He he was also a volunteer, but he was not in the army. He was a civilian. You know, he went to Germany from there and he did when the bombings were going on in Germany, he was in the wintertime extinguishing fires and he caught pneumonia, you know, and died. And then he came back to what was then Yugoslavia. OK, and and. He died then at home, and I can still remember that, OK, but my ah, my friend, my dad's side, he was my dad was the middle one. The uncle that that died. He was the oldest and his sister was the youngest. So he was the middle guy, OK. And he was a professional blacksmith. And I know that he still had books when he went to the German army where he went to a school for further advanced training in blacksmithing. OK, and I still have them today, you know. And you know, many times he says, you know, how advanced they used to be already, you know, in comparison to down there in Yugoslavia at the time, you know, because they were a small village. OK, I would I don't know how many families we were. I would say maybe two or three hundred, you know, at best. OK, but, you know, each each each home maybe had four or five people in that. OK, so I'm talking of people, OK, the homes were very, very primitively constructed. You know, they they were made out of out of clay. You know, they they they kind of made forms and mixed them with with straw and clay. But they once they hardened, they became like a brick, you know, they and that was an innovative and inexpensive way of building homes at the time. OK.
Bill Franklin [00:11:42] They probably didn't have indoor plumbing.
Leonhard [00:11:45] No, no, no. They had all outhouses, you know, and they but they all had like a summer kitchen, which they cooked outside in the summertime. In the wintertime, they pulled inside and also very, very practical ways of of living, OK, that sometimes today I think back I said, you know, I remember that a smoke house, you know, where are they when they butchered the pigs that we only you know, we I just like pigs. I was not for anything else. I didn't like beef. I like pork. I grew up with n chicken, OK? And, you know, our grandparents, they were very efficient. And the other side of the family, the grandfather, he was a carpenter, highly efficient guy, you know, and he was also drafted into the army. He was you know, they were building bridges that they blew up, you know, steel bridges. And they built them out of wood, too, you know, and they were civil servants, you know, civil, civil. They were not in the army, OK? They were just civil workers, OK? And my mom's my mom's our mom's side. They had there was my mom's oldest sister. She died before I was born, OK, in 1939. Then my mom was the second oldest. Then there was uncle no uncle until she was the third. So there were three girls first and then there was four boys, OK,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:13:32] There was yeah George.
Leonhard [00:13:32] And they that the oldest son, he was killed down in Yugoslavia because he was also drafted in the German army. OK, they were very it was not a like a force. They were volunteers, just like our dad was OK. And they they joined, you know, like I was drafted here. You know, my dad was over there at first in the Serbian army, then the German army. But the uncles, they they joined and they got involved in the fighting, OK? And he he was killed. And that was at the end of the war. Nineteen, 1944, OK. I did almost at the end of forty four into forty five. OK, but in any case we, we had to when, when we, when we fled Yugoslavia, I took off with my grandparents from my dad's side and because our our grandfather was a blacksmith from the village. So I can still remember the German officer, he was an SS officer, was a tall guy with his uniform. And, you know, as a kid, you admired those things. He didn't you know, you had no fear. You had no knowledge in. You just stood in awe and admired everything, you know, but I remember when he came and told our grandfather that he said, Mr. May, you're going to have to pack up because you're going to have to flee. The Russians are coming and you may have to and you may not come back. And I remember him when he said you need to take all your belongings as many as you can. So they loaded up the wagons, horse and wagons, just like going out west, you know, the same way. And my grandfather, he built a brand new wagon and he did all the hardware himself, you know, from the wagons. And we loaded up in those days. They they had you know, they were very efficient, OK? He was a blacksmith and the butcher. So they they they killed a pig, some chicken, you know, and they kind of put it and they didn't have no refrigerator, obviously, but they they knew it's going to be a long trip wherever they may be going. And so they put everything in in a vat and then put the hot grease over it. You know, they melted that the pork fat and kind of covered it, you know, and that that kind of preservatives, you know, so you could every day you could take some meat out and some some bad fat, you know, and cook something, you know, make some take some bread. They did, of course, they baked and did everything themselves. That didn't have to at that time with no grocery stores are very, very resourceful. Yes. Yes, very resourceful. And so, you know, I drove with them. So we went up to Hungary.
Bill Franklin [00:16:38] So you just headed west?
Leonhard [00:16:39] We headed the northwest.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:16:41] Northwest yeah
Leonhard [00:16:41] Northwest. Yes.
Bill Franklin [00:16:43] Did you have a destination?
Leonhard [00:16:43] No, no. Wherever we were directed OK? At that time that the Red Cross. Now on my mom's side,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:16:50] Where I was on the wagon. Yeah, I was on that wagon and that was my mother, my my my maternal grandparents. But they didn't have a wagon and horses. So they they they hired somebody to take us to that destination that was across the river. And then we were supposed to be getting on trains. And that's what I did with my mom and my brother and my grandparents. And then Leonard joined us over there because, well, he was homesick for his mom. And, you know, well, you were little kids, you know, Iffley. So anyhow, we were on trains. So I just wanted to say that, you know, they were they had their own wagon. And my other grandfather had they had to hire somebody to drive them.
Mark Cole [00:17:32] Where did you catch the train?
Gretl (Margaret) [00:17:33] In Funfkirchen.
Leonhard [00:17:36] Funfkirchen, which is today.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:17:41] Pecs, p, e, c, s, thats in Hungary.
Bill Franklin [00:17:41] P, e.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:17:41] P, e, c, s Pecs. And it was called Funfkirchen. Yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:17:52] And you don't know what branch of service your father was in do you know what he did in the war?
Leonhard [00:17:58] He was ah.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:17:59] Waffen SS
Leonhard [00:18:01] Waffen SS. OK? Yeah,.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:18:04] But then he was ah-.
Leonhard [00:18:05] There was also different different division. He actually-
Gretl (Margaret) [00:18:08] Was um-.
Leonhard [00:18:09] He had a, he had a good position because he never was in any fighting. OK. So.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:18:14] But he was with a with a unit that had horses, you know,.
Leonhard [00:18:17] They called it Berittene (mounted unit), you know, which was a they were actually parade horses, you know, and stuff, you know, for, you know, they thought eventually it's going to be a winning situation, you know, so which never happens. OK, yeah. So he you know, we were very fortunate. And, you know, that that the sad thing was that my dad's cousins, they came and my grandmother's brothers and sisters all came to America in the eighteen hundreds and the last one came in nineteen eighty five. So it was a lot of times father against son and brother against brother or cousin against cousins. You know, that was the situation
Bill Franklin [00:19:01] It's like the Civil War here.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:19:02] Yeah, Human nature is the same all over isn't it.
Bill Franklin [00:19:08] Yes, yeah. So you were what four and five when the war was.
Leonhard [00:19:14] Yes, I was. When the war was over I was five and a half, you know, and well here's what happened. We, we were then directed, you know, because they put everybody in certain, you know, they had to make room for all the refugees because, you know, we had refugees coming. You know, the Germans lived in Russia. They lived in Hungary. They lived in Romania. They lived in the Czech Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia didn't exist before the First World War either. You know, that was created after the First World War from Poland, you know, from Russia, from like from Latvia and all the northern things. So they they all came then back to to Germany because they were German. So they as soon as they, you know, all the Germans were pulled back in, all the ethnic Germans. And so they they came. So we were we were coming up through Vienna and through Prague and then going up what is what is now chelation Australasia Solatia, which belongs now to Poland. OK, at that time it was German, but after the reperation they had to give one third of Germany that went to Poland OK. We were we were quartered in there finally. And uh, but first we came to a small farm, a big farm, and we were quartered in there. And those farmers that took us in, I still remember that to this day we were in a corner building of the farmhouse, you know, and those people were so gracious, you know, with the war and everything going on, the floor was like a Nudelbrett.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:20:55] A board where you make noodles on.
Leonhard [00:20:57] Where you made them make noodles, you know, I mean, scrubbed clean. They had a potbelly stove in there that beds in there. And they were very gracious people, you know, and we stayed there. Little did the farmers know that soon they would have to flee to OK. And so then we went south again.
Bill Franklin [00:21:21] Do you know the name of that village, that you were in?
Leonhard [00:21:21] That yes, that was called Seifersdorf thought that was S e i f e r d o r f. Do you have it all this s s e i
Gretl (Margaret) [00:21:41] F, e, r, s, d. The f is in there before the D Seifersdorf.
Leonhard [00:21:45] Seifersdorf. Yeah. And then we we state that, oh, my mom, she she you know, because we were on a farm and this was in a remote out in the countryside. So Mom, she wanted to go to her parents, you know, and so they, they took us in and our grandparents stayed in a hotel that as refugees, you know, they made room in all in all the dining, the dining rooms, they were converted into bedrooms. You know, they put up beds, you know, and so on. And that was all done by the German Red Cross. You know, it's amazing how that worked, you know? And so we stayed there in the hotel and they they had a canteen, you know, where they fed the refugees and so on. And one evening, my our mom, her sisters and their cousins, they were all very close knit family, OK, all their cousins and so on. They went to the movie theater. And I was we were in a hotel and our grandfathers there. And all of a sudden the postman came and had this thing on there. He pulled out a telegram and gave it to the grandfather. That's my mom's side. And they should he had to sign it, you know, and he wrote it and he screamed, you know, and I remember that so, so vividly. Like in any case, I found out that the oldest son was killed, OK, so that the telegram end of the Postal Service, even with all the death and destruction, it still worked very, you know, very good record keepers. You know, that that worked very, very efficient. OK, so we we found out that this guy was was killed, you know, so, uh, otherwise it would have been, you know, who knows if we would have ever found it, but it worked. OK, and then from there, when we found out that the Russians were coming in, we were directed to go down south, OK? And then we went down south. What, you know, at that time to Austria and Germany was what they called a right. That was one country, OK, Hitler came from Austria, OK? So that was one country. And so we came down there, you know, trying to get away from the from the Russians, OK? And so we we traveled all the way down from the town where we stayed was called Hirschberg, OK, where we stayed. That was in the hotel. OK, that was Hirschberg. OK, that was spelled h i r s c h b e r g like berg. OK, Hirschberg OK.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:24:50] What is it called now. Because you know what it's called now right?
Leonhard [00:24:54] Yeah it's called now. It's a it's a matter of fact I put the weather map in here, you know, and I uh. Yeah. Jelenia Gora, you know it's it's a Polish name now, OK, they changed it, OK, but at that time it was called Hirschberg and it was a I. I says I always want to go back. It was a very beautiful because it's the first time I seen a town where we went to the to the meat market, to the butchery, you know, and then, uh, my grandfather says, now look, this is this is how the German the kind of toilet they have and Hitler, he says, have flush toilets, you know, water, toilets. And, you know, because we went there to the butchery and that's the first time I seen something like that, you know, and then, of course, in the hotel, they had all those toilets. You know, we never we never you know, we were not used to stuff like that. So there's a lot of we went through a lot of experience during the war and see a lot of it. But, you know, one thing I have to say, we were never afraid of anything of some of the bombing in all the sirens. You know, when we traveled with the trains and, you know, the sirens came on, they stopped the trains and the people fled and on and kind of ran out of the trains to kind of hide as kids. We didn't know danger, you know, with all our mom was protecting us, you know. So, you know, that's how we were thinking, OK,.
Bill Franklin [00:26:17] She must have been a pretty cool headed woman. She probably.
Leonhard [00:26:20] Oh, yeah. Well, she.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:26:22] Well she was yeah. I'm surprised she did as well. She had three little kids, but her parents were also near, you know. And that help.
Leonhard [00:26:29] Yeah. That helped a lot. Yeah.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:26:31] Because she was not the one that would take. And do you think she was more like, OK, I'm with you guys? You know, that's kind of where she was. And, you know, some of the travel, you know, like when we when we as we fled, as I remember him a year and a half younger than Leonard. So I was, of course, younger. So I experienced I remember being put someplace in a corner like this here. And we carried out some of the stuff in bundles or suitcases, and that's how we slept and we rested. That's what I remember. Yeah, but I always felt as a child, very safe because they were grandparents and we were together and it was almost cuddling into those nice bundles. That's all my memory is, you know, and and also that we were overnighted sometimes in a barn, you know, where they put the straw down for us to lay down, because when you were in a train sitting for hours and nights and stuff, and then then they had a bowl to wash up and served as something hot to drink and some memory that I have, which like I was very young, but, you know.
Bill Franklin [00:27:32] Right.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:27:33] I have that memory. So anyhow, I wanted to add that, you know, was some of the stops were tough and, yeah.
Leonhard [00:27:40] You know, I, I should have prepared myself and had a little script, you know, so you kind of start from beginning to all the way up and then down. OK, I still remember the incident, my grandmother and grandfather that from my dad's side when we traveled in the wagon, OK, we had all the food to comfort, you know, and it was kind of exciting, you know, then we went to the first, you know, after we we left from from our birth place, OK? And we drove maybe 20 kilometers. Then we had to cross a river. OK, and
Bill Franklin [00:28:21] do you remember which river that was?
Leonhard [00:28:23] That was the Drava. OK, the Drau.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:28:27] The Drau yeah, d, r. a, v, a
Leonhard [00:28:30] Now in Croatian what they call Drava but the Germans called it all Drau, Ok. D, r, a, u, and equally would be Drava that would.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:28:42] D, r, a, v, a. D, r, a, v, a. Drava
Leonhard [00:28:45] You know, we don't speak Croatian, okay. So we just know certain things. But as we as we got closer, they had like a ferry to go across. And I remember we went on there and it was all controlled by the German soldiers and as we went on there, my grandmother says there's a German soldier standing right now. Is this the thing. The wagons were here, here, OK? And my grandfather, because he was a tra-that the leader. OK, so his was the first one, OK? And the other one was sitting here and my grandmother says that river is too big and I'm afraid, you know, so she my grandfather asked the German soldier to put a rope across or a chain across, you know. Well it was a rope so he put a rope across. Then she was a little bit more relaxed. OK, but I remember I remember that distinctly. You know, grandfather says, I know my horses. You know, they're not going to jump. You thought they're going to jump into the river. You know, they were the first first wagon, you know, and and so they put once they got over there and they got to the edge of the river and it was a primitive, primitive setup at that time. And it just had some boards laying it. The thing where the ferry came up, touch touched the ground, you know, and then the horses, they took off with the wagons and up up to the hill.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:30:08] Embankment, yeah.
Leonhard [00:30:10] Then we moved on. And that was then in Hungary. And then we were in Hungary
Gretl (Margaret) [00:30:15] That's where we were and Funfkirchen and in Pecs
Leonhard [00:30:17] Funfkirchen. You know, that was that town. Yeah.
Mark Cole [00:30:20] So when the war ended, did you end up going to a displaced persons camp or.
Leonhard [00:30:26] No.
Mark Cole [00:30:26] How did you make the-?
Leonhard [00:30:27] You know something, we here's what happened. Like I said, the the the mail and the communication. No telephones, but it worked so well that we were directed in all kinds, you know, so they they knew where we were, where we were from and so on. So we we came to the town in Austria. Finally we came back to Czechoslovakia. OK, well, and then into, uh, into Austria, a city called Enns, e double n s. e, n, n, s. And once we got to Enns.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:31:14] Yeah. in Austria.
Leonhard [00:31:15] Our grandfather. He already came with his horse and buggy all the way from Yugoslavia, Hungary into Austria, Vienna. And there was not so many streets and roads in those days. They were they just started building built the autobahn, but that was not finished yet. Then it was in. In sections, you know, from from Salzburg all the way to Vienna, but we came the old route like we used to go Route three to Columbus, right while they there. So we came the old route and they came from Vienna all the way down. And then my grandmother got ill.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:31:51] In Enns. That's why they stopped.
Leonhard [00:31:53] That's why he stopped. And he while he stopped at a blacksmith's shop because he checked if the wagons were OK, if the horses needed the horseshoeing and so on. And then the owner of the business came and seen what he was doing. He says, hey, I need a guy like you. You know, he says, well, if you have someplace to live, you know that he's I can arrange that, you know, so but our grandmother was put in the hospital there, you know, so he stayed there and the rest of the wagons, wagon train went on, you know, where they were directed, you know, but since my grandfather, he says, you guys go on, we'll stay here.
Bill Franklin [00:32:37] And how long was he there?
Leonhard [00:32:38] We stayed there. Then he came there in 1944 before 40, before the war was over.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:32:47] It must arrived in 45, early, because we left Yugoslavia
Leonhard [00:32:51] in 44 because we left
Gretl (Margaret) [00:32:54] Well we left October 44. But I think we were on the way. I thought after Christmas we were still in Schlesien (Silesia) [00:32:58]. [0.0s]
Leonhard [00:32:59] We were we were.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:33:00] He was there earlier.
Leonhard [00:33:01] But he was he was there already and a the before 45.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:33:06] OK.
Leonhard [00:33:07] And we came in this town Enns is the oldest town in Austria. Okay. And so this is how we ended up and you know, we spoke German, we didn't speak any other language, you know. But you know, the Germans have so many different dialects, OK. And which is still but the writing is still in High German, you know, everybody knows how, you know. So we all communicate the same way. OK, and I always thought the Germans were the only ones that had the dialect, you know, but later on in life, I noticed that everybody had a dialect, you know, but that's how we came down there. And then we ah. But that's where the grandparents were. But we we came down with a train down and we went and west of Enns. West, south, southwest of ends, we were reported in by some farmer, OK? And we lived there also in in the farm houses. They're huge in Austria. You know, they're like a quadrant and they have a living quarter. And for the chicken and sheep and for the geese, for the chicken and geese. And for the sheep and cows and horses and the farm equipment and very, very innovative, you know, for but for many centuries. And anyway, we we stayed there till the war was over when the Americans came, OK? And we stayed there probably till May of 45. OK, in a town called Wartberg. OK, w
Gretl (Margaret) [00:34:55] W a r t b e r g.
Leonhard [00:35:03] So our grandparents from the father's side, they lived in Enns we lived in Wartberg, which was maybe 45 kilometers away, you know, 40, 45 kilometers, OK. In those days, a long stretch because it was by horse, you know, but they didn't have trains, you know, and that whatever was running, you know. So we lived there till May. And then we our dad got a hold of us OK again through the Red Cross. You know, they try to find out where everybody is situated. And my dad was looking for his parents and.
Bill Franklin [00:35:47] He was already released from the POW?
Leonhard [00:35:49] He was released from the yeah, he was in the POW camp.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:35:54] In May 45.
Leonhard [00:35:54] In May, 45 yeah. And then he came to visit us in the Wartberg. And he I remember him when he came at that time. The clothes he had on was the German uniform, you know, and he came and my mom says, look at who's coming back because we didn't see him since 1943, OK? And so it was like two good two years later, you know, and I ran to him, you know, and so he he knew where his parents were, you know. So we went in all together on the train and and wrote to Enns to visit there. And my dad went looking for his parents first, but now he knew he had an address, you know, and he knew exactly he looked up the window and he could see the grandmother's scarf hanging on the window, you know, so he knew where they were, you know, and and dad recognized right away my the grandparents that was working for the blacksmith shop that hired him that, you know, and that's the blacksmith shop also found living quarters for the grandparents. And then my dad got to know the blacksmith shop owner, and they they hooked up right away. And he says, oh, he says, I need a blacksmith, another blacksmith, you know? So he had a job there. And that guy had connections to the old forts, the Germans. But they would be called in America, the barracks, but they were not barracks. That was solid buildings that used to be a castle at one time. The German army was gone already, you know, so they moved us in all the refugees in in those living quarters, there you know. So it was very, very modern for our for our situation. OK, you had running good running water with toilets. You know?
Gretl (Margaret) [00:37:54] Not inside. I mean, we had toilets, but not every family. It was part of a we had a room and you shared a bathroom and and the water line, you know.
Bill Franklin [00:38:03] Right. That was Enns right?
Gretl (Margaret) [00:38:06] In Enns, yeah. And that was also the American zone. Just so you know.
Leonhard [00:38:09] So here here's what it was. There was the Russian zone that was across the river.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:38:20] From the Enns River, same as the town.
Leonhard [00:38:21] And on this side was the Danube and the Enns. That was a mountain river that came all the way from the mountains down here and and entered into the Danube and became bigger from there, you know. But the thing was that we were just right in that quadrant. The American zone was here. The Russians were over here and here, OK? And so, you know, we were we were we start to go to kindergarten, you know, that they had an excellent system. You know, the kindergarten was very well
Gretl (Margaret) [00:38:54] Well it was also run by the church,
Leonhard [00:38:55] run by a Catholic church, you know
Gretl (Margaret) [00:38:57] and we were all Protestants, you know,.
Leonhard [00:38:59] You know, We were all Protestants, you know,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:39:00] and we that was very good fo us.
Leonhard [00:39:03] But Austria at one time used to be there for a short while. They were Protestants, too. And then they had what they call a farmer's war. You know, they were believers in in the Catholic system, the way they were brought up, you know, so that didn't last too long. OK, you know, that's something I always want to read up and follow up on, you know, but so we lived. But because of all the refugees they they built in Lutheran churches or Evangelical Lutheran Churches, OK for the refugees because there was a big influx in Austria and Germany and then after the war, OK, that for all those ethnic Germans that came from from all over, you know, like I said, from former Yugoslavia, from from Hungary, from, fromRomania, from Russia and so on, OK. And so they accommodated us, you know, but so we left, we went to kindergarten, we went to a great school later on to high school, you know, but they called high school, OK.
Bill Franklin [00:40:12] So you were there for quite a few years
Gretl (Margaret) [00:40:13] 11 Years
Bill Franklin [00:40:14] 11 Years.
Leonhard [00:40:15] Yes. And not, you know, the conditions, you know, that was after the war. And it you know, with all the refugees, the influx and so on, we eventually my dad wanted to build a home, you know, and we started building a home together with our aunt because she was the one that had more finances than our dad because we were six kids at the time. And even though my dad was a very well respected person in that town and at his work, you know, and he got to know a lot of people because the farmers all wanted him to come to visit and do something around the farm, you know, some of blacksmith work at that time. And so we had actually a good standard of living here. Now, as far as food was concerned, and we lived not highly comfortable. We lived what we thought comfortable, comfortable, OK. And but then, you know, we had like I said, we had people or relatives that lived in the United States. They came to visit us in 1952. You know, my dad's cousin came with her husband and two kids. They visited us and they came to visit with a brand new Cadillac, 1952. And I you know, I of course, me being a car enthusiast, you know, I just loved cars, you know? Knew, I was never going to get one that soon. You know, being a young 12 year old, you know, but their son was 12 years old. He was one day younger than I was, OK? And we hit it off right away. And we spoke a little bit, some English, OK, but not very good yet. But we communicated. We hit it off. And I, I thought, wow, that's where I would like to live, where they have cars like this, you know. So that's what was my dream. And you know, as we lived there, you know, things start to get better, that the standard of life got better. But and our dad, like I said, he had no intention. He he was happy with his lifestyle. But I was the driving force that wanted to come to the United States, you know and if you remember that. Right?
Gretl (Margaret) [00:42:43] Well, I remember that. And I also at the same time, during the six years before we came over, there was a church in Creston, Ohio, Church of the Brethren, that had sent us care packages regularly. And we had clothes and food and stuff. We didn't know what to do with, of course, but that was wonderful. And then when when we ended up saying we would like to come to America, they were willing to be our sponsors, you know, so that's but
Bill Franklin [00:43:13] Is that where your American connection was? Is that where your relatives lived?
Gretl (Margaret) [00:43:16] No the relatives were in Chicago and they ended up they ended up then being sponsors for my aunt and grandmother and the cousins. But our family, our mom and dad and six kids is a Church of the Brethren. They they sponsored us and brought us over. Eventually, it took several years for us to get permission to come over. And when we came over then in 55, we lived on the farm, you know.
Bill Franklin [00:43:40] Good OK, well, maybe this would be a good time to take a break,.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:43:42] OK.
Bill Franklin [00:43:45] Okay Good. So maybe you could talk about the Church of the Brethren when you came over.
Leonhard [00:43:55] OK. The Church of the Brethren, they, of course, their home base may be some place in PA, Pennsylvania, you know, but they had their church out in the countryside of south of Cresten, south southeast of Creston, a small church with probably, um, 50 members,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:44:24] 50 yeah.
Leonhard [00:44:26] They're the ones that really helped, you know, that particular church took one family, OK, that happened to be us. They took them and and kind of tried to help them after the war to help belong to the families that had many kids, you know, and and
Bill Franklin [00:44:48] Were they you sponsors did they sponser?
Leonhard [00:44:49] They were, they eventually sponsors, you know, but they in the beginning, they just sent us care packages, you know, and then when we expressed to come to the United States, you know, then they came they came in OK, and they sent a representative over to to check us out, OK. And of course, at that time, the CIA was involved, you know, to check us, you know, criminal records and my dad's history and so on and the family history. So they wanted to make sure whoever comes over that my my dad had an excellent trade, you know, so he was he was not going to be a moocher. You know, he was a worker all of his life. And and he came came over and like I said, they sponsored us. We had to pay for the trip. You know, we came over on a boat that was American troop transporter. Nothing fancy, OK, but fancy for us, you know, because we had room and board on the ship. You know, it took us seven days.
Bill Franklin [00:46:00] Where did you leave from?
Leonhard [00:46:02] We left, we we came from Austria all the way up to Bremerhaven to northern Germany, OK? And we were shipped out of there, OK, because Austria has no has no ports. OK, it's landlocked, OK. And so we we came up by train and we said goodbye to all our friends and teachers and so on. And then of course, we seen our grandparents the last time my my our mom's parents, OK, they came to they lived in the meantime in Germany and they came down to Salzburg, which is right on the border of Austria and Germany. And they said goodbye to us. And we we took off then all the way to Bremerhaven. And from there we took then a ship, a troop troop transporter called SS General Langfitt, OK, named after a certain general. And we were on the boat from, um,from Saturday to a Saturday, you know, seven days. And we landed in New York. And there we were greeted by two families from the Brethren Church, OK? They picked us up by car and they they picked us up in New York from the harbor and the our belongings, whatever. We had our meager belongings, they, they ship by train, you know, then to, uh,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:47:36] Cresten.
Leonhard [00:47:36] To, uh,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:47:37] to Cresten, OK.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:47:39] And, uh, but we drove then and from um I would say it was about one o'clock in the afternoon till because we watched a ship being unloaded. Um, when they unloaded the ship, they took all the boxes out of the out of the ship belly, you know, and they brought over by crane and dumped it down, you know, and my dad, he had the he made some boxes or had the boxes made by professional box maker. And they were tongue and groove and everything good, good strong boxes. But then in Bremerhaven, the master of the, uh, the the dock master, you know, he says to me, if you don't mind, will band up your boxes extra strong, he says, because when you get to New York, you you will not believe your eyes. OK, well, what they banded up this way and this way, you know, and we got to New York when they left them out of the ship, they just dropped them down, you know. And um a lot of people were crying because their dishes flew out in us, but our boxes held up, you know, and. But anyway, this was an experience as a young guy, you know, you remember all those things and but those people were so pleasant that picked us up from that from the church. I was a lady by the name of Rudy Ruby Renicker and Jim Renicker.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:49:09] Two couples yea.
Leonhard [00:49:10] And and the other part was
Gretl (Margaret) [00:49:13] Forest and Arlene Heiks
Leonhard [00:49:15] Forest and Arlene Heiks. Yeah. And they they came with two cars. I distinctly remember 1955, that one was a 54 Oldsmobile. The other one is a 54 Ford, OK. And so the whole family was packed into cars and we drove all the way then from New York to Cresten. So we got off the turnpike on Pearl Road and then on Route three all the way out to Cresten, OK. And then we came in to crest at 3:00 in the morning. And so it was about a 12 hour trip because we stopped for to go to the diner. I think we stopped a couple time's right. And that's the first time I seen a train, an unending train at 3:00 in the morning going through Creston, you know, and and it was raining, you know. And the people. Yeah. Next morning they said, we're going to pick a pick you up, you know, so we we got there and at 3:00 in the morning to the final destination, to our farmhouse where they were supposed to stay and stayed. But when we got there, they took us into the house and showed us around. It was an old it was a new old farmhouse built in the 1940 beginning of the 40s. But then they had a fire the barn, burned down. They never finished the house, you know, but it was it was basically 95 percent finished, 90, 95 percent finished. They didn't have bathrooms and it didn't have no running water. So it had an outhouse, you know, but the house was beautiful, a beautiful farmhouse, nicely built. And then we were quartered in there. And it's the only thing where we're not used to is running water and the toilet outside, you know, the outhouse, OK, but they had everything equipped with, you know, from cereal. We never ate cereal and never ate cereal in my life. OK, they had milk in there, they had orange juice in there, they had canned foods in there, they had, well they had actually canned foods of their own for the church of the Bretheren knew they had canned peaches canned vegetables.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:51:37] Beans.
Leonhard [00:51:37] Canned this, you know, very gracious people, strong, you know, strong religion, you know, and very honest people. You know, they you know, we in the Lutheran Church, we are allowed to drink beer, we're allowed to.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:51:51] Dance.
Leonhard [00:51:51] You know, dance and so on. But they didn't dance and they didn't drink. No alcohol. They didn't smoke. OK, well, we were not smokers either
Gretl (Margaret) [00:51:58] except the few we knew anyhow.
Leonhard [00:52:00] But, yeah, uh, they they were I mean, those people, they are an example of what what, what the human being can be, you know. And so we were taken in very graciously, you know, and were invited by many families on Sunday dinners. And we invited them. And, uh, you know, so they they had their their own sermon, their agenda. And, you know, then they invited us, you know, they to sing, though. The whole family had to sing in front of the whole congregation. You know, we sing in German, you know.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:52:41] We were Yeah, We were not.
Leonhard [00:52:42] Mom she didn't speak English, you know, and, you know, certain things were our mom being a little bit timid. You know, she was that was a kind of a shocker for her, you know, to to do things like this, you know, but we survived and we did em all. OK.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:52:58] Yeah. Well, if I may say then, you know, my dad worked in Wooster and I my mom didn't speak English. So of course, the ladies had the ladies aid. They invite my mom to come to the ladies aid. And so, of course, I had to go along and they picked this up and I was translating for her. And I also they had a quilting bee in the Church of the Brethren yeah. So I experienced all that. I didn't want to do it at the time. But that's what I you know, I was there in their Sunday school. We had to take our little sister was only three years old and she didn't want to stay in Sunday school. So guess who had to sit with her, you know, and because my mom didn't necessarily want or understand anything. So those were all the things that as a fourteen year old girl. Unlike a boy, you know.
Leonhard [00:53:46] Fifteen and a half.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:53:46] You it was my mom's my mom, I was the mother somehow in some areas, you know, although I wasn't at all grown up or ready for this. But but anyhow, that that was was for me. That's what I did. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bill Franklin [00:54:02] So what did your dad do in Wooster?
Leonhard [00:54:05] Dad he was we were supposed to come and work on a turkey farm, but we were delayed and by the time we got here that job was taken. So they found a job for him in Wooster by a company called Buckeye Truck and Implement. What they did is they sold international harvester of farm machinery, OK? And our dad, you know, he knew how to weld and make things, you know, so he had a job there. They are very, very nice. Owner.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:54:42] Harold Cook was his name.
Leonhard [00:54:44] Harold Cook. And he took me and, you know, took our father in. And our dad when he got the job, he was very interested. He says, Abel, can I see a manual? They call him Amole. Right. OK, and they took him in and they said, Amole, can I can I see what what you're eating for lunch, you know? So he opened up. It was just a Wonder Bread, you know, and he had raw bacon and, you know, well, you know, there was nothing else. You know, they didn't sell a bacon like we had in Europe, in Austria. OK, either way, my our grandfather being a butcher, the way he made it, you know, so it was raw. Didn't think anything. Now in Europe and in Germany, Austria it was standard that they when they butcher, the pig that they checked it for trichinosis. OK, well, at that time in the United States, there was not very prevalent yet, you know, and the Amole stop, you're going to die. You know, you're going to die, you know. And Dad says, I just hope my whole life not like this. He says, you know, you've got to you've got to cook it first, you know, and they took it raw and put it on there, you know, and my dad just laughed it off. Nothing ever happened to him, you know, but it was a different you know, we learned that later. They fry it, you know, and so on, you know, but he ate it that way, you know, and but he ate it. He grew up to eating that way, you know, in Europe. But that was all cured and smoked. And anyway, it's safe to eat. So I, I went down to, to, to see what my dad was doing and how they how they started the day from sweeping up the, you know, the shop. And one day my dad, he got a farm machinery and it was a plow and the backhoe was broken off. OK, so my dad took it and followed it up and and put a brace on it, you know, so it was better than actually new and the boss came in. And he said, no, no, that's not how we do it. We take that off and put a new one on the you know. No, no, no repairing it, OK? And so my dad had to learn those things. Well, that's how they do it here. They patrol the country, you know, so they had to shift gears. So but he was very well respected and very nice place to work for a very nice boss. And, you know, the pay was at that time, he he made he started out with 90 cents and went up to a dollar, you know, dollar ten. And I think he made like a dollar twenty five at the end. The house that we rented was forty dollars. So when he worked forty hours, you know, by the time he paid taxes, you know, so one week's pay was enough to pay for the rent, you know, and then we had to buy a car, you know, because we're in the middle of nowhere. OK, so we bought a car and I remember distinctly for one hundred twenty five dollars, you know, in 1946, you know,
Gretl (Margaret) [00:58:00] Really that much? I thought it was a fifty dollar bill. Yeah
Leonhard [00:58:01] No, no, no.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:58:02] You know that.
Leonhard [00:58:03] I know that a hundred twenty five dollars. It was rusted you know, but it was transportation and it worked
Gretl (Margaret) [00:58:12] and he drove it without a license and being too young for it.
Leonhard [00:58:19] Yeah. It.
Bill Franklin [00:58:21] Get away with that.
Leonhard [00:58:21] um. So.
Gretl (Margaret) [00:58:22] On the farm.
Leonhard [00:58:25] I finally got into my dream, you know,
Mark Cole [00:58:27] a Cadillac
Leonhard [00:58:28] I want not a Cadillac, but it was it was a Cadillac for me, you know, and as long as it had four wheels and a steering wheel and a gearshift, you know.
Bill Franklin [00:58:39] So you were in high school by this time, right?
Leonhard [00:58:41] OK, yes. Now. In Austria, I was already in a trade school, you know, and I took an apprenticeship because when you were 14 years old, you either went to higher learning or you went an apprenticeship, you know, become a bricklayer, a carpenter, electrician, a plumber, a mechanic, you know, and I chose to be a mechanic for cars, you know. So that was my love, OK? And I enjoyed it very much. And when we came here, they said I had to go back to school and says, school is not for me. You know, I I wanted to do something with my hands, you know, but, um. So we went back to school called Norwin High School down in Cresten, OK, to kind of south of the village, you know, a little bit on Route three, a brand new school at the time, a very nice teachers, very nice principal. So we went there for about one year and then in the fall, the family then moved to in the 56 at the end of 56, they moved into Cleveland, OK. And I at the time was in a summer time working by a farmer. And then that farm was in in a town called New Pittsburgh that's south of Wooster. And so then I had my room and board there, you know, so I was milking cows and cleaning stables and feeding the pigs and chicken and doing farm work and plowing and mowing and so on. So then from there, my dad I want, you know, he called up and he says, well, mom wants you to come to Cleveland, too, you know? So my dad came at Thanksgiving Day came and picked me up down in New Pittsburgh. And that was also a different farmer. But they were Lutheran, OK? They were not brothers. They were Lutherans, OK? And they had a German name, very pleasant family, very good family and simple, you know. And I felt at home they had three kids and the grandparents, they they had a close relationship, you know. But then dad came and picked me up and then I came to Cleveland Thanksgiving Day, 1956, OK? And we've been in Cleveland then ever since. Now going on when we came to Cleveland, I met a friends that I'm still friends with to this day. And they came over from Germany at the time and he he came over. It was the same age as I was three weeks younger than I was, OK, and he he didn't go to school anymore. He started right away working as a tool and die maker because that's what he started in Germany. And when he came here, he says, I'm not going to school like they took a job right away. And that so that's when I started in in a trade. But I became an automotive machinist. OK, doing turning brake drums, rebuilding cylinders, engines grinding cylinder, heads grinding the valves, grinding crankshafts, grinding camshaft, grinding pistons. And that was my that was my heart and soul. I just love that job
Bill Franklin [01:02:24] Did you go into business? On your own, or?
Leonhard [01:02:25] Then I went got into business later on. OK, so I was doing that for from, from there I, I helped somebody else that had a business and the guy was, had a business but he was no mechanic so I had to do all the work for him, you know. But what he ended up doing, he wanted to sell the business and go to Europe again. OK, and then I bought the business from him, OK. And so I bought a business that was in there just a little bit over a year. Then the army drafted me OK, and I had to sell the business overnight, you know, and and go, because at that time the Vietnam War was just starting to rumble on or pay.
Bill Franklin [01:03:15] And you were in your early 20s then, or?
Leonhard [01:03:17] I was twenty six years. Yeah, I was nineteen. I'm not I'm sorry. Back down. I was twenty, twenty three. Twenty three.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:03:30] Yeah you were younger 'cus.
Leonhard [01:03:31] OK, 1963. It's September the 5th, 1963. I went downtown and they took us down and then we went to. Place, Fort Leonard Wood.
Bill Franklin [01:03:46] Were you a U.S. citizen at this time?
Leonhard [01:03:47] at the time? I was a U.S. citizen. Yes.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:03:49] You were already?
Leonhard [01:03:50] Yeah, yeah. We were here five years and after five years, we were able to do the citizenship.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:03:56] Oh yeah.
Leonhard [01:03:56] So I became a citizen right away. But they would have drafted me like my my cousin was drafted when he was here a year. He was drafted. He was four years older than I was. He was drafted and they sent him to Korea, you know, and um but I was drafted. We went to a place after my name, Fort Leonard Wood. OK, enough. So I took my basic training there. And because of the Vietnam War, they gave us two basic trainings, you know, consecutive. And then from there we went to Fort Gordon, Georgia, next to Augusta, you know, and then from there, we found out that our companies was going to go to Vietnam. And, you know, and my dad found out and mom found out, you know, they it wasn't raging at full yet at that time, you know, but it was they were getting involved and but then they had a Berlin crisis at that time. And then they took our whole company and scratched them off the list for Vietnam. And we were sent to Germany. OK, so we we went on a a sister ship of the SS, General Langford, the same ship, except with a different name. We were shipped in from New York to Bremerhaven again, where we shipped out of, you know.
Bill Franklin [01:05:24] Full circle.
Leonhard [01:05:25] Yeah, full circle. And then I got over there and I got to see my grandparents again. You know, they they lived and then in a town that was close to the French border and my uncles, cousins and distant relatives, our mom's aunts and aunts and cousins and so on. So I got to see everybody and old friends and so on. So it was a nice reunion. You know, for me, it was exciting. I was still young and, uh, so I enjoyed my whole time in the Army. I my dad always says, you know, he says he will always be a respectful soldier. You know, he says you got to be a disciplined you know, and I we know discipline. You know, the way we were brought up in kindergarten, we learned how to march. We learned that, you know, we in school, you know, for me, it was, you know, turn left, turn right, left, right. You know, we're used to discipline, OK? And I think, you know, our upbringing, even though we didn't have twelve years of schooling, we had in some ways a better education than not. You know, the people that go to twelve years here, if they follow the script, they have an excellent education. The ones that don't it can go twenty years to school and you. But I was trained, you know, to and not just me, but all of us, you know, they were, we were, following orders, OK, and it was to our benefit. So I, I did my duty. I did what my dad says, do what he said, don't get into any trouble. Which I was not a troubled kid. You know, I was we were just I don't know. It just it never entered our mind to, you know, follow and do your script. You know, what you're supposed to do in school, in the Army. And I did my full tour. Then I got a European discharge and I stayed in Germany for another year and a half after the Army. And I met my wife over there, got married. And then then I, I told them that I would like to go back here, you know, that terrified my in-laws. You know, they had only the one daughter. You know, so, of course, that they were they were not very happy with that because they it was the way it was. OK
Gretl (Margaret) [01:07:57] Sure.
Mark Cole [01:07:58] So what was Cleveland like for you?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:08:00] Cleveland was when we came, you know, because we lived on the farm. Like we said, we're coming here. We had a house. My dad bought a house with, you know, land contract and all that. We lived upstairs. Downstairs was rented out to somebody already. I got to go to high school, Lincoln High School, which was a very big difference from the farm school because everybody was nice and friendly. And this was on the near West Side, High School. There were these girls that were sort of in a gang and they were harassing me a little bit. They could tell you're an immigrant. And I remember they were calling me all kinds of names were coming up to me at by my locker. And just give me your lunch money. You know, I mean, just a couple of kids, but basically they were, you know, and everyone was good, but it was a very it was a hard year for me because I was with such a different thing. But I was sitting at my lunch counter and eating my lunch and I spilled something with my milk when I opened it up and this girl yelled at me, oh, you got this all over me. And then there was another table over there. This girl comes up and she says, "you're German, aren't you?" I said, yeah, she says "come on, sit with us." And they were other ethnic sitting all at their table. And she became my best friend and took care of me, you know, but I quit school. I was finished sophomore year. I was 16 because I felt I ought to make, my parents never said you got to quit school and help us, but I felt I should. So I quit the school and I got a job at Richmond Brothers and, you know, clothing factories. And at the time it was easy to get a job. You just went there and they said, What's your name? How old are you? OK, you can start next week or tomorrow, dollar an hour. I started with, you know, a dollar an hour and I worked there, all ethnic women working there. And I went to night school. And of course, then in the meantime, you meet friends and they talk about the German central, you know, dance places. There were many German clubs and they didn't have a cars. But all of a sudden you they pick you up. Ah we're gonna go here and and it was wonderful on a Sunday afternoon coming to the German central. It was just unbelievable. You know, you came and paid 25 cents to get in and you could buy a pop for 25 cents, you know, and there were boys there. And, you know, I was fifteen at the time. You know, it was fun, fun, you know, and I worked to for two years at Richmond Brothers and I went to night school for three years to finish my high school.
Bill Franklin [01:10:33] You got a high school diploma?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:10:33] I got a high school diploma. And it was I went to to West Tech and I graduated from the building East Tech. But my diploma says Cleveland Extension High School. And so I was 19 then. And then I got a job at Eastern Airlines as a as a PBX operator, you know, through a friend of mine. And and then two years later, I got married because my husband, you know, my fiancee at the time, he was stationed in Hawaii. And I went to Hawaii to get married in 1961. So I was 20 years old then, you know.
Bill Franklin [01:11:10] Great. And you met your husband here in Cleveland, or?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:11:13] I met my husband right here. The first time I saw him was coming out of the we call it the woods. You know, there were you know, and he had a very nice smile. And, well, we were friends. We never dated. We were always like a bunch of friends together and just had a good time, went to a dance over. We're going on Saturday, you know, to the various German clubs. And this was always a Sunday afternoon and evening place to come and it for dancing. And, you know,
Bill Franklin [01:11:41] Very nice and you're still active here and
Gretl (Margaret) [01:11:42] Yes, I am very well. I am active here. We were not for a number of years. We were active at the other club and we were at the Swiss Hall and we were at the Banater Club, there are a number of German clubs. And I've been in a skiing group for over thirty years and we have been together now for over a year. But German Seniorengruppe and we have our home at Lenau Park, you know. Yeah, but I come here because it's because it's a German central and it's close. I live in North Royalton and it's I love this place and I want to do what I can for it. Yeah.
Bill Franklin [01:12:17] And do you have children?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:12:19] I have three children.
Bill Franklin [01:12:20] Three children. Are they here in Cleveland?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:12:23] Two of them are in Cleveland one, the oldest daughter lives in Michigan. I have six grandchildren. My my son just became an ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church. He's fifty five, but he has had another career. And this is his second.
Bill Franklin [01:12:39] Found his calling.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:12:39] You know. Yeah. And.
Bill Franklin [01:12:43] Are your children active in the German community?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:12:46] Yes. Except my son is not active, but my girls both are the one in Michigan is up there and you know, they go to German clubs and they are active actually here whenever they come visiting and they help out here. And my grandchildren also dance and are active in the German community, mostly at Lenau Park, because that's where a lot of the cultural things are happening. Centralia is still more of a place of a meeting place, but not not there. Not nobody actively, except maybe the band and, you know, soccer, you know,.
Bill Franklin [01:13:21] Do they speak German, do you ever speak German at home still or?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:13:24] Not in no. We did in the beginning because my husband, of course, was German too. But it was we found out it was easier, you know, to not they went to German school, you know, hated to go, of course, all the time. But we made them go and it's ok, the girls. [01:13:40]And [indecipherable] [0.0s] says, Well why didn't you make me speak. Yeah, why did we why didn't you play the accordion, because he didn't want to, but we made you play practice for a while, so that's how it goes. But they're proud to be they know their ethnic history. They know it very well because we constantly taught them, you know,.
Bill Franklin [01:13:58] And you go back to visit often or do you go back to?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:14:01] I don't go as often but Leonard, because he has
Leonhard [01:14:05] we had a different situation. My wife she had her parents over there. So she, uh, we tried to go over there every other, you know, once we went over there and our parents came over here to visit. So we kind of went back and forth, but we went over there.
Bill Franklin [01:14:24] They forgiven you for taking their daughter away?
Leonhard [01:14:26] Well, I don't know about that, you know, because. But they're seen that the daughter was in good hands, you know, that she you know, I you know, when I when I sold the business, I had ten thousand dollars to my name, OK, at that time. And you could buy a new house, you know, a simple plain house that was that like forty and a half thousand dollars then, you know, so it was actually a lot of money in those days. And so I was a good provider, OK? And I was always, you know, I was always determined to do something. So when I started the business the first time, which was not a big business, it was just I was just by myself. But I was fortunate [01:15:13]Margaret [0.0s] helped out to some degree. She went to the bank for me, to sure, my dad helped a little bit after work the brothers, helped a little bit, and now friends helped a little bit, you know, so but then I when I came back and to the United States, I worked here, you know, and I seen, aha, that's how they do it. I says I would do it different, you know, that worked here. I worked all the way on the east side. There was too much driving and I took the first job I could find, you know, and it was in the mechanical end of it. Machining, automotive machining and machining. And it's all relative, you know, it's all the same. You know, if you know one thing, you know the other. And I was always very mechanically inclined and I was always sure of myself, you know, I was always I know, you know, whenever somebody asks, why is it doing it? Why don't you do it like this, you know? And so I was always innovative, you know, in trying to do things. So then one day I said, you know, I got to start my own business again. And that's I started again on a shoestring, you know, I mean, if you go buy a business plan, you know, the way the professors write it and so on, it's different than what I did, you know, because my thing was always make sure you pay all your bills first before you pay yourself, pay everything and all the pay material you pay that you get at the outside service for heat trading, buying steel. You pay that. You pay that, you know, before. And anyway, I started the business and from a one man shop to two men shop to three to four and we grew to over a hundred some and then we scale back down because it became hard to manage, you know, because too many people with with low skill level, you know, and not enough not enough trainers to train young people, you know. And so we scaled back and we're down to about sixty five. Sixty seven. Sixty eight. That's enough. OK, and uh uh uh,.
Mark Cole [01:17:22] What was the name of the buissness?
Leonhard [01:17:22] I'm sorry.
Mark Cole [01:17:22] What was the name of the business?
Leonhard [01:17:23] May Industries. OK, um, and we have um, you know, we split it up, we make we make like cooking ovens for the restaurant industry, you know, we make and we have some we don't have any up here, but we have, you know, donated some to the German central here. And now we make conveyor belts for, uh, you know, for car to car industry, for stamping industries and for CNC machines. We're kind of very, very diversified, you know, and it takes a lot to, uh, to keep that all and to keep the ball in the air, you know?
Bill Franklin [01:18:08] Yeah. Yeah. Where is your business located?
Leonhard [01:18:10] In North Royalton.
Bill Franklin [01:18:12] North Royalton?
Leonhard [01:18:12] Yeah, it's right down the street. You know, I, I always say, you know, when we came the first time from Cresten all the way and we came down Route three through Medina to Strongsville, eighty two down to York Road and then into here, that was the first time we came to Cleveland, you know, outside when we when we arrived from the turnpike. But at that time we didn't know it was nighttime. We didn't know where it was. Right. Uh so yeah. So I've been. Doing that now for since 1973, I started back up again. OK, and I'm still in it today. You know, I'm still a young teenager, you know, so
Bill Franklin [01:18:55] That's right.
Leonhard [01:18:58] I keep on doing it because I just love what I'm doing. You know, I mean, I I was a workaholic and still am in it, but I always say, hey, when is enough enough? I need to take some time off, you know, so, you know, of course, then I got involved here at the German central because the former president was a very also a German person. And he also had the same type of business tool and die business, you know, and he became ill and his wife looked around some for somebody to replace him. And she approached me and and says, you know, Leonard, would you take that thing over there? The only one that I could think of is this. There's nobody else that says you got to be a businessman to to understand in Ronda's the club, you know. And so then about oh, I think it's already maybe 10 years ago. Is it that long ago?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:20:00] I think so, yeah.
Leonhard [01:20:01] I became the vice president, you know, and then then he passed away and I took over the presidency, you know. And so that's when we really started to immediately started to improve things, you know, and because he did a lot of other things, they built they built a pavilion out there, you know, and they did other things that were the basic things. You know, they had to bring in a sewer system, you know, because they'd only had, like septic tanks and so on, you know.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:20:34] Just continued when he started, you know
Leonhard [01:20:36] Yeah, he's continued what he started, you know, because, you know, they they had they had good ideas, you know. But you know this when he started over there 20 years ago, OK, and the people were 20 years younger and it was 20 years more people. OK, so that's the way I was, you know, because he said, well, you got to do it like that. I says, hello, I says 20 years. Actually now more. It's already 21 years, OK? There was so many more people and they were younger and they were all helping. I said there's nobody left because I'm the oldest now, you know, I mean, we have one guy [01:21:16]Artur Bessler [0.0s] he's the only one I can remember when when I came here many times he was sitting there with his first wife and he's still alive today. He's he's got to be now I'm eighty one. He's got to be he's got to be 90, 91 now, you know, 92, uh, I always thought he was a cabinetmaker because he made for for the Vienna Cafe, made all new cabinetry, and he kneeled down 86 years old and he's kneeling down and measuring. And I says, wow. Then later I find out he's a tool and die makers. That's why he was so precise. You know, he made cabinets that were of highest degree, you know, all, you know. So we rebuilt the Vienna Cafe up there. We put new it was a big job, you know, because we they was kind of a shed before and we put new kitchen in our new heating system. No air conditioning, never had a heating system. And they had a makeshift heater in there. But but now you can rent that out. This can be rented out. The pavilion can be rented out to bring in the money to, uh, to keep the thing afloat, you know, because like I say, we have a we have a caretaker here that lives on in the house right next door here, OK? And, you know, so if it wouldn't be for the volunteers and everybody tries to do something, you know, whether you call and get people to help for for volunteering at a fish fry, we have fish fries here, OK? Or festivals or dances you know. So we need a lot of volunteers that are always Johnny on the spot, you know. I know. And we're always grateful for it to everybody that so is able to come, you know.
Bill Franklin [01:23:14] Were you able to have any fish fries during the Covid?
Leonhard [01:23:17] Yes, we did. We had to take out only OK. And it was in the beginning. The first the first day was very disappointing. I think we had more volunteers than customers, OK? And we said, should we do it now? We're going to do it again. My wife was determined to do it again. And she says, let's try it about three or four times or three times at least, you know, and. We started it and but, you know, you forget one person comes in, might buy two dinners or three or four, some of them by six and 10, you know?
Gretl (Margaret) [01:23:52] Take out, yeah.
Leonhard [01:23:53] All the sudden you said, wow, we had 200 people here. If they buy four dinners, that's 400 dinners, you know, so it's paid it was it was a good decision because we need an income, you know. And so it was a good decision to do it, you know.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:24:12] But last year, you had to curtail it. You had to cut it off. Last year, we only had one or two one fish fry last year. When the Covid started
Leonhard [01:24:17] Oh, that's all that the last year we did. We started out, Two of them, OK,.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:24:21] Two and then we had to cut out?
Leonhard [01:24:21] And then we had two and then we we stopped that, OK, because.
Gretl (Margaret) [01:24:26] Well we had to.
Leonhard [01:24:27] Because people were fightened you know.
Bill Franklin [01:24:30] Good. OK, I think we're pretty much at the end of the interview. Do you have any questions that you would like to ask? OK good.
Leonhard [01:24:42] You know what
Bill Franklin [01:24:43] Closing remarks that you would like to add
Leonhard [01:24:45] Well, the one thing I would like to see if if you ever get this thing typed out or something in print, that I could read it and maybe I could make it in the more that the whole that from the beginning to the end in a in a more understandable fashion, OK, because we jump back and forth, you know, and and maybe the two of us could kind of streamline it better. You know.
Bill Franklin [01:25:12] Yeah we can work around that. I'm sure could.
Leonhard [01:25:14] You know, that way it's. I think there's a lot of stuff that was, you know, jumped here, then jump back and forth, you know.
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