As told to Francis Frederick Abken
Table of Contents. . .
1. It started in England!
3. Children and Fatal hicups!
4. Our Grandest Grandfather set some records with Honors... Chef's in family too
5. The British took it all! (prior to WW I)
6. Our Grandfather, Frederick is born in 1883
7. John's accident at sea... Full recovery.
8. John's brother Fred came often...
9. John... studied ship construction...
10. John loved his family... music... singing... plants
11. ...scarf up and plunder the expensive and treasured personal hand tools
12. Germany was too small for him to live... He would run away to the end of the world
13. The seed is planted... Going to America...
14. Our Grandfather learned shipbuilding, gymnastics... on to Holland, Belgium & Antwerp
15. He's on his way to America... Spring of 1902!
16. Man Overboard? No...
17. The officer turned white and gasped as he saw what could happen to him
18. Hazards remain around the Cape...
19. Storm at Sea...
20. Cow & Chickens Overboard!
21. A Life was Saved!
22. Adolph rounded the Cape Horn... a marvelous sight!
23. ...twelve feet wingspan
24. Great Day at Sea!
25. A Visitor at Sea...
26. It was now mid-October or early November 1903... Arrived in Santa Monica, California!
27. made the acquaintance of one longshoreman, August Miller...
28. Getting Close to THE Day!!
29. A way to avoid being put in Chains!
30. OK, what did he do?!
31. He heard a loud voice crying "Fritz"!
32. Thank God about that one... Yes? (we all would not be here!)
33. Head for the Santa Monica Hills!
34. "Auf Wiedersehn!!"
35. $75 reward in 1903 was a sizable sum of money
36. Great turning point
37. My father (Fritz) lived to regret this decision
38. Off to Pasadena...
39. ...Los Angeles... then Avalon, Catalina Island!
40. Cupid Strikes in Avalon, Catalina...
41. My mother was born in Vienna, Austria on Jan. 30, 1880
42. A side story about the ship Adolph & crew...
43. Notes not incorporated:
44. A Very SAD Thing...
45. Only God can really understand.
As told to Francis Frederick Abken
It was a long time ago. It must have been in late 1700AD that the first Abken whose name was William left England and came as a pioneer to find a new life and fortune on the coast of East Friesland (pro: Freeze land) which was a political province and independent of both Holland and Germany. It was a very small country. The language was German and the people were of German and Holland stock. It was annexed to Germany early in the 20th century.
No doubt William Abken adopted this new land and found life agreeable for he never returned, to our knowledge, but eventually built a home or bought one, but he lived very, very near to the beach, as the ocean was in his front yard. This town was called Essens, East Friesland. I have been able to learn very little about William Abken, but one thing is quite clear and evident, he had at least two sons and one son was named Renck. (spelling may be wrong but this is how my father Fred Abken remembered it.)
Sometime in later life this Renck Abken moved to the State of Oldenburg, West Germany and settled in the area of Bremen and apparently became quite wealthy as obtained title to a large parcel of property on which there was a large brick or stone house and several large barns all sturdily built and this compound of improvements was surrounded and landscaped by a beautiful lake known in those days as a "moat" and there were bridges constructed to allow passage over the water, but the bridges themselves were retractable so as to provide a complete closure and isolation of the buildings from the rest of the farm. This was a form of protection as there was not much law protection in that time and place. This was a farm and it had fences made of wild rose hedges and had fields and fruit trees and was extremely well kept.
Royalty . . .
Renck Abken, because of his stature and achievements in his community or because of his influence or friendship with authorities or for whatever reason unknown to me or to my father had upon him conferred the title of Von by the Duke of Oldenburg, so he became Renck Von Abken. Whether or not he used the title, we do not know. We do know that his children never continued its use, choosing rather the plain name Abken as was borne by their forebears.
Children and Fatal hicups!
Renck Von Abken had four children and they were born in this order:
Johann or John.
Renck was a hard worker and a very capable man. I know nothing of his personal habits except one. He had the very peculiar habit of eating a snack at bedtime and felt he could sleep better if he slept on a full stomach. It was this bad habit that led him one winter evening to fry himself a skillet of chopped onions with a few potatoes throwed in. After eating he developed hiccups which would not yield to treatment or remedy and after several days of constant hiccuping he collapsed and died. He was only 56 years old, in about 1865.
Our Grandest Grandfather set some records with Honors... Chef's in family too
Frederick or Fred the oldest child had already spent many years in schooling and had graduated with honors and had become the youngest merchant marine captain in Germany's history at that date and at his commissioning the Duke of Oldenburg then officially presented him with a sextant which was a very expensive and extraordinary gift in that time. This Fred became the administrator of his father's estate. Augusta and Francisca moved to Hamburg where they were educated and majored in cooking. Both of these girls later moved to England and cooked for wealthy English families. Both of these families moved to Sydney, Australia and took Augusta and Francisca along. Augusta never married, but Francisca married a German man in Sydney whose family name was Sornkow (may be spelled wrong). I do not know if there were any children.
The British took it all! (prior to WW I)
This happened all prior to world war one and it is rumored that the British government confiscated the entire estate of this family during this conflict.
Our Grandfather, Frederick is born in 1883
Now for John, as he was the youngest and at his fathers death, was about 9 years old. He was born September 2, 1856 and died Aug. 4, 1900 at 43 years of age of double Pneumonia relapse. John married Elisabeth Hoeffer and had five children:
Frederick [Fedrick August Abken] - May 2,1883 - June 17, 1959 (named after John's brother),
Henry [August Henry Abken of Hamburg, Germany], and
This John had a pretty rough time growing up. He was orphaned at an early age, was raised and educated by being farmed out and because he wanted to follow in his big brothers footsteps and example decided to study and go to sea as a captain, too. But on one of his student trips to sea he had a very bad accident as follows!
John's accident at sea. . . . Full recovery.
He was walking on the deck in the darkness of night when he fell headlong into one of the deck holes that someone neglected and left open. The ship had a load of wheat but it was not many feet deep, but deep enough to break his fall somewhat. He dived through the grain and fractured his skull on the hull of the ship. After emergency treatment in a German hospital his brother, Fred, decided to have him moved to London, England where he remained for treatment and observation for about 3 years.
During his long confinement in England he made and excellent, complete recovery and also learned to speak, read, and write English and fell in love with the English people. This good association continued after he went back to Germany and till his death he subscribed to and read a weekly copy of the London Times.
John's brother Fred came often . . .
John's brother Fred came often as he could to visit his younger brother, whom he protected, counseled and supported. It was a great occasion when Fred would come to the house when his ship came to port. It was because of Fred that John was moved to London for treatment, as he said he had more confidence in England's medical doctors.
John. . . studied ship construction. . .
John received a good education, but definitely abandoned his plan to go to sea. Instead he studied the ship construction business and later rose in this field to the position of Obermeister ("Master over") the Wilhelmshaven Naval Yard in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. At the time of his death he was in charge of 17,000 employees. My father on one special occasion saw John his father walking through the shipyard with Admiral Von Tinpity holding his arm around John's shoulder. Admiral Von Tinpity was the Secretary of the German Navy. He also later attended John's funeral. The whole shipyard shut down completely also on this day.
John loved his family. . . music. . . singing. . . plants
John loved his family. He also loved Christmas. It was his practice to put everyone on some kind of overtime pay in the month of December so that everyone could have a better Christmas. My father said he also loved music and would walk miles in the night to hear good music and especially to hear good singing. He was also a natural at grafting plants and trees and shrubs of all kinds so that the yard of his home and of his apartment buildings were models of landscaping beauty. He would take a train with his oldest son who was named Fred, who also became my father and the two would go to the old ranch estate of Renck Von Abken to take cuttings and bring them back home. On one occasion he grafted a pear tree three inches in diameter by cutting off the entire tree at the three-foot level and grafted on a delicious variety of pears. The graft was a complete success.
But in 1900 John died as was mentioned earlier.
...scarf up and plunder the expensive and treasured personal hand tools
And the very day of his funeral one of his brothers in law, a Hoeffer, went down into the basement of John's home and began to scarf up and plunder the expensive and treasured personal hand tools. This infuriated my father (Frederick) who was but seventeen years old and he tried to prevent this ugly untimely seizure of his father's tools, but this grown man slapped him down hurling him across the basement floor with anger and bitter words. This tragic, unnecessary and greedy exhibition my father could never live down.
Germany was too small for him to live . . . He would run away to the end of the world
It first led him to devise means of revenge and retaliation and when his carefully laid plans were fortunately foiled by his bereaved and sorrowing mother he then decided that Germany was too small for him to live in with this awful Unkle. He would run away to the end of the world.
My father had a wonderful Unkle on his mothers side of the family, too. His name was Unkle Gerhardt Hoeffer, a better brother than the tool thief. He counseled and helped to palliate my fathers nervous frustrations, but admitted possibly it would be better to visit America, as my father planned to do.
The seed is planted. . . Going to America. . .
Unkle Gerhardt told him,
"If you ever do visit America, I think you will never return to Germany, as America is a better country that we have here in Germany."
Unkle Gerhardts words were to be true. Fred Abken never returned to Germany. (My father told of his plan to Unkle Gerhardt in strict confidence, no one else did he tell.)
Our Grandfather learned shipbuilding, gymnastics. .. on to Holland, Belgium & Antwerp
My father finished learning his ship building trade in the naval yard and was an excellent student and also won several awards in gymnastics and won in many competitive events. For a short time he took a foreman's job building an ocean going vessel in a Kiel Canal shipyard. A short time later and at the very real risk of imprisonment he attempted and was successful in eluding the immigration service officer who questioned him at some length regarding his eligibility to leave the country if he had not properly registered for the military service. Convinced he had, the officer stamped and sealed the legal document that permitted my father a visa to visit Holland. Having this paper in his wallet he immediately grabbed a train for Holland. Thinking Holland was too close for comfort should his escape plan be revealed he tied post haste to Belgium to Antwerp where he inquired for a job and formed one on a German ship the "Adolph" which was laying in port while a new deck was to be laid on her and then with a load of Belgium cement and railroad nails was to head for Santa Monica, California U.S.A by way of Cape Hom.
He's on his way to America... Spring of 1902!
This delighted him and he was put in charge of the job and signed up for the trip which was to go to Santa Monica , San Francisco, Seattle then to Malaya, India, South Africa and back to Germany to Hamburg her home port. Around the world cruise.
In the spring of 1902 my father being nineteen years old the "Adolph" weighed Anchor and unfurled her three full masts of sails and pulled out into the Straits of Dover and headed full sail and heavily loaded into the North Atlantic. Crossing the Equator into the South Atlantic. All was well until shortly after the Equator was crossed.
While in Mid-Atlantic there was something that happened that caused ill will to develop among the sailors and there arose some sides-taking and unhappily my father ended up on the side that was against the First Officer, whose name was Fredericks, a very capable highly talented man and a man of huge stature who shared the command of the Adolph with Captain Schumann.
Man Overboard? No...
My father (Frederick) was short of stature, very strong, quick as a rabbit and of high temper. One day he got into a quick, heated argument on deck when in the opinion of my father a sailor setting a rope buckle on one of the out rigging was unfairly treated by this Amazonian mountain of a man, where upon this mean man sought to lay hold on my father and perhaps in a rage would cast him to the violence of the waves overboard. Here now, speed prevailed. My father fled only to be hotly pursued by this juggernaut human. Three times they ran around the mid- ship house. There is no place to run if you only have the deck of a ship and the ship is in the mid-Atlantic. My father knew this. He also knew (for this is how he told me this frightening story) that he had very sharp tools that he kept in extremely good condition because as a man in charge of ships repairs he must have adequate and sharp tools for, the Adolph was a wooden ship. He also had to plan his defense and do so on the run. He did, and on the 3rd round past the door of his carpenter shop that lay in the center of the mid-ship house he jolted inside and in one quickly coordinated movement which he had the agility to perform he slammed the door which fortunately opened inward, placed his left foot against the bottom of the door to form a wedge, reached to the work bench grabbed his adz, which was razor sharp, positioned it high over his head and waited. A wink later the infuriated officer was pouncing and yelling outside and threatened to break down the door. My father believing this was the end of all let the door fly open.
The officer turned white and gasped as he saw what could happen to him
The officer turned white and gasped as he saw what could happen to him in an instant. Desecration overcame him and he backed away. Bitter and threatening words began to fly, but there was no physical contact. The argument was quickly stopped by Captain Schumann, who once alerted, was already himself at the door when it was flung open. But the officer made it very clear to my father with these foreboding words
Hazards remain around the Cape. . .
"Remember", he said, "We have to go around Cape Horn and there I will have a settlement with you."
This meant only one thing to my father, who was told of the awful hazard involved to take a sailing vessel around the dangerous Cape which was known as the graveyard of ships. Sailors who made the passage once never liked the idea of returning there. It was fraught with danger. This meant to my father that he would die at sea, at the hands of this angry man.
It might be well to add here that the mid ship house referred to, is a block of housing in the center of the ship and holds the galley or kitchen up front then the dining room where everyone except the officers eat, then the carpenters shop and then the sail room where the sail maker works on sails and stores emergency and replacement sails.
Storm at Sea. . .
The Adolph kept on plying her way South until with some suddenness about 300 miles off of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil or Argentina the ship was encountering what might be a "Pompero" or South Atlantic hurricane. The Captain sensing danger called on the First Officer to roll all the sails up saving only the storm sail as he mightily feared that in such a storm all the sails would be ripped away, but also it would be dangerous to the ship if the wind suddenly caught all the sails. Since the First Officer and the Captain seldom agreed on anything this was no exception and the officer reminded the Captain that the should go to his quarters and that He, the officer, was in charge of the ship and that the sails were just like the Schromm Company of Hamburg and like the Schromm Co. were a bunch of junk and needed to be blown away anyhow. The Captain, a quiet peaceful man, lowered his head in a sigh and went back to his quarters.
Cow & Chickens Overboard!
Suddenly and with the speed of an arrow the violent storm, the pomero struck. The Adolph hurled, the screaming of the wind the ripping of the sails the fragments of canvas hurled in the wind. The lash of the ocean waves and angry billows swept over the entire ship as sailors clung to whatever they could secure themselves on while a live cow which the Captain kept in a small corral aboard and the chicken pen with all the hens washed overboard. Everything not secured well was gone as were all the sails except the storm sail and the helmsman himself would have been gone too, but they had hooked him with rope to his position. The Pompero in almost indescribable fury lasted about 20 minutes, but the seas turbulence lasted for the next three weeks till moss grew on the deck and ropes were strung out for hand holds in all directions like a spiders web. The Adolph rolled so badly that she alternately spilled water and took on new water day and night for three weeks.
A Life was Saved!
During the dangerous period aboard the Adolph when everyone literally took his life in his hands to walk on deck, one young man called the "flunky" was carrying a tray of food from the Galley to Captains quarters. As he carefully made his way he suddenly slipped his footing right in front of the carpenter shop. He fell flat to the deck reaching in all directions for something to get a hold on and finding more was suddenly being floated out to sea in a big wash. My father standing in his shop doorway and seeing the whole thing quickly secured a hold on the walk rope and with his free hand reached out to grab the mans heel. Fortunately, he missed his grab as the shoe might have slipped off, but instead his fingers caught the cuff of his pant leg to which he clung without attempting to pull the man back, but just held fast and waited for the rolling ship to night itself whereupon the mans life was spared as he settled back down on the deck. This man never forgot this great deliverance and the first day the ship touched shore this flunky was the first man to desert the ship-never to return. The fact that the cargo did not shift in this storm attests to the good job done by my father in securing that cargo.
Adolph rounded the Cape Horn... a marvelous sight!
As the Adolph rounded the Cape, which was prearranged by the Captain to be early in the morning, my father said he witnessed one of the most marvelous sights in all the world. The huge mountain off the Cape itself rose up as a magnificent diamond, glistening like the sun itself in such wonderful and awe inspiring brilliance. The sea was rough, the wind icy and wild and the shift on the bow was reduced to two hoses and all hands served in rotation. There was a bar to which the watchman's arms were in locked position so to be secure as the pounding waves rose and splashed and spent their fury as they crashed over the Adolph's sturdy bow. As my father vividly recalled the sheer weight of the mad waves was enough to almost crush a person and if it were not for the reinforcing of the big bar to which they locked themselves no one could stand. The Cape was successfully navigated with no loss of life or injury to anyone aboard. The Captain sighed with relief and the Adolph began its long journey up the western Coast of Chile. The Adolph put in very briefly at Valporiso for supplies but no one was allowed to leave ship. While near the cape and the roughness of the sea subsided the sailors began to fish as to this point no one did so. One of the early catches was something very spectacular for as one man's bait was near the surface a huge albatross, of which there were many following the ship, as well as many sea gulls, swooped down and grabbed the bait and was caught by the hook and taken aboard.
...twelve feet wingspan
This huge giant of the Atlantic measured twelve feet wingspan and some of the men aboard wanted to keep it as a trophy, but captain Schumann prevailed as he said the bird would have to be released. My father said they had a little fun with the giant before hoisting it overboard and he said the seaman's fable that an albatross taken aboard a ship would become seasick on deck, and sure enough it did, but after being tossed into the waves for awhile it recovered and spread its beautiful glistening wings and took off as a gig plane on a runaway and headed at low level flight into the southern horizon. He said they enjoyed many meals of delicious fish off the South American Coast.
Great Day at Sea!
As the rounding of the Cape drew near my father spent many anxious hours. During this time, the first officer decided that he would like to make himself a model of the Adolph, but he never had the tools to do it with, so he maneuvered through the help of the sail maker to borrow the necessary tools from my father. My Father became suspicious and told the sail maker that if Mr. Fredericks wanted tools, he must ask for them himself, and he make his clever offer with a lot of conciliatory tones. It worked!! A few days later, officer Fredericks came to the carpenters shop, entered, reached out his big hand and asked my father's pardon and apologized with real heart felt conviction. This was the greatest day at sea for my father. He joined hands with the officer, they both exchanged vows, and it all ended up with my father, who was an excellent craftsman, building a model of the Adolph for the officer. This was a great turning point as they became the best of friends and Mr. Fredericks, during the long voyage, would often do special favors for my father which many an occasion provided that he brought a lot of special goodies from the mates quarters for my father and one of his closest pals aboard to feast on. All is not fair sailing when a ship like the Adolph, which had no auxiliary engine, which a lot of sailing vessels did have. Especially when you get into a wind still. These calms at sea are very common in the equatorial zone where the trade winds come and go in opposite directions. The Adolph got into a big one west of the Canal Zone and for 3 to 6 weeks never moved so much as a ships length toward her destination.
A Visitor at Sea. . .
It was during this still that the Adolph had one lone visitor. It was a French sailing ship that also was stalled and have into view one day as the ships merely drifted. A wonderful provision of the maritime law is that there is an international wonderful language that allows ships personnel to communicate by hoisting the language of the flags. These two vessels asked and answered many questions over a period of many hours. They spoke of conditions aboard, of sickness if any, of need of food or medicine and many other subjects. If there was a need, that need would be responded to without fail. In this case there was no need mentioned and the ships just stayed in close proximity for the rest of the calm. When they did move the French ship's sails filled first and it was a day or two later that the Adolph took off. Curiously the Adolph overtook and passed close by the French ship and took the lead in what looked like a race at sea.
It was now mid-October or early November 1903... Arrived in Santa Monica, California!
It was now Northward board and in mid-October or early November 1903 the Adolph safely reached her destination, Santa Monica, California, but it was late in the evening so Captain Schumann decided with brisk wind filling her sails to cruise North a little to spend the long hours of night and reached Santa Barbara where he called everyone on deck to see the lights of the city of Santa Barbara. Here he turned the Adolph around and made his way, guided by the stars to a point at sea near the coast that he thought would be Santa Monica. In the early light of day his accuracy was confirmed, for the Adolph lay exactly off the long southern Pacific railroad pier where his cargo was scheduled to be unloaded.
...made the acquaintance of one longshoreman, August Miller. . .
During this time consuming process, my father made the acquaintance of one August Miller, who was a longshoreman who was working and helped unload the Adolphs cargo. They visited, as Mr. Miller himself a native of Germany could speak the language well. Also during this process of unloading the Adolph, the ships crew gradually reduced in size as many of the sailors deserted. Of course, the first man off and running was the Flunky, who almost lost his life at sea.
Getting Close to THE Day!!
During this stay in port my father himself decided to make his escape, too. But first he devised what he called a good plan. He would hide all his tools and personal property beneath the pier where it would be out of sight and then when all was free and clear he could recover them. The plan had one bad feature, for as the tide lowered the Captain one day noticed something different under the pier and set out to examine this thing. Well, he found my fathers tools and of course the rest was easy.
He called my father to his office for a little chat.
"Fritz", the captain asked, "Are you thinking of desertion?"
My father hung his head a moment then straightened up and answered,
"Yes, Captain Schumann, I do plan to run away."
Captain Schumann then explained that he could put my father in chains, later the plot in the ships log, and turn my father over to the proper authorities in Germany for trial and sentencing. My father agreed that he was aware of this.
A way to avoid being put in Chains!
However, if my father would make a promise that he would cancel all plans, put his tools back in the shop, and remain faithful to his contract, that the matter would end here. My father readily accepted, made his promise and moved his tools back on board the Adolph. For the next two weeks he wrestled with his thoughts.
It was on the last night in port that Captain Schumann was entertaining some German dignitaries and bidding farewell to a number of guests as the Adolph was going to leave port the next morning. He was standing in the cabin door looking up into the moonlight sky when the waiter with a huge tray of food walked by on his way to officers quarters. The moment he passed my father he turned quickly into his shop and thought now or never. What shall he do? he asked himself. He thought, I'll count the buttons on my vest, yes, no, yes, no until the last button said "yes".
OK, what did he do?!
Quick as a flash he grabbed a spare pair of socks, shoved them into his derby hat that he had just purchased in Santa Monica, changed from slippers to shoes and jumped over the rail onto the pier and ran with all his might for land.
On reaching the end of the long pier he ran Southward along the shoreline. He thought he would run several miles this way before tuning toward the outskirts of the city. It was while he ran full speed in the night that clouds floating in the sky obscured the moon so often he was running in the darkness.
He heard a loud voice crying "Fritz"!
In one of these dark periods he heard a loud voice crying "Fritz!!!" He stopped cold. He knew he was caught. Someone from somewhere had seen his escape and had headed him off somehow. As it was dark and he could see no one though he tried hard he waited for the clouds to pass. When the moon came out again he looked some more, but there was nobody at all. As he began to move slowly now forward walking he took but a few steps and what he saw frightened the wits out of him, for he was at the edge of a huge cliff, and had his running not been interrupted by the call of his name he would have met instant death on the rocks below. So he knew that it was God who saved his life. He spoke often of this great event in his life.
Thank God about that one. . . Yes? (we all would not be here!)
In the dark of this first night as a fugitive he found the home of August Miller who provided a bed and helped him devise a plan that would prevent his capture, as this was an apartment where Mr. Miller lived and my father could not be hidden there.
The next three weeks was crucial and fraught with danger and many anxious moments. My father had only 85(1; on his person and only an extra pair of socks. August Miller bought a dozen donuts each day. They cost 5(1; a dozen for the day old ones. This bag of donuts my father carried as he headed for the Santa Monica mountains every morning while it was yet totally dark. He would hide in the brush all day and return every night after dark.
Head for the Santa Monica Hills!
The Adolph could not sail as planned, as she had no carpenter aboard. Thinking that a reward for his capture would sooner return the runaway the ship held to port only loosing from the pier and dropping anchor in the harbor. The second week the reward was increased from $25 to $50. August Miller listened to people talking whenever he went but especially what went on at the pier since he worked at the pier daily. The third week the reward was increased to $75. Still the Adolph could not leave-no carpenter. Finally at the end of the third week a carpenter was hired to go as far as to San Francisco, as he was a house carpenter and not a ship carpenter.
On the day the Adolph was to sail my father made his way to a promontory, where he could be in full view of the Adolph, and as her sails began to unfurl and the crew began to weigh the anchor, he took off his derby hat and waved her good-bye only he said "Auf Wiedersehn!!" In all the three weeks there was only one close call. On one occasion two men on horseback came within about twenty-five feet of where my father was hiding. They also had a dog. The horses snorted once, but the dog never paid any attention and the searchers passed by. There was a small running creek that my father drank from, washed his socks daily and was very careful not to make a foot path.
$75 reward in 1903 was a sizable sum of money
It may be well to point out here that $75 reward in 1903 was a sizable sum of money, for the average man worked for about $1.00 per day, and that was for 10 hrs. work.
Great turning point
Here was to be one of the great turning points in my fathers life according to his own account.
It was one Sunday morning when my father worked the sidewalk. He was a very lonely and almost despondent when he heard in the near vicinity a church bell ringing. As it rang it seemed it was reaching into his very heart. He stood quietly, his head bowed in reverence as he listened. Then came a great tugging at his heart. He felt he must go to the church, and though he might not understand a word he must go in and sit down before the Lord and pray. He must do this. He must do this, he felt. Silent moments fled as he wrestled in his soul.
My father (Fritz) lived to regret this decision
Then he made a great decision-he decided not to go in. My father lived to regret this decision. Many times he would tell me very earnestly (in his own words)
"Francis, that was a bad choice. I believe my whole life was hanging on that decision. The heartache and the trials of my life may have been avoided had I chose to cling to God. Instead I turned toward the world and it cost me dearly. I have wished many times that I had gone into that church. I believe I would have had a better life. I can still vividly remember the ringing of that church bell."
Off to Pasadena...
As soon as he was a free man my father heard of employment in Pasadena where he got a job with Pasadena Road Building Company where they were laying concrete roadbed and the pay was $1.00 for 10 hrs. work, and it was mixing concrete by hand in the middle of the street and spreading it by hand. He knew so little about speaking English that the foreman couldn't understand his name and so he told my father that he would give him a name.
It was Sam Dunn and he worked for many weeks on his first job in America by that name.
...Los Angeles... then Avalon, Catalina Island!
When this job was finished, my father took part time work in Los Angeles for several employers and was after some months referred to a job at Avalon Catalina Island. This was when the Banning Company owned the island before it was sold to Philip K. Wrigley of chewing gum fame who was the father of William Wrigley. My father was also personally acquainted with Hancock Banning of Wilmington Delaware, after whom Wilmington California was named.
When he moved to Catalina he worked as a bartender for Ben Rosin a Jewish man who was an excellent employer. Catalina was then a fisherman's paradise and nationally advertised. It became widely known as a tourist attraction and vacation land. When the Wrigley company bought the island in about 1916 they widely advertised it allover the U.S.A. and huge billboards went up everywhere showing a beautiful steamer and the slogan, "In all the world no trip like this." Of course this brought people from all the states in the Union to Avalon.
Cupid Strikes in Avalon, Catalina...
Because of publicity from the Banning Company and the Wrigley Company that brought Marie "Mitze" Divisch or Marie "Mitze" Davies, as she Americanized her name, came to the island. She married my father and there were born to them in Avalon, Catalina Island three sons:
My sister Eda was born in Los Angeles on Aug. 2, 1916. My mother went to the mainland for this birth because Dr. Pecham was getting too old.
My mother was born in Vienna, Austria on Jan. 30, 1880
My mother was born in Vienna, Austria on Jan. 30, 1880. She came to America at the age of 18 as an immigrant coming to New York and after a short time moved to Omaha, Nebraska. She worked at housework and cooking and went from job to job working mostly for people who talked German. When she picked up enough English words she got a job with a Carnival Company that traveled from city to city and in the course of a couple of years went to Avalon, Catalina.
One afternoon my father visited the carnival. He noticed an attractive girl at the shooting gallery and walked up and began to speak in his German accent. My mother quickly recognized his difficulty with the use of English as she had the same problem. They had a good laugh and after three weeks of courting were married. After eleven years or so on the island we moved to Inglewood, then a farming community with large grain fields and was called "Inglewood Acres". From Inglewood we moved to EI Mirage Valley on the Mojave Desert to homestead a parcel of desert land. From there we moved to San Bernardino. While living in San Bernardino we became acquainted with the Mojave River country and farmed at Helendale for many years.
A side story about the ship Adolph & crew. . .
It might be in order here to tell an interesting story regarding the "Adolph" and head crew. After leaving Santa Monica she sailed to San Francisco then to Seattle. In Seattle Captain Schumann died suddenly and unexpectedly and first officer Fredericks brought her back to Germany via the Orient around the Cape of Good Hope. There was no way my father would know this except for the following story. One day while living and working in Avalon my father had to make a business trip to Los Angeles. At lunch one day at a long lunch counter he saw and heard a man playing a very nice tune a short distance from where he sat and what he was doing was running his moistened hand over a number of tall glasses that had various levels of water in them. This attracted many people as the music was very beautiful. As my father rose from his seat dad walked over to this display of talent he could hardly believe what he saw. It was none other than Mr. Fredericks, the first officer of the "Adolph". First they stared at each other and exchanged stories and this is how my father learned of the return of the "Adolph".
Mr. Fredericks reminded my father of how upset Captain Schumann was when he deserted the ship at Santa Monica, and how he vowed that if he was captured he would have been bound with chains and returned to Germany.
A very interesting sequel to this whole story was that Mr. Fredericks himself became a Captain of the "Rustringer", a huge four masted ship that he brought around Cape Horn and Himself deserted in Los Angeles harbor. My father did recall that the "Rustringer" was deserted by its Captain, but there were no names mentioned so he had no way of knowing about Mr. Fredericks. This was in the local papers, for it made news. Mr. Fredericks picked up an English vocabulary, married an American girl who owned a grocery store in West Los Angeles and then he got a job for the U.S. government and taught navigation and all this at a time when World War 1 was going on before U.S. entry into the war.
A very interesting event on board the "Adolph" was when she crossed the Equator on her way toward Cape Horn. It was the custom in those "sailing days", and may still be now, to have a great ceremony on board as those who were "first timers" would have to go through an "initiation". This can take many hours and provide many different techniques and treatments for the rookies on board. In this instance one of the programs was an "on deck" barber shop. King Neptune presided and his subjects obeyed all commands. Of course everyone got a special "hair cut". Of course there was the "clean up", too. Then my father never forgot his "shave". The kitchen provided a "special" lather for the occasion which was quite a recipe using many sticky, messy ingredients. The razor was like a Turkish sword and a butchers cleaver and was about three feet long made of wood and carried on the "Adolph" in a safe place in the Captains quarters just reserved for this momentous occasion. It was all carried out in great fun and after it was allover every one had a banquet together and after some weeks all the hair grew to be the same length and only memories remained, but my father always enjoyed a hearty laugh as he recalled this experience.
Notes not incorporated:
The auto car truck trip to EI Mirage and how we walked up the mountain,
desert experiences in EI Mirage,
Goats school days throwing dollar,
22 rifle incident,
lost on EI Mirage Lake in the night,
Mirage, planting wheat,
sailing boats in the sand.
The first airplane Catalina as a small boy,
the danger of the reservoir and the pier,
the horse at the P.O.,
the Catalina flyer,
the band played on,
catching desert owls,
removal of cactus from my foot by a doctors method,
the flu epidemic,
the Model T Ford and Mrs. Lindsay the Indian woman from Oklahoma.
Developing the Mojave River country,
school days on the desert,
the great Avalon fire.
The baseball team and me the water boy,
the steamer rides,
the time Mr. Rikalo ran his bike into the boy,
the French bread,
the sparrows and canaries,
the booze shooting arrows at the enemy.
Pop would say "chips" instead of "ships" so the sailors nicknamed him "chips".
Several nights before the violent storm struck the dark waters of the South Atlantic was all lighted up around the Adolph as she plied through a belt of phosphorus. My father and all the crew enjoyed this phenomena that is somewhat common in many parts of the great ocean.
The forcefulness of the sea at the Cape can hardly be overemphasized. The angry waves awakened to try to exhaust themselves as they crashed in billowy white foam and dense spray . over the sturdy bow of the ':Adolph". There was as part of the bow piece a figurehead and image of a mans face on the "Adolph". And one can imagine that as the fury and intensity of the relentless sea internationally crashed over his image that even the figurehead took on a look of anguish and despair.
A Very SAD Thing. . .
One of the sad things in my fathers life that not only seriously and adversely affected his own life, but which had a devastating affect on us four children was the separation and divorce of my father and mother. Neither remarried, but lived out the balances of their lives in separation. This caused extremely painful hardships, first on themselves and then on the whole family. Because of this, our lives were subjected to painful decisions and hard choices. It was a traumatic experience as there were ugly charges and counter-charges made on both sides. Its a hard job to put into a set of words all the ramifications, human suffering and misery that plagued the lives of the whole family, and I shall not attempt it here.
Only God can really understand.
I feel so inadequate and helpless. One just has to try to imagine. In a way, its like explaining the acts of a child to one who observed his action. If they had no children of their own they wouldn't understand anyway. And if they did have children of their own they wouldn't have to be told, as they would understand anyway.