Today marks 60 years since my father's family stepped onto American soil for the first time. A few years ago, I worked with my Dad to record his memoirs. I may have posted a few excerpts before this one, but I wanted to share more extensive piece. Mostly for my family to read and remember.
...The SS United States was brthed in a huge dock in Bremerhaven. We arrived several hours before departure with all of our remaining possessions packed tightly into six suitcases. I remember rounding a corner in that old port city and catching a glimpse of the huge ship. Its sheer size and presence took my breath away. We were all in awe, for no ship had ever looked sleeker or more inviting to a family of seven than this SS United States looked to us. Our last hours as a family in our German homeland were spent in a local restaurant for a light meal, an interesting last respite for me since I'd only been to a restaurant a few times in my life. To satiate our palates before the rocky voyage, Dad introduced us to a special treat there, a new drink we had never tasted before called Coca- Cola. What a wonderful, ironic sendoff before the bells rung to call us aboard to our future
A Rocky Crossing
The hustle and bustle of the dock was Hollywood-like. Our tickets were checked, paperwork stamped, visas inspected, and luggage loaded away. Our excited family then joined the throng of passengers climbing up the long gangplanks. Friendly stewards dressed in black tuxedoes and white ties greeted the passengers as we boarded, leading everyone to their cabins. All seven of our family members fit snugly into two cabins outfitted with bunk beds. Even though they were the cheapest quarters on the ship, and Dad had warned us they would be small, they still looked great to us! Our family's passage and those two cabins, nine floors below the ship's decks, cost $1,600 (equivalent to about $12,000 at today's rates.) Every penny paid for those tickets came from Uncle Joe and Aunt Marie in Grand Rapids. Dad vowed that that someday we would repay it all.