Welcome back to our wonderful exclusive translation of one of our most detailed and captivating stories we have translated from the pages of the Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář!
We continue our story from the 1934 edition (Volume 57) while we are still in Bohemia with our Czech storyteller.
Enjoy this magnificent look into life in the ‘Old Country’ as told by an old Czech himself, Johan Zajíc!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: LVII, Year: 1934, Pages: 187-213
FROM THE MEMORIES OF OLD CZECH SETTLERS IN AMERICA
Translated by Layne Pierce and Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce
©Onward To Our Past®
John Zajíc, Sr. Edgerton, Alberta, Canada. (Continued)
“I went to Prague like an important gentleman. I was not even bothered that I had in my pocket, just one single kreutzer.
I headed off away from the railroad station heading the same direction as most of the people, and not looking around thinking that the Praguers will not recognize a peasant. So this procession took me along Příkopy Street up to Železná Street. There was a worker standing in house slippers and a white apron. He was smoking a pipe with a long stem. From far away I recognized him as a shoemaker. I passed by him about three steps and he turned to me: “What type of a tradesman are you?” I answered: “A shoemaker.” And he: “Do you want work?” I: “Of course, otherwise I would not have come to Prague,” and he answers: “So come up here to the old man.” I come to the third floor and there are nice lights in the shop; eight workers, two apprentices, everybody in white aprons. The master is called in. Upon seeing my honest and willing eyes he tells me: “Do you know how to make soles?” [The first degree of proficiency] I answered: “I do know, master,” I said according to the village custom. “Don’t call me master”, said the gentleman. “This is how in our place we call little pigs; my name is Puškvorec!” I immediately answered: “Yes, Mr. Puškvorec.” And he answered, “Ok, you will not work today, sit down and take off your coat.” I was looking at him stunned, such a way of doing things. I did like it very much in the shop. Each one was engrossed in his work and nobody was paying attention to me. Only about an hour later the apprentices went to the hotel, (The Emperor’s) for supper. One of them asked me: “What about you Johan? What would you like for supper?” I answered him: “Well, I won’t eat tonight.” Everybody burst out laughing and they wanted to know why I wouldn’t have supper. So I showed them my possession (one kreuzer). What a laughter there was. They immediately brought in the old man and reported to him. The master said: “Young boy, you do have a nerve. The first day you go into the word with one kreuzer. “Frank (he turns to the apprentice) take some leftovers on my account!” and towards me: “And you take courage and after supper go to pray to St. John’s on Charles Bridge to give you the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Frank brought me supper: it was a full plate of leftovers after the guests. There were all kinds of roasted meats. Everybody was laughing and so was I. For me it was the first exquisite feast. And all of that cost only four kreutzers. After my supper, I did really go to pray to St. John on Charles Bridge. The co-workers during the empty time were reading newspapers or books. I was looking at them with envy, because I did not know how to read.
Immediately on Monday, I went to the school of the Catholic Journeymen in Dlouhá Třída at the Blue Pike House. I continued school with excellent results as well as in the shop. In six months my teacher told me that he could not teach me anymore. I was no longer ashamed when I saw my co-workers reading newspapers and books; however, the yearning pushed me toward further learning.”
Be sure to join us tomorrow as we continue this fascinating story from life in the ‘Old Country’ of Bohemia as our Czech thinks towards his future!
Onward To Our Past®