Our amazingly detailed Czech immigrant story continues from the 1934 edition of the Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář and it wonderful!
We are back in the ‘Old Country’ of Bohemia as our Czech immigrant details his youth there.
We know you will enjoy this installment of “From the Memories of Old Czech Settlers in America”! And remember you can sign up for our automatic email notices of new installments simply by clicking here, scrolling to the bottom of our home page, and signing up for free! No strings attached!
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)
It was the priest who decided. He will become a shoemaker. He wrote to his colleague in Svojšice and he got me a place with a shoemaker, V. Šultys. I took the job at the age of eleven and a half and I was learning for four years and three months.
The shoemaker was a very strict follower of the clergy just like my father and he was living by the parish house. That provided him with half of his life expenses, and I went from the frying pan into the fire. I had work and all kinds of responsibilities for 18 hours a day. Among other things, I was cleaning boots for two priests every day. The parish priest was a man from the times of corvée (Ed: unpaid labor, as from a feudal vassal to a lord), he had a biblical name, and medieval cruelty. Often I got a beating because of him. I had to go barefoot to church and sit by the grill with school children. The worst part was that it was hard for me to reach the trough. Consequently the orchard people had big problems with me. This shoemaker during his kingship on the shoemaker’s seat had 28 apprentices under him, but he did not teach anybody, only me. Each one escaped. Only I endured the whole journey, because I did like the work very much: the shoemaking, that is.
One time I took revenge on the cruel parish priest. My master would go to Prague for leather. The parish priest would provide money for him, and for that the gentleman master would always bring him a big bottle of spirits from “Haláneks“. One day the master went to Prague and the following day I went with a wheelbarrow to Pečky to meet him at the railroad station.
As soon as the train stopped I was supposed to stand ready at the wagon in which the master came, to take the luggage that he would hand me from the train. Then I would load the big roll of leather onto the wheelbarrow and put the other suitcases on top; and I would go the two hours on the road to Svojšice. Sometimes he would not even give me two kreutzers for a roll and the parish priest’s things were quite heavy. It made me quite angry that I was supposed to serve my tyrant for free.
Once when the train stopped at the station the master was handing over to me a heavy travelling bag. I smelled alcohol and I thought: “Wait, parish priest, let the leather drink instead of you.” I took the bag by the handles. I put it onto my back and I was holding it over my head and I was going across the platform with the tip of my left foot I stumbled over a rail and boom I made a big fall. The bag flew over my head in a big arch and the priest’s liquor was flowing on the platform. The master wanted to pay me for this experiment immediately with a corporal reward; however, the onlookers took my side. They told him that he was a slave driver and he should be glad that he did not receive some of the same himself. The next day the good chaplain came for a small talk and his first words were: “So, your leather got drunk?” That chaplain was a happy young member of the consistory, the son of a rich doctor.”
Tomorrow we continue with this wonderfully rich and detailed story of Czech life! Be sure to join us!
Onward To Our Past®