Grandma's picture

Grandma's picture
Grandma's Passport photo

Friday, July 25, 2014

3 - Val J. Peter Travel Bureau Letter - 24 March 1936


Click here to read story from beginning

Story so far: Grandma was trying to figure out how she would make her way back to Czechoslovakia so she could see her siblings. She found an ad in the newspaper for an economic trip to Germany for sightseeing and the Olympic Games.
Apparently the newspaper ad prompted Grandma Cecile into action. She must have sent in her request for a reservation, along with a question about cost for a 12 year old child. She received this reply from the Travel Agency in early April. The envelope was stamped Omaha, Nebraska, March 31, so it would have been April by the time the letter arrived in Stayton, Oregon, where Grandma lived.  

The child in question was my late Aunt Betty (Beitel) Silbernagel, who was 12 at the time. Recently, while discussing this trip, my cousin Marilyn (Silbernagel) Pursley, one of Aunt Betty's daughters, told me that Grandma had asked her if she wanted to go along. Aunt Betty turned her down. The trip seemed to go too far away, to a strange and foreign land and would last too long. It was just too scary for 12 year old Betty. 

The letter was translated by Al Haunold.


Letterhead[see above]: Val. J. Peter Travel Bureau

1307 – 1309 Howard street

Omaha, NEBR.

24 March 1936
Frau Alois Beitel

Rt. 1, Box 207

Stayton, Oregon

Beginning of the letter

Dear Mrs. Beitel:

We thank you very much for your letter and reservation for our company's spring travel on May 30th and we reserved a cabin for you. The trip leader will take care of everything for you so that you have no problems to get to your home country. Mr. Georg Hack is also Austrian, coming from Vienna and is planning to visit his mother and sister who live there.

Children up to 12 years of age can travel for half price on the railroad, but on the ship the age limit is 10 years. Thus the whole price for your daughter would be $185.50

Please get two passport photos and bring these photos and your citizenship papers plus one witness to the office of your local judicial district office so that he can initiate the application for your U.S. Passport and send it on to Washington. The passport can be mailed from Washington directly to us because we have to obtain the German and Czech visa (immigration permit) for that passport and have it certified.

Please send us your down-payment of $10.- and in case that your daughter should travel with you, which we sincerely hope, $20.-, otherwise the ship's company would not be able to definitively reserve the cabin. The steamer will be sold out a few weeks before departure.

We would be glad to provide you with additional information. Please write to us at your convenience.

With German Greetings

Val J. Peter Travel Bureau

per:(hand written signature) Val J. Peter
the signature

Two items worthy of note. First, if you noticed the handwriting around the typing in the picture of the beginning of the letter above, that was Grandma. 
She ran out of pages in her notebook for the diary and resorted to writing on scraps of paper. The entire back of the sheet of paper was filled with her handwriting from near the end of the trip. She finished her entry on the top of this sheet of paper. 

When I first started putting the letters together, I did not have this one. It was only recently when my cousin Marilyn Pursley loaned me the original notebook that I found the letter inserted into the back of the notebook. Perhaps you could call it a case of the last almost being the first.

The other item of interest is the signature "With German greetings". My friend Al Haunold, who did the translating, added a personal connection to this mysterious phrase. This is Al's explanation of how the expression came to be:
"I thought of something that I should have mentioned to you when I translated the letter from the travel bureau in Omaha, He ends the letter with the words: "Mit deutschem Gruss", (with German greetings)..... I remember from my father (who was opposed to the Nazis and when they took over Austria on March 13, 1938 and he lost his job - a school superintendent) that correspondence then was expected to end with Heil Hitler (Hail to Hitler) which of course he hated. Thus people found a way around the nearly mandatory Heil Hitler with the phrase "Mit deutschem Gruss", at least they did not have to gag .... My father finally was given a teaching position a few months later since they needed teachers, while younger teachers were inducted into the army to prepare for the invasion of the Sudetenland (German-speaking area of Czechoslovakia where your relatives probably lived then.)
Al's ending comments about the invasion of Sudetenland are chilling, as they are a reminder of what loomed on the horizon only a few years after Grandma's visit to her old homeland - WWII.

Story to be continued...... 
To read Post "4 - Grandma's Passport 7 April 1936", click here

Friday, July 18, 2014

2 - Newspaper Clipping About Travel

 Click here to read the story from the beginning

Story so far: Grandma Cecile has been thinking about visiting her siblings in the Old Country. She has not seen them for 35 years since she immigrated. She received a letter from her youngest Minna, telling of being very ill the summer before and of how wonderful it would be if they could all see her again.

Apparently an advertisement on travel to Germany for the Olympics that summer in Germany caught Grandma's eye. The following article was in Grandma's collection. Nothing indicates which paper it came from. It could have been the St Joseph's Blatt, published in Mount Angel, Oregon, for the local German speaking community. Grandpa & Grandma were subscribers, so it is a possible source.

Grandma Cecile had been in the United States for 35 years. In all that time she had not returned to visit her family, and none of them had ever traveled abroad to see her.  She was the only one to emigrate. The thought of going back for a visit must have always been in the back of her mind, but now it is a full blown idea.

It is not without its challenges. She lives in Stayton, Oregon. That's on the far west coast of the United States. Her sisters still live in their home village of Nieder-Mohrau. That's thousands of miles away.

The town hasn't moved, but the map lines have. When she left in 1901, Nieder-Mohrau was in Austria. In 1936 it was in Czechoslovakia. (In the present day it is in the Czech Republic.) 

Now, how to get there? It's a long way just to the east coast and the interstate highway system won't be built for a couple more decades. Grandma couldn't catch a red-eye flight to Heathrow. So how do you get there? 

The following ad in the paper gave Grandma an idea. She kept this clipping in an envelope from the Val Peter Travel Bureau.

Translation of the article was done by Al Haunold.


Top of newspaper clipping
Social Trip  
with the Speedy Steamer 
on May 30, 1936
under the personal guidance 
of Mr. George T. Hackl, Trip Coordinator
An exemplary inexpensive trip
  • Reduced round-trip ticket, 3rd class, from New York to Bremen and return trip with an Hapag steamer to New York, $ 177.25
    Additional charge $ 5.11, S. Revenue tax 
    Children under 10 years pay half fare

    Fabulous trip program
    On our trip to New York we will be visiting the world famous Niagara Falls or the National Capital Washington D.C. After arriving in Bremen we will take a 21-day round trip throughout Germany which includes the biggest sights and the most beautiful parts of our old home country and concludes with a steamer cruise on the fabulous German Rhein River.
    • Special prices for American tourists in Germany
    • 60% price discount on German railroads
    • Savings of 30 to 40 % by use of German Mark travelers checks. 
    Visit your old Home Country under knowledgeable guidance.
    For many years, many thousands harbor the wish to once more visit their old home country and their loved relatives but they could not muster the energy because they did not want to travel alone or were afraid that the costs might be too prohibitive. The cheap price of our trip makes it possible even for people with modest means to see their loved ones once again and with such a fabulous trip to enjoy the beauty of Germany. You don’t have to concern yourself about anything, the trip leader will take care of the smooth operation of the program.
    The fabulous month of May is the best month for your trip to Germany !

    Immediate booking is urgently advised
    Travel activities this year, with regard to the Olympic Games, are rather busy. Many steamers have fully booked their berths for large sports organizations. Thus secure your cabin as long as something is available on various steamers. A down payment of;postID=4485586697532068851;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=0;src=postname
    $ 10.00 is sufficient.
    Germans and German-Americans !
    Avail yourself of this fabulous opportunity to make a trip to your old Home Country under knowledgeable guidance and for a modest price ! Decide to embark now on the long desired visit to your old Home Country ! Travel in the company of old friends and acquaintances in German happiness and friendship. 
    On to Germany and to the Olympic Games !

    German Travel Bureau, Val. J. Peter Travel Bureau
    1307 Howard street, Omaha Nebr. 
    Please immediately send me details about a trip to the old Home Country.
    I intend to be a partner of your social trip
    Town..........State........ "


    Story to be continued....
    To read Post "3 - Val J. Peter Travel Bureau Letter - 24 March 1936"  Click here

Sunday, July 13, 2014

1 - Minna's Letter - 10 January 1936

A youthful Minna Schiebel
The story begins with this letter to my Grandma Cecile in Stayton, Oregon, from her sister Minna - living back in Nieder-Mohrau. It was not with Grandma's other letters, but my aunt, Sr Agnes, had a copy and had translated most of it. I got a copy of the letter from Sr. Agnes. Reading the ending shows that Grandma has already brought up the subject of a visit but it is not decided. Perhaps the idea of her sister's illness cemented her resolve to go.

I added the two photos for reference. They were not included with the letter. Both are from an earlier time. The one of Minna and five of her children was probably taken about 5 or 6 years before. Mr Schallner, Hedwig's father-in-law was still alive at the time the Schallner family photo was taken. Minna adds a last note about "pictures" being "for Betty". Those photos were not with this letter, or at least not with the copy that Sr Agnes had. I'm not sure who has/had the original letter, or what the subject of the photos was.

One other item, I've spelled "Minna" with two "n"'s. Growing up, I always saw "Mina's" name spelled with only one "n". However, she clearly signs her name to these letters as "Minna", so that is the way I shall spell it. Her full name was Hermina.

Sr Agnes translated the main body of the letter. The messages from the children at the end were translated by Al Haunold.
Beginning of Minna's letter
January 10, 1936

Dear Sister and family,

With thanks I received your last letter. I wanted to write back right away but didn't get around, instead we did send the calendar. I hope you received it, it's not much but a remembrance of your homeland. I also felt glad that you  enjoyed my card from Maria Hilf. I really liked this place so much and wish to be [t]here again soon. I went with a large group by bus,we did not have much time to see all the places. Lots of chapels - about almost one hundred in the beautiful landscape invite [one] to pray at this place of grace. Johann[1] told me that he was here together with you when he was a schoolboy - you went there walking. I wish it could come true that we both might be here together. Lots of chapels are gifts of Americans as thanksgiving to see their homeland again.

But now I have to write you the reason of my pilgrimage of last year to Maria Hilf. I've been very sick last summer and had to stay in hospital at Roemerstadt for about 7 weeks, the Sisters of Charity (Barmherzige Schwestern) told me that I should make a pilgrimage to Maria Hilf when being well again. I had the flu and pneumonia and the doctors didn't think I would overcome it, was prepared to die but our Dear Lord did not want me yet.... I'm almost healthy again and hope not to get sick like that once more. Franz[2] knows myt situation because he's more sick than healthy, too. He worries over me and I'm worrying about him. I had a good treatment in hospital, the doctors and sisters did all they could do for me getting me healthy soon. Since June 15, Hermi[3] is at home again, she took good care of everything - I was really surprised when I came home. I also had a real surprise during my illness when I had to stay in bed all the time - once I heard the doctor speaking with somebody; then he came in together with brother Joseph[4], I still recognized him after 13 years. He stayed with me for two hours then he went back. After a few weeks he visited me again with his wife and family - maybe he wrote you about that, too. I was still in hospital when he was visiting me for the second time.

In your last letter you wrote me that Betty's[5] condition didn't change but she grew up and seems to feel good. The main thing is that she has no pain. The doctors are very good, why couldn't they help her? Our kids talk about Betty and wonder how she is. I hope that they stay healthy and will be able to earn their own living.[6] is as tall as her but skinny, little Gisela[7] is a real nice girl, she talks and is grandmother's darling. Hermi is supposed to go to Schallner's
Minna & children, about 5 years earlier
Hermi will be 13 next month. She also works very hard if it's necessary and even when washing laundry she is a good help for me. During fall she took care of the cows in our neighborhood and earned a pair of shoes. Anna
before and after school hours but I don't want to let her go except in the summer holidays, it's too hard for the children to listen to the teachers or to those whom they are supposed to work for. Business was very slow last year, we have to be simple in lifestyle.  Last year we had lots of fruit, this helped a lot, we've had honey, too. But we don't know how this year will be, it doesn't look nice, no snow, only fog and rain all the days.

Schallner family
I don't let the kids go outside except for school and then they have to dry their shoes. 8 days before Christmas Mr. Schallner, Hedwig[8]'s father-in-law,  and Mr. Schinzel, our former neighbor, died. Aunt Bernt died last summer, too. The funeral was the same day when I came home from the hospital. I couldn't see her anymore. Her son Karl is a real lazy guy, his kids don't have enough to eat almost all the time. How did you spend the Christmas days? How many children does Mary[9] have and how are they? Our kids have been looking forward to Christmas, but they only got useful gifts. I also received a big parcel with good and useful things from the teacher's family, they stay in Mohrau during summertime.

So life is going on. I hope I'll get some news from you soon. Best wishes also to Agnes, how far away is she? If you would come to Germany, it would be a great pleasure for all of us but it seems almost unbelievable. Lots of people are asking about you and send their greetings. Some young people would emigrate now if the world wouldn't have been closed by wooden walls in spite of trains and ships. Now farewell, hopefully we'll see you sometimes.

Your sister Minna" 
Postscripts by the children and Minna

"Dear aunt!
I also would be very happy if you and Betty could come and visit us. Thus I am sending my greetings to you and to your relatives and also to the uncle and remain your niece

"From us also my best greetings, your niece

"Dear Betty, come and visit us this summer, we would be very happy.
Best greetings to all, your cousin

"The pictures are for Betty. Franz was here with the children in Proehling (?? unclear) on a very nice day. Again greetings,

[1] - Johann Schiebel, one of Minna & Grandma's brothers
[2] - Franz Bernt, Minna's husband
[3] - Hermi Bernt, one of Franz & Minna's daughters
[4] - Joseph Schiebel, another brother of Minna & Grandma
[5] - Betty Beitel Silbernagel, 12 years old at the time, youngest of the Beitel children, Aunt Betty to many of us, the "condition" was the doctors suspected she had polio when she was little, but it was never confirmed
[6] - Anna Bernt, another of Franz & Minna's girls
[7] - Gisela Bernt Schulig, "...."......", Gisela & her husband Walter visited the Beitel's in Oregon at least once, in the 1980's, if I remember correctly
Tony Beitel & Gisela Bernt Schulig in Oregon

[8] - Schallners - Hedwig Schrott Schallner, Grandma's sister Gustie's daughter & her husband Josef Schallner
 The photo I added must have been taken before this letter was written, Grandpa Schallner is still in the scene, while Minna says he recently died. Hedwig & Josef are 3rd & 1st from right side of photo, and their little daughter Hedwig is between them. I do not know the other two.
[9] - Mary, Marie Beitel Lulay, oldest of the Beitel children, Aunt Marie to many of us
[10] - Hedi Bernt Ramolla, Hedi lives in Canada and visited the Beitels in Oregon several times

Story to be continued....
To read "Acknowledgements" click here
To read Post "2 - Newspaper Clipping About Travel" click here