The mystique of owning four wheels (2)
Archived Articles 21 Sep 2007 Arved PlaksEWR
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The weekend home was in the middle of 40 acres of land, which was bisected by a brook. On one side of it was impenetrable swampy land covered by brush. The other side was gently sloping dry land that had been used during the wartime to grow corn. Furrows still crossed it. The nearest town, Bethel, was two miles away.

The cottage was a two room prefabricated rectangular building with composite stone plate walls. The door to the house led into a room with two windows. From here went a door to the back room with one window. The building lacked all amenities; it had no running water, no electricity, and no toilets. The Cardozos used kerosene lamps for light. An outhouse was 30 yards away: a hut with a seat over a hole the Cardozos had dug themselves. It was a contraption that I was exposed to as a kid when vacationing in the Estonian countryside.

After our arrival the Cardozos had a gas burner installed for us to cook on, which was fired by butane from bottles mounted on the outside wall, and which were replenished whenever we telephoned from our neighbor’s for a refill. It was arranged that I would get water from our nearest neighbor, about a half a mile away. The neighbor was Mr. Gonzales, who had plenty of gallon-size port wine glass bottles, which he had emptied personally. The bottles had a little hook at its neck, just big enough for a finger, and carrying a full bottle sure ate into that finger. Mrs. Cardozo gave our neighbor $10 a month for which she asked him to keep an eye on us.

The cottage had two army cots, which the Cardozos used when they came here on weekends. Soon the word spread of our arrival and a family, originally from Estonia found us. They, the Luts's, had immigrated to this country in czarist times. When Estonia became independent they returned to Estonia, but finding that people were hostile towards them, returned here. The Luts’s soon appeared with a pickup truck loaded with an iron double bed, which was installed in the back room for my parents. I had to sleep on an army cot. From Sears, Roebuck and Co. we acquired a wardrobe, as were sold then. It was made out of cardboard, but was nevertheless strong enough for our meager wardrobe. It resembled the boxes that movers use now days to stow clothes.

The first Monday after our arrival I was taken by Mrs. Cardozo to Bethel and registered in the local high school. I was placed into the second grade, the same grade that I had been in the Estonian Gymnasium in Geislingen. From then on I had to walk a half a mile (on Shelter Rock Road) to the nearest school bus stop, which, it being spring, was no problem. Besides I was used to walk a longer distance in Geislingen.

My English was that which I had learned in two years in our DP camp school in Mrs. Pääsuke's class. It was very tiresome to hear an unfamiliar language spoken fast, catching now and then a word and trying to deduce from these the meaning. Since I barely understood what was being said I nodded off at times. But teachers and students were very kind and supportive of me. When I did know something the teachers praised me, if not, I was excused because of my unfamiliarity with the language. Thus I continued to the end of the sophomore year.

Given that we three lived so far from the nearest grocery store, but that only I had transportation afforded by school bus; and given that I had the best command of the English language of us all, shopping for groceries became my duty. An A&P grocery was near my school. During lunch hour I purchased the needed items and brought them to the school, where they sat in the hallway until the end of the school day. Then I took the bags with me on the school bus. From where the bus left me off was just a half a mile to carry them home. By time I got there the milk cartons were warm. We had no refrigerator, so we attempted to keep milk cool by lowering the bottles into an abandoned well next to the house.

The nearest industrial town to us was Danbury, which was then known as the hat manufacturing capital of the world. My father found employment in a factory (Neumann Endler) in which wool hats were made. He had to walk 2.2 miles to work, since no bus lines extended from Danbury in the direction where we lived. The owners spoke German, which was a great help to my father. My mother got a job in a furniture store (Henry Dick and Sons). Here too it helped that the owner spoke German. Both of my parents earned the minimum wage of 75 cents per hour. On weekends my father and I got some work with Mr. Trigel, an Estonian-born old-timer, who built houses. After a while he no longer took me to work because I made a game of the work.
(To be continued.)
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