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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Purgatory

By Herbert Waldhorn, '35

The Magpie, May 1935, p. 73.

"If America was Heaven, the Atlantic was surely purgatory!"

.... "Come now, do tell me all about it. I simply must have this written!"

.... "I was perfectly content to stay in our clean, homey, little town. We had no fault with the district officials, and certainly none with Franz Josef. Austria then was indeed peaceful, but too quiet, if you would listen to Carl's ever-ready tales of America, and of New York. I cried so when he did leave, suddenly, having received a meager present from his brothers; then I looked forward to the day when I, and the three tots, would be summoned . . . I shall never forget that day, thirty years ago, for all its bustle and sad farewells. But I found myself on the familiar, filthy train of all Europe, beladen with baggage and my three girls, one in arms and two toddling. The two days on the train were as miserable as any on the boat.... At Hamburg we were actually herded, like so many lowing cattle, by bullying, insulting, stick-wielding men into small, densely crowded boats. These took us to the steamer anchored at the mouth of the river where we were again herded into what were our quarters for almost two weeks more. Preoccupied with my great sheet-wrapped bundle, heavy bag, and busy children, I was still impressed by those quarters of the ship. They seemed to be the darkest, foulest, most cramped and uncomfortable places I have ever seen, or heard of . . . I remember little of the ship, but do seem to recollect unimportant things like bananas and catsup. These I would not touch; they awed me. The lurching of the ship joined forces with the foulness of the air to make me thoroughly ill, so I had little of the rice and the bean gruel they dished out of a big greasy pot. It was nice, though, to climb up to the fore deck on the few pleasant days and sit in the sun. I remember the people on the upper decks throwing pennies to the crowds of children scampering about on that tiny fore deck. Rose caught one, and Hannah was terribly mussed up trying ... Most of the trip found us lying in that darkness, too sick and tired to even moan in complaint. Oh, how that boat rocked! And how the din of the hole throbbed in my aching head incessantly! . . . But that dock, and Carl, and his brothers and friends, and the house, and that stove! They were so new and so grand! And all the people, and the buildings and the carriages: too many of them!. . . It was all very wonderful . . . but that trip! I felt that it might not be worth . . .

"Grandmother, I had no idea . . ."




The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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