Monday, June 23, 2014

Recollections of Max Leonard From His First Job to Going to Europe in 1950

After finishing my two years at Carbon Jr. College I moved to Salt Lake City and attended the University of Utah. My brother Stanley gave me a place to live in his home even thought it meant that his two girls would have to sleep in one bed. He helped me obtain employment at a gas station on weekends and after school so I could have enough money to eventually get a room near the university. Stanley was a very kind hearted person who helped his parents before getting married by allowing them to buy groceries at his expense in the grocery store where he worked. I'll never forget how he and Beth helped me. The years I attended the University of Utah will always be etched in my memory. It was years of hard work to finish my degrees and years of memorable experiences outside the classroom.

Getting the First Job as a Teacher
After completing my years of education at the University of Utah I got a job teaching at the Helper Jr. High School. I enjoyed my years at this school. It was a good teaching experience. It provided me with the opportunity to get to know my older sister Birdie who often invited me to lunch at her home in Helper. Birdie got married when I was about four years old and moved from Peerless where we lived, to Helper so I never got to know her as well as my brothers and sister who were younger. Gerry, one of Birdie's daughters was one of my students at the Helper Jr. High School. She was a straight A student who was a great asset to my classroom.

During the summer after my first year at Helper I got a job with the Utah State Dept of Business Regulation in Salt Lake City. I moved to Salt Lake and worked for about a year at this job. Because it was a political appointment position dependent on which political party gave you the job, I lost my job because the governor who was a democrat lost the election to a republican. I was a victim of the Spoils System. During the summer I got a job with R.L. Polk & Company, a company that published a directory of businesses and people living in large cities. They sold advertising to businesses in their directory which helped pay for it. I was hired to learn all facets of the business so I could eventually become a manager responsible for putting together the whole directory.

Working Some Summer Jobs
My first assignment was with the big office in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. I started learning the responsibilities of every position and actually performing all aspects of each position. During this time I was living in a hotel and eating in restaurants. Life after working hours was lonely. I hadn't been able to make any close friends so after dinner I usually went to my room and read till I fell asleep.

After learning most aspects of the job I was transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio with a more responsible position. I found a room in the local Y.M.C.A. that was more reasonable than a hotel. I settled down to learning my new job, but my after work life was still lonely. Back in Utah I never suffered from loneliness, this was a new experience that I wasn't enjoying. To make matters worse Cincinnati's weather was unbearable. Every day was hot and very humid. Not many offices and hotels had air conditioning so you suffered the heat day and night. It was so different from Utah's climate. Each day I struggled to go to work during this period of depression. I encountered in the lobby of the Y.M.C.A. a fellow from Price, Utah who had played trumpet in Dad's orchestra when I was playing with Dad. I asked him what he was doing in Cincinnati? He told me "my parents live here and I am originally from here." He asked me what I was doing and I told him. He said "why don't we drive back to Utah in your car?" after I told him I wasn't happy living there. After thinking about his suggestion for several days I asked for a leave-of-absence from my job. They granted me two weeks so back to Salt Lake I went.

Upon my arrival I started looking for a job. I found one selling supplies to beauty and barber shops in Salt Lake and little towns like Kamas, Park City and counties north of Salt Lake. I had to use my car which I didn't like because I was traveling a lot of miles each day. Even though I was reimbursed so much per mile it wasn't enough to cover the wear and tear on the car. After working at this job for about a month I decided to apply for a teaching position in Carbon Co. I was offered a job in the new Dragerton Jr. High School, so I took it. I lived at home with Mom and Dad and shared rides with two other teachers living in Price.
I lived at home with Mom and Dad and shared rides with two other teachers living in Price.

The first year I worked at Dragerton I bought a new Chevrolet Coupe. Mother and dad didn’t have a car because their Kaiser had been totaled by Bob. Even though they had obtained a fair settlement from the Kaiser from the insurance company with my help they hadn’t purchased another car. After I got my new car I took dad and mother around or let them borrow it to go sit on Price Main Street and watch the people go by which they seemed to enjoy.

The Letter From Brother Leo in Germany
During the spring of 1950 my parents received a letter from my brother Leo B. Leonard inviting them to come and visit him in Stuttgart, Germany where he was stationed with the American Occupation Forces. Mother and Dad discussed Lee's letter with me. Dad wanted to go but Mother was very apprehensive about going to Europe so soon after the war. She felt the Germans would be strongly anti-American because they were the conquered. In addition, there was the desolation and poverty of the Germans, she didn't' want to see. But most importantly was the financial costs and Mother's poor health. They reluctantly told Lee they were unable to come but told them I would like to come. At that time I was just finishing my first year teaching at the Dragerton Jr. High School.

The Trip to Germany on a Freighter in 1950
When the school year ended in May of 1950 I embarked on my trip to Germany to see my brother. After purchasing suitable clothes and two suitcases to make the trip, I was off on the trip of a lifetime. I traveled from Price to New York City via Chicago, Washington D.C. and then NYC. From Price to Chicago I traveled on the California Zephyr, a very luxurious train that featured several cars with skyline glass roofs that provided 360 degree views of the surrounding scenery, dinning cars, and sleeping cars, all the amenities for a very enjoyable and comfortable trip. From Chicago to Washington D.C. the train was also comfortable but lacked the skyline cars. Upon arriving in Washington D.C. I secured a suitable hotel and spent several days visiting museums, art galleries and all of the government buildings, the Capitol, White House, Congress in session and touring the city. From Washington D.C. I traveled to New York City where I spent several days visiting places of interest.

On May 16th 1950 I sailed to Europe in the Holland American Line Ship SS Volendam, a freighter with two cabins for married couples and a large room with bunk beds for about fifteen single passengers. Communal showering facilities were available for the men. We were fed three meals a day with typical Dutch peasant meals that contained ample amounts of starch and fat. Even though the food was greasy and not too varied, it did provide you with sufficient calories to insulate you from the cold freezes of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Because the ship was a freighter with no facilities for entertaining passengers we had to devise our own entertainment. We did a lot of sun bathing, playing shuffle board, cards, and reading the limited number of books in the ship's library. All of the passengers were German Jews who had escaped from Germany prior to World War II and now they were returning to Germany to see their former homes and hopefully get some restitution for their cases from German Government. They had many interesting stories to tell about life in Germany before the war and how they escaped from the Nazi's.

The ship took 13 days to arrive in Antwerp, Belgium where I disembarked and took a train to Brussels with my new friend Harry. Harry wanted to visit a Jewish friend in Brussels who owned a paint factory. We were invited to dinner by his friend. After he and Harry had reminisced for several hours about pre-war days Harry and I left for the train station to catch a train to Frankfurt, Germany. Unfortunately we missed the train by a few minutes. Those trains ran on schedule. Since it was early in the evening we took a taxi to a good hotel, checked in and then went out to see the sights of Brussels.

Meeting with Lee in Stuttgart, Germany
Next day we caught the train to Frankfurt, Germany where Harry and I parted company. Harry went to Wetzlar, Germany to stay with the Leitz family who manufactured the world famous Leica camera. I went on to Stuttgart, Germany to see my brother. I arrived in Stuttgart, Germany about 6:00 P.M. I telephoned my brother at his house and he said "where are you" and I told him I was sitting in the Stuttgart railroad station. He said "I'll be right down to pick you up." He came in minutes and we hugged each other and drove to his home in Kornwestheim, a residential area in the suburbs of Stuttgart.

We had dinner and then Lee showed me my room which was on the top floor where the maids lived. I had my own room with wash basin and toilet and private entrance. For my meals I went downstairs to Lee's home. Elise, Lee's wife had her mother living with them and cooking the meals She was a wonderful soft spoken loving woman who you could feel good around. We had an excellent dinner and a long visit until late at night.

The next day Lee went to work at Robinsons Barracks. He had a staff car take him to work and told me to use his car to come and visit him at his office, which I did. He showed me his work responsibilities and took me on tour of the facility. This was the headquarters for the American Army of Occupation in this sector of Germany. On the weekends Lee and Elise took me on trips in Germany - Munich, Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, all places in the American Sector.

Traveling to Austria Through the Russian Sector
Not long after I arrived, Lee's mother-in-law wanted to go to her home in Vienna, Austria and Lee asked me to drive her there. Which I was more than happy to do. Lee oriented me on the rules governing American traveling through the Russian Sector of Austria. He told me just outside of Linz at the Ems River Bridge the American Sector ended and the Russian Sector began. It was about 115 miles through this sector before you arrived in Vienna. The speed limit was thirty five miles per hour. You couldn't stop to take pictures or sight see in the villages. If you were caught taking pictures especially of Russian Military facilities you could be arrested, put in jail and never heard of again.

Lee said many people traveling that road disappeared and were never heard of again. When you arrive in Vienna the city is divided into four sectors, American, Russian, English, French. Fortunately the American was the first you entered after leaving the Russian zone. Another positive was that when Frau Gangl and I started off we traveled on the autobahn from Stuttgart to Munich in fairly good time because there was no speed limit, and very few cars on the road. The only impediment we encountered was no bridges over wide ravines and canyons, some as wide as a half mile. They had been bombed during the war and never replaced as yet. When you encountered these conditions you drove down into the ravine on a narrow dirt road and up the other side. If it was raining you ran the risk of getting mired in the mud. Fortunately, we made the trip from Stuttgart to Linz, Austria in one day without any difficulties. Fran Gangl had a relative in Linz and stayed overnight with her. I went to a pleasant hotel, ate a delicious dinner and then did a little sightseeing before going to bed.

The next day around noon we started through the Russian Sector, driving in the late afternoon after a very slow and arduous trip. The roads were in terrible shape, most of them were dirt and muddy from the rain and in many places deep ruts that caused your car to scrape its bottom on the road. Many times I thought I would be unable to go any further, but I persevered until I arrived at the end of the Russian Sector. They checked my papers and the length of time I took to make the trip. They knew from their post in Enns when I left and if I took more than the allotted time of about four hours, they could hold me for an investigation. Fortunately, I made it in the allotted amount of time. Fran Gayle insisted on me staying at her home the first night.

Visiting Vienna, Austria
The next day I checked into an officer's hotel in the center of Vienna and began an extensive tour of the city. Vienna is a wonderful city with so many things to see and do. I could have stayed there forever. Even then life was gay, restaurants were crowded with friendly happy people. My green dollars brought the top price for Austrian shillings. With five dollars you could go to a nightclub, have dinner with wine for two, be entertained by excellent artists and dance to a wonderful four or five piece orchestra.

While I was in Vienna my car's battery became too weak to turn over the motor and if I parked, I never knew whether I could get the car started. One night I was parked on a beautiful boulevard watching people go by and eating and having fun in the sidewalks and restaurants when I decided to leave and then the battery wouldn't turn over the motor. I started pushing the car, hoping to go fast enough to jump in and put it in gear and it would start. While I was doing this, three girls about my age ran up and started pushing the car while I got in and started it. I was so impressed with their kindness that I offered to take them into a nightclub and feed them. They were most grateful.

Several days later I decided to travel south from Vienna through the Russian Sector to the British Sector south of Vienna about 100 miles. I filled my gas tank and had a new battery installed and was ready to go south temporarily forgetting what Lee had told me about going back to Salzberg the same way I had traveled to get to Vienna. I started asking one of the gas station attendants if he could give me directions through the city to the Russian Sector going south to Italy. He had just finished his shift at the station and got in my car and directed me to the southern outskirts of Vienna, then he said, "this is where I catch my trolley back to the city." I insisted paying his fare back but he only reluctantly took the money after much insistence by me. This was another of many kindness' I was shown by Germans and Austrians. I was touched.

Traveling south through the Russian Sector I occasionally had to stop and ask an Austrian directions to the next city. They invariably looked at my car license and said "this is the Russian Zone "nix gut for Amerikanski.

An autobiography of Max G. Leonard hand written in 2003 by him and typed by Michael Leonard. Part 2 from graduating from Carbon Jr. College in Price to going to Europe in 1950.

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