May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

On the LCT in Inchon back to the ship.

On the ship.

In St. Agathe du Mont, Canada.

In early 1947 my military orders came through to return to the US for my military discharge. I said goodbye to all the many friends I had made, both in the military as well as among the Koreans.

I had always obtained my allotment of cigarettes from the army, but since I did not smoke, I always gave them to a Korean friend who worked in my office. Since they didn’t cost me very much, I never asked him for payment, but he brought me little presents from time to time, such as native fruits grown on his parents’ farm.

When I said goodbye to him he gave me a gold ring with a little diamond, but the gold was so pure, that just shaking someone’s hand while wearing the ring would make the circle into an egg-shape. Consequently, when I returned to New York, I gave it to Oma, who had a pin made out of it. My daughter Esther now has the pin.

The ship, on which I departed from Korea together with a few hundred other GIs, stopped in Yokohama to take on the balance of the GIs. Since it would take a half day, anyone who wanted to get off and do some sightseeing could do so. We were warned to be back after four hours, because the ship would wait for no one. I went ashore with a bunch of other GIs; we walked around, took pictures and admired the Japanese girls, who, to our western eyes, looked no different from the Korean girls.

We landed in Seattle after about 10 days of a storm-tossed voyage. Just as an aside, I want to mention that, similar to my ocean trip to Korea, this voyage, despite bad weather, caused me no sea sickness, like I had when I was a boy coming to the US in 1941.

We were then transported by rail again to Ft. Dix, NJ, another scenic trip through the American heartland, where it all had started about one and a half years earlier. This time in Fort Dix I did not have to clean any pots in the kitchen as had been the case the last time I had been there. I was discharged from the Army February 5, 1947, and went home. Home was where my parents, Oma and Opa, still lived in Washington Heights, New York.

I was determined to go back to college, but not to the engineering school, as before the Army. Having had my first experience working in an office setting in Korea, I got to like the idea. Furthermore, I thought I could be good at it.

The first thing I did was to apply for reinstatement to the College of the City of New York, for admission to the Bernard Baruch School of Business. In view of my prior record when I was in engineering school I was accepted on a probation basis. But I was given a number of additional credits for having served in the army, as well as for the some of the courses I had taken in the Army‘s school in Seoul. I also applied to the NYU School of Business, was also accepted, but for financial reasons decided on City College.

Before I started college, Opa and I went on a skiing vacation in Canada. There was a small kosher hotel in St. Agathe du Mont, which we reached by changing trains in Montreal. We had a lot of fun together although we seemed to spend more time sliding on our behinds than on our skis. I met a young lady there who lived in Montreal and we spent several pleasant hours together. She happened to take the same train home as we did. When I said goodbye to her on the train platform, I gave her a kiss (on the cheek) right in front of Opa, who was aghast, and was still shaking his head hours later. I guess it was then that he realized the degree to which the Army had changed his baby boy.

I started at Baruch College in June 1947 and graduated with a BBA degree in June 1949 with a B- average.

Because Opa was still struggling to establish his hides and skins business, it was necessary for us boys to earn money whenever possible, even while going to school.

Every summer, even while we were going to school, we had jobs. One summer I worked for a cleaning store making deliveries, carrying huge bundles of clothing, sometimes even carpets, on my back. There was no pay, but I depended on the tips. Unfortunately, not everyone tipped. Deliveries were mostly made by streetcar, which ran on Broadway. I was paid by the store to ride one way. The return had to come out of my tips, or I had to walk back. I remember one particular party on West 168th Street, who not only never tipped, but also gave me a load of dirty laundry to take back to the store.

Another year both Herman and I worked for a local movie theater whenever they needed to change the marquee. I guess it was a part-time job. Pay was great. It consisted of our being permitted to watch any playing movie we wanted even on days when we were not working there.

(To be continued next week)

By Norbert Strauss

 Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident and has volunteered at Englewood Hospital for over 30,000 hours. He was general traffic manager and group VP at Philipp Brothers Inc., retiring in 1985. Prior to Englewood Hospital he was also a volunteer at the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Hospital for over 30 years, serving as treasurer and director. He frequently speaks to groups to relay his family’s escape from Nazi Germany in 1941.


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