Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Last week, I awakened with a dream still in my head. It was a memory from one of my more confusing first days in America.

I arrived in America late September 1938. I was 18 years old. It was imperative I get a job because I had no money when I arrived and I needed to continue my studies.

I went to a Scandinavian employment agency on Madison Ave. in New York City and, within hours, I had a job. My salary was $70.00 per month plus room and board and I had the fabulous title of kitchen maid. The butler, who's name was Urban, was waiting for the lady-of-the-house to make up her mind and then he drove me to Princeton, New Jersey. It was a scary moment. Eveything was so different.

The help -- and there were lots of us -- there were parlor maids, a chamber maid, a butler, a chauffeur and several gardeners. The gardeners lived elsewhere. The chauffeur had a house of his own. The rest of us had a separate 2-story house where we slept and ate.

All of a sudden, Halloween was coming. People decorated and bought candy. I had no idea what they were celebrating. I had never heard of Halloween in Sweden. We lived on the outskirts of Princeton in the country where we didn't have any children knocking on the door. There were two children who lived in the main house as the children of the house. They had a German governess. They didn't go out trick-or-treating and they didn't get any candy.

We each had a bedroom in this separate house. Halloween evening we were off from work and gathered around our living room radio. Someone said let's turn on NBC. The broadcaster was Orson Wells. In a hysterical voice he was shouting about Martians who had landed on the New Jersey hillsides. He had a strong voice as he spoke very emotionally about how the Martians were looking for mischief. I had no idea what was happening. I think the chamber maid was from the area. She was terribly upset because her elderly parents lived in Trenton where the Martians were headed. She worried her parents could be picked up aliens.

The next morning we read about Orson Wells show in the newspaper (the big house had lots of newspapers delivered). When we learned he almost lost his job as a newscaster, we realized then what a historical event it had been.

When I woke up, I was amused by the memory. When I picked up the newspaper, I saw an article about Orson Wells and his Martian joke. I thought, wow! I was right there. Such a historical event in a different century and now very few people remember or have even heard about the historic Halloween night.


Barbara said...

What a memory! I would love to hear more about what it was like working in that house. If you feel like it, tell us more!

Anonymous said...

Yes! More, please. Loving this.

Unknown said...

Gertrud you weave history, memory and dreams like a web and draw us in. I had no idea the Wells radio master stroke happened on Halloween. My Dad loved the Mercury theater -it wove memories for me