My new Family in a new Country.

It was pouring with rain on the Hollywood Freeway, and Lajos and I were huddling together on the back seat of the cab. A sudden coughing fit had hit me and I had to shed my green sheepskin coat, so hot had I become. I was wearing my pearl gray dress given to me by the Red Cross with my red Oxford shoes. I thought it was so ironic that I was in the color of red, gray and green, almost similar to the tri-color in the Hungarian flag. After our arrival at the rail station an agent came looking for us with my Godmother, Mady's address in her hand. It was a pretty embarrassing situation for us, because neither Lajos nor I could speak a word in English. Up to this time we were mostly among fellow Hungarians, and the little German we knew was perfectly enough to get by with the Austrians. Even so, the agent rushed us outside and into the waiting Yellow Cab. It was still dark, but the lights were reflecting on the wet pavement. As tired as I was I felt very excited seeing Mady again, whom I have not seen in the last eight years.

Because the windows of the cab were all fogged up, we could not see too much of Beverly Hills after we drove off the freeway. It took us about fifteen more minutes to reach Mady's house. She must have heard our arrival, because the front door was open and she was standing there with her arms extended. She looked older and somewhat smaller than I remembered, but her warm personality was still shining thru her eyes. I knew then, instantly, that she would do her best to help us. After our hot baths and breakfasts Mady wanted to hear all about our escape and of our plans for settling down on American soil. She had collected some clothing and a few dishes from her friends to start up our household. It was a great help to us, because we were in need of everything.

Lajos and Jutka

Lajos and me in Mady's garden. Los Angeles, California, February 1957.

Mady and Cica

Mady and me at the front of her home in Los Angeles, California, February 1957.

She had arranged us to stay in a close-by motel on Santa Monica Boulevard, at least for a few days, until we knew where we would have to move to, to be near to our future jobs. The Manager of this motel was partly Hungarian, and she fairly well spoke our language. I was told that I would have to do a few hours of house keeping work every day to help Mady in paying our bill. It was an experience for me and I was trying to do my best. Unfortunately, one morning I knocked down a floor lamp with the cord of the vacuum cleaner, and it broke to pieces. I got fired for the first time of my life and we had to move out in the next three days. In the meantime Mady and her friend, Sasha had found a machinist job for Lajos and a possible job for me also at the same company. Two days later we moved into a duplex portion of a private home located in Highland Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. Our apartment consisted a small kitchen, a bathroom with a tub, and two rooms, one of them with a Murphy bed in the wall. The monthly rent was 45 dollars.

The Emigrants first home in Highland Park, California of 1957

The Emigrants first home in Highland Park, California of 1957

While Lajos was an excellent tool-and-die maker in Budapest, he could not perform in his new job. He could read the blue prints well, but he had been trained to use the metric system, the system widely used in the countries of Europe, but not in the United States. To help us further, the owner of the small company then offered him a job as a janitor with training opportunity to learn the new system, and of course the language. I was interviewed also, and got hired as a laborer in the galvanic section of their factory. We had to work in the swing shift, 4 PM to midnight. I remember walking home in the dark thru the railroad tracks to our duplex. We had to carry our Green Cards with us, because a few times we got stopped by the police. By then it was evident that we were able to make it by bringing the two paychecks home. Once a week we took the bus to downtown for the Farmers Market and spent 10-12 dollars for the weekly food supply.

At the end of the Spring I was sent to take unpaid leave from the company, because I was carrying my first child, and the poisonous gasses were harmful for my baby. We were very happy with the news and I wrote to my Mother informing her that by November she will be a Grandmother. I felt utterly alone being so far away from my Family and Mady was not able to drive out so far to see us. A few times we had taken the city bus to pay her a short visit, but for some reason or the other, it was hard to arrange a convenient date for her. We had been friendly with a Hungarian and an American couple, but it was just not the same. Little Louis was born on November 26th, two days before Thanksgiving, at the Alhambra Community Hospital, while his Dad was still at work. With baby Louis in my arms I felt the happiest person on the Earth.

Lajos and I had celebrated our first Christmas together that year, and I put baby Louis under the Christmas tree.

Louis in bath

Baby Louis was soon outgrowing his bathtub, Highland Park, CA, Spring 1958.

Letters from home had been arriving regularly, and my Mother was full of joy at being a first time Grandmother. Rezso wrote also with the happy news that he was getting married to a lovely girl by the Spring. After the wedding they will move into my old room at Rezso's Godparents home in Budapest.

 Rezso's Wedding

My brother's wedding to Edit Schwaiger in The Catholic Church at Klotildliget (Piliscsaba) Hungary in 1958

My Mother still resided in Klotildliget, but had to give up her shared house, because Gabriella neni had passed away. She moved into a little room at one of our dearest friends home, whose children we had played together with, and their home was like a second home to Rezso and me.

Our dear Friends at Klotildliget in the end of the 1950s

Our dear Friends at Klotildliget in the end of the 1950's. More about this family's history can be found here

While I was staying at home with my baby, Lajos made progress in his training. His job from full-time janitorial had been changed to part time and the foreman put him on the lathe. On some Saturdays he went to the Hungarian Clubhouse at the other end of the City, and met with some people he really liked. One of the couples told him about their spacious home in South Pasadena, and offered the front part of the house for rent. We liked the location and the furnished apartment, and moved in when little Louis was only five months old. We celebrated our son's first birthday in this lovely home.

Little Louis with his Birthday cake in our home at South Pasadena, California, November 26, 1958.

Little Louis with his Birthday cake in our home at South Pasadena, California, November 26, 1958.

Soon Lajos bought a second-hand, blue colored Ford to make the commuting easier for him. Our landlord was teaching him to drive, and pretty soon he was driving himself to work. On some weekends he drove us around town for relaxation. I remember one time Lajos took us down to the Santa Monica Beach to enjoy the ocean, and we all got sunburned. By then I was with a child again, and was looking forward to having a little sister, or brother for Louis. Marika and Laci came down from the Bay Area with their baby boy, Leslie, to pay us a short visit. We have never lost contact, and it was just wonderful to see them again.

With the second baby coming, we were in need of a larger home. One day Lajos came home from work and was telling me about the affordable houses in the close-by city of El Monte. His foreman and family had a home out there, and the distance to work was not too much farther than from our current location. Two weeks later my husband bought a house there with two bedrooms and one bath, located on a cul-de-sac. I had never seen the property until we moved in, a few weeks before my baby was due. Lajos also bought some furniture, and it was delivered on our arrival at the new home. I felt terribly left out, but there was not much I could do about it. When our daughter, baby Judy was born on April 17th, at the Glendale Seven Day Adventist Sanatorium, I was completely happy and fulfilled again. She was such a tiny baby at birth that somehow the name of "Judy" was not fitting for her, and we were calling her Baby, until she had started Kindergarten. We were still fairly poor, but had two beautiful and healthy children, a nice warm home and were making ends meet. Lajos was working full time now as a tool and die maker and was satisfied with his job. Caring for the two babies was a handful for me, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Sometimes I missed my Mother, but never got really homesick. In one of her letter she wrote of the good news that Edit and Rezso are also the happy parents of a baby girl, my Goddaughter, Editke.

I got acquainted with my neighbors and was slowly learning the language. I bought some books also and was trying to read them in my free time. We had also bought a TV. However, we still spoke Hungarian at home, and this was the language the children started to speak.To help our financial situation I was permitted to do some hand embroidery work at home for a shop. My earnings were not much, but every little bit helped. We also met some young Hungarian couples with small children from our area, and we spent some time together at each other's homes. One of the men took Lajos to the horse races and pretty soon this became a routine for him. It was quite upsetting for me, but we never have exchanged harsh words over it. When Louis was four and little Judy two and a half years old, I knew I was going to have a baby again. I felt myself blessed with good fortune, because I always wanted to have a large family. But I was really worried about this new habit of my husband, who went to the races more frequently now. I never knew if he was winning or losing, because he was the one who was handling our money. He got paid by the week and after he gave me the money for the kitchen, he kept the rest of it. I was trying to talk this out with him, but he would not have it. He told me that he is not going out there to have fun, but to earn some money. Then he told me that he came to America to get rich. When baby George was born in the Monterey Park Community Hospital on May 1st, 1962, I was very happy again with the new baby, but worried a great deal for our future.

Lajos and George

Baby George with his Dad, Lajos. El Monte, California May 1962

Happy children

Louis and little Judy were very happy when I brought baby George home. El Monte, California, May 1962. They enjoyed their meals at their dinner table too.

The months went bye fast and things had not got any better. In my despair I wrote to Lajos' mother in Budapest, who we all called Mama, and asked for her help. I invited her to come out and visit, with us paying for her tickets. I knew that Lajos loved and respected his mother and was hoping he would listen to her. When Mama's answer came to inform us that she would come and stay for a six months period, as was permitted then by the Hungarian Government, strangely enough Lajos got very upset. I had great anticipation for her visit and prepared the children for meeting their Grandmother.

The year was 1963, and Louis had started Kindergarten. In a few weeks we knew that something was wrong, because his teacher called us in for a conference. She was concerned about our little son, who was not very responsive during class. Of course, she did not know that Louis was speaking Hungarian only. After that incident I changed my ways at home, and forced myself to talk to the kids in my broken English. I also encouraged them to play with the children in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, when Mama arrived from Budapest, our talk reverted to Hungarian again. To entertain my mother-in-law we were getting together again with our Hungarian friends.

I think she had a good time staying with us, and during her visit Lajos avoided the racing tracks. Before Mama left she told me that there was nothing wrong with Lajos, but if I am not happy here, the best thing for us is going back to Hungary. When her time came to leave us, Lajos took Mama to the airport with all of us coming along to see her off. After her airplane disappeared in the clouds, he drove us back home and then left to the tracks with the small amount of the household money from my purse.

Mama and the family

Mama with my Family during her visit to El Monte, 1963. Louis and little Judy had ideas other than taking pictures; and Judy, George and Louis at the front of our home in El Monte, 1964.

Home in El Monte

This is a picture taken by Louis two years ago of our first house in El Monte, California, which we had bought in 1959, two weeks before little Judy was born.

Judy outside her old school

Daughter Judy visiting her and Louis' old school in El Monte, California.

Nothing really changed after Mama's visit. I knew less and less about my husband's activities, and stopped asking him questions. Taking care of the three children and the household kept me pretty occupied. I was still working on my embroidery and took up some ironing jobs for my next-door neighbor. In September of 1964, little Judy was enrolled in the Kindergarten. Luckily, she had no problem with speaking English, even baby George had shown the tendency to become bi-lingual. It was a joy to watch him running after the children on his little chubby legs, screaming: "Wait for me, wait for me!" in perfect English. They played well together, and I do not remember any serious fights among them. Louis was very protective, especially of his sister. Even when they got sick they followed each other, like a whole summer was spent with the chicken pox and measles, all three of them.

On one Saturday Lajos came home from the races and informed me, that he really hit "something big", and he will get a new car for himself. Next day he took the old Ford to a dealership and exchanged it for a brand new Ford Galaxy, also in blue color. In the past I had asked him several times to teach me to drive, but with the new car I realized that I had lost all my chances. The children were growing fast and needed new clothes, but there was no money for it.Every week Lajos still gave me the money for the kitchen, but now I had to hide it instead of putting it in my purse.And the day came when he was furiously searching thru the whole house, completely disregarding the family need for food. The next day I had to borrow some money for groceries from an elderly couple who were friends of ours over the past few years. I did not tell them what was going on, or what the money was for, like I have not told to Mady or my Mother of our horrible troubles. I was making one more attempt to sit down and talk to my husband, almost like begging him to change his ways, but it was completely futile. I suggested family counseling explaining to Lajos it is not just that he has to stop betting on the horses, but I am in the need of training to help him to keep his decision. My suggestion made him terribly angry in a way I never saw him before, and I was devastated. I knew then that I had lost my battle, and I was alone and helpless with my three young children. And then, I made my biggest and most hurtful decision of my life: I need to take my children out from this marriage.

  1. Home Page
  2. My Parents and our Family
  3. The Lean Years after World War II
  4. The Turning Point and Escape
  5. My new Family in a new Country
  6. Our New Life
  7. Visits and Achievements
  8. My Second Marriage
  9. Travels and Changes
  10. The Golden Years
  11. Reflections

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