July 24, 1917, St. Stephen, Johnstown, Cambria Co, PA.
The picture below shows
the Andrew Nagy family.
THE LIFE AND TIMES
OF ANDREW NAGY
reliving these events in his life in conversations we
had while he lived with Ann, and I would visit him
during the times she had to be away from home."
Written by: Eleanor
(Nagy) Stetz -- daughter #4
Typed by: Frances
(Nagy) Kosuth - daughter #5
My father, Andrew John
Nagy, was born on May 28, 1894 in the village of Zdana
in the country of Austria-Hungary, now known as
Slovakia. The family consisted of his parents,
Andy and Anna (Gergel) Nagy, an older brother, John, a
younger brother, Frank and youngest sister, Elizabeth.
From the time Dad was
six years old until he was twelve, he attended a
Hungarian school. Young Andy spent his youth
caring for geese, taking cows to pasture, and looking
after chickens and pigs.
Dad remembered much
about his maternal grandfather. He had total of
four wives. One of Dad's favorite stories about
his grandfather is that he had only one tooth left in
his mouth for many years. One day as he was
chewing meat off a bone, the tooth fell out.
Dad's grampa held the tooth in his fingers and said
"Buddy, you're not going to leave me!"
He pushed it back into the same hole it came from and
kept it until he died. Dad affectionately
remembered him as a big man, tall, with lots of curly
Dad also remembered
that his grandfather, at the age of 65, was planning
to marry for the fourth time. Dad helped him
bring large porous stone from the mine in order to
build a new house for his new wife. This is what
all the houses were made of and they lasted many
years, maybe even until now. The roofs were made
of straw. Between the ceiling and the roof were
about two feet of clay so that if the roof burned the
house and its contents did not. The walls of
these houses were 18 inches thick. They had
double windows. Dad said it stayed cool inside
even in very hot weather. The wood burning stove
for cooking was the only source of heat in the
winter. Although the kitchen was a separate
room, one large room made up the rest of the living
area. The "bathroom facility" was the
manure pile out back. Straw served as the only
toilet tissue. Plumbing was a creek about 50
feet from the house. Laundry was done there,
both summer and winter. Large tubs were used for
indoor bathing. Well water was used for
drinking. Oil lamps and candles provided light.
Dad's village had a
population of approximately 200 people. Young
Andy's father served 3 years in Francis Joseph's
army. Soon after his army duty was completed he
came to the USA and worked for the Pennsylvania
Railroad in Johnstown, PA, to earn money for his
family in Europe. He would work for three years,
then return to Europe for one year, come back to
Pennsylvania for three years, etc., until he finally
remained in Europe and he and his wife worked their
farm until their deaths. They each died at 85
years of age.
In 1905, the oldest
brother, John, journeyed to America to join his father
in working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Later
John took a job at Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown, PA
and settled there. Naturally, young Andy was
most anxious to come to America also. He tried
to secure a pass from the notary in the village but
was told that he was too young and must wait until he
was 16 years of age. When he reached 16, he was
told that he was too old to qualify for a pass.
There was a man in
Dad's village, Andy Veres, who was in the military
service. He was a young man, about 22 years of
age, and he was Mrs. Kopco's brother's son. When
he came home on furlough, he approached Dad's father
to ask if he would permit Andy to go along with him to
America. He was planning to run away from the
military service and escape to America. So plans
were made for both of them to leave. Young
Andy's mother sewed a sausage into a heavy coat
lining, along with $40. Dad was 16 years old and
it was October, 1910.
They left by train from
their village to Kosice. From there they walked
to Saris. Along the way, they were offered a
ride by a man driving a horse and buggy. This
man was on his way to pick up a priest in the same
town that was their destination.
Upon arrival, they went
in to an inn where they were to receive instructions
on where to meet a guide. They were told to meet
him under a certain bridge at 8:00 in the
evening. After waiting many hours for the guide
who never came, they went back to the inn. They
were given lodging in the inn in a hayloft over night,
and were told not to appear until the innkeeper called
them. The next night the guide did arrive along
with a team of horses and a wagon. So they
journeyed with him, taking out of the way paths to
Poland, where at last they felt safe. There,
they were turned over to another guide who took them
in another horse and wagon, all the way to Hamburg,
Germany, traveling mostly at night. In Hamburg,
their guide took the two travelers to a steamship
agent, who arranged the trip to America.
However, it would be a
full week before their ship would leave. While
in Germany, they were free to come and go during the
daytime, until finally departure day arrived.
Dad said he never forgot the name of the ship,
Once aboard ship, the
first day out was fine, after that, he became very
seasick. He gave what was left of the sausages
to a man on board who spoke Dad's language and who
wasn't seasick. After about three days, he began
to feel better and the man who got his sausage brought
him food from the ship. The trip took seven days
with good weather.
Upon landing at Ellis
Island, New York, each passenger had to go to separate
stalls, depending on what state was his
destination. Dad's companion was destined for
Maine, Dad was heading for Pennsylvania, so they were
separated and never saw each other again.
At the time Dad arrived
in this country he could speak several Slavic
languages: Slovak, Polish, Croatian, as well as
Hungarian, as he had attended Hungarian schools.
His family name was originally Velky, but the
Hungarians changed it to Nagy. Both names mean
big or large.
From Ellis Island, the
passengers were taken by Ferry to New York City and
the railroad station, probably this was Grand Central
Station. Dad remembers getting on a train at
8:00 in the evening. The conductor kept an eye
on him and did not let him leave the train until it
arrived at the Johnstown, PA station. This was
about 10:00 in the morning.
When he left the train,
he looked around and didn't know what to do.
Then a man with a horse-drawn coach appeared and he
asked Dad where he was going. This man was
Jewish but spoke many languages and discovered that
Dad understood Slovak. So Dad showed him the
address of this brother's house, and he took Dad along
with six other men to their destinations. He
left the other men in Cambria City but told Dad to
stay with him. They drove on to Brownstown and
Virginia Ave., where a lady who had been drawing water
from an outdoor faucet saw the driver and his
passenger. She became very excited and clapped
her hands and shouted in Slovak, "Lizzie, Lizzie,
here's your husband's brother!" The was
Uncle John's landlady. So Aunt Elizabeth came
and welcomed him. She told Dad that his brother,
John, would be coming home for lunch soon. So
Dad watched all the men coming up the hill from work,
and he was able to pick out his brother from the other
men. So the two brothers who hadn't seen each
other for over five years had a most joyful
reunion. Dad told this story numerous time,
always with tears in his eyes.
At first it was
difficult to find a job because Dad was too
young. He said he was a year older, 17 instead
of 16, and he was hired at Bethlehem Steel in
Johnstown, to load railroad rails on a gondola care,
two men to each rail. Dad said he lasted half a
day in this job and he went home and told his
sister-in-law that he was going back to Europe.
Instead, he got a job in the machine shop at Bethlehem
Steel Corp., by changing his name. Now he was a
stock man. Because he learned English easily,
could speak other languages, and could read numbers
well, his foreman took a liking to him and put him in
charge of six other men who were bringing stock into
the shop. Ed Flanagan was his Irish foreman,
"a good man, went to 5:00 AM mass every
morning." This is where Dad learned to
operate a crane. He worked 14 hours a night for
1 week, then 10 hours, 7 days a week at 12.5 cents and
hour, starting salary.
In 1919, during a four
months' long steel strike in Johnstown, Andy came to
Ohio to seek employment. He first went to
Cleveland because he had relatives there, but the
steel mills there were also all on strike and a friend
advised him to go to Akron to the rubber shops.
On the streetcar from Public Square in Cleveland, Andy
traveled with a man from Barberton who told him there
were many jobs there for him. He got off the
streetcar at 17th St. and Wooster Rd. Mom's
brother, Frank Kostka, was working as a bricklayer at
Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. at the the time. Dad
said he went to three different factories and could
have had a job at any one of them. He chose the
Babcock & Wilcox Co. and worked one hour as a
crane operator. It seems that a worker was
killed that very day in another work area because of
unsafe working conditions resulting in a too heavy
crane load falling on him. Dad thought his crane
was also unsafe and complained to his foreman, but was
told to do his job as ordered. Dad left the
job. From there, he went to Pittsburgh Plate
Glass and was hired into the electric shop. The
foreman promised him a job as a crane operator on a
bridge crane which was to be built the following
year. There he remained for 43 years, retiring
in 1963. I remember he walked to work and back
every one of those years.
Mother was born in
Spisske, Hanuscovce, in Austria-Hungary on August 22,
1898. Her parents were Adelbert and Caroline
Young Mary came to the
US in 1912, to Orange, New Jersey, where her older
sister, Anna was already living. There she took
housekeeping jobs at the tender age of 14. It
always saddened me when she would tell the story of
her home-sickness for her family in Europe. When
she had been in this country a very short time, she
was in the basement washing clothes at her place of
employment, when all of a sudden she felt she could
stand it not a minute longer. She dried her
hands, came running up the stairs, and sought out her
employer. In tears, she explained to the woman
that she couldn't stay in America any longer, she was
returning home immediately. Knowing this would
pass, the woman said "Okay, Mary, we can't do
anything about it today but we will make arrangements
on the weekend." Contented, Mom finished
her work and in a few days the terrible longing for
home lessened and she realized she was better off
where she was.
When young Mary visited
her older brother, Frank, who was then living in
Johnstown, PA., he persuaded her to stay there in
Johnstown. After about a month had passed, Frank
took mother, then Mary Kostka, to a dance in Cambria
City, a part of Johnstown, at the band hall, and
introduced her to some of his friends. Andy
danced the first dance with her, asked her for a date,
and that's how it all began. Mary was 16 years
old. They went together for 3 years and then
were married in St. Stephen's Church in Johnstown on
July 24, 1917. They went to church in a horse
and buggy and had a reception that lasted three
days. Mom always told the story about her
brother, Frank, getting so drunk at the celebration
that he fell into a huge tube of sauerkraut!
Dad liked repeating the
pre-marriage advice given to them by the priest, Fr.
Martvon, "Don't let any old lady come between
you, because where the devil can't go, he sends an old
lady." And with that sage counseling, their
marriage lasted until Mom died in 1975.
Prior to the wedding,
young Mary did housework for several different
families, finally working for a doctor and his family
in Westmont on Tioga St. This was then the very
nicest residential area in Johnstown, situated on a
hill overlooking the city. Her salary was $4.00
per week plus room and board. Dad liked telling
the story about the Saturday evening he stayed too
late with Mom and consequently missed the last cable
car going down the incline into Johnstown from
Westmont. The last car left at 2:00 AM.
Therefore he had to go down the steps that were built
between the rails of the cable track, 500 of them,
then he walked another 20 minutes to where he was
boarding. He had to be at work at 6:00 AM Sunday
morning and he made it on time!
As newlyweds, Andy and
Mary rented a two-bedroom apartment on Maryland Ave.
in Johnstown. Ann was born there in 1919.
Dad came to Barberton later that year, then moved his
family to 151 Nineteenth St. Caroline, Mary,
Frances and I were all born in that house. In
1935, Dad bought a larger house at 873 W. Hopocan
Ave., where the twins were born the following
February. Andy Jr. was born there, also.
Dad and Mom moved to
the new home they had built at 1107 Columbus Ave. in
1954. Dad suffered a mild stroke in April of
1975 and Mom died on June 26, 1975 at the age of 76,
from complications of her many circulation
problems. Consequently, the family home was
sold, and Dad moved into Ann's house at 1156 Shannon
Ave. in 1976.
Of all Dad's lifetime
accomplishments, he seemed most pleased with the eight
years he served as councilman-at-large on Barberton's
old city council, from 1953 until 1961.
Dad realized, after his
stoke, that he must give up driving. This was a
difficult, sad time for him. But he learned to
accept his dependence on others and lived quite
contently until he became more feeble and died
on August 7, 1983, at the age of 89.
With the Grace of God
and their own resources, Andy and Mary Nagy led full,
productive lives here in their new country. We can
only wonder how different their lives, and ours, would
have been had they not taken those first courageous
steps toward a new future in a strange land.
provided by Rose Kuzma: He came to the US
November 14, 1910 on the "America" and had
$15. He was 5'5" tall at the age of
16. His partner was Andrew Weres who was 26 when
he left his wife in Europe and had been to America
before. He came under the name "Andras."
The map below shows
Andrew's birth location in Slovakia.