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Martinsville High School Alumni
Class of 1956 Message List
Anna Jirgens Casey - 3
04/24/17     Beverly Yeager  (1956)      lipford-yeager@comcast.net
Sunday, December 30, 2012
By ANNA JIRGENS CASEY -
We arrived from war devastated Germany as refugees on June 15, 1949, at the railway station in Martinsville with two suitcases and $20 given to us in New York by a welfare worker at the Pennsylvania Railway Station.
We were very poor that first Christmas Eve in 1949 in America. Papa had cut a tiny pine Christmas tree in the gully behind Princeton Street. Our first apartment in Martinsville was four upstairs rooms at 804 Princeton St. The rent was cheap, it was unheated, and it had no bathroom or kitchen. The back room which we used as a kitchen did have a toilet in one corner.
We had a tin tub for baths, and there was a donated kerosene cook stove that also served as source of heat. I would go to the local service station on Starling Avenue with my gallon jug for the kerosene at 25 cents. One of the front rooms had a fireplace for warmth.
The kind people of Martinsville all had pitched in and donated furniture pieces and clothing to us immigrants. The charity drive had been spearheaded by the Red Cross, First Baptist and First United Methodist churches, and especially by our neighbor next door, Mr. A.T. Finney, who was with the police department. We were written up on the front page of the Martinsville Bulletin.
We had managed to decorate our tiny tree with some donated lights, tinsel and shiny blue ball ornaments. But there were no presents under that tree. My sister Ilze and I, however, had memorized Christmas poems and carols in our Latvian language to recite and sing in front of the tree on Christmas Eve. Distinguished guests were expected.
None other than the manager of W.M. Bassett Furniture, where my Papa was employed on the assembly line, was coming to see us. Papa could not speak English. I was to be the interpreter. Henry Grogan and his wife Grace arrived! My sister Ilze and I recited our poems and sang carols in Latvian.
Our little pine tree twinkled merrily in the one room where there was heat from the fireplace. Yes, the Grogans brought many presents to put under that tree! Henry and Grace Grogan made our first Christmas Eve in America truly unforgettable. I have never forgotten either of them.
I graduated as the class salutatorian from Mavahi in 1956. My proudest achievement at Mavahi was the DAR U.S. History Award for my class. I was written up in the Stroller. I owe that award mostly to Mr. Mel Cartwright, who taught me history in summer school.
I left Martinsville after high school graduation for Washington, D.C., and George Washington University. I was the only woman graduate in their School of Pharmacy Class of 1960. My parents worked hard to put me through college, and I worked at Eagles Dime Store all my high school years and saved my money.
Papa bought a small house at 815 Princeton St., and he and my Mama planted a beautiful garden on the back hillside. It was a showplace in the springtime.
I have been married to John Casey, a fellow pharmacist, for 51 years. We have two sons and three granddaughters.
After 38 years as a pharmacist, I am enjoying being retired with John here in Portland, Ore., and on the Oregon coast in Manzanita. I always remember the kind-hearted people of Martinsville, my first hometown in America.
My parents never were able to return to their home in Riga, Latvia, and they both are buried at Roselawn. Latvia became free in 1991 only after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
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