Verna Alve Starr Arriving at Ellis Island

As told by Verna Alve Starr in 1978. Recorded and transcribed by Jean Alve. Spencer Historical Society files.

Mother, Woitto and I came to America in 1908. I remember we were on an ocean ship and I saw people get sick. I remember how I got sick and couldn't stand up. Woitto can't remember how he was feeling. Then we landed on Ellis Island and I remember a long ramp we had to walk down. We were isolated on Ellis Island for two weeks. First they took all my clothes off, put a white gown on me and cold water came on top of me. Later I learned it was a shower. We were in one room with a round stove that burned wood. They brought wood and food. Mother had a copper coffee pot, where she put the coffee so it would stay warm on top of that stove. The bed had a spring and Woitto and I jumped all day on that bed, trying to see who could jump the highest. We had fun!

Then I remember we were on a train going to Sault St. Marie, Michigan. The train went over a long stretch of water. I cried because I was sp afraid that we were going to fall onto the water. We got off the train and father didn't meet us. He sent another man - Seppala. Seppala retired to Lantana, Florida. Father and Mother visited them in Lantana. Vic and I, when we were tourists, visited them too.

In Michigan I started school. Years later when I went with father and mother to Sault St. Marie, we went to look at that school where I started. I took a picture of that school. Seppala boy was little older than me. I remember the school was on a hillside with a flowerbed. As we came home from school, Seppala boy pushed me into the flowerbed. He had gone home and told father that I rolled in the flowerbed. Father waited with a whip for me and I almost got a whipping. Mother told father, "listen to the story, first." That same boy is a Councilman in Lantana now.

Once in Michigan father came home and I saw his walking from side to side. There was a family that lived upstairs. Father came home and told Mother he had gotten sunstroke. Mother put cold packs on his head. The lady upstairs said that he is drunk. "I saw him walking; the sidewalk wasn't wide enough". Mother took the cold packs off and got mad. It's the only time father ever was drunk. I was six years old then. Then father saw an ad in the paper, FARMS FOR SALE He wrote to the agent and father went to N. Y. State first. We were left in Michigan while father bought the farm on Seely Hill. Then we came on a train. We had Bill as a baby then.

"Do you remember Lila and Harry Ahlquist?" Lila's father, Lehtonen, was the agent. the wagon floor in front. It was awful to be on our knees. We got so tired and we had no room to move. We were afraid of that man because he then gave us dirty looks when Lehtonen came with a lumber wagon and two horses. The wagon had only one seat where Lehtonen and Mother sat holding Bill, a baby. Woitto and I were on our knees on we wiggled and I guess we fought a little too. I remember when we got out of that wagon - how glad we were. It was our Seely Hill Farm. When we arrived there, one big iron bed, a table and two chairs and a stove; that's all the furniture there was. Father made benches where we could sit, and an old lamp and water pump outside. It was home.