Spitzer finds cement work
In this third column, I am speaking to the governor of Burgenland, Austria, officials and media about the Burgenlanders who emigrated to Northampton, Coplay and the Lehigh Valley. In my last column, we spoke about Mr. Paul Eberhart’s American experience. His former neighbor on 10th Street, Northampton, Mr. Frank Spitzer, had a similar experience.
Frank was born in Austria July 13,1904, on a 50-acre Burgenland farm.
He recalled, “My brothers were in World War I. Austria-Hungary, in those years, was a member of the Triple Alliance with Germany.”
His brother was inducted into the Austrian Army. He died in World War I in Italy. Frank, at age 12 or 13, plowed fields on the family farm with horses.
Frank said, “I came to America in search of work; there was no work back home. I came through Ellis Island in New York and was put on a train for Northampton.
“The conductor was given my ticket to leave me off at Northampton. A friend sent me to a boardinghouse in Newport. I paid $30 a month, and you paid extra if you ate too much. I couldn’t speak English, but many spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, so I was able to speak to them.
“At the employment shack on 12th Street, agents hired you. They preferred immigrants because they were hard workers. I worked on the farms; the foreman was Clarence Shaeffer.
“Some of the fields were down on Willow Brook Road. We walked to all the fields. One day, we took our time, and Mr. Shaeffer asked, ‘Where were you, men?’ We replied, ‘We walked a little slow, so the hay would dry.’ With a grin on his face, he said, ‘Walk faster next time.’
“One day, when we were harvesting wheat, he brought a small keg of beer under the straw on the wagon for us. It tasted good — it was Tru-Blu Beer from Northampton.”
The Dragon Cement plant in Northampton needed employees — every plant did. It was the “Golden Twenties.” Mr. Spitzer walked up to the Dragon and worked seven months. In his heart, he was an Atlas man. He returned to the Atlas and was hired on the spot.
The plant manager was Henry Raisbeck, who was born in England. He was a master of steam engines and resided next to Coplay-Northampton Bridge on Main Street in Northampton. Frank was sent there to work on his garden. He treated all men with respect.
Frank admired “Butch” Boucher, who came to the Atlas in 1926 and became plant manager. Frank, as his neighbor Paul Eberhardt, was able to work at the old Atlas plant Nos. 2, 3 and 4 and end their careers at the last Atlas plant when it was purchased by U.S. Steel and renamed Universal Atlas.
He recalled the day he worked at the old plant in the grinding mill. A barrel with wood and coke provided heat. Mr. Boucher walked in the plant and saw the men had no wood. He sent a truck with wood, so they would have some warmth. He probably was the most beloved manager the plant ever had! Old-timers always referred to him as Mr. Boucher even in their retirement years — a sign of great respect.
I was fortunate to work as Mr. Spitzer’s helper in the rock mill as a college student. He treated me kindly and encouraged me to pursue a good education. He was, as most cement workers in those days, skilled, dedicated and always on the job.
26-1/2 cents an hour in two weeks. Do you want the job?