The seagoing cowboy story continues to captivate today’s students

I’m sneaking in an extra post this month. During this crazy time of pandemic, it’s always nice to hear positive stories. This story is about a school history project undertaken by 13-year-old Alicia Zimmerman. Her great-grandfather, John E. Hollinger, was a seagoing cowboy.

John Hollinger’s record card from the seagoing cowboy card file. Courtesy of Heifer International.

Alicia is a home schooler in the Harmony Homeschool group at Pleasant Valley Mennonite School in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. For her project, Alicia decided to tell her great-grandfather’s story. She reached out to me for photos for her display board, which I was happy to share with her. John sailed to Poland with a load of 200 horses and 458 cattle on the S. S. Mexican in November 1945.

John Hollinger’s ship, the S. S. Mexican, in harbor at Baltimore, MD. Photo courtesy of Clarence Reeser.

John Hollinger’s crew on the S. S. Mexican, November 1945. Photo courtesy of Clarence Reeser.

Alicia’s results were on display March 13, 2020.

Alicia’s history project. Photo courtesy of Alicia Zimmerman.

Alicia’s mother, Lynette Zimmerman, recalls hearing her grandfather tell stories about the grand welcome his seagoing cowboy crew received in Poland. That welcome ceremony is told in my post of March 11, 2016. John’s story adds a new element to it.

“He was engaged when he went,” Lynette says, “and one of the Polish families was serving him. They found out about his engagement and after they were done eating washed all the glassware they were using, packed the whole set up, plus the tablecloth, and sent it along home with him for their wedding gift, because they were so grateful for the livestock these men were bringing over to them. My mother has the last salad bowl with tongs in her cupboard [see photo on Alicia’s display board].”

“He also recounted the devastation of what he saw and I know it impacted him for life,” Lynette says. “War destroys a lot and hurts many.” One of the realities Alicia captured in her display.

Well done, Alicia! Thanks for sharing your project with us and for helping to share the seagoing cowboy story – a story of delivering hope to a war-torn world.

In this Lenten season, may we look for the positive and grasp on to hope in this pandemic-stricken world.

6 thoughts on “The seagoing cowboy story continues to captivate today’s students

  1. Thank you, Peggy, for your wonderful accounts of the Seagoing Cowboys. My father, Dr Dallas Leon Oswalt, sailed on the SS Mexican from Baltimore to Italy during the summer of 1945 having just graduated from high school.

    After one month on the high seas, the SS Mexican docked at Trieste in northeast Italy. The cowboys were met with appalling scenes of devastation and ruin that left an indelible mark on Dad. This experience shaped the foundation of his lifelong endeavour for international peace and justice.

    On return to Baltimore one month later, the cowboys were given one copper penny each for their two-month volunteer service. Dad saved his zippered identification booklet along with the penny to show to us many years later as he recounted his adventure.

    This trip was the first of many that took Dad to more than 100 countries over the course of his life as an agronomist serving the United Nations.

    Dad passed away peacefully a few days ago on 2020.08.14 at the age of 92.


    • Hello, Kris. Thanks for your wonderful comments and sharing your Dad’s story.
      Please accept my condolences on your father’s passing. Dallas is one of the cowboys I had interviewed many years ago. It always makes me sad to lose another cowboy, as they become like family to me. I’ll add his name to my next 5th Friday “In Memorium” post.
      Your note about the effect his trip had on his life is especially appreciated. That is one of the legacies of the seagoing cowboys, as it had a similar effect on so many of the younger ones who made these trips after World War II.
      My prayers are with you and your family in this time of bereavement.
      Blessings, Peggy


  2. I love to follow the stories of the Sea-Going Cowboys. My father was one of them. I am trying to pass on the story to my grandchildren and it is fascinating. I am so glad to have found this site to fill in the blanks for us. Thank you Peggy for your great work!


  3. Thank you, Peggy! Each of the heart-warming accounts you have brought to us has absolutely helped to sustain us, all along the way, and especially with the unfolding of these days of difficulty and unrest. We shall continue sharing these stories of kindness, generosity and love with friends, relatives, neighbors and those newly met. Thank you! G. Luanne Steiner


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