“Hope” the Heifer: A Christmas Story

Hope the Heifer at the Villa Skaut orphanage in Konstancin, Poland, Christmas Eve, 1946. Attended left to right by Harvey Stump, Lee Cory, John Miller, and L. W. Shultz.

Hope the Heifer at the Villa Skaut orphanage in Konstancin, Poland, Christmas Day, 1946. Attended left to right by Harvey Stump, Lee Cory, John Miller, and L. W. Shultz. Photo from the Ray Zook album, Peggy Reiff Miller collection.

The heifer named “Hope” in my children’s picture book The Seagoing Cowboy is based on a real heifer named “Hope” that was sent to Poland in late 1946 on the S. S. William S. Halsted. Here is an edited version of the real Hope’s story as told by L. W. Shultz in his article “Poland Has Hope”:

“Hope” is a beautiful Holstein cow. She was born (1944) on a Pennsylvania farm in the United States of America. While quite young she was chosen to bring relief to hungry, thirsty children in Europe. She was reared on the farm of Rudolph Kulp near Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in the Coventry Church of the Brethren, the second oldest congregation of the Church of the Brethren in America.

The month of October 1946 found Hope on the Roger Roop farm near New Windsor, Maryland, waiting to be shipped to Poland. Finally on November 1, 1946, with 332 other beautiful Holsteins, Guernseys, Jerseys, and Brown Swiss, she was loaded on the William S. Halsted. Hope had a very narrow escape when the ship collided with the Esso Camden gasoline tanker only three hours out from port Baltimore in the Chesapeake Bay. However, the explosion, fire, and damage did not cause any fatalities among either man or beast.

Damage to William S. Halsted.

Seagoing cowboys survey the damage to their ship, the William S. Halsted, November 1946. Photo from the album of Ray Zook, Peggy Reiff Miller collection.

But it meant seventeen days of waiting while the ship was in dock for repair. Hope was cared for in the Union Stock Yards in Baltimore. On November 19, she was reloaded on the ship and started again for Danzig (Gdansk), where she landed on December 9, 1946. After some delay, she went on a railroad train to Warsaw and then on to the village of Konstancin where she found her new home, with another cow from the ship, in the orphanage of Villa Skaut.

The Jesakov family. Photo courtesy of Ray Zook.

The Jesakow family. Photo from the album of Ray Zook, Peggy Reiff Miller collection.

Here 130 orphans are being cared for by Leonid and Augusta Jesakow and their staff of workers, including their daughters, Irene, Lily, and Mary, all born in America.

What a welcome the children gave these cows! Hope also had a sturdy heifer calf to care for and to present to the orphans. This addition to the animal population at Villa Skaut was quite an event. Hope was giving ten liters of milk each day and will give more when spring comes.

On Christmas Day, 1946, after a morning service, pictures were taken of some of the orphans and Hope, while she was being milked. Present from America to bring these gifts to the children were Brethren Service workers Bruce and Clara Wood, and seagoing cowboys Lee R. Cory, John Miller, Harvey Stump, and Lawrence Shultz. These men received the thanks of the children and the orphanage management for the cows, candy, pencils, combs, toothbrushes, note books, etc., which were given as Christmas gifts. It was a never-to-be-forgotten Christmas time. Christmas Eve, presenting gifts with St. Mikolaj (St. Nicholas). Christmas services on December 25 in the morning, and the singing of Polish and English carols and songs in the evening until late at night. Thanks to Jadwiga, the teacher, and Francisek, the soloist.

Hope is really a life line for these children, Halia, Marta, Alicia, Wanda, Maria and all the rest. To all American Christians who have remembered them with food, clothing, and now Hope, they say “Dziekuje” (thank you).

***

And to all my readers, I wish a Blessed Christmas and a fruitful New Year ahead!

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Trials of the S.S. William S. Halsted, Part I

Thank you, readers, for your patience! After a grueling month of moving, house closings, etc., I’m in and loving my new office space and am excited to be back at work! Now, the promised story on the trials of the SS William S. Halsted.

Robert Ebey

Robert Ebey on the William S. Halsted, November 1946. Photo credit: Ray Zook

Seagoing Cowboy Robert Ebey has left a gem of a record of this November 1946 journey in his mimeographed booklet “A Trip to Poland with Brethren Service Heifers.” Ebey begins with a summary of the trip, which I share with you now in three parts.

Part I

September – – – Granted six weeks leave of absence from the Woodland, Michigan, Church of the Brethren pastorate to go to Europe with one of the shipments of heifers for relief….None of the heifers we were to take had been purchased by UNRRA. All had been donated by the churches of America and by such groups as Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. Because of this, we had a picked crew. The New Windsor, Maryland, Heifer Shipment Office sent word that the shipment was ready to go but was being delayed by a Maritime strike. We were to be ready to leave home on 24 hours notice.

October 10 (noon) – – – I received a telegram indicating that the strike was “just over” so I should leave at once.

October 11 – – – I got on the train and headed for Baltimore, Maryland.

October 12-30 – – – The Maritime strike continued. Each morning and evening the news reported, “We expect settlement within the next few hours.”

November 1 – – – The strike is over. We got on board the William S. Halsted and immediately began bedding down the stalls and distributing watering pails, brackets and garden hoses.

Loading heifers, 1946

Heifers are guided into the “flying stall” to be lifted aboard the William S. Halsted. Photo credit: Robert Ebey.

Flying stall lifts heifer on ship.

The “flying stall” lifts heifers onto the William S. Halsted. Photo credit: Robert Ebey.

November 2 – – – Cattle loading started early and was completed by 3:30 p.m. The anchor was raised at 8:20 p.m. And we were finally on our way.

 

 

 

Shortly after 11:00 p.m., we felt a terrific bump to our ship. We learned we had crashed into the Esso Camden, a Standard Oil tanker laden with aviation gasoline. Both ships were set on fire by the explosion. Our fire was very insignificant just a few scorched cows and a few bales of hay. The Esso Camden soon had the help of some fire boats, but still burned out of control for several hours.

Esso Camden catches fire

Courtesy of Robert Ebey.

November 3-5 – – – Our ship returned to the Baltimore Harbor, but we were not allowed to leave the ship until the insurance men completed their investigations.

Damage to William S. Halsted.

Seagoing cowboys survey the damage to their ship, the William S. Halsted, November 1946. Peggy Reiff Miller collection, courtesy of Ray Zook.

November 6 – – – The cattle were unloaded and placed in the Baltimore stockyards. We “sea-going cowboys” were given lodging in the Anchorage YMCA and $2.50 per day for meals….

November 7-15 – – – The William S. Halsted is in drydock while repairs are made.

November 16-18 – – – We are back on board the Halsted. Fuel oil, water are loaded. At 7:30 p.m., November 18, the cattle loading again begins.

Next post: The Trials of the William S. Halsted, Part II