“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!

Activities of Heifer Project as seen from the Roger Roop Collection Farm, Part II

The Roger Roop family played an important role in the development of the Heifer Project that touched all of their lives, from Roger and Olive to their daughters Shirley and Patricia, and later baby Elaine.

Roger Roop with daughters Patricia and Shirley, fall 1945. Photo: Robert Ebey.

Roger Roop with daughters Patricia and Shirley, fall 1945. Photo: Robert Ebey.

Olive and Roger Roop in a later photo with one of their daughters. Photo courtesy of Rouford Coonts.

Olive and Roger Roop in a later photo with daughter Patricia Ann. Photo: Rouford Coonts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my 2003 interview with Olive, she recounted how “the shipments came in by rail at night, and the station agent would call us and Roger would go in and get the men who were with the cattle, one or two, and bring them out and we often would have just a little something for them to eat or drink and have a place for them to sleep at night. And then the next morning, they would have trucks ready and bring the cattle out to the farm. But they almost always came in the night.” One trucker from Virginia was a particular aggravation. He would come in at night blowing his air horn, waking the baby. “I didn’t like it,” she said. “But I could tell you so many good things.”

For daughter Patricia, the farm was an exciting place to be. She recalled in a 1976 Messenger article, “Along with the cattle came many colorful people to share stories with us. I especially remember Milo Weaver because he used to help me peel potatoes for all the men my mother, sister, and I had to feed.”

One of the good things Olive mentioned was a local trucker, Vernon Gladhill, who volunteered his truck and time hauling cattle from the train to the farm and back to the train for shipping to Baltimore. This was his way of contributing to the Heifer Project, he told Roger.

The work load for Roger became heavy as the Heifer Project mushroomed. The 15 acres originally offered free of charge soon expanded to rental of the entire approximately 130-acre farm and buildings for $800, with a salary of $1800 for Roger and $400 for the use of equipment including truck, tractors, hay baler, grinder, etc. Kenneth West and Wayne Keltner, two Civilian Public Service workers, and Rouford Coontz, all stationed at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, were assigned to help out at the farm. Seagoing cowboys waiting shipment would sometimes help, as well.

Roger wrote in one report, “There were days when things were a bit hectic due to cattle at the farm needing care, animals arriving, then cattle needing to be read by vet for Bangs disease and TB [tests they had been given].” Incoming cattle had to be recorded, numbered, and maybe have blood drawn. “Bloating happened on several occasions,” Roger said, “as well as freshening heifers needing help on some occasions when placenta had to be removed manually.”

A saying around the farm was that “we could expect the unexpected anytime.” Like the night the family was awakened by a terrific rumble. “Apparently something had spooked the cattle,” Roger said, “and they stampeded. The next morning we found two heifers in the field with broken legs.” They were butchered and the meat was used in the kitchen at the Brethren Service Center.

“Sometime later we experienced another stampede,” Roger wrote. “We had worked a long day…. About 10 o’clock that night someone said that a large group had broken out and gone out across the field. Ted Albaugh and I knew the lay of the land so we went out and got around them. It was a clear, moon light night. If some of you have read western stories that speak of ‘Saint Elmos’ fire you will understand what I have to share.

“While we were bringing the cattle back to the barn something must have spooked them for they turned right around and ran toward us. We could see the bluish-green light in their eyes which was caused by fright. We were too far from any fence to outrun them so we ran toward each other, cupped our hands and yelled at the top of our voices. The cattle did part and ran on either side of us. If they had not done so we would have been trampled to death. I’m wondering what was the color of our eyes!

“Fortunately, of all the volunteers and others who had any part in work at the farm, none were injured.”

Some 3600 head of cattle were processed at the Roop farm during the three years of its operation. Roger became ill with undulant fever in 1948, after which collection activities were transferred to the Barkley Bowman farm.

Next post: Fifth Friday, In Memorium

Activities of Heifer Project as seen from the Roger Roop Collection Farm, Part I

Heifers wait for shipment in fall 1945 at the Roger Roop farm, Union Bridge, Maryland. Photo credit: Robert Ebey.

Heifers await shipment in fall 1945 at the Roger Roop farm, Union Bridge, Maryland. Photo: Robert Ebey.

In a box of Heifer Project founder Dan West’s materials in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives in Elgin, Illinois, is tucked away this undated report, likely given to the Heifer Project Committee circa 1947 or 1948, signed W. Roger Roop: “Summary of Activities of Heifer Project as Seen from Farm.”

       The first truck load of cattle arrived the afternoon of July 31, 1945 delivered by Mr. Wilmer Kline of Manassas, Va. The following night a trailer load came in from Roanoke, Va. with Mr. J. G. Kinzie in charge. One week later the first carload arrived from Michigan which were collected and delivered by Mr. Russell Hartzler.

From then on they came in by car trailer, pickup truck, small trucks, large trucks and trailer trucks from as far south as Tennessee, west to Oklahoma and north to New York in numbers of one to thirty-four head per load. Carloads ran from sixteen head up to forty head in a forty-foot car, which is just about eight to ten too many. Cars carrying feed and water with an attendant in charge came through in less time and better condition. Cattle have come by rail from fifteen states and as far west as California. Twenty-three states have been represented in cattle shipments.

They have arrived every day in the week, including Sunday and every hour of the day except from 2:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M. All dairy breeds and a few beef breeds have been represented. Quality of the heifers has ranged from as fine an animal as grows to down pretty close to the other end of the scale. That point should not be criticized too much because the person giving a poor quality animal may have made more of a sacrifice than the one giving a purebred suitable for the show ring.

Numerous incidents of interest happen here, one of which I will relate. Wayne Keltner, one of the men helping with the heifers is from Illinois. Two cars of heifers came from California with extra hay in the cars which was hauled to the farm. A few days later a load of heifers came from Wisconsin and were placed in the lot back of the barn. What happened? An Illinois man fed California hay to Wisconsin heifers in Maryland.

Helpers feed hay to heifers on the Roger Roop farm. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Helpers feed hay to heifers on the Roger Roop farm. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

In a later report, Roger said of that first delivery, “Mr. Harley Kline* from Manassas, Va. brought the first load of fine cattle & wondered if this was the collection point of Heifers for Relief. I told him this had been talked about but no details had been worked out but since they were here we would unload them and take it from there. I went to the house and got a record book saved from an old mill I had torn down and made record of these cattle.”

From then on, life was not the same for the Roop household.

*One report says Wilmer Kline delivered the first heifers to the farm, another says Harley. Not sure which is right.

Next post: Activities of Heifer Project as seen from the Roger Roop Collection Farm, Part II

The Roger Roop Heifer Project Collection Farm

As World War II ended in Europe in May 1945, shipping possibilities across the Atlantic became a reality for the Heifer Project. Hundreds of heifers were on hand across the country ready to be shipped to the east coast, and Roger and Olive Roop of Union Bridge, Maryland, saw a need. Lifelong members of the Church of the Brethren, they had been hearing and reading about the development of the Heifer Project. When the heifers for the Project’s second shipment to Puerto Rico in May 1945 were gathered at the fairgrounds in York, Pennsylvania, just up the road from the Roops, they drove up to see them.

Heifers ready for a May 1945 shipment to Puerto Rico are dedicated at the York Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Heifers ready for a May 1945 shipment to Puerto Rico are dedicated at the York Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Olive Roop, now 102 and living in Bridgewater, Virginia, told the youth of her church in a talk some decades ago, “What we saw [in York] made Roger feel that this was not a very suitable place for the collection, handling and shipment of cattle. The cattle were tied in stalls (no exercise)….”

When they got home from York, Roger and Olive talked it over and decided to offer their farm as a collection point. “Our barn had a loading chute, 4 large pens and we had about 15 acres of pasture divided into 3 paddocks,” Olive said. “Our 20 or so head of cattle could run on a back pasture. We were only two miles from the railroad and forty from the dock in Baltimore.” Being only six miles from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, Roops also felt there would be Civilian Public Service men stationed there who might be able to help on the farm.

The Roger Roop farm in Union Bridge, Maryland, circa 1946. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

The Roger Roop farm in Union Bridge, Maryland, circa 1946. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Thinking this was only to be a summer project, Roger and Olive drove to New Windsor and made the offer of use of their 15 acres and barn to the Heifer Project. Little did they know what was ahead for them. John Metzler, the coordinator of the Heifer Project at the time, reported to the Heifer Project Committee in their June 3, 1945, meeting that the Roop farm “has been offered to the HPC free of charge as a collecting point for cattle before shipment. He has adequate space to care for from 300 to 500 cattle at one time.” A motion was made and passed “that we accept the offer of Roger Roop for facilities for collecting cattle, using the service of one veterinarian.”

The Heifer Project was off and running. And so were Roger and Olive.

Next post: Activities of Heifer Project as Seen from Farm, Part I

 

The Brethren Service Center Serves and Is Served by Seagoing Cowboys

Dormitory and gym where much of the relief work was done at the Brethren Service Center, New Windsor, MD, March 1947.

The Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, March 1947. The gym in center of picture is where much of the post-World War II relief work was carried out. Photo courtesy of Howard Lord.

As noted in my post of May 22, many a seagoing cowboy and cowboy supervisor ended up spending time at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, while waiting on his ship to sail. The seagoing cowboy office was located there, along with a swarm of activity related to other Church of the Brethren relief programs.

Ernest Bachman, supervisor of the SS John J. Crittenden crew of November 1945, noted that his men were assigned the task of raking leaves. J. O. Yoder’s time at New Windsor overlapped with Bachman. Yoder arrived on November 13 and was surprised to meet Carol Stine from his home town in Goshen, Indiana, working there as a secretary for the seagoing cowboy program. After that, he didn’t stand a chance.

Carol Stine, right, works out details for a seagoing cowboy. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Carol Stine, right, works out details for a seagoing cowboy. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

The next morning, Yoder notes in his journal, “Carol Stine collared me after breakfast and made me say I’d do dishes. Lots of ‘em and about 3 of us did it. Couldn’t sneak away quick enough and so found 3 potato peeling knives in my hand and potatoes in pan all set to go. Never imagined a whole bushel under table was to be peeled for supper. Well – peeled for 3 hours right up to dinner time and had about ¾ bushel done. Ate a good dinner and went to my room and wrote.”

Yoder then spent a couple of days getting squared away in Washington, DC, to be a supervisor with UNRRA. There he met Bachman. They traveled back to New Windsor together on the 16th, and Bachman got collared, too. “Backman [sic] and I washed and wiped dishes,” writes Yoder, “while a speaker on CPS camps (Mr. Banta I—–) started talking to a meeting in mess hall.”

Saturday, the 17th, Yoder strolled around campus looking for work and ended up helping to build a new bed on the Center’s V-8 truck. That night he got in on some of the culture of the Center. “Ora Zeigler gave a very colorful talk on this trip through devastated Europe -,” Yoder wrote, “had many contacts with the most horrible evidences of starvation throughout entire war area…. Nearly every single person in that area has lost considerable weight due to insufficient amount of calories. Babies and small children are housed in large auditoriums, etc., where all windows and doors have been blasted out and cold winds are sweeping through. He told of picking up stiff and lifeless bodies – the way millions will go during the next year. The people of these countries will quite definitely favor the country giving the best relief….”

Sunday at the Center provided a day of rest. Yoder skipped church, “as I ain’t got a suit [with me],” he quipped in his journal. “I played the victrola in lounge and enjoyed it very much – Bolero, Lord’s Prayer, etc.” He went out to the nearby Roger Roop farm in the afternoon to see the Heifer Project cattle collected there for shipping. Later that night, he reveled in a game of Rook with a group of Kansas seagoing cowboys.

Volunteers bale and package used clothing to send to Europe after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Volunteers bale and package used clothing to send to Europe after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Yoder’s time in New Windsor was lengthened when UNRRA lost his papers. As the next week rolled on, he made himself useful. He helped “pack and truck bales of used clothing to store room. Then went with truck to Post Office and got several hundred packages of old clothing, etc. – sent here by churches and peoples from all parts of U.S.A.”

Women sort relief clothing to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Women sort relief clothing to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Another day he wrote, “went to the gym and helped unload a truck of relief boxes brought up from P.O. Weighed and noted each box then heaved it up to the top of the stack – clear up to ceiling! Toward noon I helped fill a shipping box with all sorts of toys, dolls made and donated by various church groups.”

Later, he helped prepare shipping cases for old shoes that had been rebuilt at the Center. “Nearly 40 cases containing from 85 to 150 pr. shoes are ready for shipping,” he wrote.

Volunteers repair used shoes sent to the Brethren Service Center after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Volunteers repair used shoes sent to the Brethren Service Center after World War II. Photo courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Other days found him helping carry boxes in the food canning department or helping Carol Stine sort cowboy application blanks.

Volunteers help can food to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Volunteers help can food to be sent to Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Canned food ready to box for Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Canned food ready to box for Europe. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoder’s three weeks spent at the Center weren’t all work and no play, however. Evenings were filled with games of checkers, Chinese checkers, jigsaw puzzles, singing around the piano, folk game activities, reading, and writing letters. Finally, on Monday, December 3, Yoder had his orders to report to New York City where he would lead the cowboy crew of the SS Clarksville Victory on their journey to Poland. There, he would have the opportunity to see firsthand the devastation which Ora Zeigler had described.

Next post: The Roop Farm