Edna Collins (nee Bergman) Remembers

From: Alec and Edna Collins collins@kfar-hanassi.org.il
Subject: Re: First grade at Wilson School


           First Grade
 Opening, salute to the flag, class;
song  "America," class;  recitation,
"The  Nicest  Dream,"  Sonya  Jadis;
exercise, "A Grand Idea," Sol Wish-
noff, Charles Shone, James Morrell;
recitation, "Hanging Up the Christ-
mas Stocking," Louis Cicioni; reci-
tation, "Getting Ready  for Christ-
mas," Evelyn Priga; reading, "Santa
Claus Is Looking," Ann  Marie  Mc-
Guire; song, "Santa Claus Is Coming 
to Town," class; reading,"Christmas
Shopping,"  Edna  Bergman;  poem,
"Wrapping Presents," John Wychulis;
poem,  "So  Small,"  Peggy  Tomlin;
recitation, "A Cake for Santa," Jean 
Barr; recitation,   "A   Christmas
Light," Marian Dudis; song "If You
Want Toys," class; poem, "A Christ-
mas  Wish,"  Albin  Yodis;  poem,
"Wrapping Presents," James Maurer;
exercise,  "Helping  Santa," Shem
Evans and Billy Matalavage; poem
"A Big Welcome," Charlotte Sands;
song, "Little Children," Henry Post,
Thomas  Gregas, Jean  Barr,  Edna
Bergman, James Morrell; poem, "A
Little Prayer," Joseph Perlinsky;
poem, "Merry  Christmas," Joseph
Chesla; poem, "A  Present," Ruth
Sorin; song, "A Jolly Fellow," class;
closing, "Round and Round the
Christmas Tree," class.

Date: Sat, 12 Oct 2002 12:22:46 +0200
From: Alec and Edna Collins <collins@kfar-hanassi.org.il>
Subject: Me, Edna
We carried on for another day or so, down to Boston where my aunts and uncles met us and took us to Aunty Anna and Uncle Lou London's home in Shenandoah, Pa.
Auntie Hettie, my mom's other sister in the US lived in Philadelphia. We stayed in Shenandoah in Auntie Anna's little apartment. Uncle Phil Schless, my mom's batchelor brother, also lived there! Hats off to them for making room for us!

In front of the Wilson school on North White Street.
Me in the middle, Patsy Sweeny on my right and Mickey Krap on my left.


I'm on the right with a "V" for victory hat .

I'm still there and dead easy to find (middle row on the right). I get sunburned
so fast only today we are aware of the dangers of too much sun.
My brother Geoff
is bottom left, I think Skippy Siswein is the lad in the second row, first on the left.

I am next to my mom who is sitting next to the guy with glasses who is standing
up. . . . my dear departed brother Geoff is also in the pic on the back of the lorry: Skippy is above me and Geoff is on Skippy's left. Our mom is on Skippy's right.

Meet Alec, my husband, and Moran, our 3 year old grandson who we love and adore.
Something about me. You asked for it!!!! I live in a kibbutz called Kfar Hanassi which is about 20 minutes drive north of the Sea of Galilee on what used to be the eastern border of Israel. When we came here, 47 years ago (!) everything was so clear - there was black and white i.e. nothing was complicated. We wanted to live on a kibbutz on the border because we felt that was the right thing to do. We wanted to make a better world, a world where we all cared for each other (the kibbutz) and in a country where we (the Jewish people) were free and we could live proudly and in our very own country without hearing those words "Go back to where you came from!" As a child, the answer to that one was "I come from England" but as I grew up, I learned that we weren't really welcome except in one place. However, that place didn't exist for me yet until May, 1948 when the State of Israel was declared. But hang on, all this is in my "autobiography" which I mentioned above so perhaps I'll expose myself for the first time on paper (!!!) and let you read part of what I wrote. "............. after a few months, my parents decided that my mother, my brother and I would be better off in the U.S. (Liverpool was being bombed and it was very very unpleasant) My father could not go because he had volunteered for the army. My mom had two sisters and a brother in the US apart from other relatives so it seemed logical. They considered our going to South Africa, where my father was born but the US was the obvious place for my mom to be. So off we went.
(My parents were in fact cousins but whereas the one sister remained in Liverpool, the other carried on to South Africa. When my father went over to England at the age of 21 to get qualified as a dentist, he fell in love with my mother who happened to be his cousin! Ah well.)

One miserable day in November, 1940, we went down to the docks to board the ship which was going to take us across the Atlantic. There must have been fifty ships docked in the Mersey that day so we were kept guessing as to which ship we would be travelling in. One ship in particular stood out because it looked so broken down and incapable of crossing the Mersey, let alone the Atlantic. We boarded the ferry which was to take us over to 'our' ship and guess what, ours was the one and only, the dump!!

It must have been a horrible journey for the adults on board. We quite enjoyed ourselves apart from the disgusting smell of paint and vomit and seawater which I can remember to this day. We traveled in a convoy and the journey, which normally took four days (in the QEII or the Mauretania) took us nearly three weeks. We zig-zagged our way across the Atlantic dodging German U-boats and spending most of our time in life-jackets as our one pitiful gun dropped depth charges. I don't know any other details about our journey but I understand that at least one ship, carrying children, went down during our journey. We woke up one morning to the smell of pine - quite a change from what we had stood for the past eighteen days. The air was heavy with the smell of pine to the point of being almost unbearable. I remember going up on deck and looking across to the pine covered hills of what we were told was Halifax, Canada. We were docked just off the coast and it was nothing less than amazing.

We carried on for another day or so, down to Boston where my aunts and uncles met us and took us to Aunty Anna and Uncle Lou London's home in Shenandoah, Pa. Auntie Hettie, my mom's other sister in the US lived in Philadelphia. We stayed in Shenandoah in Auntie Anna's little apartment. Uncle Phil Schless, my mom's batchelor brother, also lived there! Hats off to them for making room for us! Years later, I discovered that the family had ended up in Shenandoah because one of my mother's brothers, Uncle Ellis, and her father, Yitzchak were buried there. How or why they went to Shenandoah is anybody's guess.

Wilson was most definately on North White Street. The tap room was at the corner, then something else, then our building (we lived upstairs on the second floor and right up top there was a billiard club or something. Downstairs turning left, there was a sweet shop (candy store!) and then the school yard and the school. Opposite, over the road, was out of bounds because there had been a cave-in there. At the time, I had no idea what this meant but today, I most certainly do.

I went to Wilson School right next door to our apartment building. I loved Miss Breslin, my teacher, and I had friends, Libby Keough at the corner of North White Street (we lived at 14) and Shirley Frost who also lived just next to us.

I remember Shenandoah with pleasure: roller skating in summer, having a great time in winter - skiing on borrowed skis down the slopes of the Park and sleighing down the hilly streets of Shenandoah. I so wanted ice-skates (which I got eventually when we returned to England) but life was good.
The war seemed so far away - which it was until the morning of Sunday, December 7th, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. I remember the feeling of fear returning to me, the feeling that it was going to be England all over again. But of course, it wasn't. We sang patriotic songs, collected money for parcels to send to Britain ("Knittin' for Britain" was a popular slogan and were taught to love America with a fierceness that I can remember to this day and to hate the "Japs" who might have been living on the moon as far as I knew. The stories of their cruelty were almost literally incredible but one thing we knew, we had to hate them. Many years later, I was teaching English to a group of Koreans and one Japanese boy and I had to shake off the terrible things I had been taught to feel so many years earlier. It was not difficult! He was a charming young man.

We moved to Philadelphia after a year. Again, life was good. I had a close friend called Lois Altaker who I traced recently! Fifty years had gone by! I enjoyed school (Birney School in Logan, where we lived) and Geoff went to Olney High around from Auntie Hettie's on Rising Sun Avenue. I had another close friend called Lois (Kay James) who I loved and only wish I could trace too. I enjoyed going to visit one old aunt in particular, Uncle Louie's sister, I think. She lived in a place called Carmel, Pa. which I find significant ( I having landed up in Israel where the original Carmel is).

And one day, we returned to Liverpool, this time, however, on the Mauretania and that took no time at all! Poor old Liverpool had got a terrible battering from the bombs and our house, although it was standing, was in a sad state. It was damp and airless and unpleasant. My mom got things organized as usual and once more, it became the warm place I remembered from before the war. I went to Holly Lodge High School which was wonderful. I had good friends and again, I was happy. Sheila Webb was a couple of years older than me but she was one good pal and there was Esther Jacobs who lived on Shiel Rd. and Margaret someone (?) My closest friend at Holly Lodge was a young lady called Barbara Anne Taylor who lived not far from Everton football ground. That's probably why I became an Everton fan.

My father would take me for cycle rides and long walks and I learned to ice-skate at the Casino Ice Rink. We moved to London eventually because Liverpool was a pretty grim place. My father loved going for long walks which we did, usually over Hampstead Heath but he (and my mother) loved classical music and the theatre so we used to go nearly every Sunday afternoon to the Albert Hall to listen to a concert there. He would explain what was going on and he obviously took great pleasure in attending those concerts which I also did.

Today, in retrospect, I have a whole lot to thank my parents for - my love of music, the opportunities I had to travel (I still have the travel bug) plus a hundred and one other things.

I went to the North London Collegiate School (NLCS) which must have cost my parents a fortune but they wanted the best for me. I remember my days at NLCS with pleasure - I loved sports and I represented the school in hockey, netball and tennis. My dad was the one who started me on my craze for tennis. He had brought his love of that sport from South Africa and I felt the same as he. We would go to Hendon Central Park and play there when I wasn't playing at school. There was no tv in those days so unfortunately, we couldn't watch Wimbledon or the rest of the tournaments like I do today. How he would have enjoyed that!!"
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 2002 22:29:12 +0200
From: Alec and Edna Collins <collins@kfar-hanassi.org.il>

Yes, life did feel so safe in the good old USA - until December 7th, 1941 but after the first trauma, life just went on as before. I was the ripe old age of seven so what did I know anyway?

Yes, I remember the synagogue because my elder brother had his Bar Mitzvah there. It was opposite my mother's friend's house, if I remember rightly, on Oak Street. I also went to Hebrew lessons there although I can't remember having learned anything there. I learned more by going to Sunday school and some other classes with my non-Jewish pals. I often think that I got my love for Israel at those classes! It was Bible stories and such like. I am not religious but I do enjoy living in the Land of the Bible. I get quite a kick out of actually being able to touch. see and smell places that are mentioned although as I said in my earlier letter, I am no fanatic and I would hand back a whole lot of places which some of my fellow countrymen and women have taken over in the name of religion.

I've lived in a whole lot of places - England, the USA, South Africa and now Israel. I've visited many more countries and seen some wonderful sights. For all that, I'd just like to say that I have wonderful memories of Shenandoah, Pa. and it holds a special place in my heart.