Why I Picked A Swiss Grandfather
Being on good behavior has its compensation in heaven the same on earth. I remember a time way back, about the middle of the last century, up in the never, never land.
I’d been on pretty good behavior for quite awhile when one fine day, my Guardian Angel said to me, “I want you to study the countries of the Earth.
Because you have been good, I’ll let you pick out the one where you think you’d like to live. In about three score years from now I’m going to send you down to Earth for one lifetime.
“Countries change so, how will I know what they will be like in the next century? I queried. “That’s a good question,” said my Guardian Angel, “no country is any better than the people in it, or their ideals, and ideas. Rather, pick a man who will one day be your grandfather. Pick him for the country that is his background now and be satisfied to let the future bring what it may.”
Picking out a Grandfather from a country whose ideals were impressionable was a tall order. I thought I would never finish studying the countries of the Earth until one day I came upon Switzerland.
To me, it was the most beautiful of all countries that I had viewed. But we had been taught that is beauty is sometimes only skin deep. Perhaps, I thought the beautiful sky-pointed Alps, the profusion of wildflowers below the snow-capped mountains, the lakes, the quaint Swiss houses, the cleanliness and preciseness of the towns was only a thing of beauty. Perhaps, the people were not as fine as the beautiful countryside; but I determined to find out.
First, I studied the background of Switzerland and found to my delight that it was the oldest democracy in the world, in ancient days it was called “Helvetica.” Like most European countries, Helvetica went through its primitive period, with its domination by Imperial Rome. But, one day chosen delegates from the three countries of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, formed a political and military alliance to maintain independence against the Duke of Austria. This was on August 1, 1291. Through the centuries that followed, August 1st remained a Swiss National Holiday, because the document formed then contains ever the principle of its later constitution, even the one that governs Switzerland today. The document is called the Deed of the Confederation and is what dates Switzerland as the world’s oldest Democracy. Before another century had rolled around, five more Cantons were added by various treaties and Switzerland was hailed as a European power.
I studied this background reverently, and thought, “those people must have what it takes.” In a small territory, hemmed in by antagonistic larger countries, that had the determination and the fortitude to establish their independence.
Studying Switzerland’s background further, I found that she had suffered several centuries of hardships. The Reformation took its toll and subsequent internal political dissension weakened the little democracy, and I found myself worrying for her—forgetting that I was studying history that had already been written. Then I came upon the last part of the 18th century when the roar of the French Revolution rolled across the Alps and for the first and only time overturned the Confederation. The period of 1798-1804 was known as the Helvetica Period, I learned.
But, I saw that the Swiss were not to accept the new arrangement—although it took them until 1815 to restore the confederation. By that time, the twenty-two Cantons of which still make up the country had formed the Confederation and the system of the Cantonal sovereignty set up then and still exists today in a circle of Federal Union.
So much for background history, Switzerland inspired me, next I wondered about her achievements artistically. It didn’t take much study to find that their famous Abbey of St. Gall, laid down 1,200 years ago, was a hearthstone of the Arts in the middle of a barbarous Europe; that Calvin had founded the Geneva Academy of Arts in 1558 and that sculptors, painters, and musicians abounded in the little Democracy.
I saw the industries of the busy people of Switzerland, the herdsmen, the watch makers, the cheese and chocolate makers, and heard the happy peasants yodeling on the mountain sides, saw the St. Bernard dogs, beautiful, gentle, efficient. I read about the William Tell and his apple and was impressed. I got a fleeting glimpse into the future and say that this little country would be the seat of the Universal Postal Union, which would govern the mail service of the World.
By this time, it was quite apparent to me that Switzerland was as great a country as it was beautiful. I was convinced of its beauty, of its history, even of its aesthetic side. But, no truly great country can be great unless its people have compassion. Were there any great men or women in this beautiful spot that sacrificed their lives and their finances to help their fellow man? I didn’t have to go very far to find such names as Johann Pestalozzi, whose love of children and personal sacrifice for them, became a symbol of guidance to other countries throughout the world and of Jean Henri Dunsant, young man of a wealthy Zurich family, who devoted his life to helping the afflicted, who reduced himself to a state of poverty to help those in need, who founded the International Red Cross Society, which today has spanned to the four corners of the Globe, with its humanitarian program.
I felt numb with happiness. I felt sure that I had found the country that I wanted my Grandfather to come from. I sat down on my crossed legs and hummed softly, I looked down again into Switzerland, and as I did I suddenly saw a young boy walking the street of Schaffhausen. I heard my Guardian Angel say softly, “Have you made up your mind?’ Yes, I said, “I want a Swiss Grandfather.” She pointed to the young man in Schaffhausen and said, “Some day along about sixty years from now he will be your grandfather.”
I looked again, and heard the young boy, Conrad Bollinger was his name, saying Good-bye to his friends for he was leaving for America. I jumped up quickly. “But, he’s going to America,” I said to the Angel.
“That’s right” she answered, “there’s a new county over there—it needs the best that the rest of the world can give so that it can grow. Your Grandfather will have the ideas and ideals of the oldest democracy in the world as he establishes his home and family in a new democracy, which is trying to get over it’s growing pains.”
I must have fallen off to sleep then and it was some thirty years later when I awakened. I looked down again and this time I saw America. It took no time to find the young Conrad, but was much older now. He had fought in the American Civil War and was working for the Government of the United States.
My Guardian Angel appeared again, “Now,” she said, you can even see your mother.”
I looked carefully until I saw four children in their teens, three girls and a boy. They are your Grandfather’s children,” said my Guardian Angel, “the second from the youngest—Margaret is her name—will someday be your Mother.”
I rocked and hummed again, I felt good. I wondered if I would look a little like Margaret when I became an earthly child. I thought, who could have picked out a better country than America in all this world, with a better background than one stemming from Switzerland. In fact, I felt pretty lucky. I had already seen both my Grandfather and my mother.
Again, I must have fallen asleep and the next thing I knew I woke up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York in the United States of America and someone said, “It’s a girl”
Note #1: August 9, 2013.
I am Alice Margaret Fisher. I was named after my grandmother and great grandmother Margaretha Bollinger. I am the granddaughter of Edith Margaret Fisher/Faulstich. I am the great-great-granddaughter of Conrad Bollinger, from Beringen, Switzerland. I retyped this article, written by Edith Fisher more than 60 years earlier, and furthered the family lineage into our Swiss ancestry as a result of her early work.
Our Swiss grandfather’s family now dates back to Hans George Bollinger, Born about 1588.
I am proud of this rich history and our deep roots. As a result, when I completed a study abroad to Europe in 1994, and thereafter I took my two young daughters with me and we traveled to Beringen, and Schaffhausen Switzerland.
We landed in Beringen on July 31, 1994, it was my youngest daughter’s 12th birthday. We being the first to return as a direct line descendant of Conrad Bollinger. The village was exactly as my grandmother wrote, and they opened up the little museum and bought my girls an ice cream on Sunday pouring their history and lives out to us in earnest while we spoke a triangle of me with my broken French to the women in the village who then in turn spoke Swiss-German, to the Museum curator.
Note #2, May 14, 2009
I’ve begun contributing to a Beringen, Switzerland History Project
With much pride and love to my Nana, you and your work will not be forgotten!
Alice Margaret Fisher
With the impending doom of our US Post Offices closing and our entire U.S mail system as a whole. I believe postal history and stamp collecting will increase in importance and value to the historic thread in our lives. As a child, I was given stamps from grandmother, Edith Faulstich, which I have hung onto all these years. And, I would like to know more about any of the following early 1900 stamps and or covers. If you know anything about any of them, please let me know. It would make my grandmother proud that I still have them.
Postal history is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the collecting of covers and associated material illustrating historical episodes of postal systems. The term is attributed to Robson Lowe, a professional philatelist, stamp dealer and stamp auctioneer, who made the first organised study of the subject in the 1930s and described philatelists as “students of science”, but postal historians as “students of humanity”.
Postal history has become a philatelic collecting speciality in its own right. While philately is concerned with the study of the stamps per se, postal history can include the study of postal rates, postal policy, postal administration, political effects on postal systems, postal surveillance and the consequences of politics, business, and culture on postal systems; basically anything to do with the function of the collection, transportation and delivery of mail. Areas of special interest include disrupted or transitional periods, such as wars which Edith Faulstich wrote about and our military occupation in Siberia, and her saga of the mail to and from remote areas during WWI.
In studying or collecting any postal history subject some overlap is inevitable because it is impossible to separate the different areas that affect the mail from one another. Regional studies like countries of origin, native districts, cities, towns or villages, places associated with family roots, or workplaces, can comprise geographical based postal history studies. In the past collectors usually based their studies on “mail from” but “mail to” and “mail through” a place expand the postal service story because outgoing mail mainly shows marking associated with the areas of study while incoming mail tells a much broader story and are now more likely to be included. Transportation based studies can include,Aerophilately, Balloon mail, Maritime mail, Rocket mail, while subject based studies can include Express mail,Marcophily, Military mail, Postal censorship, Pre-adhesive mail and Registered mail (Source: Wikipedia)
Thanks for reading my post and I hope you will read more about my grandmother, Edith Faulstich. If you have any information to share I would love to hear from you. Here are some other resources directly below as well.
Faulstich was a pioneer student and collector of postal history. She campaigned extensively to have postal history recognized as a category at major exhibitions. She was a founder of the Postal History Society of the Americas (now the Postal History Society, Inc.). Faulstich helped the PHS through its early years as the first editor of its Postal History Journal, and as president from 1965 to 1967.
In her philatelic career, “Dee” edited Covers magazine, The Essay-Proof Journal and was associate editor of Western Stamp Collector. She wrote a stamp column in the Bergen (NJ) Evening Record and later in the Newark (NJ) News.
Faulstich built world-class collections of the postal history of the American Expeditionary Forces and the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Siberia during World War I.
Edith M. Vanderpoel was born on May 22, 1907. As a child, she came “from a very upper-middle class family.” The generations before her had owned some large homes and property, as well as several saw mills on the Hudson River (Map of Kinderhoock, 1686). She had it all as a child and the family lost it all. She regained her family’s prominence and her wealth through her journalism and public communication (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995).
As a child she developed the nick name “Dee.” The development and transformation of the name came from her Swiss-German grandfather, Conrad Bollinger. When ever he tried to pronounce Edith and it always came out “E dit.” It sounded like he was always saying eat it. To avoid embarrassment he began calling her Dee. Throughout her life she was known as Dee.
One occurrence appears to have become a pivotal point in her life. Faulstich knew she was intelligent and despite what others thought, she was not a quitter. At Park Ridge High School in 1925, Edith had enrolled in Mr. Smerber’s tenth-grade geometry class. It was not that she needed the class to graduate, but all her friends were in the class. She was a very social person, but be it known, Edith was not a flighty person by nature and always gave her best at any given task. Part way through the geometry course, Faulstich realized she and math did not mix. Never having done so before and after considerable deliberation, she asked to withdraw from the class.
Mr. Smerber brought her up from her wooden desk to the front of the class and stood her up on top of the platform where his desk reigned. Before the entire class of 25 students, Mr. Smerber proclaimed that she was a quitter, a looser and that she would never amount to anything” (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995). Despite the embarrassing incident in front of her classmates she graduated from high school in 1927.
Later in her life, this incident would become the opening remarks of a speech she would make to a large philatelic audience in southern New Jersey.
Due to the death of her father, she was unable to go to college but took a secretarial course. “She married at the age of 20 and had two sons” (Deutch, 2). Her married name became Edith M. Fisher. By the early 1940s, she was a divorced woman alone with two sons to support” (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995), and little to no income.
She faced many personal and financial trials as a single parent. Divorce in those days caused a quite a social stigma. Also, it was a man’s world and the only professions open to women during those early years were teaching or nursing. Women were not often afforded the opportunity to attend college. Instead, they generally held what were considered menial tasks as receptionists, secretaries and stenographers.
Dee started out as a stenographer and it did not make her happy. But the job brought in money to feed her children. Women were not very involved with factory work (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995).
Faulstich lived behind one of the family houses in a garden bungalow, daily she traveled to the city, by rail, to work as a stenographer. She earned forty dollars a week, twenty-eight dollars per month went for traveling costs into the city. She worked from seven in the morning until six at night.
She had a difficult time working long hours for little pay, overcoming financial difficulties and raising two children by herself (author’s interview, no. 1, 1995).
She had a great deal of emotional resilience. Faulstich “had what they called in those days, ‘moxie'”(author’s interview, no. 1,1995). Moxie is a slang term that defines the capacity to confront obstacles and difficulties with spirit; courage and guts (American Heritage Desk Dictionary,1981, p. 631).
She had a proactive inclination to respond purposefully to existing problems or events. Purposefully, Faulstich started stamp collecting as a hobby with her sons. In the beginning, it was a way for Faulstich and her children to do something together. It was a good way to spend some precious quality time together.
Faulstich “had a ‘yen,’ a longing, to write” and she was not a shy person (authors interview no. 1, 1995). In the beginning with her philatelic work, Faulstich wanted to know how people communicated before pre-printed governmental stamps, before 1840. She then wanted to promote and increase awareness about the value and need for postal history.
Additionally, there were several intangible elements about Faulstich that were also an integral part of her work. The intangibles were her emotional passion and the personal time she invested in philately which lent to her success. She was genuinely interested in people and how postal history affected people.
The human component was very important to her.
The Siberian Sojourn Volume II-Chapter 21
General Graves arrived on the THOMAS. It was a beautiful sunny day. The officers already in Vladivostok had arisen at four in the morning to greet the General aboard the transport. Graves was more than pleased with the warm welcome but had to part company at 11 am for a scheduled breakfast aboard the BROOKLYN.
The General stated: “It was an almost impossible task to convince the Japanese or Chinese or Italian forces that on account of our sanitary regulations we can only put 150 men into a building. . .(one) into which they would put 300-500. They would not admit that our soldiers were deserving of any more consideration than their own.”[v]
Such questions had to be handled with tact and diplomacy.
The doughboys were not as busy as was General Graves and his staff upon arrival, but they were eager to get off the transport and into town for a firsthand look at the city itself.
First, however, they were required to eat breakfast on board. Then they received permission to debark.
Food on the transports was cooked in copper kettles by steam. Under ordinary circumstances the kettles were emptied after each meal, and scalding steam was used to cleanse them thoroughly. In this way, they were completely sterilized before the next meal. This method of cooking aboard army transports has long since been abandoned, but in September, 1918, that was the method used.
When the men received their dinner Labor Day night in 1918, they knew they would be eating their breakfast on the transport as well. The cooks also knew this. Henry Fry reports, “Those damn cooks must have had it figured out in advance that if they cooked more slum for dinner than the men could eat there would be some left over for breakfast. So they did just that, and then, not being military, they were permitted to go to town. Thus, when the slum cooled, and remember it had been sitting in those copper kettles all night, it was just reheated and served again. The effect was ptomaine poisoning.”[viii]
The result of that morning meal was catastrophic. After seventeen days on the water nearly every man was sick upon arrival. It has been reported that anywhere from 250 to 1,700 men were stricken a few hours after the meal was served. A survey showed that the men were indeed in the throes of ptomaine.
Stephen Chadwick records that they had no medical men assigned to them. That in itself was disastrous. Chadwick communicated with headquarters immediately, explaining the gravity of the situation, and requested that id be sent on the double.
An officer present at headquarters confided to Chadwick later that the Expedition Surgeon passed the petition for aid off with the remark that some of the men had doubtless had too much vodka. No assistance arrived.
At five o’clock most of the doughboys were too sick to leave their beds. Chadwick called again. An hour later a hospital corpsman with a bag of medicine appeared. He was unable to cope with the situation which existed. So Chadwick and a few others organized the well men into a sort of hospital corps and assisted, as far as they could, those unable to take care of themselves.
“At seven o’clock,” he recalls, “to my great relief, two young doctors drifted in. Seeing the situation and fully appreciating it, they immediately raided the so called Base Hospital and returned with two bottles of CC pills and one bottle of castor oil. The latter was said to be the only bottle with the expedition! The pills were given to those able to walk, the oil was soon exhausted on those unable to leave their beds,” Chadwick reports, and adds, “To those two doctors, Lieutenants Ehlers and Baronodisk, the men of the transport owe a real debt, for with me they waited and worked throughout the night. I hope the Expedition Surgeon slept soundly.”
Other men recalled that some of the sick were put in a field hospital which was set up in Russian quarters. “The doctors and pill rollers gave each of us either salts or castor oil to try to ease the onslaught of the pain,” said one man.
Henry Fry said his sleeping accommodations were subsequently not too bad as the Russian army bakeries were pretty well set up and sleeping quarters were provided for, according to the number of bakers they had. The higher ranking non-commissioned officers had small sleeping rooms. The officers’ quarters were habitable after they were cleaned. The soldiers were thankful that they had arrived in moderately cold weather rather than in the freezing weather of winter. “If we had arrived in Siberia two months later than we did, I doubt if we ever could have made it. When I think back of what we did have to go through I know we couldn’t have made it if it had been better cold.”[x]
Some of the troops had taken over one of the Baldwin Locomotive sheds upon arrival. They remained for a day, having mess on the transport. Then they were informed that messing from the transport had to end. These men were equipped as casuals, without kitchen equipment, so feeding became quite a problem. Beef was issued in half and other rations in similar proportions. The men took the only way out. They raided the Quartermaster Warehouse for sufficient supplies to feed themselves. Altogether, there were 1,250 men, formerly of the Eighth, quartered in the Baldwin sheds. They were located about three miles out from the center of the city, and from expedition headquarters.[xiii]
[ii]Gen. Graves’ official report #2 dated 6/30/19, WDNA
re[prt dated 6/30/19, WDNA
[v]Graves’ Final Report, WDNA
[vi]Graves’ Final Report, WDNA
[vii]Graves’ Report, September 25, 1919 to Adjutant General of the Army, WDNA
[viii]Henry C. Fry, Quartermaster Corps.
[ix]Henry C. Fry
[x]Henry C. Fry
[xi]Alphia Wilber Goreham, Co. D, 31st Inf.
[xii]Lester William Reed, Co. K, 31st Inf.
[xiii]Stephen F. Chadwick, Lt. Co. D, 27th Inf., 1st Bn. Adjutant, Regimental Personnel Adjutant
The SIberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 20
At the concentration point, Sviyagino, Colonel Morrow was busy preparing to move the troops to Ussuri. He was in command of the march which started on August 30, 1918.
Men stood stunned. Many regurgitated with abandon into the bushes, while unable to take their eyes off the sight. Unburied bodies with flesh burning in the hot midday sun were covered with swarms of large black flies. Other bodies, apparently killed more recently, still oozed blood. The sight sickened the very staunchest.
The men noted that the boots of many corpses had been removed. “It must have
The camp was made close to a small creek. However, the parched soldiers were forbidden to drink there until the water had been boiled and cooled. They watched with envy as the mules were permitted to drink from the creek.
“It was there we met a British soldier from a Middlesex regiment who told us of the skirmish. He also spoke of the huge mosquitoes. I know he was not exaggerating as we had the same experience with the monsters. That night we were given a speech about not being taken prisoner. We fixed our bayonets to do some fighting but it didn’t come. The soldier I saw who was killed was a Russian. He had been felled by a skirmish party a short distance ahead and was left there all alone. I don’t even know if they ever buried him.”
Crossing a marsh some three miles wide, wagons again became mired. They were pulled along by means of ropes and manpower.
As the men marched on, their shoes squished mud with weird, gurgling sounds. One soldier after shaking a mass of muddy slime from his feet, laughed sardonically. “When I think how I used to cuss a dry spell down on the farm. . .” Some of his buddies understood.
The ten-minute rest period during each hour was eagerly awaited. The doughboys would sit in a ditch with their packs against the berm of the roadside, wipe their filthy, unshaven faces and swat at the huge swamp mosquitoes. Tired, hungry and disgruntled, they cussed the world in general and Russia in particular.
Once the tents were pitched, chores done and chow over, the men felt better. Since there was no means of relieving tensions, the men lay down and attempted to sleep on the deeply scored ground. The city men suffered most.
That night some of the soldiers began pacing back and forth; they felt like trapped animals with unfilled stomachs and wet bodies.
Sometimes appetites were forgotten. Nick Hochee told of the time they stopped to eat. Again another heap of bodies was discovered. This time the corpses were piled like cordwood upon a new battlefield.
At times in the evenings when fires were built, a few natives would wander in and gather around to hear the doughboys sing American songs. These Russians listened and laughed in their subdued, grave manner.
As the Yanks neared Ussuri, they were happy to be out of the wilderness. They were dirty, tired and hungry as they arrived at Ussuri at 3:30 pm on September 4th after making nearly 14 long miles from Tikamanavo. Before arriving, however, a most unusual event occurred. Dragging themselves along …( ?????? check the books original text. unreadable)
– At Ussuri –
The Americans were exuberant with the spirit of good fellowship which had overwhelmed them when they were met by the welcoming sounds of the 31st Infantry band and the greeting from the British contingent. In spite of the hardships they had endured, everything suddenly seemed right. When the rain ceased at noontime and the stillness of the atmosphere seemed to hush the possibility of further frustrations, the men of the 27th felt relaxed for the first time in many days.
(With apologies to Kipling)
Are drooping theirs from marches and fatigue;
If you can drill in dust that clouds and smothers,
And still be fit to hike another league;
If you can stand the greasy food and dishes,
The long black nights, the lonesome road, the blues,
If you can choke back all the gloomy wishes
For home that seem to spring right from your shoes;
If you can laugh at sick call and the pill boys,
When all the other lads are checking in;
If you can kid and jolly all the kill-joys,
Whose faced long ago forgot to grin;
If at parade you stand fast at attention
When every muscle shrieks aloud with pain;
If you can grin and snicker at the mention
Of some bone play connected with your name;
If you succeed to keep your knees from knocking,
At the thoughts of all the bullets you may stop;
If you can do these things and really like ’em
You’ll be a regular soldier yet, old top.[x]
The shoes of most of the men were in a deplorable state. The thought of a swim was delighted, especially to relieve aching feet. “Of course we were cautioned not to drink the water but it is funny how the river went down after we all went in swimming.”[xi]
A Soldier’s Prayer
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my gun to keep;
Grant no other soldiers take
My socks or shoes before I wake.
Lord please guard me in my slumber
And keep this cot upon its lumber.
Let no peg or guy rope break,
Nor the tent blow down before I wake.
Grant no fire drills sound at night
And in the morning let me wake
Breathing scents of sirloin steak.
God protect me in my dreams
And make it better than it seems.
Grant the time may swiftly fly
When I myself may rest on high.
Deliver me from work and drills
And when I’m sick don’t feed me pills;
And should I hurt this hand of mine,
Don’t dab it o’er with iodine.
In a snowy, downy feather bed
There I long to rest my head,
Far away from all camp scenes,
And from the smell of pork and beans.
Take me back into the land
Where I can walk without a band.
Where no thrilling bugle blows,
And where the women wash the clothes.
In spite of fervent prayers, all requests were not answered. The men still slept in leaky pup tents. Candles were doled out; some retarded the drips in the tents by holding a lighted candle over wet spots. They found that the heat dried the canvas and helped to stop the drips. But water still seeped under the tents and men often slept in puddles. Raincoats were used as flaps for the tents. However, the men were so tired that they slept through everything. There were times when they awoke to find that the water below them had frozen. They were literally obliged to rip themselves out of their iced blankets.
Via the grapevine the Americans had heard that more troops had landed in Vladivostok and that General Graves was now in Siberia.
[ii]Clifford E. Strohm, Co. A, 27th Inf.
[iii]Clifford E. Strohm
[iv]Clifford E. Strohm; Nick Hochee, 27th Inf.
[v]George P. Billick, Co. A, 27th Inf.
[vii]Priest’s Medical Report, WDNA
[viii]Henry C. Fry, Quartermaster Corps. Fry was not on the hike but got many details about it from those who took part.
[ix]Clifford E. Strohm
[x]Submitted by David G. Moore, Evacuation Hospital No. 17
[xi]Lawrence Nygard, Co. M, 27th Inf.
[xii]Priest’s Medical Report, WDNA
[xiii]Don Pequignot, Machine Gun Co., 27th Inf.
[xiv]Supplied by several enlisted men