By: D.L. Karabin
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1913
Elias preferred his middle name, George. He was a young, modern man, just 25, full of energy and drive, heading for a fresh start in a new country—America. He was eager to board the Nieuw Amsterdam and join his siblings who had already settled in Chicago. His older brother Fred had helped him with travel logistics. It was a long journey from Galicia, Austria. His family was Ukrainian.
The first time world-traveler was a natty dresser. He wore his best clothes and shined his shoes until they looked new. A well-worn journal in his steamer trunk awaited a new entry.
This was a milestone in his life.
George was meticulous about records. He wanted to be a lawyer and had already made an inquiry about the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He was a man with a plan— he’d marry an American girl, then raise a family.
He had no regrets about leaving the old world. Little did he know that situations would force him to return there—smack-dab into a bloody, black vortex.
The large ship provided a good way to meet new friends. George had purchased a 2nd Class ticket and added the supplement which included access to the 1st Class deck.
After leaving his luggage in his cabin, he took a stroll up there with a deck of cards in his pocket just in case he’d
meet someone who played.
George’s game was Pinochle, a gentleman’s choice.
It didn’t take him long to strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler. The young man was British, about the same age as George. He was friendly, scholarly and, like George, had a fondness for history and foreign affairs. His name was Ethan James. He didn’t tell George his title.
Ethan was also bound for Chicago to visit his extended family, so the two young men had a common destination—and, they both loved Pinochle! The two played several hands until dinner was served. Ethan invited George to join him at his table as a prize for beating him at cards.
With that first meal, the two men would begin a decades-long friendship. They toasted one another’s success and were seen together most every day of the 12-day crossing.