“A Hungarian Memoir, The Early Years-Rakamaz”
(This chapter is the last for the week. It talks about my fathers observations and experiences in and of school, church and other events when he was young and growing up in the town of Rakamaz, Hungary.)
In the imaginary yet very real social class tower stood the Catholic Church, followed only by the grand army (police) with its watchful eyes. The members of the “police” were dictated by a higher order and forbidden to socialize with anyone. They relocated them to different towns every two to four years. These special police were voluntarily recruited after they served three years in the regular army. Most of them came from very poor farms or were farm workers who had barely more than six years of elementary education. They went through very rigid physical and mental training. They were trained thoroughly in law enforcement and ready to kill anyone. Keeping the peace between the classes was one of their job titles. If the police took you in for questioning it was a guarantee that you would never want to go back again. These grand army police members were forced to portray the highest standards. If a civilian was able to disarm a member of the police during a dispute or fight, the police official was immediately discharged from the force.
This situation happened only once in my town and the young man was so terrified he committed suicide by throwing himself under the train. By law in every town there where “grand army police” the town had to appoint two people, to be present during interrogations. If the crime was of a serious nature, usually the appointed people were called to the police station too late. It gave the police just enough time to physically work over the arrested individual. I remember once when two of my first cousins were arrested for being members of a Fee Masonic Organization; which was against the law. They beat one of them up so badly, he had to be hospitalized.
Young men up to age twenty-one who weren’t in church on Sunday could also be arrested. When you were arrested it usually took place at night and you served your time in the county jail. If the young person arrested had parents who were rich enough they were able to pay another person; usually a poor man to serve time in their place. This practice wasn’t permitted by law but in real life took place anyway.
Across the main street from the main church was the parochial school I attended. In school every morning from Monday through Saturday between 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. we went to morning mass. School hours where Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from noon to two was our dinner break. On Saturday’s we went to school from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. the last hour on Saturdays was religious hour. On many Sundays and holidays I used to volunteer as an altar boy. My problem with the Catholic church started when I was in the fifth grade as contradicting as this is, it happened for two reasons. I remember very clearly how it happened even in my old age.
During the 1930’s my country like other countries was in a deep worldwide depression. It was hard to find jobs and the poor in the town were going hungry. Some of them lived worse than the animals. By trade as a cabinet-maker and wood-crafter my father would let customers who were not able to pay money for work, pay in other ways. He would accept grain, potatoes, beans, etc., but even this way it was hard for him to feed and clothe nine children and a wife. We ate corn in many ways. This was not because farmers had a bad harvest of wheat or any other grain. The towns grain storage was contaminated with a for of poison that made it unsafe for human consumption. The farmers main produce was wheat and rye in the winter time; corn was not at all a staple food.
At the time religious tax was mandatory and if you were on a payroll it was deducted automatically. If one was self-employed like my father you had to go to church to make your payment. Due to economic hardships of the depression my father was not able to pay his religious tax. One day the town tax collector came to our door. My mother told him that we had no money to pay and then said she had nine children and asked him which one he wanted to confiscate for tax payment. Of course the tax collector was not interested in confiscating any of us. Instead he tried to take our geese and ducks. At that point my mother grabbed a shovel and began to threaten him. Not surprisingly he left our house without the geese or ducks. I really can not recall how the tax dispute was settled in the end but I do know my mothers feelings toward the Catholic church started to change.
(The second chapter of “The Early Years” will be posted next week. Thank you to those that have taken their time of visit my site and to read these memoirs. ~Kat)