Len Cervinsky grew up in Larkin and has Eastern European roots

There are three things that made 8-year-old Len Cervinsky feel so adventurous one day.

He wanted a piece of candy. He had money to buy a candy bar. He didn’t think his mother would know he was passing through the cornfield to Oliver’s Grocery Store on the corner of Waldo and Monroe Streets in Larkin.

But as he passed through the cornfield, he saw a car parked in front of Oliver’s house, the car door open. His mother said: Come in. Lin ends the story like this: “I didn’t get my candy bar.”

Today, Lane is the entrepreneur in a successful business in Larkin Township known for its high quality trees and shrubs, Maple Hill Nursery. But he still remembers stepping out of the cornfield and seeing his mother waiting in the car to take her 8-year-old wayward son home.

Lin’s story begins with his maternal great-grandfather, Andrew Bartos, who was born in 1864 in Wielka Lipnica in the province of Slovakia and modern Poland. Andrew married Caroline Janowiak and eventually, as many young couples do, emigrated to America. He had relatives who had already made the journey across the ocean from a village where injustice and poverty were constants.

Four parcels of land on Old State Road (now Jefferson Road) were purchased by four Slovak families: the Philip Adamcic family, the Andrew Bartos family, the Karkoski family, and the Stephen Malak family. The King’s lot contained a lumberman’s house built by John Larkin to house men while they worked in the woods. All four families (including the in-laws) lived in the lumberjack’s home while building their own log cabins. At one time, 18 people lived in Malak’s house.

To help the new immigrants get started, Philip Adamsek bought a team of oxen for $100 and sent oxen sleds filled with logs to sawmills in the small town of Midland.

Andrew and Caroline Bartos had their first child while still in the village of Wilka Lipnica in 1892. They named their first daughter Jenny. Jenny would become Lyn Cervinsky’s grandmother. Initially, Caroline and Jenny stayed at Velka Lipnica when Andrew immigrated to America. He eventually managed to save up enough money to pay for passage for his wife and daughter on board. Jenny learned to walk while on the ship. She was one year old.

Andrew Bartos helped his in-laws (the Janowiaks) build their log cabin. But even with a home of their own, Carolyn’s father, Andrew Janowiak, was unhappy. He did not like living in America. He couldn’t speak English and couldn’t get a construction job. On June 26, 1894, Andrew Bartos purchased the house from his father-in-law, and the Janouiacs then lived with Andrew and Caroline Bartos for the next four years.

The immigrants, who lived in dense forests at the time, had to cut down trees to create space for farming. Lynn’s grandmother, Jenny, remembered what it was like as a child having to milk cows before going to school. She was 6 years old and so small that she was milking cows, and milk was running down her arms. Her sister, Mary, had to stay home to take care of their brother Henry because their mother, Caroline, worked in the fields.

In the spring, Caroline tied a sheet around her waist, made a sack to hold the grain, and sowed it by hand up and down the rows her husband Andrew had made with a single plow and a tiller. The milk was sold to the Pinconning Cheese Factory. Breakfast was a johnny cake. Later, two more sons were added to the family of Andrew Bartos, Frank and Edward.

When Jenny was eighteen, she was engaged to George Skalnikan. She met him once and then remembered him coming to their house and talking to her parents. When George left, Jenny was told that she was engaged to that man. He was 34 years old. They were married at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in Midland in 1910. Years later, in the nursing home where she lived, someone showed her the wedding photograph from 1910. Someone asked her, “Why isn’t anyone smiling?” Jenny replied, ‚ÄúScared! “There’s not much to be happy about.”

Jenny and George lived on Hubbard Road. Stephen was their first born in 1911, followed in 1913 by George Jr., who died when he was 11 months old. Their first daughter was Anna, born in 1915. (She married James Cervinsky in 1935 and their second son would be Leonard (Lane), born in 1942.) Five more Skalinkan children were born to Jenny and George: Frank in 1918, Helen in 1919 , Paul in 1923, Joseph in 1926, and Albert in 1927.

Len’s father’s side of the family begins with his grandfather Ignace Cervinski and grandmother Marie Otrempjak. Both were born in the village of Bikilnik, in southern Poland, on the border with Slovakia. Ignacy was born in 1882. Marie was born in 1890. They married in 1907. Their first child was a son who died at birth. Their second son died at the age of nine months. Their third son survived. He was born in 1911 and his name was James. James Cervinsky would become the father of four sons: John, Leonard, Joseph and Bernard.

In 1912, Ignace Cervinsky emigrated to America after reading letters from his brother praising his life in America. Ignace got a job in a coal mine in Portage, Pennsylvania. Then three-year-old James and his mother, Marie Outrempjak, came to America, where Ignace lived. In 1914, their daughter Marie was born, and in 1915, Anna. A fourth son was born, who was named Johnny. He died eight months old.

Marie (Otrymjak) Cervinski was diabetic and had been a patient for most of her life. At the time Mary was having children, little was known about diabetes and its effect on the health of the mother and the health of the child.

In a vain attempt to help his wife, the doctor tells Ignace that moving to the country and living on a farm might help her health. In 1922, Ignace Cervinsky bought Wenzel Farm on Waldo Road and moved his wife and children there. In 1939, Mary died at the age of 49 after falling down the basement stairs at the farmhouse.

On October 14, 1935, James Cervinsky and Anna Skalnican were married at St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Midland by Father Elijah. Four sons were born to them over the next 14 years. John was first in 1940. Second was Lane, born in 1942. Joseph was born in 1945 and Bernard was born in 1954.

Lin has fond memories of growing up on a farm with parents who raised their four children in the Catholic faith and instilled in them the value of hard work, honesty, and a love of family. On the farm, everyone worked. Lin remembers his father saying at the dinner table one night, “If we want to eat at this table, we should all work.” And everyone did.

Lin remembers the fall season, when the cabbage was ready to be made into sauerkraut. First, the cabbage heads were checked for bad leaves, which were discarded. Then the cabbage core was taken out. The next step was to wash the cabbage and send it through a cabbage shredder, where it was cut into small pieces. The next step was to put the cabbage in a bowl.

Lin and Guo came into the picture at this point. After scrubbing their feet with soap and hot water, they climbed into the bowl, where they stepped on the shredded cabbage. When this is done, salt is added to start the fermentation process. A heavy lid was placed on the pot and a stone was placed on the lid in case the fermentation process might cause the lid to fall. When the sauerkraut was ready to eat, Lin remembers his mother frying the sauerkraut in butter and then pouring the fried cabbage over the potatoes on your plate. “It was delicious!” Lin said.

The second part of this story will appear in two weeks.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *