Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Moravian Nationality

My grandfather Frantisek Ignatius Brhel was born on August 8th ,1892 in Moravia ,Czechoslovakia..He was the son of a poor farmer.. The floor was dirt and the roof was thatched.Frank was a boy of 13 when his mother died and he was sent to Vienna, Austria to be apprenticed as a locksmith.The master was cruel and harsh to the young boys.A typical meal would consist of a cold potato,slice of hard bread,and some cabbage or a dill pickle.My grandfather finished his apprenticeship in 3 years and took a train to Polesovice where he grew up.In 1909 ,at the age of 17,he was the only member of his family to come to America. He settled in the Chicago area.

My grandmother, Mary Balaja, from Orechov came to America at the age of 17 and also settled in the Chicago area.. My grandparents met and married in Chicago in 1915.
The Czechs were considered to have been one of the most literate group of immigrants to come to America.

     Eventually my grandfather became a tool and die maker and started out working on the  refrigeration of railway boxcars.He then went to work for General Motors in La Grange, Illinois in the electro-motive department. My grandmother Mary,was a trained pastry chef and opened her own restaurant called "Red Gables" on 22nd and Grove ave. in Berwin, Illinois.

My grandfather had a workshop in his basement while he was employed at General motors. It was in his basement that he invented the turbo engine for trains! A team of engineers,along with Kittenger,chief of GM labratories from GM came over and offered him approx. 87,000 and he told them it was worth more. GM stole my grandfathers invention and because my grandfather was a poor immigrant he didn't stand a chance in court .He did fight them and spent $10,000 on legal expenses.My grandmother was furious that her husband did not take the $87,000!! General Motors said that because he was an employee anything he invented at home was property of General Motors!I remember when my grandfather would tinker on his inventions when he visited us. When we lived in Columbia, SC he invented a motor that ran off of freon and water!! His car drove on it with no gas! Although he got a patent he could not sell it! I find that hard to believe but maybe it was connected to the oil companies and their abuse of power.
My grandfather died on August 19th 1978 and my grandmother on Sept 19th ,1977.

In 2013 my grandfather got the recognition he deserved and his photo along with the story of his invention was place in the new Railroad Museum in Texarkana.!! I know he is smiling down from heaven!!

My mom ,85 and youngest of 3 children of Frank & Mary,is surprised  with her fathers contribution to the train industry displayed at The Lindsey Train Museum in Texarkana, Arkansas.

Mildred Brhel Regan and her daughter Jan Regan Mullinax are pictured above at the Train Museum. 2012

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