John Koroschetz, left, Austria, born December 27, 1870

John Koroschetz, left, Austria, born December 27, 1870

At age twenty-one, on September 17, 1892, John Koroschetz, my mother’s father, was working in a machine shop (he was either a machinist or tool and die maker) in Graz, Austria, when something went terribly wrong. Was the machine mis-timed? Was he distracted for a moment? Was he trying to work too fast? Whatever the reason, the embossing machine on which he work crushed off the ends of the ring and little fingers of his left hand.

At least he had some legal protection and received the equivalent of workers’ compensation. How do I know? This legal document, which my mother, unable to read the formal writing, had mislabelled as “divorce papers,” turned out to be something entirely different!

My Rosetta Stone in Germany, Meta, deciphered its real content and set me straight. It’s actually “Arbeiter-Unfallversicherungs-Anstalt für Steiermark u. Kärnten,” meaning Workers Accident Insurance in Graz.

"Entschädigungs Erkenntis"  = Compensation Decision

“Entschädigungs Erkenntis” = Compensation Decision

I know now that he received a half year “pension” as compensation. He received 3 Florin (Gulden) and 56 Kreuzers per month, based on a portion of his annual salary.

Of course it could have been worse––he could have lost his whole hand, but Johann was also a musician, making the loss especially acute. Despite his missing fingers, Johann continued to play multiple instruments, from trumpet to mandolin and harmonica.

Above is a photo of him as a young man (that’s Johann on the left, friend on the right) with his trumpet. Mom says that sometimes, just to be a rascal, he would play his trumpet in the alps, knowing a wedding was taking place in the valley below. His notes would echo off the surrounding mountainsides, competing with the festivities below.

Johann was a Schuplattler too. Young men joined in a traditional Austrian folk dance, slapping their feet (Schu = Shoe) and thighs to the beat of the music, trying to impress the girls. Here’s a video of some modern-day Schuplattlers. Use the button under the video screen to zip ahead about one minute (1:00) to get to the real “action.” Would this dance make you want to marry one of these guys? Different era, right? If the video doesn’t play (as Blogger is just a brat sometimes) try this link: Schuplattler video.

Johann was really quite a bright fellow. He later became an inventor with several patents to his name. Here’s his report card from when he was thirteen years old in Graz, Austria. It’s dated September 18, 1884, indicating he had attended elementary school from Sept., 16, 1877- July 28, 1884. In every subject he had earned “sehr gut.” That means “very good,” which I understand was the highest mark. Way to go, Grandpa!

Johann (later John) Koroschetz half-way up right shoulder, I see the side of a woman's hair. Maybe first wife?

Johann (later John) Koroschetz half-way up right shoulder, I see the side of a woman’s hair. Maybe first wife?

Johann married a woman named Caroline or Charlotte, on June 21, 1896, when he was twenty-five years old. We have no photos of this woman, but I think I spot the left side of her hair in this photograph of my grandfather “as a young man” as my mother labeled it. We know little about this woman, nor the four children they had together, other than their names. But we do know his side of the story as to what destroyed their marriage, and that he came to America alone, never to see those children or his first wife again.

Next week: Desertion and divorce.