The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.


ALMOST HOME, The Life Story of Ernest Fandler

Posted: 29 June 2017


Chapter 1  - Early Life
Many times, I have been asked to write my life story because I have come through so many difficult circumstances. Finally, one day, while flying over the Atlantic and thinking over my past life, I decided to do so.

I was born in Switzerland into a very poor family, the fourth child of a family of seven boys and three girls. When I was twelve years old, I left home to help support the family. During this time, I remember, going to the woods by myself and wondering if this was all there was to life. My heart cried for some kind of hope for a better life – even if it was a million years from now. And I thank God that I've discovered a better life and have the opportunity to write about it.

After helping to support my family for many years, I could see that there was no future in this for me. I felt that I must go where I could get the most of my labor. After investigating, I decided that California was the land of promise for me.

My uncle Eisenhut
loaned me the money for the boat and train tickets, and soon I was on my way to California. At the Ellis Island checkpoint for foreigners entering the United States, I was told that, because I had arrived sick in body, and also had less than the required money for foreigners coming to the country to live, I would have to return to Switzerland. I was placed with a large group of black immigrants placed and was puzzled because they were all crying. When I inquired, I was informed that they had been told that all of us would not be allowed to enter the United States and would have to return to our former homes. The next morning I was requested to stand before the judge with an interpreter.

"What are you doing in California?" he asked.
going to work on a farm," I said.
The judge then asked: "What
are you going to do with the money?"
"I want to buy a farm
there," I answered. But in my heart I intended to buy a farm in Switzerland.
However, I must have said the right thing. for the interpreter told me: "Sie konnen nach Californien reisen.” (You can travel to California)." I had the judge's permission to go to California.

Landing in California, I got a job milking thirty (30) cows twice a day by hand. I saved every penny that I could so I would be able to go to Switzerland and buy a farm. I even started making money in the stock market. In a little over two years I had saved several thousand dollars.
Then came the
stock market crash. Many lost all their money -so did I. Newspapers were filled with reports of suicides. I myself didn't know just what I should do - I had lost all my money and my job, too. I couldn't think right anymore.

I had a little rupture, so I thought I'd have that operated on. To get in the hospital, I gave them the right to use my body for experimental purposes, thinking that if the operation failed, I had nothing to lose. I had been sending money home regularly, so I sent my last twenty dollars home, and a little just before Christmas 1929, I signed in at the San Francisco City Hospital. They asked me whom they should notify in case something happened to me. I said: "Nobody."

That night
in the next bed to me, I met a Swiss, one of my countrymen. We started to talk about old times. He had an incurable disease - and no money, like myself. While we were talking, a nurse came into the room with a note, saying that my friend must go to Room 335. Soon they came and wheeled him away.
"Well, I am glad to go. I will see you no more.”
And so it was. My friend knew that when someone was taken to Room 335, that meant it was the end. There was no or little hope you would ever come out alive.
The next morning, since I had given myself for experimental purposes, five student doctors tied me down, and wheeled me to an operating room. One student came to give me a spinal shot. The supervising doctor reprimanded him for doing it wrong. Next a second student came and gave me another shot. It probably was too much, because I became completely blind. Then they operated on the rupture and seemed to do a good job.

Afterwards, they continued experimenting, and cut my other side open, too. They suddenly noticed that something was wrong, it might have been my eyes. They said: "Hurry, hurry, sew him up!" When they were finished sewing me up, they said: "What should we do now?" One of them had a bright idea. He suggested: "Take him to Room 335." Knowing that they couldn't let me leave the hospital blind, they were going to sent me to Room 335. Another of the student doctor was not satisfied with this idea. He went and got a man.
The doctor asked, "Do you know this man?"
"Yes," I replied, even though I could
n't see a light, "That's the man who wheeled me in," I said. Later I wondered what made me say the right words, but now, I know after much more strange experiences.

Later, my eyesight returned to normal and I was
shifted from one place to another until Spring. Soon after this, I left the hospital in May, I asked some friends to go with me to Alaska to dig gold. One of them warned, "If the Indians don't get you, the bears will!"

Shortly after
this, I narrowly escaped death when a big buck deer attacked me. For about half an hour we both fought for dear life! He slashed me with his sharp hooves and kept trying to rip my stomach open with his horns. All I could do was hold on to those sharp horns while he pulled me all over the place. We were both exhausted when I finally got away.
I had an old Essex car to sell. With that money I started for Alaska and got as far as Juneau. I was broke, so for a few days, I lived in an old, empty house and slept on the floor. Then fortunately, I got work for a while. That money took me to Fairbanks. At Fairbanks, I got to know an old prospector who had seven dogs, a sled dog and a year's supply of groceries. Towards spring,  I went with him and his dog team into the wilderness. After nearly a week's journey, we got to his log cabin.

First we had to
go hunting, to get meat for the dogs and for ourselves, as we had to depend mostly on wild meat for food. Then we began to dig for gold. We dug a hole fifty feet deep to bedrock. From there we dug a tunnel out about one hundred feet on each side. We used a windlass, and rope and bucket to pull out the gravel. But before we could do anything, we had to thaw out the gravel first. Prospecting was hard work and dangerous, especially for the inexperienced.

One day, too much frozen gravel had thawed out, and broke loose on top of me. I was buried in the tunnel, fifty feet below ground level. There was no way for my partner to help because we had to let one another down on a rope to get into the tunnel below. Somehow, I managed to dig my way out of the cave-in.

I thought that this was the end for me.

… be continued...Chapter 2, The Wilderness of Alaska.


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