Once he was on the boat, Barnet lost track of time. He felt ill and wasn’t sure how long it would take to arrive in London. He left no record of the time, but nevertheless was relieved that he and the others were safe.
Finally, once in London, he spent the rest of his money buying into a pushcart business selling fruits and vegetables:
One day while pushing the cart loaded with merchandise tied around with strong ropes for security, I had to cross a street where a policeman was directing traffic. Two trams were crisscrossing that intersection. The rails were directly on the street.
The wheels of my cart got caught in the rails and the entire cart was bucked up, with me holding onto the handles, suspended in air. Thanks to the policeman who ran to my rescue and helped me down, I might otherwise have fallen with my head on the rails, putting me out of commission.
My cart was pulled from the railing and wheeled over to a smooth road. As usual in an accident like that, people gather. My name and place of business were checked, and the story was reported in the newspaper. My friends read about it and came to see me. They urged me to give up such a job, saying it was a job for a common laborer, not for an intelligent fellow like me.
I told them I wanted to work there until I saved sufficient money for a boat ticket to New York. If I could get to a better place, I would make a change. They talked with the boss who promised not to send me on any more deliveries. He kept me busy with work inside the store.
In his autobiography, Barnett said that he wrote a letter to an aunt already living in America and that she sent him a ticket to come by boat. Then, as many immigrants have reported, an American immigration officer misread his papers and officially changed Barnet’s last name from “Krugler” to “Kreeger.”
There is a far more dramatic tale of Barnet’s pushcart accident and how it led to his journey to America. Perhaps he didn’t retell it this way because of his own personal modesty, but the story is included here as a family legend for its mythic and almost cinematic qualities.
It begins with Barnet’s pushcart stuck on the London tracks. As described earlier, he struggled to free it while others stepped in to help, but the wheels were tightly wedged into the tracks.
The story takes a different turn when, instead of being hoisted high into the air and rescued by a policeman, a frightened horse and buggy bolted uncontrollably toward the cart while the lady inside screamed for help. Everyone leapt out of the way.
But being familiar with horses from his work on the farm, Barnet quickly grabbed the reins and ran with the animal, his boots scraping against the street while he slowed it down. It took a while, but the runaway horse finally stopped. He spoke calmly to reassure it, and having accomplished that, he leaned against the buggy to catch his breath.
The lady in the buggy rested her gloved hand on Barnet’s shoulder and thanked him profusely for saving her life. She opened her purse and pulled out a large sum of money, folding his hand around it.
Barnet doffed his cap and thanked her. He replied that anyone would have done the same, but the lady shook her head and pointed out that only he had done so, and that as a hero, he deserved a reward.
It had been a close call, but Barnet’s pushcart was finally freed from the tracks and the lady drove on to her destination. Barnet returned home, exhausted.
The legend says that before going to bed, he counted his reward and was astonished to find that there was more than enough money to book his passage to America. There might even be some left over to support himself until he found regular work.
And thus ends the oral history. It’s not the one that Barnet recorded, but like most family legends passed down by word of mouth, it had its origin among grateful descendants.
Barnet did write that coming to America had been miracle enough for him. He hadn’t known it then, but more miracles were to come.
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