Couple takes long, winding road to Smithsburg

June 03, 2005|by JANET HEIM

SMITHSBURG - You'd never know from looking at the modest rancher near town the long path through history that owners Alvin and Karol Jones took to get here.

Karolina "Karol" Lagler was a teenager growing up in Sopron, Hungary, during World War II when the war intensified around her. The bombing grew so bad that her high school was forced to graduate her class two months early.

Just days before Russian troops rolled through, her family and 35,000 other residents fled to Austria. Her family stayed with relatives of her father in Vienna, who shared their meager food rations.


In August 1945, two months after the war ended, the Lagler family returned to Sopron.

But the homecoming was a big mistake, Karol Jones said.

"We went back to nothing," she said. The front part of their house had been bombed, so they had to live with a grandmother in a single room that was more like a shack.

Karol Jones, who then was 18, said her uncle persuaded her parents to let him take her - the oldest of their four children - back to Austria, where she could get a job.

It meant crossing the border illegally because she didn't have a passport, so the pair had to make a carefully planned nighttime crossing. To do it, they had to hide in a tool shack at a vineyard in Hungary until the border guards changed, she said.

In Austria, Karol Jones stayed with her father's sister in Vienna, where she and one of her cousins got jobs as waitresses at The Blue Danube Red Cross Club in Linz, a popular hangout for American soldiers.

When it was discovered that neither woman could speak English, they were told to learn quickly or lose their jobs.

That was when Karol Jones met a young American soldier named Alvin Jones, who had grown up in a Pennsylvania coal mining town. Alvin, who could speak German, became her best English teacher.

"The first time I saw her - she was the prettiest girl I'd ever seen in my life," recalled Alvin Jones, 85. "I did know if I didn't marry her, I'd never get married."

Alvin Jones, a criminal investigator based near Linz for the U.S. Army, summoned up the courage to ask her for a date.

Karol Jones, 78, remembers she said yes, even though she was embarrassed by her refugee clothes. She had only a uniform for work and one other outfit.

Six months later, she agreed to marry him. He had to apply to marry her since she was from an enemy country, he said.

A promise kept

Far more difficult, had it not been for the black market connections he had made in Austria, was the task of meeting a promise Karol Jones had made to her parents.

She had assured her parents, who since had moved to Germany, that when she married, she would have a church wedding and walk down the aisle in full bridal dress - regardless of world politics.

Her groom did all in his power to make that happen.

Because paper money had no value, almost everything had to be purchased with cigarettes, then worth 50 cents a pack. Alvin Jones, who did not smoke, received 11/2 cartons every week on his ration card.

Through the black market, he was able to get most of the bridal items she needed.

Just days before their wedding, Karol Jones was delighted when she received a package from the United States. It contained two slips, two pairs of nylon stockings, shoes, a suit, a jacket and two dresses - all ordered through the catalog by her groom-to-be.

On their wedding day, June 21, 1947, they were married twice - in a civil ceremony not recognized by the U.S. military, then in a Lutheran church by an Army chaplain, a service not recognized by the Austrian government.

Three years later, the Army reassigned Alvin Jones to stateside duty. After a 10-day voyage, the couple landed in the U.S. on July 4, 1950.

Alvin Jones was stationed at the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Md. The couple stayed there until 1960, when he began teaching at Pennsylvania Military College in Chester, Pa. Sons were born in 1961 and 1962.

In 1964, he was reassigned to Fort Meade, but knew he was headed for Korea.

'The best place'

That's when they bought the house where they still live on Holiday Drive outside Smithsburg, choosing a peaceful setting where they could live for a long time. A month after moving in, Alvin Jones was sent to Korea.

Karol Jones, who stayed home with the couple's sons, found her new community to be very supportive of the young family.

"I think this is the best place on the earth," she said. "We have very friendly neighbors."

Over the years, she said, she has made baked goods to give to her neighbors to try to repay their kindness.

Looking back, Karol Jones said her faith has sustained her, even during the times the Army called her husband away. In all, his service includes two tours of duty in Vietnam, plus tours in Korea and Germany.

Alvin Jones retired in 1974, after the couple and their sons returned from a 31/2-year stay in Germany with the Army.

Return to Hungary

In all that time, they had never returned to Hungary. Karol insisted she would not go back as long as the country was occupied by the Russians. Then, in 2002, the couple did return and Karol was shocked to see how different the country looks and how well it has been rebuilt.

Nevertheless, they said, they were glad to get home to Smithsburg.

"I couldn't have better children, a better husband or a better life," Karol said. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."

The Herald-Mail Articles