Wednesday 23 October 2019

Carole watched on as Hitler entered her beloved Vienna

There are not too many people living in Drogheda who can say that they were part of history - and saw Adolf Hitler triumphantly enter their home city.

And ultimately Carole Fraser, who has been part of Gala Cleaners on Peter Street since it opened in 1965 - had to flee her Austrian homeland the day before World War II was declared to prevent her and her family being forced into a concentration camp.

On the night she celebrated her 90th birthday in the Westcourt Hotel on Saturday last, she revealed the dramatic moment she saw Adolf Hitler, something that lives with her to this day.

'Anschluss' - or the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938 - was a defining moment in history.

Nazi forces entered the country and Hitler's cavalcade arrrived in Vienna on March 15.

'We were living across the road from the Danube and I saw him drive past with the SS and the SA beside him,' she stated. It is stated that around 200,000 cheering German Austrians gathered around the Heldenplatz (Square of Heroes) to welcome him.

In the months after that, Vienna became a hostile place for many, Carole often telling of seeing Jews being targeted by Nazi soldiers. They were driven through the streets of Vienna, their homes and shops were plundered. Jewish men and women were forced to wash away pro-independence slogans painted on the streets.

Her father was involved in politics and he felt that the time had come to leave. It was September 1939 and the world was hours from war.

'We went to London,' she stated.

In the years that followed, Carole began working as a dress maker in a college just behind Oxford Street and spent days on end learning her trade.

Then fate would play its part again.

As a young woman, she went on a cruise and met an Irishman called Robin Fraser. 'I didn't even know Ireland existed,' she admitted.

They hit it off immediately and on the second night, he asked her to marry him.

Six weeks later they married and they were together for 60 years, Robin passing away just a few years ago.

The Drogheda Independent reported on the wedding at the time, in 1954, of Robin Fraser, of Mill House, Slane, son Mr. and Mrs. John Fraser, Lisglennon, Killala, Co. Mayo, and Miss Carole Gertrude Hayek, daughter of Mrs. Emma Hayek and Alfred Hayek, 6. Chesney Court, Maida Vale, London.

Robin worked for the Slane Manufacturing Company where he was a very popular boss, but when the company was taken over, he lost his job. It was a tough and worrying time but then life came up trumps again. Robin would encounter Gerry Monahan and so began another chapter in Carole's life.

They began a dry cleaning service in 1965 and it still operates to this day on Peter Street.

Carole says its success is down to a dedicated staff who have served faithfully for decades.

'They are all just brilliant,' she declared. 'We had to adapt down the years and that has been a key to it. Everyone knows the customers.'

Last Saturday, her business partner, Leo Monahan and wife Ashling, and the staff met up with Carole in the Westcourt to mark her 90th birthday.

She admitted it was a special moment.

She does pop in to Gala from time to time, she admits, but these days its to see her team carry on a wonderful tradition.

'If I can give any advice from my 90 years it is simple - go for it when an opportunity comes up,' she proudly declared.

Drogheda Independent