Philip Selker was born April 25, 1907 in Montabauer, Westerwald, Germany. He was the son of Karl Friedrich Selker. Philip became a tailor by trade. The custom in Germany was for the oldest son to carry on the trade of the father. Philip had to take on the trade of tailor when his older brother died.
Philip was old enough to vote for German President Paul von Hindenburg in the 1925 election. At age 21 Philip made the decision to leave Germany and immigrate to the United States. Philip explained that he made the decision to come to the United States because it offered a better life and opportunities than Germany had to offer at the time. On February 8, 1929 the vessel S.S. Hamburg set sail from Hamburg, Germany.
The S.S. Hamburg was a German Ocean liner built by the Blohm & Voss Shipbuilders and owned by the Hamburg America Line. The ocean liner was 21,132 gross register tons and 635 feet long. The ship had space for 222 first class passengers, 471 second class passengers and 456 third class passengers.
On February 19, 1929 Philip arrived at Ellis Island in New York aboard the ship Hamburg. He said the ocean voyage was terrible. He shared a cabin for four. He was terribly seasick and the weather was quite stormy. The ships manifest recorded Philip as age 21, occupation of tailor. His birth location and last residence are recorded as Montabaur, Germany. A brochure advertising the ships service in 1938 is available at this link).
After being processed at Ellis Island Philip Stopped in Clarion, Pennsylvania where he had family. His uncle Joseph William Selker was living in Clarion with his family. He was the owner of J.W. Selker & Cigar. On July 5, 1906 Joseph returned to his home town of Fuersteanau, Germany. He took his son Frederick William Selker with him. On his return he brought two of his nieces back with him. One was Philomena Selker, daughter of Gerhardt Selker and Mary Agnes Rakers, the other was Johanna Anna Selker, daughter of Karl Friedrich Selker and Margarita Wolf.
The meeting in Clarion was the first between brother and sister. Johanna arrived July 5, 1906 before Philip was born. After spending some time in Clarion Philip went on to Chicago, IL
In Chicago he lived with a cousin who had immigrated in 1923. Philip worked as a tailor for Marshall Fields for several years and eventually rising to the status of master tailor. Philip became a naturalized citizen on March 4, 1936 at the U.S. District Court in Chicago, IL.
On January 25, 1944 Philip enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned to the Infantry. He landed at Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 on the second day of the invasion of the Allied Forces. The following reading is recommend to provide perspective on what it must have been like to arrive on June 7. Omaha Beach was still in a critical state. The men arriving in the second wave were faced with the causalities of the day before.
Philip saw action in France, Belgium, and Germany. He was injured during the Bulge when his troop train was hit with artillery or rockets. Philip jumped clear of the train but the concussion from the blast blew out his ear drums. He lost all hearing on one side and suffered partial hearing loss in the other ear. Many men from his unit did not make it of the train. After recovering he later served in the Pacific Theater.
If another American soldier questioned Philip’s loyalty he was ready to fist fight with them. One challenge for Philip during the war was his proximity to his hometown of Montabauer. He did not know the status of his German family. Were they safe? Were they injured? He was also not permitted to have contact with them. Philip also had cousins who were fighting for the German Army.
On December 7, 1945 Philip was released from his service. He returned to Chicago, IL. In 1947 he opened his own tailor shop in northeast Chicago. He operated his shop until 1987. At age 83 he was still working in his shop 11 hours a day 6 days a week. Philip was a founding member of the Rheinischer Gesangverein Chicago (RGV). The society was founded in 1933. He has received the Deutscher Sangerbund Award and the Gold Pin in recognition of his continuous attendance and valued participation for 60 years of service. He was known by the RGV as a loyal and vigorous member. He is remembered as one of the liveliest and most active singers.
Philip passed away on September 25, 2006 at age 99.