South Land Park resident speaks about his Swiss heritage, lengthy career

South Land Park resident Ferdinand Morant prepares to cut meat at Morant’s Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen, which he owned from 1980 to 1989. / Photo courtesy of Ferdinand Morant

Swiss immigrant Ferdinand Morant is a man who knows sausages.
This point is certainly difficult and actually useless to argue, considering that Ferdinand, 92, has been making sausages for the majority of his life.
Although retired from his longtime career in that field for nearly a half-century, Ferdinand continues to make sausages in his home for his own, noncommercial enjoyment.
His post-career sausage making is common enough that it was only a slight coincidence that he had made some sausages only a few days prior to meeting with this publication last week.
During his interview with this paper, Ferdinand shared details about his life, including his entry into the United States as a sausage maker.
When asked about how he began that career, Ferdinand said, “Actually, the whole thing started in Switzerland. That’s why I came over here.”
Ferdinand followed that statement by presenting some of his memories about his life growing up in the town of Hasum, which is located a short distance from the larger town of Hauptwil (now Hauptwil-Gottshaus) in the Swiss canton of Thurgau.
“I lived in Hasum,” Ferdinand said. “Hasum is a little town that (then) only had about maybe six houses on it in the neighborhood.
“Then there were about two farmers that had houses and barns around there. All the farmers surrounding in the neighborhood brought the milk to us, and we made cheese. My father (who was also named Ferdinand) had a cheese factory there. That’s where I grew up. That’s why I like cheese.”
In addition to his father, who is no longer mentioned in this article to avoid confusion, Ferdinand had a mother named Maria (aka Marie), and three siblings, Margaret, Paul and Pius.
Ferdinand, who during his youth enjoyed practicing gymnastics as a Turn Verein member, playing with a model train and shooting rifles and revolvers, mentioned that a turning point in his life occurred in 1939.
“The cow has milk seven days, so you worked seven days a week,” Ferdinand said. “That’s what really got to me. I had to help. I got out of school in 1939 and then already World War II started and it was tough. I had to help at home. Our helper had to go to military duty. We had three boys and the other two boys were in France in college. Before they closed the border, they wanted to ship them home. They came back and so the two college kids, they didn’t want to work. They were fighting all the time, so I had to do all the work.
“In 1939, I got sick. I had meningitis, and then after the doctor, I had to go home. Then I said, ‘I don’t want to be a cheese maker and work seven days a week.’ I wanted to become a sausage maker. I would go (to work for) six days, but not seven days. So, I got healthy and about a month later, I was in (a sausage making) apprenticeship.”
In describing that apprenticeship, which began in February 1940, Ferdinand said that he gained extensive knowledge about meat processing.
Ferdinand also recalled that during that time, he would attend a professional school each week in Olten, Switzerland.
“One day a week, every week, I had to go (to school) at 8 o’clock in the morning to 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” Ferdinand said. “There is where I learned the basics of the business.”
In 1943, at the end of his apprenticeship, Ferdinand took a two-day examination, which included making about 30 pounds of garlic sausage.
After being asked how he fared in that examination, Ferdinand said, “Oh, I got a silver (first place) medal. I was very proud of it, because it was from the Metzgermeister-Verband (butchers’ association).”
Following his apprenticeship and examination, Ferdinand worked at various sausage factories and a store in Switzerland at different times.
During that part of his life, Ferdinand dedicated time to the Swiss army, as well as to learning French in the French speaking portion of Switzerland.
In recalling his decision to immigrant to America, Ferdinand said, “One day, Mrs. Gysin, a woman, a customer said, ‘Oh, I got an uncle in the United States who has a butchers’ business, too.’ And I said to her, ‘I wouldn’t mind to go for a year to the United States.’ So, she said, ‘I’m going to write to (Swiss native Jacob “Jake”) Gysin (1876-1953) in Alturas (Calif.). He was already 74 and his son, Walter, was running the business.”
Ferdinand said that in a response to that letter, Jake wrote, “That would be good, because we need some help.”
Unfortunately, Jake’s wife, Nina, would not sign the affidavit recommending that Ferdinand work at the Alturas factory.
Ferdinand explained that situation, saying, “The reason (Nina would not sign the paper) was because she sent money to a nephew in Switzerland to come over here and he never came. She said, ‘I’m not going to do that no more.’”
Although he was discouraged by that response, Ferdinand decided to take a gamble and show how serious he was to work for the Gysins.
A day after learning about Nina’s response, Ferdinand went to the Canadian consulate in Bern and obtained a visa to go to Canada, with the intention of making his way to Alturas. He arrived in Quebec in October 1951.
After traveling to Montreal, Ferdinand worked for a short time as a butcher before taking a job as a dishwasher.
In the meantime, he corresponded with the Gysins, who later signed the approval papers recommending that Ferdinand work in the United States.
After working for the Gysins from March through October 1952, Ferdinand returned to his native land, where he married Betty Baumann on Oct. 11, 1952. And together they made their way to Alturas.
While working in Alturas, Ferdinand was recruited to work at the well established butcher’s shop, Clauss & Kraus, at 1700 I St. in Sacramento.
In recalling that experience, Ferdinand said, “I got the job there (at Clauss & Kraus) before I even got here (to Sacramento), because (John Clauss, Sr., co-owner of the business) heard about me and he wanted me so badly. I was in Alturas first, and then they found out about me through a salesman who used to pedal their merchandise up into the hills. So, this guy went to Mr. Clauss and said, ‘Boy, there’s a guy over there from Switzerland you should see. There isn’t even a speck of meat on there for a fly on the bone with the job he does.’ (The salesman) came back and he gave me his card and he said that Mr. Clauss said, ‘You have a job anytime you come to Sacramento.’”
Ferdinand accepted John Clauss, Sr.’s offer and came to Sacramento to work at his business, which then had about 110 employees.
In addition to working for Clauss & Kraus, Ferdinand joined the Sacramento Helvetia Verein on Jan. 2, 1953, and today he is that Swiss organization’s longest term member.
Ferdinand, who was known as “Ferdy” to his co-workers and others who knew him well, eventually spent 13 years working for Clauss & Kraus.
And for 16 years, Ferdinand was a partner in the proprietorship of Kohler’s Pork Store at 2309 Fulton Ave.
During that time, Ferdinand became a member of the United Revolver Club of Sacramento, and he is still a member of that club today.
On July 1, 1980, Ferdinand and his son, Ed, opened their own business, Morant’s Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen, at 5001 Franklin Blvd.
Ferdinand said that it was important to him to offer unique tasting sausages at his business.
“I never bought the (prepared) spices to make (sausages) like every big company now buys,” Ferdinand said. “Like a spice company came to me and I said, ‘I mix my own spices, because this way nobody has it. If I was going to (use those spices), then it would be like Oscar Meyer and all that stuff. If (a salesman) tells me Oscar Meyer makes it, I don’t want to be like that. Then there will be no competition. That’s why Morant’s is still in business.”
Ferdinand sold Morant’s in 1989 to the German-trained fleisher (meat master) Dirk Müller, who still operates the business.
During the early part of his retirement, Ferdinand became a painter of various types of paintings, including Chinese brush paintings.
Toward the end of his interview with this paper, Ferdinand reflected upon his work at Morant’s, where he made sausages that were enjoyed by many Sacramentans, including immigrants from many parts of the world.
“I just feel like I accomplished something for humanity, for Sacramento, because I could see (many immigrant) people, Italians, Portuguese, Polish people. I made Swedish sausages for the Swedes, linguica for the Portuguese. I made South African sausages. German people came to my store and they enjoyed my product. That makes me so happy. I brought a lot of cultures together, and no matter where they came from, they all appreciated it.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

One Response to South Land Park resident speaks about his Swiss heritage, lengthy career

  1. Paul Kiser says:

    I enjoyed the many interesting details of Ferdy’s life. He accomplished a lot in his 92 years.
    He’s a special Sacramento “icon”

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