Memories by Melva Birkholz
The following transcription is laid up in a monospace font to emulate the typewritten pages Matt inherited.
It will be useful to know that the distance between Milwaukee and Cedarburg is approximately 20 miles. At a pace of 4 mph, it is 5 hours each way — a long day.
GRANDMA AND GRANDPA BIRKHOLZ Grandma and grandpa Birkholz were married in Schoenfeld near Walde Province of Brandenberg Prussia on February 12th 1863. They left for America on April 12th of the same year. The last words grandma's father said to her as he saw her off were, "I know that I will never see you again". And he was right. She never spoke of her mother. They brought their own food for the long voyage. In a wooden chest with leather hinges and painted a dark red they brought bread, cheese, and smoked and dried meat. For the rest of her life grandma use this chest as a bread box and for storing fruit cake and stollen at Christmas time. She described the voyage as horrible because of filth and lack of privacy and a shortage of water for personal hygiene. They settled in Cedarburg where they lived for 10 years. Grandpa worked in the quarry in Grafton. The quarry is now a part of Lime Kiln Park. They were members of Immanuel Lutheran Church which is now a Lutheran Landmark. Six children were born to them while they lived in Cedarburg. Johann, the oldest lived only five days. Then came Rudolph, August, Emilie (who died at the age of three) William and Louis. Johann and Emilie are buried in the Old Cemetery in Cedarburg. At this time they did not have a horse so grandpa asked a neighbor to walk to Milwaukee with him to buy a bed. The two walked to Milwaukee, bought a bed and together they carried it back to Cedarburg. Then grandpa broke a leg at work. There was no workman's compensation if you couldn't work that was your problem. When he was able to walk again he
decided not to go back to the quarry. In 1873 they bought an 80 acre farm with a log house in Sheboygan Co. near Batavia. Grandpa later built a two story frame house. The house still stands and looks well kept. There is a round window in the attic which facinated me when I was a child. This window was most likely the whim of grandma's as there are no others in the area. The barns and out buildings are across the road. They are not the original ones. Later grandpa bought an adjoining 80 acre farm without a house. Aunt Martha was born on the farm in 1874 and papa who was the youngest was born in 1876. With five sons grandpa had lots of help on the farm. There were no tractors; you walked behind the plow. Grain was cut with a scythe. One day when the children were home alone one of papa's brothers accidentally shot him in the head with a shotgun. For the rest of his life he carried three pellets under the skin of his left temple. I would count them as I sat at his side at mealtimes. When grandma and grandpa were out at mealtimes the children made their favorite dinner, potato pancakes. When mothers parents were out the children made taffy. I have an idea the reason the Birlholz children didn't make candy is because grandma hid the sugar. She was very thrifty and carefully guarded her hoard of canning sugar. An oft told story was about the time papa ate the plums that grandma intended to make kuchen with. He made the mistake of throwing the pits out of his bedroom window. Grandma found the pits and the culprit and felt that misdeed called for punishment by grandpa. When he came in to dinner he listened with a stern expression and then he said, "Did they taste good"? When papa nodded yes grandpa said, Then it's alright". Grandma was furious. He said,"How can I punish a chils for eating prunes.
Grandpa retired in 1893 and sold the homestead to uncle Rudolph. Uncle Willie bought the other 80 acres without a house. Although grandpa lived 22 years after retirement and grandma 32 more years they had a foolproof hedge against inflation with a contract drawn up so meticulously that years later uncle Willie was unable to break it. The contract stated that uncle Rudolph was to deliver to grandma and grandpa's redidence once a year; 10 bushels of wheat, 1 bushel of rye, 25 bushels of oats, 4 loads of hay and a 250# hog on the hoof. Uncle Willie was to deliver 25 cords of wood and (?) bushels of potatoes. Roy and I disagree on the potatoes. Grandma and Grandpa held a $2,000.00 mortgage on uncle Rudolph's farm at 6% interest. Then they bought the house in Fillmore on ½ acre of land. At that point they had it made. They had free wood for cooking and heat, they had wheat and rye for bread, 250 # of pork, hay for the horse and oats for the horse and chickens. They had enough land to raise vegetables, fruit and berries for canning. After Grandma bought a coal stove for the living room uncle Willie gave her money to buy coal and wood. Uncle Willie retired in the early twenties and no longer had a wood lot. He then felt that since grandma was a widow he should no longer have to pay the whole amount. Although I don't know the details he lost and had to live up to his obligation till grandma died on April 20, 1925. They were estranged for years although they made up before grandma died. Uncle Rudolph who too was retired and had much more to pay did so without a murmur.
Childhood Although it is only a half-truth I like to tell people I was born in a Methodist church. The house where I was born was the former German Methodist Episcopal Church. It was organized in 1859 and in 1863 they built a frame church and five room parsonage all under one roof. An area was fenced off in one corner for a cemetery and a barn was built for the Pastors horse. Since there were also two lutheran churches in Fillmore, by 1908 the congregation could no longer support the church. The trustees : Gustavus Kuechenmeister, Emil Quass, and Frank Yahr put the property up for sale. In 1908 my parents bought the building and two acres of land for $250.00. Papa remodeled the church into five rooms. There was a large sitting room, now it would be called a family room, a parlor, and three bedrooms. The parsonage kitchen became our summer kitchen, and what had been the living room was now our kitchen. A small bedroom was our washroom (bathroom) and there was a small pantry. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and the area above the church was an attic. We had no dining room. The small bedroom off the sitting room was Grandpa's room. Grandpa Kraetsch lived with us part of the summer. After Grandma died in 1909 he sold his house and lived with his children. He spent the winters in Chicago with Aunt Linda, Uncle Ed and Uncle Dick. During the warmer months he came to Wisconsin and lived with Aunt Ella, Uncle Art, Uncle Henry and at our house. He liked living at our house best of all because it was quiet. Roy and I must have been well behaved kids. Grandma's room was bright and cheerful with red flowered wallpaper on a white background. The bed and bureau were maple and there was a window facing west. This is where I took my naps. A trap door on the kitchen floor led to a root cellar. Another basement with an outside door had a cistern with a wooden cover . This is where our cat Mitzi chose to have her kittens. Even after we moved away if Mitzi was missing we would find her at the old house with new kittens or just "mousing".She never forgot her old home.
There was a grass walk from the front porch to the road. A long drive- way led to the cemetery. One side of this driveway was lined with tall Lombard Poplar trees and the other side with hazelnut bushes. Outside the kitchen window grew a peach tree that papa raised from a peach stone. Lilac trees grew all over the place and wild grapes climbed the wooden platform that led to the kitchen porch. Our garden was south of the house and beyond that was the potato field. After we moved to Grandma's we still had a garden there as the soil was better for some vegetables. A gnarled old apple tree in the center of the garden sheltered us from the hot sun as we hoed and weeded . Attached to the summer kitchen was our woodshed. This was a short cut to the out-house in back right next to the cemetery fence. I don't remember going out there alone at night but Roy's excursions were short and speedy. South of the out-house was the barn for our strawberry roan horse Flora. I have a few vivid memories of mother. Because papa didn't want me to grieve for her he never talked about her and did not let others mention her to me. I know that she liked the song "After the Ball" because she wrote the words in a note book I found among her things. I know she read the The Three Bears to me and told me You are Goldilocks. When I told my cousin Viola that I was Goldilocks she laughed at me and told me your hair isn't golden. I was crushed. I remember one day mother made rosettes and gave me one to eat while it was still warm. I remember that mother crocheted a pretty pink doll dress and hat as a wedding present for a
neighbor. This was a decorative doll for a bed. When it was finished mother put it on the bureau in grandpa's room out of my reach. Although I couldn't touch it I feasted my eyes on it by standing on my tiptoes. Others told me that mother had a great sense of humor and like practical jokes. As an example, one Halloween she told Roy he could invite some classmates to a party after school. She passed a plate of candy and when the children bit into it they found raw potato inside. Then she brought out the real candy. Mother made an ivory wool coat for me. It had pale blue satin cuffs and collar covered with battenburg lace and a drawstring handbag to match. She made this for me to wear on a trip to Plymouth to visit her cousin Maggie Stolper. Although Plymouth was only about 30 miles away it was regarded as a long trip and we stayed overnight. We went by horse and buggy to Random Lake where we left our horse in the stables of uncle Henry's hotel and took the train from there. The Stolpers owned a department store in Plymouth and that is where Roy got a new suit . I wore my new outfit to a picnic in Boltonville where I wandered off and got lost. When they found me the handbag was gone. Did I lose it? Or did someone take it from me? One winter afternoon Roy and I walked to grandma and grandpas house. They were not home but Roy found the big brass key behind the barn door and we were soon in the house warming our hands at the stove. About this time I decided I had to go to the bathroom. The outhouse was across the back yard, past the barn, through the chicken yard, and past the shed. For that reason grandma kept an array of thunder mugs in the summer kitchen
during the winter months. My kind and thoughtful brother picked out the proper size for me, poured hot water from the teakettle into the icy pot and carried it into the living room and set it down next to the stove. As you may have guessed the pot cracked in two. I don't remember what happened next but, I have an idea we made a hasty exit. Years later grandma chuckled whenever she told the story. After mother died our cousin Edna Birkholz was our housekeeper. She cooked, cleaned and did the laundry. There was no running water but the pump was right outside the kitchen door. There was no electricity and the washing machine was operated by hand. Edna also worked in the garden and canned fruits and vegetables. Edna had several beaus. One of them let me sit on the front porch with them and sometimes brought me candy. She did not marry him. One summer afternoon Roy, Edna and I walked down to the North Branch to fish. A favorite spot was under the bridge where we could hear an occasional horse and wagon rumble across the wooden planks. Edna took off her glasses and put them on a beam under the bridge. They were forgotten until sometime during the night when she woke us all up with a scream. Papa told her to calm down, as she didn't need them right now and they would be there in the morning. Then we all went back to sleep. They were there in the morning. Grandpa Birkholz died on October 17, 1915. As grandma didn't want to live alone she asked us to come live in her house. Papa held an auction to sell the furniture we no longer needed and closed up his house. It stood empty after that. Grandma's house was light and cheerful with its many windows. There was a kitchen, summer kitchen, large living room a pantry and one bedroom
downstairs. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and a large open area for storage and to hang our clothes as there were no closets in the house. We had no dining room. The living room ran all across the front of the house. There were two windows facing east, two south and one west. Over the couch hung grandma and grandpa's pictures in guilt frames. (They were left behind in the attic of the house in Cheeseville when Roy and Edna moved to Fredonia.) Above an oak table hung a lamp with a large hand painted globe with two rows of prisms that caught the afternoon sun and filled the room with dancing rainbows. The coal stove with an ornate crown-like top and fenders of nickel-plating stood on the north wall. Between the two east windows hung a tall mirror (that uncle Rudolph made) over a shelf flanked by two tall vases of peacock feathers. The feathers came from a peacock that disappeared from their farm one winter day and wasn't found till spring when the snow melted. Near the door on a high shelf stood a clock that chimed the hours. Papa wound the clock every Saturday night after supper. The kitchen was a long narrow room. We cooked on one end and ate on the other end. The wood-burning cook stove had a reservoir filled with rain water for washing dishes and our hair. This stove also kept the kitchen warm in winter. Although the fire would go out during the night. We had no running water. In fact we had no well. We got our water from Hauchs, our neighbors to the east. When I was old enough it was my job to fetch the water. On the pail was a water-mark. I could fill it only to that point. It wasn't till I was twelve years old that I was allowed to carry a full pail. Near the pump was a mulberry tree and Mrs Hauch gave me permission to eat all the mulberries my stomach would hold.
We had no electricity. We didn't need any. Our kerosene lamps with neatly trimmed wicks and sparkling clean chimneys gave us plenty of light. At an early age I had to take care of the lamps. I kept them filled with kerosene (at 17¢ a gallon in your own can) I cleaned the chimneys with crushed newspaper and soon learned to trim the wicks so that they didn't smoke. I remember the day papa came home with a flashlight. Now I was no longer afraid to go down the cellar steps to get a bowlfull of apples at bedtime.(Papa liked his apples polished with a dab of butter or lard.) In the barn papa used a lantern. Since we had no dining room we ate in the kitchen. Papa's rules at the table were: You do not come to the breakfast table till your hands and face are washed and your hair is combed. No dunking, no elbows on the table, and don't lick your knife. He always sliced the bread at the table. next to his plate was a small bread-board and a knife. However,he always picked up the loaf, held it against his chest and cut it that way. This is a vivid memory because I always worried that he would cut his chest. Papa did not drink coffee. He would open the china cabinet, take out a glass, hold it up to the light to check for finger prints or smudges, then he filled it with water and carried it to the table. He also didn't eat butter. He liked a spread made of finely chopped onion browned in home rendered lard, mixed with more lard and set aside to harden. It was delicious. Papa loved potato pancakes but grandma didn't like to make them. They solved the problem by papa grating the potatoes and grandma frying them. They were always served with current jelly. No other kind would do. At the top of the cellar stairs stood the icebox. It was my job to see that
the drip pan didn't run over. I tried. I really tried to remember to empty the pan on time but often it wasn't till I heard the water running down the cellar steps that I dashed to the pantry to tend to my job. Anyway the steps were cleaner in summer. In winter the summer kitchen served as our ice box. My room upstairs had been aunt Martha's before she was married. I used it for everything but sleeping. I like to sleep with grandma in her downstairs bedroom. Her room was small and cozy and the only bedroom with a wardrobe. On her bureau stood a brown bottle about one-third full of whiskey. It was really moonshine at that time. At the bottom of this bottle was about an inch of camphor crystals. This was grandma's magic cure-all. It cured everything from a tooth ache to a cramp in the leg. If I had a stomache ache she would shake the bottle vigorously and massage the hurt away with her gentle hands. If that didn;t work I got a spoonful of kimmel. I like the kimmel treatment best of all. For cold on the chest a rubdown with goose grease did the trick. When I was really sick with the flu (we had never heard of a virus) papa took over. He mixed a drink of hot water, sugar, lemon juice and some whiskey then put me to bed. Under a thick feather bed I was soon prespiring. When he brought my tray there were special goodies to whet my appetite. When I came down with the measles he diagnosed my illness himself. I was put to bed, he pulled down the shade to protect my eyes and I got better. It was as simmple as that. Papa did not believe in doctors. He said "The body heals itself". And he proved it. When he was a child he was very sick (probably dphtheria). The doctor left some pills (no handy pharmacy then) but after a few days he got worse and the doctor was called during the night. He didn't offer much hope for a recovery but changed the medication to another kind of pill.
It worked!! In a few days he was out of bed. When grandma cleaned his room she found two neat piles of pills under the bed. He hadn't taken any at all. In the early twenties there was a smallpox epidemic and all children were to be vaccinated. Papa ignored this advice till a girl from Silver Creek died. Only then did he take me to the doctor to be vaccinated. There were no other vaccines for childhood diseases. In winter we children wore a small cloth bag of camphor crystals on a string (or chain) around our necks to keep the germs away. Grandma's kitchen was for living not just for cooking and eating. Her door was always open to visitors. Neighbors dropped in to chat and have a cup of coffee. Sometimes they brought their sewing or knitting to work on as they visited. This was only during the winter months. In summer grandma was too busy working in the garden or taking care of her flowers. After the noon meal her neighbors changed into a fresh house-dress and sat on their tree shaded verandas. Not so our grandma!!!!! She held a Puritan attitude toward work. From the time the roosters first started to crow till the church bells rang in the evening she worked. From beerying time in June till pickling season the summer kitchen was filled with the aromas of strawberry or raspberry jams and jellies and spices and herbs. Whatever we could not eat during the growing season was canned or pickled. What pride we took in the row upon row of filled mason jars that lined the shelves in our cellar. Or the five gallon crocks of pickles or sauerkraut that stood beside the barrels of papa's homemade wine. He made wine from dandelion blossoms, wild grapes, rhubarb, currents, beets and from the blossoms of the acacia tree that grew in our front yard.
Grandma loved flowers but not in a vase. All her pretty vases stood empty. Only on Decoration Day would she allow flowers to be cut. Early in the morn- ing when they were still wet with dew papa cut two pails full. Enough to make a wreath for me to carry in the parade and a bouquet for grandpa's grave. She had four large flower beds in the front yard plus a row of peonies. Pinies she called them. There were bridal wreath and snow ball bushes in the side yard. The path leading to Hauch's pump was bordered with her favorites: tulips, phlox, and bleeding heart. The tulip bed was right next to the driveway. When backing out my uncles (aunts did not drive in those days) never failed to run smack into the tulip bed. Not so Roy's friends. They drove right up to the kitchen door and when leaving gunned the motor and roared back out the driveway without disturbing one tulip petal. Grandma held her breath every time she watched them leave. Roy lived at home only between jobs. When he worked at Begers store at Random Lake he often came home week ends. Grandma usually heard him come in during the night. Early Sunday morning I jumped out of bed and ran up the stairs to see if he was home. Sometimes before I got to the stairs Grandma would say, "He didn't come". Disappointed I crawled back under the covers. When he was home we almost always played "catch". Although he didn't think much of my pitching. Evenings Papa Roy and I played card games. Or lotto. Roy had a barrel hoop on the shed to practice basket ball. Indoors he piled two kitchen chairs one on top of another against the front door. On top of this he used grandma's footstool turned upside down for a basket. From the kitchen doorway he would aim and shoot. In the early twenties there was a prediction that the world was coming to
an end. On that day Roy was in bed with the measles. As I was doing my after school chores I fell on the porch with an armful of wood. At the clatter Roy jumped out of bed thinking the end had come. In about two weeks when he was well again he went back to his job. The day after he left I was miserable. I went to school, sat at my desk and cried. When the teacher asked me what was wrong I didn't know what to say, so I told her I had a stomach ache and she told me to go home. When I told grandma I had a stomach ache she was sympathetic and fussed over me then reached for her bottle of whiskey and camphor and put me to bed. When papa came home and asked why I was in bed I heard her tell him, " She is homesick for Roy". The deep wrinkles in grandma's upper lip came from a habit of whistling under her breath as she worked. Never out loud. That was not lady like. I loved to watch her comb and put up her hair. With the exception of a few grey wisps at her temples her hair was a beautiful shade of chocolate brown. After brushing it she pulled it back from her face and twisted it into a knot at the nape of her neck. Next she put on a long carefully folded scarf and tied it under her chin. "It keeps my ears warm", she would explain. No one outside the family ever saw her without a scarf on her head. Only we knew she had a bald spot on the top of her head. Grandma's long skirts swept the floor. Her everyday house dresses were either a pale blue or grey with a tiny white print. Sunday best was always black; even in summer. I loved to go to Crass's store for her to bring home swatches of material for a new dress. I knew what she liked but I secretly wished she would wear brighter colors. Grandma had a gold bar pin and earings with a red stone for her pierced ears. That was the extent of her jewelry. Or course she had a gold wedding ring. Make-up was worn only by hussies. A sun tan was not yet fashionable
so she wore long sleeves when working in the garden or berry patch. Over my arms I had to wear long black stockings with the feet cut off and a large straw hat. She wore a cotton sunbonnet. If she felt that our arms and face still were not pale enough we rubbed them with a fresh peeled cucumber. Drawing the dark green shades early in the morning kept the house cool and dark. Cooking was done in the summer kitchen on hot summer days and we let the fire go out between meals. Windows and all the doors except the north kitchen door were kept closed to keep out the dust stirred up by teams and a few cars that passed the house. The road was not even blacktopped at that time. During a dry spell I had to fill two galvanized wash tubs with water early in the morning so it would be warm enough to sprinkle the flowers and vegetables at dusk. The lawn never saw any water unless it rained. There was a huge acacia tree on the front lawn from which papa hung a swing. Grandma grumbled that I was ruining the grass but papa paid no attention and so I kept right on swinging. At sundown on the day the ice ran low papa brought the wheelbarrow out of the shed, I climbed in and got a ride to Wittig's ice house. Every man who helped "make ice" was allowed to take all he needed . He found the size he needed, loaded it on the wheelbarrow and we walked home. After rinsing off the sawdust with several pails of water he chopped it down to the proper size and dropped it into the ice chest. The pieces that fell on the grass I picked up and ate. I never gave a thought to fish and turtles, leeches and snails that lived in the river nor the cows that waded in it. The germs I swallowed most likely helped build up my immune system.
In the garden at the old house we raised mostly cucumbers, melons, and radishes both the red and the white tangy ones that were papa's favorite. About every two weeks grandma and I walked down there in the afternoon .We took a large basket to carry home vegetables and we also brought with us a cool drink, made of icy cold water from the bottom of the well, sugar vinegar and a bit of baking soda to add fizz. This we put under a burdock plant to keep it cool. Since the pump at the old house had not been used for sometime we thought the water was not safe,to drink. Some evenings papa and I walked down to the garden and worked till dark. He kept a set of garden tools in the basement under the summer kitchen. When we got home we found grandma sitting on the front porch and the house dark. She loved to sit in the dark ; to watch the night fall, to see the stars come out. In winter when it got dark early we got supper in the lamplit kitchen then waited in the dark living room for papa to come home. As soon as I heard him turn in the driveway I lit the lantern and ran out to light his way in the barn . I watched as he bedded down Buster with fresh straw and then gave him another forkful of hay. It was my job to give Buster oats, hay and water when I came home from school for lunch. A carriage horse was a status symbol, therefore buying one took as much deliberation as getting a new car does today. After Flora we got Prince a small beautiful horse that cost $85.00. Papa was proud of him and since he had a harness shop prince was the best groomed horse in the village. In summer his flynet, a tawny gold color matched the lap robe we tucked around our knees to protect our clothes from the dust of unpaved roads. After a few years Prince became lame and had to be sold. Then came Buster. He was just an ordinary horse but, how I loved him. When I was able to sneak sugar out of the kitchen past grandma's watchful eye he took it from my hand with his soft velvety lips.
When I carried water to him he swallowed in large noisy gulps and he dearly loved oats.In spring and again fall after the vegetables had been harvested papa let Buster run in the field. Like a frisky dog he rolled on the ground then ran around the field and rolled again till he was exhausted. Then papa lifted me on his back and I rode him back to the barn. On Saturdays we listened for the butcher's bell. Mr Norman had a butcher shop in Waubeka and during the summer months he came in his horse drawn wagon filled with fresh meats and sausages. I made it my business to show up as grandma dealt with Mr Norman because I knew I would get either a slice of bolonia or a weiner which I ate on the spot. During the winter months we all had canned or smoked meats from the fall butchering. Arthur Rudolph (who was my sponsor) lived in a house just down the road next door to his blacksmith shop. He had a few acres of land and kept a few cows. He was a bachelor and had a housekeeper by the name of Esther Wittman. Every summer Esther left on a two week vacation. That is how I got my first paid job. On Saturdays I washed a weeks dirty dishes, cleaned his lamp chimneys, made his bed and swept the kitchen floor. For this I was paid 25¢. I thought I was rich. For 25¢ I could buy 5 candy bars or 5 ice cream cones or 5 boxes of cracker jack. Whenever Esther churned butter she asked me to take a quart of butter- milk to Mrs Charlie Rieke (she was also my sponsor) and for this Mrs Rieke gave me 5¢. We got our milk from our neighbor to the west for 6¢ a quart . They had one cow and supplied several families with milk. You brought your own pail. Sometimes at the end of a hot summer day papa sent me to Wittig's saloon to get a pitcher of beer for supper. Grandma liked egg in her beer. After breaking an egg in a glass she beat it thoroughly added a pinch of sugar and filled the glass with beer. It didn't taste bad if you could forget that you were swallowing raw egg.
As much as grandma loved flowers that much ahe hated safety pins. Except for diapering babies(no pampers then) they need never have been invented as far as she was concerned. If a strap broke or a button came off just as I was leaving for school I was never but never allowed to use a safety pin to fix it. No siree. She always had needle and thread at her finger tips . Besides teaching me right from wrong and the Golden Rule there was one thing she stressed above all others and that was the eighth commandment. Thou shalt not steal!! She may have been able to overlook the act of murder but never stealing. At one time grandma belonged to our church (St Martins) but for some reason(?) she left the church and never set foot in it again. At the funeral of our neighbor Mr Koenig , grandma and I walked up to the church and stood across the street till the services were over and then we followed the hearse to the cemetery. She joined the Reformed Church which was across the road from St Martin cemetery. Because it was quite a distance to walk,the Pastor came to the house to give her c ommunion. She would usher him into the living room and close the door. He always left with a freshly baked loaf of bread or cake or stollen. It was a European custom. At the age of 5 I was sent to Sunday school which was held at the old fielstone church on the lower cemetery. Church services were held in the new church on the hill and it started at 11. Papa told me I need not go to church after Sunday school unless I wanted to. However,if you go you must pay attention so you can tell me the Bibelstelle (text of the sermon) when you come home. I listened carefully and memorized the text number because I knew he would ask for it at the dinner table. Although I don't remember this, Roy tells me that papa used to sing in
church choir. As I recall,papa went to church only on holidays or when I was in a program. He felt going to church was fine but what really counted was the kind of life you led the other six days. I once overheard papa tell someone, " I thank the Lord every day for my blessings". Although papa never read a book on child psychology he believed you could spare the rod without spoiling the child. He raised Roy and I with patience and kindness. He was a very gentle man. I felt coddled and smug when my friends confided in me their fear of a trip to the wood shed. Papa believed that a child should not be punished if he breaks a window accidentally. But only one. My turn came one day after school when a robin perched on the eaves over the kitchen window. I had a half eaten apple in my hand and couldn't resist the urge to throw it at the bird. My aim was bad. The bird flew away. The apple went through the window into the kitchen. I didn't get punished although papa didn't look too happy about having to repair the damages. I was real careful around windows after that. His razor strop hung on the window frame of a kitchen window facing east. The light was good and that is where he shaved with a straight razor. Over the dry sink there was a metal comb holder with a small mirror. Because he was so tall he had to stoop when he combed his black hair. When I asked him why he parted his hair on the left side he told me, a man always parts his hair on the left side and his buttons are always on the right side. The buttons may still be on the right side but he would be shocked at the pony tail and shoulder lenth hair men wear today. Every two weeks papa went to Sim Albinger to get a haircut. Although Sim was a blacksmith he gave haircuts in his kitchen evenings.
It was a real treat to go to papa's harness shop to watch him work. I went with him after his noon dinner. He would lift me up on a high stool at his workbench, give me some newspaper and a childs scissors and that kept me entertained for hours. Soon the floor would be littered with snippets of paper. While I snipped away I sang a German song he taught me. "Ich Schneidt Papier und Kehre es Nicht Auf." A rough translation:I'm making a mess cutting paper and I'm not going to sweep it up. So as not to heat up the house in summer,grandma baked bread in the outdoor oven that grandpa built in the smoke house,for smoking hams and sausages. She would build a fire in the morning and by the time the bread was ready to bake she pushed the coals to the back of the oven and with a long handled device set the loaves in to bake. It was delicious baked this way we didn't mind the flecks of ashes that stuck to the bottom of the bread. Grandma would not eat store bought bread. In winter when her rheumatismus was bad she had a problem finding someone to bake bread to her satisfaction. She tried to teach Roy but he complained when the dough stuck to his hands. Since she had a great sense of humor she laughed about this,telling her friends that Roy would never make a baker. Finally Mrs Hansman down the road made bread that suited her fancy. Saturday was cleaning day. I had to scrub the kitchen and the back porch. The hardwood floor in the kitchen had to be scrubbed till it was white,with a strong soap and a brush. If you eversaw a hardwood floor that had never been varnished you would know what I mean by white. The back porch was easy to do because it had been painted. THe next job was polishing
the nickel plating on the wood burning cook stove. Not till we were all in bed did grandma polish the rest of the stove with a black paste polish. All through the night it stood there all black and shiny till papa built the breakfast fire when it turned an ashy rust color again. After supper on hot summer nights we sat on the front porch in the dark. We could hear the low murmur of neighbors voices, the squeak of a wagon wheel and the clop-clop of a horse's hoofs. It was so quiet that we could hear a team of horses or an ocassional car rumble across the wooden plank bridges that spanned the North Branch. We could tell by the sound if it was Crass's, Pomahac's or Donath's bridge. Wittig's saloon carried ice cream only during the summer months and only one flavor-vanilla. A cone cost 5¢ and a pint 35¢. About once a week grandma gave me a nickel for a cone after working in the garden or picking berries. One day Albingers asked me to ride with them to Waubeka to visit the Eisentrautds. Mr E. ran a garage in Waubeka. Eva E.'s mother gave each of us a dime to go to the ice cream parlor. I had never been to an ice cream parlor and was impressed with the small round tables and the marble fountain. Eva ordered a strawberry sundae. I didn't know what that was but I ordered one too. The waitress brought a scoop of ice cream covered with strawberries in a metal dish!!! I can still taste it. In the early years our Sunday school picnic was held in Wittig's park next to papa's harness shop. Behind the shop was the dance hall and attached to that was the huge shed where the undertaker kept his hearse. The hearse was moved out and long tables were set up for a cold picnic lunch. In the afternoon a band played in the bandstand and in the evening there was a dance in the hall.
Next came the Turner picnic which was held in August at the Turner Park. Papa was a Turner and therefore had to help. He always worked in the bratwurst stand. It was a smokey job but he didn't mind. A large juicy brat was served wrapped in a large piece of rye bread. Papa gave me one free although I always got 25¢ picnic money. When that was spent I could go back for more. I felt very grown up the first time papa gave me spending money and let me go off by myself. My first stop was the ice cream stand. The lady handed me the cone and change at the same time. As I was trying to put the change away with both hands full,the ice cream fell out of my cone. Seeing me in tears bystanders persuaded the lady to give me another scoop. Near the end of summer I looked forward to spending a few days at uncle Arthur's farm to help feed the "thrashers". The date was uncertain as it depended on the weather. Although the threshers were fairly accurate in judging when they would be finished at the neighboring farm. Sometimes when they finished at dusk the threshers moved the huge threshing machine by steam engine to the next farm so as to get an early start the next morning. Shortly after dawn farm neighbors came with horse drawn wagons to help bring in the bundles of grain from the fields and feed them into the machine. Others carried the threshed grain to the granary and then there was the straw stacker who was responsible for a well rounded straw stack. Although strictly forbidden, there is nothing more exhilarating for a child than walking barefoot through threshed grain (are you listening uncle Arthur?) in the granary. In the meantime we were busy in the kitchen. We peeled mounds of potatoes, made pie crusts,and peeled apples and squeezed lemons for pies. We frosted cakes that had been baked the day before. We had to string beans (no stringless beans then) that were picked fresh from the garden.
Then it was time to set the table,which was stretched out to its full length and covered with a white table cloth. No oil cloth in aunt Lizzie's dining room on this ocassion. All the extra dishes and silverware were needed to feed this crew. Two deafening blasts on the steam whistle signaled the dinner hour. The men washed up at the pump near the house. Incidentally uncle Arthur had running water in the barn for the cattle but not in the house. They ate with gusto the salads, the vegetables,the desserts smothered in sweet cream, sour cream and butter. This was thepre cholesterol and calorie counting era. After dinner they relaxed under the huge poplar tree in the front yard before going back to work. I considered uncle Arthur's farm my second home and my visits there usually lasted a few days. It was fun to get up at the crack of dawn and get the cows from the night pasture which was to the south in the upper woods. After the men were through milking ( I tried it once with nary a drop) we took the cows to the day pasture which was down the road to the corner then west and across the river to the back woods. When we met a team they would stop at the side of the road and let us pass. In later years an auto hit a cow and killed it but atthat time we didn't worry about cars . After breakfast the milk was loaded onto the milk wagon and taken to Charlie Rieke's cheese factory in Fillmore. After filling some of the empty cans with whey for the pigs we made our way back to the farm. After the horse was unhitched and the wagon put away the milk cans were washed,and set in the sun to dry.
The 4th of July started and ended with a bang. A few days before the 4th papa came home with a boxful of fireworks. I was forbidden to touch them till the big day. I started to shatter the stillness of our little village right after breakfast. Neither grandma nor our neighbors complained about the noise that went on all day. Since there was no daylight saving time then,it got dark early. We waited for Crass's and Wittigs to shoot off their high fireworks first. Then it was papa's turn to light the Catherine wheels and Roman candles. I thought I put on a great show by marching around the yard with four or six sparklers. Children today may see more spectacular fireworks in the public parks but miss the joy of shooting off their very own firecrackers. When ever I saw papa digging in the garden near the chicken fence I knew he was going fishing, because that is where the big fat angleworms could be found. If he was going to the North Branch he sometimes took me along but if he planned to fish Erlers or Seliger's Lake I had to stay behind. I soon learned that he enjoyed the quiet and the song of the red-winged blackbird as much as an ocassional nibble on his line. When I would start to chatter he told me I was scaring the fish away and so we sat quietly on the river bank enjoying the great outdoors. Papa always cleaned the fish behind the back shed. I stood close by waiting for the bladders to pop and Mitzi waited for the entrials. Whenever papa came home with fish Mitzi appeared out of nowhere. When papa still had the harness shop just down the road he and Mitzi played a little game. Mitzi and I usually sat on the front porch waiting
for him to come home from work. When she saw him coming she would jump up on the ledge of the gate and as he passed through he stooped low so she could climb on his shoulder and get a ride to the house. A smart cat. We did not have a telephone. Our neighbors, the Joneses took our emergency calls. When we saw one of the Jones children come running across the road we knew something dreadful had happened or was going to happen. Otherwise whenever someone wanted to contact us they simply walked to our house or wrote a letter which reached us with a two cent stamp or sent us a penny postal. So you see we didn't need a phone. Sundays we went visiting or received visitors. Since we had no phone we never knew when or if we would have company. Grandma usually had a feeling, a hunch that she had better prepare enough food. Someone might drop in. That someone often turned out to be more than one family. Our guests always expected a noon dinner and stayed for an early supper so they could get home in time to do chores. Miraculously there was always enough food. On Sundays papa helped in the kitchen. He felt that since he only worked six days (no five day weeks then) women should not have to work seven days. One Sunday when we had a hungry horde waiting to eat,grandma asked him to pour the water off the potatoes. Without looking into the kettle he poured the gravy off the meat instead. Again grandma's sense of humor saved the day. She laughed and said,"Today we will eat butter on our potatoes because Frank threw the gravy away". When we went visiting (also without notice) we left right after I came home from Sunday school. Since papa was a big man, he and grandma filled up the seat of the top-buggy and I sat on grandma's footstool at their knees whithin reach of Buster's rump. To protect us from the dust of unpaved roads papa wrapped our gold colored lap robe around our knees. Buster's matching gold fly net protected him from flies. Buster set his own pace and so it took over an hour to travel the 8 plus miles to uncle Rudolph's farm. As we drove into the yard Aunt Louisa greeted us with two cats in her arms and several others rubbing themselves against her floor length skirts. She always had a smile on her face and a deep throaty chuckle. She loved cats!!!!! Uncle Rudolph and aunt Louisa were first cousins. She was the
daugher of grandma's brother who lived in Port Ulao. They had a baby girl who lived only ten days and had no more children. Although there were no children for me to play with I loved visiting there with the yard full of cats. The round window in the attic always attracted me. How I longed to go up to the attic to see if the world looked different through a round window. I never asked. I knew the answer would be no. Often papa helped with the chores before we went home. He liked doing this since it had been his home at one time. It usually got dark before we reached home. Buster must have been able to see where he was going because there was never a mishap on the narrow road when we met another traveler. On the rare occasions when we met an on coming car papa held a tight rein on Buster,as the lights frightened him. Later when a law was passed that all horse drawn vehicles must have a light when traveling in the dark he bought a fancy lantern-like lamp and attaached it to the side of the buggy. The cutter and milk wagon never had a light. Although the lamp didnot light Buster's way it did make us visible on the road. The closer we got to home the faster Buster trotted and when he reached our driveway he turned in without any direction from papa. He knew he was home and his stall and food were waiting. Papa told me that when he was courting mother his horse knew which corner to turn and at which house to stop on Wednesdays and Sundays. Uncle Willie and aunt Tillie were a handsome couple. They were both tall; he with black hair and she was a strawberry blonde with her hair piled high on her head. Uncle Willie had a mouthful of gold teeth that simply glowed in lamplight. I thought that was the "cat's pajama's" and couldn't wait till I was old enough to get my own gold teeth. When grandpa retired they bought the farm without a house, just down the road from the homestead. They built a house at the end of a long lane at the edge of a dense forest (now long gone). When we visited them I was warned not to go into the woods. They need not have worried about my getting lost as I didn't even go near that dark spooky woods. Their only child died in infancy. Uncle August and aunt Margaretta lived on a farm in a valley near Random Lake. All the out-buildings and their tiny house were painted red. and neat as a pin. Uncle August made all of the furniture and toys in Viola's playhouse which was in one of the sheds.
Being an only child (after her sister died at the age of six) she was showered with all the toys and clothes she wanted. Every summer I spent two weeks with them on the farm. Aunt Margaretta churned butter to sell. Viola and I walked all the way to the store at Random Lake (about 3 miles) each carrying a crock of butter. We stopped often to sit down at the side of the road to rest in the shade of a tree, and to pour the sand and little stones out of our shoes. I have an idea that by the time we got to the store the butter was on the point of melting. When "making hay" uncle August pitched the hay up on the wagon while Viola and I each with a pitchfork spread it out evenly so the load wouldn't be lopsided. As the load grew higher we had to watch our footing so as not to fall off the load. All the while the horses stood perfectly still till urged to move on to the next haystack. When at last uncle August shouted,"Full load" we rode across the fields to the barn. Sliding down off the load was a real thrill that took a bit of courage. Uncle Louis and aunt Emma lived on a farm about a mile down the road. Their land bordered on a small lake where papa would sometimes fish. I was warned to stay away from the lake as therewas dangerous quick sand . One of their grandchildren later got stuck in it but was rescued in time. They raised green beans for the canning factory at a time when the beans still had strings. I remember so well their kitchen table piled high with beans and six or eight of us bothyoung and old sitting there stringing beans. Uncle Louis broke his wrist while cranking his Model T Ford. It was swollen and discolored for many weeks. That was a common occurrence in the days before self-starters. When I was little I always felt free to climb on uncle Louis's lap same as I did on papa's. HE HAD A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR and I loved the stories he told me. Aunt Emma was a sweet soft spoken woman. Papa's sister aunt Martha ans uncle Gustave livedon a farm in a large yellow brick house. They even had a brick summer kitchen just a few steps from the house. Uncle Gustave looked like Burt Reynolds, only bigger and brawnier. He was very anti social. When we visited there he seldom came to the table to eat with us. Grandma told me that when he and aunt Martha got married he went upstairs right after the ceremony instead of mingling with the guests. Once aunt Martha took me along to the county fair at West Bend. I had never seen a merry -go-round and was thrilled to get to ride one. Cotton candy was also a first for me that day. Papa had to work and so he couln't take me to the fair .
After papa closed the harness shop he went into the carpentry business with John Koenig and Mr Steinke from Newberg. One summer they built a duplex in Milwaukee for John Koenig's sister in the Washington Park Zoo area. The first weekend he came home he told us about the wonders of the big city. The animals in the zoo, the tour he took through all the floors of Schuster's Department Store and the ride downtown on a street car. He bought me a pink organdy dress with rows of ruffles. It fit perfectly and I was so proud of it. He brought grandma some material for a dress. Roy now had a brand new Model T Ford ($525.00) and papa asked him to take us to Milaukee to the Zoo. The very next Sunday we piled into Roy's touring car with the top up but the curtains off, and enough lunch to feed an army. Grandma had been to a zoo in Germany but the rest of us gaped at all the animals that we had seen only in books or pictures. We couldn't find a table so we sat on the ground to eat our lunch. The flies and ants soon found us and grandma thought eating outdoors was a dumb idea. I counted all the cars we met on our 40 mile trip home. There were 84. When Papa and his partners finished building Hoerig's house in Fillmore (on the N.E. corner across from Weinreich's)he told me about a special feature in the kitchen that he wanted me to see. One evening he took me through the whole house. When we got to the kitchen he asked me to open what looked like a cupboard door. There it was, a built in ironing board!! Now Mrs Hoerig no longer had to balance her board on the backs of two kitchen chairs. They also built the house Art and Marida Crass lived in after they left the farm. He even took me to see a house in Racine after the family had moved in. There I saw my first built in bathtub. A big improvement over the tub with legs. However I would have traded either one for the galvanized wash tub that hung on a nail in the summer kitchen between baths and washday. Some families had a separate little building for a summer kitchen but ours was right in the house. The summer kitchen played an important part in the households of yesterday. In late spring the living room coal stove was carried there to stand in a corner draped in a white shroud. The ghost-like monster frightened me when I was little. In the opposite corner stood the hand operated washing machine. This is where clothes were washed in summer. This is where vegetables brought in from the garden