THE BOOK By Elden Terry Birkholz
Editor's note: "Grandpa" here is Matt's grandfather, Aunt Anny's brother Roy, who is frequently mentioned in her stories.
I am starting this the 7th day of February 7, 2004. Tomorrow is my oldest Granddaughters birthday and Erica is going to be nine years old. That is really what started this story, not Erica but rather Adrienne's comment that I seemed to have so many fond memories of growing up.
I would like to begin at the beginning and proceed chronologically but memories do not really appear that way at least to me. That of course means that this will come out in chunks with piece missing but will probably appear later. However since this is being done on word , if time permits I will try to get some order if I can figure out the order.
I have to start with things I was told, first of all I was born in a house between West Bend and Waubeka (west to east) and Filmore to Neuberg (north to south) Grandpa was a cheesemaker at that time and the house was next door to the factory. Grandpa went to Dairy Short Course in Madison and then was hired to work as a cheesemaker at Producers Creamery in Hartford City, Indiana. The first person he was introduced to was Grandma. They lived in Indiana until about 1935 and Melvin was born there. Then he received an offer to run the Cheeseville Creamery that was farmer owned. That was where I was born and it was in the area where Grandpa was born and grew up.
I don't remember what time of the day or not but do remember that the same day April 7, 1937, another young man was using the same Doctors services in Neuberg. I remember the last name was May and we became acquainted over the course of years and worked at the Fredonia Canning Company. A real nice fellow and I recall he went to Valparaiso University in Indiana. So in 1937 in the country it was not unusual to be born at home and you might have to wait your turn.
I was a real set of problems for Grandma you could say I was a pain to her from the beginning. For one I was 10 lbs and of course Grandma on her best day stood 5' 2" and weighed 125 lbs. But next and I guess worse Grandma contracted some type of rash to her breast nipples which caused them to dry up and crack. She recalled to me once she used to just cringe when they would bring me for feeding. In those days regardless of the frontier stories, if possible family came to help and I think two of her sisters were helping out for a few weeks.
And last but not least I was born with my head pushed to the right or left, whatever, it is said I tend to hold my head that way. The doctor said that is just the way it goes not much can be done it will either get better or that is the way it would be. Grandma of course never accepted anything she didn't like so when I was like 6 months old I started a long regime with a Chiropractor who went about the job of straightening my neck. It was accomplished but the screaming was more than Grandpa could stand so Grandma would not take him along after the first visit.
The first thing I remember or at least what I think of as the first thing, was when the bull got loose at Ed Gerner's Farm which was right across the road to the north. It really wasn't significant as nothing happened but I was suppose to be taking a nap but was up stairs with my nose against the screen. Mother was hanging out the wash and I was pleading for release and Mother was getting mad, so when the bull scare was heard I got back into bed and under the covers. There is a story although I have no recollection of that but that we all came down (three boys) with some communicable disease whatever it was and since Dad was a food processesor,(Cheese Maker) he was not allowed to live with us until the all clear. So he lived with a neighbor and Mother would feed him out the back door. Now that I was told was by preparing the food setting it on the far end of the back porch, and then she would stand in side the back door with the door open a crack and talk to Dad as he ate. Then he would leave and she would get the dishes and clean up.
I may just continue this with a recorder. Jenny thinks I am goimg to waste too much time if I try to write it all. It is hard to think of what to start as to the order of thongs since I have little recollection of some things. I kow that we hsd company from Indiana and of course wince a number of us cousins were about the sqame age it was naturall I guess , but quite honestly I don't remember the visits even thoiugh their certainly are plenty of pictures.
I remember most of al growing up in Fredonia . It was a small town of 425 people in 1940, we moved their in 1941. That I don't remember either, but the story was that Dad had Rheumatism and eventually the wet conditions in the Cheese Factory impcted hin until he hsd to give it up. So we moved to Fredonmia and he bought a Tavaern. And that is where we spent the period from when I was 4 ubtil I was 17. As you can read in all thebooks a small town was a great place to grow up in the forties and fifties. Everyone knew everyone else and it=f you were misbehaving it was not a secret long.
Their were five taverns in Fredonia, including ours. We were right in the middle of town, the building was torn down in the late 60 's. We also had three grocery stores, one of whiuch was mostly a butcher shop, two gas stations which were also auto and implement dealers. We also had a shoe repair shop and two of the taverns were dance halls, one of which Gerald's burned down in about 1944 to 46, I don't remember which. Of course we had our own volunteer fire department . I remember that fire because it was a big deal and we could just manage to see the flames from our bedroom window. We were awake most the night with the excitement. It was very cold and everthing was covered with ice. Dad came home a numer of times to take off the frozen clothes asnd dry out and then back to the fire. I rember we only had one fire truck until aboiut 1948 or 1949 , and it was really and old klunker. That reminds me of the fire at Smith Brothers in about 1956 or so Iremember I was in High School. The story part of this was we lived across from the fire hall so we had to turn on the fir alarm, open the doors and either Dad drove or whoever was their early enough. Now Smith Bros was a big restaurant s it is today and everyone knew since it ws an old building at that time, ramschagkle and full of decorative pievces that would turn it into a tinder box. It was indowntown PortWashington and so the understanding always was iuf thgeir was a fire at smith Brothers evrry department within the County was called immediately. Their was plenty of water (the Lake) but you had to have enough Pumpers. So whenthe call came in Dad knew he had to get the truck to Pt Wash asap so he opened the doors stat=rted the truck and took off. Hat he didn't know as he went whipping out of the firehouse Tony Hustli, our neighbor and the Butcher ran out and jumped on the back of the truck. The back of the truck was open and although it was not freezing as I recall it was very cold, Dad always was amazed that Tony managed to hang on for that wild seven mile ride to Pt. Washimgton