The Teen Years


I took piano lessons in Evansville from Anna Dahl from age 11-14; she then married the banker, Alfred Lofgren, and moved to Hoffman. The piano lessons were 35 cents and sheet music was a dime. The Dahl's had a grocery store where we traded our 15 dozen of eggs for groceries. Before giving me a lesson, the Dahl's usually treated me to a fancy lunch-something I was unaccustomed to at the time. A little dainty sandwich, a cookie, a piece of cake and coffee. If the weather was very cold, Anna would heat up water and pour it into a large white bowl and I could warm my hands so I could play better.

Anna Dahl gave a piano recital of her pupils and I won first prize. Mrs. Wahien gave a reception at her house for all of Anna's pupils. As I was the winner, I was asked to lead the rest around the buffet table. Carl Linnard won the speaking contest at this same event.

Some of the businesses located in town were: Bristol's Harness Shop, Dahl's and Schwantz's grocery stores, Ostrom Hardware, two banks, Cowden Drug and Hilda Johnson's hat store where ma and I bought some of our hats too. The Mathieson brothers lived in Evansville. One was an excellent M. D. and the other a dentist who filled my teeth. He married an actress and after leaving Evansville, they located in Chicago and practiced there.

Helen Kuhn Lane (sisters Julia, Mary and Frances), the wife of Alden Lane and a cousin to Emma (Kuhn) Roers operated a restaurant and above the restaurant sleeping rooms for railroad men. She was a bundle of energy, always laughing and joking with her customers. She would get up at four a. m. to bake eight pies, dish pans full of donuts, cookies and very tender cakes to be served during the day. At night, when we attended a dance there, at eleven p. m. she would set out huge platters of sandwiches and cake for 25 cents per person and would still be full of the dickens. Up again at four the next morning.

One scary happening I had during my many trips to Evansville with ma's Dewey. When I got into town near the railroad tracks, there was a coal shoot high up in the air where coal was elevated into the train's coal car to fire the engine. As I approached this area, a coal bucket was going up in the air and Dewey saw this and panicked. He reared up on his hind legs and kept pawing the air. I didn't know what to do! Luckily, a Mrs. Klien, wife of the blacksmith, saw what had happened and she grabbed Dewey's bridle to pull him down and got him quieted.

On another occasion, as I was driving home, I was singing one of the popular songs of the day "When we two were Maying" as loudly as I could. I was just passing a tall field of corn and an Ellingson man jumped out of the corn, hands behind his back and with wild eyes looked me over. I got so frightened and I whipped Dewey to trot faster, but he refused to obey me. He would trot for ma because he liked her and he knew I was a kid and nothing had to obey a kid. Needless to say, that was the last time I sang while traveling to Evansville.

A brief word about "my home town" of Millerville and its environment. Tony Lorsung sold groceries and dry goods. Ma bought Annie's wedding dishes from him. We also traded our eggs for groceries too. So Aunt Emma Kotschevar would ask me every time she saw me, "Lagen die henner gut?" Implying, if they did, that we would buy more groceries from Tony because he was Aunt Emma's son-in-law. I was getting fed up with this question, so I finally answered, "Die lagen alle zwe's eier. " That was the last time she asked, so she got the message. Peter Lorsung had a harness shop and also sold shoes. Another Lorsung (Dicka) operated a saloon and butcher shop. Matt Stariha had the dance hall and saloon. Another saloon keeper was Valentine Thoennes. Frank Buscher owned the bank (father of George in Alexandria) and Jacob Thoennes was the blacksmith.

It was at Millerville where we attended church and where our relatives are buried. It was at this town's Catholic Church that I was baptized and received my catechism instructions. My parents spoke mainly English, but enough of the German language remained with my older brothers and sisters. However, German was the only language spoken in church and I was admonished to learn the prayers in German, namely the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Apostles' Creed. I refused to learn the catechism in German, so Father Wippich labeled me "sauer kraut Yankee. " I got orders from ma to learn the Apostles' Creed in German and OH it didn't make any sense. I would try to go as far as I could "Ich glaube im Gott der Vater, die allmechligist schiffels Himmel und die Erde" and then I'd get stuck. I didn't want to let on to ma that I was still having difficulty, so I'd go into the next room and beckon

Carrie by wiggling my finger for her to come and help me out. "How does it go again?" I finally got it tight, but have long forgotten the words or the meaning.

Another silly incident I remember from Catechism. We were sitting at our desks. Ahead of me sat Annie Gluba and she always turned around and looked at me. She kept repeating this for an extended period of time and I had enough of this nonsense. So I said to her, "Du bist verruckt" meaning you are crazy and she began to cry. Father Wippich calls out "Gluba, was ist verkehrt" (what's wrong) and she replied in Polish which I couldn't understand. He said, "Sauer kraut Yankee, kumm raus. " I got a patsch, patsch on each cheek! Then I said "Well, she keeps turning around and looking at me!!!" So it was "Gluba, kumm raus" and she too got a patsch, patsch on each cheek. This was the first equal opportunity program.

When I was fourteen or so, ma sent me with a supply of food to Skiles. Balthazar Wagner and Andrew Brozek were to build our barn there and I was to cook for them. Well, after the initial bottom frame had been secured, Balthazar said he needed someone to help raise the rafters. I didn't have any means by which to drive home seven miles for help, so I was involuntarily drafted. The sill from which we had to work was fifteen feet in the air, so somehow I had to clamp one arm over this sill to keep from falling to the ground below. Andrew Brozek was on the opposite side of the barn. The two of us had to hoist the rafters so Balthazar could nail them in place. What a job for a young girl! When I wasn't needed as a carpenter's helper and cooking, I did fancy work (crocheting and embroidering) and have the dresser scarf to this day (1994). The barn stood for many years on the open prairie, withstanding many storms, so we must have done a sound job.

"School days, School days, oh those golden rule days . . . " The main thing I remember about my school days at District #72 was that I loved to sleep in the morning. In fact, I remained in bed until the very last minute. I didn't have time to eat breakfast. All I had time for was to wash, dress and fill my lunch pail (a syrup pail) full of sandwiches, a dill pickle, cake, donuts and, in season, an apple. Then I would run full speed, making those long legs go as fast as possible towards the school 2 1/ 2 miles away. Most of my older nieces and nephews should remember this route. From our farm place west to where Walter Wilken later lived, northwest through this yard and woods, north to the Johnson woods and then again west to the school yard. Sometimes I would hear a lone wolf howl, it sounded so eerie, but they never bothered me.

Then at lunch time, I would be starved, so I stuffed down as much as I could without anything to drink. On this particular day, I was stuffing myself as usual as fast as I could, but I also wished to play "pum-pum-pol-o-way" a game where the students line up and race to the road and back again to the school to see who'd be the winner. The rest of the gang had finished their lunch and I was still chewing away. Well, what to do? I still hadn't eaten a piece of rhubarb pie from my lunch pail, so what did I do? Iran outside, took the rhubarb pie and threw it against the school wall above the door. To my embarrassment, the pie clung to the wall, the evidence remained for a long time afterwards.

Mike Korkowski and I were good at playing ball and also at running bases. The bat we used was a wide board with a hand-chiseled tapered end to grip. We also played "anti-i-over". The teachers I remember having were: John Kelly, Amanda Rosengren, Anna Lund and my sister Della.

Learning was quite easy for me. I like language, spelling and physiology. I hated history! What did I care who had lived, what date they had done this or that and what their names were. Arithmetic did prove to be a challenge at times. We had a White's Arithmetic book and it contained many difficult problems to solve. If I got stuck, I'd ask Rosalia Korkowski to help me out and she'd zip, zip it down for me. The answer often consumed a whole page! I enjoyed problems that dealt with yards of cloth or bushels of grain-that made everyday sense, but not numbers which covered an entire page.

On the way home from school, I suggested to the Frank Korkowski girls, Katie and Rose, if we could exchange sandwiches left over from noon lunch-to see how each other's choke-cherry jelly tasted. Etta, my cousin (who later married Dr. Victor Eastman, a dentist), and I would pick choke cherries, wild plums and even sumac to eat playfully on the way home too. We weren't in any rush to get home.

I also walked to school whenever I stayed at my sister Annie's home. One morning it was raining heavily and Albin Beckman was taking my teacher, Amanda Rosengren, to school with a single buggy with a top. He picked me up and she put me on her lap. This surprised me because one day in school, I felt something crawling behind my ear. I reached for it. It was a wood tick and I was deathly scared of anything that crawled, so l left Out a horrifying scream! She grabbed me and shook me so hard that she tore my blouse.

I graduated from this school by passing the County Board tests which all students were required to pass if they wished to continue their education. I'm including my report card for you to see the difference between then and now.

Barbara Bitzan (Bobbi) was my friend from the Millerville area, I was at their farm place many times and she and her brother would come to our place too. They lived northwest of Lake Moses "in the hills" and very stony soil, but the family was exceedingly warm and friendly. They all loved to giggle a lot. One time I stayed overnight and Mrs. Bitzan was in the process of making "shtick cases". As the very dry cottage cheese ripens, it smells terribly awful. So thinking I didn't know anything about the making of this type of cheese, Mrs. Bitzan tried to hide it so I wouldn't smell it. First, they hid it in the bedroom under the bed. Then when they discovered I was to stay overnight, she had to retrieve it again and store it somewhere else. In the morning she mentioned to me what she was doing, and I said "Oh, I know all about it, my mother makes it too. " And they laughed and told me how they tried to hide it around the house, attempting to conceal its odor so I wouldn't think it was their house that stank so.

Their house was always spotless and Mrs. Bitzan always placed oodles of food on the table. Behind the house was a huge garden surrounded with cut grass. There were rows of strawberries, raspberries, gooseberry plants, a high-bush cranberry grove and of course apples and a patch of melons. If I had already taken one kind of sauce, she'd say in German, "Maybe you'd like some gooseberry sauce?", or if I was eating a melon, "If it isn't sweet enough, put some sugar on it. " Always smiling. always good-natured.

Bobbi was an exceptional self-taught artist. She painted many beautiful pictures of which I have one hanging in our house. It's an oil painting about 2 feet x 1 foot in size of a pine tree against the lake with the sun setting in soft dark shades of green and black with touches of gold for the setting sun.

Bobbi and Tony came to see me one Sunday afternoon with the intention of teaching me how to drive a car. I got behind the wheel of their car. The route chosen was around the block-a four mile trip down the mile stretch, passed where Math Hockert's lived, passed Carl's farm, Pete Wagner's and home again. Well, I started out not knowing the first thing about steering a car. I would turn the steering wheel too much and I would then head for one edge of the road, then to compensate, I'd overturn to the opposite direction and head for that edge (thank goodness there were no steep ditches). The two Bitzan's would giggle and laugh at each mistake and the more they giggled, the worse I drove. Even passed Carl's farm, I was still going edge to edge. But we made it home and I did learn to drive. My dad never learned nor did he show any interest in learning, so I became the principle driver to church, visiting relatives and taking the cream and eggs to town.

Our first car was a little Buick that my brother Willie "hung" on to my dad. It was an awful excuse for a car. All it had was two seats and an engine. No door or windows. In later years we had an Overland, and a Paige. Both cars didn't have much power and needed to be shifted for any incline. However, in the early years of our marriage, we had a blue 1929 Pontiac. One night my dad and I drove to Carrie's farm to celebrate Blanche's birthday (April 1). We left for home at one a. m. and this car just zipped up Landa's hill so effortlessly. The ride and the feel of this car was so exhilarating. I could have driven all night.

One more of my driving experiences. I had taken my folks to Annie's and Carrie and John Hopfner were there too. John had recently bought a model "T" Ford and the urge hit me if only I could take it for a spin. So I asked John and, he being a good sport, said, "Sure, but be careful!" I took off and drove to Bobbi Bitzan's and visited for a bit and then started back again to Annie's. As I was driving past a Meissner farm, they were herding cattle in the field. It was the practice of farmers to run cattle in the fall to glean young grain shoots left from the harvest or to graze along the road. However, as I was approaching this area, this herd of cattle saw me and they, not being accustomed to seeing a "hors-less carriage", made a mad rush towards me. I thought, if I "step-on-it", the car would outrun the cattle. But the car didn't have any pep and a young steer ran underneath the Model "T" and held it up so I couldn't move. Well, what's a young girl to do? I tried to get the car to move, but the wheels were off the ground and the more I tried, the more the young calf wiggled beneath the car. So I sat there, stunned as to the predicament I found myself in. Luckily, Bobbi and her dad came along and they helped lift the car off the calf. When the poor calf was finally freed, it gave out a loud bellow, and with its tail in the air, ran for dear-might to catch up and to the safety of the rest of the herd who were standing a short distance away observing this commotion. I returned to Annie's. John could see something had transpired since he last saw his car. I never did confess to any happening, so this may be the first time any of you hear about it fresh from the press.

Cattle seemed to be my youthful nemesis. When I was much younger, I stayed by Annie's a lot. Instead of walking the long way on the road, I'd take the shorter path through a neighbor's pasture. When their cattle would see me, they'd come charging full speed. I would run for all I was worth to the fence line, throw myself on the ground to crawl under the barbed wire. Sometimes it was nip and tuck that I made it.

We had company almost every Sunday afternoon. My brothers and sisters would often stop after church services to visit their parents and to play cards, usually "500". My dad could play all day long, especially if he got the Joker frequently. Then they'd pound the table so hard, the whole house would shake. Ma insisted on using a white linen table cloth that fit our table setting for twelve. Then she'd wash the cloth and it was my duty to iron it, starting at age 12. Ironing in those days was a real backbreaking job. The irons were heated on the cook stove and with a wooden handle and a metal plate below, I'd slip this into the iron and carry it to the ironing board. You could iron with it until it cooled off. Then you reached for another one. If the irons were too hot, the cloth would scorch; if too cool, the wrinkles wouldn't come out. This table cloth was also very long and awkward to handle and I would wrestle with it until "it had to be perfectly smooth", only to be dirtied up again the following week. The company didn't help with the dishes, leaving after the 5 o'clock meal. So I wasn't enthused about having company every Sunday.

In later years, we had company and ma, at this time was no longer able to help with the housework. I was busy most of the afternoon getting food ready and they also left me with a stack of dishes. I thought, "the heck with it," I'm just going to leave them until morning because I'm tired. I had barely relaxed when it went bump, bump, bump on the door. It was my cousin Barbara with her trademark, giggling. All the cake had been eaten by the afternoon's company, so I whipped up a cream cake for lunch. They stayed, laughed and visited till three the next morning.

Before I continue to other subjects, here are a few bits and pieces on the food that I liked or disliked. I hated "poten" (hog hocks). Dad did an excellent job of scraping the skin void of any hair bristles, but we each got one huge "potion" with the skin and all. And it looked ugly! But I got orders to eat it. I also had a deep dislike of chicken noodle soup. To make the eating more exciting, I decided to slurp the noodles into my mouth with the ends slapping against my nose. This, too, came to quick stop. But I loved donuts. One day while helping ma in the old summer kitchen, I fried while she rolled out the dough and cut them ready for frying. I ate seven right from the hot fat. I would put cream on ginger snaps and because they disappeared so fast, ma put them high above the cupboard. Now, I had to climb up and stand on the work shelf to reach them. Ma made the best Chow-chow in a small black stone jar and I would help myself during the day. Shtink kaess was my favorite food, and Johnny's too. After the dry cottage cheese finishes fermenting and has turned transparent, it is cooked with cream to make a very smooth textured body. None of the original odor is left; just a soft creamy spread. I'd cut several pieces of bread and slap on generous amounts of the kaess and eat to my heart's content. No wonder I was seldom hungry at mealtime.

Perhaps the main reason we traded in Brandon was because no one was going to get the best of my mother financially. We had taken our cream to the Millerville creamery first and the price was good. After a month or so, the price kept going down. So ma said, "Take it to Evansville. " In Evansville, the same scenario, so to Brandon where we got a good price and it didn't change. We stayed with the creamery, as did my husband and son Jimmie until we no longer had a dairy herd.

Some of the businesses located in Brandon during my youth were: Annie and Kappy Pehan's restaurant. Annie was a good cook and baker and they had a successful business. Repeelius' had a dry goods and excellent grocery store. Here ma bought fresh peaches. Peaches and cream were a new and popular dessert at this time. Bill Meissner was the grain buyer and later Joe Lorsung. Dr. Meckstroth, MD saved many pregnant ladies during the flu outbreak, but he couldn't save Mrs. Tony Lorsung (Ann Kotschevar) and Mrs. Ferdinand Dobmeyer (Adelaide Roers' mother) because of a fierce snowstorm. He didn't have the means to travel to their homes. In these harsh times of poor roads and cold temperatures, doctors made house calls all hours of the day or night, either on foot or by horse and buggy, before the event of the automobile. My cousin, Fr. Renner, was the pastor of St. Ann's in 1910. Also Emily Seidlinger married George Drexler (brother of Joe at Millerville) a banker, and she a teacher. She later became the postmistress at the Post Office. Young George chummed with Bill and Phil Hopfner while they lived on the farm.

During the summer months, whenever I took the cream into town, I would stop off on my way home for a swim in Little Chip. The road then followed the western shoreline and this was the original site of Old Brandon. My dad pulled an old elevator building from Old Brandon home to the farm where it became our chicken house. The outside walls were made of 2x6's laid flat and with long spikes (12 inches) driven into the boards. It also had a second floor for storage. Anyway, this spot was also the gathering place for Sunday afternoon picnics. My relatives would get together here; the men would catch a mess of fish, clean them. The women would fry the fish; some brought bread, cake etc. And we went up to Lund's for coffee water because the Lund cattle also used the lake for their natural habits.

John Hopfner's had moved into Brandon during the early 1920's and they lived in the house that Irvin Meissner and still later Ted Olson owned. Anyway, John became seriously ill with a large boil on his neck. Carrie had been caring for him day and night, so she asked me to help her out I went into town with my brother Johnny and a wagon load of wheat. The weather was cold and windy, the road being frozen, added to our discomfort. I got to Carrie's house and she asked me to take the train to Alexandria to see Dr. Haskell. Doctors office was above the drug store. He asked me how the boil looked, the coloring and if there was a pus head forming. He thought my report over and said, "Good! Now I know what to do. I think I'll wait two days before it's ripe enough to lance. If I lance it too early, he could die from the poison spreading into his body. " He waited two days, then took the train to Brandon and did the operation in the house. The house was so cold, Carrie got up several times during the night to keep the stove burning. John's bed was in the living room close to the stove so he'd be a bit warmer because of his infection and fever. Our headboard was next to the window and Carrie and I froze like puppies. In two days, after Dr. Haskell lanced the boil, John was walking the street!!!


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