A year or two after returning home, I heard that Alma Gluck,
noted soprano, and Efrem Zimbalist were coming to Fargo. This
was in the dead of winter. Joe took me by team to Brandon where
he left the horses in Hopfner's barn and Carrie accompanied us
to Fargo. After returning home to Brandon, Joe and I went home
by sleigh. I froze so, I begged him to stop at Guenther's, but
I knew they had a big house which would be cold too. We got home
where I still froze and then the next day we attended Mrs. Meissner's
funeral at the German Lutheran Church northwest of Millerville.
I never thawed out till spring.
I started giving piano lessons during the next few years. Some
of my students were: Blanche Hopfner, Helen Wilken, Evangeline
Wilken (John's), Viola and Elfa Meissner, Annie Hockert, Helen
Jones (a teacher), Eleanor Koeplin and Melvin DeBuzan who was
an excellent student. A Conrad Knarel brought his daughter and
said she could take lessons if he could hear what I could play.
So I played "Rondo Capriccioso" for him and I passed
In later years my son and I played duets together. He advanced
through the second grade level, but lost interest when the field
and yard work took up more of his time.
When I was still in Fargo, I saw a picture of Enrico Caruso
on the wall. The most handsome man I had ever seen and I thought
If only I could see him in person let alone hear him, I would
be so happy. Well, I saw an ad in the Minneapolis paper that he
was coming to the city. I asked my sister Annie if she'd go with
me because she also loved classical music. He was the greatest
tenor that ever lived. She had some of his recordings on their
Victrola, so we knew what a grand experience we were in for.
The auditorium was a new building at the time. When we got
into the building and showed our tickets to the ticket takers,
he would say further down and further down and further down. Annie
said, "Oh my, we should have gotten better tickets. We'll
never get close enough to see him. " We kept on moving and
low and behold we wound up on stage sitting on kitchen chairs.
Caruso came out from a corner of the stage and stood about 25
feet from where we were sitting. We could see his side view and
his chest would expand eight inches. He was a heavy set, well
proportioned man. He could hold high notes until you'd think he
would burst (and later he died because of the strain on his vocal
chords). His voice was powerful, yet rich, sweet and tender, so
much so that I cried so that the tears ran down my cheeks. It
was fun watching his accompanist too. Before he sat down, he would
flick his coat tails up. A violinist played several numbers to
spell Caruso. The ladies were dressed in fancy evening gowns and
wore corsages. This was the greatest treat and experience in my
entire life. Annie and I stayed at Delia Levitz' house. Her husband
was a fruit broker and he gave me the heartiest hand shake I've
ever received. Oh yes, ticket prices for the concert ranged from
50~ to $20.00 for the box seats. Our tickets were $4.00.
The day after the concert, Delia served us breakfast and then
we had to wait for the train to take us home again. We should
have asked Delia where there was a restaurant, but I had no thought
of food, I was filled with the music from last night's concert.
Annie kept saying, "Oh my, I'm so hungry, oh my, I'm so hungry!!"
Finally I spotted a little place that looked as if they served
food. They only had teeny fancy sandwiches cut in triangular shapes
on a plate. Annie woofed these down and looked for more. On the
way home, we finished some of our lunch we had taken along, but
this didn't quench her hunger either. All the way home she kept
saying over and over again, "Oh my, I'm so hungry!"
When she got home, I think she must have eaten everything in sight.
Joe and I attended the Eucharistic Congress in Chicago the
summer after our wedding. We stayed at Annie Woida and her husband's,
a Maroteck acquaintance from Millerville, home. Went by street
car to the Celebration. We never got into the Stadium proper because
we didn't get up early enough. If you wished to get inside, you
would have to get up at 3:00 a. m. to be included in the Stadium
itself. One day a young man, a relative of the Maroteck's, said
he would take us because he knew Chicago like the back of his
hand. Well, he got lost and drove into the Negro district. Big,
fat mama's sat near the curb with a flock of kids roaming around.
He got scared and so did we!
We stood outside the entrance to the stadium to watch the dignitaries
arrive. There was a long impressive procession of Cardinals, Bishops,
priests and nuns, plus an honor guard of 4th Degree Knights and
members of the Order of Foresters of which my husband was a member.
Then there were the usual banners, flags, canopy and the main
celebrant carrying the Monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.
The whole ceremony consisted of the Mass, Sermon and Exposition.
We had to stand for hours at a time in the hot sun. One day, as
the procession was approaching, Joe lifted me up so I could see.
When he let go, the crush of the crowd was so intense that I was
stranded in mid-air and couldn't touch earth again for the longest
One day we heard there was to be a parade, so we went to see
it. We had a good spot to view the parade, but the buildings were
very tall and the humidity extremely high, plus a huge crowd of
people around us, causing me to faint. Joe grabbed me and carried
me into a store when the owner gave me some water to drink. And
While in Chicago, we also took the opportunity to see a Major
League baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago
White Sox in old Cominskey Park. The seats were rough wooden planks.
Joe had played baseball in Millerville and loved the game. I played
ball in grade school and my brothers played ball east of our house
on the farm. So I too enjoyed the game and still watch the Twins
on TV. I couldn't stay for the entire game as we had been invited
to Horken's. She was Della's teaching friend and she came with
Della one Thanksgiving to the farm and remained for a week or
so during school vacation. To return our hospitality, she asked
us to their home which was beautifully furnished. Her two sisters
owned a hat store and Horken wanted to "doll" me up
by getting me a hair appointment and a new hat. Well, I had to
leave the game for my appointment; took a taxi alone through Chicago
and got to the hair dresser a few minutes too late, so she refused
to take me.
Before we left for home, we had dinner at Marshall-Field's.
The dining room was several floors up a spiral stair-case and
the room itself had a charming atmosphere. The customers looked
to be mostly business people. We had plank steak (very juicy and
tender) and stuffed green peppers with a hot filling. In Minneapolis,
Joe looked up a Roers relative who had fourteen children. He worked
for The Great Northern as a switchman.
Before I continue on to another subject, I need to say something
about my going to dances and what I say will cover the span of
several youthful years. I could hardly wait to go to dances, but
my mother wouldn't allow me to go until I was sixteen. My brothers
and sisters had been going and I was impatiently awaiting my day
too. Most of the dances I attended were either in the upstairs
Brandon Hall or at Matt Stariha's in Millerville.
As a young girl, I met Henry Satterlie from Evansville. He
being Scandinavian and I German, he asked me to teach him German.
All the German he knew was "Ich habe em lange nase. "
(I have a long nose) which was indeed true. I danced with Odell
Johnson who lived half-way from our place towards Evansville.
He took me home once. A polished gentleman! I knew a Peterson
(Alexandria drug store pharmacist) who was considered to be an
excellent dancer. There was a dance contest at Matt Stariha's
hall to see who was the best couple. He came like a bullet to
get me as his partner. As he was certain we would win. But Clara
Stariha was the niece of Frank Buscher, the contest's judge, and
her partner was Lloyd Schwantz of Evansville. They won, which
proves that politics was already at work in those days. Anyhow,
Peterson was disappointed that we didn't. The Hands Orchestra
provided the music.
A Borgin (can't recall his first name) lived close to Evansville
and he continued taking dance lessons in Minneapolis. His dancing
was far different from any I had ever witnessed. The foot work
was extremely fancy with intricate steps, dips and whirls. I could
follow him flawlessly. One time later, at a dance at the Brandon
Hall, Johnny's Annie said to me, "There's one in the back
who is eyeing you. " in her soft slow drawl. It was again
Borgin and I was the only one he danced with that evening which
made some of the Brandon gals green with envy because they thought
they were hot stuff compared to me, a farm girl!
The biggest community work project was our annual Church Bazaar
(total slavery). The meals were prepared and served in the old
wooden frame church which most of my nieces and nephews should
remember. Father Siegler was the pastor at the time and he demanded
a dinner to be served on Sunday noon; a supper served that evening
and another dinner the following day. Now mind you, the ladies
cooked on wood-fired stoves in the heat of summer. The kitchen
work area was located in what was the sanctuary of the former
church and was jammed with stoves, tables and bodies. Not only
were the stoves used to cook potatoes, vegetables, coffee, etc.,
but also to heat the water to wash the dishes.
Each family was requested to donate a given amount of food:
homegrown chicken (10 lbs. ), cream, butter, pies, cakes, bread,
a bingo prize and kitchen money. Ladies came the day before, ground
up the giblets for dressing and stuffed all those chickens.
Remember too, this in the day of no refrigeration!!! The chickens
were taken to various parish homes in the morning for roasting
and then returned to the hall for serving. Some were kept hot
in the kitchen ovens until used. The work was divided into different
departments. Some did the potatoes, cut the chicken, cooked coffee,
cut pies, etc. The younger girls of the parish waited on tables.
The service was family style.
Immediately after the dinner food had been served, dishes washed
and tables cleared for bingo, the ladies preparing the evening
meal, warming up leftovers and adding fresh to make enough for
the next crowd. The following day, the same ritual for dinner.
Thinking back to those days, I don't understand why no one got
ptomaine poisoning because how could we keep the food from spoiling
in all that heat and no means to cool it. Truly, the good Lord
must have been watching over us.
My folks wished to visit the Hockert relatives at Freeport,
Minnesota. I drove the car for them. These Hockert's were cousins
of my mother. To get this straight-Joseph and Nickolas (Bertha's
father) were sons of Johannes Hockert. Joseph was the father of
Peter and another Nickolas Hockert and these two Hockert men married
and lived at Freeport.
Peter Hockert had two daughters, Della and Lena. This Hockert
family dressed commonly and spent everything on food. Della married
Mike Reiter. They were both short in stature and as wide as they
were tall. Mike went into the country one day and came home with
a whole car load of watermelons for two people. They had a shallow
cellar beneath their house, hence the steps to the cellar was
also shallow. There was an oak beam across the opening as you
descended the steps. Mike would hit his head on this beam and
leave out a loud "Grrrrrrr." He and dad visited together
and instead of answering yes, Mike would lean forward, raise his
eyebrows, stick out his lips and make a "Ummmmmrrrr"
sound. I laughed myself silly just watching him. Later when Della
died, her sister Lena married Mike.
Nickolas Hockert had some of the following children (I can't
recall them all, but the ones that we associated with over the
years) were: Srs. Nickolas and Harvette, Fritzy (hardware store),
Dr. Harvey (dentist), Clara and Annie. This family was dark skinned
and thin. They liked fancy clothes. Their mother was a cousin
to George Herberger of the clothing chain. Sister Nickolas came
to our house before she became a nun, in a sailor hat with a veil
and fashionable suit. She tossed this aside to become a nun. But
before becoming a nun, she kept house for her parents until they
passed away. Because she was older, the order of St. Benedict
didn't want to accept her. She didn't have training as a nurse
or teacher, but they accepted her anyway and she was the receptionist
for the Motherhouse at St. Joseph, Minnesota for many years.
We had no electricity until 1929. Our house light was first
a kerosene lamp by which to read books at night and I often read
a story to my mother. Ma couldn't see well enough to read. She
had gone to several eye doctors for help. They would give her
a pair of glasses; she'd wear them a few weeks and then discard
them because they made matters worse by giving her headaches.
I now believe she had cataracts and there wasn't any method of
correcting that problem. But she enjoyed my reading to her. Later
we had gas lights and they sooted up the glass chimney surrounding
the flame. Della, who was home only during vacations, objected
to cleaning the glass. So she and ma insisted we get electric
lights. Joe and I had just bought a new car that year, so we weren't
in the mood to spend $500.00 for Otter Tail Power to provide us
with electricity. Della said she's pay $75.00 and ma promised
$60.00 and we got hooked for the rest, Otter Tail wanted four
families to sign on before they would build the line. A neighbor
to the east wouldn't allow Otter Tail to build the line through
their woods, consequently, they had to come up from Uncle Nick
Hockert's (one mile to the north of us which made the line more
costly). I believe Gabriel Wagner, Mike Korkowski, and John Schwartz
joined in with us. A few years later the price dropped to $130.00
and still later free of any charges. Then one day, Otter Tail
came to us with a proposition. If we signed our line over to them,
they would maintain us service; if we didn't, then we'd be stuck
with any repairs on the line. Since we didn't have the tools or
the knowledge to repair electrical equipment, we donated (as it
were) our line over to them.
Our son, Jimmie, was born September 30, 1931, just before the
days of the Great Depression. Luckily for him, he grew up happy
and full of energy because he had no way of understanding our
circumstances. I'm not going to spend much time on the depression
because most of the next generation experienced it even though,
as youngsters, you may not have felt the full emotional trauma
and financial impact. Joe and I had been married six or seven
years when the banks closed and we lost whatever savings we had.
The closing of the banks and people losing their money had a lasting
effect on people's lives-they no longer trusted the financial
institutions with their money and because of this, their money
was hidden somewhere at home. This is where the saying "cream
can" comes from. The cream can was buried in the ground behind
some building or in the woods to be unfound by snoopers.
To make matters worse for the farmers, a severe drought took
hold in '34 and again in '36. Joe had to sell most of the cows
because there wasn't enough feed for them. Lots of farmers were
in the same fix, consequently a deluge of cattle hit the market,
depressing prices even further. The government then offered to
buy the cattle for $12.00 a piece. Willie Lund was our trucker
at the time and he told Joe his cattle were too nice and they
should bring more than the government price-he should sell them
instead on the open market. If they didn't bring the $12.00, he,
Lund, would make up the difference. Lund had to make good on his
promise. Hogs at the time were $2.00 and eggs 6~ per dozen.
The wind blew constantly and the land was parched. The temperature
remained over 100 degrees for days on end. The dust came into
the house and literally inundated the place. You could write your
name on any piece of furniture. Some people hung wet blankets
over the windows to keep the dust out. The only spot I could hang
out wash was west of the granary where it was somewhat sheltered
from the wind and usually hung it out in the evening when the
wind subsided slightly; left it hang overnight and took it in
the first thing in the morning before the wind picked up again.
Joe tried to save the growing grain by hauling straw pile manure
over the field to anchor the roots. He purchased hay for $20.00
a ton, which was mostly cattails and rushes. We never bought anything
during these years so as to save the farm. I had raised a few
turkeys and sold them for $17.00 hoping to buy some clothes with
the money. In the fall Joe said, "I need the money to pay
the real estate taxes." Somehow we pulled through this difficult
period by personal sacrifice and self denial; two important virtues