The Concluding Years


I cannot conclude this book without mentioning something about the Goehner family. Aunt Lizzie was dad's sister. Another sister, Mary, married a Hetzel and remained in Racine. However, we had more contact with Aunt Lizzie and her three sons: Julius, Gus and Willie. They would come to the farm and remain for an extended period. One time little Gus was by us, ma caught him drinking cream from the can in the well house. She swatted him on his seat. He said, "Aunt Bertha, what'd you do that for? This is good stuff"

The Goehner's were allergic to work but loved the good life and music. One time Mr. Goehner was taking part of the family to a concert and young Gus wanted to go too. "Well," Mr. Goehner said, "here's my last 50t, he might as well come along. " The family moved to Petaluma, California. In the early 1950's, Willie, his wife and mother-in-law stopped in to see "the Wilken clan" in Minnesota on their way to visit their daughter in Michigan. In the evenings Johnny's Carrie and maybe some others gathered for a concert. Willie played violin with a local Civic Orchestra. His folks had spent thousands on him for music lessons. Anyway, I accompanied him as we played "The Holy City" and then he played several pieces by himself, which was enjoyed by all.

The ladies wished they could experience a thunderstorm while in Minnesota. It just happened to be unbearable humid this summer night. I suppose we went to bed around midnight. The lightning and thunder kept creeping closer-finally ZIP-CRASH. The lightning flashed-followed by a fierce jolting of thunder. This continued all night till morning. The ladies had had enough!!! This was the last major contact we had with the Goehner family. I wish to include a letter young Gus wrote me in 1920 from California, written with a distinct fluency and humorous expressions that were the family trademark.

Petaluma, Calif. Feb. 15th, 1920

Dear Cousin;

Well I have no excuse to make for not answering your nice Xmas greeting to us all. But I really thought you owed me a letter, and did not answer because you had lost interest. Well we are all still in the land of the living but mother is sick with a bad cold. We have the "flue" here in Petaluma quite bad Churches, schools, lodges, in fact all meetings of any kind are closed. Up to date we have been free of it and hope we don't contact the malady, as yet there have been no deaths. I hear it is quite bad back East and hope you all stay free of it. We sold our ranch some few months ago, and are living in Petaluma now.

It was either you or Laurita (he means Etta Wilken my cousin and neighbor) who promised to send me a picture of some good looking old maid of 25 or 30 years not more or less. I am still in the market, and this is leap year too, the "fates" save me. I hardly know how to write to a young lady, as men folks are more in my line, so if I don't write just right, you might put me right, and ask all the questions you wish, wise or other-wise, silly, funny or indifferent.

We have had quite a cold dry winter here, only about four inches of rain up to date, it is the driest season we have had in twenty years, dry inside and out. Only water to drink and it is not good. And Oh! My! the prices of things. Eggs at almost a dollar a dozen, butter at 75t a pound, potatoes at $5.00 per sack' apples at $3.00 per box, and vegetables are a rich man's luxury a poor man 's jewels. Hail the "great President, " who was to make the World free for "Democracy, " he meant, A-dam-mock-er-acy. I think it seems it is only free for the big profiteers and improving daily. The slogan up to date seems to be down with the one who toils and up with the dollars and the rich-man's laws.

I suppose you have had a hard winter too. We are having regular Spring weather here now. Flowers are springing up everywhere in spite of the high prices. God makes all things perfect and good, and selfish man undoes all that is good, even stealing the plenty which the good Lord provides. The doctrines of religion are only a disease of the mind nowadays. Most every one has it, but don't practice it much, at least it is not over-worked, as far as honesty and justice, here on earth are practiced.

We are all making a living and that is about all but have hopes for the future. Will and I took a trip into Oregon last summer; gone three months, covered 1800 miles in all What we saw of that State did not impress us much. We thought of buying a small farm there, but excuse us, no Oregon for us, too damp and cold, and not much good soil. Some parts are all right, but land is high where it is any account. We like Monterey, Calif. about the best of any place we have been. Will is straining every gut to make a living giving violin lessons, making violins and playing out. Julius also is making violins, and helping now and then in the Photo Gallery. It sometimes keeps Father, Mother and brother busy. I am repairing all stringed instruments, phonographs, cameras and player pianos. Our house rent is $15.00 per month for a small house of five rooms, lights and water extra.

The styles here are the same as in Minnesota, the women wear clothes and the men trousers, only there is quite a rage here in low cut necks, and high skirts, you can't tell from the rear, and at a distance, the age of the chicken, it might be an old hen. Yes, Petaluma is some town for chickens, they have them on Xmas trees even. So you can see by the movies if you are lucky enough to see our Xmas street celebration. The "Boy Goats,,, excuse me I mean the Boy Scoots, no that is not right either Boy Scouts, have a time here, they are our health officers, marking the corners of each block' "Don't Spit, - burn all rubbish How on earth are you going to spit when the blooming country is dry and rubbish to burn, who ever heard of such a thing rubbish is worth money nowadays. We wear rubbish, eat it, and pay high prices for it If they had said burn all luxury, that would have been different, some of the rich men of the town could have had a fire then.

I would very much like to visit you all and get reacquainted, with all you big folks as my last impression is a rather old one, some 20 years or so and of some rather small and noisy kids, red cheeked, and full of "pep." I still like to hunt, fish and wander in the fields and woods, as I love beautiful nature, good books, music flowers and little children. Will enclose in this a picture of Will and myself on our start to Oregon last summer. And other pictures of interest as well Will says I sent you some before, I think not. Did I? Well I think if you answer this letter word for word I will receive some letter from you. Will say goodbye for now. Hope this finds you all in the best of health and spirits. With love from us all to you all have some of the others write also, it will pay them. I am as ever you loving Cousin.

As Ever

Gust R Goehner

1017 B. St.

Petaluma, Calif.

In the years following the 1940's, I visited Della, Carrie and Willie five times in Oregon. Della lived in Forest Grove near Portland so all were close together. She had many of her teaching friends in town, and they extended a warm welcome to me too. In 1949, Della and Jimmie took my son and myself on a trip through central Oregon, down to Crater Lake and then along the coast homeward. We were up to Mt. Hood, Portland's Rose Garden and the Grotto of Our Sorrowful Mother, a breath-taking adventure of beauty and reverence. Oregon is a magnificent state. Oh, how my dad would have enjoyed the beautiful scenery, mountains, the ocean and the landscaped yards! Carrie did housekeeping for priests before retiring and concluding her years with Blanche and her husband Joe Smith. Willie remarried in 1951 to Ruth who proved to be an excellent addition to the family.

Della would come to Minnesota nearly every summer, especially as long as ma lived. I would play the piano and she would sing. I asked her one time, "what is your favorite type of music?" She thought for a while and said, "Sacred Music." I had though so because she put her heart and soul into every note. . . she sang in her church choir into her 80's. the last time I saw her was February, 1976 when she and Carrie came to Minnesota and I was already living in Fergus Falls with Jimmie. My husband, Joe, passed away February 1975 and I left my farm home to live with my son.

I have to the best of my ability at age 95, tried to remember these stories and happenings from 1902 through the 1930's. This period is the most important part of my life, historically, because it carries forward the perseverance and dedication of our family's legacy which I, in turn, now wish to pass on to succeeding generations.

Music remains my primary love, but seven operations, including two hip replacements, a broken wrist, cataracts and high blood pressure keep me away from tinkling the ivories. I look forward to concerts on PBS which are getting less each year. My favorite artists are Itzhak Penman, Zubin Mehta and of course the Van Cliburn piano competition. I've kept old concert programs in a box and yesterday I counted how many I had attended throughout the years, 66, and I know some must be missing. I look forward to visits with my remaining nieces and nephews and I try not to complain too much to them and say I'm fine. Jimmie clipped out a poem from an old "The Echo" which describes my condition perfectly.

There's nothing whatever the matter with me.

I'm just as healthy as I can be,

I have arthritis in both my knees

And when I talk, I talk with a wheeze. My pulse is weak and my blood is thin.

But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

It think my liver is out of whack And a terrible pain is in my back.

My hearing is poor, my sight is dim

Most everything seems to be out of trim, But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

I have arch supports for both my fret

Or I wouldn't be able to go on the street.

Sleeplessness I have night after night

And in the morning I'm just a sight,

I'm peacefully living on aspiring

But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

The moral is, as this tale we unfold,

That for you and me who are growing old,

It is better to say, I'm fine with a grin

Than to let them know the shape we Ire in.>

(author unknown)

As I stated previously, I'm "95 years young" as this account is being written. Although I have visual memories of much of my childhood, this task was both pleasurable and at time5 exhausting to think back clearly and recall how something really happened and all the names of people I once knew. I'm still living with Jimmie in Fergus Falls and he has been most helpful to me in my declining years. So I take leave of this task with the works of the song from "The Lilies of the Field. "AMEN, AMEN, AMEN, AMEN, AMENI!!!!"

These are Thy wonders; Lord of love,

To make 'us see we are but flowers that glide;

Which when we once can find and prove

Thou hast a garden for us where to bide.

"The Flower" by George Herbert


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