CHAPTER 2: MY PARENTS
I. GRANDFATHER HERMAN
Recollections of Roland A. Gurgel via emails to family, 2000-2001
A few interesting coincidences in the life of your grandfather, Herman Gurgel, and your father, Roland A. Gurgel.
Grandfather Gurgel, as mentioned in a previous email, was baptized in First German Lutheran Church, as it was known back then. The word German was later dropped. The pastor who baptized him was a man by the name of Reim. That man's son was Edmund Reim. You know him as Professor Reim. When Edmun Reim graduated from the seminary, at that time in Wauwatosa, he was assigned to take the place of a teacher in Kenosha who was moving to Globe, Arizona. That teacher was Herman Gurgel, my father. Reim was not only to teach but also to start a mission congregation in Kenosha. In later years he was called to teach at the seminary in Thiensville, Wisconsin. There I met him in his classroom. He taught me in church history, homiletics, and some other courses.
I met up with him again when I was called to Immanuel Lutheran College (ILC) at Eau Claire, Wisconsin. When he was having some mental problems this Gurgel took his place in the seminary. A Reim took over teaching from a Gurgel. A Reim taught a Gurgel. A Reim and a Gurgel taught together for a time. And a Gurgel took over for a Reim. That was the same Reim in every instance, namely, Edmund Reim, the son of the man who baptized my father. One more coincident in the story—a Reim baptized my father. Your father officiated at the burial of Edmund Reim. I was serving Messiah at Eau Claire as vacancy pastor when he died. The funeral was held at Immanuel Church in Mankato where not too long after another Reim, Robert, was to be the pastor. There certainly is “reim” and reason in this story.
A bit of humor in this relationship. I was sitting at the feet of Prof. Reim at the seminary in Thiensville. He was holding forth in a liturgical class. In his own slow, deliberate, and at times painstaking way, always searching for the exact words, he was attempting to explain the meaning of the word "collect" The short prayer in the opening part of the liturgy. When he had finished, in my puzzlement I asked, "just what does it mean?' Needless to say I never got so badly burned by a look as I did on that occasion. I doubt whether he remembered it, but I still feel the heat when I think of it
He was not what one would call an inspiring teacher, rather quite pedantic. There was learning to be had, if one could make oneself listen carefully and not get lost between the words and sentences that came so slowly. I did appreciate many of his chapel talks at ILC.
Many years ago I ran across an autobiography entitled “Eighty Eventful Years.” It was written by a man name Louis Fuehrbruenger or perhaps Fuehrbringer. He had been a Lutheran pastor. He was born and raised in Minnesota. He got his training at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Many years he spent in the Missouri Synod. He ended up in Michigan. His years were spent in the company of the spiritual giants of the Synod. When he wrote his biography your saw not Louis but the great pastors and teachers of that era. It made quite an impression on me a young pastor when I read it.
What I am attempting to do in "ancestors" is somewhat the same as Fuehrbringer did. Oh there is family tree being presented. Many of the branches just names and dates, but when I get down to people in that tree and people met while that tree was growing I hope you will see the influences they brought to bear on the child, the teenager, the young man, the developing pastor, teacher, husband, father, grandfather, and aged man
Eighty eventful years and they are but as yesterday when it is past.
This little interlude is being produced while I get vital information about my father. He was not only a tremendous influence in our home, but he was my teacher from a short kindergarten through eighth grades. A twenty-four hour a day companion, mentor, and educator supreme.
Just a word of caution. The information given in my last email regarding Prof. Edmun Reim is true with one exception. There may be some question whether he was the son of the Pastor Reim of La Crosse, Wisconsin or whether he had his beginnings in New Ulm, MN. I know there is a New Ulm connection but whether that may be because the man from La Crosse moved to New Ulm or whether it is of a different family. Apart from this the account of Edmund Reim following my father into Kenosha, etc., can be verified. Hold the first part of the story in question for the time being
This is being written at 4:30 a.m. I have been trying to establish facts and to avoid making any mistakes. Will try and do more research on the ancestor of Prof. Reim.
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
While I am waiting for some information on my father and his family, I will supply you with some dates that may be of interest to you.
Grandfather August Pohll was born July 1, 1865. He died on August 23, 1942 at the age of 77+. Grandmother Pohll was born on August 16, 1869. She died on December 7, 1958 at the age of 89+ years. Grandmother Gurgel (my mother) was born on September 4, 1889. She died on October 5, 1951 at the age of 62. Her life was the shortest of the Pohll children. Many of them lived into their 70s and 2 reached the 80s.Surprisingly, grandma Pohll and my Aunt Nora Pohll (Borchers), who like my mother, were diabetics lived rather long lives.
When some of my cousins were here several years ago, they took mother and me out to dinner at the Kaiserhoff in New Ulm. That evening they spent giving us some information on grandpa Pohll. As you know his early years were spent in Manitowoc as a tailor and a very successful one. For health reasons he went to Oregon and operated a fruit and nut farm. He lost that farm and spent many of his last years in Eugene, Oregon. The cousins told how he spent much of his time in retirement sitting in the back yard with a B-B gun shooting the sparrows that were trying to get the chickens' feed. Ask me what do you do to fill in the hours of retirement, when you are alone. There are no chickens or sparrows allowed in the apartment and I don't know how to use a gun so I have to hunt something else to fill the days. This work of tracing your ancestors does help.
Grandfather Pohll was a rather tall and slim man. At least that is how I see him from some of the photographs that my parents had. When I saw some of many cousins, they seemed more on the short side and they were quite surprised at my height. Well I am certain we will him face to face in heaven and then get a true picture of him. The Pohll family members were devout Lutherans, members of the Wisconsin Synod in Milwaukee and Manitowoc. When they moved to Oregon there were no Wisconsin Synod churches out there at that time, so they became members of the Missouri Synod. Wisconsin and Missouri were both members of the Synodical Conference those years.
God-willing, I will soon get on with my father's history and then on to the Herman E. Gurgel family story of which I am a part.
Aufwieder sehen. Dad
[Note: Roland “the Younger”
Move in with Daniel, Dad. You can sit in his back yard and shoot the black birds with his B-B gun! Had a nice rain yesterday and a promise of more to come this weekend. A few patches of snow are left on the north side of buildings, but it has all pretty much gone away. Have been preaching on Hosea these last Sundays and used my installation/ordination - yours - text last Sunday. Brought back thoughts of Sioux Falls and the humble beginnings. This week’s text is Hosea 14:1-3, and for Easter Sunday -regular service, we have a sunrise service here - Hosea 6:1-2. Did not know the wonderful Easter message in that passage; "Come and let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight."
A blessed Palm Sunday to all. A joyful Holy Week and a most peaceful Easter to all.]
III. BROTHER ERNIE'S RECOLLECTIONS
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
III. BROTHER ERNIE’S RECOLLECTIONS
Just got a letter from my brother Ernie. I will give it to you with some modifications as I recall my father's remarks that differ from what Ernie gives.
"Will answer your questions in regard to Dad, according to the knowledge I have. His parents came from Germany married. Their oldest child, Fred, was born in Germany. The rest of the children were born in the U.S. His father's name was Gustav. Do not know his mother's maiden name. Have heard the mother's family's name was Groth.” [I am interjecting here. When I served as vacancy pastor in Stoddard, Wisconsin in l945 for a time, I ran across several families by the name of Groth. They let me know they were related to me from Grandmother Gurgel's side of the family. So it may well be that Gustav Gurgel’s wife was a Groth from Germany and some of her relatives also moved into the La Crosse area for Stoddard is only a few miles from La Crosse on the Mississippi River.]
Back to Ernie’s letter. "Dad’s father died of cancer" [I recall him telling me that his father died of pneumonia] "while he was attending DMLC." [I recall that dad told me he was only 9 years old when his father died. So you see once again my memory and that of my brother do not always come up with the same data.]
"At this point Fred, the oldest son, continued to run the farm. He ran the farm until he came down with that nervous decease which effected many members of his body. Some time had to elapse before he and his wife, Mary, brought 3 sons into the world." [I mentioned to you in a previous episode that Uncle Fred was a conductor on the streetcar line in La Crosse. That must have been after he left the farm. I knew him suffering from the nervous disorder when I was his pastor in La Crosse.]
[My memory is that after his father’s death or shortly before it, he was persuaded to attend DMLC at New Ulm, Minnesota to prepare to be a teacher. I can recall my father telling me that a pastor Wiechman (spelling?) saw potential in my father and encouraged him to go to DMLC. Where this pastor came from I do not know, but somehow Mankato comes to mind or Winona. Anyhow, Dad did go to DMLC.]
Ernie says the following: "The question you raise how many years Dad attended DMLC I do not know. My assumption is he did not get any high school in the Minnesota area where they lived. So he would have to receive that training at DMLC plus normal school. Even the Public Schools complete a Normal School in a 2-year period. I do not know what year Dad graduated from DMLC. It was either 1908 or 1909. I know the diploma was hanging in his study room. The picture contained pictures of his class mates.
"I do not know the order in which the children of the Gustav Gurgel family were born." [Let me interject here again. Fred was, of course, the oldest and my father spoke of younger sisters but whether they were all younger than he, I do not know.] "Names are Margaret (Frey), Emma Kluender, Ida, whose husband worked in the factory, Nash auto plant. I do not know her husband’s family name. Then sister Mary who married a man by the name of Schultz. They lived in La Crosse.
"I told you once, Roland, that they had a younger sister who attended grade school with him. She developed a stomach ache. Dad encouraged her to sit on the side of the road until she felt better. The next day she died. Dad felt they not know much about appendicitis, and he felt that possibly that was it was for that reason she died."
[Let me throw in a thought here regarding my dad and appendicitis. In l934, the first year I went to Northwestern College (high school department) I felt stranded for I went weeks without hearing from home. Finally I heard from my mother that dad was in the hospital. He doctored for what the family physician thought was an obstructed bowel. Finally he went to a hospital in, I believe it was Richland Center, Wisconsin. There they discovered he had a ruptured appendix. The ooze had formed a. crust around itself and so did not penetrate his entire system. He was a mighty sick man for weeks. Had not a doctor in the hospital discovered what his real trouble was, I might well have ended my ministerial preparations just a few weeks after they began.]
Back to Ernie's letter. "Dad was only one summer teaching a summer school at Lake City, Minnesota. From there he went to Kenosha. I would say he left Kenosha for Globe, Arizona in l914.” [I would agree with Ernie there for they were married in l913 in Kenosha and Karl was born in Globe in February of l9l5 so 1914 sounds logical.] "Dad said they were there only one year because the synod ran out of funds to pay him. From Arizona they went to Oregon. While at his father in law's farm he received a call to Burlington, Wisconsin. He was there until 1918. Herman, my brother was born in Burlington on March 20, 1917. They moved to Wonewoc, Wisconsin 1918 in the midst of that flu epidemic that claimed so many lives."
Your brother Roland H. Gurgel was working at Ben Franklin in Eau Claire one day when he was approached by an elderly lady. She said she was the wife of the athletic director at Eau Claire State University. She asked him, having seen his nametag, whether he was related in any way to a Herman Gurgel who had taught at Burlington Lutheran School. She said she had him as a teacher and he had made a tremendous impression on her as the best teacher she ever had. Rollie came home and asked and discovered that Herman Gurgel was indeed his grandfather. When he told her that, she said she recalled taking a Christmas gift to him well wrapped. When her mother asked her if she had told him what was in that package she replied, no. She was told to inform him that it was chicken and he’d better not leave it unwrapped under the tree or might give out an odor.
So far Ernie's letter and the thoughts it brings to my mind. Will pick up on this family history soon
I just got back from seeing the surgeon this morning. I am due for surgery in April 20th, the birthday of Daniel and also of Tyson Dauer. I had hoped for a less intrusive surgery than the one 10 years ago. No such luck. A second time for the same thing does not make it any simpler.
IV. HERMAN GURGEL HISTORY
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The Herman E. Gurgel family history really begins on August 19, 1913. That was the date of my parents wedding. It took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin where both my parents were teaching in Friedens Lutheran School.
Kensosha is a city of heavy fog and as a result of loud foghorns. So my father remembered it. They left Kenosha within a year after their marriage and headed for Arizona and the Indian Mission. I have spoken of that venture previously, but another thought or two might be in place. They lived in the city of Globe—the home of a huge copper mine. Some of you will recall the place for we stopped there on our way to Phoenix. I have pictures of you riding on a bucking horse in Globe.
My father spoke of coming into the Apache Reservation surrounded by barking dogs. The Indians simply watched to see if he would be frightened or not. He also told of the Indian children buying talcum powder cans simply because they liked the colorful pictures on the cans or containers. They would dump the powder and treasure the containers. I think I have already mentioned his trips with pastor Harders into the mountains, which brought him concern because of the patched up harnesses for the carriage team. You might also remember mention made of the books Pastor Harders wrote about life amongst the Apaches (Yahalahn, Wille wider Wille and La Paloma).
It was in Globe that the first child was born to the Herman Gurgel family, namely, Karl, born on February 5, 1915. Not long after his birth, the family moved to Oregon and to the home my mother's family, the August Pohlls. They moved because the Wisconsin Synod closed down the mission for lack of funds. I recall my father speaking of a family in Globe providing them with the funds to make the move. A regular Christmas card from that family would show up yearly and we children would hear the story of the kindness of that family. If my memory can be relied on the family's name was Kaiser.
One other story that came out of the Globe epoch was the day that my parents arrived in that city. They had shipped their furniture by freight train. My father made a trip to the depot to see if the belongings had arrived. He was told that they were indeed at the depot. He waited until noon and again went to the depot and inquired and was assured that all was there and in order and would be delivered to the house. Later in the day he made another trip and was unceremoniously informed that when he would have lived in Globe as long as they had, he would not be in such a hurry either. My few years in Phoenix gave me understanding of this 'take your time' attitude.
I would guess that my mother appreciated this being back with her parents and brothers and sisters for a short time in Oregon. Dad worked on the farm. I can recall him mentioning that the hired hands and their apparently must have been a few of them, that when the boss' eye was away they knew how to loaf. That was not my father's way of doing things. I knew him as always giving 100% .He expected that of his children also. That became very clear to me on one occasion when my brother Ernst and I had been left to do some work in one of his many gardens. On the way home he came to meet us. He inquired if all had gone well with the work and with our behavior over against each other. We assured him that it had. He provided us with a treat. Later he learned from an eyewitness that there had been some dispute between Ernie and myself. Needless to say we were given a lecture on behavior, honesty, and faithful work.
The family's stay in Oregon was quite short. My father received a call to the Lutheran School in Burlington, Wisconsin. The second child, Herman Martin Gurgel, was born in Burlington on March 20, 1917. You might remember the lady that inquired of Rollie whether he knew Herman Gurgel, a teacher in Burlington, she spoke of two little boys in that family. They would have been Karl and Herman.
Burlington has many memories for me. No, I never lived there, but it had some direct connections with me. My name, Roland, came out of that city. The day I was born my father went to bring my older brothers home from where they had been visiting at the time of my birth. Dad told them they had a visitor at home waiting for them. Karl, like Peter of old was always quick with a question or answer, He said to my father, "is Roland there?" While they lived in Burlington he had a friend by the name of Roland Hertel. My dad's reply was, yes, Roland is there. So my name has a Burlington connection. There are some other connections with that town. I have mentioned the Hertels. Mrs Hertel had a sister by the name of Louise Schroeder. She and her two brothers operated a farm near a little village not far from Burlington, Kansasville. My parents became good friends with the Schroeders as well as with the Hertels. We always referred to her as Aunt Louise. In fact my sister Marie has the middle name Louise. No blood relationship but a strong bond of friendship existed. Aunt Louise always sent us Christmas gifts. When I was in the Seminary and had an appendectomy, Aunt Louise covered the cost of that operation. As a little 4 or 5-year old boy, my mother and two younger sisters went to visit the Schroeders. I remember it very distinctly for I locked myself in an upstairs bathroom and could not unlock the door. Finally one of Aunt Louises' brothers got a ladder climbed up to the window and got in the room and released me from my imprisonment. One terrified little boy as well as one inept little fellow.
Let me take you years ahead to our wedding day. Who should show up but Aunt Louise, and her sister Mrs. Hertel. One of the very good set of dishes mother and i have came as a wedding present from those two friends of my parents. Also might mention that I had occasion to preach in Burlington while at the Seminary. I remember that very well also. While in the pulpit I was surrounded by a swarm of hornets. I did my best to be as motionless as possible. No stings in the flesh just in the mind.
End of chapter. Dad
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
I have taken you through the early years of the Herman E. Gurgel family. The Kenosha years 1913 and l914. The Arizona (Globe) short period 1914 and 1915. The brief stay in Oregon with the August Pohll family. The few years in Burlington, Wisconsin most likely 1915 or 1916 to 1918. The two boys born in these years were Karl August (born in Globe) and Herman Martin born in Burlington.
In 1918, the family moved to the little village of Wonewoc, Wisconsin. It lies to this day in the Baraboo River valley. A small town surrounded by hills and bluffs. Very much a farming community. The farms were mostly of 80 acres. If someone had 120 or more acres, he was considered a large farmer. Dairy cattle roamed the meadows, perhaps a few pigs. The farmer's wife usually had some chickens. On a Saturday evening she would bring the eggs to town and exchange them for what groceries the family needed. While she did her shopping the husband would either go to the barber or exchange news at one of the local taverns with other farmers.
At the time when my parents moved to Wonewoc and in my early years, the means of transportation was the horse and buggy or the horse and sleigh. Near the church were many hitching posts. On a Sunday morning there would be many teams tied to these posts Near the business section of the town there were also many hitching posts and a huge watering trough for the horse.
Through the village also ran railroad tracks. Trains from Chicago, Madison and towns to the east and south would daily come steaming though. Some of them would stop at the local depot. Others would hurry on to head toward Minneapolis, St. Paul or to La Crosse and into the southern part of Minnesota (Winona, Mankato, New Ulm and on into South Dakota.) I can remember as many as 8 or 10 a day passenger and freight trains whistled their steamy way within a block of our house. Visitors at our home would be frightened when the night trains roared down the tracks and shook the house. We were so used to it we could not understand why they should be so scared.
Wonewoc was a typical small farm town. There were 3 grocery stores, 2 hardware stores, a drug store, a bakery, a dentist and doctor' office, a post office, and 3or 4 taverns. There was a Catholic Church on the north end of town. A Methodist Church in the central part of the village. In the southern area was a large Lutheran Church with a school building behind it.
In the early days of my life, up on the hills behind our home and to the north there developed a spiritualist summer camp with cottages, spaces for tents, a large dining hall, and a meetinghouse. This sprang up after World War I. It got its impetus from parents, wives, and children of the soldiers killed during that war. Charlatans of one description or another played on their desires to contact the dead. So these bereaved people would come to the camp during the summer to try and contact the dead. The camp had a beautiful and cool setting and amongst the pines and other kinds of trees. During the summer afternoons I spent time there peddling papers and being amazed at the gullibility of people.
When my parents moved to Wonewoc, they lived in an older home just to the east of the church and school. I do not remember living in that house for when I gained awareness of the world about me, the congregation had built a fine new home for the family just to the south of the school building. It was a house with four fair sized bedrooms on the second floor. The first floor had a well-designed kitchen, a formal dining room. a good sized living room, a bathroom and an office for my father. A porch covered the whole front of the house. There was also a smaller porch on the rear off from the kitchen.
There was a full basement under the house. It had a vegetable room, a furnace room, a laundry area and a large multi-purpose space. Much of that latter area was filled with wood cut up for the wood-burning kitchen stove. There was, however, space for children's activities. The basement walls rose several feet above ground so the porches were not ground level by any means. I mention this for the spacious front porch provided a wonderful gathering place for the family on summer evenings. Many special family events took place there. From that porch we could see the church to the west, the school to the north, the cliffs to the east and north. There were two elms planted just a bit in front of the porch. I can recall my father planting them and I had the pleasure watching them grow as I grew. They of course grew much taller than I did..
To the west of the house came a bit of lawn and then a large garden area. On the west end of the garden was what was intended to be a garage. My father never owned nor did he ever want to own a car. So that garage became a storage area and the south part of it was turned into a chicken coop. On the south and west sides of the garage was a fenced area for the chickens to roam and scratch. My father always raised his own chickens from the eggs to the little chicks to the laying hens and to the roosters, most of which ended up in chicken soup and chicken dinners. I can still see my father axe in hand taking the rooster by the legs and swiftly cutting off the head. Then Ernie and I would watch the lifeless body flop around for some time before the muscles would become still.
The garage also served another purpose. When we became old enough to play on musical instruments we were relegated to the garage. The chickens could take the squeaks and squawks better than the parent’s ears and nerves. Fortunately none of us ever became obsessed with drums.
From the back porch we looked out over a neighbor's garden to a little meadow for another neighbor's cows and beyond that a block away we could see the creamery. There the area farmers brought their cream. When they milked they had their own separators that separated the cream from the milk. Cream was the farmers' source of money. The creamery turned that product into butter. From our back porch we watched the farmers bring their cream cans up to the creamery in their horse drawn wagons and in the winter with the horse pulled sleighs. My father often made a journey to that creamery to get a pitcher of buttermilk. In the winter we kids would take our sleds over there, hitch them to the sleighs and get a ride out into the country. When we had gone far enough we would watch for a sleigh coming into town hook on to it and get back home. This does not work with cars and trucks.
Enough of scenery for a while. Will continue soon.
VI. BACK TO WONEWOC
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I might mention the town did have a bank, a butcher shop, and the beginnings of business that dealt with the fledgling automobile industry. There was a Ford garage and a Chevrolet dealer. A few gas stations began to make an appearance. There was also a poultry business run by a Scotchman by the name of Douglas.
I mention the meat market that had its own slaughter house outside of town. My oldest brother Karl worked in that slaughterhouse and I can remember he did his best to convince us that we didn't know what we were eating in the hamburger so often found on our dinner plates. Karl also worked in the creamery for a while. He was busy making money for his education. He was to us three younger brothers really a "distant" relative. We knew he was there somewhere but where? Herman, Ernie, and I were the 3 musketeers or something like that. More of that later
Ernie was born on January l3, 1919 while my folks were still in the old teacherage on the little hill to the east of the school. Between the school and that house was a garden plot that dad would sometimes use. Some 21 months later, I am told I put in my appearance on the Gurgel scene. You all know the date, October l0, 1920.
There are several things about this little fellow that stand out in my mind and memory. They are not of tremendous importance but they have never gone out of my consciousness. One is a picture of myself waddling behind my brother across the school playgrounds toward the church with a diaper fully loaded. Why I hang on to that picture I do not know but it is there. Another picture that has been very vivid over the years is of myself climbing the stairs to an upstairs bedroom where my grandmother Pohll was holding a new little sister, Margaret, some 20 months younger than I. I see myself with cheeks puffed out and hitting on the cheeks asking my grandmother, "Wollen sie ein Apfel haben?" (Do you want an apple?) That must have been a joke of the day.
There are some other pictures of that little preschool child. The pastor lived across the schoolyard and a little north of the church. He had his buggy and sleigh. The horse was kept in a barn quite some distance from his house, perhaps 75 or more yards. It was situated just below a steep rocky cliff. We would walk with him to the barn and watch him harness Charlie and then take off on his rounds. At times we might even get a little ride with him.
While we are at that hill and rocky cliff let me relate our early expeditions. There was a steep path going up the rather solid rock to the woods above. You had to have a certain amount of courage to climb that path. Some 20 feet up the path was a narrow passage that was known to us "fat man's misery". We were happy that at that tender age we did not have extra pounds to cause us misery. On that rock cliff someone had driven spikes so you could scale the rock by pulling yourself up spike after spike. I can remember attempting it once as a young boy, I lost my grip and fell flat on my back on a rock shelf below. I have often thought that that fall contributed to some back problems over the years.
Many happy days were spent either with Herman, our noble leader, Ernie, and myself, and at times by myself climbing the rock ambling about in the woods above and usually heading east to a far less treacherous path to return home. My parents never seemed to mind our wanderings. I guess most of the town and farmers in the country were members of St. Paul's Lutheran Church and their children attended the church school so what harm could come to us?
By the time we made our journeys the Indians were no longer very evident. It had been Indian country at one time. They would camp along the river bottom. The story goes that they gave the area its name, Wonewoc. Which I am told means “they howl.” The Indians claimed the wolves would sit on the cliffs and do just that, namely, howl.
There was an old lady in the congregation who lived a block away from our home. She would tell us stories of the Indians and their ways. She also knew the gypsies that would come through from time to time. You have heard me speak of her. She would help clean the school house once a month. She, Mrs. Ripke, and Mrs. Thoenes, would have dinner with my folks. The stories would flow after a good meal. I can still hear her say, "Don't bother me while I am in the harvest.” When her plate was full she did not want to be bothered with having more food passed or having to pass it on by herself.
There is one other story I have often told you about Mrs. Ripke, perhaps two. The one is about her glasses. She told how for days she hunted for those glasses. Could not figure out where she would have placed them. By chance she went by the mirror to comb her hair. There they were pushed up into hair. If you had known her and her hairstyle you would not have been surprised that it took many days to find the glasses in the hair. Another story that is told and I know it from first hand hearing, is the story of what days to go fishing. She would see my brothers and I heading out with our fishing poles, such as they were, and she tell us, Don't bother today, they will not bite. Finally she explained to us how she knew. When a fish showed up on her calendar that meant the fish would bite. She never quite caught on that the fish always showed up on Fridays, the Catholic day to eat fish.
I can recall that while I was still quite young her house burned down. With the burning of that house many checks also became ashes. She helped out for many in the town. They would pay her by check and she never bothered to cash the checks unless she was in immediate need of money
There is a poem, if my memory is correct, written by Longfellow. Its title is, A Boy's Will Is the Wind’s Will, and it continues a boy's thoughts are long, long thoughts. Thinking back over years long gone I guess I would agree that a boy's will is the wind's will. We go from one direction to another in swift succession and never stop to do any analyzing. We live for the moment and quickly move to the next moment. Hold on we did grow up and we will come to that one of these days.
VII. PICTURES FROM THE EARLY YEARS
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My father was not only the teacher in the Lutheran School but he had many other responsibilities that as a young child made an impression on me. He was the church organist. There was a pipe organ of considerable size in the church. It was situated in the balcony. When I was a child that organ got its power for blowing air into the pipes from a water system. At times when the water pressure was not adequate there was a pump handle attached to the bellows that some strong member of the congregation would have to work. In later years, the system was run by an electric pump, but again when electricity failed for one reason or another the hand pump was used.
After teaching school all week, my father would on Saturday mornings pick up the hymns for the Sunday service from the pastor and head into the church to prepare the music for the Sunday service or services. As a young child my memory says the service was a German one. A little later on the congregation allowed for an English service on occasion. Then it became two services on a Sunday. The insistence on predominantly German services caused many to seek elsewhere when they had no knowledge of German.
In preparing for the service my father would line up the hymn tunes to be used, then what was called 'zwischenspiel,' that is music to be played between the stanzas of the hymn. We never sang straight through the hymn as we do today. You sang a verse then the organist played some related bit of music and then on to the next verse. There also preludes and postludes to get ready. It took hours on a Saturday morning to get everything ready for the Sunday service. I know the members of the congregation greatly appreciated the effort dad put into the organ work. During the winter months my father would put on warm clothes for that Saturday visit to the organ, for the church would not be heated.
On Sunday morning the older boys would be taken up into the balcony of the church and seated near the organ so dad could keep an eye on them if needed. The younger ones would be seated with my mother on the main floor of the church. It was a fairly good-sized church building and could seat several hundred people or more. It was a great day for me when I could leave my mother's side and join the brothers in the balcony. Here was a mirror on the organ for the organist to see the chancel area of the church and get a view of sons in the balcony pews. I cannot recall him ever getting off from the organ bench to bring us to time, but he would join us during the sermon.
While I have you up in the balcony, let me relate the one service when that area was well packed. On Maundy Thursday as you might expect we always ha d a communion service. It was well attended. The custom for the ladies of the congregation at that service was to provide a preview of their Easter finery. So all the young men wanted a good view from the top of what new clothes would be worn on Easter Day. A farmer in Belle Plaine said to me one Sunday after service, "If you pastors knew what people in the pews are thinking about at times during the service, you would be horrified." I think I was prepared for such thoughts as a young child sitting in the balcony on a Maundy Thursday evening service.
But I digress. I was speaking of my father's many responsibilities. Not only was he the organist but he also directed the choir. That meant practices one night a week as well as spending time selecting music. The choir was a very going thing. There were many young people who were a part of it and stayed with it into their older years. My mother made it a point of joining that group. She as well as dad had a good singing voice and the ability to read music. The yearly choir party held at our home during the Christmas Season was the big social event in my parent’s life. I can recall that we young children would sit on the stairway to the upstairs area and listen to what was going on down below. My mother would spend much time in preparing food for that event. Ground veal and pork would be made into a meat dish for sandwiches and a generous supply of homemade cookies and cake were also on hand.
For a few years after dad moved to Wonewoc he was also the director of the village band. He had played trumpet or cornet in his school days. On Saturday evenings during the summer months I saw him on the movable bandstand in the down town area directing the local musicians in marches etc. There was one piece that they regularly played that always left me wondering. The piece was entitled, TAKE ME OUT TO DREAMLAND. The puzzling thing to my young mind was that there was a nightclub a mile or two out of town that was called DREAMLAND. Why would my father suggest to anyone to go out to DREAMLAND?
Besides being principal and only teacher for many years, he was also the janitor of the school. That meant getting up early on a winter morning and getting the school furnace heated up so the building would be warm for the day. If snow came during the night there were sidewalks to shovel. There were long stretches of sidewalks to clear. A sidewalk began at the edge of Highway 33 that ran past the church up the north side of the church alongside the north side of the playgrounds past the front of the school building and a bit further to the east. Then there was the sidewalk that began at our front porch through the school grounds to connect with sidewalk mentioned above.
During the summer months besides working his gardens, he would at times be hired to help one of the many farmers in the congregation. That brings to mind the only time I saw my father behind the wheel of a car. One evening he was behind the wheel of a touring car came up the road that went by our house. He got out and said that is it, I do not want a car and I will not drive again and he didn't.
There was one other responsibility that he took on that I can remember very vividly. Many of the people living in and around Wonewoc were Germans who came over after World War I. They had little ability to handle the English language, so many of them came to my father for help. What amazed me was these grown men sitting in the study of our home looking at and learning to read phonics charts. That was something for kindergartners and 1st graders. What in the world, thought I, were grown men doing with such things? It did not take long for many of them to get the help they needed and move on.
So you can readily understand that father was a busy man. Remember that also had a family of seven children to bring up. More of this to come
Wishing all of you a blessed Good Friday and Easter in our Savior.
VIII. STAIRWAY TO STARDOM
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
The heading is fitting at least for the first part of this episode. We had two stairways in our home in Wonewoc. The one had a flight of stairs to a platform and then took a right angle the rest of the way up to the bedroom floor. The other took off from a door in the kitchen descended a number of steps to a platform and then also took off at a right angle down to the basement floor.
I want to start with basement flight descending to the cement floor. We children would sit on one of these 'bleacher ' seats and watch some interesting events taking place below. Very often in the fall my father would purchase or receive as a gift from one of the members of the congregation a whole hog or a half a hog. That animal would be brought down to a table in the basement to be cut up into various pieces. Hams and bacon would be prepared for a smokehouse to be cured. Other sections would be cut up to be cooked and canned. The fat would be set aside to be used as lard for baking. Some of the meat would be ground up to be used in making sausages.
It was always of interest to watch how the casings for sausage were made ready. The casings were made of the intestines which were thoroughly cleaned in preparation for being stuffed with the prepared meat. After the stuffing was done, they were tied and then with the hams and bacon went to a smokehouse for finishing.
Back in those days before cholesterol was ever heard of, rendered lard was valued for making pie crusts and other baked goodies. In that same category was goose fat (Genze Schmaltz). We used it on bread in place of butter.
From the advantage of those cellar stairs we watched our mother on her washday rituals. My father would light the basement stove late on Sunday evening and place a huge copper tub on the stove filled with water. By 4 0'clock or so on Monday morning my mother would descend to the basement and begin washing the week’s dirty clothes. Most of them had been stored in the clothes shoot which had its beginnings in the upstairs hallway and continued all the way down to the basement. There was no wash machine. My mother's hands and arms were the machine. A wash board set in a wash tub helped with the rubbing. After a few years a hand turned wringer was a welcome addition to the wash day. It made wringing out the water from the washed clothes much easier.
A little true story about that wringer might be in place here. My brother Herman, who always had an investigating tendency, had gone down into the basement and taken mother's wringer apart. When she discovered what had been done she was horrified. Herman's calm reply, he was not yet of school age, was don't worry I will put it together and he did with no pieces left over.
Every woman in the neighborhood wanted to be the first with her wash on the outdoor lines. Mother rarely came in second. Summer, winter, spring, or fall, the clothes were hung outside. There was no such thing as a dryer in any of the homes. Spring and summer posed the danger of rains, which meant a quick exit to the clothes lines and bringing the clothes to be put over chairs and tables. Winter meant frozen fingers and frozen clothes. I can still see the frozen sheets brought in and placed over the chairs and table to thaw out and dry.
There was another view from the basement bleachers that came yearly in the month of January. My brother Ernst had his birthday on the 13th of January. He always asked to have the Christmas tree kept up until that event. If the needles held out to that date, his wish was met. If the tree looked old and tired it had to be taken down. If that were the case, Ernie would retire the tree to the basement and then would begin a redecorating down there with whatever decorations were available. To sit on the stairs and admire the tree for a few more days or weeks was a great thing for little boys.
In the fall of the year, when the nuts had ripened (hickory, butternuts, hazel nuts, black walnuts) my father and boys would journey into the country side, usually some kind individual would give us a ride for the bags of nuts were to heavy to carry for any distance. Those bags of nuts were carried down into the basement and every evening for an hour or so, dad would crack the nuts and we boys sitting on the basement steps would dig out the kernels. All this was done in preparation for mother' Christmas baking. Many a pleasant hour was spent in the company of my father and when we became a bit restless he would remind us how good the cookies and cakes would taste with the addition of the nuts.
Stairway to stardom. The star of much what has been set down above was of course my mother and her delicious baking and my father who saw to it that the ingredients were always at hand.
I have taken you to the basement stairs let me now place you on the stairway to the second floor. Like the basement stairs, it had a platform a bit above halfway up. Then it made right turn and ascended to the second floor. The sounds on those stairs were very important to my brother Ernie and me. When we had our more than occasional disputes a call from our father from his desk to settle down was heard and might bring about a truce. If the truce was broken and the little voices grew louder again, my father who believed in the Scriptural injunction 'to have your household in subjection' made his move. If his feet hit the bottom stair we knew we had tried his patience too far. Once he hit the bottom step he would not stop, but we would but it was too late.
Those stairs also served for a listening post to determine what interesting events were going on below. Who was visiting? What was being planned? Children are curious today even as we were then.
Speaking of listening posts, when we lived in Rib Lake there was an opening in the kitchen ceiling to the bedroom above. Lois Jean slept or listened there to what was going on below. If corn was popping or cookies baking she let us know she was interested in knowing what was going on. And, I suppose all of you learned from her no matter where we lived.
The sun is shining. The grass is green on this Saturday before Easter. As yet I have not made any Easter nests.
IX. A FEW ITEMS YET FROM PRE-SCHOOL DAYS
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
My sister Margaret, who was born on June 5th, 1922, was the first of three sisters born into the family. My father had waited for a daughter and had to put up with four sons before finally a little girl made her appearance. He wanted a 'Gretchen'. In reality Margaret is the English translation of that name. Margaret she was and I cannot remember my parents calling her Gretchen. When Bernt got married he brought a real Gretchen into the relationship. By the way as far as I know they also produced the first great granddaughter for me. Great grandsons there were but I needed great granddaughters as well.
I often thought dad was quite proud of his first child being a son. A second son, well that would be a good companion, a Cadin, for the firstborn. When the third child put in his appearance my father must have thought, what another one of these. And when Roland showed up? Well finally a daughter did arrive. She was a joy to the parents and to her older brothers as well. Margaret down through the years has reminded me that we were great playmates. When the older brothers were off to school we did spend much time together. I can recall that one of our favorite pass times was to take the coaster wagon into the dining room and turn it over. Then one of us would grab one of the wheels and so we had a car. We would give a honk or two to let my mother know that some relative, usually Uncle Ed and Aunt Edna, were coming up the street to pay us a visit. I cannot remember playing a lot of house, but I suppose we did. Dolls were not of great interest to me.
Speaking about dolls, my mother would tell the story of how her eldest son had his own doll until he started school. When his schoolmates learned that he possessed such a feminine toy they teased him. He came home took the doll and smashed it across the stove. So ended that period in his young life
I must say that sisters were very kind to me through the years, especially Margaret, but Marie, and Doris also did what they could to make the days flow with pleasure. I often told my boys to appreciate their sisters for the reward would be great. Boys at times seem to have little use for that side of the family and that is a mistake.
The summer we had summer school at the seminary, Margaret came and worked in the kitchen. She was teaching at a country school outside of Appleton at the time, but when she learned from me that they needed help in the kitchen at the seminary she came and spent about three months working in the kitchen. So I got to see her a bit more than usual that summer. I can remember her being surprised that some of the girls in the kitchen could not figure out how to cut the coffee cakes so that every student would get a piece.
A REQUEST TO SOME OF YOU. I NEED HELP IN DTERMINING JUST HOW MANY GREAT GRAND CHILDREN I HAVE. I CAME ACROSS ONE TODAY THAT I NEVER KNEW EXISTED. DANIEL AND JOHN YOU MIGHT PROVIDE ME WITH NAMES AND DATES OF YOUR GRANDCHILDREN AND IF OTHERS OF YOU HAVE GRANDCHILDREN OF WHICH YOU HAVE NOT INFORMED ME, PLEASE DO SO.
X. GRADE SCHOOL DAYS - DAZE
Notes or article author name can be added in this area.
Grade school revolves totally around my father. He taught me through all eight grades as well as some weeks in kindergarten. Usually some of the last weeks in spring he would bring into the school those would be in the first grade come fall. It was a time of adjustment for the little ones.
My mother at times would come over at recess time and help the kindergartners learn to play together. Most of them came from country homes. They had had not a great deal of contact with other children. So they had to learn that the others posed no danger to them.
A side note about my father while I think of it. He and a friend from college days, the man's name was Frey (this was not his future brother-in-law) they made a bet that the other would be married first. In August of l9l3 each sent the other the amount they had bet. They discovered that they were married on the same day.
To my father goes almost all of the credit for the theology that I learned. It began with the daily family devotions that were a part of the day in our home. After breakfast he would read a chapter from the Bible followed by prayers. After the evening meal a devotional book would be brought out, a section read, and again prayers. Our school day began with a devotion, followed two days a week by a class in Bible Stories. One year it would be Old Testament stories, the next year it would be New Testament history. Over the eight years spent in his classroom that meant four years in each the old as well as the New Testament sections of the Bible. Those stories were told always with carefully chosen inner and outer aim. There was always a penetration with application with each of the stories. Bible passages and hymn verses were a part of the lesson. I had the opportunity to watch him in his last years of teaching, whenever I was home, I would hear him preparing to tell those stories by reciting them aloud in his study. He held the attention of the students from the word go to the last word offered. A good story teller always catches the ears of his audience. I said story teller not reader of stories.
Monday and Wednesday were Bible History days. Tuesday and Thursday were days for Catechism right after the opening devotion. Over the course of the first six years in grade school, he introduced us to and gave us an understanding of Luther' Small Catechism. It was his object to have the students know the meaning of each word and the basic meaning of each sentence and paragraph. Related Bible passages were assigned for memory as well as the text of the six chief parts. Memorizing with a full understanding of what you were memorizing was important to him and so also for us, his students.
I should point out that during the first years of grade school, my father taught the Bible stories and the Catechism in both English and German. My oldest brother, who was some 5 years older than I, was confirmed in the German language. That, I believe was the last class to do so. My mother continued to teach German to those who desired to continue in it.
Friday was the day for the study of hymns. Over the course of eight years one committed to memory a great number of hymn verses and of entire hymns.
The Bible Story Hour, The Catechism Hour, The Hymnology Hour, involved the entire eight grades. There was also a time for the lower grades to have some special attention in these religious subjects. He would aim to come down to their level of understanding. But let me assure you that even the little ones sat quietly during the general religious periods. My father's vocabulary was adjusted to children in all subjects.
The first 40 or 45 minutes of the school day were devoted to devotion and religious subjects. I should mention that the devotion was always begun with the singing of a hymn accompanied by an old reed organ. That left about 5 hours of the school day to be devoted to the secular subjects.
How could one man teaching all eight grades begin to cover what had to be covered in that time?
I observed very early in my life that my father was a highly organized man. His lesson plans were well developed. Class periods might run from 10 to 15 minutes, but those minutes were thoroughly utilized. His explanations were to the point and the assignments brief and clear. It was a lesson in preparedness to watch him in action. He knew how to combine classes for various subjects. Geography, history, civics, reading. spelling, handwriting often combined two grades. Skill subjects such as arithmetic and reading in the lower grades involved only one grade. Just as he made the Bible stories and the Catechism as well as hymnology come alive so also the stories in the reading books, classics very often, United States history, art, etc. were made very much alive by his method of teaching. The picture of the month and the poem of the month still live in my memory with pleasure.
The rear walls of the classroom had spaces for display of the children’s art work. Lists for who saw the first birds in spring as well as the first wild flowers. Every month some famous painting would be displayed there for us to study. Always something new and interesting on display to catch the eye and the imagination of the students.
The schoolroom was filled with double desks of various sizes. When you have children from the first through the eighth grades you do need a great variety of desks and chairs. Most of the desks served for two students. They had to hold the books and papers of two. You better have had good relations with your desk mate or there could be some major problems. Usually they were solved by changing seat mates. In the years when there were as many as sixty and seventy children in that one room, the aisles between the rows were narrow to say the least
My father taught for some forty years in Wonewoc. He got to teach children and grandchildren of some of his first students. He was well acquainted with family traits. There was only one student over all those years that he refused to let back into his school. He knew how to deal with students as individuals and to recognize their various abilities.
His Christmas Eve services were always well prepared and the best attended service of the year. He taught me something without his knowing it. Do what you are going to do where you are going to do it. Every morning or afternoon he would take the children into the church to rehearse their parts for the Christmas Eve service. When I served in the public ministry, I would memorize my sermons in the pulpit on Friday nights so when Sunday came I was familiar with the place where I would preach the sermon.
At the close of the school year- school picnic Sunday, he would have a secular program prepared for the congregation. It was presented in the church basement. Little plays, drills, songs, recitations etc. Always a lot of fun and after the presentations out to the churchyard for ice cream, candy etc. The ice cream bar was set up under a large tree and through the years for us the name of that tree was of course THE ICE CREAM TREE.
The old claim that my father can beat your father was true of my dad. There was no one who could outdo him as a teacher.
What about the hours and days outside of the classroom in those years? Well we just might give you an insight into what your dad did with such free hours.