with Bertha (Zimmerman) Aman (BA)
Conducted by Joyce Reinhardt Larson (JL)
25 January 1995, Fargo, North Dakota
Transcription by Joyce Reinhardt Larson
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman
This is Joyce Reinhardt Larson, a volunteer interviewer
for the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota
State University in Fargo. It is a pleasure to visit with Bertha
Aman at her home here.
JL: Can you tell me your name, your date
of birth and where were you born?
BA: My name is Bertha Aman, born June 3,
1910 and I was born in Romania in Russia.
JL: How old were you when you came here?
BA: Not quite a year. I was a baby.
JL: How old were your sisters and brothers?
BA: My oldest brother was thirteen.
JL: How many brothers and sisters came then?
BA: Well, there were six of us.
JL: Can you name them?
BA: Yah. There was Gottlieb, Israel, David
and then my sister Amelia, and my brother Alex, and then I.
JL: Did they have any more children when
they came to America?
BA: Yes, they had three children. There
was Oscar, Ida and Jake.
JL: Where were they born?
BA: They were born down at Lehr, North Dakota.
In McIntosh County.
JL: When they came from South Russia, did
they come through Ellis Island?
BA: Uh huh. Yah. Someplace I have it [written]
where my dad got to be a citizen and what the ship was and all.
Ya, they landed in Ellis Island in New York, June 10. See, then
I was a year old.
JL: Did they say anything more about the
BA: [Reading from a document]. Was called
the Island of Tears. It was called that because a beloved family
member was rejected or sent back and never to be reunited with
loved ones. I don't see where it says the ship's name.
JL: But all of your family that came were
accepted into the United States?
JL: The one wasn't?
BA: No. One had to stay back in New York
because he had eye infection. The thirteen year old. No, it was
not Israel. He would have been eleven years old [then]. Because
they were all two and one half years or so apart. No, he was not
permitted to go. It was Gottlieb, the oldest. Because of an eye
infection which was first detected in Bremen, Germany, the port
city where they were to board the ship, Kaiser Wilhelm II. That
was the ship, that's right. When the infection cleared up several
weeks later, Gottlieb made the trip out to North Dakota alone.
JL: He did? So when your family got to New
York, did they take a train out to North Dakota?
BA: Yah. They took a train out to North
Dakota because my uncles, my dad's brothers were living there.
JL: Isn't it interesting that the thirteen
year old could do that? I bet your mother hated to see him have
to stay back.
BA: Oh yah, but my mother was so sick.
JL: Your mother was sick?
BA: Very sick on the ship. They didn't think
they would get her over [here], and so was I [sick too].
JL: So many people had that.
BA: Yah, so many people didn't make it.
Like my husband's grandmother didn't make it. They lost her at
sea. She was buried at sea.
JL: Buried at sea. How sad. But I know that
BA: Yah, it did.
JL: So they came to North Dakota. Did they
have a homestead waiting here for them?
BA: No, no. The family left New York by
train for North Dakota and my dad's name was Balthasar Zimmerman.
He already had two brothers, Gottlieb and Conrad, living on farms
near Lehr, North Dakota. They stayed with Conrad and Christine
Zimmerman until they made a sod house on a farm about nine miles
south and east of Lehr. See, that's where they settled. They didn't
live in that house that we were living [in] when I remember. They
had built a sod house on the land because them people were still
there. They built the sod house a little ways off. About a half
a mile over the land. They showed us sometimes where things were
laying there yet. I asked them [about that].
JL: Then he bought the farm from somebody?
BA: Yah. They bought it from some people
by the name of Lux, [Luchs ?]. Something like that.
JL: Then you moved into the house that they
BA: Yah, that fall yet. See that was in
the summer when we came and they stayed with the uncles until
fall. And then they built that sod house. Well, they lived in
the sod house with my uncle there for awhile too. That's where
my one brother was born, in that sod house. Oscar.
JL: Is that right?
BA: How sad it was for my mother.
JL: Did she ever talk about it?
BA: Well, I knew that she was homesick.
JL: You do?
BA: Uh huh.
JL: Did she wait for mail?
BA: Yah. The mail came, but that took months
[to come] at that time.
JL: Who did she have to leave behind?
BA: Her parents and all her family, you
JL: So, none of her brothers and sisters
BA: There was one brother in Washington
state, Gottlieb Wahl. That was the only one.
JL: So her maiden name was Wahl?
BA: Yah, W-a-h-l.
JL: Did they come from the same area in
BA: Well, as far as I know that they did.
Although I looked at the German obituary and it says a little
bit different. It wasn't the same country, but I mean it was a
different county or something. I don't know just how it was there.
JL: They lived in villages there?
BA: Yah, they did.
JL: So your father's parents were left behind
too? Where was that again?
BA: From Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia. South
JL: Did they ever talk about life over there?
BA: Not that I remember that they said much
about it. Just what my brothers and sisters said.
JL: Were they farmers?
BA: They were farmers. That's why Catherine
the Great wanted them. Because they were good workers and they
could work up that land.
JL: And they were pretty successful.
BA: Yah. Some of my dad's relatives were
real well-to-do. The one, I guess, was a millionaire. One of the
uncles, I guess.
JL: Really? That was in Russia? In doing
BA: Ya. They had a big farm and they had
lots of hired help and so. He was kind of rude with his hired
JL: Is that what you heard?
BA: Uh huh. That he would have the whip
after them if they didn't go ahead and do what they were told.
JL: Is that right? Interesting that that
BA: Yah. It was interesting that it was
told. And still, I suppose he was one that wanted to get ahead
and get lots of [property of] his own.
JL: So, you had six brothers and two sisters.
BA: There were nine of us.
JL: How do you think your parents decided
on children's names? Was there any special way in your family?
BA: Now like Israel. That's in the Bible
and [also] David. I don't know about the others but [except] the
youngest brothers Jacob and them. I remember when Ida was born.
She was eighty years old now last Sunday, a week ago. I remember
yet when she was born and that they asked us what we wanted to
name her, and we decided on Ida. I was only four and a half years
old so it's pretty hard to remember.
JL: Interesting that they asked the family?
BA: Yah. Well, we had to go and see the
baby, of course. And usually there was a midwife and she helped
along with asking and wanted to know. Of course, we were so bashful.
JL: Was the midwife a relative?
BA: No, no. Not at that time. I don't remember
who she was. But later, when my youngest brother was born, I knew
that lady. But she was not a relative. She was just a neighbor
that they went and got her.
JL: So, all the kids were born at home?
BA: Oh, sure.
JL: And no problems with your family?
BA: No problems. Well, my three were all
born at home too. But I had a doctor.
JL: A doctor came to the place, then?
JL: How old were you when you left home?
BA: I was seventeen. Young. Too young.
JL: What did you do when you left home?
BA: Get married.
JL: Right away you got married? Who did
BA: John Aman.
JL: Was he a neighbor there, then?
BA: He was a neighbor a few miles from us.
I got to meet him at the school, I guess. Some doings at the school.
JL: They were farmers in that area, too?
JL: How many children did you and John have,
JL: What are their names?
BA: Well, the oldest one was Larry, Lawrence.
Then the daughter, Lillian Gladys, and then Rupert James. That's
the one living in Moorhead [MN]. Larry, the oldest one passed
away in 1983.
JL: What did you and John do then?
BA: Well, we farmed at first. But our oldest
son worked for Western Union. He was in the service and after
he came home from service.... Well then, after awhile..., I don't
remember. He was young when he went into the service. He had only
graduated from high school, but then he worked for farmers and
that. After he got older, he went out to work. He worked in Fargo
then when he met his wife. He did carpenter work and different
things. Whatever he found at that time. It wasn't so plentiful.
JL: So none of your children took over the
BA: No. We didn't have a farm then. Well,
we did farm but Larry didn't want to farm and so he went into
the Western Union for telegraph.
JL: So in those days, with your parents
now, how was property inherited? In your parents or grandparents
generation? Do you know anything about that?
BA: All I know is [that] they had land over
in the old country. How they got that, [I don't know]. Usually,
they had a dowry for women, but would that be for a man too?
JL: Probably not.
BA: Well, they all got something from home.
Like my folks at home, now they gave them horses and different
machinery so they could start out.
JL: Was it pretty equal between the boys
BA: Well, they tried to. See, like when
I got married, I got some cows and my furniture to start out [with].
What you had to have. So that's the way, [what] went on. Just
what [the parents] could do.
JL: Did the older sons have a different
inheritance than younger sons?
BA: Well, that I don't know. They lived
closer to home and I moved away from home. So they could go home
and mother would bake bread and they got different things like
that. Meat and things that the folks had. I didn't get it because
I was too far away. So I lost out on some of that.
JL: You had to do that yourself, didn't
BA: Yah. Look out for myself.
JL: Of course, by the time you got married,
you knew pretty well how to make bread, I'm sure.
BA: Well, that's what I had to learn.
JL: Oh, you had to learn it?
BA: Oh yah. I had to make bread because
my oldest sister got married and my mother wasn't well. Then I
had to mix bread and wash clothes and everything.
JL: So when you started out, you knew how
to do all that?
BA: I knew how to do all that. School wasn't
necessary for girls anyway. And boys neither. Just so they knew
JL: Did you go to school? How many years
of school did you have?
BA: I didn't pass the seventh grade. Then
I was taken out of school because my sister got married and my
mother was sick. So my dad went to the school superintendent and
took me out. I loved school and I would not have had to take all
the subjects either if I would have gone on to eighth grade.
JL: But he needed you too bad at home?
BA: Yah. They needed me too bad at home.
So what could I do?
JL: How about the boys? Did they get to
school more than you?
BA: No. Some of the boys only had third
grade and my one brother Alex only had third or fourth grade.
JL: How did you feel when you were taken
out of school? Do you remember being unhappy?
BA: Well, I felt kind of bad because I wanted
to go to school and, at least go through the eighth grade. But
then, I didn't dare say anything.
JL: Why not?
BA: Well, you didn't tell your parents what
JL: You knew it wouldn't happen anyway?
BA: You knew it wouldn't happen. But they
JL: You could see what was happening at
BA: Yah. My mother couldn't do the work,
couldn't clean house, couldn't bake bread.
JL: What was wrong with your mother?
BA: When I was five years old, she lost
a kidney and she was never well. Later on, she was diabetic. So
she was not well.
JL: So she needed all the help she could
get at home?
BA: So, it was alright in a way. I learned
to do a lot of things. I learned to cook and all that which I
didn't do before, when my sister was at home. Then I helped outside
JL: Yes. So, some of the things you had
to do at home. What did you enjoy the most as as far as chores
that you had to do?
BA: I loved to clean house or do varnishing
or painting. I loved to do that. I didn't like to feed pigs. I
wanted to learn how to milk cows. I cried [because] I wanted to
learn to milk cows when I was nine years old. After I was married,
I said, "I wished I had never learned to milk!"
JL: Everybody learned how to milk cows,
I think. You were all needed.
BA: Yah, we were all needed.
JL: How far were you from town?
BA: Eight miles.
JL: So you sold cream for your income?
BA: Yah. They sold cream and fed the skim
milk to the pigs to sell them and [also to] raise our own meat.
JL: Do you remember the butchering?
BA: Yah. I remember butchering very well.
But I never stuck around when they butchered the pigs because
they squealed too much.
JL: Did you do that [butchering] too when
you got married?
BA: Uh, huh. We usually went together with
some of my husband's relatives. They lived there where we lived
on the other side of town. So we went together.
JL: So, if you didn't do some of the work
that was expected of you, how were the kids disciplined in those
BA: I did my work because you were in trouble
if you didn't!
JL: What kind of trouble?
BA: Get a spanking.
JL: From dad or mom?
BA: Dad. I never got a spanking from my
mother. I had one spanking from my dad. After I got older, I understood
that I had it coming.
JL: So, was your dad strict?
BA: He was pretty strict.
JL: Did you raise your family not as strict
as your parents?
JL: You didn't believe it that?
BA: No, I didn't.
JL: What made the men so strict in those
BA: Well, that's the way they were raised.
JL: They really were, weren't they?
BA: Yes, that was common. You didn't talk
back to your parents.
JL: But then, you sure couldn't express
yourself, could you?
BA: No. You never could give an opinion.
JL: That must have been frustrating.
BA: Well, it was hard. I don't think that
all the parents were like that. Well, the one uncle we lived with,
I don't think they were that way. They were a little bit different.
Like when we went to school, we couldn't talk no English. And
then we had to learn the English. If we said anything in German,
then we had to stay in for recess. But at home, we were not supposed
to talk English.
JL: Just the other way around?
BA: Yah. Then my aunt got to be older and
she was in the nursing home in Bismarck. We went up to visit her
and she said, "she don't understand why they were so foolish,
that they didn't learn with us when we went to school." The English
language. My dad had to learn to get to be a citizen, but my mother
never [did]. I never heard her say an English word.
JL: I know in those days, they sometimes
had moonlight schools. Were you familiar with that?
BA: What do you mean by that?
JL: Well, I guess they would have school
in the evening. You know, for the adults to learn English.
BA: Not around there. Not that I know of.
Unless they did in town or something like that.
JL: Well, no. I think it was in country
schools. Well, some people just didn't want to give up their [German]
BA: Well, no. That's why they didn't want
to give it up when the churches started to have the English. The
older people didn't want to give their's up.
JL: You remember that?
BA: I remember that. To myself I thought,
"why not cater to the young people [so] that they come to church,
instead of giving up the church when they go on their own? Why
not do things for the young people to keep them coming to church?"
Instead, they [the older members] wanted it their way, because
they were the boss.
JL: And they lived in America. Didn't they
feel that, now that we're in America, we are going to learn the
BA: Well, I don't know how they felt about
that. They really should have felt that way. That we are Americans
now and we have to learn American things. We still can work our
way but still do it the American way.
JL: Now in your family or the people you
were around, they didn't feel that way, that you know about. They
wanted to really hang on to the old traditions.
BA: Yah, the old traditions. They were strict
JL: That was common then.
BA: Oh, sure. It was not just my family.
JL: Oh, I know. But there were some though.
I talked to one man and their family must have been different.
But my family was like yours, too. In that area where you were
raised, were there other nationalities around you?
BA: Well, not right around us. But [by]
my husbands family, there were Jewish people around.
JL: Oh. How did the German-Russians feel
about other nationalities? Like the Jewish people?
BA: Well, they got along with them, you
know. But not that they thought much about them. They thought
they were not workers like they [the Germans] were.
JL: So, you think that's the main reason?
BA: I think that was the main reason. They
didn't keep things up like the German people did. That was one
thing that they kind of felt they were lower or something. Which
shouldn't have been, but that's the way it was.
JL: Were those Jewish people farmers?
BA: Uh huh. There were some farmers. But
we had one man there in Lehr, in the store that was a Jew. Ashley
had some Jews that had stores.
JL: What church did you attend?
BA: At home, I attended the Baptist church.
But my folks were Lutherans. I was seven years old when they turned
over to the Baptist church.
JL: Why did they change?
BA: Well, my uncles were there and they
went to the Baptist church. In the Zimmerman family, they were
Baptists in the old country already, but my folks were Lutheran.
Because they went to the church that John's folks went to first.
JL: Oh, a little Lutheran country church?
BA: Uh huh.
JL: Then a few years later, they joined
the Baptist church? Did they have to drive a little farther to
that church then?
BA: No, it wasn't quite as far.
JL: Was baptism and confirmation important
in your family, for you and the [other] children to become baptized
BA: Not at that time, as I remember it.
No. Some of the older ones were baptized, but I don't know if
they were confirmed. I got confirmed after I was married. Because
there was no Baptist church around where we moved to or anything,
then I got confirmed in the Lutheran church. As far as I understood,
I was baptized as a child. But I'm not too positive.
JL: Is that right? When you had younger
sisters and brothers born, you had three of them. Were they baptized,
that you remember?
JL: So, religion maybe wasn't really important
to your family?
BA: It was important to them. That was one
thing. We had our Bible reading in the morning and the prayers
all the time.
JL: Every day?
BA: Every day. All the time. At harvest
time or anytime. Even if it was short [the prayer], but it had
to be [said].
JL: Like at the breakfast table?
BA: Uh, huh.
JL: Did your dad read from the Bible then?
BA: Yes. My dad read from the Bible and
we had prayer and mother bet [prayed]. Yes, that was always.
JL: Before you began a days work?
BA: Yes. That was very necessary.
JL: You kids had to sit and listen?
BA: Oh yes. We had to sit then and listen
and learn. We went to our Sunday School class [too]. The later
years then, when I was still going, they had half in English and
half in German. Then we could read it in English [also], but we
did not have an English Bible at home at that time.
JL: Do you still know German?
BA: I can talk it but I can't read it too
well. Like if we go to any place where there is German singing,
I can't hardly follow it, because I don't know the words anymore.
JL: You kind of lose it?
BA: You lose it. And I'm not among German
people here at all. Mostly Norwegian and Swedes and they talk
Swedish. My neighbor, she talks Swedish sometimes. And I say,
"Well, if you talk Swedish, I'll talk German and see if you understand
that." We tease each other. But she was married to a German man
so she does knows a few German things that he always said. I said,
"You can't criticize the Germans because you were married to a
German." She must have seen something in the Germans to get married
JL: How about holidays in your family? Were
they celebrated in a big way? What was Christmas like?
BA: Well, my kids asked me this Christmas
[about that]. My grandchildren and great grandchildren asked me
what I got for Christmas [then]. I said, "I remember one year
when my sister and I got blue velvet bonnets for Christmas gifts."
And on Christmas morning, we had a soup plate full of nuts and
candy and figs and dates, which was a treat. And probably an orange,
which we didn't get all year long. Apples and pears and grapes,
that we had. My dad would buy apples in the fall for school and
JL: But oranges were a treat?
BA: Oranges were a treat. I don't remember
bought'en bananas in the house. We must have had some to put in
jello when I got older. When I made jello myself.
JL: Was there Santa Claus?
BA: Well in school, when we had programs,
there was a Santa Claus, but they didn't have a Santa Claus suit.
You took an old sheepskin and turned it inside out. You know,
that looked [awful]. That scared the little ones. That I remember!
JL: Like when you had a Christmas program
in school, what was it like?
BA: Well, we had to say pieces and things.
We had to say a verse and sing. Sometimes, three of us girls that
were in the same grade, we'd sing together. I remember one year,
we sang "Red Wing," and we had paper dresses on and they were
pretty short. I felt so embarrassed.
JL: Paper dresses?
BA: Crepe paper. I don't know why, but I
always loved to be in programs and learn poems. I loved school.
I could memorize and all that. Now, I look at the phone number
and turn around and it's gone.
JL: Sounds to me like you could learn pretty
BA: Yah. That's why I liked school.
JL: Did you sing at home.? Was there music
in the family?
BA: Yes, there was music in the family.
My one brother, Israel, the second oldest, he took organ lessons
after we got an organ and my dad played accordion.
JL: He did!
BA: Oh, yes. He played some real Russian
dance music for us. And hymns. That I remember real good, when
I was a kid. I loved that on Sunday mornings, when I looked nice
in the summertime, we would sit outside before we went to church.
Dad would play the accordion and we'd sing hymns. That I enjoyed.
JL: Did you sing along?
BA: Oh, what I knew. Then I would sing along.
When they would have company, like when my uncles were there and
neighbors, then they would stand around the organ and sing.
JL: What nice entertainment.
BA: Yah. Otherwise, the front door was closed.
We were in the kitchen. We could be seen but not heard. You know,
that was the way [it was then].
JL: How did you feel about that?
BA: Well, we didn't know any better. You
know Joyce, when you are brought up that way, you felt it had
to be that way.
JL: But I talked to my Dad and he said,
"I just wish we would have been allowed to be with the older folks,
because I would have learned so much more."
BA: Why sure. I know they laughed so much.
They must have told some jokes, because they laughed so in the
front room. But we couldn't be in there.
JL: When the singing was going on then,
BA: Then the door was open, but we had to
JL: You couldn't sing along?
BA: Well, that was the older people that
sang then. Later on, it was not that much anymore.
JL: Do you remember any of those songs?
BA: Oh, ya. They are all the old time songs
that we'd sing then over here in the midweek service. All the
JL: Name some of those hymns.
BA: Oh, goodness. I'd have to have a book
to read the titles.
JL: Some of those Russian songs. Do you
know any of those?
BA: No. That was just dance music.
JL: What made you think they were Russian?
BA: Well, my dad said they were Russian.
What did they call them...? Circle dances or something, really
JL: So that was not a German tradition at
BA: No. That was not German. But they told
us that they danced in Russia.
JL: They did?
BA: Yes. But we were not supposed to dance
after we were Baptist.
JL: Took some of the fun away, then?
BA: Oh, we went anyway and we danced at
home. When we had company, and when somebody came along that could
play the accordion. Then my youngest brother played the accordion
from five years old on. He could hardly see over dad's accordion.
He learned to play.
JL: Did some of them have lessons?
BA: Well, the one brother did. Israel, the
second oldest one had lessons to play the organ.
JL: Where did they go to take the lessons?
BA: Well, they had to go to Lehr to a lady
that gave them.
JL: And your mom and dad were willing to
do that? To take time out of their busy lives?
BA: Yah. Well, he was old enough to go by
himself. Drive the team at that time.
JL: So they encouraged that?
BA: Oh yah. Because they liked music. Oh,
they could really sing, those older people. They sang real nice.
I always enjoyed music myself.
JL: Do you wish you could have played yourself?
BA: Oh, yes. Many times and even now, I
wish [that]. Now, my other brother Alex, the one next to me, he
learned by himself. He played the mouth organ and then he played
the organ. He had an organ in his later life. He'd sing. I have
some of the tapes of his that [on which] he sang.
JL: Was there more encouragement for the
boys to learn some music than the girls?
BA: Well, it seemed that way. Although one
of my cousins, one of Uncle Conrad's girls, she played the organ
in church. She learned at the same time when my brother went to
JL: Do you remember any folk healing methods
that were used at home? What was used for a doctor in those days?
BA: You were your own doctor. Just put a
warm towel around your neck, rub it with camphor or something.
Whatever you had on hand and put a warm cloth around or lay on
the water bottle. I laid on the water bottle a lot because I always
had earache when I went to school. When it was so cold. My hands
and feet got cold and then I'd have an earache at night.
JL: So that was the remedy and that helped?
BA: That was the remedy and it helped. When
it got warmed up, then I could sleep. Otherwise I would lay there
JL: Did they use any plants for healing?
BA: No. The only thing that I really know
was camomile tea. That's still in use. You can buy that in the
store. You probably bought it, too.
JL: I like it. We always picked it at home.
BA: My sister still has it and you can buy
it in the bag.
JL: It's convenient in the bag. What did
you use it for?
BA: Well, for drinking when we had upset
JL: And besides that, it tasted good, didn't
BA: Yah, it did. But my mother used peppermint.
"Green drops" it was called. It had another name but we bought
it. We bought it sometimes [here]. When White Drug was up here
and there was a guy from Ashley working there. they had it too.
That was good for upset stomach, too.
JL: Are you familiar with "Heilblätter"?
What it is..., it's a leaf from a plant in the garden that was
used by some people for healing.
BA: What would it have been?
JL: I would like to find out. One person
told me about it but she didn't know what the plant is.
BA: The only thing I knew they used was
horseradish leaves for when they made pickles. Cucumbers were
washed nice and the [horseradish] leaves that were not all chewed
up and broke up and they used them for the pickles. It gives the
pickles flavor, 'cause with the horseradish and all. It kept them
nice and crisp.
JL: I never heard that. Did they use dill
BA: Oh yah. See that [dill] was laid on
the bottom before they put the pickles in and then in between
[also]. Like if they had a big crock or a big barrel. They made
big barrels of cucumbers. Then it was laid on top too for a cover
`cause the leaves had to be washed off. Because they would turn
kind of white and a scum on there. So they washed the leaves off
if they were any good and they would put them back on. Because
there would be a scum on there when it would start to work [ferment].
JL: Were they good pickles? Did you like
BA: Well I used to, yah. But I don't use
much pickles because of an ulcer in my stomach.
JL: How about some of the German foods that
BA: Like strudels, dumplings, knepfla. I
don't make it. I like it, but it's all heavy food and it's not
for my stomach.
JL: Did you make a lot of kuchen, then?
BA: Oh, yah. That was a must. Every week.
JL: Kuchen right along with the bread, huh?
BA: You made the sweet dough. Sometimes
you made some out of bread dough, but it's a little bit tougher
to cut and so on.
JL: What other German pastries are there?
BA: Oh, kuechla. You know what that is?
Now, they said the Indians make it from bread dough. They made
those stretch kuechla.
JL: Indian tacos.
BA: Well, fried in fat. You make them from
raised dough. They make them up here at Trollwood when they have
the German's day. Haven't you been up there when they make them?
JL: You mean..., they call those the Indian
BA: No, they are the German kuechla.
JL: No, I haven't had them up there. My
mother made them.
BA: Ya. My mother made them and a whole
dishpan full. They had to make such big batches of dough, of course.
My sister-in-law, my oldest brother's wife, she never made them
and oh, he just loved them! He'd come home when mother would make
JL: Was that a sweet dough?
BA: No. That was from bread dough and you
would make it out [form them] into little buns like. Then you
would make your fat hot and then you let them raise a little bit.
Then you stretch them, and when you put them in the fat, they
would get all bubbly.
JL: That sounds good, doesn't it?
BA: Yes. But if I made them, we always ate
JL: What did you make them with? Like I
remember having them with sausage.
BA: Well, with prunes is what we had them
with. With sweet things, because they were [also sweet]. Well,
I suppose you could have them with sausage, but we didn't have
them with sausage.
JL: But it was more of a dessert?
BA: Yah, it was more of a dessert. You know,
because they were nice and crispy and bubbly.
JL: Then you ate prune sauce with them?
BA: Yah, and sprinkle a little sugar on
them. And then they made..., what do they call them? Fattiman.
My mother made some kuechla, but they had quite a rich dough.
Made them and cut them with a cookie cutter that was scalloped.
Then they made slits and turned them kind of in.
JL: That's Norwegian when you call them
BA: Yah. But my mother made them and she
was not Norwegian.
JL: I wonder...? Was that was called schlitz
BA: Yah, it was.
JL: So, that was a rich dough?
BA: Yes. Similar to a doughnut but not as
rich. But it was similar. More like a raised doughnut.
JL: When you had weddings and festivities
like that, what kind of foods were brought to those kind of affairs?
BA: Well, they were more the kuchen and
JL: Let's say...? An everyday dish at home,
a week night maybe. What was a common meal?
BA: Well, at suppertime, I don't know. But,
like for dinner at noon, we would have sauerkraut and pork. You
know, pork ribs or what we called pork chops. They would even
have them, but they would be trimmed out pretty much. Because
the meat was used more for sausage. So they had not as much meat
on it as we have a pork chop. Then they would cook those backbones.
They were sawed up.
JL: Were they put in the oven for a long
BA: No. They were cooked on top of the stove
in one of those black iron kettles.
JL: And mixed with sauerkraut?
BA: Simmer them for quite a few hours until
the meat was nice and tender and the homemade sauerkraut. I could
eat big plates full and I never had any trouble.
JL: Not then, huh?
BA: No. But I can still eat sauerkraut and
it doesn't give me trouble.
JL: Did you have mashed potatoes with it?
BA: Mashed potatoes or any other kind of
potatoes. It didn't matter.
JL: But always a potato with that, then?
BA: Uh, huh. So, that was an everyday meal.
Then mother made some..., well, it's corn meal mush. She made
that sometimes. Then if there was some leftover, she'd slice it
and fry it. But we always used bacon or grease from ham. It was
always pork. There was no bought'en fat. I never know that we
had the oil or any bought'en stuff.
JL: When you fried those schlitz kuechla
then, what kind of fat was used?
End of tape-side one
Beginning of Side Two
JL: It sounds like you think that education
is pretty important for everybody.
BA: Very much so. I really do believe education
is important. I always said to my kids and grandkids, "it's something
nobody can take away from you." "Go to school as much as you can."
JL: Not only the boys, right?
BA: Yes, girls too. If you don't teach [that]
when you have a family.... Say you have two children and they
start school. Then you probably want a job and you need an education
to have a job. To work yourself up and things.
JL: So, do you feel that anything you would
have done would have been easier if you would have had more school?
BA: Very much so.
JL: You had to learn on your own?
BA: Yes. I did alterations and all that
on my own.
JL: Yes. Now, you worked at DeLendrecies?
What did you do there?
BA: Yes. Alterations and tailoring, mostly
men's clothes. I do like men's clothes better than women's clothes.
Women's have too many curves and too much different material.
They got such different kinds of material, where'as men's clothes
was more heavy material and easier to work with.
JL: How long did you work there?
BA: About twelve and a half years. And then
I retired at sixty-two. Then I went over to Moorhead, [MN] to
Northport Clothier's and worked in the men's alterations and helped
up north at their other store. Then I took some in at home. After
I didn't work full time any more, I took some in at home. `Cause
I had my customers from the store.
JL: I believe it. It's very nice to have
someone that you can call that can do a few things.
BA: I don't do it anymore. There is some
ladies that I did some things for here, but I don't like to make
a habit of it. My eyes aren't what they used to be and I haven't
got the patience anymore.
JL: Do you still have your sewing machine?
BA: Yah, two of them. A portable and my
old one yet, my Singer. I don't want to give them up as long as
I can do any. I do go over to church to do quilting on Mondays.
I didn't go this week. They had it again. They started again after
Christmas, but I didn't go because it was so cold yesterday morning.
JL: You learned to sew at home?
JL: Did your mother or you do quilting?
BA: I have done some quilting now since
I'm retired, but I didn't do [that then]. No, I don't know that
my mother did [either]. No, she just sewed. Bought quilts and
then she made covers for them with material. Sewed it together
to make covers. So you can take the covers off and wash them.
JL: How about other things? Like German
sewing and textile type things? Are you familiar with bobbin lace?
BA: No, not that. Well, I did some tatting
and so did my older sister. And I did some hairpin lace. I knew
how to do that, but I didn't make much of anything.
JL: Is that German?
BA: Well, I don't know. My husband took
some wire and you had to have some wire that would bend. Then
you crochet around the wire and took it off. But he made a wire
for me. I have that. I lost my tatting shuttles. I had two of
them and I lost them after my sale, because I didn't have my things
sorted out when I moved. And I was in the hospital when the moved
my things around, so I lost some things through that. They were
packed in other boxes where I didn't think of it at the time either.
JL: I believe it. So you made clothes for
your family too, I suppose.
BA: Yes. That's where I learned to sew.
Because I would look in the catalogs for patterns and then I'd
cut them out on newspaper or whatever paper I had. I would make
a pattern and sew for my kids. I made clothes for my daughter
when she went to school from old coats. I made coats over.
JL: Is that right? That was the beginning
of your alteration days?
BA: Uh huh. To make do with what you had
and to patch overalls. In them years, during the depression, not
only my kids wore patched overalls, but other people did too.
I got compliments from the teacher [on] how nice I patched them.
JL: Is that right? Nice small stitches?
BA: Yah. That had to be just so. What patching
is done now is done with a sewing machine.
JL: Or iron on?
BA: Yah, ready made patches. Like overalls
and all that, you'd take..., when one patch was worn through,
you'd take that off and put a newer piece on from the back of
some pants and make a bigger patch.
JL: Who handled the money in your family?
Do you remember that? Did you mother get some money to spend?
BA: No. She bought stuff in the store and
dad would pay [for] it. I don't know that she got money to keep.
Well, she wouldn't write a check [because] that would have been
English and she couldn't do that. But he would pay [for] whatever
they needed. Whatever she would buy in the grocery store.
JL: So that was kind of traditional, that
the men would handle the money?
BA: Yah, they'd handle the money.
JL: Was it that way in your marriage, too?
BA: No, not that much. Well, my husband,
at first when we had checking account, he did write the checks.
But not that it was a must. But we changed [that], so I could
write checks, too.
JL: Did children get allowances at home
in those days? Did you?
BA: No, no. We got for the Fourth of July
or if there was something that [when] we went to in town. Then
we'd get a quarter. For the Fourth of July, we probably got a
dollar. Well, then you could buy ice cream cones and candy for
JL: You could buy quite a bit then.
BA: Yah. It was different.
JL: What about firecrackers?
BA: Well, that was not my line. But the
boys liked that. The bigger ones helped them with that then.
JL: What did you do for the Fourth of July?
BA: Well, went into town for the parade
and hear the band play and walked around to see everything that
was going on.
JL: So, it was a big celebration?
BA: Oh, yah. And we looked forward to it.
And we could go if we had the corn hoed by that time. By the Fourth
of July time, the corn was about knee high and it had to be hoed.
It was not great big fields like they have now, but it had to
be hoed. Because we raised corn for the pigs. So it had to be
hoed before that time.
JL: That gave you a real goal, didn't it?
BA: Yah. That had to be done.
JL: Did all the kids have to hoe?
BA: It was the kids job until they got older.
Then they complained to dad, they didn't want such a big cornfield.
They wouldn't hoe it.
JL: What did your dad say to that?
BA: Well, he wouldn't plant that much, but
the field got pretty big anyway.
JL: So they dared tell him, "Dad, I don't
want to do this."
BA: Then you had to husk it in the fall
by hand. It was so cold after it was frozen stiff, that your hands
froze. You were so stiff that you could hardly do that.
JL: Did you have a corn bin then, where
the cobs went?
BA: Well, there was always something to
put them in. If nothing else, it was the hedder box. Do you know
what a hedder box is?
JL: Well, kind of. I remember my mother
saying she never liked a hedder box.
BA: I didn't either. I passed out on there,
one time. I got sun stroke.
JL: Is that right?
BA: It was too hot. My dad had a black man
for a hired man at that time.
JL: He had a what?
BA: A black man. And that black man went
home. It was so muggy and so hot, he said he couldn't stand that.
So he went home, but my dad kept on. He wanted to get that field
cut, so that if hail would come or something. Then I was on the
hedder box and my brother [too] and the one brother was driving
the horses and my other brother was there [also]. Then I passed
out because it was just so terrible hot.
JL: So even the hired help couldn't take
it, but the kids still had to do it?
JL: How did he ever hire a black man? It
must have been unusual at that time.
BA: It was unusual at that time. I don't
know that he stayed either. I don't remember. But he went home.
He said he could not take that.
JL: Where was home for him?
BA: Well, to our home. He stayed there,
but he slept out in the grain bin. In the lean to by the barn.
He slept out there. They fixed it up for him.
JL: He was just a summer helper then?
BA: I don't know that he was there very
long. If it was just that one day, or if that's all I remember.
JL: That's interesting.
BA: Well, we had dark men. My husband hired
dark men. But that wasn't too unusual at that time anymore on
the farm. We had two hired men that were black ones. They were
good workers. The one was an older one and he just had a few teeth
in front. Our oldest son was probably two years old and he would
look at him and he would gag. It wasn't nice.
JL: He was being honest.
BA: He was being honest. I guess he couldn't
JL: What about marriage in those days? Did
parents talk to you girls or boys about marriage and what to expect?
BA: I was as dumb as you come.
JL: You were, huh? No training from home
in that area?
BA: No. There was nothing explained or anything.
JL: I think that's just the way it was.
BA: Well, I just feel it was not right.
I think you have to know something about a woman and what goes
on in your life when you grow up and start to change and all.
You should have some things explained or something.
JL: Well, this has been so interesting,
Bertha. I sure thank you for your time.
BA: Your sure welcome. It's been nice talking
JL: Maybe I'll think of more things to ask
you and maybe come back.
BA: Well, you can come back and visit anyway.
Come for coffee or something.
END OF SIDE TWO
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries
P.O. Box 5599
Fargo, ND 58105-5599