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Interview with Alvina Deutscher Ebel (AE)


Conducted by Michael M. Miller (MM) with Lillian (Mayer) Schlecht (LS)
21 September 1994, Streeter, North Dakota

Transcription by Dorothy Denis
Editing by Mary Lynn Axtman


MM: It is September 21, 1994. This is Michael M. Miller, Germans for Russia bibliographer at North Dakota State University Libraries in Fargo. And joining me today in the interview with Alvina Deutscher Ebel, [Streeter, ND], is Lillian Mayer Schlecht of rural Medina, ND and she will also, perhaps, ask some questions later on.

MM: Alvina was born on August 30, 1895. So Alvina, you just had your birthday? First of all, why don't you tell us your name and your date of birth?

AE: My name is Alvina Deutscher Ebel and was born in 1895 and my birthday was last month on the 30th. We had a nice gathering.

MM: Did they have a little party for you?

AE: Yes, a big one.

MM: Wonderful!

AE: A big one.

MM: Where were you born?

AE: Worms, [Russia].

MM: Worms, [Russia].

AE: In Worms, South Russia.

MM: How old were you when you came to America?

AE: We came here in 1903. I was about 7 years old.

MM: So, you were seven years old and were born in the village Worms, W-O-R-M-S. right? What was your father's name?

AE: Peter Deutscher.

MM: Peter Deutscher. And he lived in the village of Worms, too?

AE: Yah, yah. We lived in the village. We called it a chutor. [That] was just like a little village, a couple of farmers together and later we moved into Worms.

MM: Do you remember when was your father born? Do you remember?

AE: No. Can't think of when.

MM: We can check that later. Your father, when he came to America, where is he buried?

AE: South of Streeter [North Dakota].

MM: In a cemetery south of Streeter. A country cemetery?

AE: Yah.

MM: What was your mother's name?

AE: Hannah.

MM: Hannah.

AE: Hannah Weikum.

MM: How do you spell that? W? We'll check in the family history for that.

AE: Ok.

MM: Is she buried in the rural cemetery too?

AE: No, no, no. She is buried over in Russia.

MM: She didn't come?

AE: She died when she had the 9th baby. She died. Then my dad got married to the sister of my mother.

MM: What was her name?

AE: Philipina.

MM: Right. How many brothers and sisters did you have all together?

AE: There was 9 children. There was Jack, Pete, Fred, Edward and William and the girls was Minnie, Christina and me, Hannah and.... Some died. Some died in between.

MM: In Russia? How many children where there that came with your father, mother, your father and your stepmother?

AE: 13.

MM: On the ship?

AE: Yah. There was 9 and my stepmother had 4.

MM: So there was 13 children, 4 from your stepmother and 9 from your father and they were all quite young?

AE: Yah. They were all... children.

MM: Were there some babies too?

AE: Sure. William, the baby was about a year or two old.

MM: He was the youngest?

AE: Yes.

MM: Do you remember a little bit about Worms? Can you still remember as a child? A little bit?

AE: No, no. I don't remember that.

MM: Not too much about that. Did your dad or stepmother talk much about life in Russia?

AE: Not too much.

MM: What about when you came over on the ship?

AE: When we came over and we land in Napoleon, [ND].

MM: No. But when you came over on the ship, you remember a little bit about coming over on that ship?

AE: No, no.

MM: Not too much. But you came over and, of course, you all came together and you came to New York?

AE: Yah. To New York and from there we took the train to Napoleon.

MM: Did you stay in New York very long or did you leave right away?

AE: Just caught the train and then we come to Napoleon. There was a uncle, my mother's sister, no, my dad's sister's husband and they was 9 miles or 10 miles east from Napoleon.

MM: What was their name?

AE: Henry Becker.

MM: Henry Becker.

LS: Oh, is that right?

AE: They had a big family themselves. So the neighbor sold out and then my dad bought the cows and the horses and whatever they had. Chickens and everything and we moved in their 2 room sod house. That's where we stayed a year and then we moved out to south of Streeter here. To a Müller farm and there we stayed. My dad had a quarter of land taken up and theye built a sod house and then we moved in there.

MM: In that first year here, all 13 children and ma and pa all lived in this sod house?

AE: They hired some out 'cause there was too many [people] for 2 rooms.

MM: You remember living in that sod house?

AE: Yah. We lived there until the next spring and then we moved to south of Streeter to the Müller farm. There my dad took a quarter of land up and then we built a sod house.

MM: Do you remember how big it was?

AE: It was three rooms.

MM: Three rooms?

AE: Couldn't remember how big.

MM: And all the children were in that sod house?

AE: No. Some was were hired out. A lot of the older ones were hired out.

MM: How old were they when they left the farm? When they were hired out? Were they like 13, 14?

AE: No. Was about 15 or 16 years old.

MM: 15, 16.

AE: In 1903, my sister run away and got married. Then we was all chased out. We all had to leave the farm and I never went back home.

MM: Why did everybody have to leave the farm?

AE: Because my dad was so mad because she [my sister] ran away and got married. If we heard that about that Christian Meidinger. They used to live in Medina too. Philip Meidinger. He come and picked her up and they got married. My dad came home and we all was chased out of the house.

MM: So, where did you all go? How old were you then?

AE: I couldn't remember. Anyway, it was 1913.

AE: Then we walked and it was 3 o'clock in the night when we had to leave the house. We didn't even come in the house, we was in the old sod house. See, we had the new home, but we couldn't go in the new home. So, we was chased out and we walked 3 miles. Me and my brother and my stepbrother to my father's [brother] Jack, And when we come there, well, he took us in.

MM: And then what happened?

AE: There I was and I worked for the neighbor a couple a days and my brother Pete sent me to Jamestown. He said, "you go to Jamestown and find yourself a job." I couldn't even talk English. I could say yes or no. I go on the job with English people.

MM: Did you go to any country school at all?

AE: Oh, for maybe a month. I couldn't talk English. I couldn't read English. But now I can. I can read, I can write.

LS: Did you teach yourself?

AE: Yah. With my kids when they grew up from school. I had no school.

MM: Your stepmother and your father, so they didn't talk too much about the old country?

AE: No, no.

MM: Did they ever say why they come to America?

AE: Yes. Because they was afraid the boys had to go to the army. There was the boys Jack, Pete and Fred. In 1914, I was supposed to come home, out to the farm because my stepmother lost a foot. But that was not to be. And then my cousin said, "No, you're not going home to be their dog!" That's what she said. She said, "you get married and make your own home." So they talked me into getting married. That's what happened.

MM: How long did you know your husband before you got married?

AE: Oh, about a year. They came from Russia too.

MM: What was your husband's name?

AE: William Ebel.

MM: Ebel. Was he born in Russia too?

AE: Yah, sure.

MM: Do you remember what village he was born in?

AE: I think the same country, Russia.

MM: Going back to the village over in Worms, because I know some people this summer visited Worms and there was a beautiful church there. Do you remember [it] as a child?

AE: No. Nothing.

MM: So, you grew up only speaking German?

AE: Ich bin deutsch...

MM: We'll speak a little bit later in German.

MM: Did your folk's ever learn English?

AE: No, no. Not my dad, not my stepmother.

MM: They always spoke German?

AE: German, yes. Na, alles war deutsch. So, what ever happened, here I sit.

MM: As a child growing up, when you were a teenager, you had a lot of chores at home?

AE: Lots. And I was always hired out to other people to be their dog. You know, when you go work for people, they send you here and there. They didn't care. I was scared sometimes but still I had to go.

MM: You were like 13 or 14?

AE: I was about 15.

MM: Fifteen or so. How old were you when you got married then?

AE: Not quite 19.

MM: Not quite 19.

AE: Because I got married the 12th of July.

MM: In what year?

AE: In 1914.

MM: 1914. When you got married, could you speak English by then?

AE: What I learned when I worked in the Gladstone. See, I worked in the Gladstone as a cook and I was the dishwasher. It's not there anymore. It's all gone. It was a great big building. It had lots of rooms so a lot of people stayed there.

MM: How big of a family did you raise, Alvina?

AE: I had 11 children.

MM: You had 11 children?

AE: I only raised 8.

MM: You raised your family in Jamestown?

AE: No. We moved out to the farm in 1929. We moved to a farm south of Medina and we stayed there 30 years.

MM: 30 years?

AE: Then we moved back to Jamestown because the kids all left.

MM: During those early years when you were young girl, teenager, and so forth, was there a church nearby? What church did you go to?

AE: We went to Medina to the Congregational [church].

MM: In Medina?

AE: In Jamestown, we went to the Methodist [church].

MM: When you were a young girl, was church pretty important in your home?

AE: Yes. [Cannot understand what was said] ... we had the farm. They called it [cannot understand what was said].

MM: Yes. Were your folk's pretty strict with church?

AE: Well, we had to go. We had to learn. We couldn't go to no dance or nothing.

MM: So when you grew up, you couldn't go to dances?

AE: No. Not one.

MM: Until you were married?

AE: We didn't go then either.

MM: Where were you confirmed?

AE: Streeter.

MM: In Streeter.

AE: Out in the country.

MM: Country church. Do you remember the name of the church?

AE: The Reformed. That was 1911. There was me and my sister and my brother and my stepbrother. There was four [of us].

MM: All confirmed at the same time?

AE: Yes. All at the same time.

MM: In German?

AE: Mhm. Yah.

MM: Did you have a lot of lessons for confirmation before hand?

AE: Yah. We had to learn everything by heart. Not like now. Now it's easy. But we had to learn everything by heart and I tell you, that wasn't easy because I couldn't read. I couldn't read the German.

MM: You couldn't read the German. You just learned to speak it but not read or write it? Could you write some German, Alvina?

AE: Not very good.

MM: Not too good.

AE: Not too good. I can read it.

MM: Oh, you can read it? The old German script too?

AE: Sure, I read my Bible. Last year, from August til February, I read every day and every night. Always had the light on reading.

MM: What about the holidays? Was there much of a Christmas celebrated when you were young?

AE: Yah, not much. All we got at home was Christmas candy. My dad, he read out [of] the Bible and set plates down for each and they put in a little bit here and a little bit there for each. That was our Christmas. No gifts like now.

MM: What about Easter? What was Easter like?

AE: Not much. Colored eggs, that's all.

MM: What about when some of your brothers and sisters got married?

AE: There was no wedding.

MM: No wedding?

AE: No wedding.

MM: Not much of a wedding service?

AE: Not much.

MM: When you got married?

AE: I had a little wedding. I was married in the Evangelical Church. The wedding was in church but the other things was at the house. At my in- laws.

MM: Where was this? Medina?

AE: In Jamestown.

MM: Your stepmother, with such a big family, she had to do a lot of cooking?

AE: She didn't do it. We had to do it.

MM: So you learned how to cook young, huh?

AE: We had a lot of scolding and when people come there, she always said, "I did it." She never touched it. We had to do the cooking and the washing and whatever came up. She was strict to us. She was awful mean.

MM: So, you learned to cook at a young age?

AE: Yes.

MM: Do you still do some of that German cooking?

AE: Yes. Strudla.

MM: What else do you make?

AE: Knepfla.

MM: And cheesebuttons?

AE: No. You don't have cheese here. When we had a farm, yes. We cooked it.

MM: You did your own butchering and everything?

AE: Yes, on the farm. Now everything is different.

MM: What about music in the home. Was there much music in your home?

AE: No. But when my kids grew up, they start to sing together. My boys and girls, they start to sing together.

MM: Were they singing in German or English?

AE: In German.

MM: In German.

AE: German.

MM: Did you sing with them?

AE: I cannot sing.

MM: You didn't do much singing?

AE: No. I had trouble when I had come to Jamestown. I had trouble. I couldn't talk. Then I had my tonsils out and from then on, I couldn't do nothing. I still got trouble. My talking is not good.

MM: What about when they did the singing. Were there any instruments? Did you have an accordion or anything in the home?

AE: No.

MM: They just sang from notes?

AE: They had a piano. My father couldn't play very good.

MM: Your children today, can they speak pretty good German?

AE: Yah. But later on, they won't talk anymore. They answer you but they talk English, like yours.

MM: When your children come to visit you, do you talk German with them?

AE: Yes.

MM: Oh, wonderful!

AE: But the younger ones, they answer me, but they talk English -- like yours.

LS: She talks in German but they answer in English.

AE: But the older one, they still talk German to me.

MM: So when you grew up, there wasn't too much time for playing around. You had such a big family, everybody had to do their chores.

AE: Yah. There was nothing, you see. And that was a hard time. There was no clock or nothing. Maybe your folk's went through that?

MM: What about when someone got sick in the family? Was there a doctor around?

AE: No, there was no doctor. We had to come to Streeter or Jamestown. I know when Martha [my daughter] was 6 year old, they scared her in the school with the Halloween chase, and she got that sickness where she couldn't hold nothing down and everything flew. If she had it for twelve weeks, she was dead.

MM: Your stepmother?

AE: No, my daughter. She lives out here. She's supposed to be here today. But she said, "I'll go to Jamestown."

MM: So, did you have a lot of home remedies? Can you remember some of those?

AE: Yes, sure. Take onions and put in the pan and a little oil or something. And then you put homemade soap in. That made a salve to draw when you got a boil or something that draws it open.

MM: And that was [made] with onions and home-made soap and then boiled it, or what?

AE: Yah. You cook it til the soap was all gone [disolved] and the onions is soft. They mash it. That's just like a nice soap. Seif' what you call it.

MM: That worked pretty good?

AE: Yes. When they had a cold, we used goosefat to rub their necks.

MM: Tell me about that.

AE: Goosefat. Rub their necks with that when they had a bad cold and it helped.

MM: Any other remedies?

AE: There's more but I can't remember them.

MM: What about when your mother had more children or the neighbors or whoever and there was no doctor around to deliver the babies?

AE: Well, a woman.

MM: A midwife?

AE: Yah. Always got a woman. That's what we had to do. I had one for when the second baby was born but they had to get it [the midwife and] until she was here, it [the baby] was dead. Then the rest, always had a woman doctor around.

MM: A lot of your babies were born with a midwife?

AE: Yah. Most at home.

MM: Did you get much time to learn how to do any crafts, Alvina? I see you have a beautiful...

AE: Crochet and I could knit. I crochet this kind of work.

MM: You did a lot of that?

AE: Yes. I made so many afghans since I'm old in here that all my kids have some.

MM: Who did you learn that from?

AE: From myself.

MM: You learned on your own?

AE: When I was married, I said to my sister-in-law, "now you teach me to crochet." She said, "how can I, because your left-handed?" She was right-handed. She was standing there and she said, "now you do what I do." That's what I learned. Crochet, like those pillows slips. It's all afghan stuff.

MM: You have done that all yourself? All that beautiful work?

AE: I've made lots. Lots of people ordered some so I made it for them.

MM: Are you still doing some of that kind of work?

AE: No. I quit last year.

MM: Well, I think at the age of 98, I think you deserve that.

AE: I said to my sister, "I still could do it but I don't want to." Because what shall I do with it?

MM: When you were a child, were there many books around or children's books. Anything like that? You didn't have too much in reading.

AE: No. I couldn't remember nothing.

MM: When you got married and so forth, did you have a German newspaper?

AE: I was with my in-laws for 2 years. Lived in there 2 years with my in- laws yet. They had 3 boys and 2 girls at home yet. They were all boarded out but they were always home by night. Then I had to do the cooking with my mother-in-law. Many times she was gone and then I had to do it. And when the 2 years was over, my husband built a house and then we moved out.

MM: How did he build a house so quickly? You were married just such a short time?

AE: He worked at the flour mill and he made money. See in that time, the houses were cheap. 'Cause when we sold it to go on the farm, we got $3000.00 for the house.

MM: And of course, when you were on the farm and so forth, there was only kerosene lamps, right?

AE: Yah.

MM: There was no electricity.

AE: No. They had kerosene lights.

MM: What did you do for entertainment?

AE: Nothing.

MM: Was there a lot of card playing?

AE: No. We had nothing in our house like that. When the radio come on, then we had to go with battery. We listened to McCoy and something like this. And then we got shut off 'cause the battery went out.

MM: So, then you couldn't have the radio on too long?

AE: No, no.

MM: Until there was electricity, later on?

AE: Later, yah.

MM: Did you have a lot of neighbors come over and visit?

AE: Oh, yah.

MM: Lot of that?

AE: When we lived on the farm yet, we had neighbors. We went to visit them too.

MM: What would you do together for entertainment?

AE: Just sit there and talking.

MM: Sit and talk. Would they talk about the old days? The good old days?

AE: What ever would come to their mind.

MM: Do you ever think, when you are sitting here alone, do you think much about when you were young?

AE: Yes. It comes to my mind always. All this stuff and that's gone. And I say to myself, "forget that, that's gone."

MM: But it is important to remember. That's why we are visiting today. Can you think of some of the things? What comes back to you once in awhile?

AE: Many things come back. Many times I have that kind of dreams. You make gardens. Sometimes you dig potatos. The deeper you go the bigger they are.I don't make nothing. I can hardly walk.

MM: But you're still reading the Bible.

AE: Yah. I can read.

MM: You read in German?

AE: Yes. English and German.

MM: So, religion was always important to you all these years?

AE: Yes. I wish God will take me home. I am old enough. People say, "you got to be here til 100." I said, "no!"

LS: We want to be here when you have your 100th party.

AE: I've got too many nights [when] I cannot sleep.

MM: Yes.

AE: Just cannot sleep. No, I have too many nights that I can't sleep. I tell you, it's awful when you can't sleep. Lay all night and think of what's going on, what's going on.

MM: What about your children?

AE: They come. They're too far away. Like Martha, she's in here every morning 'cause I pay her. She did the work all them years for nothing. So last year, it was in March in here, I said, "Martha, I think I pay you." She said, "I don't care what you do." So I pay her $50.00 a month. Now she takes [does] everything. She washes and cleans. She brings me stuff I need.

MM: When your daughter comes and does the work for you, do you talk in German?

AE: Yes. She answers. But many things, she says in English.

MM: So, if we visit in German a little bit, you'll understand?

AE: Yah.

MM: We can talk a little German now. Wir kenn auch e bißl Deutsch spreche, nicht? Du kannschst vielleicht noch besser.

AE: Meinst, nit?

MM: Besser. Was gedenkst dir noch wann d ganz alleinig bischt in dei Zimmer hier?

AE: Nothing. I pray for... That's all I can do.

MM: Sprechen Deutsch jetzt, kannst Deutsch sprechen.

AE: Baeter, fangssht yitzert ahn.

MM: Bet'st für uns all, beten für uns all?

AE: Ya, ich bet' für sie all, in Hospital, für die Kranke.

MM: Uhhuh. Wunderbar! und...

AE: Yah, I had a daughter who was sick with cancer. She suffered 8 years. Now at 71, she passed away. In November. She suffered a lot.

MM: I want to ask you a little bit about being on the farm because you had no electricity. Let's go back to the farm again. When you were on the farm until you moved to Jamestown, you had no electricity?

AE: Oh yah. When we moved to Jamestown, we had electricity.

MM: What about the time when you only had a radio on the farm? When you moved to Jamestown?

AE: Just a battery. And when Edna got married, we had a motor running but when we come home from when they got married, the neighbors went to Bismarck. There it was dark, no lights. Somebody had to go over to start the motor.

MM: Yes. Did you have to help with the chores at home on the farm?

AE: Yes. I milked cows until Oscar was older. He is going to be 62 in March and my sister said, "That's enough going out there and doing milking. Let the rest do the work. Stay in. You're old enough."

MM: Did you have to go out in the fields too?

AE: Yes. When I was 50, I had to go out and haul bundles. I had the team and the hayrack and had to go out and haul bundles.

MM: Of course, there were only horses then?

AE: Sure. There was me and my daughter and Harry. We had three teams and our neighbor had four teams. Was Michus Deitcher. And [we] when was done threshing, we had to pay them. I said, "we were so many people and there was only 2 [of them] and we pay him?"

MM: So, you remember the times when you had to come to town with the horses?

AE: We would come to town with the wagon and we went to church in Medina. We had nothing else.

MM: But when you were growing up, when they had these farm dances, you couldn't go to those farm dances?

AE: There was none. Those farmers, they were all pretty good people.

MM: They didn't want to have those dances?

AE: No.

MM: But when you had a wedding, did they have any dances?

AE: No. No dancing then either.

MM: No liquor either?

AE: No.

MM: But later on then, did they have dances? Did they have dances later on?

AE: Not in my family. Not one in my family had dances.

MM: They were real strict about that?

AE: Now when you hear, the Methodists are dancing.

MM: You grew up as a Methodist?

AE: We were first at the Congregational and back to the Methodist and when we come to Jamestown and down here to the Methodist. I took my membership [from] out there and put it here.

MM: What about the first time you watched a TV, was that in Jamestown? Remember the first time you had TV?

AE: We had a TV on the farm already. The last years.

MM: Oh, you did?

AE: Oh, yah.

MM: So, you had one of the early TVs then on the farm.

AE: I think it was in 58 [1958]. My husband bought it.

MM: So, you watched those early shows?

AE: No. Just the news and the weather.

MM: News and weather. Not too much else? Did you ever watch the Lawrence Welk show?

AE: Sometimes.

MM: Do you still watch him?

AE: I don't know when he is [on at night]. My TV is not good. TV is not good in here.

MM: And you have lived here in Streeter [for] how long?

AE: Since 85. [1985]

MM: Since 85 [1985] you've been here in Streeter.

AE: 85 [1985], June the 5th. And I rented and on June the 26th we had our auction sale and we moved out.

MM: And you decided to move back to Streeter?

AE: Yes. To Streeter, but we went out to Jamestown anyway.

LS: Why did you move to Streeter?

AE: Because there was a place. See, in Jamestown, my son Oscar, he looked for and they found a place where I should move in with 3 roomers and share a bathroom. I said, "no, no." And then my son-in-law Gotfried came out and he said, "why don't you move here to Streeter? There's a nice place. My mother just moved in." So we come down here and I saw the place and I rented [it] right away.

MM: What about...? Going back to your crafts and so forth, did you do a lot of sewing?

AE: Oh yah. I made all my clothes. Always.

MM: Oh, wonderful! Beautiful clothes you're wearing. What about when you were a young girl? Did you do a lot of sewing then already?

AE: When I was home, I couldn't even go to the sewing machine. My mother stopped me. She was so strict. So, I couldn't learn nothing at home.

MM: You learned that all later, after you were married?

AE: Sure.

MM: And so, you do a lot of your own sewing. So what about..., you made a lot of quilts, you said.

AE: Sure.

MM: When you were younger, did you have a lot of those quilting parties?

AE: No.

MM: Didn't do those.

AE: Nothing.

MM: What kind of quilts do you make?

AE: I made one that looked like those little violets. When I was done, a man came down and said he was going to buy it and I said, "no." So I gave it to my daughter not long ago. Nice quilt. It is purple and blue and flowers on it.

MM: How many quilts have you made in your life?

AE: I don't know.

MM: Quite a few?

AE: I made for each kid a quilt that wanted one, with wool.

MM: With wool?

AE: Because we had sheep and we sent the wool to a place in bundles and we made each child a quilt.

MM: Oh, from the sheep?

AE: Yah.

MM: Oh, from the wool. I see.

AE: But they had to split it. We put 4 pounds in [each] and it was too thick. So they had to take it apart and make it over. So 2 pounds was enough for a quilt.

MM: So, you made [used] your own wool?

AE: Yah. We had to send it in.

MM: Do you still have some of those early quilts you made?

AE: I have 2 myself.

MM: Wonderful! Those go way back into the 40's?

AE: Yah.

MM: I see over there in your kitchen, some crafts. Did you make those, too?

AE: No. I got those from the lady in here.

MM: Those are very nice.

AE: Yah. I did lots of crocheting. On the chair there, that was my father's. When she died and he brought that yarn in here [for me to] to use. That is all baby yarn. I said, "what shall I make out of it?" So, I made those covers for that.

MM: When you were growing up and so forth or when you had your family, did you re-use old clothes and then made new clothes?

AE: Yes. Lots of people brought stuff over and we made it over, even coats.

MM: For your family?

AE: Yes. We was poor.

MM: You grew up poor?

AE: When we come to farm, everything [costs] was high and the next year was no crop in the 30's [1930's]. Eggs was 8 cents. What [can] you get [buy] then? I remember lots but I said, "forget it."

MM: You remember quite a bit for being 99 years old. Lillian, can you think of anything else we would want to ask?

LS: I was just going to tell her that she might have been poor in money but you have so many memories and so many things that you had to learn yourself. You didn't have somebody to help you.

AE: I think God was the one who took care of us. I know we was so poor, that we had nothing. Not able to go to the store for a pound of coffee. And my husband asked old Ed Rhuele if he could get us coffee or something. He said, "no." So we went to the other store in Medina at the Klett, I think was his name, he gave us $25.00 credit so we could buy sugar and coffee. Then the next spring, when we made a little money, then we paid it back. I tell you, we were so poor there was no clothes.

MM: Of course, you grew up, coming over here from the village of Worms with such a big family. That was not easy either.

AE: It was not easy.

MM: But when they came over and settled by Napoleon, did they have any livestock or horses or anything?

AE: My dad bought the neighbor out. Horses and cows and chicken and whatever they had. Maybe some hogs, too. I don't know. Then the next spring, they moved over south of Streeter here. There was lots of things.

LS: When you come from the old country, could you ever bring along anything? More than the clothes you had?

AE: Yah. My mother and dad took a big bowl and one they call a...

LS: Say it in German if you can't say it in English.

AE: Kann's nit gut sage in Englisch auch net.

MM: Kannst auch in Deutsch sage.

AE: 's is wo se Tee gekocht hen. Porcelain inside. You put those cobs in. Corn cobs to burn it, and then they start to cook and the top was made so you can lay eggs in the same water and the top was for making tea.

LS: It would cook eggs?

AE: Yah. They was on top and the water was in [the] bottom and when it was started, that was for tea. You had to put your tea in.

LS: And that's all they could bring along?

AE: That's all. Just that. I can't remember where it is now. It disappeared. Just like a coppertone. What they call Messing yellow. Was about that big and the kettle was so hoch [high].

LS: The other things you had, you just left them?

AE: My stepmother had it.

LS: Why did they come from Russia to here? Why did your family decide to come here?

AE: Because my dad didn't want the boys to go in the army. That was the reason.

MM: Right. You mentioned that some of your brothers were getting older [and ready] for the army. And of course, you were pretty young, so you didn't understand all that. Why [that was happening].

AE: I couldn't.

MM: Do you, by chance, in your family still have any clothes or anything that they brought over?

AE: No.

MM: No shawl or anything like that?

AE: No. Der Schal is verrissen.

MM: I think we are going to close our conversation. Can you think of anything else you would like to say today, Alvina in memory of all of this?

AE: Was ich net vass ich sage soll.

MM: Uhhuh. Well, we can certainly speak a little German anyway. But I think you have lived a very fruitful life in raising such a wonderful family. You came from a large family and were so devoted.

AE: My mother had 11 children but 2 died and I had 11 and my sister had 11. We all had big families.

MM: I understand that you still have a sister living?

AE: Yes, Hannah.

MM: What's her name?

AE: Hannah Elding.

MM: And she is 95?

AE: She was 95, jah.

MM: So, the two of you are the only ones still living?

AE: Yup. Just the two.

LS: Do you visit?

AE: She was here last week. [The temperature] was about 90 in town. She came over from Jamestown and her daughter came from Bismarck. They want to find out things, too. Jah, she [Janet] wanted to make a Meidinger book now.

MM: Wonderful! So, they want to do a family history?

AE: Yah.

MM: So, they come down to visit Aunt Alvina to learn a lot of information?

AE: Yah. I said, "oh, you take that book that we had made last year now." Lots of things.

MM: Today is September 21st and I am visiting in the apartment of Alvina Deutscher Ebel and also with me is Lillian Mayer Schlecht and we are going to close our conversation. I want to thank both Lillian and Alvina for joining me today. Especially Alvina, who was 99 years old on August 30th, 1994. And we'll have to be sure to come back for your 100th birthday, Alvina.

AE: Not 94 [1994], 95 [1995].

MM: 95 [1995]. Excuse me.

AE: I was born in 1895.

MM: You are going to be 100 next year.

AE: I hope not.

MM: Thanks so much.

Transcription by Dorothy Dennis
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries
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October, 1994

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