Interview (Part 1) with Magdelena (Maggie Eszlinger)
Zimmerman Eisenbeis (ME)
Conducted by Delmar D. Zimmerman (DZ)
Wishek, North Dakota, 31 January 1996
Transcription by Margaret Templin
Editing and proofreading by Linda Haag
DZ: Today is January 31, 1996. I am Delmar D. Zimmerman
a volunteer interviewer for the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
of the North Dakota State University Libraries in Fargo, North
Dakota. It's a pleasure to visit with Mrs. Maggie Zimmerman Eisenbeis
in Wishek, North Dakota. At the outset I would like to note that
Mrs. Eisenbeis is my mother and we are conducting an interview
in her home.
We will get right to the questions here. What is
your name, your date of birth and where were you born?
ME: My name is Maggie Eisenbeis.
I was born July 27, 1912; four miles east of Danzig (ND) in a
two room house.
DZ: What is the name of your father and in what
village in South Russia did your family once live?
ME: My father Solomon Eszlinger
came from Grossliebental Russia. In 1908 he came to Ashley, North
Dakota. He sailed by ship to Detroit, Michigan. From there they
came by train to Ashley where his father, Konrad Eszlinger was.
They stayed there until the spring of 1899. Then
another son was born and they moved to a house four miles east
of Danzig and that was where I was born.
DZ: Your father's name was Solomon
Eszlinger. When and where did he die?
ME: He died January 10, 1943. He was buried in the
cemetery by his own church on his own land. That was near Danzig.
It was about two miles north of his home.
DZ: What is the name of your mother and what village
in Russia did your mother's family once live?
ME: They lived in Friedenstal,
South Russia. Her name was Katherina Karolina Salzer (SP) 37,
daughter of Frederick and Karolina Weisenburger. They had four
children when they came to the United States, the fifth child,
Walliam (Willy), was born soon after they got to the United States.
DZ: When and where did she die?
ME: She died in her home February
19, 1957, and was buried in the same cemetery that my dad was
DZ: How many brothers and sisters did you have in
ME: There were fourteen in all, seven boys and seven
DZ: Can you give their names in the order of their
ME: Yes. They are Pauline, Jacob,
Sam, Carrie, Willie, John, then myself (Maggie), Konrad (he died
at the age of one year old), then Fred, Lydia, Rose, Edwin, Emma,
DZ: That should make all fourteen then. Do you have
any recollections of what your mother told you about the old country,
living in South Russia?
ME: Yes, I remember. She told us
she would gladly go back tomorrow if they had the money. She didn't
like it here, and was homesick for her old friends.
DZ: Did she say how they lived over there?
ME: She didn't say how it was over
there, but they had four kids and they helped with the work. They
were very well pleased over there. I don't know what she liked
DZ: So, she liked it so well she would have gone
ME: That I remember. She told me she would go back.
DZ: Do you have any recollections of what your father
told you about the old country, living in South Russia?
ME: He was homesick too, having
had relatives over there. He still had a brother over there yet.
He said he wouldn't mind going back because everything was made
cheap here and they had to get along with their two-room house.
They had to use cow chips to cook their meals. They didn't have
any money at that time.
DZ: What did they do over there? Did they have a
ME: I don't know. They didn't say.
DZ: Do you remember family stories about the ancestral
German villages of South Russia? Did they ever say anything about
the small towns over there?
ME: Yes they talked about it. They liked it there.
I don’t know how it was, but I believe it was a nice country.
DZ: Do you remember any village names or did they
mention any village names?
ME: Only those two, Grossliebental and Friedenstal.
DZ: Do you remember times when your ancestors wished
they were back in the homeland? I suppose you already answered
ME: Yeah. They would have liked
to go back. They were homesick for the country and the people
DZ: Do you recall your family receiving letters
from the old country?
ME: Yes, lots of them and I had to answer them.
I was my father's secretary. I had to write them back.
DZ: Did your family wait for news from the relatives
who stayed in Russia? Were they anxious to find out from them?
ME: Yes, they were anxious. I don't remember what
I wrote back but I know I answered the letters.
DZ: So they were glad to write and to receive letters.
ME: That was when I was eleven or twelve years old,
that I had to write letters for them.
DZ: What language did you speak as a child?
ME: We spoke the German language.
DZ: Do you know the name of dialect?
ME: I wondered what that was.
DZ: There were different dialects. It was just German,
then as far as you know?
ME: It was just plain German, not the German that
they speak over there.
DZ: Not the High German?
ME: Yes, we knew German. We didn't know any other
language until we went to school.
DZ: What were some of your chores that you enjoyed
doing when you were a child? What were some of the chores you
had to do?
ME: Well, we had to help our parents. We had to pick up cow chips
for our morning breakfast and for our daily use, that was all
we used. We didn't have a floor in our house. We had straw as
a floor for many years until I was old enough to remember, I was
about ten or eleven.
DZ: What chores did you like to do?
ME: I had to help with many things. We had to do
anything we were asked to do. They always had something for us
to do, we never complained about it.
DZ: Were there any chores that you didn't like to
do? You didn't have any choice, did you?
ME: No, we milked cows when we
got old enough. I say that food was scarce at that time. I often
think of that when Mother made some blonkugen (fry bread) as they
said in German. They just mixed flour with water and fried it
on the stove. There were no pans to put it in; this was used for
DZ: If you didn't do the work that was expected
of you, how were you disciplined?
ME: We were never disciplined. No, they were good
to us; we weren’t bad.
DZ: You probably did all the work then?
ME: Well, they worked us. We didn't have to scrub
the floor. We took the straw out and put fresh straw in. That
was work we had to do every week.
DZ: What was it like in your school?
ME: School was like any other school when we started.
DZ: Do you remember the subjects you had?
ME: Yes, I started out with the
first grade but I can't remember my teacher. I know that Harold
Hetzler and Arnold Hetzler were two teachers, they stayed for
several years. They were the Postmasters at Danzig and were good
teachers too. Mrs. Engen was a good teacher too. I graduated from
the eighth grade, in 1929 held at the Ashley court house. It was
the first graduation they had there. There were eight graduates.
DZ: How many students were in your school?
ME: Well, there were quite a few, we had about sixteen
or seventeen, I think.
DZ: In all eight grades?
ME: In all grades. The first through the eighth
grade, there was one teacher to one school room.
DZ: How much education do you have?
ME: Just through the eighth grade.
I passed the eighth grade. My father wanted me to go to high school,
but I didn't want to. I didn't want to leave home. "No, I'm
not going to stay in Ashley," I said. He wanted me to stay
in Ashley with the Schaibles that he bought the house from. They
would have kept me for nothing if I stayed in school but I turned
it down. I didn't want to.
DZ: So you could be at home. You must have liked
the work at home. Were there kids of other nationalities in your
ME: No, not at that time. We were all alike.
DZ: Can you tell us a little about your playground
experience, things that you did on the playground?
ME: Oh yes, just as soon as they called recess we
would run around the school house, and hide from each other. We
would play games and have a lot of fun.
DZ: Do you remember the games you played?
ME: Pompom Pull Away, Hide and Seek, and Drop the
Handkerchief, we had all kinds of games. We would hide around
DZ: How did you get to and from the school?
ME: We walked.
DZ: How far did you have to go?
ME: We walked just over the field; it was not quite
DZ: You walked every day?
ME: We had to walk every day, through the blizzards
and everything. Sometimes they picked us up with a sled; most
of the time we walked. We carried our lunch in a paper bag. We
had syrup bread, liverwurst and boiled eggs. The syrup bread they
soaked it until noon.
DZ: So, there were no hot lunches at that time.
ME: No, there was no hot lunch. We ate the same
thing for lunch day after day. We didn't have a change very often.
DZ: Did you have playground equipment, Merry-go-rounds,
swings and things like that?
ME: No. For a swing, we put a rope in the tree and
a board in the rope. That was our swing. We could swing one at
DZ: Did the boys or girls play ball?
ME: There was a ball but they didn't play any games
like they do now.
DZ: You mentioned some of the teachers, is there
anything you want to say about the teachers, about discipline
or how tough they were?
ME: No, they weren't tough. They
would explain it, and would stand us in the corner and that was
all. They never hit me; I was good friends with the teachers.
They were Arnold Hetzler and Harold Hetzler.
DZ: The teachers never hit any
of the students, but they would stand us in the corner once in
a while. You never went to town school, did you?
ME: No. My sister, Eugenia, went
to town school.
DZ: Did she say there was a difference in attending
farm and town school or was it pretty much the same?
ME: I was gone from home at that
time. I didn't hear how she liked it but I guess my brother Jacob's
kids went there too. There were four of them, two boys and two
girls who went to the same school. The school was in Danzig, which
is now closed.
DZ: Now we are going to switch from education to
religion. In what way were religion and the church an important
part of your upbringing?
ME: That was different from the
way it is now. We would drive in the bobsled to a neighbor's house
on Sunday. We had services in their house on the Doblers' farm.
They had meetings there every night. Walt picked us up in a big
horse drawn bobsled and we went over there. No matter what the
weather or how cold it was, they always went.
DZ: They didn't cancel because of a little cold
ME: No. Then soon my dad and some
other members, the Dobler's and the Walz's bought a church from
the Lutherans in Fredonia, and moved it to my father's land. That's
where the cemetery is now, and they had church there for many
years. I think it was in 1956 when they changed it and then we
went to Ashley for church.
DZ: How far did you have to go to church at first?
ME: That was only a mile and a quarter.
DZ: Would you walk or take a sleigh?
ME: As long as we didn't have a
car we would take the sled and horses. There were those that came
walking from Ashley, that was Rev. J.C. Lehner and John Fischers'
at that time.
DZ: How far was that?
ME: That was eight miles.
DZ: And he walked?
ME: And he walked on Saturdays. He caught a ride
once in a while. He would stay over night at our house, and then
went along to church with us.
DZ: You would say religion and the church was very
ME: More important than it is now. People went to
church at that time. Now they don't go anymore.
Yes, that was when Dobler's had it in their house,
and it was a small house. Three or four families got together
for church every night. I can’t see why Walz died so young.
He was sixty-one years old when he died at that church.
DZ: In what language were church services and prayers?
ME: They were always in German.
We had a Bible verse every Sunday. We had to remember it until
the next Sunday. John Dobler was our teacher. He said, "Be
sure that you know it next Sunday." He gave little prizes
for those that learned it. Those verses that we learned at that
time I still remember. They don’t do that nowadays anymore.
They celebrated birthdays too. They had a gift of money for how
old you were. You would have to put it in a little cup and they
saved it and they bought something for it.
DZ: That was one way of getting some money. Do you
remember when the services or prayers switched from German to
ME: Wasn’t that in 1956? I don't remember.
I think when Dad was sick that year, that’s when they really
went into the English services. I think that was in 1954.
DZ: So as long as you were with your parents it was German all
the time, never English at that time. Not until much later.
ME: They had German services for funerals and everything.
I think it began to change in the 1950s. They still had German
then but English came in more and more.
DZ: Were your parents alive at that time? How did
your parents feel about this change when they started talking
English in church?
ME: They weren't alive in 1957. My mother was alive
but she was unable to go to church anymore. She was home all the
time in a wheelchair. At that time I wondered which minister we
would have, German or English.
DZ: What did baptism and confirmation mean to you?
ME: Baptism was nice. I wasn't confirmed. The minister
went away that spring. There was no confirmation that year. The
rest were all confirmed. Baptism was nice. That was in the Wishek
Baptist Church in the basement. Don't you remember that it was
DZ: Were there any special festivities relating
to baptism or confirmation? You said you were not confirmed, how
about baptism, was that a special occasion?
ME: That was a special occasion. There were thirty
eight, I think, were baptized on that Sunday.
DZ: Was there framing of the baptismal certificates?
ME: I think it should have been but we didn't think
that far ahead. I don't know I haven't got mine.
DZ: Were your parents and grandparents involved
in the founding or the joining of another church?
ME: They were Lutheran when they came here but they
changed to the Evangelical church. That's when they started that
DZ: Do you know why they changed?
ME: No, I don't know why, but I suppose there were
other churches. I don't know whose idea that was.
DZ: You said from Lutheran to the Evangelical, then
later on you became Baptist. How did your family deal with death?
When somebody died, how did they handle that?
ME: Well, Dad was the first one to die. We knew
that he was quite sick for a while before he died. He was a sugar
diabetic and his feet fell off from the knee on down. I think
everybody was glad when he died. My mother took care of him as
long as she could. He died at home in his bed. I remember the
morning they called when he died.
DZ: What did they do then after he died?
ME: That's another thing. There
was no undertaker at that time. Well, Nickisch was the undertaker
then, but they didn't embalm at that time. They came to the home
and got everything ready. The body would set in the home until
the funeral was. The way they put that stuff on, I don't know.
DZ: How did the people grieve? You said that people
were glad he had passed away so they didn't really grieve.
ME: He wasn't old, he was only 65.
DZ: What about when somebody died unexpectedly,
how did they handle that?
ME: I suppose that would be something different.
They say if someone dies fast that's better than if someone suffers
DZ: What about funeral songs, what kind of songs
did them sing at that time?
ME: I don't remember. Reverend
Leon Kuch and Reverend John Fischer helped at the funeral services.
Reverend Kough spoke in English, that's where that started. It
started in 1940, I think.
DZ: Are you familiar with wrought iron crosses as
ME: Yes. We had that. We put them in each corner.
I think at that time it was the only marker that they put the
name on. Then later on, they put the tombstone.
DZ: What about the wrought iron crosses?
ME: I think that was the church.
DZ: Then your family didn't have the special design
for grave marker just the corner stones and then the tombstones.
ME: No. That's all I remember.
DZ: Does your family have any heirlooms or objects
of sentimental value that have been handed down years and years?
ME: What do you mean?
DZ: Like a tapestry or jewelry, or anything like
ME: Well my father had some. The boys and I took
some of his things when he died. Like hardware things out in the
barn, tools and things. When my mother died we got some things
DZ: Do you still have something from your mother?
ME: Oh, yes. I am going to save it too. I have a
white bedspread, one of the earliest bedspreads. It’s lying
in the drawer; I don’t know who I should give it to. That
was the first bedspread Mother had. I have two or three shawls
DZ: Are there any stories connected with that, like
with the bedspread, or she had it and gave it to you?
ME: I took it. I figured the rest were at home and
they got more than I, did but I took some things that I wanted,
but not too much.
DZ: Who are the keepers of the family treasures?
They never really had any single thing that somebody kept and
said, "This is what the family has?"
ME: No. Each got their share.
DZ: How was Christmas celebrated?
ME: Well, it was different than it is now. We had
a Christmas tree with wax candles. We would light them. Somebody
had to watch so that the tree didn't catch fire. We got Christmas
presents like we do now. We got our package of popcorn, a bag
of apples and oranges, and a few peanuts that was all. As for
gifts, I can't remember if we had any. There was no exchange of
gifts at that time. Later on, we might have, I suppose.
DZ: Do you remember some of the Christmases during
the war years or the depression?
ME: There wasn't any difference then. We still had
candles on the tree. I remember how long we had them in Church,
but we had candles on the tree as long as the program was. Somebody
had to watch it so the tree wouldn't catch fire.
DZ: Do you know anything about Belzenickel and Das
ME: Don't you?
DZ: Not really. What is Belzenickel?
ME: That Belz, means Santa Claus. Das Christkindel
meant something to eat. I remember that. Yes, it was very different.
DZ: That was important?
ME: Yes, that was at that time. Everybody got new
dresses for Christmas and that was something to show off, which
we never did. We never got new clothes; we had to wear the same
dress for school all the time. Mother had to wash it out.
DZ: Christmas was a happy time.
ME: Yes, both Easter and Christmas.
DZ: The next question is what were the Easter activities?
What did you do for Easter?
ME: That was the same. We got a nice Easter dress.
They gave programs once in a while, when we had to say a little
line. It was nice, I think, we celebrated. Those holidays always
meant much more than they do now. They used to celebrate Easter
Monday every year, just as much as Easter Sunday. Now they don't
celebrate any. There are two holidays during the week, and our
church doesn't care anymore. They had church every single day
that was a holiday and they kept it too. It usually rained on
those days at that time. It was funny. Now they don't celebrate
them at all.
DZ: But Easter was very important?
ME: Easter, and Christmas and all the holidays were
important. They celebrated and they didn't work either. They quit
work early. I mean Easter Sunday and Easter Saturday, that meant
a lot. They quit work early and got ready for Sunday, but now
it is different.
DZ: What was special about marriage ceremonies?
ME: Well, nothing. Got married,
sat on the wagon and went home. I was married in the home, and
my sister was married in the home too. We had noodle soup for
dinner. We got ready and went to the farm home south of Lehr.
DZ: That was my next question. Was there a reception
held in your home?
ME: Yes. They had a dinner fixed but only for the
family, nobody else was invited. I still have my wedding dress.
I paid twelve dollars for it.
DZ: Was it the custom to have an accordion music
ME: Yes. A lot of them had that.
DZ: Did you?
ME: No, we didn't have anything.
We had the marriage then we had the dinner and that was all. Rev.
F.J. Knuth was the pastor, we sat on the wagon and went home.
We took the stuff along. That was 14 miles from there.
DZ: The next question was how long did the celebration
last; one, two or three days? So in your church it was pretty
ME: Yes, that was real short, about two minutes
for the marriage ceremony.
DZ: Did they sing any German wedding songs that
you can remember?
ME: No, they didn't have songs at all. We had accordion
players in the bunch. John could play the mouth organ and Sam
could play the accordion. He was a good accordion player but they
didn't play it for my wedding.
DZ: Did you have a "chivaree"?
ME: No, we didn't have them at that time.
DZ: What kinds of food were served at the wedding?
ME: Noodle soup, chicken and I suppose everything
that went with it. We had a wedding cake but I don't know who
DZ: Did you have any Schnapps or any homemade beer?
ME: No, we didn't have anything
to drink. We used to have extra wedding Kuchen at that time.
DZ: Were the bridal clothes, decorations and flowers
made by the family? You said you bought your dress for twelve
ME: We didn't have any flowers. I don't think it
was decorated. We didn't decorate but most of the families made
DZ: How did you meet? Are there any stories about
lost loves, jilted brides or unusual courtships, lonely hearts
clubs, arranged marriages? How did you meet?
ME: We met at the Dobler house. There was a bunch
of young people who would meet there on Sunday nights. That's
where I met Reuben.
DZ: So you just got together as groups?
ME: We went together for seven years.
DZ: How far away was the Dobler house?
ME: It was about a mile across
the lake, a little more than a mile. We walked across the lake
in the winter but in the summer, we had to go around. We got our
car in 1920, I think. He had an old Model T so that was about
a 1920 or so.
DZ: What kinds of occasions were there available
to meet your spouse? Were there just family gatherings?
ME: No. That was just young people gatherings. There
were more families there. The Johnson’s from up north and
there were the Zimmerman’s (Art) that came down. There were
a bunch of kids at those gatherings. So we all got together at
that house and played games. I don't know what that game was.
You had to sit on each other's lap and they exchanged, I don't
know what they called it.
DZ: What kind of work did women have to do outside?
ME: We did anything the men did.
I had to plow with three horses in the spring; I was eleven or
twelve years old. I helped along with anything. I milked the cows
in the evenings, I came home and I had thirty cows to milk. There
was a lot of work the women had to do.
DZ: Do you remember the special German food that
your mother cooked or baked? What were some of them?
ME: There were strudels, dumplings,
kasknefla, and other knepfla.
DZ: Any others?
ME: Kase Knepfla, Salad, kuchen
and Plachinta and we ate lots of dough meals. They were cheap
and they could afford making them. When you had a big family,
you had to save money at that time.
DZ: Are German foods still prepared in your kitchen,
such as bread, strudels and kuchen?
ME: Oh, yes. There are several
breads in my kitchen. I made some bread yesterday and I made some
knepfla the other day. I made some sweet sour potato salad, everything
DZ: Was there music or entertainment in your home?
ME: As I said, my brother played
the accordion, and John could play the mouth organ. They were
the only ones. My dad used to sing songs. When they built the
new house in 1929, Eugena was just a small girl. He had her up
on his shoulders and walked around the house and sang German church
DZ: Were you ever encouraged to play a musical instrument
or to learn on your own?
ME: No, I never did.
DZ: Did you ever learn how to dance?
ME: No, I never did. My parents didn't let us go
to dances. We couldn’t go.
DZ: Were the children allowed to stay with the parents
when the parents had company?
ME: No, why is that? I think that the kids have
a right to know what we are talking about.
DZ: So they didn't let you stay when they had company?
ME: We had to stay in the basement and they went
upstairs. They had their own company. Well, I don't know. I don't
think we wanted to either.
DZ: If you could sing, could you sing a song from
when you were a child. Can you sing a song?
ME: “Gott ist de Liebe”, but I can’t
sing. No, I can't sing a song. There are other German songs.
DZ: What was the attitude of the older generation
toward dancing? I think you have answered some of that already.
ME: Well, they didn't like the dancing at all. We
had music in the barn and the boys sleep in the barn on Saturday
night. They had accordion music. My dad came over there and stopped
them. He said, "We don't have any music or dancing around
DZ: Did you ever attend a barn dance?
ME: Yes, once at the Brinkman's
Dance. They used to have barn dances there.
DZ: But you didn't make a practice of going there?
ME: No, not if they found out.
DZ: Was there a community meeting place for young
people at that time?
ME: No. We always met at the homes. There was no
community place that we could go to. We met once in a while at
my house, the barn at the Doblers, and at the Johnsons where they
had the accordion dance.
DZ: Did they have meetings at the homes? You said
that they had church meetings in the homes. Did they have any
other kinds of meetings that you can remember?
ME: Yes. I can't remember. They had church meeting
but I can't remember other meetings. When the school burned down,
that was when I was married.
DZ: Do you remember any of the games you played
as a child?
ME: There were the school games, I think. I can
remember Drop the Handkerchief. I know that was a good one. Hide
and Go Seek was another, and Pompom Pull Away. I don't know another.
DZ: Were there any stories or fairy tales that you
ME: I suppose, but I can't remember any that I know
I was good at. We told a story in school. No, I couldn't tell
a story. I couldn't even make one up.
DZ: Were your parents and grandparents superstitious
about certain aspects of life? Did they believe in the boogie
man, or hooting owls or walking under ladders?
ME: They said when a black cat walked across the
street; it would cause an accident to the people at night.
DZ: Yes, we used to hear about
the "Nacht grupp". What was that supposed to have been?
ME: They were people who would come in and scare
you I think.
DZ: Did they use that to scare the kids?
ME: I think if you didn't go to
bed the "Nacht grupp" would come. That was the saying.
DZ: Anything else? How about the boogie man?
ME: The boogie man, I don't remember what he does.
I have no idea.
DZ: Did they say anything about walking under ladders
or anything else? Sometimes when you are superstitious, you don’t
walk under ladders.
ME: When you dreamed you walked on the roof, and
then you walk on the edge. You won't fall off.
DZ: Did that happen a lot or do you know?
ME: I don’t know, but they believed that at
DZ: Can you identify any healing techniques that
were used? Like when someone was sick, what did they do? Did they
do anything special for healing?
ME: Yes, we did that. Like when you were sick when
you were small. They tied a Bible verse on a piece of paper in
a little bag, and you had to wear it three or four weeks, and
you got well.
DZ: What did that cure?
ME: When you were small, you got convulsions. I
think we did it for that. When the navel band came out we wrapped
up a quarter and taped it on there and let it stay on it so many
DZ: That was supposed to heal it?
ME: Yes, that was supposed to heal it and make it
stay in. That I did, I know.
DZ: How did your family feel about "brauche",
or folk medicine?
ME: I feel good about that. I think those old women
knew more than the doctor did in those days. I would never have
gotten well after Bob was born. I was in the hospital for twelve
days, they didn't do anything. They just sent me home.
Then I had to go and look out for myself. I went
to Mrs Folk in Wishek. She was an old lady, at that time. She
said at that time, "How can you live like that? Your tonsils
are draining puss and you swallow heavy. They open up and close
and open again, you swallow that stuff in them. They opened and
you've got blood poison.” That's all I had at that time.
BREAK IN DIALOGUE
DZ: We were discussing "brauche" for your
son Bob's ringworm. You said he did or what was he suppose to
ME: Bob was supposed to come out to the barn, he
can't do it otherwise. It was a farm at that time but he never
went out to the barn. He noticed it was gone in a few weeks. So
he did it without Bob being there.
DZ: Do you know what he did? Did it have something
to do with the barn?
ME: I don't know. He would never tell. It had something
to do with the manure. He never said anything about it.
DZ: He never said if he buried something, or dug
something up or moved something. That was one of his secrets,
ME: Sometimes they used a string and they would
cross you several times, making a cross on you with the string.
Then they would bury the string. What they did to Bob that time,
I don't know.
DZ: So there was some "brauche" being done at that time
ME: Yes, ringworms. I had ringworm one time, a great
big one on my arm.
DZ: Did someone "brauche"
ME: Yes. With ashes from the inside of the sunflower
seed, you burn that up and use the ashes for it and spread it
DZ: Now who did that, that lady?
ME: Yes she did.
DZ: She put ashes on the ringworm?
ME: Yes, she burned up the soft part of it in the
inside of the sunflower seed, and then she put the ashes on the
ringworm. I don’t remember how many times she did.
DZ: Then it was gone when she was through with it?
ME: It was gone but you could still see it.
DZ: Do you think there are different sicknesses
today as compared to the past?
ME: I think we never found out our sicknesses, they
didn't know what it was. Don't you think there were heart attacks
at that time?
DZ: But they didn't know what they were. At that
time, did you hear of cancer or AIDS or anything like that did
ME: No, we never heard of them at that time.
DZ: Besides these "brauche" and other
things you did, do you remember any other home remedies or cures?
Did you do anything yourself if you had a cold or were sick.
ME: I think colds are easy to prevent if you take
care of yourself right away. If I put Mentholatum salve on my
nose at night it helps. I still do it every night and I think
it can prevent or cure a cold. I don't know, but I believe in
DZ: What do you remember about the role of midwives?
Do you remember midwives and did one ever come to your home?
ME: Yes, I was delivered by a midwife;
she was Mrs. Christina Kapp, Conrad Kapp's mother.
DZ: So a midwife delivered you?
ME: Yes, and you too.
DZ: Me, too?
ME: Yes, her name was Mrs. Klein
from Lehr. She delivered your brither Bob too.
DZ: And what did they charge?
ME: They didn't charge much. I remember they charged
DZ: What would have happened if somebody did not
have the five dollars?
ME: We all had it at that time. Ruben worked on
WPA making seventeen dollars a month. We paid five dollars for
rent and five dollars for that and five dollars for food. We didn't
eat much then. Now that doesn't sound like much.
DZ: Did your parents use any expressions in other
languages, like in Russian, or Platt Deutsch, or Turkish, or French,
ME: No, they only talked German. They wouldn't even
talk English. We talked the language they knew when they came
over and that is what we learned. No, we didn't talk any other
DZ: Can you remember the name of the German Newspaper
that you received in your home?
ME: Yes, I could read it today;
"Der Stats Unzeiger" and we got the Aberdeen paper too.
I don't know what it was called. Oh, here it is the "The
Dakota Farmer" from Aberdeen, South Dakota.
DZ:"The Dakota Farmer"
ME: Yes, it had a lot of recipes and nice readings
DZ: I guess we will talk a little bit about that
later on. What about a church newspaper or something like that,
were there any German ones?
ME: Yes, but I don't remember their names. It was
a German church paper, but I just don't remember the name of it
anymore. We used to get it in church, the name I forgot.
DZ: What kind of information did your family get
from the newspaper?
ME: Well, there was the latest news like any daily
paper today. We got that once a week already at that time but
I think we got a lot out of it. That was way back when the capital
burned down, that was something else. I think it was in the 1930s.
We saw that, it was pictured in there. Everything that was going
on in the Dakotas was in there, we liked that.
DZ: Was it just North Dakota or North and South
ME: The news was mostly North Dakota but anybody
could read it.
DZ: Were there any funnies or comics?
ME: Oh yes. Not in the German paper, though. I don’t
know where they came from. We got those cats in there, whatever
you call them.
DZ: But you do remember the funnies and comics,
ME: Oh, yes.
DZ: Do you remember when your family got its first
modern convenience like electricity?
ME: Well, we didn't have it when we built our house.
I think we had it wired when it came. It was in 1929; whenever
the house was ready.
DZ: Was that quite a change?
ME: Yes, that was quite a change, but I don't remember
what year it was.
DZ: How about your first car?
ME: In 1920, my dad bought his first car, a Model
DZ: How about your first telephone?
ME: That was in 1938, in Lehr.
I had to be the operator for the town.
DZ: Because you were living out of the city limits?
ME: Yes, we were out of the city
limits. We were down from Deloris Bittner and the other lady that
was on that line then, she died. They asked if I would take it
until they got somebody. So, I had it for I don't know for how
many years. Whenever they called from a distance, they called
me and I had to go and tell the people. It was ten cents a call
DZ: So there were no telephones in town. You were
in town but you were out of the city limits. You had the first
telephone in town then.
ME: That's why they got a telegraph
for the railroad at the depot. That is why when they got the telegram
they got me so I could let the person in town know about things.
Like I knew when a person died. No one had a telephone yet. What
year was that, I think it was in the 1940s.
DZ: What year did you get the telephone, do you
ME: Gee, I don't remember.
DZ: But you do remember that you had the first one.
ME: That I had to levy ten cents a call and I had
to run way out.
DZ: Then you had people come in to make calls?
ME: No, not many.
DZ: So you had more giving messages?
ME: It was more giving messages to the depot and
the depot would deliver. That was the way it was.
DZ: What about windmills? Do you remember the first
ME: Yes, I remember them but we had nothing to do
with windmills. There are still some when the wind blows. Yes,
you see them by Hazelton. We didn’t have anything to do
DZ: Do you remember the early days of radio?
ME: Yes, that again, I don't remember when we had
DZ: You remember the first radio but you don't remember
ME: I don't remember my folks having one.
DZ: When you had your first radio, do you remember
what some of your favorite programs were?
ME: Yes. There was Jack Benny on every night and
“I Love Lucy” and who were those two black men?
DZ: “Amos and Andy” probably.
ME: “Amos and Andy”, those three programs.
I remember them, and that was way back in the 1930s. I don't know
if I had one at home, I don't remember. I think we had a radio
when we moved to town in 1934.
DZ: Do you remember the early days when you were
ME: Yes, I remember. We got one
from Ted Miller. That was a black and white television.
DZ: Do you remember watching “The Lawrence
ME: I remember that I watched it.
DZ: Do you remember any other shows that you watched?
ME: There were quite a few but I don't remember
what they were.
DZ: Which family member do you remember the best,
your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, your brothers or
sisters? Which one do you remember the best?
ME: Oh, Lydia was the one that
we always remember the best, she did so much for us. My grandparents
were always good to us; she always had candy in her pocket. My
parents were good to us too, they did everything they could, I
think. We had to listen and that was all.
DZ: You say the ones you looked up to the most were
your mother and father and then your family member would have
ME: Lydia would have been the one. She helped us
out a lot. Whenever I was sick she would come.
DZ: Whenever there was a need, she was there. Is
there anything else you would like to say? So far, is there anything
you forget to say? You said yesterday something about marriage
but you should mention who and when.
ME: My first marriage was to Reuben
Zimmerman, May 31, 1932. It took place in our home in the dining
room. The Reverend F.J. Knuth of Ashley did the marriage service.
Then we had dinner and we went to our farm south of Lehr.
DZ: You had three children and their names were?
ME: We had three boys; the first
was born on the farm in 1933, Dalmer. I had a midwife, Mrs. Klein.
The second one, Bob, was born in November 1934. The third one
was Gail. He was born on his grandmother's birthday April 15,
1946. We had Dr. Barrett. I have six grandchildren and seven great
grandchildren from the Reuben Zimmerman side.
DZ: That was the first marriage with Reuben. He
past away January 10, 1965. Your second marriage was with George
Eisenbeis on October 14, 1969.
ME: George passed away on September 19, 1980. He
had two daughters and two sons, four stepchildren. There were
nine step-grandchildren and about six step-great grandchildren.
DZ: Is there anything else you would like to say?
ME: Well, I wish I had my grandchildren and great
grandchildren closer by, but they are all far away. I never get
to see them. No matter where they are, they are all far away.
Oh, I see them once in a while but they don't live around here
so that I see them often.
DZ: Now, one other thing, yesterday
when we talked dialect, I thought of this later on. This might
be important, you know some Germans say "houm and heim"
for home. Are there any others?
ME: Yes, for meaat: "fleish
DZ: What else is there? How about
potatoes? Some say, "Kartoffel" or "grund benna"
ME: I don't know what the difference
is. We ate "grund benna". And there is GERMAN DIALOGUE.
DZ: Anything else you would like to say?
ME: Yes, I worked in a cafe in
Lehr for ten years from 1954 to 1964 at thirty-five cents and
hour. It then went up to forty then fifty cents an hour. My boss
was Ted Miller.
When I got tired, I moved to Wishek and worked in
the retirement home for five years. The retirement home opened
up in Wishek in 1964. They asked for cooks. I went over there
and was second cook for five years, from May 1964 until October
1969. My last raise was for $1.49 an hour, when I started it was
ninety-six and one-half cents an hour.
DZ: So the times have changed.
ME: Times have changed but still that was no wage
at all, $1.49, working all these years for nothing.
DZ: Was there anything else you did?
ME: I was a news correspondent for the Ashley paper
when I was eleven years old. I wrote the local news for the newspaper.
DZ: That would have been for the "Danzig Farmer
ME: Yes, I sent it to Ashley and
I got paid five cents an inch for it. When we moved to Lehr and
I got married. I wrote the Lehr farm news. We only lived there
two years and then we moved to town. I wrote the news there too
until we moved away. When I came to Wishek, I wrote the local
news for Bob when he was the editor that was for the Wishek Star.
DZ: How long did you do that?
ME: For ten years or so, working
along Verna Bader, it was a little over 10 years. He paid a little
better so I got twenty-five to thirty dollars a month for the
news. I gave haircuts for kids. There was no barber in town at
Lehr. I only charged twenty-five cents but I never got paid it.
DZ: You never got paid from anybody?
ME: Never got paid except once
in a while the Stolz's gave me a quarter. I gave lots of haircuts.
DZ: Did they get a barber?
ME: Yes, and then I quit right away.
DZ: You could have charged something.
ME: Well, I know, but they didn't
DZ: Is there anything else or is there anyone else
you know we should interview?
ME: Yes. There are lots of them.
DZ: Give me some names.
ME: There is Sam Eszlinger. Also
Bertha Ruth, her parents came from Russia.
DZ: She is pretty old isn't she?
ME: Yes, but I think she would
be interested in that. I was thinking of Mrs. Amanda Fetzer, and
DZ: Now, we have some questions
here especially for women. Was there anyone in the family who
had a talent for sewing, textiles, basket making, weaving or bobbin
ME: My mother used to do a lot
of sewing and I did too. I sewed all your clothes until you went
to high school. I also gave your haircuts until high school. We
usually got the old clothes from our minister. They did not wear
out their clothes and they thought I could make some pants and
jackets from them, which worked fine. There was no one who crocheted.
Rose is the only one who does it now but she never did at home.
Yes, I sewed a lot; I sewed until I couldn't see anymore. I sewed
everything, even winter coats.
DZ: Did everybody do that?
ME: No. You had to be alone for that. I was surprised
that you went to school.
DZ: Didn't your sisters and brothers make their
ME: No, they didn't. Sam's wife was a good sewer
too, otherwise, no one.
DZ: Besides getting the fabric from the preacher,
where else did you get it?
ME: Anybody who had old clothes
brought them. I sewed a lot for Leah Krause at that time. When
her husband was in the service, she lived with her mother and
she came up and I made suits for their little boy. His name was
DZ: How did they use the old clothes? Did they just
hand them down from one to another?
ME: Yes. When they were too small
for you, I just gave them away to somebody else.
DZ: Do you recall your mother having quilting parties?
ME: Yes and she sewed her own. They didn't have
quilting parties like they do today.
DZ: Can you describe what took place? How or what
did they do?
ME: She sewed it at home but she didn't have any
quilting frames. Unfortunately we didn't have any at that time.
She made one quilt and I don't know who got it. She held it in
her hand and sewed it. I don't know how she did it.
DZ: What are your memories of women’s activities
and recipes from “The Dakota Farmer” from Aberdeen,
South Dakota? Was there anything you remember?
ME: Well, I remember the good ginger snap cookies.
There were pig recipes, cook recipes, and hot dishes recipes in
there. It was too bad when we didn't get it anymore.
DZ: We are getting near the end.
Are there are any questions you would like to ask or anything
that hasn't been included? Did we forget anything, or is there
anything else you would like to mention? Was there anything that
was done in your home in Danzig, Lehr, or Wishek, any activities?
One thing I was thinking of, in the days when you
made hay or when you threshed, have you got any experiences that
you would like to tell us about?
ME: Yes. My dad used to have a
threshing machine for a few years. We had to help haul bundles.
The boys usually were hired out but the girls had to do the work
at home. We went out shocking then we went along with the threshing
crew, Conrad Kapp and Fred Salzer families. We had to help cook
for each family. There were about six or seven families that came
for threshing and then I would go along as a cook. I don't know
how we did it.
Then I went to work for John Bender when he was
threshing. I had to help cook then. He was the only one who paid
good, five dollars a day. The others paid us what they wanted.
There was no set price for a cook.
DZ: Are there any other experiences that we should
ME: I can't think of any more.
DZ: Thanks a lot.
ME: You’re welcome.