PG: We’re going to talk about old times...see
if we can think of anything. Okay, your name?
PG: What was your maiden name?
PG: How do you spell the Hatzenbuhler?
PG: When were you born?
FT: I was born in Center, North Dakota.
PG: In which year?
PG: What was your father’s name?
PG: Jacob Hatzenbuhler. Do you know what town in Russia he
FT: I think they called it...you talk German, don’t
PG: Yeah. Was it Landau, or Karlsruhe…?
FT: Something like that. I don’t know for sure. That’s
PG: Did your parents come over here?
FT: In 1900 they came over.
PG: Was your dad married already when he came over here?
Were your parents married?
FT: Oh yeah, they had five children already. Let me see:
Girdy, Margaret, John, Barbara—yeah, five children.
PG: Did your dad’s parents come over here, too?
FT: No, they stayed. Nobody came over from Russia except
one brother, John Hatzenbuhler. He lived in Solen, ND, out
of St. Anthony some place.
PG: So your dad had one brother that came over and no sisters
PG: Where is your dad buried?
FT: They’re buried right here on the south side from
St. Joseph. They lived up here and then they died up here
and that’s where they’re buried: St. Joseph’s
cemetery on the south side.
PG: What about your mother; what was...
FT: [A027 Hopfauf].
PG: Your mother’s maiden name was [A028 Hopfauf]. What
was her first name?
PG: Rose [A028 Hopfauf]. What was her parents’ names?
FT: No, I don’t know their names. I never met my grandparents
or nothing. Nobody came from Russia. See, that was when they
had so much trouble over there and they had to either get
out or get killed.
PG: Now, did your mother’s parents stay in Russia,
or did they come over here?
FT: No, nobody was over here.
PG: Your mother’s parents died in Russia?
FT: They all did in Russia. The only ones that were here
was my dad and a brother, that’s all...and relatives,
but they were like cousins or something.
PG: How about your mother’s brothers and sisters…any
of them [come over here]?
FT: That I don’t know either. We never talked about
it. We kids often mentioned it afterwards, but they never
talked about it. A lot of times I think my mother and my dad
left Russia and never did see mother or father or relatives
again. That must’ve hurt.
PG: Oh yeah, I’m sure they were homesick.
FT: I’m sure they were hurt. We were too young to realize
that at that time, you know.
PG: Did they talk about Russia?
FT: Oh yeah. Dad was in the service in Russia, and he had
an orchestra over here. He played the clarinet, and they played
for old time weddings—and boy they played! You couldn’t
help but dance when they played. They all knew those old time
waltzes and everything. [A 44] Knoll, Gerhardt, and I don’t
know the others; the four of them played together. I remember
when my oldest sister got married, they played for the dance.
We lived in Hazen for a while, and my dad used to play the
clarinet, and my brother played the organ (a regular organ,
not a piano) and we had an audience outside—they just
loved that music.
PG: So, your dad learned to play already in the old country?
FT: He learned it in the service.
PG: Oh, in the service. Now, do you know how long he was
in the Russian army?
FT: How long he was in there? No, I don’t. We never
talked about it. I know they got married there and they lived
with his parents, because my mother used to talk about it
and how hard she had it there. Over there, she said, the women—I
think it’s still that way— the women do most of
the dirty work. Right?
PG: Yeah, that’s right. I was over there, I saw the
women working in the fields.
FT: Yeah, I guess you were.
PG: I saw the women hoeing the potatoes, hoeing the corn
FT: I know because when one of my brothers got married—we
lived north of Richardton—and he married a girl, she
was Lutheran, she turned Catholic. They lived with us for
a while, and Ma always said to my dad, “You don’t
do nothing to her; you’re not going to treat her like
your folks treated me.” She says, “You be good
to her.” [Laughter]
PG: Well good. Do you remember anything else that your mother
talked about from Russia?
FT: She always talked about one of her sisters. She was never
married, but she was a seamstress...how she sewed. I remember
my folks were always kind of poor, too. We’d sell all
the cream for groceries and stuff like that. And I know Ma
used to sell cream and then she’d take that money and
send it over to her, to Russia...send her that money so she
could buy something to eat.
PG: Oh, really.
FT: But I forget the name of the town.
PG: Was she related to the Ganglers [A068]? Were you related
to John Ganglers from Dickinson?
FT: Yes, because Mrs. Gangler was a Hopfauf. You know them?
FT: Yeah, she has a good voice, but they are [A070] now.
Her and Ray used to sing together, and at Christmas they sang
that song, which bring hope. Her and Ray used to sing that
together, and I sat here and cried, you know, I could hear
them sing. It was such a beautiful song, and Esther was such
a good singer and such a nice person. Yeah, they were kind
of a distant relative of my mother’s. Not close, but
we called them close because we had so few over here. You
PG: Yes, I know them real well.
FT: You do, huh. Do you ever go over to the home to see them?
FT: How are they doing?
PG: Well, they had to put them in separate rooms now.
FT: Oh, they can’t live together?
PG: No, because his mind is too bad. So they’re in
separate rooms. They moved to St. Benedict’s home.
FT: Oh, they’re at St. Ben’s now?
PG: Yes. Just recently they moved to St. Benedict’s.
FT: I’m afraid of going to the home. I’m afraid,
one of these days—I just hate to think of it. I said
if I go, I want to have a room by myself; I don’t want
to be in with anybody.
PG: Yeah, I don’t blame you. Do you know if your mother
had a lot of brothers and sisters?
FT: No, I don’t know that either. She had some, but
she just talked about that one sister that was never married
and she sewed.
PG: And your dad’s brothers and sisters, you don’t
know how many there were either?
FT: I don’t know how many brothers he had, except I
knew the one that was over here. He’s got relatives
PG: When did your folks come over? You said 1910?
FT: In 1900 and they settled in Mandan. That would be their
PG: They were some of the first one’s around here then.
FT: Yeah, there were a lot of German people in Mandan. Mostly
Catholics, too…all German, a lot of people. Do you know
anybody by the name of Gustin?
PG: Gustin? I’ve heard of them. I really don’t
FT: Their mother, Mrs. Gustin and a Mrs. [A101Beeler], were
first cousins to my mother; that I know. Gustin’s have
two priests. One might be in [A102 Washford]. There’s
a priest there by the name of Gustin, and he might be one
of them; I’m not sure. Yeah, Gustin’s have two
priests. You know that one you see on television sometimes?
FT: They’re his brothers—the two priests.
PG: I see. I didn’t know that.
PG: Okay, were they on the farm right away when your folks
came over here?
FT: No, they were in town and then they moved on a farm close
to Solen, North Dakota. That was their town where they did
PG: Okay, then your folks went to live at Solen. Then, you
were from Solen?
FT: Well, I was born in Center. They were just close to Solen
where they went to do shopping and sell their cream and stuff.
They moved quite a bit. We lived in Hazen, too, one time.
PG: You grew up on the farm, then, huh?
FT: More or less, yes. When I got married, we lived on a
farm north of Richardton.
PG: But I meant when you were growing up, your parents were
FT: Oh yeah. Mostly farmers until they got old; then they
lived up here in Dickinson. And my dad died up here; he died
of cancer of the stomach.
PG: Did your parents say that they would like to go back
FT: No. They never liked to go back because it was so dangerous.
FT: One lady came over from Russia later on. She was a [Stein
A119] from Richardton.
FT: You know her?
PG: Yes, I knew her. She’s died already.
FT: She talked about how hard—she was in the camp and
her husband was too, and she says they used to sneak out at
night and meet each other and give each other a little food
to help, that they stole or whatever. Yeah, I know her real
well. She was related with the [Herners A124] from Richardton.
PG: Oh, okay.
FT: Yeah, that one Herner in the paper now. You probably
saw him: Val Herner. He’s going to be buried today,
and he’s buried in Richardton because his first wife
was a [A125 Mishel], and he’s buried with his first
wife. He had married again afterwards, but her husband is
buried up here, so…
PG: You talked German all the time when you were growing
FT: Most of the time.
PG: Do you still know any German?
FT: Oh, yes! I like it!
PG: Do you know any German poems?
FT: No, I don’t.
PG: Do you know any German prayers?
FT: Not very good no more. That’s one thing we had
to do when we were all home—[A133]—every night
after supper. My dad led it, and he had led the litany, and
everything in German, see. I could pray it then. I can say
a few words yet in German, but I can still talk German and
all that, but I can’t say the prayers no more. But then
when Ray and I married—Ray was from Richardton—[Ray]
Thomas. He had a brother Stanislaus, he died now, and a sister
Ludgard. She was a nun, and she died, too. Then, we did the
same thing my folks did. Every night we prayed the [A139],
but in English, with our family. The kids would come and stop
there when they’d go to basketball practice and first
you kneel down and say the rosary, then you can go. And we
did that, continued that, and I don’t care what anybody
says: the rosary helps you. Do you believe in that?
PG: Sure, yeah, I pray the rosary. When you were little,
what kind of work did you have to do?
FT: Well, we had such a big family—anything. We had
to scrub the floors and all that because we didn’t have
no carpeting or anything. We just had a wood floor. We used
a brush. [Laughter]
PG: Oh, yeah. You had to go down on your knees. What kind
of work did you like to do when you were little?
FT: Well, we had to do everything. We washed and ironed and
scrubbed, and then I was with my mother alone for eight years.
I was the youngest of seven girls. Then, I did everything.
Now when the older girls were home, they did most of it. Oh,
they baked cookies and stuff like that.
PG: Did you wash clothes by hand with the washboard?
FT: Yeah, and with the ringer.
PG: Oh, then you had to crank the ringer by hand, huh?
FT: Yeah, I didn’t have no automatic washer until after
I was married, and then I didn’t have it right away.
We carried the water. We lived here, let me see now, on First
Avenue West; there’s a bank there now. We had a building
there; it was an old building. That's when Ray was in the
Dickinson Sign Company, you know.
PG: He was an artist, a drawer, right? Did you make homemade
FT: Yes. My mother made that. She covered up her face—oh,
that was strong; that lye they used, you know. We had homemade
soap for our hands, and our hands used to bleed. We didn’t
even have boughten soap. Then when we moved up here we joined
St. Pat’s, and Ray sang in the choir in Richardton for
a long time. They asked him to sing right away and Mr. Reed
was the conductor. He wasn’t a Catholic, but she was.
He conducted the choir, and he used to say to Ray—I’m
bragging now—he used to say he just sings, and I don’t
even have to tell him what to do; Ray had a good voice, you
PG: Oh yeah, he was very good.
FT: He sang a lot of…what’s the name of that?
They sing it at Christmas at the Abby.
PG: I don’t know. Who was the choir director? Reed?
FT: Mr. Reed. And then, later on, Mary Augustine started.
She’s still there; she’s been there for many years.
PG: So that was in Dickinson? Mr. Reed was in Dickinson?
FT: Yeah, Dickinson.
PG: Not in Richardton.
FT: No, no I don’t know who directed in Richardton.
I think they had a nun; I’m not sure though.
PG: Did you go to grade school in country school?
FT: Yeah—walked two miles.
PG: How many kids were in school?
FT: Oh, I don’t know. There was different grades you
PG: Did you have good teachers.
FT: Yes, very good teachers. Nice, young women, and we were
friends and had fun together and everything.
PG: You had to talk English at school, right? Were you punished
if you talked German?
FT: Oh yes. We could talk English. We learned the English
real good. I know neighbors used to wonder—we could
speak it real good, always did. Even my mother talked it later
PG: I was wondering if you were allowed to talk German.
FT: Oh yeah, nobody said nothing. I think we could’ve
if we wanted to. Most of the people around there were German,
but they were German Lutherans, in Hazen. There were a lot
of Lutheran people, but we went to church on Sundays wherever
there was a Mass, like Marshall and Dodge. Now they have a
brand new church in Hazen. They didn’t have that when
we lived out there.
PG: How many years did you go to school?
FT: Eighth grade.
PG: Did you go to high school? No, you had to stay home and
FT: It was not important at that time, and besides, the folks
couldn’t afford it. I always tell my boys—they
all have college degrees. I got four boys now; there are three
in California, one in Minnesota. I always tell them, “Maybe
I haven’t got a college degree like you have, but I
know more than you do of the real life.” [Laughter]
I know how to take care of a family and cook and do all that—take
care of them.
PG: Did you work in the field, too?
FT: A little bit, not much. I had eight brothers.
PG: How many sisters?
PG: Seven girls…they all lived? I mean…
FT: We all lived one time.
PG: That’s what I mean.
FT: And then in 1918—you don’t remember that,
you probably weren’t even born— when they had
that terrible flu. You’ve heard about it, I’m
sure. I lost my oldest brother—24 years old. My brothers
all died sooner than the sisters, but they all grew up at
home. We had a nice family. We used to have a—like the
kids say now, “What did you do, you had no TV, you had
nothing.” I said, “No we didn’t.”
I said, “We had a record player, an old fashioned one.”
Then when the neighbors would get together, we’d take
the table out of the kitchen and have an accordion player
and we’d dance and had all kinds of fun. [Laughter]
PG: Have you got any special memories from your grade school?
FT: I always liked it. I liked my teacher, and we got along
real well and didn’t have no problem.
PG: And you had all kinds of games you played outside?
FT: Oh yeah. Jump the rope and [A217 hold]. [Laughs.]
PG: Where did the teachers come from? Were they German Russians?
FT: I think the one we had that we liked so well was from
Mandan. Lahren was the name—L-A-H-R-E-N. That’s
many years ago. I was about thirteen, now I’m 94. That’s
a long time ago. Everyday when I get up, I’m scared!
I am! I think, today’s my last day. The day the Lord
will say, “Okay, c’mon, it’s time to go.”
PG: Well, you won’t know it when you die. You’ll
just fall asleep.
FT: I hope I don’t have to suffer much.
PG: Yeah, I hope so, too…
FT: I pray four rosaries everyday. Now this morning, at 9:30
is the rosary on our Catholic channel. I have the Catholic
channel, you know. They have a Mass and everything, and I
always pray the rosary with them. I sit by myself. Then there’s
one at 1:30 St. Ann, I say that; then there’s one at
7:15 and I pray that; then when I go to bed, I got a special
rosary that I got from a good friend of my daughter’s.
Did you know anybody by the name of Ray [A230 Gref]? Josie?
PG: Josie, I know Josie.
FT: Well, she’s in a home in [A237]. Her daughter and
my daughter were very good friends. Now she lives in California,
and she works with the bishop and them, and they make rosaries
and bless them highly. She brought me one of them. She’s
a good friend. I pray that one when I go to bed.
PG: Well, good. Were the teachers German Russians?
FT: The teachers? No. They were, what they call those days,
[A244 Anglish]. [Laughter] Are your parents still living?
PG: My mother is.
FT: Where does she live?
FT: In a home?
PG: Well, she has her own apartment. It’s like a place
like [A247 subiago]. I mean, she has to make her own meals.
FT: Retirement home.
PG: Yeah, she makes her own meals and she’s 97.
FT: Pretty good, too?
PG: Yeah, she still walks around.
FT: If I could walk, you know, I wouldn’t be feeling
so bad. I was at the doctor Tuesday. Come back in two months;
everything always the same. I have to go on account of my
blood, though, see I have to take [A252 Coomadin]. That’s
for your blood. One time I fell down and broke my leg, and
it doesn’t heal. Too old, I guess. You pass out if you
don’t have enough of that; and I passed out, out here
on the sidewalk.
PG: Did you know Mrs. Lawrence Welk?
PG: You knew her when she was young yet, right?
FT: I knew her when she was sixteen years old—about
that. I was staying with my sister at St. Anthony. Their name
was [A259 Leingang]. Know that name?
FT: She lived there in St. Anthony, and I was staying with
my sister. My sister lived there for a while, and I knew her
[Mrs. Lawrence Welk], and I still know her. You know, that’s
funny about Lawrence Welk and his wife. I watch his program
every Sunday. I like his program, but he never has his wife
out there to dance with him.
PG: Well, she was very bashful.
PG: Yeah, she never wanted to go on the TV.
FT: Somebody said that she was ashamed of North Dakota, and
he never was; he always praised North Dakota. He liked North
Dakota, and he wasn’t ashamed to say it to his friends.
But, they said that she didn’t ever want to come back.
PG: Does she have brothers and sisters here?
FT: Somebody said that she was an adopted girl, so I really
don’t know that. I was only thirteen. I stayed with
my sister in St. Anthony.
PG: She became a nurse, I think.
FT: Yeah, that’s where she met Lawrence, I guess. I
saw her at Christmas time; I don’t know how old that
picture was this year. She still looks good; she’s all
dressed up like fit to kill. [Laughter] I don’t know
where her home is. I don’t even know what town in California
she lives, do you?
PG: I don’t know.
FT: Most likely in the Los Angeles area, or someplace.
PG: Your parents are buried here. Do they have iron crosses?
FT: Yes, we did. We had crosses. Yeah, they were iron, but
I don’t know, we don’t have them anymore. Maybe
my older sisters took them. See, I had six sisters older than
I, when they got married.
PG: How many of your sisters and brothers are still living?
PG: You’re the last one?
FT: My sister died a year ago at Christmas in Fort Wayne,
Indiana. Her and I were the only two left, the two young girls.
We called each other a lot, and I said I think the Lord just
let us live so we could pray for them. And we prayed. She
told me she prayed seven rosaries sometimes. She was in a
retirement home, and she couldn’t go out either, and
she’d sit there and pray and pray.
PG: So if your kids want to know, or your nieces and nephews,
they should come and talk to you if they want to know the
old time stuff, huh?
FT: We talked about that a lot. How poor we were and what
we didn’t have, what they have, what we got for Christmas
compared to what the kids get nowadays. I have a nephew. He
had two girls, and you know what one of them got when she
graduated? A car. I said, you know for Christmas, Ma used
to have a paper bag, and she’d put some nuts in, an
apple, never an orange, and a few cookies that we made. Nobody
complained; we took it and we were happy. I bet your folks
probably did the same thing.
PG: That’s right. We didn’t get much either.
FT: But we were satisfied. We a lot of good food. I said
we had better food then you had. I said what we had was stuff
we raised. We didn’t go in the store like these young
people do and buy everything ready. I tell them, all that
crap you eat. [Laughter]
PG: That’s right. Did you have the Krish Kindel?
FT: A what?
PG: A Krish Kindel. I mean did you have a Santa Claus? Did
the Santa Claus come into your house?
FT: Oh, yes! Krish Kindel. I remember when we lived by a
Solen, I was maybe eight. See, there was already about twelve
children or so, and my dad had a big, fur coat. They called
him the Belzenickel. And he put that over him and came crawling
in and they’d say that’s the Belzenickel. Santa
Claus, in German.
PG: You had the Krish Kindel also, right?
FT: Yeah, we called it [A322 Krishindle, da Belzenickel].
PG: Did you see the Krish Kindel? The Krish Kindle was dressed
up nice, right? The Krish Kindel was dressed in white.
FT: Oh no, we didn’t have that.
PG: Dressed in white with ribbons…
FT: No, we didn’t have that; we just had the Belzenickel,
to scare us, so we really thought there was somebody like
that and you had better behave. [Laughter]
PG: Right, Well you didn’t get any gifts then, huh?
FT: Oh, we got candy and stuff like that.
PG: But I mean toys.
FT: Oh no, we never had any the folks wouldn’t…we
didn’t have toys. Just candy and stuff, like nuts.
PG: How about at Easter? Did you get Easter eggs?
FT: Uh-huh. We made them. We painted them, a lot of Easter
eggs. And we had, what do you call that bread, the Easter
bread we made?
FT: Baska, yeah, we made that and Ma frosted it on top, you
know. It was good. And we had ham, [A338 trunga]. [Laughter]
PG: At Easter time, you ate a ham?
FT: We had a lot of food, a lot of good food. We didn’t
have all this fancy stuff. You know, when our Marie got married—she
got married here—we had a big wedding for her at St.
Pat’s, and I had a big dinner in the evening. Father
Schmidt was our priest, with him and a lot of friends. And
then the next day we had a dinner for all our friends. There
were maybe 200 people. We had sandwiches in the afternoon,
and then a supper and a dance. We had it at the Elks—the
Elks is where Montgomery Wards used to be, upstairs. Then
when Marie got the bill it was 500 dollars. Marie went back
and said there must be a mistake; it’s got to be more.
No, he said, that’s all it is, 500. Then, when my son
that lives in California, when their daughter got married,
she said, “I can’t believe that you only paid
500.” She said, “Ours was over 2,000.” And
she said, “You know what we had? They’d bring
out a little fancy thing, and we’d eat that, then they’d
bring another fancy thing out.” [Laughter] I said, “We
didn’t; we put a big bowl on the table and help yourself.”
That’s the way the old times did it. I remember when
my oldest sister got married, my mother and some friends in
St. Anthony, North Dakota, they made that good old chicken
noodle soup. Gee, that was good.
PG: In the olden days, they made big meals for the weddings,
PG: When you got married, did you have a big wedding?
FT: Yeah, I did. We had it at Richardton; a church wedding.
Then we lived on a farm. We had everybody out for dinner and
PG: Did you dance at your wedding?
PG: You had a [A368 speilman]?
PG: Did your folks make homemade beer?
FT: Mmhm, my dad did. My mother also made root beer. Yeah,
it was good. My dad used to make homemade beer. Then we had
that flu in 1918; we lived out of Stanton between Stanton
and Hazen. Everybody had the flu. Nobody could eat. Everybody
did; the neighbors, everybody. There was flu all over. My
dad made that little schnapps, you know, and he’d take
a swallow of that and he never got the flu. He took care of
all of us. He made us toast. I was surprised. In those days,
you made toast in the oven. It was good.
PG: You never got the flu, then?
FT: We all had the flu, but he didn’t.
PG: Okay. Well, did you go to a doctor?
FT: There was only one doctor at that time. Everybody was
sick, doctor [A384 Moses]; he was in Hazen…one doctor.
Later on they had a son that was a doctor in Bismarck. Maybe
you’ve heard of him: Dr. Moses?
PG: I’ve heard of him, yeah.
FT: But everybody was sick—a lot of people dying. I
lost my oldest brother, 24; my mother, I remember, she cried.
He was such a good boy.
PG: Was he married?
FT: No, he wasn’t married yet.
PG: Did you have any medicine at all for the flu?
FT: Oh yeah, we had medicine. But, I don’t know, it
would just wear off, I think. Then I had a brother-in-law
that worked in Stanton on the railroad, and when my brother
was dying, there were no priests around there. Once in a while
one would come from Mandan and say Mass in Hazen or one in
Beulah; every Sunday a different place. Then my dad called
my brother-in-law and said when the train comes in—his
name is [A401]—if there’s a priest on there, you
bring him out because John is dying and I want him to have
the last sacraments, and there was one on there. He brought
him out and Dad said, yeah [A416 German phrase], that’s
how come we got a priest. I believe in that, too. I believe
in that rosary. I hope it helps me some day. I think it’s
helping me already.
PG: Did you take wedding pictures when you got married?
FT: Yeah, I have one, but I don’t know where it is.
They’re in a box some place. I got a nice wedding picture
of all my sisters and brothers, but I’ve got them in
a box stored away some place. See, after we moved in here,
Ray had a stroke. He was in Bismarck for a long time at St.
Alexius, and we couldn’t make any steps, and there was
no apartment without steps that we could [get]. Then, this
place was vacant here—I’d rather live downtown.
So my son bought it, the one that’s in California. Then
we moved in here and I packed a lot of that stuff, and it’s
PG: When you got sick when you were growing up, where did
you go to see a doctor?
FT: Well, when I was in Richardton, there was a doctor. I
can’t think of his name. Then, after we moved up here,
we had the same doctor all the time and he died. There were
a lot of doctor’s up here. We had doctors all the time.
I still have Dr. Baumgartner.
PG: Did you have home remedies? Did your mother make up some
FT: Oh yeah. When we had a bad cold, she’d rub our
chest and put a cloth on it, and [for a] backache, put some
heat on it, a hot pad or something.
PG: Well, how did you make a hot pad?
FT: We had a water bottle to put hot water in it. No, we
didn’t have no electricity at that time. After we moved
up here, we did, and then later on my folks had some, too.
PG: Did you have neighbor ladies coming over [to help with
FT: Are you talking about me or my folks?
PG: Your folks.
FT: Oh, no. They had plenty of help with out any[one else].
PG: Do you know anything about brauche?
FT: Oh, I heard about that, but we didn’t believe in
PG: You never had doubt?
FT: No, just like, I don’t know what you call it.
PG: It was faith healing. If you believe a lot…
FT: Well, we believed in praying, we prayed a lot. My folks
prayed a lot. We were all good Catholics. We all got married
in a Catholic church. Some of them got married to non-Catholics,
but they turned Catholic. Like my sister-in-law, she turned
Catholic before [she got married]. She was a good Catholic
then after she [was married]. I know my mother used to say
to her, “You’re a better Catholic than your husband.”
[Laughter] And she was a convert.
PG: When somebody had a baby, did they go to the hospital
or were they always born at home?
FT: My mother had what they called a midwife.
PG: So the midwife would come over?
FT: I know when I was born—I was the eighth one in
the family and the seventh girl. I was born in Center. My
oldest sister was about twelve, and she could cook and everything.
They always teased me afterward. The lady came out, the midwife,
and said, “I brought such a nice little girl.”
Then my sister said, “We don’t want no more, we
got enough girls.” [Laughter] I said that’s the
best thing my mother did; I was with her for eight years and
helped her. [Laughter]
PG: You were the youngest girl, but not the youngest.
FT: No, I had six brothers younger than I.
PG: So the youngest ones were all boys?
FT: Yeah. Good boys; we had lots of fun.
PG: Do you remember when you got the first radio?
FT: We didn’t have anything like that at home. After
we were married in 1928, we got one.
PG: So that was exciting when you got the first radio?
FT: It was. We had a big one. Something almost like that
TV there, without the bottom.
PG: Did you learn how to do sewing?
FT: Oh yeah, I could sew. When we were first married, we
were awful poor, too. I made clothes, made over old clothes.
I used to make pants, you know, the bottom was still good
and I made little pants for my boys. I did all that, washed
it, pressed it with a wet cloth. There was no such a thing
as a drier in those days. I washed it with a wet cloth. And
a lady that worked for Father Schmidt—[washed] cloak,
her and I were good friends. She said, “You know, Father
Schmidt always says those Thomas kids always look so clean.”
I said, “Yes, I don’t let them go to school dirty”
I said, “and I wash and press it with a cloth.”
I said, “I have no such a thing as a drier or anything.”
I was brought up like that. My mother was a very good housekeeper.
With fifteen children, she sewed, and she was a good sewer.
PG: So when you ironed, you had to press the clothes. You
put the iron on the stove. You had to heat the iron and…
FT: Yeah. Well, when we were married I had an electric iron
that I could plug in after we moved to where there were lights.
PG: Oh yeah, but that was much later.
PG: Is there anything else that we should talk about, about
the old stuff, the old times?
FT: What do you want to know?
PG: I thought maybe you have something in mind.
FT: I told you about Christmas and…
PG: Did your mother have to work in the field, too?
FT: Yes, she helped in the field. She had the…what
do you call it?
PG: The headering?
FT: Yeah. Well, it comes out in the header box and you have
to push it away.
PG: Right. Then, you had to unload it by hand.
FT: Yeah, my mother did a lot. Then she had a big garden
all the time. We’d butcher nine pigs at one time. Nine.
They only butchered once in the year, see, and the neighbors
come and help. Then, dad would go and help the neighbors see.
The neighbors helped each other, put it that way. They’d
come at about 4:00 in the morning…[end side A]
[Begin side B]
…country style sausage, the ham that Ma and Pa smoked;
we had a little house outside where we smoked them. We made
liver sausage, blood sausage and all that. I couldn’t
eat the blood sausage. Dad liked it fried. We had all that
food, you know. Then when we would butcher a calf, I had to
can it all because we had no refrigerator and no electricity.
We canned it all and it kept; put it in the basement. I imagine
your folks probably did the same.
PG: Oh sure. Did you have jars for the canning?
FT: Oh yeah, we had jars…a lot of jars. Ma used to
buy them at a crate; a whole bunch of them, maybe ten or twelve
PG: Was that safe, or did the jars sometimes explode or break?
You never had a jar explode, huh?
FT: Oh no. We never had anything spoiled. We made our own
jelly, our own chokecherry jelly, baked our own bread. If
they’d bought a loaf of bread, they’d of been
ashamed to. Everybody baked their own bread those days, and
it was good.
PG: And you had big, big loaves.
FT: My mother had a loaf that she would put in her arm and
cut. Yes! With that many kids, we baked [bread] about three
times a week and oh that was cooked in that coal stove. I
still think the bread is better in a coal stove than in any
other stove. The crust gets so good. I’m still an old
fashioned person, I still like it. I’m not ashamed to
say it, either.
PG: Then your mother made cheese, huh?
FT: She made cheese like the boughten cheese. She had some
yellow stuff she put in there, and we made cottage cheese
and other cheese that looked just like boughten cheese. I
don’t know if she bought it where she got it; I didn’t
pay much attention to it, but I know it was yellow cheese
just like you buy.
PG: It was kind of hard like that?
PG: Oh, I never saw that homemade cheese like that. I just
remember cottage cheese. My mother made cottage cheese.
FT: We made that with [B20 German word], you know, boiled
potatoes, then have cheese, fish. On Fridays, you didn’t
eat the meat. During Lent we had all that meat and you couldn’t
eat any on Wednesday, you couldn’t eat any on Friday.
We had all that meat. [We would] buy sardines and other fish.
PG: Did you buy fish or did you go out to the river and get
FT: Oh no, we didn’t have no place there to fish that
I know of.
PG: So you went to town?
FT: Ma just bought the canned fish, like sardines and then
there was salmon in a taller can.
PG: Pickled herring, huh?
FT: Yeah, we had that, too. That I think Ma bought. They
like those. You know, they serve that out at…what’s
the name of that place out by the mall? Well, anyway, they
served that pickled herring out there, and I had a niece—she
moved to Texas. They lived here and they went out to eat a
lot, and she said Carl would take just about all those pickled
herring. They served them; you help yourself, see. She said,
“I got mad at him sometimes because he was so greedy.”
It isn’t the Country Kitchen, that’s another place;
I can’t think of the name. At my age, I’m forgetting
PG: You’re doing pretty good though.
PG: Let’s talk about the Thomas’, your husband’s
family. Did Ray’s parents come over here?
FT: Yeah, but I think they had brothers and sisters, over
here. My mother-in-law didn’t, but my dad had brothers,
that I know. They had seven children. They had one girl only
and the rest were boys. Then one of the boys, Brother Stanislaus,
went to that [B43 Abbey, Missouri]; he was a Brother; he died
there. And Sister Ludgard was at [B043 Yankton]. She was a
smart one I tell you; they’d sent her all over for everything.
At the beginning, when we first were married, she couldn’t
go alone, she had another sister with her. Later on, she went
by herself and she traveled all over. She was smart, and she
was the kind [of person that] if I say you do this, you better
do it. [Laughter]
PG: [Laughs.] She was strict, huh?
FT: And she could get money. Yankton, do you ever get down
there? There’s some kind of a thing—Father Polluck,
he was our priest; he saw it, and I liked Father Polluck.
It’s something that they have over part of the top,
and she got the money to put it up there. She could ask the
doctor for money or whoever had money, and she got it. I don’t
know how she got it. She was a beggar. She had a way or something.
PG: She had a way of how to do it; she knew how to do it.
Well, that’s okay. So, Ray’s parents lived at
FT: They were from Russia, but I don’t know from where.
Is there a place by the name of Landau?
FT: I think it was from there. They lived all their life
in Richardton. You know where the [B058 Rommels] lived. Right
there was their farm. And then [B059 Hunke] bought their farm.
There’s some parts of the house there yet, but the land
someone is farming. I think one of the Hunke’s, if they’re
still alive. Henry died. Ray and one of the Hunke’s,
too, sang real well. They were good friends.
PG: [B067 Bernard Hunke] has that place, now. He does not
live there, but he has some cattle over there. That was a
FT: Yeah. Ma said they had such good water there, a well
with such good water. It was a nice place. When my boys would
come home, we’d drive down there sometimes. They want
to see it. There’s trees now there, just beautiful trees.
It was so long that the folks lived there, but the yard is
just beautiful they say. I don’t know anything much
about his [Ray’s] parents. His mother lived up here
in Dickinson. After Dad died, she moved up here; she lived
two blocks from St. Joe’s. She stayed with us for a
while. Then she wanted to go where she could go to Mass everyday.
Then there was a vacancy over there and she got a good deal
on that, so she moved there and went to Mass everyday at St.
Joe’s. But she’s buried in Richardton; they’re
both buried in Richardton.
PG: Do you know what her maiden name was?
FT: Yeah, [B79 Heidt].
PG: Oh, that’s a common name.
FT: She has relatives in—if they’re still there—in
PG: Okay now, there’s other Hatzenbuhlers around here.
Are you related to…?
FT: Some around Belfield, but I don’t know any of them
and they’re not our…they spell it a little different.
I’ve got some cousins, I think yet, in Mandan, but I
haven’t been there for so long that I wouldn’t…and
there’s some [B085 Froelichs] down there. One of my
sisters is married to a Froelich. Some of her children are
living down there. They were here for Ray’s funeral
when Ray died—three years already. Yeah, they came up
for the funeral. It was nice of them to do that, because it
was raining that day. They always say if it rains into the
grave, it’s good luck…I don’t know, I hope
PG: Oh, I never heard that.
FT: I’ve heard that many times.
PG: If it rains into the grave…
FT: Yeah, that’s good luck.
PG: So that could be the day before the funeral, as long
as the grave is open, right?
FT: Yeah, and it sure rained. My son drove our car and took
me out there and the undertaker said [B092] Ray is buried
there at St. Pat’s cemetery, and we drove right in up
almost to the grave. You know the [B093 Schnells]?
FT: They’re so comical, you know, and they were Ray’s
good friends. One of them came up to the car and said, “Frances,
if Ray isn’t up there, we haven’t got a chance.”
[Laughther] I said, “I hope you’re right.”
PG: I’m sure he is.
FT: [B097 Ray Schnell] and Ray were very good friends. [B098].
How’s Father Victor doing?
PG: Brother Victor, he’s okay.
FT: I got a nice [tape cuts]. …see, my boys are so
far away: California. It costs them about two thousand dollars
every time they come home—they fly. Then, they have
to rent a car in Bismarck to come home. But they’re
all three good; I got all three good boys. They call every
week, during the week sometimes, and send me stuff. They’re
all three good to me. I can’t complain about anything.
I got enough to eat; Ray left me enough, so I got enough to
eat, and I got everything, except I’m homesick. I’ve
haven’t got no family here. I had that one niece, now
she moved to Texas about two months ago. Her son is down there.
PG: So you don’t have any nieces here, either? No nieces,
FT: Nothing. Not even a cousin.
PG: Oh, really.
FT: Nobody. I have friends, though…lots of friends.
We play a lot of Pinochle. We play for money, too. [Laughter]
I play bridge, too. We put fifty cents in the pot. Then, high
gets a dollar and the second, seventy-five and low, a quarter.
I said, “Where else can you go and have fun all afternoon
for one dollar.” [Laughter.]
PG: I guess.
FT: I hope you’re satisfied. I told you everything
that you asked that I knew. I don’t know nothing about
my parents because they came from Russia, and they never talked
much about it. I think it hurt them to talk about it. You
know when you leave your sisters and brothers never to see
them again, that must hurt. We girls, later on, especially
my sister from Fort Wayne and I, we said, “I bet you
our mother cried many times and felt bad many times, and we
were too dumb to realize it.”
PG: That’s right. Oh yeah, I’m sure they were
FT: Oh yes. I bet they went to bed and cried. I pray for
them, especially prayers that I hope they have it nice wherever
PG: Well, what do you think about nowadays how the children
can do whatever they want?
FT: That’s true. I don’t know. Our kids, we were
good to them. To tell you the truth—I’m bragging—we
raised a good family. I got very good boys. They all kept
their religion, got married to Catholic girls, and their children
are all so-far-so-good. My son called me yesterday morning.
“Mom,” he said, “you know, I’m another
Grandpa.” Their son just had a baby, his first baby.
I guess she had a very hard time. He said we were lucky that
PG: Well, how many grandchildren do you have?
FT: Eighteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.
PG: Do you have any great-great?
FT: No, not yet.[Laughter]
PG: Well, if you live long enough, live a few more years,
then you’ll get great-great…
FT: And for Christmas, I send the boys each a check. I send
them a check and that’s for the whole family. My oldest
son called me this year and he said, “Mom, you know
that check you sent,” he said, “the day after
Christmas I’m taking all my children and grandchildren
out for dinner, and I’m going to announce it and tell
them that it’s a check from Grandma, and that goes for
all of you.”
PG: That’s okay.
PG: During the Second World War, were you afraid to talk
German? You know, we were not supposed to talk German then.
FT: I know it. That’s what Ray said, my husband. He
said, too, we didn’t talk German, we decided to talk
in English all the time on account of that, like you say.
It was too dangerous.
PG: But, nothing ever happened, right? Nobody ever got punished,
FT: No. You know those Bohemians? I said, they talk their
Bohemian language, it don’t matter…[interruption,
someone came to visit]
[Brother Placid went back to Mrs. Thomas’ on January
26th to fill up the tape]
PG: Maybe we can talk about when you got married?
PG: What kind of a wedding did you have? Did you have a big
FT: We had a nice wedding. We lived south of Richardton,
and we got married at Assumption Abbey. Father…he isn’t
there no more, I forgot his name.
PG: Was it Father Peter? No, that was before Father Peter.
PG: Father Julius.
FT: Yeah. I got it someplace…
PG: It doesn’t matter. Did you have a big meal?
FT: Yeah, we had a dinner, and Ray was in the choir. You
know, he sang in the choir for sixty years. He had a good
voice; he had a trained voice; he took training at the college.
We had the whole choir out for dinner and a lot of friends.
PG: Oh, the choir members came out for dinner?
FT: Uh-huh. We invited them all for dinner because Ray sang
in the choir, and they sang at the wedding.
PG: Oh, so you had a big choir.
Ft: They had a nice choir. Did you know [B162 Roy Messemer]?
Ft: He was in there. He had a beautiful voice. And Eva…Eva
something; she was an old maid…nice person related with
the Mugglis. I knew all the Mugglis], you probably didn’t.
John Muggli at the bank, you didn’t know him?
FT: Somebody said he was a crook, but I don’t know.
Because he took all the farms and people’s money at
PG: Where did you have the wedding dinner?
FT: At the folk’s, on the farm.
PG: Oh, your folks. It was south of Richardton?
FT: South of Richardton. Do you know where the [B169 Rommels]
lived? Or who lived close, was our neighbor. [B172 has trouble
recalling] A Rommel I think, yeah, he died last year. His
wife died this year.
PG: That was Fred?
FT: Fred. He was a good friend of my brother’s. The
reason for that was they both liked their little drinks. [Laughter]
That’s where we lived, just about a half a mile from
his place. I think the people that owned that farm was [B177
Shrader] or something like that. It was a big house. We had
a great big kitchen. We had maybe not as many people. We had
a dance, played accordion…
PG: You had the dance right in the house?
FT: Uh-huh, everything was in the house.
PG: Who played for the…
FT: Oh, I don’t know, somebody played the accordion.
I had a brother-in-law that played it. I think he played most
of it. See, years ago they didn’t have weddings like
they have now, in some hall, or have everything…
PG: Well, what kind of dances did they do?
FT: Mostly waltzes. Old time waltzes and two steps and stuff
PG: Did they do the polkas like they do nowadays?
FT: Oh yeah, and the polka. They were good polka dances,
although mostly everything was old fashioned, you know. ’28,
that was a long time ago.
PG: Did you put anything on the floor to make it slippery?
FT: No, I don’t know that. Maybe we did, I don’t
PG: I know sometimes they put flax on the floor.
FT: I know that. They even put that at the Eagle’s
when we used to go to the Eagle’s.
FT: Something that would make it too slippery sometimes.
PG: Did you have a big dinner and a big supper?
FT: We had a big dinner and for the supper we had cold cuts
and stuff like that, you know, ham and potato salad. That
old fashioned potato salad, you like that? Your folks must
have made that.
PG: How do you make the old time potato salad?
FT: Oh, we would boil the potatoes, then slice them kind
of thin after they cool off, and then you put salt and pepper,
oil, Mazola oil, a little vinegar, a little sugar, onions.
Onions, don’t forget the onions. Mix it up real good.
It’s good. My grandchildren one day come, they say,
“Grandma, you gotta have potato salad.” But, I
can’t do it no more. They just love it. That was our
meal on—the old timers, I think, all did, like on Saturdays,
you know; Sundays we’d go to church, then we had chicken
noodle soup and all that at noon. Your folks probably did,
PG: On Sundays, yes.
FT: And then on Saturday night we had a ham and potato salad
and all that kind of stuff. Then, for Christmas, my daughter
from Bismarck always came Christmas Eve with her family; at
that time she had five. We’d have a tree, a big tree,
and go to Midnight Mass. Ray always had to sing at the Mass.
Then, come home and have a lunch. Then the next day we’d
have a turkey and all that for dinner.
PG: When you came home from the Midnight Mass, did you have
anything special? Was their a tradition?
FT: We had lunch when we came back. Well, we had ham and
stuff like that; just cold cuts. We didn’t have no hot
stuff or anything. Coffee and cookies or whatever was there.
Ray always sang a solo. It was so beautiful, and some of my
friends even now that still go to St. Pat’s mention
it. They say, “We sure miss Ray at Christmas.”
He sang that, ‘O come let us adore him.’ You know
that, that’s so beautiful. He sang the solo part and
then the chorus would join in. I miss that. This year I was
all alone for Christmas, and I was so home sick. I hated that.
My boys couldn’t come home. Last year one of them came,
but they all have big families already. My second youngest
son has nine grandchildren, and they still have five children;
they all come home and they have the candy. I don’t
expect it, I understand it. They felt bad and I said, “Don’t
feel bad. I understand it.”
PG: When you got married, did you have bridesmaids?
PG: How many bridesmaids?
FT: Just one…my brother and a relative of Ray’s.
A [B239 Freed] girl from [B239]. It was his relative. That’s
all we had.
PG: Oh, you had one best man and one bridesmaid?
FT: Right. Not like now. When my daughter got married, she
had six bridesmaids. [Laughter]
PG: That’s too many.
FT: Yeah. But they were all her friends from high school,
college. They were all her friends and she couldn’t
invite one and leave out the others, she invited them all.
PG: When you walked into church, did you walk up with Ray
right away, the two of you together?
FT: Yeah, we did. We walked together right away. It wasn’t
that he stands up in front and waits for you.
PG: Yeah, nowadays, somebody brings the bride up.
FT: I know it. That’s the way our daughter Marie did
it, too. Dad took her up to her husband. [Laughter]
PG: So you had church at 10:00 in the morning, or what?
FT: Yeah, it was in the morning, I don’t know. Like,
maybe in the forenoon, so we had dinner at noon. I had a big
dinner at noon.
PG: Did you have a lot of people at the farm for the meal?
FT: Well, we had enough of us; it was pretty crowded. But
my folks couldn’t have [rented a hall]…I don’t
know, they didn’t rent halls so much in those days.
If they did, they probably couldn’t afford it anyway.
My folks were always kind of on the poor side. I think they
had too big a family.
PG: Who was the cook?
FT: Well, my older sisters were still alive then. They were
all there, they helped with everything. That Girdy, that one
that’s the oldest, Margaret, Barbara, they all lived
around Mandan, one in Mott; they were all there.
PG: Okay, then right away after you got married, the Depression
FT: Yeah, that’s when the banks took all the farms
and the money. Ray’s mother had a little money and a
farm and she lost it all. I know she lived on the south side,
too, in an apartment house, because she wanted to be close
to church. But, I had her over a lot. She lived with us for
a while, and I know she cried one time. She said, “I
lost all my money.” The [B268 Hunke’s], they bought
their farm, so she got a little money out of them. And they
said John Muggli…did you know John Muggli]?
PG: No, I heard of him.
FT: They said he had to sneak home at night from his bank
because everybody was waiting for him. They were after him.
Did you know Amos [B272 Freed]?
PG: No. I’ve heard of him, but I don’t know him.
FT: Yeah, he was another banker in Dodge, and they took a
lot of farms. One time…you know George [B275 Ress]?
PG: I’ve heard of him.
FT: He had a big farm. Yeah, they had a nice summer home
north of Dodge. They were our friends, and they invited us
out there one weekend and Amos [B278 Freed’s] were invited,
too, so they drove. We went with them. Then, on the way on
the other side of Dodge, you know, that’s where Amos
used to work in the bank there. He’d say to his wife,
“Isn’t that one of our farms, isn’t that
one of our farms? [Laughter]
PG: He owned all the farms.
FT: Yeah, he owned all the farms. And he had the money, too,
boy. That’s the way it used to be.
PG: You never lived on the farm after you got married, huh?
FT: No, Ray was a sign painter, you know, put up those signs
in the businesses. He was one of those so we moved to Dickinson,
and he got in with another sign painter; they worked together.
Then, the other one decided he wanted to go to Montana. Brown
was his name, [B289 Ek Brown]. So, he left and we were alone.
We did okay, though.
PG: So, that’s the thing he did for all his life? Sign
FT: Yeah, that’s what he did all his life.
PG: So, he was an artist.
FT: He still has a sign…see those little men above
the sink there? Those are some of his work.
PG: Oh, that’s nice.
FT: Yeah, he did a lot of things.
PG: Did he go to school to learn to paint?
FT: He went to school in the Abbey. That’s the one
place he went, for college.
PG: So he did not go away to learn to be an artist?
FT: Yeah, he went away to do some of that sign work. He was
in Chicago for a while to learn some for that.
PG: Was that before he got married?
FT: No, that was after we were married. I was alone a lot
of times. They went off painting those big signs on elevators,
and he had men working for him. I’d be alone to take
care of the shop, answer the phone and stuff like that. We
worked together. I was telling my boys, “There’s
so many divorces nowadays, I said. “We were married
67 years and,” I said, “don’t think it was
all sun and roses; we were darn poor a lot of times.”
I said, “But we kept our family and we got a good family.”
I got four boys, and I hate to say it but…. You can
meet them; they’re just so good to me.
PG: When you lived in Dickinson after you got married, did
you have a big garden?
FT: No. We had a little garden in our back yard for a while,
but then we had to quite it. We had a big building, you know,
where the [B315 Woolworth’s] was. There’s a bank
there now, that’s where we had a building, and we sold
it to…somebody near Williston bought it. We had to quite
the business; we couldn’t get any material or anything.
So, we bought a house and we [eventually] moved out of there.
PG: In the ‘30s, did you have a cow in town?
FT: No, we bought our milk. You know we talk about the farmers.
I hate to say it, but I don’t feel sorry for farmers,
the way they act nowadays. They don’t have a chicken,
they don’t have nothing anymore. And, you know, I’ve
fed more darn farmer. They’d come in and we were poor.
Then, I’d have to go to [B327 Parker’s] just down
the alley from us…go down there and get something for
them to eat. One time eight of them walked in. I still had
my dirty dishes on the table from noon. I had four boys, and
in the summer they helped their dad, and he had to give them
a little money anyway. So they helped him. And we were just
through eating, then they said, “every time we come,
you run to the store.” I was so bashful, I didn’t
say nothing. Now I would say, “What the hell do you
think I should do when you walk in on me like that.”
[Laughter] And, I don’t care; Ray and I always said
afterwards, “If you give, you shall receive.”
I believe in that so much. I’ve had more darn bums.
How they find our place, I don’t know. I’d make
sandwiches for them. If I didn’t have enough bread or
money or anything for sandwiches, I took them in and I’d
fry them an egg. Ray would say, “Don’t do that,
you don’t know those guys.” I said, “He
ate and said ‘thank you’ and walked out.”
And I still say, “If you give, you shall receive.”
I’m not rich, but I’ve got all the food I want,
and I got a nice apartment. I got to thank God everyday for
PG: But those people that walked in, those eight guys that
FT: They had chicken and pigs and sausage and everything
and never brought a thing.
PG: I mean, why did they come to your place?
FT: Because they didn’t want to spend any money downtown.
PG: They were good friends of yours, or what?
FT: They were kind of a distant relative. Some of them live
in town here. Some are married to [B341 Stockerts]. They come
from Glen Ullin, though, and their name was Thomas. But not
even a close relative. But, you know, they butchered and had
a bunch of sausage, and what I wouldn’t have given for
some of that. One time, their mother had to go to the doctor
and she came up and stayed with me, because she went to the
same hospital. She said, “I wanted to bring some sausage,
but I thought it didn’t look so good to take sausage
on the bus.” I thought if you had only known what it
would’ve meant to me, she would’ve brought some.
[Laughter] That’s a dumb thing. Some people are like
that. Some people don’t come empty handed, and I have
friends come and I still like to play Bridge and Pinochle.
You play cards?
PG: Oh yeah.
FT: I bet you my friends never come without bringing something,
but [they say], “See I know, Frances, you can’t
go out and shop, you can’t do this and that.”
I say, “Why do you always bring something?” “Well,
because you have to have us here all the time.” I said,
“Well it’s nobody’s fault I can’t
go out, I can’t walk.” I said, “I thank
God everyday that you are nice enough friends to come and
see me.” Right?
PG: Right. Did some people have cows in town?
FT: That I don’t know.
PG: Not in Dickinson, but in the smaller towns like Richardton.
FT: Yeah, I don’t remember that anybody had any cows.
Maybe at the edge of town, I don’t know.
PG: At the edge of town, I suppose. I know in Richardton
they had chickens in town.
FT: Yeah, chicken would’ve been nice. One couple always
came every time they had trouble with the [B370 law] or something.
They’d stay at our place. One time she brought a duck;
ducks are so fat. I said, “What should I do with it?”
She said, “Well you could make some soup; take the fat
and make soup and fry the duck.” I said, “You
can’t make soup out of fat, you got to have meat.”
PG: Well, it takes some fat and some meat.
FT: Yeah, a little fat in there, but not all fat. Ducks are
fat, you know, they all are. We used to have ducks on the
farm, my folks did. But we never made soup out of ducks; we
made soup out of chicken. Sunday there was a good noodle soup.
It was good every Sunday. I think the old timers all cooked
the same. The lady that helps me, she says her mother did
the same thing every Sunday.
PG: They had chicken soup every Sunday?
FT: Chicken soup, yeah.
PG: Ray was a musician, too, right?
FT: Yeah, he played in a band, too.
PG: Did he learn that at the Abby?
FT: He played already when we got married; he must’ve
learned some of it there. He went to school there when there
were nuns teaching there, yet, because he said they were so
mean. He said, one of them didn’t like me and she brought
the ruler, she was going to hit my hand, he said, I just pulled
it back in time. He said, if she’d have hit it, I think
it would’ve cracked. [Laughter] Do they still have somebody
going to college there?
FT: No more, huh.
PG: What instrument did Ray play?
FT: He played the big trombone, with a big horn. He played
other stuff, too, but that was in the band he played that—the
city band. We always had a concert every weekend. I know one
time, they always advertise at some of the stores, you know,
and one of the band leaders had Ray get up in between and
you tell them that you can get [B396 Gilles] hardware. They
have this for sale, and you mention that. He forgot what it
was and then, when he got up, he just said, “Whatever
it is, you can get it at [B399 Gilles] for sale. They just
laughed at him. [Laughter]
PG: Well, it’s okay. Did you play any instrument?
FT: No, I just love to dance.
PG: Well, that’s good exercise.
FT: I play cards. I love cards.
PG: Did you sing?
FT: Yeah, we sang. We’d dance, and like I said, we
lived on a farm with our folks, you know and it was different
than now. The farmers got together and the young people would
be in one room and the old ones in the other one, and we used
to take the table out and have an accordion player and we’d
dance and everything. The folks would sit in the other room—the
PG: You said your dad was a musician. What did he play?
FT: He played the clarinet.
PG: And he learned that in Russia?
FT: I think he learned that in the service when he was in
Russia. He was in the service, too, in Russia and he played
there…played real nice. He and somebody from Mandan,
a Mr. Gerhardt, and another man, they had a four piece orchestra.
They played for weddings, old time weddings. They got paid
PG: Four piece? That’s pretty good.
FT: Yeah, at that time, it was. Well, I was born in 1905…maybe
I was about six years old when my oldest sister got married.
They played for her wedding.
PG: How long did you got to school?
FT: I only went as far as the eighth grade, that’s
all. This [piece of mail] goes to my son, he lives there,
my youngest son. I pay my bills and all that, but I send him
all the taxes and stuff. He takes care of all that. So this
goes, I’ve been waiting to get to the mail. Maybe there’s
something else out there. Well, those days [school] didn’t
mean that much. Women were supposed to know how to cook and
all that, you know.
PG: That’s right.
FT: But I tell my boys a lot of times, they all got college
degrees. I said, “You know what, I know more than you
do with a college [degree].I know what you have to do to make
a living and to get along.” I said, “Do you know
that?” Well, they all have nice families, I’ll
tell you that much. Now my second youngest, he’s in
Florida right now, he’s retired. He worked for a big
company, I can’t think of the name. He’s retired
and he built a brand new home in a retirement town, they call
it. He built a new home there, and he’s living there
now, but now he’s in Florida. He has a daughter down
there. He’s getting along; they’re all getting
along real well. This one here works for a big company out
of Los Angeles, he’s an accountant. So they all did
okay. Like I say, I can’t complain about anything, except
I’m always so darn homesick for my family and nobody’s
here. I don’t even have a cousin in town: nothing. I
had one granddaughter and she moved to Texas not long ago.
PG: If you could give some advice to the young people, have
you got some advice for the young people? How to raise their
FT: What kind of advice, though? For my grandchildren?
PG: Just in general; young people. What they should do in
order to live a good life.
FT: Oh, you know what I tell them every time. They call a
lot; every week and sometimes more than once a week. I always
say, “Okay, be nice to each other, and I love you…and
be nice to each other” I said, “I don’t
care if you only eat bread and water, but be nice to each
other.” I tell them that every time. [Laughter] I said,
“You may have only bread and water to eat, but be nice
to each other.”
PG: That’s good advice. How would you like to be remembered
after you are gone?
FT: Well, I think my boys took care of that already.
PG: I mean…
FT: I would like to be remembered as I took good care of
my family. We were so poor, you wouldn’t believe it.
I made my kids wear pants that were made out of legs like
this. They were still good. They had nothing to wear. We lived
two blocks from St. Pat’s. They were all nuns there
yet. I made pants and I made pajamas out of shirts where the
back was still good and I made overcoats, fixed old coats
and everything, and the kids were always clean. I’ll
say one thing, I’m not bragging if I say that I was
a good housekeeper. My house wasn’t dirty. My mother
was, too. And the priest’s cook—Father Schmidt
was our priest—the priest’s cook and I were good
friends and she said, “You know what Father said? He
said those Thomas kids always look so clean.” I said,
yes, I know what they were wearing; they have to be pressed
with a wet cloth and a hot iron. I said there’s no such
a thing as a drier and stuff those days.
PG: Did you make clothes out of the flour sacks?
FT: Yes…diapers and dish towels. We didn’t have
stuff to buy like young people do now and throw them in the
garbage. They don’t wash diapers or make diapers and
then they wonder why they don’t have no money. Then
they eat everything. I always tell my boys we didn’t
eat that crap they have; we had real food. It was plain food,
but it was good food [B520] Did your mother make those?
PG: Oh yeah.
FT: And good soup and all that stuff. I think the old timers
all do the same, because the lady that helps me said her mother
did the same thing.
PG: Well the flour sacks had such nice patterns on there;
nice flowers, all different kinds.
FT: [Laughter] I know it.
PG: And then sometimes, you had to look for another one so
you had enough material of one kind, so you had enough to
FT: How many children did your folks have?
PG: They had sixteen babies, but three babies died right
away, so they raised…
FT: Sixteen children they had? Even more than my folks.
PG: They raised thirteen. Well, the tape is getting full,
so I say thank you for the nice conversation.
FT: You’re welcome.
PG: It’s fun to talk about the old times. It’s
fun to visit.
FT: Yeah. Well, you can talk until she comes, then she’ll
want to…she takes care of my feet and stuff.
PG: Okay, when the cleaning lady comes.
FT: Well, she’s more like a nurse, but she does other
PG: Did your mother do a lot of sewing?
FT: Yes. She sewed everything. My oldest sister even made
her wedding dress herself, and it was beautiful.
PG: Did it have white?
FT: Well, no it wasn’t exactly all white; it was kind
of in the bluish order.
FT: Yeah, that’s a long time ago.
PG: Did your mother have a nice sewing machine?
FT: Yeah, an old fashioned Singer. I have one yet.
PG: You have to peddle… [end of tape].