Interview with Anthony Welk (AW)
Conducted by Bob Dambach (BD)
7 September 2001, Linton, ND
Transcribed by Beth Freeman
Editing and proofreading by Peter Eberle and Reverend Marvin Hartmann
Prairie Public Collection
BD: Ok. Why don’t you tell me your name?
AW: Anthony Welk.
BD: Where do you live?
AW: Bismarck, North Dakota.
BD: And where did you grow up?
AW: I grew up in Hague, North Dakota, Emmons County,
on the farm. I was about 13 miles straight east of Strasburg,
where - home of Lawrence Welk.
BD: What’s your memory of growing up on the
farm? What did you think of that?
AW: Oh, I have a lot of fond memories with all my
older brothers and sisters. Mostly I remember playing with Tom,
father Tom, who is next oldest to me. And of course we used to
fight quite a bit. He was older then I was, but we got into a
lot of [rhubarbs A7] and stuff like that, you know, but it was
all in fun. I guess it’s a part of families growing up.
My older sister, Viola, more or less raised me; she was my buddy.
And of course, I have a lot of fond memories of hunting gophers
and fishing. I think some of the better parts of my life is growing
up on that farm.
BD: What do you think about farm life?
AW: It’s a good, clean, healthy living. At
the time the old pioneers founded the farms, I think they did
a lot of hard work, but it’s a good clean living.
BD: Did you have to do a lot of hard work when you
were a boy?
AW: Well, at the time I thought it was hard work,
but as I look back now it probably wasn’t that hard, but
it probably got me to where I am today. I used to have to carry
a lot of water for the pigs and chickens. There was none of the
mechanization that there is today. We used to have to carry all
the water out of the creek, which the garden was right next to
it, so instead of Dad putting up a pump, he said, “Nope,
I’ve got all these kids, let them carry the water.”
BD: Tell me about your dad. What are your memories
about your dad?
AW: Well, I think he was a well-respected man in
the community. I think everybody respected Dad for his easy, out-going
personality. He loved to joke around all the time and he liked
to tease everybody. As a kid he was kind of easy going, and he
was a very sociable kind of guy. Like I said, everyone respected
him, his opinion and so forth.
BD: What was your dad’s name?
AW: Leo Welk.
BD: And how about your mom’s name?
AW: Claire. Claire Welk. Claire Mastel was her maiden
BD: We need you to say, “My dad’s name
was Leo Welk and my mom’s name….” Can you do
that for me?
AW: Gladly. My dad’s name was Leo Welk and
my mother’s name was Claire Mastel, her maiden name.
BD: Now when you were going to school, what type
of school did you go to?
AW: Well, I went to the first six grades out in
the country school; a one room country school. It was just about
a mile from our farm. At the time, if I remember correctly, there
was only about 12 or 13 students there, and I remember walking
to school in the wintertime when it was awfully cold. We never
got to ride unless there was a real bad blizzard where you couldn’t
see. But other than that, I guess all I remember was there just
being the one classroom. The teacher usually went from the littler
classes and worked her way up till she got through the eighth
BD: What language did you speak in school?
AW: Well, we did speak English, but if I remember
correctly, I didn’t learn to speak English until I started
school. I spoke German until I was six years old.
BD: What year did you start school?
AW: What year? Well, that would have been in 1950,
I believe. I was only five years old.
BD: In 1950 there were still one room schoolhouses?
AW: Exactly yes. In fact, there was when we moved
to Linton in 1957. That school was still there. But I think they
consolidated and moved them down to town too. It is now St. Aloysius.
They moved all the schools together and had them as combined.
So the schoolhouse that I grew up at is no longer there.
BD: I asked you about your dad, tell me about your
AW: Oh Mom she liked to fiddle; she could fix anything.
I mean, she had the patience of Job. She could sit and work on
something that would break down. She could take all day if you
told her to. She had a lot of patience and she loved to garden.
Had a green thumb and could get anything to grow. And she loved
to grow flowers. Matter of fact, my wife’s wanted to plant
African violets, she just adores those plants. She lovingly and
tenderly took care of them, and one of those plants has taken
off now. So I say she loved flowers, to work in the gardens. Any
time she had leisure time she was out in the garden. If you didn’t
see Mom in the house, you went out back and she’d be out
in the garden. A very loving caring person.
BD: Now one of the brothers was talking about the
fact that the house was sort of down there by the water and not
enough up on the hill….
AW: Yes, it was right down by the creek. Back in
those days, when they made a settlement, they always had to go
where the water is. So that’s where the farm is. So many
times in the spring, we got flooded out. But the house was high
enough to where it would stay out of the water. I don’t
remember water ever getting into the house. I remember in the
spring of ’51, we had a flash flood, and we had to get the
grain out of the grainery because it was underwater. And also
hook on to the chicken coop, or the brooder house, he called it.
And the neighbors came over with their tractors and pulled that
out of the water for us, because we had young chickens in there.
BD: Now you also lived very close to your uncles,
AW: Yes. We were within a mile of my two uncles
that lived out there. My uncle John, who lived right south of
us maybe a half mile and they had twelve kids in their family,
and ten of those were boys. Another Uncle Gabriel had thirteen
in their family, and there were nine boys out of the thirteen
children. So, you know, we had our own softball team. On Sunday
afternoons we’d all get together and ride horse or whatever,
go swimming, play softball and just had a good time growing up
with all those cousins, you know.
BD: What type of church did you go to on the farm?
AW: Well I was kind of too young, really, so I didn’t
have to go. I was only five or six years old, so my job was to
bring the pillowcase when they were done milking. We had feed
each calf; making sure the calves were there when we were done
milking. Of course, I had to help feed chickens and the pigs,
carry the milk and the water, and that was basically my job.
BD: Did you mind it when you moved into Linton?
Was that a tough transition for you?
AW: Yes and no, I guess I had mixed feelings about
that. I was always kind of short growing up; I was small for my
age. So moving all the way into Linton, with the big classroom,
I was kind of shy, kind of bashful. I was kind of accustomed to
the farm, being relaxed there, enjoying the freedom of the farm,
and then moving into town, with all these kids, so that was a
little bit of a different transition for me.
BD: Why did the family move into town?
AW: Well my dad got allergic to what they call the
sun and dust. He got sick, got a terrible rash; he couldn’t
be out and work in the dust anymore. So he had to quit farming.
And that was in 1957. I was in the seventh grade at that time.
BD: What happened to the farm after that?
AW: Well my older sister and her husband moved on
there. And they farmed it for two or three years, and then Dad
sold the farm.
BD: Do you regret the fact the farm was sold?
AW: Well, kinda now maybe I do, at the time I was
just too young yet to be able to stay to do the farming myself.
I guess it’s been that many years now, you kind of forget
BD: Has it ever come up when the family gets together,
at reunions where you wish you still had the farmstead?
AW: No, not really. We talk about memories we’ve
had there. The fun and all the stuff we did on the farm. No, it
doesn’t really come up that anyone wishes they were still
BD: None of the boys really wanted to keep farming?
AW: I believe the oldest brother probably wanted
to. He would have been the only candidate, really, to take over.
But we had not enough land to make a decent living I guess. So,
he was really gone then, he was off going to school and he had
BD: Do you have any really fine memories of growing
up as a child?
AW: The fondest memory I have is getting to go along
to the field with the older brothers and my dad and getting to
ride on some of the machines. He’d put us on the combine,
we’d sit in the hopper and we got to ride around. I always
enjoyed that. I always enjoyed going out to farm and watching
the older people, the adults. And during thrashing time, I remember
so well. I was just a youngster. But I remember the older people;
older guys working out in the field, hauling the bundles in, and
then come lunchtime, Mom would always bring lunch out to the field,
right to the thrashing machine. They’d of course share the
lunch with me, too. And of course I’d get to help, sometimes
they’d let me: some of the wagons would have a tractor and
I’d get to drive from one bundled stack to the next, you
know. So I always enjoyed that, you know. I guess that’s
probably some of the fonder memories there.
BD: Super, Tony, thank you very much!