Home History Culture Oral History Transcribed Interviews

Interview with Reiny and Christine Klein (RK) (CK)

Conducted by Dale Davis (DD)
8 October 2004

Transcription by Amanda Swenson
Editing and proofreading by Marcie Franklund

DD: Reiny Klein and his sister Christine, from Wishek, North Dakota. You can ask, if you need a break, just indicate so we can stop. Okay the date is Friday October the 8th, 2004. The time in Wishek, North Dakota is close to 1:40 in the afternoon. And I am interviewing Christine Klein Buller, and her brother Reiny Klein. And we are going to have some conversations about the German-Russian heritage that they grew up in. Something about their parents, and then talk church wise, for a real good family history. [?009]. So if I could have Christine, would you introduce yourself, and would you tell me your full name and your age?

CK: What?

DD: Your name, introduce yourself your name and your age.

CK: I’m Christine Klein [?12] and I am 91 years of age.

RK: I am Lorein Hold Rudolf Klein. I was born in May of 1924, so that makes me an even 80.

DD: And who was your parents.

CK: Jacob and Elizabeth Ottecomer Klein.

DD: Did you help with your mother maiden name, your mother’s full name?

RK: Elizabeth Otteman.

DD: And your father’s?

RK: Jacob G. Klein.

DD: And they came from? Were they born in the United States or where were they born?

CK: They were born in Russia, and they came when they were little children. My mother was 5, and my dad was 7 when their parents came here. So they went to America schools.

DD: So they gave out some recollections of what it was like in Russia then?

CK: Oh I don’t know whether they remembered much about Russia. Anyway, mother remembered the cook stones they had. And she said that they cooked their foods all in the morning for dinner. It was a clay stove and their clay got burnt and they had a hot fire and [?25] raked through ashes for [?25].

DD: Do you remember how many family members there were in your mother’s family, and in your father’s family?

CK: There were 8 in my mother’s family.

DD: And did they all come over to the United States or did some stay?

CK: Mother was the oldest.

DD: Oh, your mother was the oldest?

CK: Yes.

DD: Oh, okay. So most of them were born here in the United States?

CK: Yes.

DD: Okay, how about on your father’s side?

CK: He was 7 when his parents came, and they settled in Eureka, and bought horses and a cow, and raised vegetables and potatoes to sell to the hotel. And grandma made father cottage cheese to sell.

DD: How long were they in the Eureka area?

CK: Until dad was 21. He hunts birds in North Dakota.

DD: Where is that at?

CK: That’s about what is it 15 miles from Wishek.

RK: About 15 miles northwest.

DD: So would your grandparents, would they be buried in the Eureka area or?

CK: No they all moved to....

DD: They all moved.

CK: To Burnstead. My grandparents are buried in the cemetery here at Wishek. And uh.

DD: Bollsteads? From that area?

CK: My grandparents, my mother’s family were buried in the country church. I guess they called it the hottest day of the cemetery.

DD: As that [?40-41]

CK: Yeah, my mother had earrings when she was baptized. At [?42] that was very popular, and her grandpa was so proud of her. And her grandpa brought her earrings to wear before her baptism.

DD: Did the earrings go through her ear or did they have-- were they like clip ons?

CK: What?

DD: The earrings, were they like clip on type or were they?

CK: No they were-- ears were pierced.

DD: Like they do now?

CK: Yeah.

DD: I’ll have to tell my daughter that.

CK: They pierced her ears when she was sleeping. She didn’t even wake up.

DD: And did she have those earrings?

CK: She had one, but she lost the other one. But she, my niece has it, and with complete boxes. My mother did beautiful little [?50] when she was young and could see. And she was a very good seamstress. So what now, they came here and they sewed everything by hand. When my mother was 18, she ordered a sewing machine from Sears [?054]. And they were so happy, this was one step forward. They lived in a sod house and when they went and they built their frame house, she was 14.

DD: Do you remember, did you ever see that sod house then?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did you ever see the sod house that they lived in?

CK: No, nah uh. I was still young for they would have been, when my mother was 14 they built the house. And my parents built a sod house when they were first married. But they moved to a farm near Wishek. And that had to lower than a wooden house.

DD: Do you know if there are any sod houses left around here or are they all gone?

CK: There used to be a summer kitchen in one of the places that was the sod house. That’s the only sod house I only saw.

DD: Do you know why they call it a summer kitchen?

CK: Well they just used to heat and cook in the summer so the house would stay cool.

DD: What kind of stove would they use then?

CK: Just a what?

DD: The type of stove?

CK: What they used in it?

DD: Yeah.

CK: Well they had a cook stove that was a cast iron stove. Grandma’s first stove was oven bake one. Oh the bread she’d bake every day. And we used sour dough. The dough all this dough we used. Well the craziest stages start the new bet.

DD: How long did that start to last?

CK: Well what we kept a new starter each day.

DD: So they would use that to incorporate it into continuously [?075]. So who ended up with that starter, do you know?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Who ended up with the starter?

CK: [?076] to start the starter to put the potato welder in it.

DD: Oh, you put the potato welder in it?

CK: Yeah. And that got that going. The neighbors they had what they called everlasting yeast. And you picked some every time you baked, and saved enough for the next starter.

DD: Where did they put that starter yeast?

CK: You mean the dough that was to starter? That was normally kept in the kitchen cupboards.

DD: Okay, you didn’t have to worry about it getting too warm or too cold?

CK: Well, it shouldn’t get too cold. You’ll want one or two more heat than heaven be held, low temperature. When I made it, when I was 15, I started making it. And we tested the welder on our wrist. You didn’t test it on your hand; you tested it on your wrist, because that’s more sensitive.

DD: How warm was it supposed to be at? The water?

CK: It was luke warm.

DD: Luke warm. Was there a reason for that for being too warm or too cold?

CK: If it was too cold it wouldn’t dry, and if it was too warm, you could spoil it.

DD: How long does it normally take you from when you first started making bread, till the bread was done? How long of a time period did that take?

CK: Pardon?

DD: When you started to make your dough, to when you finished making your bread, how long did that take?

CK: Oh it took a couple days.

DD: A couple days?

CK: And when they thrashed, they had twenty-eight thrashers, behind the place, and we had to have a fire, and the engine there and the separator. And it took twenty-eight people. We callers or whatever else, and that was the amount of work that was hard work for the women too.

DD: When did they start in the morning making breakfast for them?

CK: Well you got up at 3 o’clock, and the thrashers came and ate at 4:00.

DD: What was a typical breakfast meal?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did you have pretty much the same meal every morning?

CK: Well for breakfast always consisted of Jack and fries, potatoes, and meat, head cheese usually. Or sausage or something like that. And then of course there was the good country sausage that Wishek is still famous for.

DD: How did they make their sausage, just like they did back in the old country?

CK: Yes.

DD: Do we make it that way now, or did they change it?

CK: We still make it that way when we make sausage. Of course most of the town people get their butchering done at the butchering places. The slaughtering places I should say. And they carved up the meat and put them into packages to freeze.

DD: And now getting back to the days when you were helping with the threshing. How many loaves of bread did you make a day for that?

CK: They made 18 loaves. That was three ovens full. And we made I don’t know if your acquainted with the [?114] the German food. And that’s a very tasty [?115] or coffee cake.

DD: Do you remember the recipe you or your mother made of [?117]?

CK: Yes.

DD: What went into making [?118]?

CK: Yeast and flour and sugar and eggs and cream. Then you made the custard to put on the [?119] with prongs or paddles.

DD: Now did they start that tradition for [?120] here in the United States or?

CK: No, they came, that was came from Russia, the [?121]. That came with the German people.

DD: Right along with the sausage making and all those recipes, so they didn’t all the sudden incorporate American stuff?

CK: Yes. It was an old recipe. In my dad’s people made sausage they put [?125-126] but my mother’s people made it with garlic. Little seeds in garlic water, you didn’t put garlic in, just the essence. Just the water and then you strained the garlic out.

DD: I bet that tasted pretty good?

CK: It’s very good.

DD: Do you remember other things that you and your mother did in the house?

CK: Oh, we had all kinds of work. We canned, mother made cheeses, she made cottage cheese, and she made cheddar cheese.

DD: How did she do that?

CK: Well you had to put [?132] into the milk, so that would form the curd.

DD: What was that?

CK: That was the milk, the thing that the milk turned into cheese, and you know pieces that you drained out the water from the cheese. Oh and I have to tell you, (laughs) about my grandpa [?137] and how when we first came here, and dad told him we didn’t have any milk, much milk and oh the cream. And here the milk and cow and she had a three pail can fill of milk and hardly any cream, it looked loose. So they were jipped.

DD: So it was more important to have that cream, now wasn’t it?

CK: What?

DD: It was more important to have the cream?

CK: It was yes. Cream was what we sold. That was our [?143].

DD: Where did you keep the cream, in a refrigerator? Or?

CK: We didn’t have refrigeration, we had basements and cellars a hole in the ground up through the [?146]. And then my mother had the misfortune of falling into the basement and breaking her leg.

DD: That wasn’t nice.

CK: So she was in bed a long time.

DD: Well did the doctor, did they take her into the doctor?

CK: Oh yes, they had to call the doctor to the house?

DD: So doctors usually come to the house?

CK: Yeah. The bone doctor he had to come from Edgeley.

DD: And what did they do for her?

CK: Well they set the bone, and then the misfortune was that there was a small bone, out of the joint. And they never said that, and she had trouble with her leg all her life.

DD: They didn’t put her in a cast or all that though?

CK: Pardon?

DD: They just set the leg, and wrapped it?

CK: I don’t know, I don’t think they had anything. I think that she just had to grin and bear it.

DD: Do you have any other childhood, well milking, how many brothers and sisters do you have?

CK: Huh?

DD: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

CK: There were eight children. Two older sisters, and then two older brothers and then I came next, I was the fifth child, and then the younger brothers, Reiny was the youngest, and he was born in 1924. And my dad died when he was only five months. So that was a blow to the family. We used to be a very musical family, but the music was taken from our hearts for a few years.

DD: After that happened to your father?

CK: My dad died.

DD: Did you father play a musical instrument?

CK: He played the organ. And we kids went to sleep with organ music every night. That helped to work, when I heard the wind blowing through the eves, I thought everything was fine. Dad was playing the organ and here it was the wind blowing through the eves, I thought I heard the eves, so. And my grandfather, his brother was instrumental in getting the district organized and they went to Bismarck to get their land grant. Grandpa got ¾ and his brother the same way. And they went to the restaurant to eat; they couldn’t speak English, but a few words. They said they wanted everything. They wanted the whole meal. And they got everything that they had cooked that day. I guess they were cooked and ate, of course. But they left 0.75 cents for that big meal.

DD: Times have changed. Now did you speak German?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did you speak all the time?

CK: We spoke German at home, and about the time Reiny came along we did wear a little German. Grandparents have moved to town.

DD: Did your grandparents ever learn English?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did your grandparents ever learn English?

CK: No they didn’t.

DD: They kept the German language.

CK: Uh huh.

DD: How about your parents then?

CK: My parents spoke English, and went to English schools. Mother only went a month, but grandma was sick so they only had two months of school. But she was very handy and she used a dictionary a lot. She used a dictionary for students.

DD: And all of you spoke German most of the time, when you were a child?

CK: Yes.

DD: Until?

CK: Until Reiny came along, he could sing German, he sang. [?193-194].

DD: Can you say that in German?

CK: Yes, we sang it in German, while playing around. We were at Memorial Day service and he came home and we sang “My country listen thee, great land of liberty”. And I said well at least I was [?198].

DD: How did you, the more you learn English, out in school and public?

CK: I learned English when I went to school. But before that I don’t know if they speak a few words of English. I knew what no and yes meant. And then uh, that picked up very fast in school. I read very well and the teacher bragged about me to another teacher.

DD: Did they allow you to speak German in school?

CK: Not anymore when I started school. That was during WWI. And we had to speak English. So that’s where I learned English so much. Easier that German was; at church we had service in German.

DD: How long did they have services in German?

CK: We still have German services once in a while. When I was about 30 years old we still had German services, once and a while. But we had more English services.

DD: Do all of your brothers and sisters, did they know how to speak German real well?

CK: Yes.

DD: And at home?

CK: Yes they were older. We always spoke German at home.

DD: At home?

CK: Uh huh.

DD: Now when you went to town as a family, did your parents talk to you in German, or did they talk to you in English when you were in town, or did it not make much difference?

CK: It didn’t matter [?219] we met dad’s cousin one day, they had that parents place to take horses to the barn. And we came on the sleigh, and we met a family called Fry. Here it was my dad’s cousin, they said, are you Cathleen Klein? And she said yes, how did you know? And he told her and she said “This is my husband here, [?231] and so he insisted on buying us pets. [?232] I was five and Eddie was three. So he told her, he gave us the foam and I drank, mine was delicious it was Strawberry pop. And Eddie didn’t drink his, and he whispered to dad, “what a surprise it tasted like to you”. And he said, he told me “ask me if I could get drunk off this”. And so we had to explain that we lived near the highway and they drove with the new Fords and say silly songs, and Eddie would say “There they go again, the drunks”. (Laughs). So Eddie didn’t want to get drunk and act like that.

DD: So you think he never had pop before, or soda.

CK: He never had pop before; our treats were liquors and candy. And mother made cookies at home.

DD: What type of cookies?

CK: Oh she baked a [?245] cookies, that was a special treat. And she made peppernuts, they were [?247] flavored.

DD: Do you remember any of those recipes?

CK: Yes.

DD: Which recipes?

CK: I think I have a book; a composition book that mother had started.

DD: Off the top of your head would you be able to.

CK: Huh?

DD: Could you tell me what’s in one of those recipes without looking?

CK: I didn’t get that.

DD: Would you be able to tell me what’s in a cookie recipe without looking? Or would you have to look it up?

CK: Well, one was a Han’s cookie. And they had flour, and brown sugar, and white sugar. We had a ginger snapper, we made a lot. We used to carry them to school. School lunch was edibles. And, cookies, and sandwiches.

DD: What type of sandwich did you make?

CK: Oh, some days we had half a cheese sandwich, or a pork sandwich, or sausage sandwiches. The sausage sandwiches were very good.

DD: You said you baked bread, what type of bread did you bake?

CK: White bread.

DD: It was always white bread?

CK: Uh huh. It was a very good bread. And we also made what we call [?265] it was a Russian biscuit, that was made out of bread dough. And we made cinnamon rolls, and we put a lot of brown sugar in the bottom of the pan and butter. So we did a fair amount.

DD: Now did you tell me what a typical day was like at school?

CK: What a typical day was like?

DD: At school, when you were a little girl, when you were going to school?

CK: Oh, I had phonics and I had the letter sounding and I called on Mary Fast, in about a two or three weeks, I spoke more English than German.

DD: Now did you have one teacher in your school?

CK: Yes.

DD: Do you remember about how many students there were?

CK: At one school we had 26 students. It was really crowded. I was sitting behind the stove, the part of the stove, where the jacket was on. And one little boy called me his girlfriend, that was the worst day. I was a very sharp student, but he was a slow poke. He wanted to go out with me. I told him he should turn around. He wouldn’t talk to me; I thought he learned his lesson.

DD: Now did you have arithmetic?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did you have arithmetic?

CK: Did we have a [?286].

DD: Adding and subtracting, math? In school?

CK: We had what?

DD: In school, did you have your fines, word sounding, and did you have penmanship and writing?

CK: Oh yes, we did that. We had penmanship. I never could use my arm that well, but I made pretty ovals that they use sometime.

DD: Did you learn how to do adding and subtracting?

CK: Oh yes, when I was in second grade I did subtracting and I learned subtract table by myself to twelve. But I did that the second year.

DD: How about you learning any history?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did you learn any history or geography?

CK: Oh yes, history and geography and in 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade. What we had was around the world with the children. One day one of the girls was reading and I don’t know, I think she got sick and she dropped her geography book, we kids laughed. Oh I bet we made, we cooked in school. We made rye soup, and potato soup, and I usually had to make the hot chocolate. We baked potatoes in the ash can, and if you’ve never ate ash can potatoes, you don’t know what’s good. And we carried butter and salt along to eat with our potatoes.

DD: So you cooked that in the same stove that kept the school house warm?

CK: Huh?

DD: You cooked in the same stove that kept your school house warm?

CK: Yeah, in an ash can. And on top of the stove we cooked the soups.

DD: And that was during the winter time?

CK: That was in the winter, school ended in March.

DD: When did school begin?

CK: In the middle of September, sometimes October. One year we only had 5 months of school. That was the first year I went to school.

DD: But you still had to cover as much material then?

CK: We had to cover the material. And we had to write state exams in our school, because it was a secondary school.

DD: Did you have hard exams every year?

CK: Yes, in 7th and 8th grade.

DD: Do you remember what your teachers name was.

CK: Oh yes, the first was one Ruth Harvey, and Caroline Guttensburg, and Henry Issenger, and Clara Herl, and Sarah Engelbritz, and we had just Hope Bergin. I bet we had, who was it next, Mr. or Ms. John Luges. And that was in 7th and 8th, 8th grade, 7th and 8th grade, one year. I should have taken 7th grade.

DD: What were some of the games you played at school, during the recess?

CK: We played anti-over, we played throw the ball of the school house, and we played fox and goose, and London bridge is falling down. They were games that you played in the snow. The fox and the goose, the fox had to go, and get after the goose, and catch you and the next in line had to be next. And then we had birds, bees, and fish. And you had to answer before you were called three times, and if you didn’t you were. The games we played in the snow were fox and goose. And we’d draw the pair.

DD: Now did you speak German at recess? Were all the kids that went to school where you went, were they all German-Russian?

CK: Yes, they were all of German [?356] and most of them were a sort of cousins to us, second cousins.

DD: Did they allow you to speak German during school recess?

CK: No, we weren’t allowed.

DD: As long as you were on school grounds, you had to speak English, is that correct?

CK: Yeah, we had to speak English.

DD: What did you think of that, that you had to learn another language?

CK: I didn’t think anything of it; I was pleased to learn another language. The road went by our place, and people would come to ask how to get to [?360] we deciding on Napoleon. And I would say I can only tell you how to get to [?360]. There’s somebody in [?361] that would tell you had to get the side of Napoleon.

DD: Now remembering some of your times at home. Did you have to help milk the cows, you have two older brothers?

CK: I milked 11 cows. In the evenings I would have milked more if we would have had more cows. Mother and I cooked for the harvesters. They came late at night after making hay you know. And it was hard. We kids went to bed, and were asleep before the grown-ups were in bed.

DD: Can you explain how you milked cows? How you bring them in or did they stay in the barn all the time?

CK: We milked you know, I guess you know how to milk.

DD: You milk them by hand.

CK: Huh?

DD: You milk them by hand.

CK: Yes.

DD: But then what did you do with the milk afterwards?

CK: We separated it and made cream. The cream is what we sold.

DD: Did you have a separate house, or shed?

CK: We separated it in the basement. Years ago when I was a little kid, they had a little milk house.

DD: And that’s where they separated it and kept the milk cold?

CK: Yep, uh huh. And then there was given to the calves, the separated milk.

DD: You drank the milk; it was also the separated milk?

CK: Huh?

DD: If children drank the milk, it was also the separated milk?

CK: No, we drank whole.

DD: You drank the whole milk?

CK: Uh huh.

DD: Some families, that’s all they did was have separated milk, and that’s separate.

CK: No, we used whole milk, for the children.

DD: And did you have pigs too?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did you have pigs?

CK: I didn’t hear that.

DD: Did you dad have pigs?

RK: Hogs!

CK: Huh?

RK: Did dad have pigs?

CK: Oh yes, one year we had 60. And I was getting into feed them, and they knocked me over and I had my face down in the salt/dirt. I’ll never forget that. Never went back in that pig pen. I crawled over to the fence, and I dumped in what I had to dump in, and they [?405] that I wasn’t going in again.

DD: Did you mix that separated milk with grain?

CK: The hogs got that and the peels.

DD: More stuff about remembering on the harvest.

CK: It was late nights and a lot of work. The thrashing was a lot of work.

DD: How many meals did you feed the thrashers?

CK: Three meals, and two lunches. Five, the lunches were sandwiches, or maybe a big slice of cake, or a piece of Kugel.

DD: And did they come in and eat, or did they have to bring that out?

CK: The lunches we took out, but the rest of the time they came in. We started-- mom and I started --cooking at 3 o’clock and at 4 we served breakfast-- a big breakfast.

DD: And what was a typical dinner or supper?

CK: Oh that usually was, began with soup and hamburger with pudding and bread pudding and rice pudding. I made the rice dish with chicken and rice. Which was very good, it had brown gravy and fixed it and kept on putting more water into the rice, and every time it stuck to the bottom I turned it and then it was brown. So it would rise and it was very good. And we also raised what do you call, [?439]. We made that sauce with lemon and [?441] that was very tasty.

DD: That was a very good....

CK: And the other meals for the thrashers, it was just a big meal with all kinds of food. And a lot of food was tossed, and they had noodle soup, and they had vegetable soup, and they had egg drop soup. Then we four families decided to go down to see my dad’s sister. They always came and surprised us, so we all went down on a Sunday. And we got down and my gosh, Elmer cried had an earache, by the time we got down. We drove through fences, one fence to another. My oldest brother kept getting out and opening gates. My dad had bought a new Chevy, a baby grand. So we fit into that. He bought a Ford first, we didn’t keep it in the family, was growing and we traded it off for a Chevy.

DD: Did you dad use horses for the field work?

CK: He used horses for working and all. Eddie and I, my brother, I walked the drag for I don’t know how many miles; dragging after the drill.

DD: How many horses would you have to pull that drag?

CK: We had four.

DD: Did it go very fast?

CK: No, they just walked and our knees could trot. That one day we called the [?478] the one that sections of the drag. And I had to, Eddie and I, when I was about 10 and Eddie was, well I was about 12, and Eddie was 10. We lived to [?482-483]. That was probably the only route of that whole field. But any way it got under our drag.

DD: What were some of the other chores you did around the farm?

CK: Pardon?

DD: What were some of the other chores you did around the farm? Did you do other field work?

CK: Milking, the boys got dragging, I helped.

DD: So you didn’t have to do any of the other field work?

CK: No, I did. But my sister’s did. They were, when they had a rain they were out and at the end of a stack and Libby was ditching. Keeping the [?497].

DD: Can you describe that? How they make stacks and stuff?

CK: They didn’t drive very fast because they had to keep the header up above the head of box. And you had to have a driver for the header box, and usually it was the little boys who were drivers.

DD: And what did you do with that?

CK: They made stacks, and stacked the grain until thrashing time.

DD: Did they make stacks in several areas, or was it all in one area?

CK: Huh?

DD: Did they make one big stack or several stacks?

CK: No, they made a whole bunch of stacks. They were as small as the header box. It had one stacking and the others pitching, to the others.

DD: So once you had the header box full, that’s where you made yourself a stack?

CK: Yeah, whenever you made the rounds you stopped and put up the stack.

DD: What were some of the games your brothers and sisters used to play around the farm? Did you have any different games you played?

CK: [?522] or whatever we called it. And we played hide and go seek in the evening and [?525]. During the day we played anti-over over the school house.

DD: Did you folks play with you?

CK: No, they usually didn’t have time. But they always gave us time. We weren’t supposed to play cards.

DD: That’s good.

CK: And we kids made cards out of tablet paper and played brook.

DD: Was it against their religion to play cards, or they just didn’t like you to play cards?

CK: They didn’t like us to play cards. They didn’t mind us playing brook. They felt that the king and the queen, they weren’t supposed to be played with. They had a brother that gambled so much and got into all kinds of trouble gambling on wheat. So....

DD: So that was more of a reason for not learning that stuff at a young age.

[Side A, tape stops at 550].

[Beginning of Side B]

DD: Always a reason.

CK: Yeah, there was.

DD: Now, do you remember some of the songs you daddy played on the organ?

CK: Oh, he played one song which you probably never heard. “God loves me dearly, loves even me”. He played in German. And he played “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine”. And “Now thank will our God”. “[?006]”. He played all of those songs, I mean, and then some. And later on my favorite song was “In the Garden”. That was too beautiful for words.

DD: Did it have words?

CK: Yes. “I come to the garden alone while the dew was on the roses. And the voice I hear a pouring on my ear was the song of God that loves this. And he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share, as we carry there none other has ever known”.

DD: Can you sing some of that in German?

CK: We didn’t sing that in German, we sang [?014] in German.

DD: Would you sing some of that?

CK: They played so many, and mother’s favorite song was “Beautiful Alan Summer”. They sang it in the choir when she sang.

DD: Do you remember any of the old German lyrics to any of those songs?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Do you remember the German verses to any of those songs?

CK: Yes, we had German hymn book in church. So I knew all those songs.

DD: Would you be able to repeat a small verse in German of one song?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Would you be able to repeat a small verse in German?

RK: What is the Leery? You know the words to that.

CK: Yeah, [?22-24].

DD: Now did you have a, yours was a Lutheran minister that you went to? Or was it?

CK: Pardon?

DD: From the area that the people came from in Russia, they were either Catholic or Lutheran, or Baptists.

CK: We were Congregationalists. When we were little we went to the Reform Church and then later we went to the Congregational Church.

DD: Was there any big differences between those churches?

CK: Not much.

DD: Now did they have a minister come every Sunday?

CK: When we were in Reform Church, we had a minister every third Sunday. And he had to stay at your house. And I played the harp. I chorded the harp. And he heard my sister play it, and he thought it was so beautiful. So, he wanted to. She said it was so easy to play. My sister plays it; I was the littlest of the three. So I played and oh, he couldn’t get over how beautiful that was. I guess he hadn’t made pick for the next choir member.

DD: Now when you went to church as a youngster how much different was that, than was like when you said you were at least 30 years old when they would have an occasional German service. But the older you got how much farther away from when you remember as a youngster as the church services go?

CK: Well they were pretty much the same, except we had prayer meetings in the Congregational Church, which we didn’t have in the Reform Church. But the choir always sang. My dad sang, and his sister, in the school house church. Everybody raved about her harmony singing, they had never heard harmony singing. So they sang, they got a choir together, and Mr. Priesley was in church and he said well I can teach your children to sing like that, if you’ll bring them. So everybody was [?051]. My mother and my dad left and so my grandparents didn’t want mother to marry him, because his eyesight was so bad, and he had to wear glasses. All they could give at that time was drug store glasses, magnifying glasses. So anyways, they eloped. That was probably the first elope in history back then.

DD: Before that they had to have permission didn’t they?

CK: Yeah, so anyway mother didn’t get permission for their folks. Later on they were so sorry, because they liked my dad so well.

DD: Now you said he had poor eyesight. Did that affect him a lot, do you remember that a lot?

CK: Pardon?

DD: His eyesight did that affect him quite a big?

CK: Yes, but later on he got glasses.

DD: Oh he did, he was able to get glasses later?

CK: He went to Bismarck to get glasses. But they didn’t have bi-focals; he had to wear two pair on top of each other.

DD: Oh. Now with his poor eyesight, you didn’t have electricity when you were younger, you had lamps and stuff?

CK: We had oil lamps. One night I filled the oil lamp. The prettiest one, I asked my mother if I would ever get that lamp. It was rose colored found, and it had a swirled of a light crystal base. And here I filled the kerosene, and the kerosene was so cold from the tank, and it cracked and we had to throw it away.

DD: Oh.

RK: I think you’ve come to the end.

DD: Yeah, we better leave that alone.

DD: This is tape two, beginning of the tape two with Reverend Klein and his sister.

DD: Okay this is tape two. And we are with Christina [?079] and all the stories of your sister was telling you Reiny. Did that contra up any stories of when you were little when your sisters and your older brothers you can tell on them.

CK: I used to have the boys help me wash dishes, my younger brothers. And um, it was like the thousand and one nights, I didn’t want to end the story because I wanted them to listen to the next day. And I’d always start in and tell them they’d have to come to the end tomorrow. So they’d have to help wash dishes. So they got the end of that story, and then a beginning of another one.

RK: So you conned us, is what you did?

CK: Huh?

RK: That’s not nice, you conned us.

CK: (Laughs). Well they got the stories you wanted to hear.

RK: Kind of a Tom Sawyer with painting a fence.

CK: (Laughs).

RK: Yes, in the memories there were a few things I differ from my sister and there’s no one here to say who’s right.

CK: (Laughs).

RK: I always thought my mother said she gone through 3rd grade, the terms were short. The school terms were short.

CK: What was that?

RK: School terms were short.

CK: Yeah.

RK: But one story she didn’t tell goes back to the old days. The about 30 miles from Missouri here, my maternal grandfather, he and his brother-in-law had gone with their wagons to get some wood. And then the bottom lands of the river hid cotton wood trees. They got a good distance and my grandfather and his brother-in-law, heard some noise on the other side of the hill. My brother-in-law was leading. My father was Indian so they took off they didn’t care about the brother-in-law, so they high-tailed it for home. My brother-in-law kept going and they got home and a day or two later, the brother a day or two, the brother-in-law came with his load of wood. There were no Indians.

DD: What do you think that they were hearing?

RK: Who knows?

CK: Well, maybe it was just somebody else chopping wood.

RK: Whatever it was, along the road they probably heard the steel-rimmed wagons on the other side. So that’s the story that stayed in the family and has been so funny. One of the things about school days, were three grades, I had a cousin teacher in a rural school. Very strict disciplinary, some people thought he was too strict, but the up shot was, we probably did learn more under his school age, then any other teacher. He played the violin of all things in a little country school, he gave us classical music. He played his violin and we had to identify the piece and the composer and the lyricist. So that was most unusual, that did not happen very often.

DD: That is very unusual, you were very fortunate to have that man.

RK: He was the son of my mother’s siblings, who was younger than she was. So what else, you ask?

DD: Well, when you were raised on the farm, how much different, you didn’t have electricity, you didn’t have a TV, and you didn’t have a radio probably for a little while?

CK: We had a radio from 1927.

DD: What was it like? Nowadays, kids have everything that is convenient as possible. But you didn’t have electricity, you didn’t have central air, you didn’t have central heat, none of that stuff?

CK: We did have a furnace.

DD: What was it like?

RK: I suppose it wasn’t entirely adequate, the upstairs rooms, you would have water freeze in the winter time. You kept warm with feather ticks. You would see your breathe as you were breathing. Radio, the first radio was a real squealer, static. And then there was another radio that was quite good. But we used a lot of batteries. In the summertime, we didn’t have time for radio, so radio was a wintertime entertainment. And in my day, you made a lot of your own entertainment in the wintertime: sliding down the hill in a sled, or skating, that sort of thing. You got together with neighbors who were partially uncles and cousins, and did things.

DD: So there was a lot of visiting all the time?

RK: Quite a bit, yes. Again, a wintertime activity.

DD: So there was a lot more time in the wintertime to do that stuff than there was in the summer?

RK: That’s right.

DD: Now, do you remember some of the early radio programs that you listen to?

CK: Amos and Andy.

DD: What was that like?

CK: They were [?140].
DD: You hear about those, but.

CK: Henry Eldridge what was it, what did they call that? Oh Henry, yeah, they called it, Henry was always in trouble.

RK: Amos and Andy was of course a white people. It was in the [?143] language and it would be not acceptable this day and age. But then everybody thought it was funny. Of course, Little Orphan Annie, and Jack Armstrong were in there in my day.

CK: Your favorite was Orphan Annie.

RK: I even had a Dakota Ring.

CK: Huh?

DD: I remember those when I was a kid. You got the [?148] hats and bubble gum.

RK: (Laughs) Well, you had to drink Ovaltine to get the Dakota Ring in my time.

DD: With you being the youngest and your sister being older.

RK: Midway.

DD: Being older, how much had she have a long [?151] from your dad, you did not get the gig because [?153] but how much did you think that made you being the youngest also, being raised, did that make much more of a difference? Were they all more of a dad to you, your mom and sisters? Or was your mom more of a mom and dad, verses your sisters and mother?

RK: Mother was charged a question about that, who was the determining influence I’m sure. The brothers, Troy, which was the oldest, became a male figure that you had in that day and age. Douglas I was [?159] over, or you can call him spoiled, I think so, and he says, I don’t think so. My wife could add something to that.

DD: (Laughs)

CK: I remember when Emma got married we couldn’t explain to her why he called her Auntie, why auntie wasn’t around. He kept asking about auntie.

DD: What was, you sister when she got married, that’s who your talking about, correct?

CK: Yeah.

DD: What was a wedding like back then?

CK: Well she didn’t have a wedding. My second sister had a big wedding.

DD: But your family still got together though, didn’t they?

CK: Yeah. And then when it was butchering time they came, and I made the cranberry sauce. Everybody liked it.

DD: Now were those cranberries canned or were they fried?

CK: They were fresh in a bag, in a cellophane bag.

DD: Oh they did come fresh then?

CK: Uh huh.

DD: What else did you have, at a family get together or a wedding, or something like that, did you have extra or special food?

CK: My sister’s wedding had, had hot dish and macaroni hot dish and ice cream, and strawberries, and angel food cake.

DD: What were some of the other types of cake that you made? You made [?178]?

CK: Oh yes.

DD: You made [?179] and you made angel food cakes.

CK: Uh huh.

DD: What were some of the other things?

CK: And we made the white, plain white cake that we served as a base for the [?180]. On my birthday, oh we stuffed whipped cream cake, or ice cream, depending upon if we had ice.

DD: You didn’t have ice cream in the summer time very often did you?

RK: Oh yes. It’d hail sometimes, but no more to the point.

CK: Those one times. On your birthday and we had ice cream.

RK: A brother-in-law worked on the railroad, and he had access to their ice house. So there was ice cream in the summertime.

DD: So you were very fortunate then.

RK: True.

DD: Because there are a lot of them, that is where a lot of them did come from, the railroad.

RK: Although there was a couple of seasons, where we dug a hole and put railroad ties over the top with some ground, and loaded that with ice and straw. So we had ice quite well into the summer.

DD: So that stayed pretty good then?

RK: Yeah.

DD: And I know there’s one family I heard that [?191] their cellar was, they had a creek close by, so their cellar was kept pretty cold. So they had a lot colder than normal. I suppose it all depended upon your location and the situation.

RK: Well they, not having refrigerators, most families dug wells. And you would lower the food you wanted to keep cold, in a gallon syrup can, and loaded it just above the water. And I suppose we were sitting in the range of 42 to 45 degrees. And that kept the food cold.

DD: A lot had to do with the creek also.

RK: Yes, in Wishek we had a very high water table. So people would probably dig down about eight or nine feet for their well, try the sand point. So you never saw water. You could lower your food right onto the log, on that well.

DD: And that was always pretty good refrigeration?

RK: Pretty good refrigeration.

DD: You didn’t have to worry about anything.

RK: Well [?204].

DD: Good point. Do you remember, when did you get married Christine?

CK: Me? I was married in 1951. The Sunday the 25th, the Sunday [?207]. I was almost 39 years old.

DD: What did you do before?

CK: I worked in a Singer Store. Selling dress forms and sewing lessons.

DD: Now you said your mother was a very good seamstress and sewer?

CK: So I learned.

DD: So you learned from her, and that probably helped you, and did you draw and do sewing along with that? Or not?

CK: Pardon?

DD: Did you do sewing as a part of a job?

CK: Yes, I demonstrated sewing and knitting the pattern to the person. Measuring, their measuring

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: 701-231-8416
Fax: 701-231-6128
Last Updated:
Director: Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Library North Dakota State University North Dakota State University GRHC Home