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Interview with Amalie (AS) and Emelia Schlittenhard (ES)

Conducted by Michael M. Miller (MM)
11 September 1997, Fargo, North Dakota

Transcription by Jolene Berg
Edited by Lena Paris


MM: This is Michael Miller from North Dakota State University in Fargo; I’m the Germans from Russia Bibliographer, and am in the home of the Amalie Schlittenhard. And I’m going to let the other people introduce themselves that are with us tonight. Again, it is September 11 and it is a real pleasure to have the Schlittenhard gals with us tonight. It is interesting how we made contact this summer and now are in their home and they can tell us so much. We are really pleased because they have some really priceless items that they kept through the years. So I’m going to let this lady introduce herself first.

AR: I am Mrs. Amalie Rieger, Fargo North Dakota.

MM: Amalie, when were you born?

AR: 1910.

MM: When was your birth date?

AR: March 24, 1910

MM: And where were you born?

AR: In the Gackle area.

MM: On the Farm?

AR: Yes, on the farm by Gackle North Dakota.

MM: I have a form that I am going to leave here. It’s in the car that you can fill out later. You know about the parents and when they were born, but you can do that later. So you were born on the farm, and how long have you lived in Fargo?

AR: Since 1938

MM: Since 1938, and you married?

AR: Walter Reger

MM: Walter Reger R-i-g-e-r?

AR: R-i-e-g-e-r

MM: And he is from where originally?

AR: He’s from the Turtle Lake, North Dakota area.

MM: I see. Now did you grow up speaking German before English?

AR: Yes.

MM: So you spoke German in the home.

AR: yes.

MM: And can you still speak it today?

AR: Yes I can, not too well, but we manage.

MM: Later on in our little conversation, I am going to talk a little German to you.

AR: Ok, you can do that.

MM: McIntosh County.

AR: yes McIntosh County.

MM: Do you still make noodles?

AR: Noodles, yes.

MM: Oh yes, well I should. Let me know when, I’ll be over.

AR: Ok, its (016)

MM: Oh, well I know the address now.

AR: Not like I use to.

MM: But anyway we are going to let your sister introduce herself.

AR: Ok, Thank you.

ES: I’m Emelia Schlittenhard, Fargo North Dakota.

MM: Emelia, when were you born?

ES: November 8, 1913

MM: So you are three years younger than your sister. Were you the baby of the family?

ES: No, I have a younger brother. There was a sister and a brother younger than I am.

MM: So there were four. How many children were there then?

ES: Eight.

MM: Eight children and you were born near Gackle?

ES: Yes, near Gackle North Dakota.

MM: Did you also grow up learning German first?

ES: Yes, German first and still talk it. (Laughing)

MM: Still talk it. When your alone you still speak German?

AS: Yes we do but I’ll tell you. But then when we don’t just know what it is in German then we can’t say it. Then we have to say it in English.

ES: Then in the (024)

MM: When did you stop speaking German?

ES: Well when we started school. Then of course after we... (026)

MM: Did you go to a country school?

ES: Yes, we went to a country school.

MM: Were most of the other Children German Russian too?

ES: Yes they were.

ES: There was some Fence there. I can still sing a Fence song, I knew when I was little.

MM: Is that right!

ES: Yes.

MM: Wonderful! So you grew up was there a situation such that when you grew up that they were quite insistent that there was English at the school?

ES: Yes, they insisted that we learned English, that was our main thing..

MM: Were there some children where it was a problem?

ES: Well, I don’t know.

MM: Yes, It’s hard to remember all that. So you grew up with the prayers in German?

ES: (032) that was our prayer at the table.

MM: Very interesting, did your folks learn English?

ES: Oh yes, they learned, but not like they should have.

AS: I’m going to say something. My mother could speak Russian,German, and could speak English very well and didn’t go to school.

MM: interesting. So you spoke German and English as you were growing up?

AS: Yes, right.

MM: The church services when you would go into Gackle or the Country church were they in German or in English?

AS: They were in German for some time and then finally it changed over to English.

MM: Did you have friends that didn’t speak German? Were most the people around all German-Russian?

AS: Most the people were Russian-German.

MM: Now were not going to have a formal interview, because I want to come over here for that sometime else or someone else. But what I’m wondering is a very interesting question, is because your folks came over from the old country.

ES: 1904

MM: Right and they came.

AS: 1906.

MM: Did they talk much about the old country?

ES, AS: Oh, yes we know a lot about the old country. Dad was in service for 5 years and was a marine in the Russian army. And he was a sharp shooter.

MM: Interesting.

ES: Yes that pin that he has on is his signal for the sharp shooter.

MM: So then both your parents, could speak and learn Russian?

ES, AM: Oh, yes.

MM: Did you hear them speaking Russian?

AS: Yes all the time.

MM: Isn’t that interesting, that you don’t hear too often amongst the German- Russian community in North Dakota that I’ve never heard before.

EM: Mother and dad always, if they didn’t want us to know something they talked in Russian.

MM: Because they new you knew German, and you new English so they went to another language which is amazing. They probably didn’t have that much education, but they were self -educated.

ES: Yes, they were self- educated that’s what it was.

AS: I’m going to tell you something if you want to know; in Russia the boys start school and so my mother’s brother had a private instructor and that is when my mother got to learn too. He got the school, but she was watching the whole thing and that is how she learned. From the private teacher that my grandpa had for the son, my uncle.

AS: Right where the first bank has that…(That plaza thing). That cement that corner it was right on the corner you went in from the corner (not Mary Ann) no it was Emelia’s

MM: What was your specialty?

AS: (055)

ES: When the kids from college came down; when I had a window they always got an ‘A’ on there papers, you know, they always liked my window. I always had decorated my windows there.

ES: It was kiddy-corner from where Scheels was.

ES: Yes right across. The Oscar drug on one side and I on the other Scheels was across.

MM: What years would that have they been when you had the shop?

ES: Well, from 1950 it was 25 years 1975 is when I closed it.

MM: So you had the whop from 1950 to 1975. I came to Fargo in 1967.

ES: Then you should have seen it.

MM: Oh yes, I remember it.

ES: I was in the same building as the 5 spot.

MM: Oh yes, the famous 5 spot.

ES: Right in the same building.

MM: So you saw a lot of people in and out of the 5 spot.

ES: (laughing) yes.

MM: There were some famous people that preformed there.

ES: Some of it was just awful.

MM: They didn’t come over to Emelias afterwards? (Laughing)

ES: No, they had all that crazy music on Monday nights because they only had it open on Monday nights.

??: Is this a store without a name?

ES: It was a club. I was a member of Zondi, I was a member of Fargo Business Farmers Club, and I was a member of the Credit Club, and I was past president of Fargo Business Club.

MM: Did you go to the country school until the 8th grade?

ES: That’s all I had. And then I had a little bit of Business College.

MM: At that time was there no High School in Gackle?

ES: Yes there was a high school, but we were too far out in the country to get there.

MM: Is that right. Did any of the eight children go to High School?

ES: All went through the 8th grade.

MM: All 8th grade. But were your folks quit insistence that everyone gets through the 8th grade?

ES, AM: Oh yes, Dad got the buggy or the sled ready with the hot stones in there so we wouldn’t freeze. He always put a stone in the oven, so it got nice and hot. He laid at our feet and then he covered us up , and one of the boys, one of the brothers had a (079) the oldest brother. Had a (079)

MM: But when you got to the country school was it warm?

ES: Yes, it was always warm.

MM: Was it coal that was used in the school?

ES: Yes.

ES: They always saw to it that the school was warm. We usually had men teachers but they always got there earlier.

MM: Did those teachers they speak German?

ES, AS: No, not that I know.

AS: Well De Noman could.

ES: But not too good. It wasn’t allowed. We had to talk English at that time. Not like they do now. In America it’s English and that’s what we speak.

AS: And when my Mother and Dad came to this country, that’s what they wanted to do. And they lived up to that. The republicans... nobody could tell my dad anything else. He was a Republican and I am too. And I don’t care who’s a Democrat, but I am a Republican, and I know what I wanted and so that’s the way he was... He was a good Christian and so was my Mother. We were raised in a Christian home.

MM: So religion was very important at the home?

AS, ES: Yes.

MM: Were there a lot of prayers in the home?

AS, ES: Yes

MM: A lot of singing too?

ES: YES!

MM: In German?

ES: In German and...

AS: I can still sing in German. When they start playing a melody and I know some of the words; I can still sing some of the German songs.

ES: They were just like the English songs. The only thing is they were in German. Now I am going to tell you what we had in church... We had a song book which it was in English and in German so the people that wanted to sing English could sing English and the ones that couldn’t sing English they could sing German.

MM: Was your mother... Did your mother do a lot of sewing? Is that where you picked up on it?

ES, AS: Well, she did some when we were smaller, she made some of our things, but I wouldn’t say that she...

AS: I was about 10 years old when I started sewing for my dolls. I sewed everything for the family, that’s what I did.

MM: So who did you learn it from?

AS: That’s a talent that I had. I learned it all by myself.

MM: Did you have patterns?

AS: But when I started out there was no patterns.

MM: Where would they get the materials and things?

ES: They got that sometimes those two they come around and paddled and she new the materials when she bought them from those people.

AS: Can I say something? See her sister-in-law made this outfit.

MM: What was her name?

ES: Her name was Catherine Riling. She was the one that made that outfit.

MM: She made this dress?

ES: Yes.

MM: This was made about what year?

ES: 1904

MM: 1904

Was it made in Germany?

ES, AS: In Russia.

ES: I have something else here that I have to show you; If she didn’t want to wear that with the dress she could wear this.

MM: The lady that made the dress did, she came immigrated too then?

ES, AS: Oh, no that was my mother’s sister-in-law.

MM: She stayed in Russia and never came to America?

ES: And then her youngest sister never came either.

MM: What was the names of the village in Russia; do you remember?

AS: Odessa that’s where she worked when she got married to my dad.

MM: She worked in Odessa?

ES: In Odessa.

MM: What was this called now?

MM: Of course, women would always wear something on there heads.

ES: Then we made it like this, I copied it.

MM: It’s beautiful though, that would do well today. It’s a different style according to what event?

AS: I make everything I wear, I don’t buy anything. You should see some of my clothes.

ES: We have a pants. (??)

MM: she made something for you.

AS: No, but she and I are always together here.

MM: So this was made about what year do you think?

AS: I would guess about 1912 (313)

MM: who made this piece?

ES: Some lady from Gackle.

MM: Do you remember her name?

ES: Mrs. Schaffer.

MM: Mrs. Schaffer? Do you remember her first name?

ES: A friend of ours... what was Mrs. Schaffers first name?

MM: maybe you’ll think of it. Did Mrs. Schaffer do a lot of handy work?

ES: She did some

MM: I love the pattern; kids would like it. What’s so interesting Amalie, that style you see a lot over in Russia? We saw a lot of that in Odesa and in St. Petersburg, the same style. Isn’t that darling?

AS: My mother wore it and she had her hair up which was awfully heavy. This was dry cleaned, but there are a few little spots you see that are worn, I see of course, you know, you can’t help it.

MM: Do you remember your mother wearing this?

ES: Yes, I remember mother wearing it, but I was really small when she wore it.

AS: See but I remember!

MM: I thought you would remember because you were a little older, but would she wear this for special occasions or Sundays?

EM: Now when she redone the skirt she wore it to a wedding. She made a white blouse with a high neck. She wore this blouse and a black skirt for somebody’s wedding. I don’t remember whose wedding.

MM: Very nice, It is so wonderful that you kept all these things; that you kept them all these years.

AS: My mother said when she said it in German.... Do you understand German?

MM: Yes, I understand German.

AS: So I’ll say it in German.

MM: So she didn’t want it used for plays or performances.

ES: Yes, because so many times they would come and want to use it but she didn’t want them to use it

MM: Sure, she had a lot of vision ... she could see that this was something that should be kept in the family the girls should keep it. It is just priceless, but I mean it was made over there yet too. Did she make it for you mother for any special occasion for her or

ES: Well this was her wedding gown

MM: This was her wedding dress. What’s interesting is that it was a black wedding dress.

ES: well they were married January the 21st so then that’s why that’s…

MM: January 21st of what year?

ES/AS: 1904.

MM: 1904, and then what year did they immigrante? What year did they leave over there?

ES: They came in on June 8.

MM: June 8th of what year?

ES: 1908.

MM: How many children came along with them?

AS: A sister and a brother.

MM: Two were born over there.

ES: Catherine and David.

MM: and six were born over there? So you actually have one of your older brothers and one sister who were actually born in the old country.

AS: In the nursing home.

MM: Still living?

AS: 91 years old and in Rosewood

MM: How is her mind?

ES: Well, it’s mixed up.

MM: So she was actually born in Russia?

ES: And so was my oldest brother.

MM: Isn’t that something.

ES: It’s nice that we can remember all that stuff, when we grew up. So many people don’t.

AS: Now I am going to tell you how they entertained us. My dad would talk about the Russian Army and all he went through those 5 years. Mother was always more of a home- maker and talked about homes. They talked to us how they cooked with the stove they had in Russia. It was made out of stone, and that’s how they baked the bread.

MM: the outsides of it.

AS: No it was in the house, the houses were build with mud. The bricks were made out of mud. They would stack them just like the houses that they made with brick.

MM: But the house that you grew up with on the farm?

AS: That was a built house here, not good.

MM: That wasn’t a sodhouse?

AS: No.

MM: Did your folks talk about that village over in Russia much?

AS: Yes.

MM: About the cows they had.

AS: All that.

MM: That’s amazing.

AS: Yes.

MM: That’s good, they talked about it.

AS: How they had beds and how they slept.

MM: They talked about their life over there? Most of the time when we do an interview, them say they didn’t want to know anything about the old country and they never talked about it. In North Dakota most of the time that’s the case.

AS: No, that’s what I heard too.

MM: And that’s not good or the kids never asked, but a lot of times they didn’t share.

ES: I have all the uncle and aunts names, a list of them, when they were born. Both Amalie and Emelia are talking at the same time.

MM: Not all of your relatives came over?

ES: No, just the three brothers.

MM: So they are part of that Siberia experience?

AS: I don’t know now whether that was the scarf , my husbands sister made in the early years. But that one I don’t know where it came from but it looks like it came from Russia. You know how they wore it, with a heavy coat on underneath when he was driving with the sled. They had that over there coats.

ES: Maybe we should put some fringes on it and make it look real old.

AS: Now I don’t know where it came from.. My husband wouldn’t know either. He lost his dad when was he was five years old and then he didn’t get everything. His father was a military officer in Germany, in Russia. And our Grandpa came from Germany.

MM: This was owned by whom?

ES: By Grandma Reger.

MM: Oh, so it’s on your husband’s side? Grandpa Reger Litge (sp).

ES: Walter lost his dad when he was five years old, and his mother remarried
Litge (sp).

MM: I see.

ES: I put on there so that she would remember, and I put it in the trunk. Claimed everything.

MM: Did the folks bring over a trunk?

ES: Yes.

MM: Is the trunk still in existence somewhere?

ES: No.

AS: Michael, that was her only daughter.

MM: I new her. They were in Bismarck July of 1995 when I met them. Chuck was along on the tour in May of 1997. We saw him in Jamestown now at the convention.

ES: At this year too?

MM: Yes.

ES: Yes, he came over and did the skit in my apartment.

ES: And Walter had to support and take care of the family that was German and that’s what I had to do. When I said something he wouldn’t go for it when is then she Andrey can take care of herself then you can do well then when Adret took care of herself then I got into building and drawing up houses like an architect I drew up everything that we had.
MM: So you had an artistic back round.

ES: Yes.

 

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