Germans from Russia Folklore
Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention
Fargo, North Dakota, July, 1993
Brother Placid Gross and Edwin Iszler, Speakers
Transcription by Jane D. Trygg
Editing and Proofreading by Linda Haag
PG: Welcome, It is nice to see a good crowd here.
Crowd: Where did you find that funny looking hat? (Laughter)
PG: I bought it at an auction sale, rummage sale. Ok, I am a native
of Napoleon, ND. Somewhere in between Napoleon and Strasburg, and
now I am at Richardton. I am the chairperson of the Folklore committee.
I haven’t exactly figured out what I have to do as chairperson
of the Folklore committee. There are several other people on the
committee. We never are able to get together because one lady lives
in Seattle, Washington, and she is the main person.
So what is Folklore? Folklore is combination of many things. Folklores
are songs, like the ones that we just got done singing, so beautifully.
As the professor says, so beautiful. Poems are folklore, that you
have learned. Stories are folklore. Our speaker at noon had some
interesting stories and children’s games. And here is an area
that needs a lot further research. We need people to record our
children’s games, whatever games that our children played
as youngsters. We need to record them.
I think nothing has been done about that. A lot has been done about
food, recipes, and our several kinds of noodles. Ok, children’s
toys, like homemade toys. We could make some toys and show them
at the conventions. Clothing, old style clothing should be preserved.
Things that came from Russia, well even if they didn’t come
from Russia. Just what they wore here in 1920s, would be old enough
or whatever is old. We should have clothes, and in the future we
can have a museum and have manikins dressed up in the old style
Our wedding traditions are folklores, the way we do German Russian
weddings. It is different in every community and every religion.
It is a little different but that is valuable folklore. The way
we do church services like say baptism or confirmation. The way
it used to be done. I just want to encourage you people to contribute
to write it down, and send it in to the office at Bismarck, GRHS,
or send it to me. If you can’t write it down, tell somebody.
Or talk into a tape recorder or whatever, in a way we can say that
folklore is something that is handed down orally.
Folklore is Customs and traditions that are not taught in school.
If it is taught in school, it doesn’t keep the meaning any
more. And Folklore evolves. And it changes and that’s ok too.
So see we don’t wear the same clothing as we wore in the old
days. Our wedding customs have changed a little bit. So we encourage
you all to do something to help preserve it.
PG: The fact that so many of you are here today shows that history
is important to you, the way it goes in a person’s life. First
you get interested in genealogy, how all the families migrated,
and then eventually we get into folklore. So right now there are
more and more interested in folklore. And also, nobody is getting
rich doing this German-Russian, preserving the history or the people
who run this convention.
Everything is on a voluntary basis, so I just again urge you to
do your part. Don’t just expect to be entertained every time
you go to a convention. But also, try to contribute something in
whatever way you can. Help work or help with these traditions. Many
people spend a lot of time and money into these things, into our
society. You know, these people who go to these meetings, you know
they don’t get paid anything. Last year’s convention,
we put on a folklore workshop on at Christmas. I was in charge of
that, the way we used to celebrate Christmas Eve at home with the
(053) and the (054). It was in Aberdeen, and there was a good response.
Everybody seemed to like it. We got a lot of compliments.
So at the board meeting when we discussed these workshops that
had taken place, they said folklore is important. A lot of people
are interested in folklore. So they decided to have a workshop again
on folklore, so I have been trying to put something together on
folklore. We have some sheets that are supposed to be passed out.
I am not sure if we are going to pass them out, but they were in
your last heritage review, a sheet where you can write down folklore.
It is a form to help you write it down, where you got it from, and
the date and all of that. Just send that in. If we don’t pass
it out, remember to do it. Those sheets are available. And those
sheets will go on file at the office. In the future, we can pick
from that file and publish it.
You know maybe the editor will change, I’ll change, or the
people that are in charge will change, but still a folklore file
will be kept at the office. Ok, I have several helpers that are
going to help with this. The one you already have been introduced
to Edwin Iszler from Streeter. He is a farmer, but he is also very
knowledgeable on this stuff. He has helped put that book of remedies
that was put together by the Jamestown chapter. And then, I have
three other people that are going to talk on home remedies, German
poems, lots of home remedies, and then we’ll have proverbs
And I’ll introduce those as they come up. The performance
of these people really depends on the performance of you people.
So you have to respond, laugh, even when it is not funny. Just really
laugh. It helps the speakers up here to do their job too. So when
you clap don’t go (slow clapping) so like (quick clapping)
(laughing). Pretend like you love it. If you don’t laugh,
I am going to hold up a sign to tell you when to laugh. I’ll
stand behind here and at the right moments you’ll know. So
listen carefully, laugh, and clap loud, and have a lot of fun. And
also, (077) will be helping me. We’ll do one reading. Now,
we’ll have Valentine Gross. He is my brother who lives in
Bismarck, and he is going to do some German poems. Now, I even forgot
the correct German word for a poem. Can somebody tell me?
PG: How about (081)
PG: Oh (082), is like a dictation, like a speech? Ok, give Valentine
Gross a warm welcome.
VG: Thank-you brother Placid. We wish you a good afternoon to the
Germans from the Ukraine and Russia. When Brother Placid asked me
to come up here, I said I will only do, it if I can tell a story.
I know he is not much for stories. So he came back and said I can
tell a story but only if I say it in German. Because gosh he knows
I can say stories in German. But what he doesn’t know is that
I went to an interpreter. (089).
I would like to tell you a story. (094-105)
Coming back to (106) or coins, I am going to read the songs, the
ones I knew before I went to grade school. These are the ones my
mother taught me. When I went to grade school, I couldn’t
speak English, but I knew German-Russian (107). And my brother Placid
gave me a whole bunch of stuff, in case my brother John wouldn’t
show up. But what I used to like was (109), I had a brother named
And this was one of them, and I am sure that most of you know
it too. You might have a different ending than this one. And there
is another one (114-116). Now these poems are going to disappear
in our generation. The ones that you know, that you got from your
parents, once you die the chances are that your children do not
know them. So, if you can read, send a recording into the state
office or to brother Placid.
It will have your name on it, and someday when you family does
some research and runs across your name, they will be pleased. Here’s
another one that I ran across. This one is from Elizabeth Schatz
from Napoleon, ND (120-123). And here is one that was sent in from
Ida (124), from Dickinson. (124-128). There is another one about
getting a new dress (129-135).
And there’s one more from Catherine Fitter (136-140). Ok
I am going to cut it off. I just want to tell you one more. Every
New Year’s Eve at home and within our community, we get up
early in the morning, go down to the bedroom and we would yell,
happy New Year. And when we did this, our uncles and aunts, everyone
in the community did it; we would say (147-153)
PG: Thank-you brother, and audience you did a good job. I liked
it when you laughed. Are you ready, (157) is from Dickinson. We
entertained together. I would like to read a story in the dialect,
and yes we got idea of use doing this together. I can see that we
are already behind schedule, so we are going to try to keep it moving,
so we can get everyone on the floor. Ben Gross, I drafted him too.
He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, but in Napoleon originally, and he
is going to do whatever. Welcome him.
BG: Well, I have some remedies and some superstitions.
I don’t know how much time I have, so let’s get right
into it. Some of these remedies were given to me by my mother, who
remembered some of them. It may have been that her mother told her
or others to pass it on.
The first one is, if your child had a sore throat, tie real fresh
hot cow manure, put it in a cloth, and put the warm cloth on the
throat. And as you probably know, the barn was always close to the
house or maybe next to the house, so they were always able to get
some fresh stuff. So when it cooled they had fresh manure.
Another one is faith healing or (177). I think that some of the
faith healing is going on right here in North Dakota. And one of
the women that did faith healing, she would take a (179) a pig skin,
save some warts over this pig skin, and burry it in wet soil. By
the way if any of you have any remedies, if we have time, you can
mention them and we could add them.
Another remedy was, if you touch a toad you get what? Warts, but
if the toad leaks onto you, you loose your hair. If you get warts,
there are various ways to heal them. I have a big wart here, and
one of the guys took a string he took a string, cut it, but not
so much that it bled or anything. And then you tie a knot in the
string, and go and say some words over the string and there it is.
The next thing you know my wart was gone. He used would do that
to others in the community. My mother also took the warts away.
She would buy warts for my kids and would give the warts to the
kids. She would pay them a nickel a wart and before you know it,
they were gone. Maybe some of you have heard those.
My brother Val was telling me about Uncle John Schweitzer, who
is 99 years old. He said that the doctors told him some 20 years
ago, to always take a Christian Brothers brandy that will help.
Now, let me tell you a couple dog ones. One of course is that if
a dog licks your sore it will heal. It was just the other day when
I asked somebody, and they said that there was a doctor from the
Philippines, and that was his prescription, to let the dog lick
But another one that John gave me, we checked with our mother,
and she said yes, her mother gave her this. That is if you get a
stomach ache you would go out and try to find some (205). It had
to be brittle and turned white. It had to be just right. And you
would burn it and that would be kind of like a tea.
I guess you know about red liniment, you add it to a glass of water
and you drink it for colds. White liniment was slept on for sore,
tired muscles or back aches or stiff joints. I am sure some of you
have used that.
For swollen tonsils, now this is one that Brother Placid has used.
You boil vinegar and then you inhale it, and that helps. But there
is also another one for tonsils, and this was brought to us by Joe
Hephus, who was kind of a home practitioner. He used this, and used
to take a piece of cotton, dip it in kerosene and touch the tonsils
with it. And that helped to cure the tonsils, so I think that is
My mother gave us chamomile tea when were young. The only time
we got tea is when we were small and had a stomach ache or something.
My grandfather had a telephone that you would ring like this. You
would hold both sides of the telephone and you would get an electric
shock. Do you remember what they would heal with that? Yes with
rheumatism. And of course there is another one. Open crowder, this
was prescribed for stomach aches, and this was used to relieve constipation.
I asked around, Bismarck and different places before I came up here.
But this could be used to cure a cough. But do you know how they
used this to prevent cough? See you drank a whole bunch of this,
and went to bed, and you dare not cough. (laughing)
My mother would take a spoon full of sugar and put some green drops
into it. This was used to help with headaches or stomach aches.
But I liked it so much, I would often tell my mother that I had
a head ache or a stomach ache and she would give me a Green Drops
because it tasted so good.
Let me just introduce one or two superstitions, instead of remedies.
These are just sort of mind things. The weather on your wedding
day tells you what type of life you are going to have. If you have
a windy or rainy day that tells you, your life will be hectic. And
if it’s nice, here’s the last one, and this one is a
true one, you know you can never feel or hurt the (243). What would
happen if you would destroy their nests, the cows milk will turn
PG: Very good, thank-you for that. We have to move on, the best
speakers are at the end or towards the last part of the program,
but we have more of them with good points. If we run over, and you
people stay here we will continue, as long as people will be staying.
The next on the program is John Gross, my brother who lives in Napoleon,
but he is not the last one.
There are other ones that are at home. I drafted him to do this.
I am fortunate to have lots of brothers, and I still have sisters
too. So when I started preparing for this, I was worried I wouldn’t
be able to occupy the whole hour, but so far everything is going
very good. So he is going to do some proverbs. His specialty is
folk songs. He is a specialist in folk songs. He is doing a collection
of folk songs. He is a singer and a musician and he can play the
organ and sing. He is a very good entertainer. He is better at that
than he is at this, but he is good at this too.
JG: Good day! I am going to grab my little brother,
and he is the one that gets me into this. He asked me to help, and
gee wiz! I got so much here! I could probably go on for a half of
an hour. But I can’t stand here any longer than ten minutes.
(270), There are so many German sayings. There are probably thousands
of German sayings, and are not interpreted into the English language.
And some of them German Sayings, there are a big meaning behind
So they have meanings and if you do not understand me or you would
like to input, please let me know and I will explain. And I have
a whole bunch of pages here. I tried to get those that we less used
at home, you know, in North Dakota, or down in the Napoleon area.
(279) you know about it and you would meet someone on the street
(281). and then they would say (282). (283-292) if you would like
an explanation, well most of us Germans know what that means. (293)
When I was younger I heard that man brag about his team of horses
and when you look the other man and he would say (295). (297-299).
Ok there is one thing that I used to do when I was younger; they
would say (300-302). He said Turk, and Turk means people over there.
(304-306). And here I was snitching from the pantry and eating all
the food. I wasn’t hungry at dinner time, and your stomach
was swollen and upset. (308-310). Ok, now what do I eat? They would
say (311-316), if you have any questions please holler out if you
ever need some explanations, ok (317-323)
That the German saying, you think about one thing and then think
about another, put it together and Ah! They fit so well. (324-328).
Ok another one (328-331), you have heard this before. (332-334).
If someone offers you a drink, and then you would say what the heck?
(335-338). Many years ago, they used to pin that with old (339).They
would get brittle and they would get hard.
And then they would say (342-348), you know this same saying. (349-351)
How am I doing so far? Can you understand me? (354-371) Oh you used
to say that. His name was Emil and he would say (373-375). (375-376).
Like I said there are a lot of meanings behind these sayings. That
would mean after the sadness, eventually comes happiness again.
(379-383). The boss says one more. Let’s see! (386-387)
PG: Thank-you! John did a good job. There are a lot more. (392-395)
Stupidity and pride go on the same piece of wood. Next on the program
we have Edwin Iszler. I would have a little introduction, but maybe
he can introduce himself better than I can. Tell him what you’re
going to do, and then does what you’re gonna do, and then
tell them what you did.
EI: (402-404) and everything I say will be liked
or not, brother Placid. Brother Placid was the one who asked me
to do this. And he assigned me a topic, but when I looked at the
topic and see that it was such a wide variety of a topic, it would
take you a week to cover it. And the topic was German-Russian culture
at temperament. So I told him I would write it down and I would
go on (415-416) to German-Russian temperament. Well, you see temperament
covers a lot of area too. Psychologically, it covers the German
Russian stay at there.
Whether he was easy going, he was a hot head, or as we say (424).
It means by the time I have to get through, I’ll have to flip
your lip. And it also includes fortitude, and it also includes whether
he was an optimist or a pessimist. It also includes, whether when
he was failure he would say “that’s it I’m quitting!”
Or he would take that failure and use it as a stepping stone for
something greater and noble.
Now they reason with the German Russians, Happy temperament that
they had, must be German cultures by which they had to live under.
Let me just illustrate, our English culture in America culture,
dates back to England, which is a combination and a blend of two
cultures, mainly the Anglo-Saxon. But you see the German-Russian
is also a blend. But I don’t like calling it a blend. They
were repellant to each other instead of blending with each other
like the Anglo-Saxon.
This aroused some suspicion because the Russian Germans never trusted
the Russians, and visa-versa. There was always suspicion. And that’s
why one of the reasons, that our German Russian ancestors despised
other ethnic groups. I have a good memory......
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