A Time to Remember: Edmund Opp

Serr, Bonnie. "A Time to Remember: Edmund Opp." Northwest Blade, 17 November 2011, 3.

Edmund Opp remembers wheat sold for 25 cents a bushel in 1932. Trapping gophers earned you one cent per tail. The dirt roads that led to their farm, located northeast of Eureka, were rutty and muddy in the spring. They could be blocked numerous times in the winter. From 1938-1939, Edmund lived at Custer, SD. He worked for the Civil Conservation Camp. This was an opportunity for young men, ages 18-24, to earn money. He worked in the State Park and earned $30.00 a month. $25.00 were sent home to his family and he was allowed to keep $5.00. His older brothers rode in a train box car to Washington State. They worked picking apples, potatoes and harvesting wheat around a mountain with 36 horses hitched to a combine. Edmund recalls hobos coming to the farm and sleeping in the barn. His parents always offered them food and drink. Edmund farmed on the original homestead and met Hulda Retzer.

Edmund and Hulda were united in marriage on August 29, 1943. Hulda’s wedding dress cost $9.00. Edmund ordered her engagement ring from the Sears Roebuck catalog and needed to ask his dad for the money. Edmund paid Kermit Klooz $6.00 to play for the wedding dance. The following day they did chores and milked cows. Their first car was a used 1938 Chevy that cost $650.00. The first tractor was a used John Deere D tractor that was purchased for $350.00 and used for plowing until 1958. They were married five years before they had the convenience of running water and electricity. They recalled the days of having a telephone party line that would have 18 to 20 other families sharing the same service. Edmund and Hulda raised five children. In 1945, the hospital bill was $103.00 and the doctor’s charges were $35.00. Hulda said on the ninth day after delivery you were allowed to dangle your feet off the side of the bed and on the eleventh day were discharged. They led very busy lives raising their family and farming. They raised chickens, ducks and turkeys. The turkeys sat on the power lines and caused them to sag close to the ground. A milking story they shared with me caused all of us to have tears in our eyes from laughing. Edmund wanted to make milking an easier chore. He went to Aberdeen and purchased a gas operated milking machine. He was so excited to show his wife this labor saving device. All the cows were in the barn and the milk buckets were setting behind them. Edmund brought this new technology into the barn and started the motor. The loud and unfamiliar noise of the motor startled the cows so badly they filled up the buckets, but not with milk! They were so nervous over their ordeal; they never gave any milk that evening. Edmund returned the milking machine the very next day. Times were simpler in those days. They enjoyed going to barn dances in neighbor’s haylofts. Kerosene lanterns were used for light and a pull from a gallon wine jug costing 15 cents. New Year’s shooting was a time to feed friends and neighbors throughout the entire night. Green drops were used to ease sore throats and tummy aches. Edmund’s father, John Sr., told his son that a tractor would never work to plant a crop. Saturday night was the big night to go to town and do the week’s shopping and sells eggs and cream.

During the war, no tractors were manufactured due to the lack of tires. There was a gas shortage and no tires so everyone drove about 35 mph.

Edmund became the curator of the Eureka Museum in 1986. Rev. Kranzler was his mentor. In 1987, Lawrence Kessler, the board members and Edmund restored a header, binder and threshing machine. The school house, bought by Dan Bieber, was moved intact from 12 miles southwest of town. In the school desks, the names K. Kunz and D. Fischer are engraved in the wood! The church was the former post office in Artas. The area churches donated the furnishings. The block for the sod house was from the Ed Schott farm.

In 2001, Hulda, along with two close friends, Maria Alandy and the late Donna Mehlhaff, started the Eureka Kuchen Factory. When Hulda had Maria over for coffee and served kuchen, she said, "This should be all over the world." The three originally made "Grandma Retzer’s recipe" in Hulda’s home. Success of the product prompted them to expand. They purchased the former drive-inn located on Highway 10. They went to lobby at the State Legislature at Pierre to promote kuchen as the South Dakota State dessert. The first attempt failed. Undaunted in their efforts, they pursued their dream and Governor Bill Janklow signed the bill into law in 2000. The Eureka Kuchen factory has also added a specialty line of strudles, carmel rolls, cheesebuttons, buns, knoepfla and knoepfla soup. They keep expanding their line of flavors of kuchen, including traditional toppings along with chocolate chip, lemon, coconut and other new tastes.

Edmund and Hulda are a true example of the German-Russian pioneer spirit. They have been faithful members of the Reformed Church, have a strong marriage and raised a fine family. Not only did they farm for many years, but continued to expand their horizons when they moved to town.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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