A Time to Remember: Sam Jakober

Schumacher, Cindy. "A Time to Remember: Sam Jakober." Northwest Blade, 28 July 2011, 7.

It was a privilege to sit down and interview one of Eureka’s own "artists in residence." If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the new display at the Eureka Pioneer Museum, the display of Sam Jakober’s farm equipment replicas is a treasure to behold. It is now displayed in wood and glass cases, courtesy of Boy Scout Jayden Streifle. Displayed in a room all by itself, it is an adventure back in time. Sam’s attention to detail is amazing, right down to the hand-carved horses, bridles, wheels and gears. I sat down with Sam with many questions.

"Were very poor people, but we didn’t know we were poor," Sam began. He worked on farms for neighbors and learned to play the keyboard, accordion, and piano. He was the only one in his family who played a musical instrument. He grew up between Leola and Hosmer, 16 miles to either town, and he attended country church and country school. He mostly walked to school and never got away from home for trips or vacation. He remembers getting a bag of peanuts and candy for Christmas. Sam only had two sisters and one was married and gone; the other was two or three, so Sam had to learn how to cook and help his mother in the kitchen. He carried all the wood and manure into the house for heat. Most of his brothers were hired out to neighbors as farm hands. He was the third youngest out of 11 children and is the only one still living out of his brothers and sisters. On June 23, Sam turned 96.

Sam began working for neighboring farmers and told about the times when he was hauling hay from North Dakota and would come through Leola around 6:00 p.m. He said there were young men who wanted to box in the pool hall, so he became known for being a contender. He never won any prizes – it was just for fun.

As a young adult, he worked as a hired man for Harold Weisser until he bought a farm in Hillsview when he was 22. He played the accordion in a country church, Salem Emmanuel, and for little house parties – birthdays, etc. and enjoyed barn dances. A lot of them were held in the hayloft. When he was dating Olga, he didn’t have a car, so once in a while they would ride with her brother. Sam helped build 22 homes with Christ Dais and said he also built seven homes in Eureka.

Sam started making the miniature farm equipment when he was about 24, and only when he could spare a few minutes here or there. He drove school bus during the school year, and he had three hours in between picking the kids up. That’s when he took advantage of the spare time. The wood he used was pine, because it doesn’t spit easily. He relied on his memory to replicate the equipment from all of his work on different farms. Sam said he knew what he wanted to do every day on each particular part, pictured it in his mind, and then got started. Only once did he have to remake a part. It was a little bucket that brought the grain up and dumped it into the auger of a threshing machine which needed to be smaller. Otherwise, he left everything exactly how he made it the first time. He never gave up on anything. He even made his own horses out of wood, buying leather from the shoe shop and cutting it into the right sizes to make the harnesses. He also made equipment as detailed as a steamer and a thresher, using sewing machine motors to drive the threshing machine. All the little metal parts he made by hand, too. He picked up scraps of metal from Eureka Manufacturing. Absolutely everything was done by hand.

Sam had two daughters and one son and made many things for them. After all this time, he has only sold two things that he made, a doll house and a header for a combine. He got $500.00 each. When he made doll houses, he made all the things for inside the house and put them in place before he put the lid on, because you can’t reach in once it’s on. He made six or eight doll houses. His granddaughters have three of them and he still has one at home. He has gifted his display to the Eureka Pioneer Museum, so the collection there would be very valuable.

Sam keeps a wagon in his room at Avera Eureka Health Care Center which took about a week to make. He also did self-portraits in pencil of his wife, Olga (deceased), and himself which are on display in his room, along with a beautiful sketch of Canadian geese in flight he did. In the past, Sam has set up displays of his art work in Leola, Hosmer, Bismarck, and Aberdeen for fairs and different events, including the Eureka German-Russian Schmeckfest.

In closing, Sam hopes that people will enjoy the display at the museum for many years. Looking back, he said he got a lot of pleasure out of making everything. Thank you, Sam, for sharing your treasures with everyone. You are the greatest treasure of all!

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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