Interview (Part 2) with Magdelena (Maggie Eszlinger) Zimmerman Eisenbeis (ME)

Conducted by Delmar D. Zimmerman, Interviewer (DZ)
Wishek, North Dakota, 31 January 1996

Transcription by Margaret Templin
Editing and proofreading by Linda Haag

DZ: We are going to start interview questions for part two which talks about courting, marriage, relationships, family life, and family in the world, education and politics. The first question is what did your parents or teachers tell you about marriage?

ME: Yes, my parents told us about marriage. My dad says when you get married, you are young, yet marriage is forever. It is until someone dies.

DZ: Did the teachers say anything?

ME: The teachers never mentioned anything about marriage.

DZ: What did you learn about marriage seeing your parents relationship or the way they
lived? What did you learn?

ME: Well we learned everything at home, whatever we had to work with them and do things. They taught us how to cook and how to milk the cows. We had to work with them and we did just that.

DZ: Did they do things together?

ME: We did things together. I think we were well satisfied when we did. We never had any trouble getting along.

DZ: Were they both the boss or was your dad the boss? How did that work?

ME: My dad and my mother?

DZ: Yes.

ME: That was the dad’s business. Whatever he told us, it just would be like that.

DZ: The man was the head of the household then.

ME: Yes, man of the household. He had to arrange the money so there was enough for
everybody to live. We had very little income from the beginning so we knew there
wasn’t much left.

DZ: Now when you got married, was that different from your parent’s marriage or about the same? Was the father the head of the household?

ME: Well, yeah he was the head of the household as long as we were married. What he
w anted us to do we did? I think that was the only way to work it out.

DZ: Should it still be that way?

ME: If it would be like that it would cause fewer troubles that would be amongst the families.

DZ: There would be fewer troubles, fewer problems today if the man was the head of the household. Were the marriages of you parents or grandparents arranged or "coupled?"

ME: No they went together. I know that. They weren’t "coupled" together. I don’t know how they say it but we did not want to be "coupled", no way.

DZ: They went together and dated and then got married.

ME: Anyhow, those "coupled", I don’t know, if you know a person who got "coupled" and got married. That doesn’t work.

DZ: What did your parents teach you about raising children?

ME: They didn’t teach us anything. We had to do it on our own.

DZ: How did you know who was supposed to do what?

ME: Well, they had to work for us, for everybody. I don’t know what to say for that. Raise the children and raise them in a way so they do the right thing. They shouldn’t go out to everything and have parties and they should stay home more.

DZ: And do their work?

ME: Yeah, do their work. I think that has a lot more to say than if they run around and don’t listen. We are raising a good family, I think and we have no trouble.

DZ: And then you kind of carried that over to your own family.

ME: Yeah. That’s the way we learned at home and that’s they way we taught you.

DZ: Did husbands and wives have equal authority or rights in making major decisions? We probably talked about this a little already.

ME: Yeah well, there are some things that the mother knows better than the father, about what to do. And I’m sure they got along with that.

DZ: So even though the husband was the head of the household when there were other problems, they talked things over and decided them together.

ME: Yes there were no arguments, except for the money. We never had any money. We were too big of a family for doing things like others did.

DZ: Were you able to express your feelings of anger, sadness, fear or criticism as a child?
When you got angry, sad, mad, or afraid, could you go to your folks and tell them?

ME: About getting angry, I don’t know.

DZ: Were they good listeners? Did they listen to you if you complained?

ME: They did but the only trouble that we had was with the milking. We had a lot of cows. We milked about thirty cows at one time. That’s where the trouble came in. There was only me and the other two or three children and we had to milk all thirty cows. That was not for one family, it was too much.

DZ: So what did you do then?

ME: Well we had to do it that way. The boys were hired out and all they earned was ten
dollars per month. That was not worth it.

DZ: Even though you didn’t like to do it, you knew you had to do it. Your parents made you feel like that was part of your job, part of your upbringing. How was love and affection shown in your family?

ME: We had that before didn’t we? Well, I think we all got along good. We worked together and played together and we ate together. So when we had our new house then it was different. We lived down in the basement. We lived alone more. The kids got the basement and the folks were upstairs.

DZ: But everybody got along even though they whole family was in the same house.

ME: Yes we got along.

DZ: Was there competition between the boys and the girls in the family?

ME: That I don’t know if there was. The boys were gone and the girls grew up by themselves I guess.

DZ: How were the children disciplined if some of the kids did something wrong?

ME: Well, they didn’t get the car to drive for a few days.

DZ: That was when they were older. How about when they were younger, before driving age?

ME: No, they never got it before driving age.

DZ: Did they get lickings or anything?

ME: No, didn’t get a spanking, but a talking. That helped them. But when they were gone all day long you didn’t want to give them the car to chase around.

DZ: When your family members had disagreements, how were they settled? You said there were no real big problems.

ME: No, there were no problems with the farming practice. Well, the girls had to go into the field and the boys were gone. So there was no way of saying no - we just had to do it.

DZ: Everybody knew that it had to be done.

ME: Father couldn’t do it alone. We had to go out into the field and do the work. We worked as much as we could and then came home and would milk the cows.

DZ: How were grown up children treated when they had conflicting religion and marriage decisions? Let’s say the boys and the girls married into different religions.

ME: They all joined the church where they belonged. Lydia, she joined the Lutheran church and Rose, the Evangelical church.

DZ: How would they know where they belonged? How did they decide that?

ME: They went to church before.

DZ: But did they go on the man’s or the woman’s side?

ME: On the man’s side.

DZ: And your parents approved of that?

ME: Well, they didn’t have anything to say about it.

DZ: They never complained about it either.

ME: “Go to church”, they would say.

DZ: That was the main thing, just so you go to church. They didn’t care where.

ME: I think everybody went to church. Everybody had a church. There were Lutherans:
Emma, Eugenia, Lydia, Edwin, and Pauline. There were five.

DZ: They were all Lutherans. And the other religions of the children?

ME: They stayed with what the parents was, Evangelical. They belonged to the same church as Rose did, so they went and said they are still going to the United Methodist. I think they all go to church. Jake went to the Assembly of God Church, that’s what Art said.

DZ: Any others?

ME: Well the others went.

DZ: What are the other churches then? You went to which church?

ME: The Baptist church in Lehr and then I joined the Baptist church in Wishek after Reuben died.

DZ: So the boys and girls, if they got married and they wanted to go to a different church, the parents were just happy that they went to church.

ME: Yes. And they all are still going to church today.

DZ: Was anybody ever cut off from the family?

ME: What do you mean by that?

DZ: When somebody ever did something way off, was he ever cut off like you are not a part of this family anymore?

ME: Oh, no. That they would never do.

DZ: Who cared for families in their old age? Like you mother and dad or their grandparents?

ME: Well, my sister did. My brother did first. He lived in the farm there, so my mother stayed there for a while then she went to Rose and she died there.

DZ: Son and daughter.

ME: Son and daughter took care of her.

DZ: Did your grandparents or parents have friends outside of the family with whom they
shared private thoughts, emotions, or feelings? If they had any secrets or anything did they share that with anyone?

ME: Well, I’m sure they did. They had friends like the Walz's, the Wetzels, and the Doblers.

DZ: They were mostly neighbors.


DZ: This is tape two of the interview with Mrs. Maggie Zimmerman Eisenbeis, Wishek, North Dakota.
We were just asking about people moving out of North Dakota and you said that some
moved to South Dakota and California. Did you stay in touch with them?

ME: Oh yes. I did a lot of letter writing and I always had a return. There were five of them who moved to South Dakota, one moved to Sioux Falls and the others moved to Aberdeen. They went job hunting. There were no jobs around here so they worked for the city and they are drawing good retirement now. One of my sisters, who died, lived in South Dakota, died two years ago and the other one is quite sick with a stroke.

DZ: Who made the money decisions in the family? I think you have already answered that.

ME: I think the men should do that. I think that is the men's business. In our family most of them did it.

DZ: Were there other ways of borrowing money other than from the bank?

ME: Oh yes, if we needed some we would ask some of the sisters and brothers if we could borrow so much for so long. Then we would pay it back again. So that is what we did.

DZ: You worked that out amongst family members, now the questions on courting, family, and relationships, in the family and the world. What were the most important religious teachings in your home?

ME: Well my father, every evening at supper time when we were done with eating, he read the Bible and would read the Bible verses. He did that most every evening from the beginning.

DZ: You said earlier that you attended church.

ME: Yes. We attended church more than we do now. I think the church was one of the leading interests at that time.

DZ: Did you find comfort in doing that?

ME: We liked to go along. I went along with the bumps and horses and all.

DZ: You weren't frightened by all the religious teaching?

ME: No. That didn't bother me, what I learned at that time I still remember.

DZ: So you would say that you were encouraged not discouraged by them?

ME: Encouraged by them. I appreciated all the things they did for us. I think if you don't learn from the time when you are small, you don't learn at all.

DZ: If you had any questions about religion did you ask your mother or your father?

ME: I suppose that we did discuss it but as I said he would read the Bible and would ask us to remember the chapter. I wouldn’t remember anymore. We had to learn Bible verses in Sunday school too.

DZ: How did your family get along with people that were not German-Russian? Were there any Jews, Indians or Germans?

ME: There were Jews. We had Jews as neighbors. We got along well. I think they were good people. I remember them. That's the way the Indians are, at my brother-in-laws in
Aberdeen. He says all he has to do is give them the snow blower. They come over and he gives them the snow blower and they open his drive way. They open up everything when it snows. They like to do it for him. He told me on the telephone the other night that they told him, "Stay in when it is cold. Don't go out, we'll do it for you.”

DZ: Do you feel the same way about Jews today with your own family?

ME: If you treat them right they are just as nice as other people.

DZ: Were you ever afraid to say you were a German?

ME: No. You still can talk German can't you?

DZ: Yes, I can talk it.

ME: Does Delore talk?

DZ: No, not very much.

ME: We should not forget that. At least once in a while we should. They are both German and they both could help.

DZ: Delore is one of the grandchildren that she is mentioning here.

ME: And the great-grandchildren could learn if they were taught at home and talked to. They would be glad later on if they would know a few words and they could say that their parents taught them.

DZ: Have you felt comfortable expressing your German Russian background? When you talk to someone you are not afraid to say you are German Russian.

ME: No. I still talk German when I am among other people. They always talk English and every once in a while I put the German in there. I don’t think its fair not talking it.

DZ: So you are very proud of your German expressions?

ME: Yes, I think that's good.

DZ: Did speaking German effect your relationship with others at school, town, or church? I think you said that you didn't talk English until you went to school. Did that affect your relationship with others?

ME: I don't remember, but I think it was 1954 when they changed the church to English. We couldn't talk German in school, we had to talk English.

DZ: Could any of the other children talk English?

ME: There were some but they couldn't talk much either. We first learned when we went to school because the folks didn't know English. Most of them were German; they couldn't do anything to help us. The night school was as where my dad went and learned English. That is where the neighbors got together.

DZ: How do you feel about a German brogue?

ME: What is that?

DZ: That is when you talk you kind of sound like a German. When someone has a German brogue it makes no difference to you, even when someone has quite a brogue.

ME: No, I don't think so. Oh, they talk different, and it sounds different.

DZ: I, myself think brogues are kind of nice. What do you think of the survival of the
German language in the German Russian community? You probably answered that a while ago when you said you thought your grandchildren should be able to talk German, because it would be nice to have that carried on.

ME: Even if it was only a few words that they remembered. That would be nice. I know they get a kick out of saying it, when they talk with one another. When Ian and Rachel talk they have fun with it and still they know their German.

DZ: Ian and Rachel are grandchildren. So that would kind of answer question number 27. Do your children or grandchildren speak German? They don't but you think it would be nice if they could.

ME: They should learn, if only a few words.

DZ: How available were your educational opportunities? You said you went through the eighth grade.

ME: I had the privilege and chance of going to high school and learn, but I didn't want to be away from home. If they would have gotten me up in the morning and taken me there
and got me in the evening and brought me home I would have. I didn't want to stay there all the time. They were really our boss who rented our house to us, and wanted me to stay with them.

DZ: I remember what our dad told us when he wanted to go to high school, what his dad told him. [GERMAN DIALOGUE: His dad told him, "Du Kriegs hoch Schul im Schtall.] (He wanted to go to high school but his dad said he was going to get his high school in the barn.)

ME: That was the main point. They had to farm to make a living and there was no money for school.

DZ: Did your educational experience include your own children's education? What do you think about that now? You went through the eighth grade but your children had more.

ME: You all had good schooling, you all have good jobs and you all have a better retirement.

DZ: Why do you think that is? Why didn't your children stop at the eighth grade?

ME: I didn't let them. I told them they had to go to high school and you went on your own. You went to Valley City during the summer months and taught in the winter and earned some money. Bob went to school in Wahpeton. Gail was the last one, he had it rough. He was only eight years old when Reuben got sick the first time. He fought for himself while growing up and still does.

DZ: He went to Wahpeton Trade School and learned a trade and still does it today. Right.

ME: Yes, and he cooks as good as a woman. He learned at home and I worked in the café when he was still in high school.

DZ: So you figured you had a eighth grade education and you wanted your kids to have more.

ME: Yes, I figured they should have schooling. I had a little money and they did. I am thankful for that.

DZ: If you had more education how do you think your life would have been different? Let's say you had gone to high school and to college or at least finished high school. Do you think your life would have been different?

ME: Well I guess I wouldn't have had to work in the cafe for that small amount of wages, for thirty-five cents or fifty cents. The most I got was $1.49 in 1969, when I quit. I always got under $1.49.

DZ: You think if you had gotten a high school education, you would have gotten more?

ME: Well, sure. Maybe not, I don't know but they didn't pay as much as they do now. I'm sure I could have gotten a lot more.

DZ: I don't think you told me this before, but you were a pretty good speller when you went to school, weren't you?

ME: Yes, but I did miss one word. I went to the county contest at school, with Esther
Weber and John's Esther. Just by not being able to spell Esther. I spelled it E-S-T-E-R. I won the school championship, though. I went on to the county, and remember that
day. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't remember how to spell Esther. That's an easy

DZ: Your mind went blank. That happens to everyone. You think it is an easy word, you think its right, but it is wrong. Now a few questions about politics and were your parents interested in politics?

ME: Yes. My dad was very much interested in politics. He would go to meetings and donate money. I was going to mention the governor that was in, Governor Sorlie. He worked for the Republican Party very much. So we all had to go and vote when we were old enough. He stressed to go and vote.

DZ: Did they go to political rallies or political meetings?

ME: I don't know. Dad might have but I don't remember.

DZ: Do you remember some of the political issues that your parents were interested in? Did they ever talk about prohibition, the days of liquor or the women's right to vote?

ME: Oh yes, the women's right to vote in 1920. I remember them talking about it. Yes he was a politician, all right.

DZ: Did you vote often?

ME: We went to all the elections including the school elections and all others. This is the first time, this year that I didn't vote.

DZ: It's by mail this year.

ME: Bob brought it but I think I threw it away.

DZ: We can pick one up for you at the post office. You can still vote.

ME: Really?

DZ: They changed it this year. You vote by mail and that is the only place you can vote.

ME: We were steady voters, where ever the vote was there was an election or something.

DZ: Was there a president that your parents felt strongly about? Do you remember what president this was?

ME: President Eisenhower, he wasn't president at that time. That was during World War II. Before that, they mentioned President Harding.

DZ: This next one you answered it already. What political party were your parents interested in, which was the Republican? Were you ever involved in certain political issues?

ME: Yes. We are Republicans, we went to represent things.

DZ: You haven't gotten into where you stressed farm programs, abortions or anything like that?

ME: No. We didn't do anything like that.

DZ: Is there anything else you would like to add concerning your family life or your
relationships? Is there anything we have forgotten? I think one question I forgot yesterday is number 56 part one. How is your family history and culture being passed on to the next generation? How are we passing that on from your generation to our generation?

ME: We haven't anything to pass on.

DZ: You have a lot of scrapbooks, haven't you? Didn't you keep an everyday diary?

ME: Yes, I have about 5 diaries. They aren't interesting to me anymore. I don't find anything in them when I look at them. Do you know where they are? Those books are right here. You go back and you don't know what year you are reading about.

DZ: You have the dates though.

ME: Yes, the dates and the years are in there. I look through those scrapbooks every once in a while.

DZ: Now on your mother's side, your mother's family, you have a history book too, right?
Not a jubilee book, but a family book, an Eszlinger book?

ME: Yes, my mother.

DZ: The book you have here is from 1844 to 1980, from Europe to America.

ME: Yes, she is in there too.

DZ: Do you know if somebody has extra copies?

ME: No, I didn't ask yet.

DZ: You ask and we'll try to get one and give it to NDSU.

ME: If not take mine.

DZ: You should have an extra one.

ME: I remember the time when we had school when we moved on the farm. The school house burned down in Lydia District #4. Do you remember that? You were too small to remember that.

DZ: Why? What happened?

ME: I had sat you in the high chair. The teacher’s bedroom was in the back of the house. We boarded the teacher that winter for ten dollars a month. Being that the school house had burned down school was held in our upstairs in the house. It was kind of cold and you were in the high chair in front of the stove, and you fell down. That was something!

DZ: How long did they have school at your place?

ME: That was when school started in October until spring. They had school board meetings there in the house every month. That was interesting, I fixed them lunch and coffee and they enjoyed that.

DZ: Is there anything else?

ME: Yes, there is a lot more.

DZ: This concludes our interview.


DZ: We are back. You said you wanted to add something else, one more thing.

ME: I would like to add my children and grandchildren. They are Delmar and Deloris, they have two children: Delore and Delette. There are two grandchildren who are Ian and Rachel Zimmerman and then are Bob and Verna near Roeszler. They have one daughter: Zuezan. Two grandchildren: Ben and Marchanna. Then there is Gail and Cheryl Zimmerman near Okerland. They have three children: Wendy, Christopher, and Dustin. Three grandchildren: Taylor, Callie Zimmerman and Amanda McGann and four step children.

DZ: Thanks again.

ME: You’re welcome.

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