Interview with Christof Fisher (CF)
Conducted by Ron Vosler (RV)
July 2, 1997, Ashley, North Dakota
Transcription by Chad Burrer
Editing by Laura Eltz
RV: Could you tell us your name and maybe a little bit about yourself and where were you born?
CF: My Name is Christof Fisher born in (007) in (?) County (?) and my dad bought a home with a house, part near new house and we moved over to that. But he never had no money or anything, my dad. So he went to Eureka and he knew a Jew by the name of Joe Benther (?). The fact that he gave him a (16, lots of German).
RV: When was that, which year?
CF: It was, I would say, come in, could have been about 1900.
RV: I wonder if you could tell a little bit about the music. Did you have music in your home growing up? Did your parents play instruments?
CF: My dad played (28, German).
RV: What kind of songs?
CF: (32-39, German)
RV: So you played in the German band for many years?
RV: In the 1930’s and later in the 50’s?
CF: I used to play in Wishek when we had some doings up there with the Germans at (43) Hall is where the German band would be at and then they would play that on the radio from Bismarck.
RV: That’s a good thing, ya?
CF: That was something else and they always had a lot of people and a lot of fun and everybody enjoyed it. But then we had a young man and his name is Elmer and he is the man that started a band and when I went to grade school I used to play a little mandolin. And then he come to me, he says, Fisher I’ve got a right sense (?) to play the mandolin when you went to school, sack lunch anyway (?). So I (51) lets start the German band. So when we started there were about eight of us. That’s all. Then when we quit, there was at least twenty of us. And we had a lot of fun. And a lot of people. (55). If you know (55), when good music, when it’s good, we used to play it up on the street here and when good music is good. I can tell you why and how. (58) two-year-old baby on her shoulder and she comes with another one and she jumps like that for no reason.
RV: Good story.
CF: I was laughing, yes. So I ain’t got no (61). I’ve got (61) and nobody wants to play anymore. We never charged for any music, no. We went and done it when like the Fourth of July or in front of the year, we would go from town to town and play you know. They sold tickets and we bought them and had a lot of fun. But I’m done now. I still got the banjo.
RV: So there isn’t any more German music, generally in Ashley?
CF: No, not really.
RV: Did that stop in the 1970’s?
CF: Yes, that’s when it stopped, ya.
RV: What about in your church, when did it not become German anymore? When did it become English? Do you remember about your church and the services?
CF: Oh yes. We belonged to the Baptist Church out there on the farm (74). And there was Sunday school in the morning and never had a (76-89, German).
RV: A (90) is like a lay leader? Deacon?
RV: Do you have other memories about your early years on the farm, that you found?
CF: Well, I can tell you one thing. What I remember is real hard labor, all of it, you know. I went to school in the morning, walked two miles to school. And before we left, we have to milk the cows and clean the barns and all that. And then when school went out, (97) and then the old people knew that there was something wrong that you had to stay after school well you know. (98-108, German).
RV: People said Ashley once, or McIntosh County, was like 99% German. That’s not as German now. I wonder what kind of changes you’ve seen in Ashley in the town in your lifetime that you might want to talk about. For better or for worse.
CF: For better or for worse, ya. Well I was 35 (or 25?) when I got married and I moved to town, or out to the farm. (114-126, German).
Lady’s Voice: You worked in a grain elevator too.
CF: (128-139, German)
Lady’s Voice: Grain Elevator
Lady’s Voice: Elevator.
CF: Elevator. (141-171, German)
RV: In your life, do you think you’ve spoken more English than German? In your life? Or have you spoken more German?
CF: (173-179, German)
RV: So how is that? (178)
RV: Always? Not always? Kind of a mixture?
Lady’s Voice: Yes, mixture.
RV: How do you decide which language? Just what ever feels comfortable?
Lady’s Voice: English is most.
CF: (187-189, German)
RV: When my mother talks about people with her husband, it’s about people, it’s in German, about their characteristics, how they act, is always in German.
Ladies Voice 1: Tell him about how you traveled and bought horses with him.
CF: Oh yes, (196-202, German). But, then when they had these dry years, then we had to take them calves, and they couldn’t have no grass. So we took them to Long Lake and they (207) and they had big holes there and then they shoved (?) them calves right up the railroad, they fell down, and they covered them up. (210).
Ladies Voice: The Roosevelt Years.
RV: Could you tell us a little more about what happened at Long Lake with the farmers bringing their cattle?
CF: They paid you so much for a calf. In (217) they paid 1500, $15. See they butchered at the (?) throw them in the hole and they had the money. For a cow it was $20 and the same thing there, butchered and threw them in. See and people were starving in (?) our country. And the meat was (222). It was bad.
RV: And what was that, how did that happen, the orders for that? Could you tell more about that?
CF: Well I tell you there was no hay. There was them grasshoppers then you know they ate everything. Nobody could take care of them. And then the government went into this (?) but we’ll have to take them over to Long Lake or the cows, we will kill them and then we will pay you so much. The government had to pay you that money. That was in (232). Yup. (233).
RV: Now that you are almost 90, could you still remember your favorite teachers in school?
CF: I only had, when I went to school, I only had one teacher and then from 8th grade, from 1st to 8th grade there. Mrs. Mills was her name. And she had (244) and she had to (245) the students and especially I wouldn’t say that I was a smart man in school, but she helped us (247) when something happened. Always (249). So one time when we had to walk to school, and then the neighbors they come with the sleds to school you know. They still have one of them in town here. And I had my coat over my head and I walked behind the horses. They had no harness (?). One horse kicked and hit me right here. And I threw over and then they I was a man hurting (?), what is that called?
Ladies Voice: English
CF: Ya. Then they come and got me from school and never took me to the doctor you know. Then it healed up and so we had a spelling contest at school there and I was one of the head ones and then the school teacher comes and says Fisher whatever are we going to do now, we have to cancel that spelling contest we can’t get along without you. And, but anyway, we had it in church though and I’ll never forget when we when the one I couldn’t spell was business. I missed one “s” in there. No I put two “s’s” in there. Two “s’s.” And the other fella that was against me. His name was (273). And he spelled it and he missed it too, see, we both missed it. But never took kind of spelling.
Ladies Voice: What was your teacher’s name?
CF: Mrs. Mills. She wrote to me after that. Showed you that letter last time. And she come to Ashley, but she never knew I was living here. So she went to the neighbors where she stayed (281) school there. And she says, ya she says Fisher I’ll tell you one thing I still remember, the time when you was close to dead she says. I’ll never forget it. (?)
RV: Could you tell us a little about what you remember of your grandfather?
CF: My grandfather?
RV: Do you remember him?
CF: Oh yes. He, grandfather, he come on over from Russia, his wife was sick and she couldn’t come over here you know. So he come over alone. Well, his son Christof Fisher (?), he brought them over here see. (?). Homestead some land see. There was 160 acres land right next to Richmond Fisher(?) so he had him come over. He took that land then. And then my father, his brother, they figured well, if something happens to them, they are going to divide that land somehow. Each one gets half of it. But my dad never got it. So they never got along well. And (306, German). And by golly (308-311, German).
RV: He knew the day he was going to die?
CF: (312-323, German).
RV: And he was, had been born in Germany, is that right? Your grandfather?
RV: And taken as a child, as a baby, to Russia. Is that right?
CF: Ya, that’s right.
RV: That’s that whole immigration of the German’s from Russia.
RV: Good, Thank you.
Ladies Voice: Too bad it didn’t come out in English about what it said about him coming over ...