Interview with Frances Hatzenbuehler
Conducted by Brother Placid Gross (PG)
6 January, 2000, Dickinson, North Dakota
Transcribed by Jessica Rice
Edited and proofread by Peter Eberle
PG: What was your maiden name?
PG: How do you spell the Hatzenbuhler?
PG: When were you born?
FT: I was born in Center, North Dakota.
PG: In which year?
PG: What was your father’s name?
PG: Jacob Hatzenbuhler. Do you know what town in Russia he lived at?
FT: I think they called it...you talk German, don’t you?
PG: Yeah. Was it Landau, or Karlsruhe…?
FT: Something like that. I don’t know for sure. That’s the trouble.
PG: Did your parents come over here?
FT: In 1900 they came over.
PG: Was your dad married already when he came over here? Were your parents married?
FT: Oh yeah, they had five children already. Let me see: Girdy, Margaret, John, Barbara—yeah, five children.
PG: Did your dad’s parents come over here, too?
FT: No, they stayed. Nobody came over from Russia except one brother, John Hatzenbuhler. He lived in Solen, ND, out of St. Anthony some place.
PG: So your dad had one brother that came over and no sisters came over?
PG: Where is your dad buried?
FT: They’re buried right here on the south side from St. Joseph. They lived up here and then they died up here and that’s where they’re buried: St. Joseph’s cemetery on the south side.
PG: What about your mother; what was...
FT: [A027 Hopfauf].
PG: Your mother’s maiden name was [A028 Hopfauf]. What was her first name?
PG: Rose [A028 Hopfauf]. What was her parents’ names?
FT: No, I don’t know their names. I never met my grandparents or nothing. Nobody came from Russia. See, that was when they had so much trouble over there and they had to either get out or get killed.
PG: Now, did your mother’s parents stay in Russia, or did they come over here?
FT: No, nobody was over here.
PG: Your mother’s parents died in Russia?
FT: They all did in Russia. The only ones that were here was my dad and a brother, that’s all...and relatives, but they were like cousins or something.
PG: How about your mother’s brothers and sisters…any of them [come over here]?
FT: That I don’t know either. We never talked about it. We kids often mentioned it afterwards, but they never talked about it. A lot of times I think my mother and my dad left Russia and never did see mother or father or relatives again. That must’ve hurt.
PG: Oh yeah, I’m sure they were homesick.
FT: I’m sure they were hurt. We were too young to realize that at that time, you know.
PG: Did they talk about Russia?
FT: Oh yeah. Dad was in the service in Russia, and he had an orchestra over here. He played the clarinet, and they played for old time weddings—and boy they played! You couldn’t help but dance when they played. They all knew those old time waltzes and everything. [A 44] Knoll, Gerhardt, and I don’t know the others; the four of them played together. I remember when my oldest sister got married, they played for the dance. We lived in Hazen for a while, and my dad used to play the clarinet, and my brother played the organ (a regular organ, not a piano) and we had an audience outside—they just loved that music.
PG: So, your dad learned to play already in the old country?
FT: He learned it in the service.
PG: Oh, in the service. Now, do you know how long he was in the Russian army?
FT: How long he was in there? No, I don’t. We never talked about it. I know they got married there and they lived with his parents, because my mother used to talk about it and how hard she had it there. Over there, she said, the women—I think it’s still that way— the women do most of the dirty work. Right?
PG: Yeah, that’s right. I was over there, I saw the women working in the fields.
FT: Yeah, I guess you were.
PG: I saw the women hoeing the potatoes, hoeing the corn fields.
FT: I know because when one of my brothers got married—we lived north of Richardton—and he married a girl, she was Lutheran, she turned Catholic. They lived with us for a while, and Ma always said to my dad, “You don’t do nothing to her; you’re not going to treat her like your folks treated me.” She says, “You be good to her.” [Laughter]
PG: Well good. Do you remember anything else that your mother talked about from Russia?
FT: She always talked about one of her sisters. She was never married, but she was a seamstress...how she sewed. I remember my folks were always kind of poor, too. We’d sell all the cream for groceries and stuff like that. And I know Ma used to sell cream and then she’d take that money and send it over to her, to Russia...send her that money so she could buy something to eat.
PG: Oh, really.
FT: But I forget the name of the town.
PG: Was she related to the Ganglers [A068]? Were you related to John Ganglers from Dickinson?
FT: Yes, because Mrs. Gangler was a Hopfauf. You know them?
FT: Yeah, she has a good voice, but they are [A070] now. Her and Ray used to sing together, and at Christmas they sang that song, which bring hope. Her and Ray used to sing that together, and I sat here and cried, you know, I could hear them sing. It was such a beautiful song, and Esther was such a good singer and such a nice person. Yeah, they were kind of a distant relative of my mother’s. Not close, but we called them close because we had so few over here. You know them?
PG: Yes, I know them real well.
FT: You do, huh. Do you ever go over to the home to see them?
FT: How are they doing?
PG: Well, they had to put them in separate rooms now.
FT: Oh, they can’t live together?
PG: No, because his mind is too bad. So they’re in separate rooms. They moved to St. Benedict’s home.
FT: Oh, they’re at St. Ben’s now?
PG: Yes. Just recently they moved to St. Benedict’s.
FT: I’m afraid of going to the home. I’m afraid, one of these days—I just hate to think of it. I said if I go, I want to have a room by myself; I don’t want to be in with anybody.
PG: Yeah, I don’t blame you. Do you know if your mother had a lot of brothers and sisters?
FT: No, I don’t know that either. She had some, but she just talked about that one sister that was never married and she sewed.
PG: And your dad’s brothers and sisters, you don’t know how many there were either?
FT: I don’t know how many brothers he had, except I knew the one that was over here. He’s got relatives in Mandan.
PG: When did your folks come over? You said 1910?
FT: In 1900 and they settled in Mandan. That would be their hometown.
PG: They were some of the first one’s around here then.
FT: Yeah, there were a lot of German people in Mandan. Mostly Catholics, too…all German, a lot of people. Do you know anybody by the name of Gustin?
PG: Gustin? I’ve heard of them. I really don’t know them.
FT: Their mother, Mrs. Gustin and a Mrs. [A101Beeler], were first cousins to my mother; that I know. Gustin’s have two priests. One might be in [A102 Washford]. There’s a priest there by the name of Gustin, and he might be one of them; I’m not sure. Yeah, Gustin’s have two priests. You know that one you see on television sometimes?
FT: They’re his brothers—the two priests.
PG: I see. I didn’t know that.
PG: Okay, were they on the farm right away when your folks came over here?
FT: No, they were in town and then they moved on a farm close to Solen, North Dakota. That was their town where they did their shopping.
PG: Okay, then your folks went to live at Solen. Then, you were from Solen?
FT: Well, I was born in Center. They were just close to Solen where they went to do shopping and sell their cream and stuff. They moved quite a bit. We lived in Hazen, too, one time.
PG: You grew up on the farm, then, huh?
FT: More or less, yes. When I got married, we lived on a farm north of Richardton.
PG: But I meant when you were growing up, your parents were farmers?
FT: Oh yeah. Mostly farmers until they got old; then they lived up here in Dickinson. And my dad died up here; he died of cancer of the stomach.
PG: Did your parents say that they would like to go back to Russia?
FT: No. They never liked to go back because it was so dangerous.
FT: One lady came over from Russia later on. She was a [Stein A119] from Richardton.
FT: You know her?
PG: Yes, I knew her. She’s died already.
FT: She talked about how hard—she was in the camp and her husband was too, and she says they used to sneak out at night and meet each other and give each other a little food to help, that they stole or whatever. Yeah, I know her real well. She was related with the [Herners A124] from Richardton.
PG: Oh, okay.
FT: Yeah, that one Herner in the paper now. You probably saw him: Val Herner. He’s going to be buried today, and he’s buried in Richardton because his first wife was a [A125 Mishel], and he’s buried with his first wife. He had married again afterwards, but her husband is buried up here, so…
PG: You talked German all the time when you were growing up, right?
FT: Most of the time.
PG: Do you still know any German?
FT: Oh, yes! I like it!
PG: Do you know any German poems?
FT: No, I don’t.
PG: Do you know any German prayers?
FT: Not very good no more. That’s one thing we had to do when we were all home—[A133]—every night after supper. My dad led it, and he had led the litany, and everything in German, see. I could pray it then. I can say a few words yet in German, but I can still talk German and all that, but I can’t say the prayers no more. But then when Ray and I married—Ray was from Richardton—[Ray] Thomas. He had a brother Stanislaus, he died now, and a sister Ludgard. She was a nun, and she died, too. Then, we did the same thing my folks did. Every night we prayed the [A139], but in English, with our family. The kids would come and stop there when they’d go to basketball practice and first you kneel down and say the rosary, then you can go. And we did that, continued that, and I don’t care what anybody says: the rosary helps you. Do you believe in that?
PG: Sure, yeah, I pray the rosary. When you were little, what kind of work did you have to do?
FT: Well, we had such a big family—anything. We had to scrub the floors and all that because we didn’t have no carpeting or anything. We just had a wood floor. We used a brush. [Laughter]
PG: Oh, yeah. You had to go down on your knees. What kind of work did you like to do when you were little?
FT: Well, we had to do everything. We washed and ironed and scrubbed, and then I was with my mother alone for eight years. I was the youngest of seven girls. Then, I did everything. Now when the older girls were home, they did most of it. Oh, they baked cookies and stuff like that.
PG: Did you wash clothes by hand with the washboard?
FT: Yeah, and with the ringer.
PG: Oh, then you had to crank the ringer by hand, huh?
FT: Yeah, I didn’t have no automatic washer until after I was married, and then I didn’t have it right away. We carried the water. We lived here, let me see now, on First Avenue West; there’s a bank there now. We had a building there; it was an old building. That's when Ray was in the Dickinson Sign Company, you know.
PG: He was an artist, a drawer, right? Did you make homemade soap?
FT: Yes. My mother made that. She covered up her face—oh, that was strong; that lye they used, you know. We had homemade soap for our hands, and our hands used to bleed. We didn’t even have boughten soap. Then when we moved up here we joined St. Pat’s, and Ray sang in the choir in Richardton for a long time. They asked him to sing right away and Mr. Reed was the conductor. He wasn’t a Catholic, but she was. He conducted the choir, and he used to say to Ray—I’m bragging now—he used to say he just sings, and I don’t even have to tell him what to do; Ray had a good voice, you know.
PG: Oh yeah, he was very good.
FT: He sang a lot of…what’s the name of that? They sing it at Christmas at the Abby.
PG: I don’t know. Who was the choir director? Reed?
FT: Mr. Reed. And then, later on, Mary Augustine started. She’s still there; she’s been there for many years.
PG: So that was in Dickinson? Mr. Reed was in Dickinson?
FT: Yeah, Dickinson.
PG: Not in Richardton.
FT: No, no I don’t know who directed in Richardton. I think they had a nun; I’m not sure though.
PG: Did you go to grade school in country school?
FT: Yeah—walked two miles.
PG: How many kids were in school?
FT: Oh, I don’t know. There was different grades you know.
PG: Did you have good teachers.
FT: Yes, very good teachers. Nice, young women, and we were friends and had fun together and everything.
PG: You had to talk English at school, right? Were you punished if you talked German?
FT: Oh yes. We could talk English. We learned the English real good. I know neighbors used to wonder—we could speak it real good, always did. Even my mother talked it later on.
PG: I was wondering if you were allowed to talk German.
FT: Oh yeah, nobody said nothing. I think we could’ve if we wanted to. Most of the people around there were German, but they were German Lutherans, in Hazen. There were a lot of Lutheran people, but we went to church on Sundays wherever there was a Mass, like Marshall and Dodge. Now they have a brand new church in Hazen. They didn’t have that when we lived out there.
PG: How many years did you go to school?
FT: Eighth grade.
PG: Did you go to high school? No, you had to stay home and work?
FT: It was not important at that time, and besides, the folks couldn’t afford it. I always tell my boys—they all have college degrees. I got four boys now; there are three in California, one in Minnesota. I always tell them, “Maybe I haven’t got a college degree like you have, but I know more than you do of the real life.” [Laughter] I know how to take care of a family and cook and do all that—take care of them.
PG: Did you work in the field, too?
FT: A little bit, not much. I had eight brothers.
PG: How many sisters?
PG: Seven girls…they all lived? I mean…
FT: We all lived one time.
PG: That’s what I mean.
FT: And then in 1918—you don’t remember that, you probably weren’t even born— when they had that terrible flu. You’ve heard about it, I’m sure. I lost my oldest brother—24 years old. My brothers all died sooner than the sisters, but they all grew up at home. We had a nice family. We used to have a—like the kids say now, “What did you do, you had no TV, you had nothing.” I said, “No we didn’t.” I said, “We had a record player, an old fashioned one.” Then when the neighbors would get together, we’d take the table out of the kitchen and have an accordion player and we’d dance and had all kinds of fun. [Laughter]
PG: Have you got any special memories from your grade school?
FT: I always liked it. I liked my teacher, and we got along real well and didn’t have no problem.
PG: And you had all kinds of games you played outside?
FT: Oh yeah. Jump the rope and [A217 hold]. [Laughs.]
PG: Where did the teachers come from? Were they German Russians?
FT: I think the one we had that we liked so well was from Mandan. Lahren was the name—L-A-H-R-E-N. That’s many years ago. I was about thirteen, now I’m 94. That’s a long time ago. Everyday when I get up, I’m scared! I am! I think, today’s my last day. The day the Lord will say, “Okay, c’mon, it’s time to go.”
PG: Well, you won’t know it when you die. You’ll just fall asleep.
FT: I hope I don’t have to suffer much.
PG: Yeah, I hope so, too…
FT: I pray four rosaries everyday. Now this morning, at 9:30 is the rosary on our Catholic channel. I have the Catholic channel, you know. They have a Mass and everything, and I always pray the rosary with them. I sit by myself. Then there’s one at 1:30 St. Ann, I say that; then there’s one at 7:15 and I pray that; then when I go to bed, I got a special rosary that I got from a good friend of my daughter’s. Did you know anybody by the name of Ray [A230 Gref]? Josie?
PG: Josie, I know Josie.
FT: Well, she’s in a home in [A237]. Her daughter and my daughter were very good friends. Now she lives in California, and she works with the bishop and them, and they make rosaries and bless them highly. She brought me one of them. She’s a good friend. I pray that one when I go to bed.
PG: Well, good. Were the teachers German Russians?
FT: The teachers? No. They were, what they call those days, [A244 Anglish]. [Laughter] Are your parents still living?
PG: My mother is.
FT: Where does she live?
FT: In a home?
PG: Well, she has her own apartment. It’s like a place like [A247 subiago]. I mean, she has to make her own meals.
FT: Retirement home.
PG: Yeah, she makes her own meals and she’s 97.
FT: Pretty good, too?
PG: Yeah, she still walks around.
FT: If I could walk, you know, I wouldn’t be feeling so bad. I was at the doctor Tuesday. Come back in two months; everything always the same. I have to go on account of my blood, though, see I have to take [A252 Coomadin]. That’s for your blood. One time I fell down and broke my leg, and it doesn’t heal. Too old, I guess. You pass out if you don’t have enough of that; and I passed out, out here on the sidewalk.
PG: Did you know Mrs. Lawrence Welk?
PG: You knew her when she was young yet, right?
FT: I knew her when she was sixteen years old—about that. I was staying with my sister at St. Anthony. Their name was [A259 Leingang]. Know that name?
FT: She lived there in St. Anthony, and I was staying with my sister. My sister lived there for a while, and I knew her [Mrs. Lawrence Welk], and I still know her. You know, that’s funny about Lawrence Welk and his wife. I watch his program every Sunday. I like his program, but he never has his wife out there to dance with him.
PG: Well, she was very bashful.
PG: Yeah, she never wanted to go on the TV.
FT: Somebody said that she was ashamed of North Dakota, and he never was; he always praised North Dakota. He liked North Dakota, and he wasn’t ashamed to say it to his friends. But, they said that she didn’t ever want to come back.
PG: Does she have brothers and sisters here?
FT: Somebody said that she was an adopted girl, so I really don’t know that. I was only thirteen. I stayed with my sister in St. Anthony.
PG: She became a nurse, I think.
FT: Yeah, that’s where she met Lawrence, I guess. I saw her at Christmas time; I don’t know how old that picture was this year. She still looks good; she’s all dressed up like fit to kill. [Laughter] I don’t know where her home is. I don’t even know what town in California she lives, do you?
PG: I don’t know.
FT: Most likely in the Los Angeles area, or someplace.
PG: Your parents are buried here. Do they have iron crosses?
FT: Yes, we did. We had crosses. Yeah, they were iron, but I don’t know, we don’t have them anymore. Maybe my older sisters took them. See, I had six sisters older than I, when they got married.
PG: How many of your sisters and brothers are still living?
PG: You’re the last one?
FT: My sister died a year ago at Christmas in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her and I were the only two left, the two young girls. We called each other a lot, and I said I think the Lord just let us live so we could pray for them. And we prayed. She told me she prayed seven rosaries sometimes. She was in a retirement home, and she couldn’t go out either, and she’d sit there and pray and pray.
PG: So if your kids want to know, or your nieces and nephews, they should come and talk to you if they want to know the old time stuff, huh?
FT: We talked about that a lot. How poor we were and what we didn’t have, what they have, what we got for Christmas compared to what the kids get nowadays. I have a nephew. He had two girls, and you know what one of them got when she graduated? A car. I said, you know for Christmas, Ma used to have a paper bag, and she’d put some nuts in, an apple, never an orange, and a few cookies that we made. Nobody complained; we took it and we were happy. I bet your folks probably did the same thing.
PG: That’s right. We didn’t get much either.
FT: But we were satisfied. We a lot of good food. I said we had better food then you had. I said what we had was stuff we raised. We didn’t go in the store like these young people do and buy everything ready. I tell them, all that crap you eat. [Laughter]
PG: That’s right. Did you have the Krish Kindel?
FT: A what?
PG: A Krish Kindel. I mean did you have a Santa Claus? Did the Santa Claus come into your house?
FT: Oh, yes! Krish Kindel. I remember when we lived by a Solen, I was maybe eight. See, there was already about twelve children or so, and my dad had a big, fur coat. They called him the Belzenickel. And he put that over him and came crawling in and they’d say that’s the Belzenickel. Santa Claus, in German.
PG: You had the Krish Kindel also, right?
FT: Yeah, we called it [A322 Krishindle, da Belzenickel].
PG: Did you see the Krish Kindel? The Krish Kindle was dressed up nice, right? The Krish Kindel was dressed in white.
FT: Oh no, we didn’t have that.
PG: Dressed in white with ribbons…
FT: No, we didn’t have that; we just had the Belzenickel, to scare us, so we really thought there was somebody like that and you had better behave. [Laughter]
PG: Right, Well you didn’t get any gifts then, huh?
FT: Oh, we got candy and stuff like that.
PG: But I mean toys.
FT: Oh no, we never had any the folks wouldn’t…we didn’t have toys. Just candy and stuff, like nuts.
PG: How about at Easter? Did you get Easter eggs?
FT: Uh-huh. We made them. We painted them, a lot of Easter eggs. And we had, what do you call that bread, the Easter bread we made?
FT: Baska, yeah, we made that and Ma frosted it on top, you know. It was good. And we had ham, [A338 trunga]. [Laughter]
PG: At Easter time, you ate a ham?
FT: We had a lot of food, a lot of good food. We didn’t have all this fancy stuff. You know, when our Marie got married—she got married here—we had a big wedding for her at St. Pat’s, and I had a big dinner in the evening. Father Schmidt was our priest, with him and a lot of friends. And then the next day we had a dinner for all our friends. There were maybe 200 people. We had sandwiches in the afternoon, and then a supper and a dance. We had it at the Elks—the Elks is where Montgomery Wards used to be, upstairs. Then when Marie got the bill it was 500 dollars. Marie went back and said there must be a mistake; it’s got to be more. No, he said, that’s all it is, 500. Then, when my son that lives in California, when their daughter got married, she said, “I can’t believe that you only paid 500.” She said, “Ours was over 2,000.” And she said, “You know what we had? They’d bring out a little fancy thing, and we’d eat that, then they’d bring another fancy thing out.” [Laughter] I said, “We didn’t; we put a big bowl on the table and help yourself.” That’s the way the old times did it. I remember when my oldest sister got married, my mother and some friends in St. Anthony, North Dakota, they made that good old chicken noodle soup. Gee, that was good.
PG: In the olden days, they made big meals for the weddings, huh?
PG: When you got married, did you have a big wedding?
FT: Yeah, I did. We had it at Richardton; a church wedding. Then we lived on a farm. We had everybody out for dinner and some friends.
PG: Did you dance at your wedding?
PG: You had a [A368 speilman]?
PG: Did your folks make homemade beer?
FT: Mmhm, my dad did. My mother also made root beer. Yeah, it was good. My dad used to make homemade beer. Then we had that flu in 1918; we lived out of Stanton between Stanton and Hazen. Everybody had the flu. Nobody could eat. Everybody did; the neighbors, everybody. There was flu all over. My dad made that little schnapps, you know, and he’d take a swallow of that and he never got the flu. He took care of all of us. He made us toast. I was surprised. In those days, you made toast in the oven. It was good.
PG: You never got the flu, then?
FT: We all had the flu, but he didn’t.
PG: Okay. Well, did you go to a doctor?
FT: There was only one doctor at that time. Everybody was sick, doctor [A384 Moses]; he was in Hazen…one doctor. Later on they had a son that was a doctor in Bismarck. Maybe you’ve heard of him: Dr. Moses?
PG: I’ve heard of him, yeah.
FT: But everybody was sick—a lot of people dying. I lost my oldest brother, 24; my mother, I remember, she cried. He was such a good boy.
PG: Was he married?
FT: No, he wasn’t married yet.
PG: Did you have any medicine at all for the flu?
FT: Oh yeah, we had medicine. But, I don’t know, it would just wear off, I think. Then I had a brother-in-law that worked in Stanton on the railroad, and when my brother was dying, there were no priests around there. Once in a while one would come from Mandan and say Mass in Hazen or one in Beulah; every Sunday a different place. Then my dad called my brother-in-law and said when the train comes in—his name is [A401]—if there’s a priest on there, you bring him out because John is dying and I want him to have the last sacraments, and there was one on there. He brought him out and Dad said, yeah [A416 German phrase], that’s how come we got a priest. I believe in that, too. I believe in that rosary. I hope it helps me some day. I think it’s helping me already.
PG: Did you take wedding pictures when you got married?
FT: Yeah, I have one, but I don’t know where it is. They’re in a box some place. I got a nice wedding picture of all my sisters and brothers, but I’ve got them in a box stored away some place. See, after we moved in here, Ray had a stroke. He was in Bismarck for a long time at St. Alexius, and we couldn’t make any steps, and there was no apartment without steps that we could [get]. Then, this place was vacant here—I’d rather live downtown. So my son bought it, the one that’s in California. Then we moved in here and I packed a lot of that stuff, and it’s still packed.
PG: When you got sick when you were growing up, where did you go to see a doctor?
FT: Well, when I was in Richardton, there was a doctor. I can’t think of his name. Then, after we moved up here, we had the same doctor all the time and he died. There were a lot of doctor’s up here. We had doctors all the time. I still have Dr. Baumgartner.
PG: Did you have home remedies? Did your mother make up some remedies?
FT: Oh yeah. When we had a bad cold, she’d rub our chest and put a cloth on it, and [for a] backache, put some heat on it, a hot pad or something.
PG: Well, how did you make a hot pad?
FT: We had a water bottle to put hot water in it. No, we didn’t have no electricity at that time. After we moved up here, we did, and then later on my folks had some, too.
PG: Did you have neighbor ladies coming over [to help with sicknesses]?
FT: Are you talking about me or my folks?
PG: Your folks.
FT: Oh, no. They had plenty of help with out any[one else].
PG: Do you know anything about brauche?
FT: Oh, I heard about that, but we didn’t believe in that.
PG: You never had doubt?
FT: No, just like, I don’t know what you call it.
PG: It was faith healing. If you believe a lot…
FT: Well, we believed in praying, we prayed a lot. My folks prayed a lot. We were all good Catholics. We all got married in a Catholic church. Some of them got married to non-Catholics, but they turned Catholic. Like my sister-in-law, she turned Catholic before [she got married]. She was a good Catholic then after she [was married]. I know my mother used to say to her, “You’re a better Catholic than your husband.” [Laughter] And she was a convert.
PG: When somebody had a baby, did they go to the hospital or were they always born at home?
FT: My mother had what they called a midwife.
PG: So the midwife would come over?
FT: I know when I was born—I was the eighth one in the family and the seventh girl. I was born in Center. My oldest sister was about twelve, and she could cook and everything. They always teased me afterward. The lady came out, the midwife, and said, “I brought such a nice little girl.” Then my sister said, “We don’t want no more, we got enough girls.” [Laughter] I said that’s the best thing my mother did; I was with her for eight years and helped her. [Laughter]
PG: You were the youngest girl, but not the youngest.
FT: No, I had six brothers younger than I.
PG: So the youngest ones were all boys?
FT: Yeah. Good boys; we had lots of fun.
PG: Do you remember when you got the first radio?
FT: We didn’t have anything like that at home. After we were married in 1928, we got one.
PG: So that was exciting when you got the first radio?
FT: It was. We had a big one. Something almost like that TV there, without the bottom.
PG: Did you learn how to do sewing?
FT: Oh yeah, I could sew. When we were first married, we were awful poor, too. I made clothes, made over old clothes. I used to make pants, you know, the bottom was still good and I made little pants for my boys. I did all that, washed it, pressed it with a wet cloth. There was no such a thing as a drier in those days. I washed it with a wet cloth. And a lady that worked for Father Schmidt—[washed] cloak, her and I were good friends. She said, “You know, Father Schmidt always says those Thomas kids always look so clean.” I said, “Yes, I don’t let them go to school dirty” I said, “and I wash and press it with a cloth.” I said, “I have no such a thing as a drier or anything.” I was brought up like that. My mother was a very good housekeeper. With fifteen children, she sewed, and she was a good sewer.
PG: So when you ironed, you had to press the clothes. You put the iron on the stove. You had to heat the iron and…
FT: Yeah. Well, when we were married I had an electric iron that I could plug in after we moved to where there were lights. Electricity…
PG: Oh yeah, but that was much later.
PG: Is there anything else that we should talk about, about the old stuff, the old times?
FT: What do you want to know?
PG: I thought maybe you have something in mind.
FT: I told you about Christmas and…
PG: Did your mother have to work in the field, too?
FT: Yes, she helped in the field. She had the…what do you call it?
PG: The headering?
FT: Yeah. Well, it comes out in the header box and you have to push it away.
PG: Right. Then, you had to unload it by hand.
FT: Yeah, my mother did a lot. Then she had a big garden all the time. We’d butcher nine pigs at one time. Nine. They only butchered once in the year, see, and the neighbors come and help. Then, dad would go and help the neighbors see. The neighbors helped each other, put it that way. They’d come at about 4:00 in the morning…[end side A]
[Begin side B]
…country style sausage, the ham that Ma and Pa smoked; we had a little house outside where we smoked them. We made liver sausage, blood sausage and all that. I couldn’t eat the blood sausage. Dad liked it fried. We had all that food, you know. Then when we would butcher a calf, I had to can it all because we had no refrigerator and no electricity. We canned it all and it kept; put it in the basement. I imagine your folks probably did the same.
PG: Oh sure. Did you have jars for the canning?
FT: Oh yeah, we had jars…a lot of jars. Ma used to buy them at a crate; a whole bunch of them, maybe ten or twelve in one.
PG: Was that safe, or did the jars sometimes explode or break? You never had a jar explode, huh?
FT: Oh no. We never had anything spoiled. We made our own jelly, our own chokecherry jelly, baked our own bread. If they’d bought a loaf of bread, they’d of been ashamed to. Everybody baked their own bread those days, and it was good.
PG: And you had big, big loaves.
FT: My mother had a loaf that she would put in her arm and cut. Yes! With that many kids, we baked [bread] about three times a week and oh that was cooked in that coal stove. I still think the bread is better in a coal stove than in any other stove. The crust gets so good. I’m still an old fashioned person, I still like it. I’m not ashamed to say it, either.
PG: Then your mother made cheese, huh?
FT: She made cheese like the boughten cheese. She had some yellow stuff she put in there, and we made cottage cheese and other cheese that looked just like boughten cheese. I don’t know if she bought it where she got it; I didn’t pay much attention to it, but I know it was yellow cheese just like you buy.
PG: It was kind of hard like that?
PG: Oh, I never saw that homemade cheese like that. I just remember cottage cheese. My mother made cottage cheese.
FT: We made that with [B20 German word], you know, boiled potatoes, then have cheese, fish. On Fridays, you didn’t eat the meat. During Lent we had all that meat and you couldn’t eat any on Wednesday, you couldn’t eat any on Friday. We had all that meat. [We would] buy sardines and other fish.
PG: Did you buy fish or did you go out to the river and get them?
FT: Oh no, we didn’t have no place there to fish that I know of.
PG: So you went to town?
FT: Ma just bought the canned fish, like sardines and then there was salmon in a taller can.
PG: Pickled herring, huh?
FT: Yeah, we had that, too. That I think Ma bought. They like those. You know, they serve that out at…what’s the name of that place out by the mall? Well, anyway, they served that pickled herring out there, and I had a niece—she moved to Texas. They lived here and they went out to eat a lot, and she said Carl would take just about all those pickled herring. They served them; you help yourself, see. She said, “I got mad at him sometimes because he was so greedy.” It isn’t the Country Kitchen, that’s another place; I can’t think of the name. At my age, I’m forgetting a lot.
PG: You’re doing pretty good though.
PG: Let’s talk about the Thomas’, your husband’s family. Did Ray’s parents come over here?
FT: Yeah, but I think they had brothers and sisters, over here. My mother-in-law didn’t, but my dad had brothers, that I know. They had seven children. They had one girl only and the rest were boys. Then one of the boys, Brother Stanislaus, went to that [B43 Abbey, Missouri]; he was a Brother; he died there. And Sister Ludgard was at [B043 Yankton]. She was a smart one I tell you; they’d sent her all over for everything. At the beginning, when we first were married, she couldn’t go alone, she had another sister with her. Later on, she went by herself and she traveled all over. She was smart, and she was the kind [of person that] if I say you do this, you better do it. [Laughter]
PG: [Laughs.] She was strict, huh?
FT: And she could get money. Yankton, do you ever get down there? There’s some kind of a thing—Father Polluck, he was our priest; he saw it, and I liked Father Polluck. It’s something that they have over part of the top, and she got the money to put it up there. She could ask the doctor for money or whoever had money, and she got it. I don’t know how she got it. She was a beggar. She had a way or something. [Laughter]
PG: She had a way of how to do it; she knew how to do it. Well, that’s okay. So, Ray’s parents lived at Richardton.
FT: They were from Russia, but I don’t know from where. Is there a place by the name of Landau?
FT: I think it was from there. They lived all their life in Richardton. You know where the [B058 Rommels] lived. Right there was their farm. And then [B059 Hunke] bought their farm. There’s some parts of the house there yet, but the land someone is farming. I think one of the Hunke’s, if they’re still alive. Henry died. Ray and one of the Hunke’s, too, sang real well. They were good friends.
PG: [B067 Bernard Hunke] has that place, now. He does not live there, but he has some cattle over there. That was a stone house.
FT: Yeah. Ma said they had such good water there, a well with such good water. It was a nice place. When my boys would come home, we’d drive down there sometimes. They want to see it. There’s trees now there, just beautiful trees. It was so long that the folks lived there, but the yard is just beautiful they say. I don’t know anything much about his [Ray’s] parents. His mother lived up here in Dickinson. After Dad died, she moved up here; she lived two blocks from St. Joe’s. She stayed with us for a while. Then she wanted to go where she could go to Mass everyday. Then there was a vacancy over there and she got a good deal on that, so she moved there and went to Mass everyday at St. Joe’s. But she’s buried in Richardton; they’re both buried in Richardton.
PG: Do you know what her maiden name was?
FT: Yeah, [B79 Heidt].
PG: Oh, that’s a common name.
FT: She has relatives in—if they’re still there—in Bismarck; [B081].
PG: Okay now, there’s other Hatzenbuhlers around here. Are you related to…?
FT: Some around Belfield, but I don’t know any of them and they’re not our…they spell it a little different. I’ve got some cousins, I think yet, in Mandan, but I haven’t been there for so long that I wouldn’t…and there’s some [B085 Froelichs] down there. One of my sisters is married to a Froelich. Some of her children are living down there. They were here for Ray’s funeral when Ray died—three years already. Yeah, they came up for the funeral. It was nice of them to do that, because it was raining that day. They always say if it rains into the grave, it’s good luck…I don’t know, I hope so. [Laughter]
PG: Oh, I never heard that.
FT: I’ve heard that many times.
PG: If it rains into the grave…
FT: Yeah, that’s good luck.
PG: So that could be the day before the funeral, as long as the grave is open, right?
FT: Yeah, and it sure rained. My son drove our car and took me out there and the undertaker said [B092] Ray is buried there at St. Pat’s cemetery, and we drove right in up almost to the grave. You know the [B093 Schnells]?
FT: They’re so comical, you know, and they were Ray’s good friends. One of them came up to the car and said, “Frances, if Ray isn’t up there, we haven’t got a chance.” [Laughther] I said, “I hope you’re right.”
PG: I’m sure he is.
FT: [B097 Ray Schnell] and Ray were very good friends. [B098]. How’s Father Victor doing?
PG: Brother Victor, he’s okay.
FT: I got a nice [tape cuts]. …see, my boys are so far away: California. It costs them about two thousand dollars every time they come home—they fly. Then, they have to rent a car in Bismarck to come home. But they’re all three good; I got all three good boys. They call every week, during the week sometimes, and send me stuff. They’re all three good to me. I can’t complain about anything. I got enough to eat; Ray left me enough, so I got enough to eat, and I got everything, except I’m homesick. I’ve haven’t got no family here. I had that one niece, now she moved to Texas about two months ago. Her son is down there.
PG: So you don’t have any nieces here, either? No nieces, no nephews?
FT: Nothing. Not even a cousin.
PG: Oh, really.
FT: Nobody. I have friends, though…lots of friends. We play a lot of Pinochle. We play for money, too. [Laughter] I play bridge, too. We put fifty cents in the pot. Then, high gets a dollar and the second, seventy-five and low, a quarter. I said, “Where else can you go and have fun all afternoon for one dollar.” [Laughter.]
PG: I guess.
FT: I hope you’re satisfied. I told you everything that you asked that I knew. I don’t know nothing about my parents because they came from Russia, and they never talked much about it. I think it hurt them to talk about it. You know when you leave your sisters and brothers never to see them again, that must hurt. We girls, later on, especially my sister from Fort Wayne and I, we said, “I bet you our mother cried many times and felt bad many times, and we were too dumb to realize it.”
PG: That’s right. Oh yeah, I’m sure they were homesick.
FT: Oh yes. I bet they went to bed and cried. I pray for them, especially prayers that I hope they have it nice wherever they’re at.
PG: Well, what do you think about nowadays how the children can do whatever they want?
FT: That’s true. I don’t know. Our kids, we were good to them. To tell you the truth—I’m bragging—we raised a good family. I got very good boys. They all kept their religion, got married to Catholic girls, and their children are all so-far-so-good. My son called me yesterday morning. “Mom,” he said, “you know, I’m another Grandpa.” Their son just had a baby, his first baby. I guess she had a very hard time. He said we were lucky that she’s alive.
PG: Well, how many grandchildren do you have?
FT: Eighteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.
PG: Do you have any great-great?
FT: No, not yet.[Laughter]
PG: Well, if you live long enough, live a few more years, then you’ll get great-great…
FT: And for Christmas, I send the boys each a check. I send them a check and that’s for the whole family. My oldest son called me this year and he said, “Mom, you know that check you sent,” he said, “the day after Christmas I’m taking all my children and grandchildren out for dinner, and I’m going to announce it and tell them that it’s a check from Grandma, and that goes for all of you.”
PG: That’s okay.
PG: During the Second World War, were you afraid to talk German? You know, we were not supposed to talk German then.
FT: I know it. That’s what Ray said, my husband. He said, too, we didn’t talk German, we decided to talk in English all the time on account of that, like you say. It was too dangerous.
PG: But, nothing ever happened, right? Nobody ever got punished, or arrested?
FT: No. You know those Bohemians? I said, they talk their Bohemian language, it don’t matter…[interruption, someone came to visit]
[Brother Placid went back to Mrs. Thomas’ on January 26th to fill up the tape]
PG: Maybe we can talk about when you got married?
PG: What kind of a wedding did you have? Did you have a big wedding?
FT: We had a nice wedding. We lived south of Richardton, and we got married at Assumption Abbey. Father…he isn’t there no more, I forgot his name.
PG: Was it Father Peter? No, that was before Father Peter. Gregory? Julius?
PG: Father Julius.
FT: Yeah. I got it someplace…
PG: It doesn’t matter. Did you have a big meal?
FT: Yeah, we had a dinner, and Ray was in the choir. You know, he sang in the choir for sixty years. He had a good voice; he had a trained voice; he took training at the college. We had the whole choir out for dinner and a lot of friends.
PG: Oh, the choir members came out for dinner?
FT: Uh-huh. We invited them all for dinner because Ray sang in the choir, and they sang at the wedding.
PG: Oh, so you had a big choir.
Ft: They had a nice choir. Did you know [B162 Roy Messemer]?
Ft: He was in there. He had a beautiful voice. And Eva…Eva something; she was an old maid…nice person related with the Mugglis. I knew all the Mugglis], you probably didn’t. John Muggli at the bank, you didn’t know him?
FT: Somebody said he was a crook, but I don’t know. Because he took all the farms and people’s money at that time.
PG: Where did you have the wedding dinner?
FT: At the folk’s, on the farm.
PG: Oh, your folks. It was south of Richardton?
FT: South of Richardton. Do you know where the [B169 Rommels] lived? Or who lived close, was our neighbor. [B172 has trouble recalling] A Rommel I think, yeah, he died last year. His wife died this year.
PG: That was Fred?
FT: Fred. He was a good friend of my brother’s. The reason for that was they both liked their little drinks. [Laughter] That’s where we lived, just about a half a mile from his place. I think the people that owned that farm was [B177 Shrader] or something like that. It was a big house. We had a great big kitchen. We had maybe not as many people. We had a dance, played accordion…
PG: You had the dance right in the house?
FT: Uh-huh, everything was in the house.
PG: Who played for the…
FT: Oh, I don’t know, somebody played the accordion. I had a brother-in-law that played it. I think he played most of it. See, years ago they didn’t have weddings like they have now, in some hall, or have everything…
PG: Well, what kind of dances did they do?
FT: Mostly waltzes. Old time waltzes and two steps and stuff like that.
PG: Did they do the polkas like they do nowadays?
FT: Oh yeah, and the polka. They were good polka dances, although mostly everything was old fashioned, you know. ’28, that was a long time ago.
PG: Did you put anything on the floor to make it slippery?
FT: No, I don’t know that. Maybe we did, I don’t know.
PG: I know sometimes they put flax on the floor.
FT: I know that. They even put that at the Eagle’s when we used to go to the Eagle’s.
FT: Something that would make it too slippery sometimes.
PG: Did you have a big dinner and a big supper?
FT: We had a big dinner and for the supper we had cold cuts and stuff like that, you know, ham and potato salad. That old fashioned potato salad, you like that? Your folks must have made that.
PG: How do you make the old time potato salad?
FT: Oh, we would boil the potatoes, then slice them kind of thin after they cool off, and then you put salt and pepper, oil, Mazola oil, a little vinegar, a little sugar, onions. Onions, don’t forget the onions. Mix it up real good. It’s good. My grandchildren one day come, they say, “Grandma, you gotta have potato salad.” But, I can’t do it no more. They just love it. That was our meal on—the old timers, I think, all did, like on Saturdays, you know; Sundays we’d go to church, then we had chicken noodle soup and all that at noon. Your folks probably did, too?
PG: On Sundays, yes.
FT: And then on Saturday night we had a ham and potato salad and all that kind of stuff. Then, for Christmas, my daughter from Bismarck always came Christmas Eve with her family; at that time she had five. We’d have a tree, a big tree, and go to Midnight Mass. Ray always had to sing at the Mass. Then, come home and have a lunch. Then the next day we’d have a turkey and all that for dinner.
PG: When you came home from the Midnight Mass, did you have anything special? Was their a tradition?
FT: We had lunch when we came back. Well, we had ham and stuff like that; just cold cuts. We didn’t have no hot stuff or anything. Coffee and cookies or whatever was there. Ray always sang a solo. It was so beautiful, and some of my friends even now that still go to St. Pat’s mention it. They say, “We sure miss Ray at Christmas.” He sang that, ‘O come let us adore him.’ You know that, that’s so beautiful. He sang the solo part and then the chorus would join in. I miss that. This year I was all alone for Christmas, and I was so home sick. I hated that. My boys couldn’t come home. Last year one of them came, but they all have big families already. My second youngest son has nine grandchildren, and they still have five children; they all come home and they have the candy. I don’t expect it, I understand it. They felt bad and I said, “Don’t feel bad. I understand it.”
PG: When you got married, did you have bridesmaids?
PG: How many bridesmaids?
FT: Just one…my brother and a relative of Ray’s. A [B239 Freed] girl from [B239]. It was his relative. That’s all we had.
PG: Oh, you had one best man and one bridesmaid?
FT: Right. Not like now. When my daughter got married, she had six bridesmaids. [Laughter]
PG: That’s too many.
FT: Yeah. But they were all her friends from high school, college. They were all her friends and she couldn’t invite one and leave out the others, she invited them all. [Laughter]
PG: When you walked into church, did you walk up with Ray right away, the two of you together?
FT: Yeah, we did. We walked together right away. It wasn’t that he stands up in front and waits for you.
PG: Yeah, nowadays, somebody brings the bride up.
FT: I know it. That’s the way our daughter Marie did it, too. Dad took her up to her husband. [Laughter]
PG: So you had church at 10:00 in the morning, or what?
FT: Yeah, it was in the morning, I don’t know. Like, maybe in the forenoon, so we had dinner at noon. I had a big dinner at noon.
PG: Did you have a lot of people at the farm for the meal?
FT: Well, we had enough of us; it was pretty crowded. But my folks couldn’t have [rented a hall]…I don’t know, they didn’t rent halls so much in those days. If they did, they probably couldn’t afford it anyway. My folks were always kind of on the poor side. I think they had too big a family.
PG: Who was the cook?
FT: Well, my older sisters were still alive then. They were all there, they helped with everything. That Girdy, that one that’s the oldest, Margaret, Barbara, they all lived around Mandan, one in Mott; they were all there.
PG: Okay, then right away after you got married, the Depression started, right?
FT: Yeah, that’s when the banks took all the farms and the money. Ray’s mother had a little money and a farm and she lost it all. I know she lived on the south side, too, in an apartment house, because she wanted to be close to church. But, I had her over a lot. She lived with us for a while, and I know she cried one time. She said, “I lost all my money.” The [B268 Hunke’s], they bought their farm, so she got a little money out of them. And they said John Muggli…did you know John Muggli]?
PG: No, I heard of him.
FT: They said he had to sneak home at night from his bank because everybody was waiting for him. They were after him. Did you know Amos [B272 Freed]?
PG: No. I’ve heard of him, but I don’t know him.
FT: Yeah, he was another banker in Dodge, and they took a lot of farms. One time…you know George [B275 Ress]?
PG: I’ve heard of him.
FT: He had a big farm. Yeah, they had a nice summer home north of Dodge. They were our friends, and they invited us out there one weekend and Amos [B278 Freed’s] were invited, too, so they drove. We went with them. Then, on the way on the other side of Dodge, you know, that’s where Amos used to work in the bank there. He’d say to his wife, “Isn’t that one of our farms, isn’t that one of our farms? [Laughter]
PG: He owned all the farms.
FT: Yeah, he owned all the farms. And he had the money, too, boy. That’s the way it used to be.
PG: You never lived on the farm after you got married, huh?
FT: No, Ray was a sign painter, you know, put up those signs in the businesses. He was one of those so we moved to Dickinson, and he got in with another sign painter; they worked together. Then, the other one decided he wanted to go to Montana. Brown was his name, [B289 Ek Brown]. So, he left and we were alone. We did okay, though.
PG: So, that’s the thing he did for all his life? Sign painter, huh?
FT: Yeah, that’s what he did all his life.
PG: So, he was an artist.
FT: He still has a sign…see those little men above the sink there? Those are some of his work.
PG: Oh, that’s nice.
FT: Yeah, he did a lot of things.
PG: Did he go to school to learn to paint?
FT: He went to school in the Abbey. That’s the one place he went, for college.
PG: So he did not go away to learn to be an artist?
FT: Yeah, he went away to do some of that sign work. He was in Chicago for a while to learn some for that.
PG: Was that before he got married?
FT: No, that was after we were married. I was alone a lot of times. They went off painting those big signs on elevators, and he had men working for him. I’d be alone to take care of the shop, answer the phone and stuff like that. We worked together. I was telling my boys, “There’s so many divorces nowadays, I said. “We were married 67 years and,” I said, “don’t think it was all sun and roses; we were darn poor a lot of times.” I said, “But we kept our family and we got a good family.” I got four boys, and I hate to say it but…. You can meet them; they’re just so good to me.
PG: When you lived in Dickinson after you got married, did you have a big garden?
FT: No. We had a little garden in our back yard for a while, but then we had to quite it. We had a big building, you know, where the [B315 Woolworth’s] was. There’s a bank there now, that’s where we had a building, and we sold it to…somebody near Williston bought it. We had to quite the business; we couldn’t get any material or anything. So, we bought a house and we [eventually] moved out of there.
PG: In the ‘30s, did you have a cow in town?
FT: No, we bought our milk. You know we talk about the farmers. I hate to say it, but I don’t feel sorry for farmers, the way they act nowadays. They don’t have a chicken, they don’t have nothing anymore. And, you know, I’ve fed more darn farmer. They’d come in and we were poor. Then, I’d have to go to [B327 Parker’s] just down the alley from us…go down there and get something for them to eat. One time eight of them walked in. I still had my dirty dishes on the table from noon. I had four boys, and in the summer they helped their dad, and he had to give them a little money anyway. So they helped him. And we were just through eating, then they said, “every time we come, you run to the store.” I was so bashful, I didn’t say nothing. Now I would say, “What the hell do you think I should do when you walk in on me like that.” [Laughter] And, I don’t care; Ray and I always said afterwards, “If you give, you shall receive.” I believe in that so much. I’ve had more darn bums. How they find our place, I don’t know. I’d make sandwiches for them. If I didn’t have enough bread or money or anything for sandwiches, I took them in and I’d fry them an egg. Ray would say, “Don’t do that, you don’t know those guys.” I said, “He ate and said ‘thank you’ and walked out.” And I still say, “If you give, you shall receive.” I’m not rich, but I’ve got all the food I want, and I got a nice apartment. I got to thank God everyday for that.
PG: But those people that walked in, those eight guys that walked in…
FT: They had chicken and pigs and sausage and everything and never brought a thing.
PG: I mean, why did they come to your place?
FT: Because they didn’t want to spend any money downtown.
PG: They were good friends of yours, or what?
FT: They were kind of a distant relative. Some of them live in town here. Some are married to [B341 Stockerts]. They come from Glen Ullin, though, and their name was Thomas. But not even a close relative. But, you know, they butchered and had a bunch of sausage, and what I wouldn’t have given for some of that. One time, their mother had to go to the doctor and she came up and stayed with me, because she went to the same hospital. She said, “I wanted to bring some sausage, but I thought it didn’t look so good to take sausage on the bus.” I thought if you had only known what it would’ve meant to me, she would’ve brought some. [Laughter] That’s a dumb thing. Some people are like that. Some people don’t come empty handed, and I have friends come and I still like to play Bridge and Pinochle. You play cards?
PG: Oh yeah.
FT: I bet you my friends never come without bringing something, but [they say], “See I know, Frances, you can’t go out and shop, you can’t do this and that.” I say, “Why do you always bring something?” “Well, because you have to have us here all the time.” I said, “Well it’s nobody’s fault I can’t go out, I can’t walk.” I said, “I thank God everyday that you are nice enough friends to come and see me.” Right?
PG: Right. Did some people have cows in town?
FT: That I don’t know.
PG: Not in Dickinson, but in the smaller towns like Richardton.
FT: Yeah, I don’t remember that anybody had any cows. Maybe at the edge of town, I don’t know.
PG: At the edge of town, I suppose. I know in Richardton they had chickens in town.
FT: Yeah, chicken would’ve been nice. One couple always came every time they had trouble with the [B370 law] or something. They’d stay at our place. One time she brought a duck; ducks are so fat. I said, “What should I do with it?” She said, “Well you could make some soup; take the fat and make soup and fry the duck.” I said, “You can’t make soup out of fat, you got to have meat.” [Laughter]
PG: Well, it takes some fat and some meat.
FT: Yeah, a little fat in there, but not all fat. Ducks are fat, you know, they all are. We used to have ducks on the farm, my folks did. But we never made soup out of ducks; we made soup out of chicken. Sunday there was a good noodle soup. It was good every Sunday. I think the old timers all cooked the same. The lady that helps me, she says her mother did the same thing every Sunday.
PG: They had chicken soup every Sunday?
FT: Chicken soup, yeah.
PG: Ray was a musician, too, right?
FT: Yeah, he played in a band, too.
PG: Did he learn that at the Abby?
FT: He played already when we got married; he must’ve learned some of it there. He went to school there when there were nuns teaching there, yet, because he said they were so mean. He said, one of them didn’t like me and she brought the ruler, she was going to hit my hand, he said, I just pulled it back in time. He said, if she’d have hit it, I think it would’ve cracked. [Laughter] Do they still have somebody going to college there?
FT: No more, huh.
PG: What instrument did Ray play?
FT: He played the big trombone, with a big horn. He played other stuff, too, but that was in the band he played that—the city band. We always had a concert every weekend. I know one time, they always advertise at some of the stores, you know, and one of the band leaders had Ray get up in between and you tell them that you can get [B396 Gilles] hardware. They have this for sale, and you mention that. He forgot what it was and then, when he got up, he just said, “Whatever it is, you can get it at [B399 Gilles] for sale. They just laughed at him. [Laughter]
PG: Well, it’s okay. Did you play any instrument?
FT: No, I just love to dance.
PG: Well, that’s good exercise.
FT: I play cards. I love cards.
PG: Did you sing?
FT: Yeah, we sang. We’d dance, and like I said, we lived on a farm with our folks, you know and it was different than now. The farmers got together and the young people would be in one room and the old ones in the other one, and we used to take the table out and have an accordion player and we’d dance and everything. The folks would sit in the other room—the old people.
PG: You said your dad was a musician. What did he play?
FT: He played the clarinet.
PG: And he learned that in Russia?
FT: I think he learned that in the service when he was in Russia. He was in the service, too, in Russia and he played there…played real nice. He and somebody from Mandan, a Mr. Gerhardt, and another man, they had a four piece orchestra. They played for weddings, old time weddings. They got paid for that.
PG: Four piece? That’s pretty good.
FT: Yeah, at that time, it was. Well, I was born in 1905…maybe I was about six years old when my oldest sister got married. They played for her wedding.
PG: How long did you got to school?
FT: I only went as far as the eighth grade, that’s all. This [piece of mail] goes to my son, he lives there, my youngest son. I pay my bills and all that, but I send him all the taxes and stuff. He takes care of all that. So this goes, I’ve been waiting to get to the mail. Maybe there’s something else out there. Well, those days [school] didn’t mean that much. Women were supposed to know how to cook and all that, you know.
PG: That’s right.
FT: But I tell my boys a lot of times, they all got college degrees. I said, “You know what, I know more than you do with a college [degree].I know what you have to do to make a living and to get along.” I said, “Do you know that?” Well, they all have nice families, I’ll tell you that much. Now my second youngest, he’s in Florida right now, he’s retired. He worked for a big company, I can’t think of the name. He’s retired and he built a brand new home in a retirement town, they call it. He built a new home there, and he’s living there now, but now he’s in Florida. He has a daughter down there. He’s getting along; they’re all getting along real well. This one here works for a big company out of Los Angeles, he’s an accountant. So they all did okay. Like I say, I can’t complain about anything, except I’m always so darn homesick for my family and nobody’s here. I don’t even have a cousin in town: nothing. I had one granddaughter and she moved to Texas not long ago.
PG: If you could give some advice to the young people, have you got some advice for the young people? How to raise their children?
FT: What kind of advice, though? For my grandchildren?
PG: Just in general; young people. What they should do in order to live a good life.
FT: Oh, you know what I tell them every time. They call a lot; every week and sometimes more than once a week. I always say, “Okay, be nice to each other, and I love you…and be nice to each other” I said, “I don’t care if you only eat bread and water, but be nice to each other.” I tell them that every time. [Laughter] I said, “You may have only bread and water to eat, but be nice to each other.”
PG: That’s good advice. How would you like to be remembered after you are gone?
FT: Well, I think my boys took care of that already.
PG: I mean…
FT: I would like to be remembered as I took good care of my family. We were so poor, you wouldn’t believe it. I made my kids wear pants that were made out of legs like this. They were still good. They had nothing to wear. We lived two blocks from St. Pat’s. They were all nuns there yet. I made pants and I made pajamas out of shirts where the back was still good and I made overcoats, fixed old coats and everything, and the kids were always clean. I’ll say one thing, I’m not bragging if I say that I was a good housekeeper. My house wasn’t dirty. My mother was, too. And the priest’s cook—Father Schmidt was our priest—the priest’s cook and I were good friends and she said, “You know what Father said? He said those Thomas kids always look so clean.” I said, yes, I know what they were wearing; they have to be pressed with a wet cloth and a hot iron. I said there’s no such a thing as a drier and stuff those days.
PG: Did you make clothes out of the flour sacks?
FT: Yes…diapers and dish towels. We didn’t have stuff to buy like young people do now and throw them in the garbage. They don’t wash diapers or make diapers and then they wonder why they don’t have no money. Then they eat everything. I always tell my boys we didn’t eat that crap they have; we had real food. It was plain food, but it was good food [B520] Did your mother make those?
PG: Oh yeah.
FT: And good soup and all that stuff. I think the old timers all do the same, because the lady that helps me said her mother did the same thing.
PG: Well the flour sacks had such nice patterns on there; nice flowers, all different kinds.
FT: [Laughter] I know it.
PG: And then sometimes, you had to look for another one so you had enough material of one kind, so you had enough to make something.
FT: How many children did your folks have?
PG: They had sixteen babies, but three babies died right away, so they raised…
FT: Sixteen children they had? Even more than my folks.
PG: They raised thirteen. Well, the tape is getting full, so I say thank you for the nice conversation.
FT: You’re welcome.
PG: It’s fun to talk about the old times. It’s fun to visit.
FT: Yeah. Well, you can talk until she comes, then she’ll want to…she takes care of my feet and stuff.
PG: Okay, when the cleaning lady comes.
FT: Well, she’s more like a nurse, but she does other stuff, too.
PG: Did your mother do a lot of sewing?
FT: Yes. She sewed everything. My oldest sister even made her wedding dress herself, and it was beautiful.
PG: Did it have white?
FT: Well, no it wasn’t exactly all white; it was kind of in the bluish order.
FT: Yeah, that’s a long time ago.
PG: Did your mother have a nice sewing machine?
FT: Yeah, an old fashioned Singer. I have one yet.
PG: You have to peddle… [end of tape].