Interview with Helmuth Herbert Huber
Conducted by Joyce Reinhardt Larson (JL)
Fargo, North Dakota, 15 December 1994
Transcription by Joyce Reinhardt Larson
Editing by Mary Lynn Axtman
JL: This is Joyce Reinhardt Larson. It is
December 15, 1994 and I am at the home of Helmuth Huber from Fargo.
We are going to do an interview for the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection at NDSU Libraries. We'll start with these general questions
and I guess I'll call you Herb rather than Helmuth.
JL: What is your name and your date of birth
and where were you born?
HH: I was born Helmuth H. Huber in Ashley,
North Dakota on December 18, 1927.
JL: What is your father's name and where
did he come from?
HH: My father's name is Henry H. Huber and
that's where I got my middle initial. We both had the same middle
name. His name was Henry Herbert Huber and mine is Helmuth Herbert
Huber. My dad did not come from the south Russia area. He came
from the Volga region. My family was one of the first ones that
came to the Volga area when Catherine the Great opened up the
plains of Russia.
JL: Do you know about when that was?
HH: The first Huber came to the Volga...,
well, he started in 1763 and he got there in 1765. He came with
his wife and two boys and that's where our heritage started, as
far as my father's side from the Volga area.
JL: I see. How about your mother?
HH: My mother is direct descendent of South
Russia because her father came from Hoffnungstal in Bessarabia,
South Russia and my grandmother came from Borodino, South Russia.
But my mother was born in America in Ashley, North Dakota. My
mother's oldest brother was born in Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia in
JL: How many brothers and sisters did you
HH: I am the oldest of a family of three.
My other brother Eugene, he is two years younger than I am. Then
I had a brother Jim that still is on the farm and he is seven
years younger than I am.
JL: I see. On a farm near Ashley?
HH: Well, he is farming land that my father
JL: As a homesteader?
HH: No, no, he bought it. My father came
to Menno, South Dakota when he came over. He came over when he
was seventeen years old and he worked that and then down there
he got in touch with my dad's uncle who had come up earlier through
Canada. Then he came down to Menno and there they worked together
until they had enough money acquired. Then they came to Ashley,
North Dakota in 1919. Then they bought some land there and that's
how he got to North Dakota.
JL: Do you have any idea on how parents
decided on their children's names? Like you said your middle name
HH: Like my name is Helmuth. Helmuth is
a very German oriented name if you go back in history. That's
where that came from. They wanted some connection with my father
and then my father's middle name was Herbert. When you look at
it and write it, my father had three H's in his name and that's
what I ended up with.
JL: I see. And that's very German?
HH: Yah. Eugene, which is "Igen," and that's
German also. And that comes out Eugene in English. My brother
is James, which is Jacob in German. But those were the German
names, but being they were American, they translated them into
the English. They are all basically German heritage, those three
JL: That's interesting. Was the custom of
naming a child after a grandfather or grandmother a way of carrying
on the family name too?
HH: Yes. More so in the early years than
it was after they came to America. It was the Russian custom.
When I was back to see my relatives in 1992, Jacob and Heinrich
and those names were carried on. Each family carried that name
from generation to generation, if they had children. Sometimes,
like my father's oldest brother was John, but he died. But they
had another son younger than my father and they named him also
John or Johannes, to keep the name going.
JL: Were middle names important then?
HH: In a way, yes. Because my brother next
to me, Eugene or Igen, he has two middle names, Fred and John
and those names were from my mother's two brothers. So, they tried
to intertwine the names of the family.
JL: Mother or father, it didn't really matter,
HH: Yah, either side. But, I think what
happened in my case was dad had the first pick and then I was
the first born and mother made the choice on the second child.
That's kind of the way it turned out, I think, and that's where
the two names for my younger brother came from.
JL: Did your mother tell you anything about
the old country in South Russia?
HH: Not too awfully much. Basically what
I learned, more where my mother came from, is the little bit I
learned from my grandpa, Grampa Wahl. He talked to us a little
bit about that.
JL: What was his name?
HH: Fred Wahl, Senior.
JL: What did he tell you?
HH: Well, it was something about the orchards
and they had wine. That was different for him coming to North
Dakota. They tried to raise some of the fruit down there where
I came from, some plums and some apples and things like that,
but it was not like where he came from in Russia.
JL: You don't remember anyone else telling
you anything else about South Russia?
HH: Well, from listening when the families
would visit when I was around. But nothing direct. I learned more
from my father, he was interested in history. I learned quite
a bit more about the Russian heritage from him and what they did
and so forth. He came directly from there and I guess that's why
he was more interested. He left when he was seventeen.
JL: So, he had a lot of memories?
HH: Oh yes, from going to school and so
JL: So, he was from the Volga area rather
than from the South Russia area?
HH: He came from the Volga area, the village
JL: Did he ever talk about their home in
the village there? Did they have villages there in that area too?
HH: His explanation of it was what they
called a Dorf. That's where they lived in a group and they farmed
the land and worked the land. Somebody would come and pick up
the cattle and take them out and herd them. They had a herdsman
and so forth. But everyone lived in the village and everything
was done around it. They had one central place, like a central
square and they had a spring for the central village and so forth.
JL: It was sure different there than things
were when they came over here. It made them much less dependent
on each other because they were homesteading and had their own
land and lived far apart.
HH: Yah, and that was the thing that my
dad probably talked about the most was the way that everything
was done in unison when they were in the dorf. Now, my grandfather
had a flour mill, so he was never really on a farm. My dad worked
in the flour mill until he was seventeen. It was a wind mill,
not a water mill.
JL: Is that right? Do you remember times
when you talked to them? Did they mention being homesick for the
HH: Well, as you know, men are more stoic
than ladies, and as I grew up, I never really noticed this in
my father. But, he did write to them and so forth that it really
bothered him. At one time, we had a Wall reunion, which was all
the family on my mother's side that got together and I thought
something was wrong with my dad. That's what it was.
JL: Is that right? Well, they were bound
to get lonely and homesick for their homeland.
HH: Yah. Then he never saw them again. They
lost track of them after World War II and after that it only got
worse. We only heard from them twice after the war. And later
on, I found out there were some living cousins over there that
I got to see and so forth.
JL: That's quite another story, isn't it?
How was property inherited in your parents and grandparents generation?
HH: If I would have stayed on the farm,
I would have had the farm. The first born usually got the farm.
But I didn't stay because I had two younger brothers behind me
and we didn't have enough land for three of us. So, I went and
then my second brother went and the younger brother got the farm.
But, that was what was basically done down around Ashley. The
older brother got the home place.
JL: So really, each child didn't inherit
HH: Well, they tried to. My father had it
done that way. James got the home place, but he got a little extra
for staying on the farm and taking the home place. But from then
on, it was divided among the three of us.
JL: So, fairness was important then?
JL: Did sons inherit differently than daughters?
If you would have had a sister, how would that be done?
HH: Well, I don't remember. I just don't.
But, if I would have stayed on the farm, I would have probably
gotten a little bit more as far as the estate goes and the land
and so forth. That's what we did, how we treated my brother Jim.
We left him the better and closest land to farm, and whatever
else dad had, we just split amongst the three.
JL: This raises the question. Do you think
there was ever anger in families about inheritance issues?
HH: I'm sure there was. But of the people
that I knew down there personally, I don't know of any.
JL: Did you speak German as a child?
HH: Yah. I talked German before I talked
English. When I went to school, I didn't know any English when
JL: It was always spoken at home, then?
HH: Very much so. Because we had an uncle
that lived with dad and mother and us and he couldn't speak any
English at all. So basically, I spoke German until I started school.
Then it was a little easier for my brother, because in two years,
I had learned a little bit. So, he learned from me and so forth.
JL: Sometimes, they would have the teacher
live with them. That was one of the reasons that they would want
the teachers to live with them, was to learn a little English.
HH: I never had any problems because of
it. I don't remember anyway. We must have had some pretty good
JL: What were some of the childhood chores
that you enjoyed doing and some that you didn't enjoy?
HH: Well, on the farm, I enjoyed the harvest
time the most, when I got old enough to work to work in fields.
I had to chop down the wood and some of those things and those
were not to my greatest pleasure. But,I liked to work with horses
and work with the tractors. I enjoyed the field work.
JL: The threshing time?
HH: Yah, that was the most fun. I was pretty
young when I started, but it kind of puts you in the manhood area.
When you got your own bundle team and two horses and went from
farm to farm. That was quite an experience for a young man.
JL: It was a lot of hard work, but it was
a time for many people to get together to help out?
HH: Yah. We had a crew of.... I suppose...
Well, we usually had about six or eight teams, couple of spikers
and pitchers, machine men, and there were about ten or twelve
us all the time.
JL: Now, if you didn't do the work, how
were you disciplined?
HH: Well, I don't know. Dad had an old razor
strap. That came in handy once in a awhile. He didn't abuse it,
but we knew what it was for.
JL: And after a few times, you probably
didn't need it anymore? Do you have any memories that really stand
out from your childhood years on the farm?
HH: Oh, there are lots of memories. You
know, when I look back on it, it was really a great time. We had
a hill and did lots of sledding. We went hunting and we had a
neighbor that would come with us. We made toys out of next to
nothing. Stick horses, broom horses and all that stuff and homemade
slingshots to shoot the flies and all that stuff. We had all kinds
of things to do. We always had enough to eat. I never felt deprived
of anything. The memories that I think are most important to me
now is the visiting that we used to do amongst the cousins and
relatives. That doesn't happen anymore today because of the way
people are spread out. But on Sunday, even in the middle of harvest,
we were either at an uncle and aunts place or they were at our
place. I think that's something that our kids miss today. At the
reunions, the cousins get together and we have a good number of
them. We all knew each other pretty well from growing up.
JL: I think you're right. That's very true.
The Sundays were a day when you didn't work, did you?
HH: No, my dad didn't believe it that and
neither did my mother. We did the normal chores, but other than
that, we weren't in the field.
JL: How much schooling did you have? Did
you go to a country school?
HH: I graduated from the eighth grade in
a country school. Then I went to four years of high school and
one year of college. Then I went to a business college. Interstate
here in Fargo.
JL: What was it like in your school?
HH: From what I remember of it, it was a
great time. I don't have any bad memories of it. My grades weren't
the best and not the poorest either. I was an average student,
I guess. I enjoyed the math and history, which I'm glad I did,
because now I'm using it.
JL: Were there kids of other nationalities
in your school?
HH: No, not that I know of. That area where
I grew up was, oh, I suppose, 95% German Russian. Like I said,
through eighth grade was all German Russian children.
JL: You went to country school to the eighth
grade? Where did you go to high school?
HH: Ashley High.
JL: Was it far from the farm?
HH: When I used to walk it along the railroad
track, it was about a mile and half, and by road, it was about
two and a half miles. When it was nice, I walked it until I got
old enough to drive. In the winter time, I used to walk it on
the weekends and stayed with my uncle during the week in town.
JL: Did you think there was a difference
between farm school and town school? You know, you hear that it's
a different kind of experience.
HH: The only thing I can compare it to,
is from town school to high school. The town school, being a freshman,
you were more on your own. I always put it, like transferring
from high school to college, or like from grade school to high
school. You got a lot more attention in grade school. You were
all in the same room, the teacher was always there.
JL: How many kids went to your country school?
HH: Well, I have to count in my head now.
I think in my eighth grade, there must have been ten or twelve.
JL: That's pretty big?
HH: Yah. Earlier, there were quite a few
more kids. The reason there were ten or twelve is, because the
school that I started in, they had closed that. Because they consolidated
two country schools, and that's why the second one got bigger.
JL: Was that just one room?
HH: One room with a little shanty and a
barn outside for the horses.
JL: And an outhouse, I suppose and a potbellied
stove in the middle of the room?
HH: Oh, yes. And we had a big, old coal
furnace stove to the front and left hand corner of the room.
JL: Did the teacher always fill the stove
with coal, then?
HH: Well, we used to bank it at night. Sometimes,
we helped and sometimes, we didn't. But, we used to keep it going.
As I remember, she would come early on Monday and get it started.
The second time around, when we were in grade school, I suppose
we were about three miles away and there were neighbors that were
closer where the teacher lived.
JL: In what way was religion and church
important in your up bringing?
HH: On Sundays, we went to church and Sunday
School. We were all confirmed and my father was a deacon in the
church and read in the church. Those were the kind of values we
were taught on the farm.
JL: What kind of church was it?
JL: Oh, it was a Reformed church?
HH: Yah. My mother was a Lutheran, which
is what a lot of the people were, from South Russia. But, like
I said, my dad came from the Volga and that's where the Reformed
church was stronger. There was a Reformed church in Ashley too.
JL: I knew some people from that area that
went to the Reformed church and they were mainly Dutch.
HH: Uh, huh. Dutch or German. See, that's
basically where my father came from, that church goes back to
the Dutch Reformed. Came from the Dutch to Germany, and from there,
they took it over to Russia.
JL: And then, it made it's way over here?
In what language were the church services and prayers?
HH:It was in German. I was confirmed in
German and the prayers and reading and all was in German. I can't
tell you the exact date. My brother was confirmed in German also.
Then, my youngest brother, who is seven years younger than I am,
was confirmed in English.
JL: So, when did it switch to English about?
What year about were you confirmed?
HH: So, it would have been in about 1939
JL: How did your parents feel about that
HH: I don't really remember. Again, it was
something that the Reformed church was more.... Well, the Lutheran
church was already in English. The Reformed church held on to
the German service longer than the Lutheran church did.
JL: What did confirmation and baptism mean
HH: Baptism, as you know, we baptized just
like the Lutherans do. I don't remember it. Confirmation was to
me, strictly a learning experience. We learned a lot of things.
I couldn't repeat very many of the things that we were supposed
JL: Lot of memorization in German, wasn't
HH: Yah, there was. Like in confirmation
class that I went to, I don't know how it is now, but we had one
special day for discussion. Half a day we sat up front and the
minister went around and asked questions verbatim and each individual
had to answer. We never knew which question was coming at us.
It was a stressful day.
JL: Yes, that has changed. How did people
deal with death in the family? How did people grieve?
HH: As you know, I'm emotional and my mother
was too. I can still remember when my grandfather died and my
dad came home and told my ma. There was a lot of crying and so
JL: Do you remember anything about the funerals?
HH: Oh, yah. I was a pallbearer for my grandfather.
All the boys from the brothers and sisters were.
JL: But that was in a funeral home, I guess.
HH: In the Lutheran church.
JL: But years before, they would have the
body in the home. But you probably don't remember that.
HH: Yes, I do. When my Uncle Solomon died,
all the sisters and brothers would take turns sitting at the wake.
They called it a wake then. They would sit there at night, around
the clock. The body was never alone.
JL: Do you remember any of the songs?
HH: No, not really.
JL: Are you familiar with the wrought-iron
HH: I wasn't until I got to Russia. Because
we never had them down there. There were none that I saw. You
can go to the Lutheran cemetery there now and it's all granite.
I don't remember any wrought-iron crosses.
JL: I don't either, really. I think it's
mainly Catholic, but that isn't strictly true.
HH: The wrought-iron crosses, when you get
to Germany, like the German Russians, they use them. I don't know
if it's a take-off from what the Russians do. But they still do.
JL: They still do?
HH: Yes, they still do.
JL: Do they have a special design that means
something, do you know?
HH: That I don't know.
JL: It was done by blacksmiths that were
artists, you know.
JL: What did Christmas mean to your family?
HH: Well, it was kind of a special time.
I remember it was the only time of the year we had chocolate cookies
and walnuts. We were in a very small house, but somehow mother
always scraped up enough to have enough for a Christmas tree and
so forth. I have some fond memories of Christmas, but there was
never a lot of packages or anything. It was basically the home-made
stuff, the cookies, the gingerbread men she used to make. Like
I said, the chocolate cookies and nuts was a big thing to us.
JL: Any German foods that were special at
that time of the year?
HH: Well, we always had goose for Christmas
dinner and stuff like that.
JL: A goose that was raised on the farm?
HH: Yes. And like I said, the food she made
was cookies, gingerbread men, kuchen and those were always special
JL: You didn't have kuchen year round?
HH: Oh yes, but she made some extra fancy
ones for Christmas sometimes.
JL: Like goose, that was kind of a German
tradition, wasn't it?
HH: Yes, we still do it.
JL: You do? I had it years ago and it was
so good. Do you remember Christmas during the war years or the
depression? Did that make Christmas any different?
HH: No. That's when I basically start remembering
Christmas. Like I said, it was sparse. There wasn't that much,
but they hid everything and we never knew what we were getting.
The way I grew up with Christmas, the Christmas tree didn't go
up until after we got to bed. We had the little Christmas tree.
Mother and Dad put up the tree when we were sleeping and the presents
were under it by Christmas morning.
JL: They put it up themselves?
JL: They went out to the woods and got a
HH: Well, no. We didn't have many trees
out there. Like I said, I don't know where they hid all the stuff.
The tree was hidden too. That's how I started remembering Christmas,
growing up on a farm.
JL: How about Easter?
HH: Easter was kind of a solemn event. Good
Friday and also Easter Monday, which was also a Easter holiday,
as far as we were concerned.
JL: Any activities that were special at
HH: Well, coloring the eggs. I don't know
if you call that a ritual or not, but that was something we did
every Easter. Then we used to have the egg fights. Do you remember
HH: Well, whoever had the strongest eggs
pecked the [other's] eggs, and whoever was [not cracked], was
the winner of that round. That's one of the traditions we still
JL: That's kind of a game that you kids
HH: Oh, not only kids, everybody at the
JL: How about the Easter bunny?
HH: No, not much. That was not part of our
JL: Was Santa Claus at Christmas?
HH: Yes. Well, they called it Belzenickle.
JL: Oh, they did? So, Belzenickle was a
HH: Yah, it was.
JL: Sometimes, I've heard it said...
HH: Yah, sometimes it was the other. That's
how I remember my dad calling it. They called it different in
different areas. As I remember it, maybe I don't remember it right,
but I thought that's what my dad would call it.
JL: Oh, my dad did too. And it was a positive
thing. I talked to someone and Belzenickle was a fearful things,
that he would come and get kids if you didn't behave.
HH: No, that was not our situation as I
JL: How were marriage ceremonies performed?
Were they performed in the church?
HH: Some were in the church as I remember.
I don't think I've ever been at one that was in the home. They
were always in the church when I grew up.
JL: Was the reception held at the home then?
HH: In the home or in the hall, sometimes
in a special place. Like one of my cousins married in Ashley.
They had kind of a hall that they had the reception in afterwards
and the German wedding dance.
JL: What was a German wedding dance like?
HH: Oh, that was a fun time. You had to
drink the schnapps as you went in, and then there was schnapps
and beer available. You know, a lot of food.
JL: What about that schnapps, then? That
was served right at the door, wasn't it?
HH: Yes, they still do that.
JL: That's an old tradition, I bet. Do you
know anything about it?
HH: No. That's about the only time I ever
drank schnapps was at a wedding. We drank wine at home, but never
had schnapps at home.
JL: Was the schnapps homemade?
HH: I think so. I don't know.
JL: Oh, I've heard it called red-eye.
HH: Well, that's alcohol. That is 190 [proof].
Some served that, too. There were two [kinds, the schnapps and
JL: I remember some people cooking brown
sugar and water and that was some kind of hochzeitt drink then.
HH: Yah. I can't remember that one. I've
heard of it, but don't know about it.
JL: How long did these wedding activities
HH: Well, the ones where I grew up, they
would start usually in the afternoon. The wedding was in the afternoon,
then you had a big meal, and sometimes.... Well, one I remember,
we ate lunch, then had the wedding and then they had a big supper,
then the hochzeitt dance, the auctioning of the bride's shoe and
all that. That went on as long as people stayed. I can remember
going home when the sun came up.
JL: Did they have accordion music?
HH: Yes, basically the accordion.
JL: What kind of dancing?
HH: Oh, the waltz, the two-step, the polka,
and one other one I can't remember anymore. The schottish and
JL: Do you remember people getting up and
singing songs, German songs?
HH: Oh, yes, they used to sing. I don't
remember the names of them anymore. They used to sing right after
supper, or the evening meal and have a songfest for awhile, before
JL: Is that right? You don't remember the
names of any songs?
HH: No, uh hun. "Three Red Roses," [said
in German]. That one, we used to sing. One of the few I remember.
JL: "Three Red Roses?"
JL: What kind of foods were served at the
HH: Oh, gosh!
JL: Traditional kind of foods?
HH: Wurst was always one of them. Seemed
to me, one of my cousins had a wedding late in the fall and they
had hams. But sausage was always one of them. Then, the German
potato salad and always kuchen.
JL: Was the sausage summer sausage?
HH: Country fried. Not summer sausage. It
JL: Did you have homemade beer, too?
HH: My dad made homemade beer.
JL: Were the bridal clothes and decorations
made by the family? Do you know?
HH: Well, I never had any sisters.
JL: How were the wives and husbands chosen?
Were there any arranged marriages that you know of?
HH: Not that I know of.
JL: That was probably earlier?
HH: It was earlier. It did happen where
my father came from in Balzer, and I'm sure it happened in South
Russia too. But in America, as far as I know, in the time frame
I'm talking about, I don't know of anyone that did.
JL: Did the women help with the outside
HH: Oh, yes. They worked. How my mother
ever got it all done, I'll never know.
JL: What did your mother do?
HH: Well, it depends on the time of year.
Her's was the garden, that was her main outside thing. But, when
the harvest started, like when we used the hedder, she used to
drive the horses and stood on the hedder box. And then, when there
was milking to do, when we were busy in the evening, she'd come
and milk. But other than that...
JL: Otherwise, it was always the men's job
to do the milking?
HH: Well, she helped. When she had time,
she helped us milk. But she would do it alone, when we were harvesting.
JL: All that hand milking, no machines then?
HH: Well, we had as high as fifteen cows.
That's a lot of milking for one person.
JL: Do you remember some of the German cooking
your mother did?
HH: Oh, yah. The knepfla, schuppnudla, kuchen
naturally, plagenda, and then the canned chicken and canned pheasant.
That was the best, I think. Like the canned chicken and pheasant,
that's even better than the fresh, I think.
JL: My mother still does some of that. The
canned chicken and sausage, too.
HH: Oh, yah, yah. Well, when I grew up on
the farm, we never had any electricity. So everything we had,
had to be preserved by smoking or canning. We never had electric
power on the farm. We had a gas wash machine.
JL: Was there music entertainment in your
home? Was your family at all musical?
HH: Mother could play a little piano, but
that's about all. We had such a small house. We only had two rooms
and an upstairs that wasn't even finished. So we didn't have room
for anything else.
JL: So, you didn't sit around and sing at
JL: When they got company, were the children
permitted to stay in the room? Stay with the adults?
HH: No, no. My father always said, and I
think my mother said it too, that children are to be seen but
not heard, you know. Usually, a lot of the company we had were
the relatives. So, when the cousins came, we went outside and
played, you know. We got out of the way.
JL: Did you attend dances?
HH: Oh, yah. I learned to dance at the wedding
JL: Where did you attend the dances?
HH: Oh, gosh. The Pavilion. This was when
I was in high school. The dances were held in the barns or else,
wedding dances in the halls.
JL: Who went to those dances?
HH: The regular dances were mostly the young
people. The kids from high school or to about [age] 21 or 22.
JL: I'm sure that's how many of them met?
HH: Yah. That's about the only place we
had, except the pool hall and the girls weren't usually in there.
So, that's about the only place.
JL: What was the attitude of the older generation
HH: Well, my folks didn't have a problem
with it, as far as dances go. They liked it and went to dances
JL: So, it was never discouraged?
HH: It was never discouraged would be more
JL: Do you remember some of the games that
you played as a child?
HH: Well, we played with horses we made
out of sticks. Being on the farm, we did a lot of hunting. Played
marbles a lot.
JL: Oh, I see. What did you hunt?
HH: Oh, pheasant, rabbits. Did a little
trapping in the fall, like weasels. Hunted a lot of gophers in
the summer time.
JL: How about deer?
HH: No, we never hunted deer. I don't know,
for some reason there weren't a lot of deer in the area we were
in. Maybe that had something to do with it. I've never shot a
JL: Were your parents or grandparents superstitious
about certain aspects in life?
HH: I don't think so. Not that I'm aware
of. If they were, it wasn't very obvious.
JL: Do you remember any special healing
techniques that were used?
HH: Are you talking about Brauche?
JL: Yah. That's my next question. Do you
know anything about it?
HH: Well, no. My mother had a midwife when
she had some children, but there was a doctor that was there when
I was born. But they had a lot of their own home remedies.
JL: Can you tell me some of those?
HH: Oh, yeah. My daughter still gives me
a bad time. Oh, a few years back, I punctured a nail into my leg.
So, growing up we never went to the doctor. So I got some bacon
and salted it down good and wrapped it around my leg as a poultice.
She thought that was terrible, but that's what I learned from
at home. The same way with mustard plasters. The same way with
Mentholatum. We never were without that. That was an inhalant.
JL: You mean Vicks?
HH: They used to call it Mentholatum. It
used to come in a round can. Mother used to heat it and we had
to sniff that if we had a cold or something like that. Or, if
you had a sore throat, you put around your throat and put a sock
JL: I was thinking that was like Vicks.
HH: The same base. A menthol base.
JL: It got kind of hot and made you feel
good. Are you familiar with "heil blätter?" One of the people
I interviewed talked about it and I'm very curious to find out
what kind of plant it was. It had a pretty big leaf.
HH: Oh, I've heard of it, but I don't know
what it is either. They used it as a poultice, I think.
JL: When the kids would get a sore or something,
the mother would say, "run out and get some heil blätter." She
said that the plant would grow in the corner of the garden and
was kind of a weed.
HH: If my mother or dad were here, they
would know. But another one of the older remedies [that] was a
poultice was fresh cow manure. That doesn't sound very pretty,
but it was pretty strong and we used to use it on horses too.
Wrap it around the leg as a poultice if there was an infection.
JL: You mean wrap it up then?
HH: Yah. You never heard of that?
JL: No, I haven't. That's new to me. What
about Brauche? What do you know about it?
HH: I've heard talk about it, but I know
very little about it. I think it goes back to something. I don't
know if it's superstition, but I never saw my folks use it. So,
it's all I know about it.
JL: Did you know anybody who was supposedly
HH: Well, I don't know if midwives were
the same as Brauchers, but I don't know anyone who did that.
JL: It's a little different, but some midwives
did have those abilities.
HH: I understand that they did that too.
I read about it sometime. I don't know if they did or not.
JL: There is supposed to be a lady in Ashley
that still does it. You probably know who she is but I don't know
HH: I've heard of her, but I don't know
JL: How were midwives paid?
HH: The only ones I know of is that my folks
had one come and check on mother when she was carrying me. But
other than that, I don't know.
JL: Did your parents use any expressions
in other languages? Like old Russian or Platt Deutsch expressions?
HH: Oh, I can't think of any. Are you talking
expressions or sayings?
JL: Anything like that.
HH: Well, they used to say, "heile, heile,
Kelber Dreg, Morgen Frie Ist Alles Weg". Do you remember that
JL: Kind of.
HH: It goes back to what I said that poultice
was. You know what, "Kelber Dreg" is?
HH: Like my dad brought one back from Russia,
but he used to stand behind you and go Bombus Kennie Knickity
Knoc Vir feil Finger Stehen Strack. Do you know what that means?
JL: No, I haven't heard that one.
HH: Well, I don't know what Bombus Kennie
Knickity Knoc is, but that was kind of a saying. Then the Vir
feil Finger Stehen Strack means how many fingers were standing
up, and then you'd have to guess how many fingers were there.
That's the kind of a thing that went around at our house.
JL: Kind of a game?
HH: Yah, but it was something that he brought
with him. I don't know if it's German or Russian.
JL: That's interesting. Do you remember
any German newspaper that you received in your home?
JL: I have on here the Nord Dakota Herald,
the Dakota Freie Presse.
HH: Yah, the Dakota Freie Presse.
JL: What kind of information did they look
for in the paper?
HH: Oh, I think basically what my dad looked
for was any news from the area that his people came from. They
had local news, but if I remember right, they had information
that people got from overseas, from Russia.
JL: And then people would share that information?
END OF SIDE ONE
BEGINNING OF SIDE TWO
JL: Do you remember when you got modern
HH: We never had electricity on the farm.
Well, we didn't get electricity until Dad bought a house in Ashley
and they moved in 1941. But the first major thing was that we
used to have an old hand pull wash machine and we got one with
kerosene motor on it, and we didn't have to pull that handle all
the time. That's one of the first ones, I remember. I can't remember
when. I was born in 1927. I must have been six, seven years old
when that happened.
JL: Did you have a windmill on the farm?
HH: Yah. We had a windmill and that's our
running water. Run and get it. We never had inside water at all.
JL: How about telephone?
HH: Well, we had it. That was a funny thing
down there. They used to have a telephone and in fact, we had
a phone in our house. But when the tough times came along in the
thirties, they couldn't keep it up. So the lines were down and
we didn't have it. They never got them back up again until the
forties, when they got it going again. But by that time, we moved
JL: Do you remember the early days of watching
HH: Yes, that happened in Fargo here. That's
where we were married.
JL: Do you remember watching Lawrence Welk?
HH: Oh, yah. Yah.
JL: Was that kind of a weekly event?
HH: Yah. That and "I Love Lucy" and a few
other ones like that.
JL: Did you like the Lawrence Welk show?
HH: Yah. It was..., it brought back memories.
We were down in Branson just this last week and we saw the Lawrence
Welk show. They have a theater down there and kind of a little
museum of Lawrence Welk. The Lennon Sisters were there and it
kind of brought back... Well, it was a very good show.
JL: Do you remember the radio?
HH: Yes, yes. That was our basic information.
I remember hearing the beginning of World War II and Pearl Harbor
on the radio.
JL: It's interesting how many people say
that. That was a very important thing that came across on the
HH: Yah. That's how we found out.
JL: You remember it, too? Which family member
do you remember best? Who did you look up to? Grandfather, mother
HH: Well, I don't know if this is typical
family or not. Father was kind of the one that laid down the law
and mother, she was the one we went to if it was something we
didn't want to talk to dad about. But they were both pretty strict,
not abusive or anything. But when I think back now and what I
see now, I'm kind of glad it happened that way.
JL: So your mother was pretty strict, too?
HH: Oh yes. Well, like I said, she had a
small house and she tried to keep it clean, you know. And in those
respects, we had to tow the mark, keep it clean. Keep ourselves
clean, all that.
JL: Good values to teach.
HH: Yah. Like when we did something, she
made sure we did it well and stuff like that. I can't remember,
but she said something like, "once a job once begun, don't never
leave it until it's done." Or, "do it well or not at all." Some
of those are things she said.
JL: You probably passed those on to your
HH: Well, we tried.
JL: Well Herb, this has been very interesting.
I sure thank you for sharing your information and maybe we'll
go on to more questions some other time.
JL: Thanks so much.
Transcription by Joyce Reinhardt Larson
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies
North Dakota State University Libraries
P.O. Box 5599
Fargo, ND 58105-5599