Interview with Christina Opp Knapp (CK)

Conducted by Michael M. Miller (MM)
10 November 1993, Eureka, South Dakota

Transcription by Eleanor Haas
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman

MM:This is Michael Miller, the Germans from Russia Bibliographer at North Dakota State University in Fargo. I'm in Eureka, South Dakota visiting the home of Christina Opp Knapp. It's good to be with you this morning Christina. Tell us when you were born.

CK: I was born July 9, 1901.

MM: July 9, 1901. And Christina, where were you born?

CK: About 13 miles northeast of Eureka, on a farm.

MM: Here in McPherson county?

CK: Yes.

MM: What was the name of your father?

CK: Jacob D. Opp.

MM: Jacob D. Opp and your mother's name?

CK: Katherina Neuhardt Opp.

MM: She was a Neuhardt?

CK: Yah.

MM: Now your father Jacob, was he born in the old country?

CK: He was born in the old country. He was 14 years old when he came over here.

MM: Do you remember where he was born over there in Russia?

CK: Glückstal, that's all I know. He was in Glückstal and he was 14 when he came. Yah.

MM: Did he come with his parents?

CK: Yah, with his parents. Yes.

MM: Do you remember their names, your grandparents?

CK: William Opp and Katherina Gohl Opp.

MM: What was her family name?

CK: Her family name was Gohl.

MM: G-o-e-h-l?

CK: No, G-o-h-l.

MM: And he cane at the age of 14 and do you, by chance remember when they arrived?

CK: In 1884, that's all I know.

MM: In 1884. How many children were along when they came?

CK: Well, my father was the oldest. There was one every two years so there must have been about five.

MM: How many children were in your family's family?

CK: There were nine children. But some died in infancy too but nine that I got to know.

MM: So your father came at the age of 14 to America with his parents. And your mother, was she born in Russia too?

CK: No, she was born in Menno, SD but she didn't know anything about Russia.

MM: Very likely they came over a bit earlier if she was born already in America.

CK: She was born in America but I don't know how old she was when they came over.

MM: Did your grandparents come along too? Your father's grandparents come too?

CK: Yah, sure.

MM: The father and mother came and they brought the grandparents too? I you mean your father's mother and father?

CK: My father was only 14 years old.

MM: But the grandparents didn't come?

CK: That I don't know.

MM: Right. So your grandparents, you got to know them then?

CK: Oh, yes. I can remember when they died and everything.

MM: What did they talk about? You had mentioned earlier that your father who came over at 14 didn't talk too much about the old country. But you did talk a little to your grandparents once in a while of what it was like over there?

CK: Well, I don't hear much about what it was like over there, but their trip was a long one. That I know but I wouldn't know any more how long. They told me how long they were on the ocean.

MM: Did they talk much about that trip?

CK: Oh, they said that when babies were born or when someone died, they just had to throw them into the ocean. That's all they could do. Babies were born on the way over. I think as much as I know, it took about two weeks or maybe even longer.

MM: When they left Glückstal?

CK: Yah.

MM: The German village of Glückstal is near the Black Sea in the Ukraine. Did they ever talk about farm life over there?

CK: Yah. They talked about it but their farm was small. The didn't have acres like here. They just had..., what did they call it?

MM: Hectare?

CK: Huh?

MM: I think they called it hectare.

CK: I don't remember what they called it. Anyway, they were small communities and very few acres too. I don't know too much about it.

MM: Your folks of course, when they came only spoke German?

CK: Oh, yes. They spoke German until they died.

MM: Did they ever learn to speak much English?

CK: Well, my father got along with the business he had to do but my mother didn't know much English. She didn't say much. Everything was German in our house. That is why our English was so broken too.

MM: When they came over to America from Russia, your father was 14, so he must have had some schooling over there, I would think.

CK: Yah, he had schooling.

MM: Did he ever say if he learned Russian over there?

CK: He knew a few words but I don't remember them. He mentioned a few words but not too much. 'Cause they came from Germany to Russia.

MM: Now when they came here in McPherson county, your father was a farmer?

CK: Well, they were always farmers. My grandparents were farmers so he farmed with them until he got married and then he got his own farm.

MM: And then he married your mother and her name again was?

CK: Katherina Neuhardt.

MM: And they married and raised how large of a family? Your brothers and sisters, how many were there?

CK: There were 10 in the family. Well, there were three who died in infancy. Otherwise, there would be 13 but 10 grew up.

MM: All born on the farm?

CK: Yah, mostly in the sod house. The frame house was built the year when I was born. That my mother told me. I don't know nothing about the sod house except that we kept our fuel in there but not to live in there.

MM: So by the time you were growing up, they weren't using the sod house anymore to live?

CK: No. But I can well remember my grandparents sod house. We spent our Sundays there mostly and had all our dinners there.

MM: Did they live near to you, your grandparents?

CK: Yah, about a mile and a half or so from where my dad lived.

MM: Did your grandparents have their own farm?

CK: Yah.

MM: What did that sod house look like?

CK: You mean...?

MM: The one that your grandparents lived in?

CK: It was a two bedroom. There was a upstairs where we kids had to sleep but it was very low and a living room and kitchen. No bathrooms, no water, running water. That I can remember.

MM: What kind of floor did they have?

CK: Wood floors.

MM: They had a wood floor by then?

CK: Yah.

MM: And so your grandparents still lived in the sod house when you were growing up?

CK: They didn't live in there as far as I know as they had a house already. But in the summer time, that was their summer kitchen, the sod house.

MM: Was it nice and cool?

CK: It was cool, yah. Real thick walls. A big room to eat, all the kids always ate there on Sundays, so it had to be big. But otherwise, they lived in the frame house already as far as I can remember.

MM: Your mother and your father raising 10 children, there was a lot of hard work on the farm?

CK: I would say it was hard work. My mother even worked out in the field many times. Just at harvest time, not otherwise.

MM: Did they have a team of horses?

CK: Oh yes, more than one team. They did everything by horses.

MM: What other animals did they have?

CK: Cows. A few cattle and our own hogs and chickens. We raised our own food, we made our own butter. We lived 12 miles from town and by horse and buggy, you didn't go every time you needed something. But we had our own meat and our own butter, but we had to churn it.

MM: And ma taught you how to cook? Everyone had their own chores?

CK: Yah, everybody had to have their chores. Oh yes, we had to help along. Even before we went to school, we had to do the dishes. The kids helped to milk the cows, those who were big enough.

MM: What did your ma used to make? Do you remember what kind of meals?

CK: Oh, I make a lot of those yet.

MM: What do you make?

CK: A lot of strudels, dumplings, and things like that. Potatoes and quite a lot of things. Lots of vegetables, we had a big garden always.

MM: A lot of canning?

CK: We did a lot of canning, yes. Meat and everything.

MM: Did you can meat too?

CK: Oh, yes. There were no refrigerators for summer time. We had to can it for use in the summer.

MM: How did they store this all for the winter?

CK: Well, the canned stuff was stored in the cellars under the houses.

MM: Did you have a root cellar?

CK: We had a outside cellar, they were real cool. We could keep things there. You know everything how we did sometimes? Summertime we had to let the meat and butter and things down the well in a three gallon can.

MM: Oh!

CK: Hang it down the well and had to be careful not to drown it. (laugh)

MM: Keep it cool so it would not spoil?

CK: I can remember when we made jello. That had to go down in the well to make gel.

MM: Did they take it and put it in...?

CK: Into a little container and then put it inside a bigger can and let it down into the well with a rope.

MM: And that's how they'd make their jello in the summer?

CK: Yah. Keep their butter, keep their cream and meat cool.

MM: What about the winter time when they had to keep it warm in the house? Did they have a wood stove or what did they have?

CK: A wood stove and warmed with manure. Your fuel was made out of manure.

MM: Do you remember making that?

CK: Oh, yes. (laugh)

MM: How did they make it, Christine?

CK: I don't know how to explain it but the manure was spread around in a big place and then maybe you know something of that (laugh). You maybe can explain it better than I (laugh).

MM: Well, you remember the horses stamping on it?

CK: Oh, yes. And then it was made into squares and we kids had to set it up to dry. That I remember was hard work. And pick the cow chips that were used in the summer for cooking. There was no other fuel. Well later, even we when I started my own marriage. We didn't have a kerosene stove right away. I had to cook like this for a while. Later on, the kerosene stove was a luxury (laugh).

MM: And with the stove and the cooking with cow chips, they made some wonderful meals and some bread too, right?

CK: Yah, that bread was better than nowadays. That big oven, but somebody had to feed the cow chips in all the time and carry the ashes out.

MM: Everybody had their chores?

CK: Yah.

MM: So as you were growing older, it was time for you to go to school. Was there a nearby country school?

CK: It was a little over a mile, a mile and a quarter. We had to walk most of the time. I was six when I started school.

MM: And you went nine months to school?

CK: No, we only had six months as long as I went to school. I went six years and then I was too big and had to stay home and work.

MM: You went for six years to school?

CK: Sixth grade, yah. And then I was big enough to stay home and work.

MM: The time when you went to school, were all the children speaking German?

CK: Yes. Nobody knew any English and the teacher didn't know German. And we were not allowed to talk German when she was around. That was pretty quiet when she was around (laugh).

MM: So you remember those days as a first grader when she would talk English and you couldn't understand her words?

CK: That's right. And I remember her name, it was `May Hines'. But where she was from? Minneapolis or...? Anyway, from Minnesota someplace.

MM: And she stayed out there in the country and taught the children?

CK: Yah. Well, we all had to learn was reading, spelling and arithmetic. There were no sports like now days.

MM: But you would have English lessons too?

CK: Yah, everything in English. How we caught on I don't know. The blackboard did a lot. I know we started with cat and dog (laugh). And I don't know.

MM: Did the older children help the younger ones too?

CK: No, they didn't know any English either. I don't know or can't think of any helping.

MM: So when you had recess, they would all speak German?

CK: Yah, when she wasn't around. But we wasn't supposed to when she was around. She came out with us, then we didn't. When she wasn't around, we talked German anyway. But we learned, I think. We didn't learn much 'cause I don't know much today yet (laugh).

MM: But you attended the school and did the children have chores at the school too? Have things to do?

CK: Yah. After school was out, one had to clean the blackboard. Others had to get in the coal or wood for the next morning and each one had their chores. That's the bigger ones.

MM: So, by that time they were already using coal but they weren't using cow chips in the school?

CK: No, not that I know. They did not use cow chips in school. They used coal.

MM: And when the day was finished, you'd walk home again?

CK: Yah.

MM: In the winter time too?

CK: Well, when it was real cold, my Dad took us. When it was too bad, we had to stay home. And when there was too much work to do like butchering day, then we had to stay home and help. It wasn't that you had to be there, I think.

MM: Oh, so you would miss school?

CK: Oh, yah. I hated to miss school.

MM: What did the teacher say when they missed school like that all the time?

CK: I don't think she said anything. We had to make up our work.

MM: Your homework?

CK: Yah.

MM: In your home, in the Opp home, was there much singing?

CK: Yah, in my grandparents home.

MM: In your grandparents home?

CK: When we kids were there, we sang on Sundays. We were usually there when we were just kids. My grandfather taught us a lot about Bible stories and things like that and songs. He was the one that really started the church out there.

MM: What was the name of the church out there?

CK: Glückstal Gemeinde. That was German.

MM: Glückstal Gemeinde.

CK: We was all from Glückstal, most everybody.

MM: So the parishioners were real strong in their faith out there?

CK: Oh, yes. My grandfather was, yes. I don't think there is anybody like him anymore. First of all, they had church in their granary's. There was no church. I don't know just when that church was built.

MM: Do you remember the time when there was no church?

CK: No I don't, but that is what I was told.

MM: By the time you were growing up, the church was there already?

CK: Oh yes, and we had to walk to Sunday School every Sunday. Well, not always. When my folks..., usually Sunday School was in the afternoon and church was in the morning.

MM: Oh.

CK: And we had to walk. But later on, everything was in the morning.

MM: And the prayers were all in German, even at home?

CK: Oh, yah. Church was in German until...? Even my children were confirmed in German. Except the last one, the one that's still here. She's 55 and she was 14 when she was confirmed. So she was the first one from our's that was confirmed in English.

MM: Does that church still exist today?

CK: The Hutterites bought it. It's down there between Leola and Hosmer someplace. The Hutterite Colony, they bought it.

MM: Christine, do you remember any of those German prayers yet?

CK: Oh, yah.

MM: Do you still use them today?

CK: Sometimes, yah. Use both.

MM: And you can still read German?

CK: Oh yes, I can. What you learn from a child on, that sticks. My mother always said that. And that's true 'cause I went through Sunday School and everything in German. I understand the German sermons better but you don't hear any German sermons anymore. But I still understand it better than the English because I was brought up that way.

MM: Was that the old `high German'?

CK: No, just...? I don't know what they called it.

MM: Let's talk just a little bit in German so we can get the dialect studies.

CK: Do you know German?

MM: Oh yes, I know German. See if you understand my German because I grew up in Strasburg and speak a little bit different. Wir sprechen jetst eine bisel deutch.

CK: Yah.

MM: Du versteh viel bester vie ich versteh? Sicher!

CK: Ich vase nit if ich bester versteh (laugh)?

MM: Was hash du gebet?

CK: Unser Vater [Lord's Prayer], the 23rd Psalm and...? What do you call that? I believe in God the Father, Ich gluaben Gott the Vater... und so wieder.

MM: Did you learn some rhymes, little poems in German?

CK: Oh, songs. "Ich bin ein Kinderline, arm und klein, und meine kraft ist schwach. Ich mich die gerna sailig kite und Ich vise nich vie Ich mach." That was our first song we had to learn from our grandfather.

MM: That's wonderful. Say that again. That was beautiful.

CK: "Ich bin ein kinderline, arm und klein, und meine kraft ist schwach. Ich mich die gehne selig-kite [spelling] und ich wise nich vie Ich mach. Mein heillund du was wir zu gut, mein armundz meinus kind, und hash mit dush dine treua blut, alayus dot funf." That's a lot of words.

MM: Did you learn that from your grandfather?

CK: Yah, well from my folks too. But first of all from my grandfather. He just had a bunch of grandchildren around him every Sunday.

MM: And they'd visit?

CK: Yes, visit. And he was very strict about learning Sunday School things.

MM: Did your grandparents or your parents ever get any German newspapers?

CK: Oh, yah. There were German newspapers. The Freie Presse.

MM: The Dakota Freie Presse?

CK: Yah. Later on it had a different name I think, but I don't remember. That I can remember, he read that. Not in my house where I was married but my father had the German paper for a long time. They would read that paper...?

MM: Which newspaper?

CK: RundShaw? I think that's the first name. It was printed by the same place, I know.

MM: Did your grandpa ever sit down with the grandchildren around him and talk much about the old country?

CK: Not that I can remember. He was too interested in Sunday School things.

MM: So he was quite a religious man?

CK: Yah, he was.

MM: Did they sometimes sing together?

CK: Oh, yah. That little song I just said. That had to be sung and other children's songs. Oh, yah.

MM: What other children's songs can you remember?

CK: Well, "Vie Ich ein Schafline Bin" but I don't know that by heart anymore (laugh). And there were a few others. "Meetich bennich Gates zu ruh." You know what that means?

MM: What does that mean?

CK: "Meetich bennich Gates zu ruh, schliessen meine augen zu." That was an evening prayer and a song.

MM: What was the evening prayer? Say the evening prayer again.

CK: "Meudich benig gates zu ruh, schliessen meine augen zu, Vater lass eigen dien, uber meine beta sign" There's more to it. Oh, yes.

MM: Do they still sing some of these old German songs here in Eureka once in a while?

CK: Not that I know of, nobody does it [sing]. It's only card playing now days (laugh).

MM: So you learned a lot of cooking and housekeeping from your mother?

CK: And by myself, too.

MM: By yourself too? And so you left the farm school and finished after the sixth grade. You were home and had to start working?

CK: Yah.

MM: So, you're a young girl and had to stay home?

CK: Yah. There was too much work at home with several kids younger than I. My father said, "That's more important than school for girls, only boys needed school." (laugh).

MM: So after coming home and staying home, you were a young teenager and you stayed home until what age?

CK: 'Till I got married, twenty (laugh).

MM: 'Till you were twenty years old?

CK: Not quite, even. I was too young when I got married.

MM: What year did you get married?

CK: In 1921.

MM: And you married? His name was?

CK: Jacob Knapp.

MM: And who were his parents? Do you remember?

CK: John. His mother died when he was three or four years old so he had a stepmother. Elizabeth Spitzer was his stepmother's name. His father's name was John. Johann.

MM: Johann. And they lived here in McPherson County too?

CK: They lived about three miles from our place or four.

MM: You courted for some time?

CK: Yah, for a while. Over a year.

MM: And you had the wedding at the old church there?

CK: Yah. And the wedding in our house.

MM: Oh, the wedding was in your house?

CK: The reception. There was only brothers and sisters.

MM: Was it a small wedding?

CK: Yah, just uncles and aunts.

MM: When you grew up Christina in this area, was there any dancing?

CK: Oh yes, barn dances. But they were on Sunday afternoons and there wasn't any close enough for us to walk there, so we seldom got to see any. Oh, when I was older, then I did. The dances were in the afternoon. Sunday afternoons.

MM: Right on the farms?

CK: On the farms. Barn dances, mostly.

MM: And who would play for them?

CK: Oh, there was some orchestra that played. I can remember the Luebbbs. Are they related to you? They played and I don't remember what the other names were. They drove by there and we heard them play and we went outside and heard them play Sunday afternoon. Half a mile away we heard them play on their way to their place where they were going.

MM: So you learned to dance too a little bit then?

CK: Oh yah, I still like to dance (laugh). I don't dance but I would still like it.

MM: As you were growing up reminds me. Having grown up in Strasburg, did Lawrence Welk come down here to play anytime?

CK: Yah, I was at his first dance when he played at Eureka. The first at the country club out here. We were married by then but we were at that place when he played the first time. I don't know whether it was his first but I mean in Eureka. I was at a few dances when he played.

MM: And was he pretty popular by then already?

CK: Oh yes, he always had a smile. He didn't sit down to play, he always walked with his accordion. I can still see his walk. He always walked and a big smile on his face. Played while he was walking.

MM: That was when he was a young boy?

CK: Yah.

MM: Do you remember when he would speak? Would it be in German only? Did he talk much or did he just play?

CK: Can't say that he talked much but I could hear that he talked German. I know that I heard him talk German too, but I can't say much about that.

MM: When he left then, he went down to WNEX?

CK: Yah, but I don't know what year that was. You probably know.

MM: When he went down to South Dakota, you listened to him on the radio?

CK: Oh, yes. I still listen to him. I can't hardly do it 'cause he isn't here anymore and he looks just so real on TV. I saw him on Sunday evening again.

MM: It's just like he was here with us?

CK: Yah. I don't listen too much, but I just don't think it's right. I don't know, he's not here anymore (laugh).

MM: You got married in...?

CK: In 1921.

MM: And left the farm...?

CK: In 1958.

MM: No, but I mean you went and started your own farm?

CK: Oh yah, with my husband on his father's farm until we moved to town. We bought it finally, my husband's father's farm.

MM: And they had a regular wood house then?

CK: Yah, this house. This is still the house.

MM: The house you lived in and you moved in from the farm?

CK: Of course. First we changed it a little, but it was still the same house.

MM: What do you remember when you got married and raised a family? There was no electricity on the farm?

CK: We at last had it. Until we remodeled, we didn't. We took the whole inside out and the outside off the house. All there was left of the house was the shell I think, and we put a full basement under our house. We lived in the granary for a few months (laugh).

MM: Out on the farm?

CK: Yah, until the house was done again. And what were you asking again now?

MM: I wondered about when you were on the farm, when you got married and there was still no electricity?

CK: No. But then after we had remodeled, that was between 1941 and 1943, 'cause it was at the time when we couldn't get the material. We had to go from town to town to get the material that we needed. In 1943 we finally got the Delco, I think. And then finally the REA, and then we moved to town. We changed three times already. But from 1943 on, we had water works and electricity.

MM: Let's go back Christina, to when you were a child again. I forgot to ask you about what was it like at Christmas time, when you had Christmas?

CK: Yah. My father went out found a tree and cut off a branch and put it in a pail of sand. Then we decorated it up with popcorn and cranberries and they bought some candy, penny pieces, all kinds you could buy. Like the candy was a clock on or ball or nice pictures and they hung on that tree. They were too nice to eat, so we let them hang on the walls. Sometimes until they were dark with dust and then we ate them (laugh). Well, we cleaned them, but they were too nice to eat we thought (laugh).

MM: And that's how you decorated your tree?

CK: Penny candy pieces. And how happy we were! Now days, you can't make kids happy anymore with nothing.

MM: Was there some gifts too?

CK: Very little. Sometimes my mother usually made.... She bought a doll head and made a doll for each one but sometimes one [doll] had to go for all to play. But otherwise, I can't think that we got gifts. Oh, sometimes a hanky. That was a big gift (laugh).

MM: And some clothes too?

CK: Well, we always got at Christmas usually a Christmas dress that my mother sewed for us.

MM: So, your mother did a lot of sewing too?

CK: Yah, she did. She wasn't a good sewer but we had to go along with what was.

MM: So you would go over to grandpa and grandma's too for Christmas?

CK: Oh, yah. And they didn't believe in Christmas trees. They didn't have a Christmas tree. We never had a Christmas tree out in our church. We didn't for the longest time when we were in town here. I think the Reformed Church just didn't believe in Christmas trees. But now we have them.

MM: Was there a lot of singing at Christmas time?

CK: Oh, yah. We had to go to practice many times. We had a school teacher out there and he was good in singing. He had the programs. We had to walk evenings to practice for about a month before Christmas.

MM: Oh.

CK: Then we had a big Christmas program. There were a lot of kids.

MM: Oh, yes. What was the Christmas program like?

CK: Well, there was church. At last [later], we had bags. Each one got a bag. But otherwise, was just singing and saying pieces, Christmas pieces. Towards last, we had bags. Not as long as I was at home that I can remember but after I was married and our children, they got bags at Christmas.

MM: Did you play any games at Christmas time?

CK: Yah, marbles. Each one got a bag of nuts and stuff and we'd put them down on the floor and they had a marble [nut]. I don't know what you call it. Who got the most nuts, they got to keep them (laugh).

MM: Oh, that was one of the Christmas games?

CK: That was games, yah.

MM: There was nothing that we had to play with? There wasn't too many toys around?

CK: Only what we made ourselves when we were kids yet. We made dolls out of those sticker clothes pins, dressed them up for dolls and how proud we were.

MM: And you made little clothes for them?

CK: Yah. We'd make faces with a pencil and we were happy.

MM: What about Easter? What was Easter like?

CK: Well Easter, that was dyed eggs. That we had our own eggs, we always dyed a lot of eggs. And got little candy bags.

MM: Any other holiday celebrated?

CK: Not that I know. The kids went out for Halloween and did tricks. But that's all. Not that we did any.

MM: The days on the farm and the school children, there was a lot of hard work and not too much play?

CK: That's for sure. We had a few times a few minutes off. That was [when] we had our own toys that we made ourselves. Of course, when we got older, we had dances, catch, ante-over, pump-pump-pull-away and things when we kids got together evenings. When the folks went someplace, we kids went along and went outside and played when the weather was nice enough. But otherwise, toys, there were never no toys.

MM: In your home Christina, you know your parents raised a big family. But did your mother have a lot to say about what should be done in the home or how the farm should be run? Or was that pretty much up to your dad?

CK: That was up to my Dad. She didn't have much to say about that. But she liked to go out when she could and set the stacks. That was headering time, not like now combining. And she liked to go out. She thought if she's out, then things were done right. But she couldn't always go 'cause there was a baby every two years. And then later on, I had to do that and I always hated field work.

MM: You never liked that field work?

CK: No, I don't up to this day. I would rather do anything at home. Then my next sister got a little bigger, so then I got to stay home. But to cook for ten people and do the washing by hand for ten people and churn the butter and milk the cows was no real joy either. But (laugh) I liked it better than out in the field then. I never liked to work in the field.

MM: Did you have to help with the butchering too?

CK: Oh, yah. Then I had to stay home from school no matter what when butchering day was. I had to help carry the water in. You know that takes a lot of water and carry it in from a few blocks away. That's no fun. It takes a lot of water.

MM: Was there a doctor nearby?

CK: There was no doctor except the one here in town and he came out when our children were born. He was always out there. I was sick many times when I was young. He was an old man, Dr. Gerger. Don't know nothing about him. He went out anytime during the night when he was called and it was blizzard sometimes. He had a hard time but he went when he was called.

MM: Around where you grew up, were there any other nationalities? Any English speaking people?

CK: Not around there.

MM: At that time, they were all German? Same in Eureka when you came to town?

CK: Pardon?

MM: When you came to Eureka into the town, they only spoke German also?

CK: You mean when we moved to town?

MM: No, when you were a young person and came to town.

CK: Everything was mostly German. Well, there were a few families in English, but we didn't associate with them because we didn't know how (laugh). And I had to drive a load of wheat to town many times behind my Dad when I was still at home. We liked to go to town but not this way! That was a boring ride. Have to get up early in the morning to get back again by horse and wagon.

MM: You didn't get to town too often?

CK: Once a year. Each one of the children, once a year. But when I had to help with the hauling wheat, then sometimes two times a week. I didn't like that 'cause there was no time [to shop]. Just enough time to feed the horses and go back home again.

MM: But when you were a young child, you'd only get to Eureka once a year?

CK: Usually in the fall, each one. Well, there were 10 kids so by the time each one was to town, it took 10 weeks! The little ones didn't go.

MM: But then as you grew a little older, you'd come to town more often?

CK: Oh, yah. When we were old enough, we went to the 4th of July by ourselves then.

MM: Oh, what was the 4th of July like?

CK: Oh, there was always a big celebration. That was a big day for us. You couldn't wait until it comes (laugh).

MM: What all happened here in Eureka for the 4th?

CK: Well, there were all kinds of races and foot races and dances and food stands. Lemonade, one glass for a nickel, three for a dime. Same with ice cream cones, one for a nickel, three for a dime. We always got together so we could get three for a dime (laugh). You maybe remember that too.

MM: Oh, yes.

CK: We usually got the quarter and "don't spend it foolishly," my dad said.

MM: You got a quarter for the day?

CK: For a child. Don't spend it foolishly! And we made sure we took something home for the little ones that had to stay home with that quarter. My mother was always home with the little ones.

MM: Oh, yes. Then as you grew older, they'd have a 4th of July dance?

CK: Oh, yes. They had dances, yah. Sometimes street dances.

MM: Horse races?

CK: Horse races? I don't remember that we had them around here.

MM: When you look back Christina, as a child back on the farm and then raising your own family. Sometimes when you're sitting alone in your home in Eureka, what do you think about? Reminiscing about those pioneer days when you were back on the farm?

CK: Yah, sometimes it comes back to you. Some things. They always said the `good old days'. I don't know what was good about it, but there were no complaints like there are now.

MM: Yah.

CK: Nobody knew any better. We had to work hard and we had to earn everything.

MM: You must even remember the first time you heard a radio?

CK: Yah. We had a radio, it was one that had four big batteries. What do you call those batteries? The first one [radio] was when I was married, not before. I can remember one time when we had a tornado and the radio got on fire. I think the house would have burned down but we had company and that man was smart enough that he reached a towel or something and pulled that wire that comes through the window. The wire was burning and he didn't take it with his bare hands or else he would have been electrocuted I think. He was smart enough to grab a towel and pull that or else the house would have burned down. That was four big batteries.

MM: What kind of shows did you used to hear on the radio? Do you remember?

CK: `Ma Perkins' was one that I liked to listen to. There were a few. I was just thinking the other day, I can't remember the names of the shows that I liked to listen to. 'Ma Perkins', I can remember.

MM: When you were on the farm, did you have TV later on?

CK: No.

MM: Television didn't come to the farm to you? Only when you moved to town?

CK: No, we had no TV out on the farm. The first TV we had...? I don't remember what year it was.

MM: You moved to Eureka in 1958?

CK: Just thinking. I don't think we had TV on the farm. I don't think so. I should know that yet but my thinker is getting old (laugh).

MM: Christina, any other memory of your childhood or growing up on the farm? Being with grandpa and grandma Opp?

CK: Well, I stayed with them a lot when I went to school. They were closer to school and then I was the only one [child going] at that time. So I stayed a lot with them overnight. Oh, I liked to stay there too. But otherwise, I don't know what I can tell you.

MM: I think we'll close our conversation today. It's November 10, 1993 and I'm in the home of Christina Opp Knapp in Eureka, SD. Christina was born on July 9, 1901 near Eureka, about 12 miles from Eureka. And it certainly was a pleasure Christina, to talk to you about such a large family. Again, there were 10 brothers and sisters?

CK: Yah. Three brothers and seven sisters.

MM: And I can tell that with the help of your grandparents, especially your grandfather, you lived a wonderful and good Christian life.

CK: Yah, we had to. We didn't miss Sunday School unless the weather was too bad. And we don't want to miss either. Oh, we want to go, it's the only place where we get together.

MM: So now I think it is important that at your age and your good health and wonderful mind that you share your memories with our German Russian people here in Eureka once in awhile.

CK: Yah. But there are very few left. All my neighborhood is gone, I don't have any my age anymore.

MM: But maybe you can share it with a few of the younger ones, right?

CK: The younger ones. My nieces not too much but they are the only ones that drop in.

MM: Thanks so much for our conversation.

CK: Thank you.

Transcription by Eleanor Haas
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries
P.O. Box 5599
Fargo, ND 58105-5599
November, 1993

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