Theodore Lang (TL)

Completed by Theodore Lang
Bismarck, North Dakota

Interview Questions Part II

Courting, Marriage, and Relationships

1. What did your parent/teachers tell you about marriage? Responsibility for one’s actions.

2. What did you learn of marriage from seeing your parents’ relationship? When decisions had to be, compromises had to be made. As a child, I learned that people have different ideas about how to do something, and I tried to please both parents, so sometimes I did something the way my father wanted it done, sometimes I did it the way mother wanted it done. One needs altruism.

3. How did your marriage differ from your parents’ marriage? They were basically the same. The basic agricultural lifestyle was similar, we lived off the land.

4. Were the marriages of your parents or grandparents “arranged” (Kupplei)? No.

5. For those with arranged marriages, do you know how they felt about their marriage relationship? No.

Family Life

6. What did your parents teach you about raising children? Car required! There were lots of brothers and sisters I had to care for, so I knew a lot about child care.

7. What were the most important values emphasized? My parents valued religious practice, strong long lasting marriages, and to take good care of one’s family’s needs and welfare.

8. What did your parents teach you about being a good parent? That there is a need for compromise.

9. Did husbands and wives have equal authority or rights in making major decisions? Well, as for myself, a “have it your way” gets me off the hook!”

10. Were you able to express your feelings of anger, sadness, fear or criticism as a child? Not really. My mother’s belief and policy was in the form of a question, What does a child know what’s good for himself/herself ? You tell them how and what to do, and that wasn’t supposed to be questioned and obedience was expected.

11. How was love and affection shown in your family? My father helped with the child care in that when he went to town or to neighbors to do business, he usually took one child with him, and allowed turns for the child to go with. This was his way of showing fairness and affection. Mother and father said nighttime prayers with us. We had devotions every morning and prayers together a mealtime as family.

12. Who showed more direct affection and how was affection shown? Just a month ago, my brother Leo asked if I remember Brother Reuben wanting to go along to town and mother’s answer was “No!” Of course the lesson we all should and have to learn is that , NOT YOUR WILL BUT MY WILL , that’s the great lesson of one’s lifetime. There is a higher authority, sometimes NO is best for us. That is very frustrating, I know, I have lived it for 84 years! Ha!

13. Was there competition between girls and boys? No. The oldest child was to be more responsible than the younger ones, and the younger ones learned from the mistakes of the older children. As far as boy versus girl, there was no special treatment, we were treated alike.

14. How were children disciplined? A whack or two on the backside on occasion after an offense was one of the ways we were disciplined.

15. Were there obvious changes of child-raising standards from those of your grandparents’ generation? No.

16. Do you think these changes were effective, or for the better welfare within the family?

17. How did you use signs of affection and use standards of discipline for your own children? I’d note what was good for one is good for each one. I learned from this from my parents and I passed it on to my own kids.

18. How were disagreements between family members settled? Usually one person had to give in. When some problem came up, we had to talk about it.

19. When did your family seek outside advice on how to resolve repeated disagreements? We worked out our own problems or tried to.

20. Were older family members ever consulted about issues, such as settling disputes, planning finances, or farming practices? I consulted my parents about finances for my first car and later about buying land.

21. How were grown-up children treated, when they had conflicting religious and marriage decisions? Have it your way. You live with your own decisions.

22. Were they respected or treated with suspicion? Were they ever cut off from the family? No, never. Most often the woman joined the husband in his church or religion.

23. Who cared for family members in their old age? The children.

24. Did a grandmother or grandfather live with your family at any time? Both did, on the same farmstead we lived on, but in different houses. I stayed at my grandmother’s house at night after grandpa died from when I was eight years old until I was 11. That was to keep her from getting lonesome. After I was older and was needed for work, my brother Leo stayed, until 1928, at which time Grandma Elizabeth moved to Tappen for medical reasons.

25. How did your family prefer a social support network with other German-Russian friends? My family usually associated with other German-Russian people and we didn’t mix much with other nationalities due to the language barrier. Church activities centered around friends of German-Russian descent.

26. Or did they prefer non-German friends? In government their was need to deal with people of other nationalities, e.g. courthouse, township meetings, etc.

27. Did your grandparents or parents select friends outside of the family with whom they shared private thoughts, emotions, and feelings? The pastors.

28. Were these friends recognized as dependable confidants for dispensing wisdom? Yes.

29. Did your German-Russian friends form a social clique for social dancing, ethnic foods, accordion music, and drinking Schnapps? There wasn’t really a clique but we socialized together because we understood each other’s upbringing and culture, and we were also associates due to working together during harvest time, e.g. threshing.

30. Did this social practice continue with the younger generations after 1950’s (with introduction of television)? Not really, there was more of a mix of nationalities when the children were bused to school in town.

31. How did your grandparents or parents view “Freundschaft”? In my upbringing the word Freundschaft meant people that were our relatives or friends in the church.

32. Were they close to aunts, uncles and cousins? Yes.

33. When someone from your extended family moved away to another state, was it important to stay in touch? Yes. We communicated with letters and sometimes a train was taken to visit the relatives that had moved a greater distance from home.

34. Who made the money decisions in the family? Mother’s approval was always sought, but generally the decisions were made together by my parents.

35. Were there alternative ways of borrowing money, other than from a commercial bank? Neighbors borrowed money and produce or goods many times. My father lent money to several families. My family didn’t borrow money, nothing was purchased unless the money was available to pay for it. When there was no money, we got along without money until it was available.

Family and World

36. What were the most important religious teachings in your home? There was always a daily devotion and attending regular and special church holiday services. Baptism and confirmation were very important events in a person’s life back then, and parents of the day made extra special efforts to have their children duly instructed in their faith.

37. Did you find comfort in them? Were you frightened by them? Yes. No, except the war of words between the two sets of grandparents about worship on the 7th or 1st day.

38. Were you encouraged or discouraged by them? I was mostly encouraged by my beliefs; it was a standard to live by, and taught me how one should get along with others, and to respect the Creator.

39. Were you able to question religious teachings? Yes, in my mind but, of course, I did not in front of my parents because I honored them.

40. Were you taught spiritual discernment? Yes.

41. Within their preferred social network, did your parents have other German-Russian friends? Yes! In the trading towns of Napoleon, Tappen, Dawson, Streeter, and in Steele.

42. Were most of their friends German-Russian? No, there was diversity such as Poles and Scandinavians. Earlier immigrants from the 1800’s were our teachers.

43. If so, why do you think this was? For language sake.

44. Were friends of other ethnicity, such as Jews, American Indians, or Reich Germans (pastors) included in your parents’ social circle? For my parents, yes. There were Jewish merchants and I knew simply because I lived on their once-owned land, Indians.

45. What were their attitudes towards different cultures? Very equal.

46. Were there other Germans who were not Germans from Russia? No, with the exception of pastors.

47. What was the attitude toward these families?

48. How do their attitudes influence your family today?

49. Were you ever afraid to say you were German? My brother-in-law August Wanner were speaking German at the Christmas Program at Belden School No. 3 and Wesley Nicholson, Sr., an attendee at the Christmas program, told us to, “speak the language of our country,” by which he meant English.

50. Have you felt comfortable expressing your German-Russian heritage? Yes, mostly because we were surrounded by people of the like.

51. With wartime hysteria during World War One and World War Two, how did you express your loyalty as “unsere Leute” (our kind of German) as distinct from the “Reichdeutsch?” Loyalty and sympathy for Hitler and his followers was not really a part of that feeling but there was loyalty certainly to all people German, but I have first a distinct loyalty to the United States Of America.

52. How did you and your parents respond to anti-German hysteria? There was loyalty to all Germans and their birthplaces including Russia.

53. Have you experienced hostility and suspicion in America, did anyone know the difference between “German heritages” from “German national loyalty”? Not really.

54. How did this German hysteria affect you and your family? About political views? About cultural views? Of course we leaned to German cultural views.

55. Did speaking German affect your relationship with others in school, town or church? No.

56. For those who did not know English language, but wanted to learn English, were there opportunities to learn? Yes. My father Fred attended night school during World War I and my mother attended school at Grant No. 2 in Kidder County for 8 years.

57. Do you identify yourself as having a German accent? Yes.

58. Has your German accent caused you embarrassment? Very little.

59. Has any accent transferred over to your spoken English? Yes.

60. Were efforts taken by your family to choose a fluent English speaker as teacher, to avoid transfer of German accent into spoken English? No.

61. What do you view as the future survival of the German dialects within our German-Russian communities? It’s waning There’s not as much need for communicating the way we used to. The iron age with steam power then internal combustion equipment developed over this past century plus hydraulic power on the scene since World War II and most recently the Internet have all changed the world we live in drastically, and the way people communicate is bound to change with all of these advances, so I believe the dialects are changing and will eventually disappear almost completely.

62. Is High German recognized as an important link within our folk heritage? No, but that form of German needs to be learned too in our ever shrinking world.

63. Do you children or grandchildren speak German? My children speak German but my grandchildren know very little of it.

64. Do they choose German language as a part of their everyday lives? Sometimes. Some have studied it in public school and in college.

65. Who taught the younger generations to speak German? It was us, the parents, simply because they had to learn it to communicate with the grandparents


66. How accessible and available were your youthful educational opportunities? School attendance was a number one priority with my parents The Lang’s did not miss school because of work; there was work before school started at 9:00 AM and work afterwards, after 4:00 PM.

67. What do you view as formal education, as comparable to wisdom in the “lessons of life”? It’s great to learn of other people’s past mistakes so we don’t make those same mistakes in the future.

68. How did your educational experience influence your own children’s education? The learning process is from the cradle right up to my 86 years of age, and hopefully it continues until the time of “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.” Learning is a lifetime.

69. If you had more formal education, how do you imagine your life would have been different? I am very content with my 8th grade level of education. My help was needed on the farm with my family of ten. Really whatever I set out to accomplish, I could with my 8th grade education. Our first family car year was purchased in 1925 and we did not have a tractor until 1948 when I was 32 years old. Horse power was the rule prior to that, and in the “dust bowl” days of the 1930’s then came World War II, with poor roads plus the weather remained so dry In terms of roads they were basically just trails across the prairie until 1955 when a graveled road to the farmstead was constructed. We also got school bus service in 1955. What I’m getting at is that my life would not be radically different simply because the world did not change as rapidly as it does now.

70. Would a titled academic degree give you more personal security, spiritual enrichment or earning money? No.


71. Were your parents interested in politics? Yes. They were avid newspaper readers and the German papers and The American Kidder County Press were their favorites. My father Fred was an organizer of Peace Township and one of three supervisors that he won the election for in 1921. He was also a school director and a clerk for the local school district that got organized in 1910.

72. Did your parents attend any political rallies? Yes. It was insisted on by a neighboring township man, Gus Grefton, who wanted to be elected as a judge in the 1930’s.

73. What were their attitudes? My parents knew that there was power in the ballot box and they knew it was the best way to settle governmental and public disputes.

74. What political issues were your parents’ deep interest? Schools and roads were a priority for them.

75. What was their response to issues of prohibition (anti-alcohol) and women’s’ sufferage (female right to vote)? There was none for any of those two issues, to my knowledge.

76. How frequently did you vote? I have voted in every election since I turned 21 for township, county, state, and national elections. . .all of them! And now I take part in all elections in Bismarck.

77. Do you normally vote today? Absolutely.

78. Do you normally vote in local, state or national elections? Yes.

79. Can you identify a U.S. President with whom your parents strongly agreed or disagreed? My father didn’t often agree with Woodrow Wilson. There was strong disagreement with President Wilson and the U. S. involvement in World War I.

80. To which political party were your parents supportive? The Non-Partisan League, Democratic Party, or Republican Party? Mainly the Democratic Party.

81. Did religious affiliation and moral values influence the choice of a political party? No, but curiously the money earned by my father Fred for being a “election day judge” and clerk was $4.00 a day which included evenings, that is he had to be there until all the work was done. This was in the later 1930’s and 40’s.

82. Were you involved with certain political issues? No.

83. What issues were important to you? During which years or decade? The main issue for me was schools in the 1940’s and 50’s, and then the concern was getting good roads, which happened mostly in the ‘50’s.

84. How do you view American society, comparing moral foundations of past decades with today? My theory is to learn what is bad, we then understand what is ultimately good, plus learning from other people’s mistakes is always a plus. That has saved me a lot of trouble.

85. Where does the German-Russian take a moral stand?

Community Identity

86. How was your rural community important in the daily life of Germans from Russia families? It was the place where we lived off the land, and it was our place to raise cows, and I consider cows to be the “foster mothers” of the human race. Generally they are a gentle animal and with all those by-products: cheese, butter-fat, leather for all sorts of uses, including harnesses. And, let’s not forget, the “fuel” from cows, which was the dung chips, that one Polish homesteader called “Russian coal.”

87. Did your family live close to a market town or railroad town? Yes, we lived relatively close to Napoleon. . .about 14 miles away. Streeter was 18 miles away, Tappen was also 18 miles away. It was 21 miles to Dawson, and Steele, ND, the Kidder County seat, was 30 miles from the home site. Also, for your information, Napoleon is the county seat of Logan, and Stutsman county was only about 10 miles east of our farmstead.

88. How close or distant did your neighbors live? Only ¾ of a mile to the each of our closest neighbors: the Roesler’s, the Litteau’s and the Zimmerman’s.

89. Who were your favorite neighbors? The number one favorite was The Zimmermans; Mary Zimmerman was a niece of my father Fred’s, therefore, we were cousins. Fred was two years older than Mary. The Roesler’s were my grandparents, and would have been the second favorite.

90. Who were the community leaders who influenced good events? Mostly the church leaders.

91. Did your community contain other Germans from Russia or relatives, or mixed ethnic population? Yes, all of the above.

92. What churches and denominations were represented in the traditions of your community? Lutheran, Reformed, and 7th Day Adventist.

93. What were your student memories of learning in a rural, one-room “school house?” As I said before, that was the only school I ever attended, and you can read more about that above.

94. What social activities were allowed during “recess” and “noon-hour”? Again, I have described that earlier.

95. How many students in how many grades? There were 30 students in 8 grades.

96. Any unusual stories of visitors, animals, or pets during school time? We had a visit in 1925 from a Kidder county school superintendant who was Mrs. Haibeck She was accompanied by Dr. Pryse from Steele, N.D. They were both there because of an outbreak of dyptheria in the school district, which they were there in investigate and inquire about. They were interested to see if anyone at the school or if any of the students had heard of someone afflicted by the sickness.

Agriculture in the Homeland

97. Did your ancestors make their livelihood as “Baueren” or farmers in South Russia? The Roesch’s , the Roesler’s, and the Karl Lang families all were “Baueren,” they also did some blacksmithing and were hired out as laborers.

98. Did they describe their successful farming practices? For example: farm size, types of field crops, special animal care, or harvesting practices? My stepgrandfather Christ Roesler scythed and threshed grain in Russia, using the early morning breeze to separate chaff and grain by tossing the grain in the air. They also talked of working Glückstal’s stone quarry for wintertime employment.

99. Did they grow fruit orchards, vineyards, vegetable gardens or “baschtan” for melons? Yes, absolutely.

100. Did the German villagers hire additional “hired help” for household and harvesting tasks? Not to my knowledge.

101. Were other nationalities used as “hired help”, besides local Germans? Not that I know of.

102. Did other family members work in the village fields? Yes, help from all males and females in the community was required and necessary.

103. Did your ancestors farm “land plots” surrounding their village, or did they live on a wealthy “Chutor” or private estate? The Roesch’s were land owners.

104. During the summer season did they guard and pasture their livestock overnight in the fields, rather than return each night to the village? The horses and young livestock were left out to pasture overnight, but the milk cows were always brought back to the village.

105. Did their “work animals” and “beasts of burden” include oxen, horses, mules, or camels? It was always horses.

106. Was burglary and stealing a common problem? Theft of horses was a problem.

107. What was the corporal punishment for thieves? I’d heard of a neighbor in Russia who was jailed with no bathroom facillities.

Agricultural Homesteading in North America

108. Were your family homesteaders or pioneer settlers? My grandparents were homesteaders.

109. Where did they homestead? SE ¼ NE ¼ section 32-137 range twp. 71-Kidder County, North Dakota..

110. How did they buy additional land? My parents bought land as it came up for sale, and when money became available.

111. Were they “cereal grain farmers”, solely “ranchers”, or both? They were both.

112. Did the family ever re-locate to more than one homestead? No.

113. Where to and why?

114. Describe their choice of regional climate (continental) or land terrain, which surrounds your family’s farmstead. It was, and still is very hilly. The homestead was in an area of heavy glacial till, with drift boulders, numerous rocks of all sizes, plus the usual pot holes with no outlets, which became sloughs.

115. How were the farmstead buildings arranged and located on this land, with adjoining farm fields? There was no real rhyme or reason for the arrangement of the buildings.

117. Any recognizable German “architectural survivals” of painted colors, room arrangement, “Batsen” (patsan adobe), outbuildings, etc. Yes. The remnants of the earth-rammed house of the Lang Homestead still exists, as seen in recent photos, and actually, photographs exist from the 1940’s on.

118. Were building materials commercial lumber or frugal local site materials. Commercial lumber, that the Roseler’s used, came from Dawson, N.D. The frame house that they built with that lumber (a 14 X 16 foot structure) is still intact. It’s a good bet the Lang and Winkler homes got the lumber from Dawson too.

119. Describe the usage of a “summer kitchen” by your family. It was definitely used to keep the main house clean, plus it was cooler.

120. How did your family prepare “mischt” blocks for heating fuel? Refer to question # 86, but yes we did. My wife Louise and I did that until after World War Two II. As a matter of fact, 1947 was a year when we really made use of it.

121. How far to the nearest “market town” to transport your “cereal grain” harvest (wheat, barley, flax, and oats)? We had many options: Napoleon at 14 miles away, or Streeter at 17 miles away, or Dawson at 20 miles distant, and even Tappen at 18 miles away. Tappen was used mostly during World War II because of better rail service.

122. How convenient were the transport roads to your farm? There were only trails, the roads were very poor and that was the case until after the World War II, and really until 1955 when graveling of roads began in earnest.

123. Who worked the grain crop fields and hay fields? The wives and husbands, along with the in-laws, parents, and hired laborers.

124. Who did the barnyard chores for livestock and poultry? Everyone who was able to do so helped out. We had a brother Edwin Lang, who had a heart murmur, who couldn’t help out much, for obvious reasons. He tired very easily during physical exertion and ultimately passed away because of his illness in 1931 at the age of nine.

125. Who did the cooking, laundry, childcare, and gardening? The whole Fred Lang household took care of such things; the mothering and childcare were shared, as well as the gardening but my father Fred did much of the work in the garden, and, of course, as I got older, I did much of that. Remember, I am the eldest of the children, so I took on the responsibility, or more like I was given the responsibility.

126. Who did the butchering and meat preparation for beef, pork and mutton? Each household had a special day for that, usually in the Fall or early Winter and there was always help from relatives and neighbors when it came to scalding swine, helping with hand-powered meat grinding, stuffing sausages, etc.

127. Who butchered the chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese? At my parents place it was my mother, but father helped pluck feathers. At our household the duties were shared equally by wife and husband.

128. What was the usual number of livestock you raised on your farm? My father Fred Lang had 25 cattle, 12 horses, and 1 sow. We had about the same number of livestock until the Farmhand loader and the hydraulics era arrived with the labor saving grabble fork in 1958. After that the number rose to 60 cows with a stock of calf yearlings and 2 year olds. The total number peaked to between 90 to 100 head until we sold them all in 1985.

129. If you had horses, what purpose did they have in draft work and recreation? Horses were indispenable and did all the work from the actual work, to recreational riding, etc.

130. How were sheep or geese a valued commodity for the family household? See question #86.

131. How were milk cows valued for milk, butter, and cheese? Cows, as I’ve said before, are, in my opinion, the “fostermother”of the human race, as mares were invaluable to people in Kazahksten, as is the llama to South Americans.

132. How did your family have wheat and rye milled into bread flour? The Fred Lang family usually went to either Kulm, N.D., Temvik, N.D., Streeter, N.D. and Burnstad, N.D. It took 33 ½ bushels of grain to make 1000 lbs. of flour, and some mills also made “farina.”

133. How were dogs and cats valued for work duties or family pets? Dogs were the shepard helpers for cattle and sheep. Cats were used for rodent control. There were no pets that actually lived inside of our house.

134. How did your family grow an orchard, vegetable garden, and melon “baschtan”? We almost always had a “baschtan” which was only planted on newly broken ground.

135. When did farming implements (plows, tractors, cultivator diggers, mowers, harrows, etc…), as advanced mechanical machinery, enter into the family-farming practices? We had a IH (International Harvester model H) tractor from 1948 on, an 8 foot horsedrawn disc, which was very essential for preparing newly broken ground, plus a 10 foot grain drill. We also had a IH mower with a 4 1/2 foot cutter bar, a grain header that was 12 feet wide.

136. Describe the social festivity surrounding the what harvest with the threshing machine and work crew. A boy’s dream was to do and be doing a man’s work. Food was plenty, which was essential for working strength. I still miss those days!

137. What are the procedural names for threshing techniques? The “header” was used for making stacks only and the “binder” made the bundles which were stacked and collected from the small fields and to save time and effort of moving the steam threshing equipment and the all the other people and hardware associated with the threshing outfit. It took about a dozen bundles to make a shock.

138. Do you remember your family’s first “power tractor”? Yes, that was the IH Model “H” that I got in 1948.

139. Do you remember your family’s first “car” or automobile? Fred Lang first had a 1924 Model T, bought second hand in 1925. It was a touring car with a canvas enclosure.

140. How did the Germans from Russia farmers educate themselves in better farming practices? Through neighbors, farm implement dealers or the county extension service? In our area, learning about dealing with all those rocks and stones in newly broken ground was a never ending project.

141. Are there additional comments, which were of interest for you? Regarding wheat, plowing bi-annually because of plow bottom scouring, planted 1st year, 2nd planted no-till flax also linseed on new ground as a rule. Regarding Fall plowing and soil preparation, we planted the Winter variety of rye and that help control the growth of wild oats the following Spring. Fall plowing helped in the Spring simply because the ground was easier to work.

142. Are there further insights concerning your family life or relationship? I want you to know that newly arrived homesteaders used collectively owned machinery. This is important because everyone had just a few acres to work with, and it was very crucial that everyone work together to keep costs down, and they take care of everyone.

143. This concludes our interview. We appreciate your contributions to preserving our Germans from Russia heritage.

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