Isidor Miller (IM)
Conducted by Michael M. Miller (MM)
28 December 1993, Flasher, North Dakota
Transcribed by Ann Grausam
Editing and proofreading by Jay Gage and Beverly Wigley
MM: Good morning! It's December 28th, 1993, and this is Michael Miller, the Germans from Russia Bibliographer at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
I am here in Flasher, North Dakota, visiting with a relative of mine, Isidor Miller. And it is a real pleasure Isidor, during this holiday season, to be in Flasher. It has been a long time since I have been down here. We are going to chat a little bit about your life in Flasher, where you grew up and a little bit about your parents, and your recollections of your childhood to the present time.
First of all, Isidor, I wonder if you would tell me when you were born?
IM: In 1906, October the 25th.
MM: October 25th, 1906. Where did you grow up, Isidor? Where were you born?
IM: I was born over south of Strasburg, but I grew up here by Raleigh, Grant County.
MM: So, you actually were born over near Strasburg?
IM: Yah, yah.
MM: How old were you when you left there then?
IM: Well, I suppose about eight.
MM: Oh, you were eight years old then?
IM: Something like that, yah.
MM: And your father's name?
IM: Egidius. We used to live where Silbernagel lives on the place now, south of Strasburg. John Silbernagel's son, Adam.
MM: Adam Silbernagel.
IM: He lives on our place.
MM: So, your father's name was Egidius Miller. Do you know, by chance, when he was born and the date?
IM: He was born February the 14th, 1877 and he died October the 2nd, in 1949.
MM: Right, and he married -
IM: He married on March the 9th, 1905.
MM: - to Natalia Volk.
IM: Yah, yah.
MM: And your father was born in the old country, right?
IM: Yah, yah. He was about, I would say, he always told us he was only - he was a young man when he came over, maybe 15 or 16 years old; in that territory.
MM: Yah, he came over about 15 and, of course, your grandfather's name -
IM: Grandpa's - Mike.
MM: Your grandfather was Michael?
IM: On the Volk's side. Yah.
MM: On the Miller's side.
IM: On the Miller's side I mean, yah, Mike. No, on the Miller's side - yah, what was his name? It's in here too.
MM: Your grandfather's name, I think, was Peter Miller.
IM: Yah, in Emmons County, yah, yah.
MM: And your mother's name?
IM: My mother's name was Natalia.
MM: And she was a Volk.
IM: Volk, yah, and her dad was Michael.
MM: Michael. Then when they came over, you were age eight. And, of course, you were born over here in Emmons County and then your father farmed. At the age of eight, do you still have memories of those years over there?
IM: Yes, I sure do, a little bit. Not great, but I remember where we lived and I remember when old Joe Bachmeier used to come visit us. See, I go over there once in a great - I've been over there many twice or three times the last few years to the place where we used to live. And then that's, ah, Bachmeier was there. And still the little mud place and a, ah, Blotsky, used to live southeast there. Just no more places [now] but just - Only then Amelia Bachmeier is west there, right west of them there. There's an old house and still setting a part of a windmill. Yah, I remember when we came over here, we come over with a boat, you know, and we had a dog. And you know, the next morning the dog was gone. And old John, John Silbernagel used to live - you remember him yet?
MM: A little bit, yes.
IM: The dog was over there swimming in the Missouri River.
MM: Oh. So, when you came over to this side, you didn't go around Bismarck, you came across with a boat.
IM: No, no, no. We had the ferryboat. No, no, no. Horses, you know, that's all they had. We drove with horses, that's what - We drove with horses; there was nothing else. There was no cars, trucks, or nothing at that time.
MM: So you came over with the ferryboat?
MM: What made your dad decide to come over here?
IM: Well, it's kind of crowded over there and my grandpa, you know, he kind of wanted us to come over and there was more land around there, you know. He was the only one in the family that came over. He was the only one then later on, ah, John Bachmeier came over. He farmed west of us there. See, out there it was kind of crowded already, you know, there was getting more people and so that's when they moved over. Then what they started, first thing they started - mixed some mud and made those blocks. They were about that long, about that high, about that wide. That's what the house was built out of.
MM: Oh, so you remember when those sod houses were built?
IM: Well, I remember ours!
MM: Yes. So do you remember seeing it being built?
IM: Yah! I was right there; I helped with the mud. In them days you had to work pretty early. Oh yah, in fact, afterwards I built one of them myself. It's part on my farm is still standing. I'll take you out, if you want, to my farm.
MM: Yes, that would be real interesting. When you came over here at the age of eight, who else was born over there in your family; your brothers and sisters.
IM: Ah, there was a girl born, but she died. My, ah, she was older than I am but she died as an infant. And over here was Rophina born: Agnes, Mike, Gabe. Everybody was born over here, the whole family.
MM: Now when you were eight over there, of course, in the home you only spoke German, right?
IM: Yah, yah, yah.
MM: Now did you notice when you were over there at eight, of course you were quite young yet, but did those people over there speak a little bit different German?
IM: Yah, Litchuk, Litchuk; isn't that what they got? What'd they call it, Litchuk?
MM: Yah, that could be, or depending on where they even were over there, some of them spoke that Schwäbisch. [Kutschurgan, South Russia]
IM: I don't know. In our country, I didn't really get too far. So when Joe Bachmeier and that ,ah, Blotsky lived down there, they talked just like my dad did. They come from the same place in Russia, you know. [Krasna, Bessarabia]
MM: And they came from, I think, the Catholic village of Krasna.
IM: Yah, yah, that's what they talked about; they talked about that quite often.
MM: Did your dad, now that you mention that, did your folks talk about the old country?
IM: They talked a little about the dorf and stuff.
They called it, dorf, that was a village you know.
They didn't talk too much. See, my dad wasn't that old, you know. He wasn't that old so he, well he, I guess he went to school one year over there.
MM: Now your grandparents on your dad's side and your mother's side, did they come over too; your grandparents?
IM: Yah, yah, you mean on the Volk's side? Yah,
yah, they were already living over here. They moved earlier. They
must have moved in 1800's, because that's the reason they moved
over. See we, they found there was a place, a bunch of land right
west of them. And he kind of had his eyes on it. So they drove
over in the buggy once and then they drove over, I don't know,
they must have homesteaded that in them days. I think that's why
one quarter they homesteaded. And then they bought land. Then
they broke [the land] with the horses. Adolph Riehl, that was,
well, Adolph Riehl was my mother's cousin. They broke with the
horses and they walked behind the plow, you know. They had four
horses on the plows, broke that whole works; pulled the plow by
hand, you know. See, Adolph worked for us by the year. My dad
used to hire the men by the year. See, over there when he started
farming, he hired a guy [for] the whole year. They didn't pay
them as much them days. Probably in the winter, they probably
only got room and board, they only paid them a little.
MM: Now when you were over there in Strasburg, because you were eight, did you really go to some school over there?
IM: No, I didn't; I started school right here, yah.
MM: Uh huh, so you started the first grade over here then?
IM: Yah, right over, right east of us there was a school, on the hill. No, north of us first and then that was in a different district. Then they made us go, they built a school south there, and then, that's where I had to go then, see then.
MM: Now when you went to school, Isidor, the teacher only spoke English?
IM: Yah, yah.
MM: So, what did you children do then when you couldn't speak that English?
IM: Well, we learned it after a while; you know, we learned it. See, the teacher boarded at our place some of the first years.
MM: Who was the teacher, do you remember?
IM: Martin Schmidt. That's where I got the photography [interest], you know. I and him went and started developing; he got us some books and he, ah, sent away for some chemicals. He had to go to the drugstore and buy these little bottles and mixed it altogether. You know you couldn't buy it like now. Then we started that; made a darkroom and -
IM: He taught there for quite a number of years then he always boarded at our place, yah. We walked to school two or three miles.
MM: And then, of course, your folks would be on the farm and farming and you'd get home and then you'd speak German.
IM: Well, yah, we did later on. At home we talked German because my folk's didn't like us talking [English], but when we got married we didn't talk German anymore. Because our boys, like Don and Vern, well, Vern not so much. But Don was a principal in the school down there for a long time and him and his wife talked both [German and English]. Then Darlene, she taught school. They said, ah, "We can tell everyone of them, they talk German at home, we can tell them in school." There's a difference! They didn't care. They didn't even listen to us when we talked German! So Don especially, he, he can talk German. He can talk German but they don't talk German.
MM: Now did your folk's learn English?
IM: No, not, not - Well, they understood.
MM: They understood, huh?
IM: Yah, they understood but my wife she, she talked English. When we started out, [when] we had kids, we quit the German because the kids didn't like it. See, when they grew up, and they went to school, and then later they taught school, and so we, you know, we talked English. They went to St. Christopher's School down there and that priest didn't talk any German either, you know. He was a German, but he didn't talk German.
MM: Um hum. Now let's go back to the farm, Isidor. Of course, your dad broke the land, the sod, and homesteaded it.
IM: Yah. Yah, yah, yah.
MM: Um hum. Do you remember those days on the farm?
IM: Oh, yes! Heck, yes!
MM: What'd they have on the farm? What kind of animals then?
IM: Oh, they probably had a few chickens, few cows, few pigs -
MM: It wasn't easy, I'll bet, those early years.
IM: - and then, well, they had - Oh, no, no, no; that was harder than now. Ah, they had horses.
MM: Well, when they came over there, of course, there was no house on the land. Did they build that sod house right away?
IM: That's the sod house over there too.
MM: So they built that right away then, the first summer?
IM: Yah, yah and then they got married. My dad used to work for the Styles Ranch by that time. That's south, ah, between Pollack, South - do you know where that is, Pollack, South Dakota? Well, they lived a little - about as close to Pollack - we used to go to Pollack, South Dakota. I went down to Pollack here a couple of years ago. They moved that out of the river. There's no more Indians there. When we were there, there was a lot of Indians there. The Indians are all over in Fort Yates now.
MM: Before I forget, Isidor, how did the families over there (and then over here there were a few Indians too); how did you get along with the Native American?
IM: Well, ah, pretty good. I, ah -
MM: Never had any troubles with the Indians?
IM: No, no.
MM: Uh, huh. Did they probably learn from each other, too, on farming and so forth?
IM: Yah, yah. See, when before, I can remember the Indians were kind of bad. They killed ah, killed a whole family over there, Spicer. They killed, killed the family and the Indians, they took them over to Fort Yates and hung them. They killed the whole family. I read that someplace; I guess, I had the book, but I think Don's got it about that family. It was Spicer, Charlie Spicer, who lived over here; that was his brother that was killed. That was around the Styles Ranch; that's ah, there's that Styles Ranch always had a lot of sod buildings. He was a big sheep rancher. My dad used to work for them.
MM: So, you remember that sod house. Now how many rooms were in the house?
IM: Well, in ours there were, ah, first there were two and then they built on with wood, you know, with lumber. And most of them, like Kulps, they had a house right north of us there and, ah, but they're all fell down, you know, now. And they only had two rooms. Later on they built a shed on or something. I didn't know how they could live with seven-eight children.
MM: Oh, yes, small surroundings. Did your folk's have a summer kitchen, too, then?
IM: After a while, yah. I called it "fly" kitchen!
MM: What did you call it?
IM: Fly kitchen.
MM: What did you call it the fly kitchen?
IM: Well, there was lots of flies in there!
MM: And then did they have a well, of course, and a barn?
IM: Yah, they dug a well by hand, yah, and they built a barn in 1917.
MM: Now was that barn was built with wood though?
IM: Yah, yah, yah. Yah, the barn was built with
wood. And that barn is just torn down here this summer. Not tore
down but my nephew lives on it; my brother's son, on that place
where we used to live. And that barn was built in 1918, and Gabe,
my brother, went down and looked and they come over here and asked
me when that barn was built. I told them and I told them who built
it. John Goodwin builded it and I remember they had those, like
those, oh, like eight and four, something like that. He laid them
flat and while they all argued, you know, the guys that helped,
everybody helped them build it. "Let's do it this way."
No, that old Goodwin, he was a Norwegian; "Aw", he says,
"the Germans don't know nothing!" His hired man then,
this Anton Welk, he's dead now, he helped him. "Aw,"
he says, "the Norwegians don't know nothing!"
So, it's still that way. I went down and showed them what that was, you know. The Germans set them up, which I think they destroyed, but he laid them down. John Goodwin, he built that barn. Now that's tore down, the part that he built over; he's a builder. He built over that. We'll drive down after awhile if you want to look at them farms. I got my pickup out there and I got four- wheel drive, and you don't get stuck.
MM: Now the, ah, those days on the farm, of course we talked a little bit about farming, but you got involved with helping on the farm quite a bit?
IM: Oh yes, when I was about, oh, when I was 10 years old I was on the plow with five horses. Of course, my dad drove in front and [I'm] in the back. You know horses, you know, well, a gang plow, five on the plow and one on the drag. From there on I was on the farm everyday. I done a lot, a lot harder work and then we headed, you know. Headers, you know what that are, header?
MM: Um hum.
IM: Well, I had to fix the header box when I was 20. You know, unload them. Built a stack, yah.
MM: Well, while you were on the farm though, farming, could you go to school too?
IM: Oh, yah. Well, I didn't get much. See, ah, see they, my dad raised horses and then we had the stones so I didn't get over fifth grade. Because I, you know they didn't - first thing, the teachers wasn't very good. Not as good as now. Oh, they learned you reading and arithmetic, that's about all they learned you. Then, in the wintertime we had a bunch of horses to break.
MM: Oh, you had horses. You raised horses?
IM: Yah. And then there was always somebody laming. I had a limp, but then I think that came from that probably, just about. This spring I had a limp in the knee. So, yah, we raised horses, raised a few cows. They raised more horses than cows them days; probably had a couple cows but horses - See, them days horses were good business. See, everybody worked horses. My dad, I bet, he's got still money coming from people that didn't pay him.
MM: So, they raised horses to sell for the fields, for work?
IM: Oh, yah, yah sure. The tractor come on way late. And my dad bought our first tractor and he wouldn't use it, only when we got behind. He wouldn't use it all along. Of course, it was Allis Chalmer, it went pretty slow. You know, it only went three miles an hour maybe or better. Then when we got behind, he would take the tractor and plow a little with the tractor. The rest all we worked with horses.
MM: Yah, uh, and then what did they do for fuel for this, for that Allis Chalmer [tractor]?
IM: Yah, gasoline. The first one that hauled out gasoline, hauled out with horses.
MM: Oh, really? Oh, yes.
IM: He had a tank; that tank is still around. We use it for - that tank, you know, and get a team of horses on it and pull it out.
MM: So, the horse was very important?
IM: Oh, yah. Well, that's the only thing they had. That's for riding and buggy, with the buggy, and plow, and hauling the wheat to town, grain to town, and the harvest; there was no other till later on, of course, when I started farming, I started with the tractor in 1927. See, I started farming, I had horses too, and my dad had that old Allis Chalmers and he said, "You better take that." It took you a half a day to get a half a mile around the field. I found it out. Then later on I bought a 1530. Then in 1945, I bought my first M tractor and I still got, I still got four tractors myself. I got two garden tractors, a John Deere and a Husky, and little Bee and an M and a 660, setting down in my garden and some's over at Oscar's, my son. And I had last year, then, they had them down at the Prairie Learning [Center], you heard about that, did you?
MM: Um, hum.
IM: That's quite a deal. I'll take you over to that stuff later on.
MM: Now did you, ah, of course it got cold in the wintertime, what did they use for fuel in the house - in those early years?
IM: Ah, cow chips. And we went down to the [Missouri] river, we were about 10 miles from the river. We'd go down in the fall with the saws, you know they cut the trees - and then one on one side and then, like that. By evening your arms couldn't lift up to your mouth! That was hard work!
MM: How'd you get that wood to bring it back home?
IM: Box, wagon box. See, we sawed it and hauled it home. Otherwise, sometimes we hauled the tree home, the whole tree, you know. And then they got coal in the early days.
IM: Yah, they went to the hills. There's, there's a number of places around here, south, you can dig coal. Well, there's still some mining, like up by Hazen there, that's where the mine where my son-in-law works. You ever been up to that plant?
MM: Yes, I have. Now have you - then, of course, you'd go out and gather some cow chips, too?
IM: Yah, for cooking and stuff - anything that would burn. Some people would cut these buck brush and tie them together. Some people probably chopped all their wagons when they didn't have - Yah, it was hard living then, I'll tell you! Not like now; there was no electricity. In the fall, you went to town and got a sack of sugar and a 1,000 pounds of flour and 10 gallons of kerosene or so, and then probably after Christmas, in February, they went to town again. They didn't go to town everyday like now.
MM: So, you didn't get to town very often?
IM: No, no, no. I didn't get to Bismarck till my dad bought a car in 1926. He bought a Model-T, '26. And then we went to Bismarck once a year then I had to drive. It took us all day to get up there and back!
MM: So, you weren't a young boy anymore, till the first time you were in Bismarck. The first time you were in Bismarck, you were already grown up.
IM: Yah, yah, but that was only once a year, maybe. They went up to do some paperwork or something like that or went to the capitol or something and then we took the Model-T. Ah, it took us a good day to get up and back. Sometimes we didn't make it; sometimes we stayed overnight. There was a guy over here between Mandan and Flasher, guy by the name of Burgess, and they kept people overnight, you know. We sometimes stayed there.
MM: Uh huh, interesting. Now when you would have the holidays - of course, we've just celebrated Christmas. How was Christmas celebrated on the Miller farm?
IM: Well, I'll tell you where we celebrated Christmas, as many days as I can remember, was on the Volk's farm. So they all came home and had that kuchen, about that thick. They had that homemade beer and homemade wine.
MM: Oh, they made homemade beer and wine?
IM: Oh, yah. They made homemade - you'd buy that malt, you can still buy that. That malt, they made homemade beer; it tastes like yeast, you know. And they made wine, you know, they bought those grapes, those grapes, you know, you could buy them in the boxes. They made wine with that, sometimes chokecherry wine and chokecherry jelly.
I know Lawrence Welk used to tell about what it
was over there and it's the same way over here. Weddings, when
there was a wedding, they started in church in the morning and
then they went home and ate: soup and chicken and kuchen. Then
they started dancing until midnight. And the next day they come
again and then the next day, all day, till night again. There
was old Tom Goodenberger, he used to play there and over here
we had Anton Welk and John, ah, Harry Goodwin, played the violin.
Anton Welk played the accordion and the other one played the violin.
MM: Who played the violin?
IM: John Goodwin, his name was. He was a Norwegian; he just lived with the Germans. He was pretty well mixed in with our people, you know. They lived and went to school, the boys went to school with us. He played the violin; and old Anton Welk, he played the accordian.
MM: What about New Year's? How did they celebrate New Year's?
IM: About the same; they went around shooting. I don't know if you remember that or not? See, midnight - like here, Christmas Eve they went out. I never did like the idea it was so cold, you know. But they went out to every farm, and then they wished them 'Happy New Year!' then they shot a shotgun. They took the blanks out, you know, there and shot. I only went one time. It was so cold, you know. There was a lot of them used to go there.
MM: Now, at Christmas time, did they have a Santa Claus?
IM: Well, once in awhile, not like now. They didn't have toys like now. They didn't buy or exchange presents like now. You'd probably get an orange or a couple of peanuts or something. It's not like now, not at all. Nowadays everyone's got presents, you know. We went to the Midnight Mass.
MM: Where did you go to Midnight Mass?
IM: St.Gertrude's. It is still there. Of course, they built a new one since; they built a new church. That's where Prairie Learning is. See, they bought all that. See, we had a school there and we had a dorm there and we had a big gym there; still all there. And these guys bought it. I think they got 40 boys right now. Dennis, he was a good friend of Oscar and Odegaard too. I was the first one to haul them out; hauled them out there. They got broke down there and I went down south and I had one of my twins in the car when the car went by them: an old van and a trailer with some stuff on it. I says to Danny, that's my grandson, "We better pick them people up." That was the guy that moved down there. They were hauling stuff there - They are very good friends to me.
MM: Yah, this area around here, of course, had many of our German-Russian people lived in this area. Do they, do you still hear German spoken once in awhile?
IM: Ah, not, I'll tell you, the only one that used to speak German is Pete Deichert. He used to be the Chevrolet dealer; he's down in Arizona. And then his brothers, one lives in Mandan and one lives in Bismarck, and they talk German. Well, if you talk English they will, but in amongst them, it's German. Yah, they still talk German. But other than that, I don't know, my boys they never - Rachel, my daughter-in-law, she teaches high school here, she is German. They are from Germany but they're high German. She wasn't Catholic when she got she married; she's Catholic now. Well, her dad could talk German. She understands but they don't talk German. At home her granddad had German books, written in German, yah.
MM: Now, in the Miller house, was there much singing going on? Did you have a lot of music?
IM: No, we didn't but the Ternes (family); they were in the church choirs. They used to sing a lot. And Miller, Rudolph Miller, he is no relation to us. He lived there by us. Old Rudolph, he's dead now; they used to sing quite a bit. You know, they had an organ, one of the old pump organs [harmonium organs] and they'd sing.
MM: A lot of German they'd sing?
IM: That's all they sung, German, yah; at that time.
MM: So you learned, when you were a kid, you grew up reading German then?
MM: You didn't learn to read German?
IM: No, no.
MM: Did your folks, by chance, get a German newspaper?
IM: Yah. Das Staatsanzeiger and the Weisenfreund, they got that.
MM: Which one else?
IM: Weisenfreund they call it. They both got shut down for some reason then. That one was in Bismarck, that Staatsanzeiger. You must remember that.
MM: Well, I remember hearing about it. We've read it since then, but I'm interested in the other title. What was the other title you mentioned?
.IM: It was Weisenfreund they call it; Weisenfreund. It's German, Weisenfreund.
MM: What was in those newspapers? Do you remember reading some of them?
IM: Well, most of the reading was from the old country. You know, they put in from the old country.
MM: So your folks were real interested in seeing what was happening over there?
IM: Yah, yah. My dad read that till they quit and they shut them down for some reason, they did something wrong, you know. Something was not right so they shut them down. That was printed right here in Bismarck. I remember the guy. I've seen the guy on television that used to print that.
MM: What about, Isidor, dances around here?
IM: Well, they had those dances Sunday afternoon, you know. Well, when I grew up I played ball.
MM: Oh, you played ball?
IM: That was my interest, and that's my boys' [interest] too now. They're either basketball or baseball in the summertime. Now they don't play much baseball anymore; it's mostly softball, slow pitch. Well, I played baseball.
MM: You played baseball? And you'd come into Raleigh to play?
IM: Oh, yah. We went several places, you know. We come to Fargo, too.
MM: Oh. Did you go with the horses then?
IM: Yah. And I got an in-law up by Almont; he's dead. He was a baseball player. Of course, he played on a different team. His wife used to say he hauled oats and the horses all week, to go to Flasher or Raleigh to play ball; and that's about 30 miles!
MM: Oh, yes, that's a long way.
IM: - round tour with a buggy. Yah, he played ball and my other in-law played ball, Cane, Rachel's [dad]; like Oscar, he played ball. He said, "We either played pitch the ball or hay." That's what we did too!
MM: Either pitched the ball or hay. That's interesting.
IM: My dad said, "You show us the wrist." And then I and my brothers - there's only one interest really big enough. And soon as we had dinner, at hitting time or threshing time, we got the baseball and the mitts and pitched the ball. Yah, I liked to play ball. Now, my kids are all interested. Most of them they play basketball or football, or volleyball, or whatever they have.
MM: Now I know that around Strasburg, [patron saints] names' days were pretty important - when they'd celebrate those names' days, here too?
IM: Yah, yah. Well, the first year it was, but then later on it faded away. Yah, my mother used to always, her name's day always was - what the heck is it - it's after, I believe it's in the fall sometime. She always had a big doings. A lot of people came. But, ah, then later on it seemed to fade away. Yah, Strasburg, that was, that was quite a deal for name's day. Yah, I remember that they used to have names' days. They got homemade beer and wine.
MM: Um hum. What about butchering? That was always important.
IM: That's always, they butchered in the fall. Quite a few pigs had fat on it that thick. That's what they had all winter. There was no other meat there. They went and salted that and smoked it. See, there was no freezers, you know; salted and smoked it and then -
MM: And then when spring would come, how did they keep ice? There was no fridge. How'd they keep the ice?
IM: We later on, we got a ice cellar. We dug a hole in the ground. And then we took straw and put ice in; about that much straw in, and that lasted pretty well over the summer. Cut it in the lakes, you know, ice.
MM: And they'd put it way deep in the [ground]?
IM: Yah, yah, and put straw around it. And it kept till, oh, maybe August or September maybe. The [ice] cakes were about that wide and about that long. The railroad did that too, you know; the railroad done that too. The Old Milwaukee used to run through Raleigh, and they had a depot there. They had a icehouse.
MM: They had a icehouse too?
IM: Yah, but they shipped that in. The town of Raleigh, they had a big icehouse. I used to go and help cut in one town, you know. They hired guys to cut the ice and we cut ice, yah.
MM: What did they use that ice for then?
IM: Oh, keep the water cool or something like that. It wasn't much, I mean, it wasn't really - They made homemade ice cream them days.
MM: Oh, yes. Now, of course, on your farm there was no radio, no telephone either, huh?
IM: Nothing, nothing, nothing.
MM: Now do you remember the first time when the radio came into the scene?
IM: Yah, we didn't have one right away. In 1931, the first radio I noticed, ah, they had that Coronado [that] Gambles used to sell. My uncle had one and some other guys. We didn't have one. Later on, I bought a Crosley. Then the television come in 1950 something, the first television come. No, there was no radio, no there was nothing. All we got was a cookstove and probably, ah, heating stove in the other room, sitting in the middle.
MM: So, what did they do to pass the time? They had no phonograph records either?
IM: No, no. Well, I'll tell you, I wondered a lot of times how they could pass it. My dad was a little different. We had to get the hell out and clean the barns. And, ah, we had horses yet. My dad and my grandpa, they'd sooner let you go, that you die before the horses died, if it came to it! Well, that's true, I know. Then outside, where the cows walked, you had to chop the manure loose and put it on the wheelbarrow and haul it on a pile. You always had something to do with the horses, you know. Then if nothing else, you had to go out and curry them, you know. Curry them everyday. I know my grandpa: when he seen a guy 'trod' the horse he'd tell them - whether he was a relative or [not], and he just told them off. Sometimes, he got in pretty good fights, you know, tell somebody else, "You better just walk that horse, it's got life too!"
IM: Yah, we always had something to do, and I trapped quite a bit. I was quite a trapper as soon as I got big enough to trap. I trapped and hunted. I hunted a lot of coyotes when I was bigger. I got a 30-30 [rifle]. I sold it at the sale; a 30-30 and you opened it like that and I had a 25-22, and a 30-30 and a bunch of 22s. I still got one left. I kept that's about as old as I am, the rest of them I sold at the sale. I had a bunch of old guns. I know my grandson bought one. He paid a hell of a price for it. I didn't know that he wanted it. I would have sold it a lot cheaper to him than he paid at the sale - my sale, when we had a sale.
MM: But they found time to have some free time, a little bit anyway? They played a lot of cards, didn't they?
IM: Cards, yah. They played a lot of cards.
MM: Did your mother do a lot of cooking?
IM: Yah, she always puttered around. She always cooked and well, there was seven of us or eight of there, seven of us. Why, she was always busy.
MM: What did she cook? Did she cook a lot of noodles?
IM: Ah, no. I'll tell you what the biggest deal was at our place was rivel soup, knepfle soup. You know what that is?
IM: A guy in Mandan here awhile back, we come out of the clinic, out of the eye doctor, Dr. Schmidt. He came out and he says, "I got to go home and get me some knepfle soup," and he says, "I bet you don't know what knepfle soup is?" I says, "I bet I ate more knepfle soup than you did!"
MM: Oh, yes. I like that too. In fact, during Christmas now, I had some of those cheese buttons.
IM: Yah, yah, the cheese buttons.
MM: At my brother's house, they had cheese buttons, those cheese buttons - käseknepfle.
IM: Yah, yah. Well, they have them, all that stuff: käseknepfle, knepfle, well, all that stuff. That's all we lived on. We didn't have no fancy meals.
But some people (as minutes before) I couldn't see how they can, how they passed the time. There was a couple couples there, ah, neighbors, I used to go up visiting. They'd sit in front of the stove, he would smoke, and she would knit or something. They sit from morning till night until way in the midnight and never moved! How they could - I couldn't do it. I sit but then, I don't know, I move around a lot, you know.
MM: Now you retired in what year, Isidor?
IM: I kind of retired in 1978, in there. But I still farmed a few years, ah, on one quarter, you know. I just put some oats in and stuff, just to pass time. See, I got the tractors and I had a combine them days; Oscar's got that now.
And so I went out and my wife died in 1980. Before that, I used to go out and farm a little bit. Then when she died, why, I didn't have nothing to do, so - the one guy that quit, well, he got pretty old. And they wanted me to come there before and renew my driver's license, but they wanted to board us out, they wanted her to clean as a janitor. She didn't like that at all. When she died, why, they called me right over the same fall that I come over and started working for them. So, the first winter all I did is, ah - it was too late to mow, you know, then I just help count their inventory and stuff like that. I went here before New Year, I was over there a little while.
MM: Now, when you look back to those early years, when you think about when you were six-seven years old, over in Emmons County, south of Strasburg. And then when you think about coming over here on the ferry and settling around Raleigh and so forth, when you look back to those early years, what kind of vision do you have once-in-a-while? Do you think about them once-in-a-while, those early years?
IM: Well, yah, over there again, we went to Grandpa Miller's for Christmas, by Strasburg. I've got some of the pictures, where the house was built. Do you remember the house over there?
MM: Well, I remember the sod house, as it is now.
IM: It's not a sod house; it's a stone house.
MM: Stone house, rather, yeah.
IM: It's about that high. I've got some pictures here - about that high standing yet. I know there's beer cans around there [in the picture], somebody else was - I'm sure they didn't drink beer out of them cans when they were there!
MM: But you remember going to that house?
MM: As a child, huh?
IM: Yah, yah, I remember. I remember Grandpa Miller. I remember him real well; and her too. And I know the house in Strasburg where they used to live. I know that house. I drove over last summer, it's on this side of the river; kind of an old high house and I peeked in, you know, at that high house. That's where your dad used to live.
MM: Right. What kind of grandpa and grandma were they, were they pretty strict?
IM: Oh, yah, yah, they were. If you was a little bit naughty - I'll tell you, I and your dad - I used to drive over and lived with them, stayed over for a month sometimes and then when we got a little bad, why, they chased us to church to pray. And that church was, ah, where you kneeled on those just 1"x4s" and when it's kneeled on, they bent down the middle. And then later on, I went down to some funeral (or whatever it was) and I says to your dad, "That's just like", I said to Jim, "when we were small, the time when we was - you know, the saying was, 'alte Kirche und nichts Gelds aus - '." Now they got new. They had those dog-gone boards you kneel in, then you kneel like - it's hard kneeling. Yah, when we got a little out of line, why, especially the old lady, I mean your grandma, or your mother? (No, it was your grandma.) Now, let's see, yah, it was your grandma, or your great-grandma, wasn't it? Your dad's mother, it'd be your grandma.
MM: Right. Yah, no, I never knew my grandparents on the Miller side. I was too young yet. They were already deceased by then, but you remember them. Now, you'd go over for a month or so, you said?
IM: Once it was a month; sometimes I'd go a week or so.
MM: Just to do a little work or what?
IM: No, no. I and Pete run around. Afterwards we bought a car, a Model-T, run around and drunk beer.
MM: Oh! Because you were about the same age.
IM: Yah, yah - a little older than he yet. He was pretty good; he was quite a mixer, that Pete was, your dad. They had them cellars, they called them, or caves and they had that homemade beer and I was there in the summer, one time. It was nice and cool in there and we went down to drink beer.
MM: Did you guys go to dances too then?
IM: Not, ah, I went a couple of times over there. The dances wasn't, they were kind of drinking dances over there at that time. They all got drunk, you know. That Schwabs, you know, and these guys and well, Amelia Bachmeier, John, he was no-good-for-nothing, and Pete was no-good-for-nothing. They, they liked to drink, so we didn't mix in too much.
See, Amelia was your grandpa's second wife. He got married over in Russia, first time. Then he married this Bachmeier. She had that Amelia Bachmeier and he had a bunch of boys: John and Elizabeth, and Rophina died and Pete is out in Montana, John died. The boys were, they always got drunk.
MM: Uh huh. Now do you ever remember going to any dances when Lawrence Welk would play?
IM: Not over there, over here I did.
MM: Oh, you did, huh?
IM: Yah, he come over here.
MM: He came over here?
IM: Oh, yah.
MM: And then who would he, how big a band did he have?
IM: Just a, just a drum player first. All he had was a drum player and himself on the accordion. And then later on he had a bigger band, maybe four or five of them.
MM: But he'd come over here then too?
IM: Yah, then he'd come to the, like to the bars and stuff. But then first, when he'd come, he used to come for weddings, oh just a wedding dance. Then he just had a drummer and himself on the accordion.
MM: And then, ah, was he pretty popular when he'd come over?
IM: Well, he played little more popular [music] than they did here. Here they didn't have a very good orchestra. That ah, oh what's his [name]- lives east of Bismarck, used to come there. Anyway, that's the first piano -accordion. Dietrich. Dietrich used to come, east of Bismarck. His [grand]son lives right out of Bismarck, his grandson. When you drive out there's a bunch of sheep on the north side of the road -. That's where Dale is, that's his grandson.
MM: Well, how did Lawrence get over here? Would he go across, would he come over here with the ferry?
IM: I don't know how in the heck he'd come, but later on he had an old car. I still got a picture of that old car someplace, I mean, in the book. He had an old car then they'd come. He had a lot of money then, pockets full of money before he got married. Then later on, I read two of his books. I got one here and one my daughter bought me in Hazen. He didn't have too much money in between there. He pretty near went broke. See, the people wouldn't hire him because he couldn't talk English.
IM: See, in these bigger places, they wouldn't hire him till he got in with a guy that [could] kind of lead it. He talked here the other night, Sunday night about that. That he led them because Lawrence couldn't speak and he could speak both English and German. So, that's the way they got in. Then they got into bigger places. They played in Yankton, SD, and then that Bob, ah, McLeod, he was down there. He used to be over the radio here. He was with him down in Yankton. I didn't know that either till a couple of years ago, I went to the chiropractor and he come in there and we had talked about it. He said he was 50 years here and about five years down in Yankton.
MM: Oh, is Bob McLeod still living?
MM: Oh my! We'll have to pursue that. I didn't know
IM: He was a couple of years ago. Yah, I never heard that he died.
MM: Well, that's interesting because of our Lawrence Welk collection at North Dakota State University. Maybe you know all of his archives have come to the university in Fargo? So we're interested in collecting materials and speaking to people that knew Lawrence, way back at WNAX days. So, Bob McLeod, I'll have to check that because I remember Bob McLeod, of course, on KFYR radio there and TV too.
So, Lawrence would come over. So, when he would play and speak, he'd speak only German then, huh?
IM: Yah, yah. But at first, then later on when he come with a bigger band, he could talk kind of a broken language, yah. You could still hear his accent right now. Yah, I mean, ah, later. Now he's dead but when they have, ah, when he talked, you know, when he played, it's still an accent like around Strasburg. See, Strasburg, they talked German longer than we do here.
Because, ah, I know people used to come, they came over to our place. Some, well, I forget who it was and they could not talk English then, couldn't understand English. They was going to buy something in Raleigh and that guy in Raleigh, there's a guy by the name of Leonard. Cecil Leonard has a store and, you know, he talked English; he couldn't talk German. And they was going to buy something and his word was just like German and they said, "I don't know how to pronounce it." "Well," my dad says, "just say what you want", you know!
Yah, they, and then when we had that, ah, German - there was a bunch of German peoples here. I got the pictures from there. Germans from Germany here; and then we went over to that Strasburg church and had church there. And then Kramer, that Kramer that's a priest, you know him, don't you?
MM: Father Kramer? Yes.
IM: Yah, he's in Dickinson now. He was pretty sick here earlier, he's pretty fair now though because Donny's mother come, they go to that church; and he's getting along pretty good. He lost all his hair.
Anyway, that one guy said, "That's all German
here." (one of the Kramers) "Everybody talks German
around here. If you don't talk German, you don't talk." And
then Father Kramer was going to talk German in his sermon, but
he had a heck of a time! He hadn't talked it in so long you know,
it make a difference. Just like my boys, you know. Ralph, he can
talk German, but he's got a heck of time, you know. He used to
talk German at home, but now he's the oldest one in my family.
He's got a hard time talking German. And then he said, "Over
there they all talk German yet." Right now they talk German
MM: Less and less but do you hear some German speaking?
IM: Oh, yah, yah. Well, that supposed to be German, all German. See, these Germans were from Germany, West Germany. And then they had church over there in that church, in that Krasna church.
MM: Now, were you there at Strasburg when they had that Miller reunion?
MM: That was in 1980.
IM: No, I wasn't.
MM: You didn't get over there for that, huh?
IM: No, I think that was just about when my wife passed away.
MM: Yes, just at that time right then.
IM: No, I didn't get over. No, I didn't go over there. I was over there when they had that, ah, when the Germans were here.
MM: Yes, they had that Kramer reunion.
IM: Kramer reunion, yah. That's when Father Kramer was down.
MM: Now those years, when you came over here at the age of eight, you mentioned you went over there once-in-a-while and were over there with Pete Miller and so forth at his house, but did your folks get over there very often?
IM: Why sure, every summer with the buggy! They went over here to Fort Yates and over to Fort Yates there was a, ah, by Fort Yates; sometimes north of Fort Yates and sometimes south of Fort Yates. And they drove over to our place there, to Silbernagels. See that 29th of June, Peter and Paul, the 29th of June? They went over every year.
MM: Oh, that was a big event, a church feast?
IM: Oh, cripes, yes! They had a band and they had a parade. That was a big deal there, the 29th of June.
MM: You remember that?
IM: Oh, yah! I remember that.
MM: Was that even bigger than the 4th of July, I bet?
IM: Oh, yah, yah. A lot of people came from all over the area. They had a band and they had a big meal and stuff. That one guy that played for Lawrence Welk, that Klein, his dad was leading the band over here and he'd come with Lawrence Welk. He played the drums for Lawrence Welk. Klein.
MM: Yes, Jack Klein. His father was in the post office at Strasburg.
IM: No, that was some of his cousins. No, no. No, his dad was older [than the guy at] the post office. I remember him now. Yah, he was married to Kramer's, like the Father Kramer, one of their sisters, that Klein was married to. And that guy in Linton, that Kraft, that funeral guy, he's married to another one.
MM: Oh, yes. Her name was Agnes.
IM: Yah, I was over there when he died, went to the funeral, yah. That guy that worked in the post office, yah. I knew him before that.
MM: He's Leo Klein.
IM: Leo, yah. His dad was the one that lead the band. And then that guy that played, anyway this was either a cousin or a brother that played for Lawrence Welk out in - with the drums. They told me that their dad led the band in Strasburg. At that time I didn't know him, of course, you know, that they had a band player.
MM: When Lawrence would have the dance over here, how late would the dance go then at night?
IM: Well, he had pretty good turnouts, especially in town. Then he played a few weddings, couple three weddings, you know. Then it was just a drummer and him. Old Goodenberger played some, once in a great while, not very often. I think he played only one wedding out here. That red-headed guy, he played the weddings over there where I went to the wedding. Like Kramer, Anna Kramer, do you remember her?
IM: She lives in Bismarck now. She was married to a, what is his name? Anyway, they live in Selfridge now. I was the best man when she got married; there Goodenberger played, it was Tom.
MM: Tom Goodenberger?
IM: Yah. Do you remember him?
MM: No, that was before my time.
IM: Yah, he died.
MM: Did he play with Lawrence ever?
IM: No, no.
MM: He had a different band.
IM: No, no. He didn't have no band; an accordion, that's all.
MM: Oh, he just played accordion.
IM: Then later on he gave lessons. A few people went up; he gave lessons there in Bismarck.
MM: Oh, uh huh. Now do you remember listening to Lawrence Welk on WNAX?
IM: Yah. I always did. We didn't have a radio at home at that time. I was home then. In the wintertime, there was a neighbor, a fellow by the name of August Dolly. He was a big rancher. I went over and helped him all the time. They had one of those radios about - oh, they had a bunch of batteries and a storage battery. Then you'd listen; and sometimes they would come in; and then fade out and come in again. He played at noon. Yah, he sounded about like when he come over here. He didn't have a very good band. I think he had a horn player and a drum player at that time, a small band.
MM: Well, later on after Lawrence was down in Yankton, did he ever come back with the band?
IM: Yah, oh yah, he would come through here. Played in Raleigh in the bar or in Flasher in the bar. See, them days they had the bar and the dance all together.
MM: Oh, uh huh. People did a lot of dancing during those years?
IM: Oh, yah, yah, especially with Lawrence. Some of the older guys didn't like him because he played more modern music, you know. And they wanted them old waltzes. They like old Goodenberger better, but that's all he played: waltz or polkas, old Goodenberger.
MM: And Lawrence played all kinds of music?
IM: Yah, he played more modern music, yah. Especially after he had two or three guys with him, then he played that modern music. Some older people didn't like that; they didn't care for him.
MM: Do you still watch the Welk show today?
IM: Every [Sunday] night, every night we watch it.
MM: Every Sunday night, huh?
IM: He's only a little bit older than I am. He died, ah, let's see -
MM: '92, May of '92.
IM: Yah, I think he was born in 1902 or something like that. And I was born in 1906. I go to that place every time I go over there but here lately since they redone it - I've got a lot of pictures of that place too. Since they redone it, I haven't gone over.
MM: We're going to, I think, close our conversation today. It's certainly has been a pleasure, Isidor, to come down and see where you live. And maybe we'll get a chance now to see the old homestead.
IM: Sure you will see it. We'll go down there and we'll have dinner.
MM: It's about 9:30 so we're a little bit ahead of schedule here. So, we'll visit about that after we close our conversation. And I want to wish you a Happy New Year and the best to you in the year 1994.
IM: Thank you very much. Glad you could come.