Interview with Joseph Rink (JR)
Conducted by Michael Miller (MM)
July, 2000, Kendal, Saskatchewan
Transcribed by Aaron Johnson
Editing and proofreading by Peter Eberle and Reverend Marvin Hartmann
Prairie Public Collection
JR: Ok my name is Joe Rink, and this is Kendal. My grandfather Rink came here in 1906. Originally he came to the US around Rugby because he already had a daughter married to Frank (Ristling…A7) and then from there he came up to (Capel…A8) and from Capel to this area and he took up a homestead in 1906. My dad was, shortly after was old enough to take also a homestead and so he had a homestead next to my grandfather’s north of Kendal about six miles. And when my dad got married in 1913 he married another Elsass lady who grew up in (Bybank…A13) and her last name was Kuntz They farmed about two miles south of (Bybank…A14) Like her parents, my grandfather. Also in town here there lived, in my young time, there lived a Ripplinger and his wife was a Kuntz also from Elsass and she was my mother’s aunt. She was a sister to my grandfather John Kuntz.
MM: Your father came over to North America first into North Dakota.
JR: Around Rugby.
MM: How many children where there, he came with his parents, and about how old was he?
JR: Well when he came oh he was born in…I don’t really remember how old he was but he…there was one, two, three, my dad had one brother and two sisters that came at the time and my uncle Anton who was older preceded him. He came up north, as a matter of fact he came from Rugby; he had enough money to get to the border and he walked from the US border all the way to (Capel…A28) where he knew some people.
MM: How far was that?
JR: Oh gosh from the US border up to here how far would that be, about 150 miles maybe. The originally my grandfather Rink they built a church about eight miles north of here and they called it (Mariental…A31) because some of the Knolls who lived up there and still live up there came from (Mariental…A33) in Russia. So that’s how they arrived at that name.
MM: Your father was born in Elsass. Which was one of the Kutschurgan villages, did you dad talk much about growing up there?
JR: Unfortunately my dad died by accident when he was 39 and I was only eight years old, so whatever information we had was more less from our mother and when your young of course your really not that curious; its only when you get older that your curios as to what your origins are. And some of the other old people like in town here, I had a store here for 30 some years and when the old people came to the store we would always talk German you know. And so there was some from Selz and some from Kandel. And then of course from the Liebental communities there, well there was a lot of those around here (Sitses…A43) for instance; they came from Klein-Liebental. And so on uh they had the early people had a very difficult time when they first came to this country they didn’t know the language nothing ya know. But my grandfather Rink he, he got around quite a bit when he was in Russia he was a surveyor sometimes he went to Romania, sometimes he went to Hungary to survey land because my uncle Anton he used to talk about it sometimes because he was along to carry the chains they measured by chains and my grandfather or somehow the story goes he sort of had to take off in a hurry he would with all of his goings from country to country he was involved a little bit in the smuggling.
MM: Did your grandparents come to Canada?
JR: Well this is my grandparent I’m talking about ya know my great grand parent no see I’m the third generation of the Rinks lets say.
MM: What about in Kendal here what was it named after?
JR: See now there’s three thoughts about that some say it was called after (Koundall…A59) from Russia. Some say it was named after a railway man who’s name was Kendal when the first railway came through here we don’t really know. But in the Kendal history book I think that’s how we have it stated.
MM: Were now in the church what’s the name of the church here
JR: (Saint Ignations Church…A63)
MM: And you remember as a child then the early days of this church.
JR: I remember because I was baptized here and I made my first communion here and I was confirmed here and a matter of fact I was married here so I’ve been around a long time in fact the only time I was away from here was six years when I was in the army and over seas.
MM: Early on when you were a child were the services in German?
JR: We had a father (Rhyndle…A69) who was an old country German priest and he his sermons were all in German and uh up in that post there, there used to be the pulpit and us kids were all up in front they had two benches up front for all the youngsters. It was a long time he always had about a two hour mass.
MM: So there was all the time German spoken?
JR: Well most of the language was German like the only what I can remember not when I went but my older brother and the oldest ones of the family knew no English and so when they went to school they had to learn the language because the parents didn’t know no English and I know the older ones of my brothers and the wives’ brothers went to school here after a while the teacher forbid them to speak German on the playground because as soon as they went outdoors they spoke German on the playground and we have two or three English families here and there oldest kids went to school with our oldest children would learn German. You know if you wanted to talk to the German kids they would then learn German you had to learn German.
MM: But your folks learned to speak English?
JR: Well my dad he did he was a counselor for the (???…A84) but ya know because I was too young and he died so young it took a long time for my mother to learn English cuz we lived on the farm until 1936 then we moved into the village and she traded all she had for a little house.
MM: Here in Kendal what are some of the last names of the families that are interesting for me to know what are some of the original families?
JR: Well there is the (Riplingers…A88), there was (Stremik…A88), there was (Seitz…A89), the (Stopplers…A89), the (Knolls…A89), the (Muffinbyuer…A90), the (Weimar…A90) there was just off the top of my head ya know. But there was certain area in the district where there was English speaking people and then there was of course there was the German section then we had some (Ritzt…A93) and they were basically the Hungarian-Germans (Donhauer…A95), and some of those they were we had some Hungarian-Germans more we maybe had a couple Romanian-German families.
MM: In the communities near Kendal what were some of the names of some of the communities where they had a lot of German-Russians?
JR: Well of course you have to go to (Odessa-Bybank…A98) you go south to Francis you go over to (Sedlay…A99) and (Crono...A99) ah, well Saint Josephs Colony, (Belgonia…A100) in around there that’s basically it. Unless you go out to (Holefast…A101) and Allan and around there.
MM: In the Kendal area were they mostly Catholic?
JR: Yes I don’t know of any German people here who were not catholic suppose that’s why they congregated here on account of that.
MM: In those early years were the parents quite sure that the children were to marry a Catholic?
JR: Oh very much so very much so. Sometimes there was a little bit of friction when one got to interested in others ya know. Yeah I can remember easily if someone got interested in a Protestant especially my mother she would just, she was very much for the Church ya know.
MM: And you went to a public school or was it a private school?
JR: Oh no it was a public school right across from my house. The old very first school was right where my house is right there.
MM: This is the original site of the first church?
JR: Oh yes see because original we had a church south and church north and when the church south called (Fronsfeld…A113) burned down and then they there was the church was still being used up at (Peters Ville…A114) but the bishop decided that the best place to build a church would be in the village and then they should all come to the village. And so there was a little bit of unhappiness with the church up at (Peters Ville Marenthal…A117) they didn’t want to close the church but the bishop didn’t give them another priest so they had to sort of fall in line.
MM: In those early years you had the store for 30 years you say?
JR: Oh yeah but I was a come late boy ya know I only got in there after the war.
MM: But after ’45 or so when you came back to Kendal was there immigration of new German-Russians coming here?
JR: No there was the odd one from Poland, Polish-Germans the married ones that and one girl game from Yugoslavia. Sort of a mail order bride.
MM: What about relatives in your family did anybody stay in Russia?
JR: I only had one cousin, who was in Russia who stayed behind and there’s a story connected to that. In 1933 is I remember the Rinks use to make a (???…A129) and send to (Emmanuel Rink…A130) was his name, but then they lost touch somehow and that was promptly about the time they moved them all out or a good many out to Siberia I think.
MM: And where did they send these packages to what was the village to remember over there?
JR: I couldn’t tell you anything but I still think it was Elsass, Elsass or Kondle.
MM: When they came to North Dakota did some of the relatives stay there and not come to Canada or are there still some relatives down there in North Dakota?
JR: No they came to Canada where my grand father stayed with my aunt for a short time before they came to Canada. Then they also came to Canada that was the (Richlings...A138) But he originated from (Franzfeld…A139). Ya know like the (Richling…A139)
MM: And now were here at Kendal and times of changed and how do you see this whole heritage of the Germans from Russia for the next generations are your children somewhat interested in the heritage. What do you see for the future?
JR: I would say its practically disappeared ya know there’s been such a mix of our children marrying. For instance my daughter married an Irish boy and my son married a Wilson and her background is English-Scottish. And they do not speak the language. My son understands some of the language but they do not speak the language and basically around here on account of the centralization of schools very few of them seem to intermarry from the district. Its either from (Worlmort…A139) or Odessa or (Kendiak…A140) or someplace they do not yeah.
MM: Do the people around here who are German Russian do they know about their heritage do they know much about their heritage if you asked them about the villages of their ancestors would they be able to tell you where they were?
JR: Some would some that are more or less around my age but the younger I doubt very much. It’s not something that has been stressed unless you’re curious and interested yourself otherwise yeah.
MM: Do you ever recall when you were younger where the German-Russians were kind of afraid to say you were German-Russian?
JR: No because most of us were German-Russian. There was no straight Germans if there were any straight Germans I don’t know of any there were Austrian-Germans yeah like my father in law came from (Kalush...A159) In Poland and that was a German Community but when he came it was Austrian but later it because Poland. Ya know.
MM: You never could remember when you were gone during the war years when you were over seas did you serve in Europe?
JR: Yes in France and in Belgium and Holland and
in Germany when the war ended. But by that time my German was
pretty rusty ya know I could understand but they talked so fast
although I was in the north and they have a different kind of
dialect not the high
German but I was able to understand certain things.
MM: Have you done some writing on your own family history?
JR: Well I have a lot although I didn’t do it I have a niece that’s done a lot of (genological…A172) work I have a nephew that’s up in Edmonton and he’s done, I’ve got scads of it that I can show you. From my mother’s side from my dad’s side going back to about 1670 I think.
MM: Have you been active in Kendal church? That’s were sitting in today?
JR: Oh yeah I been ya know not a silent member I read in church I usher and do different things
MM: And how many parishioners are there about?
JR: On a regular basis maybe about 30 families I can recall when we first started the church envelopes I had to number was 68 believe and today its 23 so there’s been a big change
MM: So in these communities around Kendal so far the population is less?
JR: Well when I drive around the countryside and I know wherever there was a yard well there was a lot of yards disappear because the farms are a lot bigger yeas ago when I was young two-quarters of land was a good farm. Today that’s nothing ya know.
MM: Anything else you would like to share about your growing up in Kendal?
JR: Well then I could but I wouldn’t want to put that into print. [Laughs]
MM: I didn’t realize your father died so young.
JR: Well we lived north of Kendal about two and a half miles and in the 20’s he lost the land and in 1926 a water ranch land around (Maceville…A196) and (Vallermarie...A196) was opened up for homesteaders and the government surveyed it my dad went out there in 1920 with (Phillip Muffinbyer…A198) and Mike Rice, two others families and they took up a homestead and we moved out there in 1929 in a way it was good because there was no school. We had holidays all summer we went out in spring and as it was my dad died in December. So we were only there one summer and then my mother because there was no relatives there moved back to Kendal.
MM: Right at the same time?
JR: Well we lived on the farm buildings but we didn’t farm there because they belonged to my uncle Joe Kuntz and we lived in the buildings and we had you know cows and chickens and pigs and she got a little bit of widows pension and so and that’s what we survived on.
MM: So times were a little tough?
JR: Oh yeah well it was for everybody we used to get all the clothes from down in Ontario they would send second hand clothes and we would have ya know and food of different kinds would come in the depression years. This church here I remember when we moved to town in 1936 she was the church janitor and we had a coal furnace and it was a pipe less furnace and the big register was right in front of the alter down in the first floor there and you’d fire that thing from Saturday noon till Sunday morning 10 o clock and you could still see your breath because it wasn’t used all week he had a little chapel downstairs in the basement I remember.
MM: You were probably a mass server here?
JR: I wasn’t I had two brothers who were I don’t know how come I never did get into that but when we were on the farm my brother served mass a lot because my mother during lent had a toboggan and she had an old trunk and shed build a seat on it and shed come to church ya know whit one horse we only had two horses, one we needed for school and she would drive to town and my brother would drive her in and then after mass he would go to school and she would go home.
MM: So this church was very important to the community?
JR: Very much very much cuz in my elder days this church was packed. Us kids in the front and the 15 16 year old would stand at the back, some would have to sneak into the confessional and have a rest and the girls were on the other side of the back and on the front. There was never an empty seat because they actually sold seat so you had your own seat ya know. And well if the first person he bought this seat well you’ll sit in this pew and if the rest of the pew is empty or half empty the person coming in would have to climb overtop. And only onetime when father (Rhyndle…A139) went up to preach well you could go and fill the empty seat because there wasn’t very many empty seats to fill just maybe somebody was sick or something. And Father Rhyndle he taught cataclysm and of course in school we took everything in English and when we would have cataclysm it was all in German.
MM: So you learned to read and write German.
JR: No I can read German if it’s with the English letters but with the old German (Sphfift…A247) I have a lot of trouble with that ya know its not that easy
MM: But you learned how to pray in German?
JR: Oh yeah definitely
MM: I’m just saying there was a lot of singing too.
JR: I now like all our prayers are in German because of our mother and the Rosary and all those things wee important to her and so she ya know she would lead the Rosary in German and we would learn to pray in German there was no problem there ya know.
MM: In your church were there any singing groups?
JR: Oh not that much only when father (Labode…A255) was here and that was already in the n’60’s he was quite musical he originated from (Bybank…A256) father Labode was. And he was the one who renovated the church when he came here in ’64.
MM: So when somebody got married here in this church was there a big celebration?
JR: Oh in the years ago, mind you we don’t have that many weddings now a days they dispense with that formality [laughs]
MM: But you remember a lot of the big weddings here don’t you?
JR: Oh yeah sure why not ive lived here all my life. They used to like weddings because they would get a little extra money yeah and that was the only time they got any.
MM: And would they serve the meals down stairs?
JR: No at that time the basement was not fixed up and I know everybody at their weddings at home hey had a granary or something like a shed and that’s where the weddings were. No they didn’t rent no hall or nothing.
MM: Well I think we got some good points about the church here.
JR: I’m sure you’ve heard all that you want to hear [laughs].