Conducted by Bob Dambach (BD)
12 March 2002, Linton, North Dakota
Transcription by Beth Freeman
Editing and proofreading by Peter Eberle and Reverend Marvin Hartmann
Prairie Public Collection
PW: [Oh, Ich connich. Ich bin feil Bol dich. A001]
BD: Ok, Paul, why don’t you first give me your name and where you were born? You answer us in the form of a statement.
PW: My name is Paul Welder. I was born six miles east of Zeeland in Macintosh County. I was born on the farm and there was no doctor, it was a midwife.
BD: Where did you parents come from?
PW: My parents came from Russia, from Alsace, Russia.
BD: And did your parents tell you about Russia?
PW: Not too much. My dad didn’t talk much about it at all. What I learned about Russia was mostly from Grandpa. I slept at Grandpa’s house for three years with Grandpa after Grandma passed away, and they raised one of my sisters, Grandma and Grandpa did. When she got married, I slept with Grandpa every night but we ate in the big house.
BD: How old was your dad when he moved to the states?
PW: My dad was 16 years old.
BD: Tell me a little bit about your grandparents?
PW: They came over from Russia in 1885. And they came to Eureka and then went on out to Macintosh county and homesteaded there. And the homestead is where dad lived and then I lived there and finally sold the homestead but I still have 800 acres of land around where the homestead was. I still have the land that Dad homesteaded.
BD: Do you know why your grandfather left Russia?
PW: Mostly on account of religion and they started drafting them and my Grandpa lost two brothers in Russia that were drafted or went into Siberia and we don’t know where they are and he never knew of them or heard of them anymore. That was it, they’re lost. But later, in years later, we found out there were some in Texas and my brother talked to them people, and they maybe were related to Grandpa, we’re not sure of.
BD: You said your Grandpa told you about Russia. What do you remember him telling you?
PW: Oh, about how they used to cut the grain down with scythes and then they’d bring it in and make a kind of a place where they do the grain and trample the horses on it and they would take the chaff off and finally on a windy day they would let it blow to the wind and threw the chaff out. They had to have six bags of wheat a year - that was pretty good. But Grandpa talked about the horse thieves. Horse thieves over there were like bank robbers here. They were really evil people. It was really something big. Sometimes even they would have those big dogs chained to the front of the barn, but then they would take the horses out of the back. And he talked about how they had to travel with the horses and it was pretty hard. They had hard times. But they were still more fortunate than some of the other people. They always had food to eat and it was not all that bad compared to some other people.
BD: Could you tell...
PW: From Odessa.
PW: They came from Alsace, yes.
BD: So your grandfather.
PW: Grandma died in 1920. I didn’t know too much about grandma.
PW: Well, it was pretty cold in Russia sometimes. We’ve been told because they talk about the water troughs freezing.
PW: I think Grandpa was very successful when he came over here. He had money. I must say that even in my family. My mom had 15 children in 21 years. And we always had enough to eat and we had nice clothes. We had some of the best. We were maybe one of the first farmers around there to have a car, and we had nice, nice things, and we had nice clothes. Dad and Ma were both pretty stylish people, especially Dad; he had some of the best dress suits. My Dad was a director of an insurance company in Eureka for 23 years. Of the same company, I was the director for 24 years, an agent for 27 years, and a trustee for 22 years. So we kind of were very much involved in Northwest Chattanooga Insurance Company from Eureka, South Dakota.
PW: I was living in the Zeeland area, 6 miles east of Zeeland. I was the third generation on the farm.
PW: Randy [Kaniflee A063] is now living on the farm. His dad bought a quarter of land and 80 acres to homestead. And next to him I kept 800 acres of land.
PW: He was a farmer as well he was a very good carpenter. The house in this picture, he did most of the carpentry work. And I do carpenter work. When we built the new house in Linton here, the edging was just a rough edging with rough 2x4s up there and I finished that all off and put the cupboards in the basement.
PW: Well, we all had different chores as we grew up, but I can remember best when I had to start to feed the calves, the field calves, and on as we grew up. We always had a lot of horses. My dad was a big horseman. My dad owned one stock horse. In 1920, he and a neighbor had to pay $2800. It was a Belgian. In 1921, Dad bought a Perchan for $2200. He had it insured. We used it one year to breed mares and it died. It died February 22 of 1922. I remember that day because it was one of the biggest snowstorms. The storm itself; the wind and snow was real bad, but it was so cold. Every animal that was our almost froze to death. So I remember real well when that stock horse died.
PW: When I was about 9-10 years old, I was out there plowing with a gang plow with 5 horses on there, and one horse tied to the plow with a little drag behind. And this is what I did. And when I got older I normally did the drilling. But in the 1930s, those dry years, I put in 3 crops myself but never took a harvest from there. There was no crop there. So, about June fifth or sixth, we would take off and go to California and work. First we tubbed beets down there, and then we’d pick cherries, and then we’d work in the harvest fields. I work in the experiment farm that the Cutter people had. It was owned by Sphegman, but they had some of their equipment there. I drove the first RD-2 Cutter-built tractor on track. And then they brought. Then they brought a swather out there and then I worked with the swather that was under experiment. So, the engineers would come out there with those wide breeches and big, nice, beautiful boots, and they would ask what we had to do there to make it work better. I remember that the [draver A095] went too fast and threw the swath out too far and I didn’t want that, so we changed the gears and slowed down the [draver], so it kind of laid there instead of throwing or rolling it out, so I did a lot of work for them.
PW: Quite a few, but a lot moved to Washington also. The Ashley and Eureka and Napoleon and Wishek area, a lot of those people are out there in the Lodi, California area. Now I worked 16 miles west of Stockton in the islands and web trank and the only way to get in the web trank was to cross the river and go over to the web trank. The ferry didn’t run at 5 o’clock in the morning, it started at 8 o’clock in the morning. In the evening, at 5 o’clock it stopped. So if we were in there, we were in there. We didn’t get out when we wanted to get out. We got out sometimes for a weekend because we would put in our noon hour that we worked so we woke up early and got up at three in the morning and got out there and then Sundays we’d come back. The ferry didn’t run early in the morning so we had to come back to keep our job.
PW: We went to Stockton. This is where I did the experiment farm, but also Sphegman, he had a big combine there, and he needed a bigger tractor to pull that, so he went to town and he rented a big Caterpillar; a Best was the brand name on it and it had a wheel in front and tracks on the side. And in the morning he came in the kitchen when we were eating and asked who was going to volunteer to drive the tractor. Well, nobody volunteered so I said, “I will,” and I’d never seen it before, so he took me in there, 18 miles from town, and took me to the Caterpillar people and just showed me how to start it, and I drove it home and combined with it.
PW: Well, that was in 1934, so I was 22 years old.
PW: I did a lot, we went out there three years, and we would start in California, and when you finish there you’re in the harvest fields, then we’d come to Washington. And we worked in the harvest fields there. We’d thresh peas. We had six hatter-boxes and a big threshing machine with an automatic feeder. And six boxes and twelve pickers out in the field, and I was the field foreman. So I drove a Dodge pickup and I had to see that the horses got fed. I got up at four in the morning and fed the horses, and see that there was water there. I had to do all those things so when we were done in the harvest fields, then we picked tops in Yakima area, Moxie was the little city. We picked tubs there, and then we went to Cashmere to pick apples. Cashmere and Crichton and also in Chelan, which was way up in the northern part of Washington. And after that we came to Montana. I had a beet contract to tub beets for old Pook's farm for three different years. And there were always eight guys tubbing beets and of course I was the cook and the chief and I eat tubbed beets.
PW: Well, when we went to California, we usually went four in a car.
PW: We were all from the Zeeland area, we were neighbor boys.
PW: Well, there was nothing to do there, so we decided, well, we’re just going to go find work. My brother had the car then, and we just went to Spokane, Washington, and out of Spokane into loose country, and this is where we found tubs there, the harvest fields, and we harvested. The first year I was in Colfax, I drove a combine team with 18 horses on there, three in the lead, and then six, six, six. And we harvested. No, there were 21 horses; six, six, six, and it was humid so we would go round and round the hills until finally got up to the top, then we started coming down. But sometimes, the hills were so steep that you almost didn’t see the leaders. And those three horses in the lead, they were the horses that they controlled the rest of them. When they stopped, everyone stopped because they had chains to their leaders.
PW: No, it was mostly English people. And not in ‘34 but in ’35 - ’36 rather, ’35 we were home because ’35 we had a pretty good crop and we saw a lot of vegetation, but we had a water frost July 10 and it was when the wheat was in bloom, and there was not much kernel in the wheat. So there was a lot of straw, but the crop was not good at all, just a very thin crop, but we were home. Then ’36 we went out to California again and started working and picked beets, and picked cherries, and then we went to the harvest fields.
PW: Oh yeah, we talked German. [Miren deutsche ‘tsl seed A160]
PW: Yes, when I went to school, I couldn’t speak English at all, we all spoke German. And the teachers kind of had a law--you couldn’t speak German in the school ground, and the school grounds were always with a fire guard around the outside, so the recess at noon we would maybe cross the fire guard and talk German.
PW: Oh yes, everyone spoke German.
PW: Yes. After we were done in Montana, we’d be home for the winter.
PW: No I didn’t, but my neighbor, who was my brother-in-law later he did real well, and he stayed out there and found himself land there. He passed many years ago. My sister’s still there, and my nephews have about 1200 acres of grain on wires. They rent some of the land but they have a lot of the land themselves. One of my nephews has 27 acres of nuts and grapes and he and his son will farm together.
PW: They’re 6 miles east of Lodi.
PW: Schutts. Andy Schutts was the brother-in-law, it’s Randy Schutts now.
PW: Well, my brother-in-law had some cousins out there, some of Andrew Schutts’s boys from Napoleon. And there were two out there, one passed away that was 80, but there’re some young Schutts.
PW: No, those Schutts’s are Catholic; the Wishek Schutts’s are Protestants.
PW: I went to school in Berlin District; it was only three quarters of a mile from where we were born.
PW: We were from the first to the eighth grade there. When I was in the seventh grade, and then I took my examination in seventh grade and passed with flying colors. That was the last year I would have been in school. I had to stay home because we had 24 horses and only one brother at home and the stock horse. And I had to stay home and work on the farm. So that was the extent of my education.
PW: I was right in the middle. Down the line there were four girls, then there was a boy, then there was a girl, then there were four boys, then there was another girl, then there were two boys and then there was another girl. There were seven girls and eight boys.
PW: No, there’s only one that’s left, that’s my brother Pete that lives in Zeeland. All the rest left. Now, two of my brothers were in the Glencross area, which was between Trail City and Timber Lake, a small town. Ben, my oldest brother, worked in the bank in Zeeland and when the bank closed he went to Mobridge and worked in Mobridge. He was the Mobridge producer for a while, he had a filling station there, and then the last years, he was a city auditor of Mobridge. One of my brothers used to be in the elevator business. He started in Murdo, South Dakota, which was the real red crossing, where the Sioux and the Milwaukee crossed. And after two years in the ‘30s, they couldn’t buy any grain because it wasn’t cheap so they locked the elevator full of grain, and then he switched to the elevator in Greenwich for two or three years, and he finally moved to Frankford, SD. From Frankford he then moved to Olivia, MN, and then from Olivia he went to Blue Earth and managed an elevator there for 23 years. This is where he passed away. After he retired, he still did some auditor work for Benson Quinn and closed some of the elevators, but he passed away and he’s buried there, along with his wife.
PW: When did I start the insurance business? I have to figure back a little bit. 1949 is when I became a director and agent. And I was an agent for 27 years, director for 24, and trustee for 22.
PW: Yes, my dad had an agency and he was director for 22 years. People have to have insurance. The payments were real cheap, but even when my dad was an agent, they even ensured cattle boxes and hay rakes and windmills, but by the time I became a director we had cut that off.
PW: There was crop insurance then, but my dad did not believe in crop insurance, and neither did I. We said that if the good Lord gives us the no hail and gives us a crop, we’d give a donation to the church, and this is what we did for years. I never owned crop insurance as long as I farmed. There was only hail twice; one time the crop was harvested and the second time the crop was damaged, but not much.
PW: We had wheat, barley, and oats, but mostly wheat. We had some corn, but not much.
PW: Well, we stopped using horses in 1940. I farmed with horses. I used them. But when I started to farm, I used a tractor. I worked with the highway department from 1939 to 1942. In August 1942 I went home because three of my brothers were drafted to the army. I went home and farmed. I was also drafted, but I had bad ulcers for many years, so I didn’t make it. I went to Fort Snelling and after I drank their chalk, but they sent me home with ulcers. So I started farming in ’42, and I started with tractors.
PW: Yeah, it was hard, but we did it. We got along. I came home and my dad had slipped into the tractor for the Tuna’s farm and once he finished, then he bought himself a new M-tractor for $1385 and got a barrel of oil with it. And I started to farm with a tractor with rubber tires. I didn’t want to header anymore so I bought a combine in ’42 and combined the crops. It was the first combine in the area.
PW: I farmed my dad’s land, and then later Dad sold a quarter to me and I started buying more land. At one time I had 1200 acres of land.
PW: How did my mom and dad meet? This is something that is pretty hard, but I think it was a matchmaker. See, my dad was in the Zeeland area, raised there, and my mom was raised one mile west of St. John’s church. So they were about 13 miles apart. I know my dad used to go out there, but I don’t know how they got together.
PW: Oh yes, they were Weigels and they lived right there.
PW: Yes, three weeks before Grandma passed away, she was in a nursing home that was next to the hospital in Harvey, North Dakota. I took my mother up there to see her and then I sat beside Grandma’s bed and Grandma told me a lot about Russia. She also stayed with my parents one summer as long as dad was still alive, and Grandma talked about Russia. She talked about different things about Russia, how they lived there and what they had there. They didn’t have it too bad there either. They had food and they were not starving. They had pretty good food and a pretty good life.
PW: They brought the food along. The food they ate in Russia we ate in North Dakota. It was German food that we ate. [Domf Kugler, rom noodlerA286], blachinda, sauerkraut.
PW: Favorite food? Well, I would say maybe dampf links. I like food made from dough. Occasionally we would get some pretty good homemade cookies, and kugel.
PW: I stayed with it. I still eat a lot of sweets.
PW: My dad used to bring apples home in a barrel. It later changed to boxes. Yeah, dad bought a lot of apples. We had pretty good food.
PW: She was a good cook. And I didn’t realize how smart she was until my son’s sister-in-law committed suicide. I was in the big house here in Linton at the time and then on my son’s family’s side, they mostly stayed with me through this ordeal because her dad lived in Linton. So I had to feed ten people and six children and I had that big house. And I cooked two suppers and one breakfast and when that was all over with and then I first realized how smart mother was. She had to have a menu for 13 children and Dad and Ma and three meals a day and lunch in between. Now, we were only 13 children at one time because the oldest one was married before my youngest sister was born. My oldest nephew and my youngest sister were only one month apart in age. And the house was 26’ by 36’ and we were all in there. And there was no basement, only a root cellar with the wine and potatoes and sauerkraut. The upstairs was an attic, it was a nice storage place, but we didn’t use it.
PW: We had one big room with four beds in there, and this is where we slept. Then mom and dad had their little bedroom, and then there was a little cradle in there. Which is the cradle I have downstairs now and it is around 98 years old. And it’s downstairs, right here in this house.
PW: She was a very hard worker. In those days, the mothers were slaves. They worked day and night. And she made a lot of stockings for us and mittens and she sewed our overalls until we were going to school already and maybe even later. But by the time my sisters were 8 years old, they already took care of us smaller ones. That’s the way we went on through. They learned to cope when they were real young and they do the wash.
PW: I got married in 1943 I was 32 years old. My wife was 29. We were married nine months, ten days and we had a boy. Now, my family was the family I raised, and four years later, we wanted a girl, and we had a girl. Four years later we wanted a boy and a boy was born on my birthday. Another four years later we wanted a girl on the wife’s birthday. Well, the wife’s birthday was April second, and on April fourth the baby comes along and it’s a boy. And we said, if we don’t know when they’re due we’ll quit and that was end.
PW: Phyllis Wald. Phillipina, but we called her Phyllis, was my wife.
PW: Oh, I knew Phyllis from the time she was 7 years old. Our farms were only 6-7 miles apart. But I went all over Montana and Minnesota and Washington and California and came back and married a neighbor. We were both pretty old.
PW: In those days we got a little bit older before we got married. We didn’t get marry that young. But, I didn’t have any time: it takes a whole day! So I finally took a day off and got married.
PW: No, there was the same thing. They ate the same kind of food and they were the same.
PW: Oh yes, that’s why I got married to her. I knew she could make blachinda and some dampfnudelen.
PW: A kuppler! Well, the kuppler would normally bring some man to where there were girls there and then he would bring her and alongside her there was someone that knew the parents and only two of my daughters were kupplered, the rest of ‘em had boyfriends and then got married. But only two, the oldest one and another, but the rest were found without kupplers.
PW: Yeah, two of them had matchmakers.
PW: I remember when my oldest sister was brought this boy and it was a [mattern A380] from Strasburg. And they brought him and I remember just like yesterday, it was my father-in-law.
PW: Dowries? When they got married, they’d get like six cows and there were different cows. This was all what happened. When you got married to a farm girl, you normally got six cows unless it was a real poor girl you got married too. I got married to a rich one, she got seven cows.
PW: Why did I leave? I left farming in 1959; I was full-time insurance. I sold life insurance and stocks for a while and after that I went to full-time insurance.
PW: There was a reason. I did real well with my farm. But I decided I couldn’t go as close with combines anymore and even swathing was hard for me. So I went insurance and quit farming. I rented my land out and fields - I didn’t miss it at all.
PW: I did real well. I made good money. I bought Dad’s machinery, and I paid the money for it because he had it appraised by a clerk and I bought it from him and started farming.
PW: You made money. When I started farming, wheat was $2.40 a bushel and gas was 16 cents a gallon. And I bought that combine and I remember like yesterday we had 100 acres of Reward wheat which was earlier then the other varieties. So we’d combine that and hold every bushel to acre and we had 22 bushels to the acre and we got $2.42 a bushel, and gas was sixteen cents. I bought a combine from in Kansas, I pain $1250 and the tractor was $1385. And then two years later I bought another tractor, a Minneapolis Moline U and a Baldwin combine. The tractor was $1680 and the combine was $1860, also a year old, a combine from Kansas. I had two combines and two tractors. And it did cost more. Used to get four dollars an acre, they had to furnish the gas, and haul the wheat. We did about 100 acres a day straight combining.
PW: Yes, all my children, everyone else; we all went to church good, we were all faithful Catholics.
PW: Grandpa had his horse and buggy and we’d go to St. Johns to church with two buggies. Grandpa in the lead and he’d maybe have two grandchildren in his buggy and then dad with a bigger buggy with two seats and whoever fit in there, maybe the rest of them, the younger ones stayed home. And then later, in 1918, when dad bought his first car, it was a Dodge Tory, and as many as we could pile in the car, Dad and Grandpa in the front and maybe two grandchildren and then maybe six people in the back! Double row in back, big cars, and the rest of them - one of the girls stayed home usually and cooked, and some of us smaller children were at home.
PW: We had to always wear a suit and a tie, and even going with the buggy, we were dressed up. Some people couldn’t go to church if they didn’t have a suit. When you went to church there, you had to wear a coat. I remember definitely a family came over from Ashley to go to church in Zeeland and there was no church, no Catholic Church. And one summer day a boy about eight years old didn’t wear a suit coat and the priest came in and said [Wash de monte B018] which meant ‘Where have you got your coat’. He was the only one in the church without a coat.
PW: It was a nice church, it was built in 1905, St. John’s was built quite a few years earlier, it was a nice church and was a lot of people went to church there.
PW: On top of the sacristy, there was that round deal that held two big angels up there and it said “Glory in excelcis deo”. That was the Latin. It had a nice sacristy and was nice. It was a nice church at that time. Nice altars in there, real nice altars.
PW: No, St. Peters Church in Strasburg is one of the nicest churches outside of Hoven, South Dakota.
PW: Yes. I was in the cemetery many times. My grandpa and grandma went there, and the wife’s family and her sister were there, so I was in there many times.
PW: Well, a lot of the old square ones, but there are some newer ones in there. In fact, just last week, my cousin got buried in there. There are still people that had the old ancestors out there and what have you. They still want to be buried in St. Johns. It’s kept up real nice.
PW: Yes, it was different. From the time I can remember, from way back, it was a different, especially when it came to a funeral. The bodies would be in the house, and there was two candles burning on each end of the coffin, and someone would be there all night long praying. When my grandma died in Harlan, ND, they brought the body out to her daughter, to my uncle to be [pieces B046]. And my sister and myself and a cousins from Grand Forks, we stayed up all night long. We didn’t get to bed. We just had to sit, that was the custom.
PW: Well, not long. They buried them pretty fast because they were not embalmed. I know where a man in Zeeland died, and he bloated. They had to tie the coffin shut with ropes before they buried him because it went so fast.
PW: Well, the time I was born it was all German. The service and the funerals, all the good things were said about the dead person; it was a sermon, just like now.
PW: Yes, they were buried in the winter. I remember when some of the graves were dug and the first six to eight inches, they had to use picks to cut up the frozen ground. And they were buried, they did not stand out.
PW: Oh yes, like last year I canned maybe 14 quarts of apples and I canned now citrus. Do you know what [coke mingon B063] is? Citrus? Well, I canned nine quarts of that. I canned some apples. I did them in the microwave so I could make some apple blachinda. And I’ve still got about five quarts down so I can make apple blodchenda whenever I’m out. So I canned some of those, and then I made a lot of jellies. I think I made may be 35, 34 pints of jellies and about three quarts. I give some to the children, and I use jellies all the time.
PW: I maybe helped the wife a bit, and then I also pickled 14 quarts of watermelon. Well, I helped the wife sometimes and I just started and I just do it. There’s nothing to it.
PW: Well, I don’t have such a big garden. I just raise tomatoes and carrots and some citrus. Last year they didn’t get big because it was so cold so long. So, I didn’t get many, but other years I raised some nice citrus. You can make at least seven quarts out of one.
PW: Well, yes. She did it as long as she was around. She was a very good gardener. She was really an outside person. When we moved into the farm down there, we had more money in lawnmowers than my dad had in farm equipment. We had one big mower behind the tractor like the highway department has, we had one big rider, and we had one for the shelter belt, with the six-horse motor on there, one with a bagger for the lawn in front of the house. And one with a self-propelled lawn sweeper with a motor behind it.
PW: Well, the wife did all of it. She ran all those lawn mowers, because I was on the road. I was gone. I’d leave on Mondays and come back Wednesdays or Fridays and I was gone three nights a week with the insurance. I was an insurance adjustor. I started adjusting in 1959 and ‘60, leaving in ’70 when we moved into town, I still did some life and claims, but no more climbing roof. Because once you get 72, you don’t get any more liability to climb roofs.
PW: We lived out there until 1982. We built the home here in ’81, and then we moved in on January 28, 1982. And October 6, 1984, the wife passed away, so I was alone in that big house, until ’94, then it sold and I moved to Bismarck for four years, and ’98, the day after Thanksgiving, I moved back and moved in here.
PW: Well, yes, and the wife was buried down here, and this is why. And I knew everyone down here; my pinochle friends are all down here.
PW: Oh yes, we talk German when we play cards and different things. Oh yes, we still talk German.
PW: Well, this has kind of slowed down. I have no card enemies now, they’re all in the cemetery. That’s where my card-player friends are. So there’s only one old couple left now. So we have to start playing with younger people, but we maybe play two times a week or something. Sometimes more, depends.
PW: We talk German.
PW: Two. Oh yes, I can talk German too. [Da con deutsche fitz Zeeland. B107]
PW: Oh, yes. You want to hear the Lord’s Prayer
[The Lord’s Prayer in German B109] I know all those German prayers.
PW: Yes, it’s quite a while. With Father Grider, he came in ‘23 and stayed 17 years and when he left and when Future came there was some German then but not much. That’s been a long time.
PW: Yeah, I could, it wouldn’t be. When you say that, it depends. The ones that give the German sermons now, they begin with the real High German or else they wouldn’t. I talked when I was overseas one year; our guide and our bus driver spoke German. He couldn’t speak my dialect, but I got along real good with him. I was the only one out of 42 people that could talk German to these folks.
PW: I would have maybe moved before but they wanted to save the farm yet and the farm needed attention, but I just wanted to move to town. We were out there in the wintertime when it snowed and 7 miles from town, and a pretty good road. We came to town here to Linden because Phyllis had nine relatives in here and I had two cousins and a niece. So we came in here and started looking around to buy houses and they didn’t look good enough for me, so we built a new home. And my nephew was the contractor and drew up my blueprints. And so we built the home, we builded it in ’81 and moved in in ’82.
PW: It’s 310 East Oak. It’s the only house that had a lot of big bushes on the boulevard. I have bushes in there for the house.
PW: I have a picture out here so you can see it.
PW: My wife had problems. She always got tired; this is why I wanted to move. So we came in here and we went to see the doctors in Bismarck. It was the tired sign. So in September of 1984 she had open heart surgery, and she lived for 31 days afterwards.
PW: The day before she had an appointment up there, an appointment for three weeks after the surgery, and it was supposed to be successful. We came up there and Dr. Murky was the heart doctor and she said she always got dizzy when she lay down, so I said, “Go straight to the emergency room.” So this is where we went, and Dr. Murky saw her then. He said, “Well, she got a little fluid around the heart, and low potassium.” So the next morning she saw the Dr. Williams that gave her the surgery, he said about the same thing, so they gave her little prescription, two little pills and we didn’t even go home that evening, we came home the next day, on a Friday, and she felt pretty good, but Saturday morning we had a funeral here in town, so I got up pretty early and I cooked some soup and fried some chicken and she came out from the bedroom and she said, “How come you’re frying chicken and cooking all that soup.” I said, “Well, you want to eat, time to eat.” “Yah,” she said, “I think I could eat something.” So she went back to bed and that was the last word I spoke to her, she just fell asleep. She was dead for a half hour before I knew she was dead. So, she...she passed away.
PW: My mother taught us children maybe 30 German songs. We did a lot of singing. I’m with the German singers here in town. With the senior citizen singers, we become German singers. We sing every Tuesday, but we go to nursing homes in Strasburg every month and the sixteenth of April we’re going to go to Napoleon, to the Senior Center, to sing for those people. We sing a lot of German songs. When we sing here we still sing about four German songs. Five.
PW: [German song B168-don’t laugh too hard at my version :)] Diro send so deeply an in mayay, a mayay, salda ka makiran its fail, salda da makiranits fail, akiran sict dich vitz in speld da nine kom, in speld da nine kom, svien schleeb shtonk una don tear. Svien schleeb stink stomf uanr don tear. Un dun my heir schleepstiher svienstag, oh fienstag, fine hertzen gay failai dust sleer, von herzen gay failai dust sleer. Onech frau fearst ya nicht su ke failain yon failain. Dene kopst schon lengtef ein mon. Dene kompst pe schon lngstef ein mon. Ein schener, ein heipsher, ein dricher, your richer. Der michus are near and kon. Der michus are near and kon. Vost sooker ounst inrei schidai, a schidai . Ein messer vost shorae ka schleeds. Ein messer vost shorae ka scheeds. Erst shfictus fine slipshtick inst hertsay, yo hertsay. Dos rosday plune yagar in shpleeds. Dos roday plune yagar in shpleeds. Er sokay dos messar yeich vleider tsu reed, ya veider su reed. Von blue de vonst messer tsu road, Von blue de vonst messer tsu road. Si, schrider, ya preistess, im heimade, ya heikade. De peter, ist mira ster toad. Vie peter ist mira ster toad. (180-193, side B)
Now translated, that was a story about a boy that went to the army and when he came back, he was going to go back to see that girl. And she told him that she had a man, a rich one that could support her. And he drew his sword out of his sheath and shoved it in her heart and her blood came gushing out at him. So he blew the bag and was red from blood and she started complaining to God, and God said, “If you want to complain, complain to me. That was the story on it. You understood it, right?
PW: Oh yes, I heard this from my mother. I know a lot of them that she taught me. Here, they don’t know as many songs as I do.
PW: Her dad and her uncles, they were very good singers. And her mother was a very good singer.
PW: Yes. Her mother was a Richter. Her maiden name was Richter. And she was a sister to old Andrew Richter which was the dad to Charlie Richter, the musician. Did you know that Charlie Richter used to play the accordion? A [vichsteno, a bagetelle B211]Well, his wife was Monica. Monica was a cousin to my wife - to my mother.
PW: Well, yes, they were brought over from Russia. But Mother was only nine years old when they came to America. And she learned those from Grandma who used to tell me that my mother was only seven or eight years old, and one time they were singing in the house and my mother was in bed and they brought her out and made her stand there and sing. She was a good singer.
PW: Mother didn’t seem to want the church because, unless it’s in St. John’s, not the one Zeeland because by the time she came to St. John’s, she had a lot of children to take care of, so, she was not in the choir.
PW: Well, I suppose we started singing when we could talk. I remember my youngest sister when Mom and Dad bought a pump organ, and then my brother could play it pretty good. My youngest sister played for the German singers in Bismarck for many years. Now she plays in church because she lives in Mir Lake Manor that’s connected to St. Vincent. And she plays in church a lot. So Rose, Mother promised her a dime if she could learn [‘Maria tsu leiben’ B232]; and she gave her a dime when she learned to play that.
PW: That was a terrible song. Maria [tsura leiben eicht outside mein seien. Du beicht yao my müder tine kein feil licht tsien. Een leben un friden e dinner e din. B235] And on and on and on.
PW: Yes. The [sig shawn in tanzic soup. B241] I could sing it with my sister. Once my sister married, she got married to a Welk, to a cousin of Lawrence Welk. Another sister, Barbara, got married to a cousin of Lawrence Welk. And once my sister Mary and I used to be out and we would get together and when Mary got out, she moved to Strasburg, into town and we’d still sing a little bit there, but then she moved to Clark, SD with her children. Then all the singing we did there was about three months before she passed away. I came back from Hastings, Minnesota where my daughter lives and I stopped in Clark, SD. She was in the nursing home. And then we sang in German and my niece put it on tape- they still have it on tape. So we still sang three months before she passed away, we could still sing the German songs.
PW: Oh no, Lawrence Welk came to see my sister sometimes; he used to play those [partzen and granders B258]. I used to stand beside him when he played the [grinders] there. And then I’d dance to Lawrence Welk’s music and after Lawrence Welk, when he came back to Strasburg, he usually came to my sister’s place. That’s where he ate dampfnudelen.
PW: Well, I think I’m going to be 83, while my Grandma, on the Weigel side, she was 92, but mother was 88, but Dad passed when he was 73.
PW: Well, two of my sisters got pretty old, and my brother Ben, but then some of them died younger. One died when she was 48 years old. But the rest of them were up there in their 70s and 80s.
PW: Now, yes. And the youngest one is Rose in Bismarck. Two weeks ago I lost a niece to marriage, and a brother that lived in Duchesne, Utah, and also a cousin, a Weigel, in one week’s time. But I couldn’t go to the funeral because he was in the Navy and had to be buried in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was a sailor. I already had asked for a bus route to Ephraim, Utah. I was going to go out there and see him while he was alive, but he passed away before I was going to see him sometime.
PW: I’ve got one son that lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I also have a daughter in Hastings, MN. And the older one of my children is living in Hastings, MN with my daughter now because he moved from Ford Mills, South Carolina. Anyhow, so right now, he is working in Minnesota, in Fairfield, MN--Faribault, MN, and his wife is working in the St. Paul area. But they are staying now with my daughter because they’re waiting for some houses being built that they are interested in buying, but they don’t know exactly what they’re going to buy. They’ve got a beautiful home in the Charlotte, North Carolina. But, it’s not sold yet, so they hope there house sells down there. And then I’ve got a son living in Bismarck, he’s in the insurance business.
PW: Well, it just happened that the daughter went to school in Fargo, then Wapheton, and then Fargo--and then she met this boy, he’s a Norwegian, and they got married, and they went on into Minnesota. They went down to St. Paul and started working down there. And the son, he was still single when he went to Minneapolis, and he stayed with some of the neighbors down there and he worked down there. And from the Minneapolis area he moved to Florida and he was in Florida, and finally he came to the Carolinas and now he’s moving back. He is working for a big company that sells busses. And they are those big pleasure busses. They sold eight hundred plus seven hundred each. And now he is building Jiffy-Lubes for busses only. And they’re building nine of them. Right now they’re working on one in California. Last week he was in California.
PW: No, and I’m glad they didn’t. Because if they had started farming when I quit or when I left the farm, it would have cost them about 250,000 to start out, and I didn’t want that. And they really didn’t. They had college educations and they went their ways. One of them graduated from Wahpeton, and the daughter did, the oldest one from Bismarck, and one from Grand Forks.
PW: I got along pretty good. As I was trustee and a director and all that, I tried to teach two young boys, college graduates, who put out the trust with me. And the books, they knew everything, but when it got hard the books, they didn’t make adjustments. And one of them is a real smart boy, he’s now in Bismarck, where he’s in the insurance department, he’s a real smart boy.
PW: In school? English was the toughest thing. English was toughest. Language they called it, but you know the book was called language. History and arithmetic I liked. Arithmetic was my favorite. But it was hard. Spelling was good too.
PW: I know numbers. You get into a house that was smoke damaged, you just look at it and you have to put the figures down, it comes automatically.
PW: I went to school in Champagne, Illinois, to the University of Urbana, Illinois. And I took a course and I had to go down there for three sessions always for a little while. And yeah, I went through a lot, but it was worth it. They say a quitter never wins, and a winner never quits, and I never quit.
PW: Well, it was hard work, but I made money and I enjoyed it. I made income from the farm in the meantime, and I enjoyed it. I had three titles at one time. I was a trustee, an agent, and a director. I also was the president for two years of the company.
PW: Very much so. I have a full degree and am very much involved.
PW: I got initiated in Aberdeen, SD, in 1944, and it seemed that it did a little bit for my spiritual life. Go to the meetings and do different things.
PW: Well, maybe not tomatoes, a lot of English once, some are not that pleasant, but I do a lot of them.
PW: In English? Well, okay now, let’s see. Let’s talk about two little boys who were in the hospital at the same time. And so they got together in this room before the operation. So one boy said to the other, “Now what do you need?” “Well,” he said, “I’ve got something. I don’t really remember, something about tonsillitis,” and the other boy said, “Yes, that’s when you get your tonsils removed. Oh, that’s nothing. When you’re done you get ice cream and ice water and in two days you can go home. That’s easy.” The other one said, “What are you in here for?” The boy said, “Well, I’m in here for something like, I don’t know what you call it - circumcisor or something - or circumcision, something like that, I really don’t know.” “Oh,” the other boy says, “Circumcision, that’s a tough one! That is bad. I had that when I was a month old and I couldn’t walk for a whole year.”
PW: No, I really don’t know if I know much German-Russian jokes. I know a lot of other ones; I’m real well versed on that.
PW: I’ll tell you, it was real strict discipline. When Dad said, “Go” it was go, and when he said “Stop” it was stop. That’s number one. The other thing is we prayed a lot in the house, we did a lot of praying and then of course, we worked hard. You might think Dad would not have a job for you, but he always had a job for you. And being he was in the big horse business, he sold a lot of expensive horses and he had some good horses. We worked hard but we enjoyed it. And in the wintertime we had a pond right behind the house and we could do skating and a lot of outside. We even had skate-skis and we’d tie a rope to a horse tail and stand on those skis and go to the neighbors. We had sleds out there, we had a hill bank to go sleighing and we enjoyed ourselves. We were a close-knit family. And we got along good, and I can say we had nice clothes and good food, and I think we’ve had it all too good. And right now, we’ve all got it too good, including you two guys; we’ve just got it too good. When you go overseas and see what’s going on over there and see how people live over there, you come back, you are a pretty happy boy. When we were in Paris, there were two main roads that were kind of like almost roads and little cross-roads. And a kind of a park in the middle and four bus stops. And there was a little park in the middle and there were tables and garbage cans and I saw a man as big as you, Mike, who went to the garbage can looking for food. And other places, like in Rome, those Gypsies. Hundreds of them, and they’re--it’s really sad. When you come home, you enjoy living here.