Interview with Paul Welder (PW)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.