Interview with Anthony Welk (AW)

Conducted by Bob Dambach (BD)
7 September 2001, Linton, ND

Transcribed by Beth Freeman
Editing and proofreading by Peter Eberle and Reverend Marvin Hartmann

Prairie Public Collection

BD: Ok. Why don’t you tell me your name?

AW: Anthony Welk.

BD: Where do you live?

AW: Bismarck, North Dakota.

BD: And where did you grow up?

AW: I grew up in Hague, North Dakota, Emmons County, on the farm. I was about 13 miles straight east of Strasburg, where - home of Lawrence Welk.

BD: What’s your memory of growing up on the farm? What did you think of that?

AW: Oh, I have a lot of fond memories with all my older brothers and sisters. Mostly I remember playing with Tom, father Tom, who is next oldest to me. And of course we used to fight quite a bit. He was older then I was, but we got into a lot of [rhubarbs A7] and stuff like that, you know, but it was all in fun. I guess it’s a part of families growing up. My older sister, Viola, more or less raised me; she was my buddy. And of course, I have a lot of fond memories of hunting gophers and fishing. I think some of the better parts of my life is growing up on that farm.

BD: What do you think about farm life?

AW: It’s a good, clean, healthy living. At the time the old pioneers founded the farms, I think they did a lot of hard work, but it’s a good clean living.

BD: Did you have to do a lot of hard work when you were a boy?

AW: Well, at the time I thought it was hard work, but as I look back now it probably wasn’t that hard, but it probably got me to where I am today. I used to have to carry a lot of water for the pigs and chickens. There was none of the mechanization that there is today. We used to have to carry all the water out of the creek, which the garden was right next to it, so instead of Dad putting up a pump, he said, “Nope, I’ve got all these kids, let them carry the water.”

BD: Tell me about your dad. What are your memories about your dad?

AW: Well, I think he was a well-respected man in the community. I think everybody respected Dad for his easy, out-going personality. He loved to joke around all the time and he liked to tease everybody. As a kid he was kind of easy going, and he was a very sociable kind of guy. Like I said, everyone respected him, his opinion and so forth.

BD: What was your dad’s name?

AW: Leo Welk.

BD: And how about your mom’s name?

AW: Claire. Claire Welk. Claire Mastel was her maiden name.

BD: We need you to say, “My dad’s name was Leo Welk and my mom’s name….” Can you do that for me?

AW: Gladly. My dad’s name was Leo Welk and my mother’s name was Claire Mastel, her maiden name.

BD: Now when you were going to school, what type of school did you go to?

AW: Well, I went to the first six grades out in the country school; a one room country school. It was just about a mile from our farm. At the time, if I remember correctly, there was only about 12 or 13 students there, and I remember walking to school in the wintertime when it was awfully cold. We never got to ride unless there was a real bad blizzard where you couldn’t see. But other than that, I guess all I remember was there just being the one classroom. The teacher usually went from the littler classes and worked her way up till she got through the eighth grade.

BD: What language did you speak in school?

AW: Well, we did speak English, but if I remember correctly, I didn’t learn to speak English until I started school. I spoke German until I was six years old.

BD: What year did you start school?

AW: What year? Well, that would have been in 1950, I believe. I was only five years old.

BD: In 1950 there were still one room schoolhouses?

AW: Exactly yes. In fact, there was when we moved to Linton in 1957. That school was still there. But I think they consolidated and moved them down to town too. It is now St. Aloysius. They moved all the schools together and had them as combined. So the schoolhouse that I grew up at is no longer there.

BD: I asked you about your dad, tell me about your mom.

AW: Oh Mom she liked to fiddle; she could fix anything. I mean, she had the patience of Job. She could sit and work on something that would break down. She could take all day if you told her to. She had a lot of patience and she loved to garden. Had a green thumb and could get anything to grow. And she loved to grow flowers. Matter of fact, my wife’s wanted to plant African violets, she just adores those plants. She lovingly and tenderly took care of them, and one of those plants has taken off now. So I say she loved flowers, to work in the gardens. Any time she had leisure time she was out in the garden. If you didn’t see Mom in the house, you went out back and she’d be out in the garden. A very loving caring person.

BD: Now one of the brothers was talking about the fact that the house was sort of down there by the water and not enough up on the hill….

AW: Yes, it was right down by the creek. Back in those days, when they made a settlement, they always had to go where the water is. So that’s where the farm is. So many times in the spring, we got flooded out. But the house was high enough to where it would stay out of the water. I don’t remember water ever getting into the house. I remember in the spring of ’51, we had a flash flood, and we had to get the grain out of the grainery because it was underwater. And also hook on to the chicken coop, or the brooder house, he called it. And the neighbors came over with their tractors and pulled that out of the water for us, because we had young chickens in there.

BD: Now you also lived very close to your uncles, didn’t you?

AW: Yes. We were within a mile of my two uncles that lived out there. My uncle John, who lived right south of us maybe a half mile and they had twelve kids in their family, and ten of those were boys. Another Uncle Gabriel had thirteen in their family, and there were nine boys out of the thirteen children. So, you know, we had our own softball team. On Sunday afternoons we’d all get together and ride horse or whatever, go swimming, play softball and just had a good time growing up with all those cousins, you know.

BD: What type of church did you go to on the farm?

AW: Well I was kind of too young, really, so I didn’t have to go. I was only five or six years old, so my job was to bring the pillowcase when they were done milking. We had feed each calf; making sure the calves were there when we were done milking. Of course, I had to help feed chickens and the pigs, carry the milk and the water, and that was basically my job.

BD: Did you mind it when you moved into Linton? Was that a tough transition for you?

AW: Yes and no, I guess I had mixed feelings about that. I was always kind of short growing up; I was small for my age. So moving all the way into Linton, with the big classroom, I was kind of shy, kind of bashful. I was kind of accustomed to the farm, being relaxed there, enjoying the freedom of the farm, and then moving into town, with all these kids, so that was a little bit of a different transition for me.

BD: Why did the family move into town?

AW: Well my dad got allergic to what they call the sun and dust. He got sick, got a terrible rash; he couldn’t be out and work in the dust anymore. So he had to quit farming. And that was in 1957. I was in the seventh grade at that time.

BD: What happened to the farm after that?

AW: Well my older sister and her husband moved on there. And they farmed it for two or three years, and then Dad sold the farm.

BD: Do you regret the fact the farm was sold?

AW: Well, kinda now maybe I do, at the time I was just too young yet to be able to stay to do the farming myself. I guess it’s been that many years now, you kind of forget about it.

BD: Has it ever come up when the family gets together, at reunions where you wish you still had the farmstead?

AW: No, not really. We talk about memories we’ve had there. The fun and all the stuff we did on the farm. No, it doesn’t really come up that anyone wishes they were still there.

BD: None of the boys really wanted to keep farming?

AW: I believe the oldest brother probably wanted to. He would have been the only candidate, really, to take over. But we had not enough land to make a decent living I guess. So, he was really gone then, he was off going to school and he had his job.

BD: Do you have any really fine memories of growing up as a child?

AW: The fondest memory I have is getting to go along to the field with the older brothers and my dad and getting to ride on some of the machines. He’d put us on the combine, we’d sit in the hopper and we got to ride around. I always enjoyed that. I always enjoyed going out to farm and watching the older people, the adults. And during thrashing time, I remember so well. I was just a youngster. But I remember the older people; older guys working out in the field, hauling the bundles in, and then come lunchtime, Mom would always bring lunch out to the field, right to the thrashing machine. They’d of course share the lunch with me, too. And of course I’d get to help, sometimes they’d let me: some of the wagons would have a tractor and I’d get to drive from one bundled stack to the next, you know. So I always enjoyed that, you know. I guess that’s probably some of the fonder memories there.

BD: Super, Tony, thank you very much!

AW: Ok.

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