Interview with Anton G. Schatz (AS)

Conducted by Michael M. Miller (MM)
11 June 1993, Napoleon, North Dakota

Transcription by Joyce Reinhardt Larson
Editing by Mary Lynn Axtman

MM: This is Michael M. Miller, the Germans from Russia Bibliographer at North Dakota State University Libraries at Fargo, North Dakota. The date today is June 11, 1993 and I'm in the home of Mr. Schatz. I'm going to let him introduce himself and tell us who he is, when he was born, and a little bit about his parents.

AS: Good afternoon. I'm Anton G. Schatz. I was born out in Bonafice country, July 29, 1921. My dad was Gabriel Schatz, my mother was Benedicta Wangler. I was born at the farm home, middle of Aprilish, and spent my entire life, most of my life there. I went to school right up the hill there, where I walked to school and home at noon. Two years I spent with the CCC, from 1937 to 1939. In 1945, I married Ann Feist. In 1947, we moved to a little farm between Tappen and Dawson. In 1957, we moved back to the home place and farmed there until 1979. Then, we turned the farm over to our daughter and son-in-law and moved here to Napoleon and we are here ever since.

MM: You said Bonafice Country. Is that in Logan County?

AS: Yes, it is in the western end of Logan county. We are two miles in from the west and eight miles in from the south.

MM: Of course, St. Bonafice was very important to our German-Russian people, because it was one of the country churches. Does it still exist today?

AS: Yes, they still have a resident pastor and there is about twenty-five families and a few single people. Younger people that come once in a while.

MM: Who is the pastor out there?

AS: Father John Bessarabius. He is a Lithuanian. He came as a displaced person in 1954.

MM: Your mother's family then was?

AS: Her maiden name was Wangler. Benedicta was the first name.

MM: Were your mother and father born in the United States?

AS: My dad was born east of Zeeland, North Dakota. My mother was born in Russia. She was three years old when the family departed. There were five children. The youngest was, some say, six weeks old. It was not very old.

MM: Did all the children come with your mother and father to America?

AS: All the children that were born at the time came. But in all, there were fourteen. The two youngest boys and the youngest girl are alive today.

MM: So, your mother was three years old and, of course, she was too young to remember?

AS: She never talked of anything about the ship or the trip. Except sometimes, what their dad told later, you know.

MM: Do you remember anything that her dad mentioned to her that she told you?

AS: Here is one deal that she said. He [her dad] was going to have a telegram sent out ahead for somebody to come in. The train was already here in Napolean, but no way to let our rural people know that he wanted somebody to be there to pick the family up. He was in the depot. He tried to tell the depot agent that he wanted to send a telegram to Napolean. The depot agent talked a different language than he did, so they couldn't communicate. So, he took him by the arm and led him out on to the platform. He pointed up the high line wires, you know. "Ring, ring, Napolean," that was all he could say. Then he said, when they landed in Napolean, there was somebody there to pick them up. The telegram got through.

MM: What year was this?

AS: In the fall of 1900.

MM: So, they came in the fall of 1900 with five children? Who was the oldest child that came?

AS: The oldest one was Margaret. My mother was the third one and she was three [years old]. Then, there was Magdalena ahead of my mother, and then Margaret. She was probably six.

MM: So, they all were somewhat too young to remember?

AS: All, from there down. There were two younger than my mother, and two older than my mother. When they came, my mother was three, so you can imagine.

MM: There were fourteen [children] all together? And there are two living today?

AS: Two boys and a girl.

MM: What are their ages now?

AS: Well, the boys are in the middle seventies and the girl is in the late seventies.

MM: So, they settled where?

AS: Well, just a mile and a half south and a half a mile west of the Bonifice Church.

MM: So, they all belong to that church?

AS: Oh, yes. Except a couple of them that married away from the parish.

MM: When your mother came at age three, was she able to go to school when she was older?

AS: She didn't go when it [the weather] was real nice or real bad. If it was nice, they had to stay home and do things at home. And if the weather was bad, they couldn't go anyway. So, if the weather was mediocre, in between, they could get to school.

MM: So, it varied when they got to school?

AS: The school, at that time, was a half a mile west of where the Bonifice Church is setting today.

MM: Is that where you went to school too?

AS: No. See, the new church was built in 1916. Then the old church was just moved off the church ground, you know, to separate church and school. That was just from the church, up the hill. We could leave home at five to nine and run up. We always ran home for dinner, eat dinner and run back up. So, that is were we went to school.

MM: How many months of the year did you go to school?

AS: The school terms were seven months.

MM: Could the teacher speak English?

AS: It was all in English. If you got caught talking in German, you got penalized.

MM: What happened when you were penalized?

AS: We had to write on the black board, "we must speak English because we live in the United States of America," five hundred times.

MM: Did that ever happen to anybody?

AS: Oh, yes.

MM: So, if you got caught once, they tried to watch it?

AS: Well, we were outside and still be talking in German. Just when the teacher heard it, you were supposed to speak English.

MM: So, the teacher didn't necessarily speak German, then?

AS: Oh, yes. The same man taught the German Catechism school in the summertime.

MM: Do you remember the teachers name?

AS: Yes. Gabe Weber was my first teacher. Before that, they had Sisters for summer Catechism school. Well, I don't really remember the teachers names. My older brothers told me that there was a guy by the name of Edward Moore.

MM: Did most children enjoy going to school?

AS: Well, so many didn't get there that much. The bigger boys had to stay home in the fall, because the farm power was horse power. Them horses needed the hay that had to come in the fall and the grain had to be hauled to town. You had to prepare for winter. And the bigger boys usually come after they got a letter from the County Superintendent of Schools. Then, they were sent awhile. Then come February and March, they had to stay home and start cleaning the grain and fix the harnesses and get ready for Springs work.

MM: The farm work was very important at that time, just for survival? So, they had to stay at home?

AS: Even on wash day, I had to stay home from school and carry in the water and turn the ringer for my mother. So, that was more important than school. Then, about the time she was making the noon meal, she was down to the dirty overalls and I got broke in on the wash board, you know.

MM: So, you have good, fond memories of all those things?

AS: Well, there was no girl, I had no sisters. So you see, the boys had to take over, wherever we were needed.

MM: Many times, a woman in the life of a German-Russian family didn't speak out as much. You know, did more of the housework and the father made a lot of the decisions and so forth. How was it in your family?

AS: I think it was basically along that line. Dad would say in the morning what we were going to do today. And a lot of times, we were eight boys, so one of us got roped in to being in the house, to help out. Especially at times when ma wasn't feeling good for some reason or another. One of the boys had to take over and help.

MM: Did some of the boys learn to cook then, too?

AS: Oh, yes. Maybe not like for Sunday dinner, but you had something to eat. Yah, I had to clean the chickens and peel the potatoes when they were out in the field heddering.

I remember my mother being out in the hedder box, and my older brother driving the team, and dad on the hedder. Well, they gave the orders in the morning what had to be cooked. There was no refrigerator, so the meat had to be caught on foot, you know. You couldn't keep nothing, you know.

MM: How did they store the meat?

AS: You would only butcher the pork and beef in the late fall, after it was cold. Then, they would go in the salt brine barrel, and come out of there and be smoked pretty good. Then, it would keep into the summer. The beef, first we would hang it up where it was cold. If it started getting warm, you would bury it in a snowbank. When it started melting, if there any left, then you would fill the canning jars so that it would keep. Be canned up and saved for summer. Then, when the young chickens came along, then you ate chicken.

MM: How often did you get to town?

AS: The folks went at least once a week, for sure. A lot of times, twice a week. In the wintertime, probably once a week. If the roads were blocked, it was all [horse] team that went in the wintertime.

MM: Did they let kids get to town once in a awhile?

AS: Well, I would say that the kid the cried the loudest got to go along. Yah, we got to go along once in awhile.

MM: When you became a teenager, were you able to be a little more free?

AS: When I was sixteen, I went to the CCC for two years.

MM: At sixteen, already?

AS: At sixteen. You were probably a little more free, but the work load got a heavier too. I worked for my parents until I was twenty-four, when I got married. That isn't heard of very much today anymore. We would go threshing in the fall, but we never saw any money. That's way different now. If there was a dance, if you didn't go too often, you could have the car once in awhile.

MM: So by then, there was a vehicle in the family?

AS: In 1935, dad went to Fargo and bought a Model T for thirty-five dollars. A 1926 model. That he drove for about three years, I think. Then, when my brothers and I went to the CCC and [dad] had a little money, he went to Fargo and bought a Model A Ford. They drove that until about l943, I think. And then he bought a l939 Chevy. He never had one new car in all his married life. It was always used cars. From 1930 to 1935, we didn't have any car at all. If the folks decided they wanted to go somewhere on Sunday afternoon in the summertime, we walked out to the pasture and brought the horses in and hitched up two of them and drive [them] in front of the house and then they would go to their company. See, for church, we didn't need transportation. We walked.

MM: Being so close to St. Bonifice? I've been a visitor there and this is a beautiful country church and cemetery. This church was probably very important in the life of the Schatz family?

AS: Well, yes. You have to realize that there was nothing in the home. Some may have had an organ, or a phonograph, but a lot of them didn't. So, you didn't hear no outside noise. Like a mother with three, four, or five children, she couldn't turn the radio on. She could only listen to what was in the house. So, the namesdays and the church were the outlet. When you got to church, there was singing, you could express yourself. I don't ever remember missing a Sunday. The Catechism thing, in my time, it was bad. Because our prayers... When I was a first-grader, they had two months of German, what they call Deutsche School. You had a little ABC book in German. You were supposed to learn to read and write in German and then be instructed at the same time for First Communion and Confirmation. This Catechism thing every Sunday, in church a little bit. And the folks would say, "you kids, learn your catechism." Well, that was fine and dandy, over here was a German page, and there was an English page. But, we had to learn the German. You could read the English and I know what it means now, but you had to say it exactly word for word the way it is written here. We couldn't read the German, so how are you going to study Catechism? So, that was hard.

MM: So, you could speak the German, but couldn't necessarily read it?

AS: We did speak it. And then in [those] two months, the school was so full. The teacher was so busy teaching the prayers and making ready for Communion and Confirmation, that there was very little time for the reading and writing. So, I never learned to read and write [German]. Later, I learned to read German a little bit by myself, from the Nord Dakota Herold and places like that.

MM: Your parents did receive some of the German newspapers?

AS: Yes. My mother read, but my dad didn't read [German] too much. He could read English good. My mother would read the local paper. She never really learned the talking of the English language. I think she knew a little bit, but if she couldn't talk it, then she didn't have to. You make-believe you don't know, then no one would ask you anything.

MM: What German newspapers did they subscribe to?

AS: The Nord Dakota Herold. That was my ma's paper. Then there were the local letters in there. If they are written in our dialect, I could read most of the words. But some people used words that we don't use.

MM: What were those kinds?

AS: Different dialect than we do. We say, "es vas" and some say, "es var." That's just one example. Then, there is the "grumberra" and the "kartoffel" and the "gaul" and "ross." What I'm saying is, each from different places have different dialects.

MM: Do you notice different dialects around Napolean or are they pretty much all the same?

AS: I would say there is some difference. Yah, with some people.

MM: Some words are different? Can you think of any words?

AS: Like the words I used before. The words "es var" or if you get into the "Grema", then you've got the "Heartz" or "Pasama." They've got their own jabbering thing again. You know more about that than I do.

MM: Even nearby here, you have the people in the different areas, McIntosh, Emmons, Logan, of course, they have a different dialect. I have noticed that too. This is a very interesting study.

AS: The "Pasama," they've got their own [dialect]. Two of my dad's brothers married ladies of different dialects. They talked way different than we do. Like Rita's mother, you know.

MM: Now, where did they grow up?

AS: Right southeast of Zeeland. Four of dads brothers farmed right around Zeeland. Well, Anton died young. Kaspar, John, and Mike farmed right around Zeeland. Dad and Andrew and Mary came out the bottom [born last], you know.

MM: When you were growing up, do you remember the priest out at St. Bonifice?

AS: Father Stung was the first resident priest. He came there in 1924.

MM: And he spoke German?

AS: Oh, yes. Everything was German. Some of them old people were arguing. They said that Deutsch was the language of the land. And others were just so much against the German.

MM: Was there quite a controversy in the church?

AS: Not in the church, that much. It was accepted in the church that it was going to be German. They might have been one of the last, really..., not the last. In the late thirties, the kids were instructed in English. See, I went there already in the twenties. The last time Bishop James O'Reilly made his Confirmation trip out there in 1928 or 1929, I was confirmed already. Father Stung was there until 1928, and then we got Father Mutter. He was the priest when I went to Communion. I was seven years old when I made Communion and the Bishop came and I was confirmed right away. See, I was ready for marriage!

MM: Oh, my! You mean once you were confirmed, that means you could.... Of course, you got confirmed very young.

AS: But, you still had to learn catechism after that.

MM: Yes, yes.

AS: Then in 1930, Father Mutter was transferred out. And then, we got Father Miller and he was there until 1932, and then we got Father Kaufman. He was from Switzerland, a Swiss. And in 1936, we got Father Lawrence Weidman, who was German. The nice thing, in the fifties, my brother Joe had to go to the service. Got drafted and he was in Germany [during] the occupation. He got a long weekend off and he found Father Lawrence's brother and sister living in Germany. He sent a picture home. In 1954, Father Lawrence, well, he just got too old and he retired. Then they got Father John. Everybody calls him Father John, Father John Savictius. He is Lithuanian. He has been there ever since.

MM: What about going back to the farm again? When you grew up and you living on a farm after you were married, you remember, of course, farming with horses?

AS: Oh, yes. You always got broke in on the Sulky. Do you know what that is?

MM: Explain that.

AS: A one-bottom plow. You had three wheels too, but only one bottom with three horses on it. That was for the beginner. Usually, the dad would be along with the two-bottom. But if there were three extra horses, well, let's hitch up the sulky yet. A rock this big [little] would tip him over. Oh, then you lay there and cry awhile and then set him up again and get on to drive again.

MM: How old were you then?

AS: Oh, about seven, eight, or nine years old, I suppose.

MM: Oh, my.

AS: We always had a tractor. Most years we used the tractor a little for plowing, but we always had horses too. We usually plow with the gang [plow] and the Sulky. And then, when you were seeding, then somebody would probably be dragging. You wouldn't be plowing then. So, until 1942 yet, we were still seeding with horses. And then, gradually we got another tractor. Then there was not much farm work done, except raking hay yet, with the horses.

MM: So, you were on the farm in the thirties, during the depression years?

AS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

MM: How was it during those years?

AS: Well, I'm telling you, there wasn't much of anything. We had to sell the cattle down in 1934, 1935, when the government bought the cattle. Dad sold forty-nine head, I guess. They brought a whole $444.00!

MM: Hmm, for how many?

AS: Forty-nine head!

MM: Then, you were without cattle?

AS: No, they kept [some] back. See, we were a little ahead of the upland people. We had slough there and always had slough hay. In the slough low bottoms, you would get hay, even in a dry year. So, we were a little ahead of the game there. They never had to buy hay. So, they kept horses enough, usually eight or ten, you know. And then, they kept about ten milk cows. For that, there was hay enough. It gradually increased again, as the years got better, you know. You increased the herd again.

MM: So, you never went off to work during the depression?

AS: Except for CCC. So, we had to work out. Because we were eight boys, and oh yah, we had to help. When someone needed help in the neighborhood, well, there were the Schatzes. There is lots of boys there, you know. So, we had to go to help, for a day or a week or whatever it was. Like in 1932, was really a good, heavy crop. I had to go and drive a hedder box for the neighbors, at eleven years old. They had two boxes. When the one got full and had to unload, you went up to the elevator and sat up there. And then, the full one would drive away and the empty one would drive under. Then you jump down there and drive that one. So, that's the way the heddering was done. I think in 1941, I drove hedder the last time. From then on, we bindered everything. We had a little tractor on rubber and the first two years, I think, where one drove the tractor and one rode the binder, you know. We bindered before that too, but then, we started bindering everything. Well, then in 1944 or 1945, we got a power binder, where one could handle both ends, you know. You eliminated the first man, you know. It was ten feet wide. Why heck, it don't take long to cut a field down. Well, then it got to be in the fifties before we had a combine. I think in 1951 was my first year, when I had a combine. By that time, I was by myself. But the thirties were... Well, if you had a quarter, you were a rich man, I guess. We never went hungry. If you had a few bushels of wheat, the flour mills were still going, you hauled a little wheat to the mills to bring flour home. Once in a awhile, they would bring home some wheat grits or cream of wheat or what ever you call it today. You had a few pigs around. You usually butchered a critter of beef in the wintertime. Ma always had a good garden. That was one thing we were grateful for. We had a good well, so you could water. Even in dry years, we could run water day and night. We had a good garden all the time. In the spring, you moved into the summer kitchen. You remember them or don't you?

MM: Well, a little bit, yes. But tell me a little bit about the summer kitchen.

AS: It used to be a house, you know, until people built bigger houses. I would say it was about fourteen by twenty [feet], possibly. You would take the coal range from the house and carry it over. You would bring a closet, table and chairs, and then you would live and eat over there. Just come to the main house for sleeping. Or, if the folks would have company, they would go into the house, probably. Otherwise, you were in the summer kitchen. The last thing in the evening, you would go to the barn and bring a wad of hay in to light a fire in the morning. You see, now with all the paper we have today, in those days, you couldn't find a speck of paper in the house. Okay, you got the Homestead, you know, maybe you got the Dakota Farmer. But you start the stove two times, that was gone. The only way to start a fire was go the barn and bring a wad of hay. And then, you had some chips.

MM: What kind of chips were those?

AS: Well, what the cows leave behind them. We had to go and gather this in the fall [and] put it in the house for winter. We would take the wagon with the double box on and go the pasture in the morning. We would fill it and drive it home, unhitch the horses and put them on feed and shovel this down the basement. Then, you would go out after dinner again and bring another load and shovel that down. Half the basement was plumb full of chips, cow manure. And in the winter on the cold days, ma always said, "one has to carry the "mischt" up and one has to carry ashes out." "One has to carry water in and one has to carry slop pail out." Usually, when we [boys] got unruly, "go, get a pail of water, or go, carry the ashes out." Everyone had something to do then.

MM: Everyone had their chores then?

AS: Oh yah, everybody. Well, like outside, your first job was probably to go to the hen house, bring water and a little grain. And then, you got to feed the pigs, probably a year later. Then, you got to feed the calves. And then, you got introduced to milking. Where you don't plug it in, you just sit on the chair and you milk by hand. All the milking was done by hand. Then, the bigger boys would take care of the horses, feed them, clean the barn, and stuff like that.

MM: Very interesting. So, you had real good memories of being on the farm?

AS: Why, yes. That was my life. Way back, like I say, the first feed grinder I remember, not really the first one, but one of them, you had a Model T Ford and they made a feed mill. About a six inch [thing] that sat right on the frame by the universal joint. You disconnect the drive shaft, you know, and the feed mill would fit right into the universal joint. Then, you start that Model T and you'd be grinding grain. You were people that had no tractor. They made a pulley for on the back wheel, jack the back wheel up, and then put her in gear and you could pump water. Use it for a stationary engine, you know. That was another way that power was used on the farm. Another way was the thread where the horses walked around. I shouldn't say thread, that was a different deal. The thread was a deal like a manure spreader apron. We didn't have any right at our places, but I have pictures of them. We would set them like this [inclined], you know, and they would put, like a sheep or a dog on there, and the dog walk in there and turn the wheel, furnish the power. Later, they made bigger ones, that you could thrash with them. Three horses were on them, and them horses had to walk and that turned the apron. There was a fly wheel, no, a pulley, and that is the way power was transmitted from horse to wheel, you know. And then, there was the ones that went around. We have some of that stuff up in the museum, where the horses would go around the circle, around and around.

MM: Do you remember being at home on the farm with no electricity?

AS: Why, sure. Up until 1950, well, we got it in '49. We lived in Tappen at that time. Sure, by the time we got electricity, good night, I was thirty-some years old. Everything fell into place [then]. You had the kerosene lamps. And for the barn, you had the lantern, you know. What you call a lantern, the metal frame with the glass in it. They take pretty much wind, [but] sometimes the wind will blow them off. Then, they had a wire strung through the barn, you know, and a snap on it and wherever you worked, that's where you pushed the light. Otherwise, for getting grain and what not, you know your way in the dark. And in the house, you had your kerosene lamps. And later, came the mantel lamp with gasoline, you know. Where you put two mantels on and put gas in and pump air in. Then, you put a match under it to heat the generator so that it would hiss, and that made nice bright light. Usually, when they had a namesday or some occasion where you needed light, you got a mantel lamp and that was hung up then.

MM: Now, these namedays that you mentioned. Were they pretty big events?

AS: Well, that was one of the only outs all winter long. They started in the fall and that was an important deal. They wouldn't miss that for the world. There was a schnapps brenner in the neighborhood. A still, you know, for making moonshine and it would go from house to house, kind-of. So, each one had his batch brewed up by the time his turn come.

MM: Did you ever make some of that?

AS: Yah. I had to fire the stove for it and carried the ice.

MM: How did they make that?

AS: Well, it was set up in the brew, in the barrel, you know. It had to ferment. There was yeast that went in, sugar, and our own wheat for the whiskey. And they knew when [it was ready]. Well, then you had your still. Dad made it out of a copper washtub, a boiler. He soldered the lid on, then he got this regular thing where the pipe goes on. You kind of open it with a screw. There was a hole like that for pouring the batch in, you know. And the pipes went down to the condenser. The condenser was on the top with a coil in it, and the pipe come out of the bottom. See, then they had ice or snow. In the summer, we had a ice house, so we put ice in. And in the winter, we just carried snow in. You'd have a fire so the water for this would boil, you know. And the vapors would go through the pipe and the cold would condense it and then it come out of the pipe. That's where you stood or that's where the tasters were sitting. Then, they would run a prize [proof test], you know. Take a spoonful and you light it, and if it burned clean, then you had in the l00 proof [range]. That's the way it was tested.

MM: Oh, my. That was the best then?

AS: That's when it's done. They run it twice, you see. The first time, you run it out of the barrel first time through. Then, they take what was run through [before] and put it in the kettle, and run him again. That had some meat in it.

MM: When did they drink this? For what occasions?

AS: Well, for the namesdays during the winter. See, it [namesdays] would start October 30, the Feast of St. Michael. And then, they knew them [the Saint's Days] all by heart. Go down the row [as on the Church calander]. I suppose each community, you see, had their's until Advent. Now, during Advent, there was no dancing. I don't know if there was namesdays [then, either]. Some years, Andrew was in Advent, and some years not, you know. November 30th, I think. When they couldn't celebrate, well then, they would do something else. Then January, one night was Veronica, the next night was Agatha, one night was Barbara. They had their places, you know, until Lent. Then they had Fasenacht, somebody would put Fasenacht on. That's the last one before Lent, you know. And then, during the forty days [of Lent], was nothing, see. Oh yes, you could miss church, but you never missed a namesday. If the boys would want the car or wanted to go someplace, "oh no, that's too cold." They had to stay home. But if they went for namesday or something, it was never too cold.

MM: Oh, I even remember that from growing up in Strasburg, how important that was. And of course, they are not celebrated today very often anymore. Times have changed.

AS: Most people made their own beer too. You know, the home beer. I think there, they used barley and they brought a can of malt home. This was, oh golly, you're talking sixty years ago now, even more. They had it in the crock and had light under it for so long. Then they would bottle it. And then, have to cure for about a week or two or three, I guess. Then they would start drinking it.

MM: What about holidays? Like Christmas, with so many boys in the family?

AS: Well, okay. It was no gifts. Gifts were unheard of. Well, ma always said, "it's no use buying any gifts for you guys, you always break them the first day anyway." We never had a tree. Before we got married, my mother never had a tree in the house. If we got something, it might be from your godparents maybe, a single toy. And, by the time the times got a little better, I was too big to get anything anymore. But, when me and my wife started, as soon as we had the children, the first trees were little and were set up so we didn't have to keep the children away. And, as the kids got bigger, the tree got bigger and it became important to them. What was favored [is], if we got to Grandma's, we got a little bag of Christmas nuts and candy and maybe an orange or an apple in there. There were no gifts boughten, just your goodies. At the Christmas program, you would get a little sack of candy or something like that. In school, you drew names, you know, for a little gift. But a dime was the limit, many years. In 1936, I started high school here. And I remember that ten cents was the limit for a gift for the exchanging names. So, I remember I had a boys name and I bought him a little jackknife for ten cents. You were able to buy a jackknife with two blades in it for ten cents then and give it to him.

MM: So, when you went to high school, as a German-Russian boy, did most of the families send their boys and girls to high school in Napoleon?

AS: It was just the beginning. When any of us came in, we were outsiders, you know, the clodhoppers. The town had it's own group of people. No, there wasn't very many then. From our country, I think there were four of us, like from our corner down there, you know. It was just starting that the farm people were coming in, mostly the boys. Later then, by the forties, there was maybe, I remember five boys coming from our corner and one had to drive once a week. They changed drivers, you know. One would haul the whole bunch, but you had to drive once a week. I just was able to go from... See, my older brother Andy, well, he learned easy, so they thought, "okay, they would send him to high school." Well, then I passed eighth grade in the spring of '36. Well now, you've got to go too. I didn't want to go, but you've got to go. Well, okay, so we both drove. We had to leave home after doing chores in the morning, leaving home about ten after eight, had to be on the road with the Model T. Then at noon, we didn't have hot lunch. What we had was stuff in the car. This is fine, but come December, we come out in the car and it was not very warm any more. You eat what you had and then you drove home [later]. By the time you got home, it was dark and then had to do the chores. Then the roads blocked. I got lucky, the roads blew shut. My brother stayed in town and I was able to stay home that winter. The rest of the boys went to school, [those who were] younger then me, And those two brothers older than me were in the CC. I was the only one home, so I took care of the chores over the winter. Later on then, more people started coming to high school, boys and girls alike. Then, my brother Andy passed high school in the fall of 1939 and he was able to teach our school there two years. That was the idea at that time, so a youngster could make a little money to improve his education. You would become a registered teacher. Then, he went to college for a little bit and got other kind of work for the State in the insurance department. Then the draft came, and that ended all that, you know.

MM: Were you able to continue on in high school?

AS: Oh, no. This was in 1936, and I quit in January. And the next fall, I went to the CC [for] two years.

MM: For CC, did you stay home and go from there?

AS: Oh, no. We come to town. And that time, there was a freight truck from Aberdeen going through here to Bismarck, called Stuckers Freight Line. That truck was sitting in front of the Court House that morning and they had a few benches in there and there was fifty-five boys from Logan county signed up at the same time. Me and my brother younger than me, he was fourteen, we had to lie about our age. We were supposed to be seventeen, so we just lied about our age to make us old enough. I had to be eighteen, so he could be seventeen, you know. Okay, us fifty-five sat in the back of that truck. Well, not all of them, one or two of the better off, older people had a car and drove up with the car. But, we got into the back of that truck and drove to Bismarck. We didn't know where we were going to end up or nothing. Well, when we got there, we had to go through the Army recruiting physicals. The Army fed us and clothed us, that's the way it was. You were just the same as the Army, until eight in the morning. Then, you got turned over to the Using service. That's what you were working on from eight to four, see. We were biological survey. Some were Bureau of Reclamation. The next morning, about four o'clock, the train starts moving. We spent the first night in the coach, the Soo Line coach. You would pull out the back rest out of the seat and laid across it and that became a bed. Two guys would lay there, you know. Then came breakfast. Boy, that was the thing, you know! The guy came along with a little bag. He had a sandwich in there and a little apple, about so big, and a little hole in it and a worm in the apple. That was breakfast. We finally left Bismarck, pulled out of there about five or six in the morning. So, we ended up in Drake before noon and there I ran downtown. We had two dollars apiece, you know. Dad gave each of us two dollars when we left home. This was on the fourteenth of the month. You didn't get paid until the first of the next month. I run down and got me a couple of candy bars. Then came dinner. Same way, got a little sandwich again and a little apple and that was our dinner. Then, they took us to Minot and from there, they took us to Towner and then we went on what they call the Galloping Goose, a little branch line up towards Upham. That's where the trucks picked us up just in time for supper. We were in the Kramer camp for two years. I bet you to this day yet, that the boys in the bunch that had never eaten store bread. And that night, you should have seen the hungry bunch eat. You know, with our two big breakfast and dinner there. The rule was like this, ten men to the table; if you took the last slice of bread off the plate, you went and got bread. Everything else on the table too. If you took the last of whatever, you went and filled it. We had one forever cruising back and forth getting bread.

MM: What kind of work did you do?

AS: I started picking corn. We were on a game refuge and they had corn on there and we picked corn by hand. The truck had one side off and one side high. You would walk through and you would husk the corn and throw it up. At noon, you would drive in to the headquarters and the bins were there. Then we shoveled it off, we ate our lunch and went out again. And then, we got that done already in November. There was snow in the field by the time we got that done. Then, they had us fencing for awhile, the fencing crews. We had the seventy miles from the Canadian border down to the northwest of Towner. That was the refuge. The camp was about [in the middle] middle. This was fenced then. See, they bought a little land on each side of the river. The government fenced this land, so there was a fencing crew. I was with that crew for a few days. Then, about the only thing left to work on was the gravel pit, you know. We were hauling gravel for roads. You built roads on each side of the river, so we hauled gravel. In the wintertime, we took equipment in and cleaned and painted all the equipment, trucks, tractors, everything. Then in the spring, I got on a Cat. I was a Cat driver. So, for the next 18 months, I was a heavy equipment operator. So I got out as a $36 dollar man. Well, that's bragging, and not important. But anyway, we were building roads. I was with the road crew.

MM: So, that was a good program for people at that time?

AS: It was the best ever. I think it was more practical value than the high school. One night a week, you would take a course, an educational course. Was interesting.

MM: What kind of course?

AS: Well, I took heavy equipment. Or diesel mechanic, you know, because I was working with that stuff. You could take carpentry, and they had a little wood working shop. But you learn. And whatever work was done, there was a person there to tell the right way to do this, you know.

MM: Oh.

AS: See, [they were instructed], when you drive a nail to the point and it goes down, then you hit the head, see? So, [the same instruction] with everything else, you know. There was always somebody there. [Like even] when you were in the woods, cutting in the wintertime. All the garages were fired with wood. Well, we were along the river, so there was a wood crew, chopping trees down, and hauling them in. They were sawed by hand, but it was always supervised. Whatever was done, was supervised. When you came out of there, and if you are careful, you could learn.

MM: You could come out of there with a trade?

AS: Oh, yeah. I got a certificate that says I'm a professional heavy equipment operator. Some people came out of there as truck drivers. Some learned to drive trucks. Every Saturday, we had to wash those trucks. They had to be as neat as a pin. They had inspection. This is the right way, this is the way to do it. If you wanted to drive truck, this is the way you had to do it.

MM: Now, these instructors that came for the CC programs, did they come from other parts of the country?

AS: Most of the heavy equipment [instructors did]. I think [they] came from Fort Peck. See, Fort Peck was just finished at that time and these older men were really the foremen. Then, you had leaders. They were enrollees that were probably in for a year or so already. You could tell the ones, you know, that had leader qualities. They became the leaders. There were nine barracks and each barracks had a leader and a assistant leader. The leader got $45 a month and the assistant leader got $36 a month. They were in charge of one barracks, see.

End of Side One.

Beginning of Side Two

MM: Let's finish with the CC's.

AS: Well, I finished with the trucks pretty much. There were six dump trucks and six what we called the "stake" [trucks]. There was a 1935 Chevrolet with just a wood rack on it and that is what we used for driving to work. You sometimes go thirty miles out, and we had tarps over them and had benches in there and that's what hauled your people out to work. You left at quarter to eight, we were called to work. At 3:30, you loaded up in the field and came home. At 5:30 was supper. But, all the assistant leaders would have a crew. He'd maybe be fencing, he'd maybe be wrecking buildings down, on the refuge there. He [was] maybe building new buildings, but he was always supervised. The other guy was the road builder. Well, he had a rock crew, you had gravel shovelers. In the winter, you had the wood cutters. So, everybody was working all the time. If it was colder than minus ten, we got to stay in. If it was less than that, we had to go to work. At a quarter to eight, you were out going to work. You got up a six. At six, was first whistle in the morning. At six-fifteen was second whistle. Well, we wouldn't even wiggle yet. We would still be in bed. At six-thirty was "sow-bell." They come in with a cow bell on a beam and ring, ring, ring. Okay, then we'd get out of bed and slip in the shoes and a pair of pants, slip the jacket on and run up to the mess. See, you didn't eat where you slept. See, you had nine barracks and the eating place was here. Like if you wanted to go to eat, it was like going down the next block. That's where the kitchen is. Now, if it was raining or storming, twenty below, if you want to eat, you had to go there. Nobody brought it to you. If you missed once, the next time they were going to be sure you were there.

MM: Oh, yes.

AS: Especially if you were going to work. Dinner came to field, hot lunches came to field. They had these insulated kettles. The truck driver would make coffee in the field. He would start a little fire there, in a cream can, and make coffee. You ate dinner in the field and you carried your mess kit along. At 3:30, you loaded up and drove in. It could be half an hour to an hour before you got back home. At 5:30 was supper. Then you had your turn at KP. That means it went on rotation, from the A's on down. On Saturday and Sundays, the regular KP's got off. And then, there were that many people called in. You did your KP. You learned to wash dishes, wash floors, wash kettles, and all kinds of nice things. And for this, you got five dollars a month. They took fifty cents out for the show. They had a little show once a week [that] we had in the rec. hall. There was a pool table and a little canteen on the end. So, you got four and a half dollars. Now, what in the world can a teenager do with four dollars and fifty cents? Okay, buy all your soap, buy all your soap for your clothes, for yourself, buy shaving cream, razor blades, buy toothpaste, the tobacco people got [bought] their Dukes, what they needed. All this had to be done on four dollars and fifty cents a month.

MM: Was that enough?

AS: Well, some saved money, and some were broke the next day. The poker players were broke the next day, you know. The first pay day, that was a show. You should have had that VCR there. I bet you that for some of them boys, it was the first time they had a dollar in their pocket. The canteen had pipes for sale and hard rolls [of tobacco]. And some of the boys bought pipes. One would have a straight one, the next one would have a bent one, some would buy hard rolls. The third day, the whole bunch was broke. All back to Dukes again.

MM: What about the fact there were no girls around?

AS: Well, we didn't have no girls back home either. What we need a girl at sixteen years old? Okay, there was older men there, up in the twenties. About every other week, they got a truck to go, like to Bottineau on Saturday night for the show or just go to town, you know. About after the middle of the month, they didn't send any more trucks, because nobody had any money any more. Whatever money you had, you had to keep for what you needed until the end of month came along. Like a pack of Eveleen cigarettes were only a dime. A twelve-ounce bottle of beer was a dime. But, you had to count your dimes. For four and a half dollars a month, it was a long time between pay days. And another thing, when we came there, we each had two dollars when we left home. The first thing you were supposed to buy was a trunk, you know, with a lock, so you could put your clothes in. Well, me and my brother we were side by side, so we bought one trunk between us, you know. Then, you could charge a little bit and we could pay for the trunk by the month. That is four dollars and seventy five cents for a trunk. Well, we paid [on it] probably two or three months before we got it paid off. You had to keep a little money, I was a snooze chewer at the time, you know. We had to wash our own work clothes. And you didn't get parkas and insulated clothes in them days. You had three pair of half long johns, you know, the bottom and the top half. At home, we always had the one-piece with the end-gate in the back. Here, there was a two piece, see. You had two or three pair of these half's and then you had the O.D.'s, the regular Army color clothes. That was the dress thing. But for work, then we had two unlined overall jackets and a mackinaw, one of them Scotch caps where you pulled the ears down outside and a pair of mittens. For overshoes, they had packs. That is... What would you call it? A water proof shoe. They were made with rubber on the bottom and had a leather upper, you know, and you wore them heavy socks. And that is how you dressed for work. You get in the back of them trucks, man, if you want to know what cold is like, you go thirty miles an hour against the wind! You soon find out. In the winter, we put the exhaust pipes through the box. The exhaust pipe in the front up and then make it coil back and forth and then down. Then, the tarps were on and were closed up. In the summer, you rode open. But in the spring and fall, when you get up in the morning and its forty [degrees], well, it's a warm day [you thnk]. But you get in the back of a truck and go up the road thirty miles, you soon change your mind. It's not so warm, you know. We were about twenty people to the barracks, and the two stoves. So, we had night fireman, and it was usually fairly warm in the barracks.

MM: You had to take turns bringing in the heat, huh?

AS: Well, usually we hired two people, give them a quarter. That was another quarter a month that went [for expenses]. Each one give one quarter and then two men would be the fireman. And at night, we had night watchman who would make a round at night and put coal in the stoves. They would come through the barracks every night and see that there was fire there. Yah, after pay day on a Saturday night, usually one truck full would go. Then they had a few beer drinkers that would come home a little bit with a shade in the wind. They done that once or twice and they would have to redo the show when they got home. But, after once or twice that all got cured, see, you go to work when they are gone. Then you just unhook all their springs on the top bed and tie a few strings on. And then, when they went to bed, they would grab the rafter like this and go up and hang on the top. Then the strings would break and then booch, they would go down on the guy below them. Well, that gave them a message, this is not the way to go.

MM: So, you came back home here to Logan county with how many dollars in your pocket from CC?

AS: Well, I had more than my folks had. See, twenty-five [dollars] went home. I didn't tell you that. The folks got a check for twenty-five dollars every month for each boy that was in. And we got the four and a half dollars. But the last three months, I become an assistant leader. And then the last six months, they raised our ante to eight dollars a month and the folks got twenty-two. When I got home, I had more money than anybody at home had. Yah, I had money, which wasn't very much. But you know, you had ten or fifteen dollars. So, you see, it was a very good thing. See, at that time, a boy couldn't buy a job. See, some orphan boys in them days would go for the winter, just to do somebody's chores for food and clothes. Do whatever had to be done. Go in the morning in the barn and haul the hay and haul the manure and milk the cows, take care of the horses and everything for board and room. No check like today. Especially in the thirties, during the thirties or the depression. After the CCC's, well, I think, it was the war really that stopped the CCC's because the draft started and that just shut everything down. We quit, you know, put an end to it. But heck, there is stuff around today, when we go out to convention. I mean, there are so many projects in North Dakota that are permanent that the CCC's did. Do you ever get to Rugby?

MM: Uh, huh.

AS: Have you been to the museum there? Have you been there since that tower is up on the parking lot?

MM: No, I haven't.

AS: That's [been] two years now. Okay, there is a little story there. When I came to the CC, they had what they called the headquarters. The headquarters is there today, the way it was the day I was there, only bigger now. We had watch towers, three [of them]. One was in the Sand Hills south, one was a little northwest of Towner now, and one was at the headquarters. Ninety nine feet and eleven inches high was this watch tower. And there was a trap door you go up and there was glass around and you could see all directions. We used to eat our lunch and then run up the tower, them hundred feet and look out. And then come down again, then go to work. Now, they don't need that tower no more there. So, I'd have to go up there in the spring and get trees for soil conservation. Them we get from Towner. To get there, you go through Rugby. And that tower that we had there at Upham, what we called the headquarters, they are on the parking lot at the Rugby museum now. They took it down and now they moved it over to the museum in Rugby. The first thing you see when you get into Rugby is the tower over there to the east.

MM: That is very interesting.

AS: Yah. p>MM: You came back here and how old were you then? After the CCC's?

AS: Thirty-nine [1939] I came back. So, I was eighteen when I came back.

MM: So, you worked for your folks [then]?

AS: Well, yah. You got back into the harness again and did [what needed to be done]. My second brother was married, my older brother was still in the CC, the brother just ahead of me was teaching school, so I was the oldest at home. Basically, like for field work, whatever, I was the oldest then. Then, when I came back, my older brother got drafted right away. My second brother was married, so he didn't get drafted. My third brother was up in Bismarck. He went to the ship yards for about a year. So yah, I was in charge there. The folks never went to the barn any more or the fields hardly, And if they left, the operation went on just the same as if they were home. Then in 1945, we got married and we stayed with the folks two years and lived with then. Then, we bought us a little farm between Dawson and Tappen. But yah, you went back like an ordinary farmer after that. I was on the farm deferment, and you didn't wiggle very far at any time. If you wanted to quit there, you probably would end up overseas, too. And I had just been gone two years and I wasn't really looking forward to leaving again. See, I leaving home at sixteen the first time, I tell you, that's not the easiest thing in the world. If you've ever been homesick in your life, you probably know what I'm talking about.

MM: Were most of these boys that young?

AS: No, not all of them. My older brother was eighteen or better when he went. There were people there in their twenties and probably even in the late twenties. But later on, it was too easy to get in. I think they had rigged it that you just give them a birthday and this is what you tell them. This is when you were born, that's all you had to do, no questions asked. I think everyone knew it all along that we weren't eighteen years old. It was accepted, you know.

MM: Now, you are retired. But you are still active here in Napolean, not only with the Germans from Russia, but preserving the heritage. What are you doing today? Your involvment in the Napoleon community?

AS: Well, Sunday, day after tomorrow, we dedicate our little church. That was moved in a year ago. To prepare for that, first we had to mow the grass, we had to spot a trailer there to use for a stage and then we had to build steps so people can get up there. We had little plaques or nameplates made for some of the furniture in the little church. We got some pews from St. Bonifice, we got some from Gackle, different denominations. A lady gave us an organ. I never seen one like it. It's an organ foot peddler in a piano case. When you look at it, it looks like a piano but it's got foot pedals. It's an organ.

MM: This is where, now? Where the church is being put?

AS: The Logan County Historical Museum.

MM: And there are a number of buildings there, right?

AS: There is a house that was used as a house, was lived in. You've got a pioneer shack, the Craper home shack, we call it. It is supposed to be the first lumber hauled into Logan County. We got the Braddock depot from the town of Braddock. We got a Sioux Line caboose. We've got a county school house, we call it the Vetter School House. Setting beside the Highway #3 here, about fourteen or so miles along Highway #3 here. We got the Crane shop and the Ford garage building. That was the Homestead Office and Ford garage in one building, and the telephone central at that time. And then, we got the quonset that is 160 by 44 [feet], I guess. And then, we have the little church there and this is only 20 by 20 [feet]. The church, we could have had. Well, you don't want too big a building, because maintenance is awful. With an old building, maintenance could be awful high. So this is, I think, 20 by 20 [feet], our little church. Put a little entry on it. It come from north of Fredonia, along Highway #56. They gave it to us. We had it moved over.

MM: How is the Logan County Historical Museum supported financially?

AS: Memorials, donations. We have a wee little bit of a tax levy, just a quarter mill, I guess. See, we doubled our quonset and added another 40 by 80 [feet] and put cement floor in it. Now, we got the church in and we have to paint once in awhile. Donations have been good. See, we don't charge no admission. You come there and you're free to go through everything. All we have there is a free will and it brings in some money, especially people who grew up here and left and came back. I mean, it's not enough but it sure helps.

MM: How do you see the town? Of course, there are not all German Russian people around here, but a good population of the people are German Russian in Napolean. How do you see the interest in young people and there heritage?

AS: It probably isn't quite as strong as it should be. Most of our board members and managers are fairly old people. We are going to need young recruits, unless they make an exception and have us live forever. That would be an exception, but if that doesn't happen, we are going to have to get some younger recruits. That's how it looks for me today. We have our annual meeting in the fall. Half the time, you happen to hit it when something else is going on, you know. Then, you get a bad day or something else goes wrong and we could use more people up there.

MM: The heritage of the Germans from Russia, of course, is important to all of us around here. What do you see when you look at your life? Of course, you had not a unique but a valuable experience to learn a trade and so forth. You grew up fast in the CC. If you were going to reminise and let people know who are listening to our discussion years from now, what would you think would be strong points in growing up in a large family like that, with all those boys and some of the strengths that probably made you successful in your life. Or want [others] to remember?

AS: Well, I suppose it depends on what an individual is interested in. For one thing, we just had a little circle of people that you know. The school was probably twenty [students] at the most, and they all came [from] within, I would say two and a half miles. You never knew anybody else and you didn't know the other people were as poor as you were, you know. We never, I suppose, never really considered yourself poor. Everybody was in the same boat. My Dad was a little bit of a blacksmith, a schmidt, you know. So, a lot of people would come there to sharpen a plow lay or bend a piece of iron or drill a hole or something like that, so that gave us a little education that people with horses just never had. And then, we usually had a tractor. So, that made some opening and some closing [repairs] once in a while and you couldn't wait until you could drive it too. The church was a must. We see didn't see the television, like now. We didn't know what sold in the stores. Like today, the children decide what kind of Corn Flakes to bring home or what kind of cereal. We didn't know what was there. In fact, you got to be a pretty big boy before you knew there was Corn Flakes. But I don't know if I'm getting off the track here now.

MM: No, that's important. Because what you're saying is that the home and the church was very important in socializing and also in meditation and that's where you would see other people.

AS: The only other place you saw other people, really. In the summer time, you'd have a bunch get together and play ball on Sunday's. It's lucky that people had feet, you know. Some of them boys would walk four miles after dinner on Sunday, come to the school by the church, and play ball all afternoon and then walk them four miles home and then probably walk out to the pasture and get the cows. Now days, you hear where there was nothing else home but the swather or the combine and the kid gets on that and runs out and gets the cows home with it. That's something you didn't dare. When you come to the end with the tractor in the early days, you left him there and walked home. This was illegal to drive this tractor home just for the ride. You leave him there and walk home. Heck, you had people come four miles, walking to the sermon and the catechism school and at three o'clock, it let out. Then, walk them four miles home again every day. That was just accepted. If you want to get there, you just start walking on time and before you know it, you'll be there. And come evening, you walk home again. It was in the thirties before we got a radio, before you got any outside voice into your home. Pretty big boy already. So, you didn't know much [about the] outside except what you read in the local paper, The Homestead and what you heard the priest say on Sunday and what you heard your parents say if company came and you could listen in to what they were talking about. That's all you heard, all you knew.

MM: Do you think that it's important to preserve this heritage for the future?

AS: I think it is important. It's just the sad part, from what I understand, a lot of the records got destroyed. Some people had relatives that are hard to find. A lot of them have been found. But anyway, I think for the young people... See, we had times when our Grandpa Schatz would come out. When the folks would go away in the evening, he would be sitting there with us kids. He could talk Russia, the old country, just like I can talk Napolean. But, it didn't register. In my mind, I could never feature him as a little boy or that he had a dad or grandfather. He looked so much older than we, [that] he must be the original one, you know. It's only way, way later that we find out that we also had a great grandfather here, you know. So, we found out that he was buried here. There is no picture of him though. They claim, Uncle Ben says there was a picture. He had a beard to here, but I haven't seen the picture of him. Nobody seems to have it. So yah, I think heritage is important.

MM: How do you see yourself in helping to preserving this heritage? What do you think is more that we can do?

AS: Oh, more than we can do! I think it's a little late now. If we would have been awake in the fifties yet, or the forties, just think what people could have told us then!

MM: Right. But we have to remember that at that time, there was more of making survival. People were trying to survive. They didn't have as much time for education, of course. We didn't have all this equipment to preserve all of this and so forth. And I think that the German Russians, you know, may have been a little bit [reluctant], especially during World War II and the Germans were involved. Outside of North Dakota, you didn't brag so much that you were a German Russian.

AS: You couldn't really brag about that. The German word was poisonous at that time.

MM: So I think, that based on that, the German Russian society was only formed in 1971. They made great strides. But what we are trying to do at the University is at least capture what we can at this time with various efforts. But what we have to do is what I'm doing here in our discussion. Is trying to locate people who are local, maybe a younger person or a teacher or someone and then locally start doing some of this interviewing. We think that is very important and want to pursue that. So, if we find out about someone who should be interviewed, then they can do it locally. Because, it's mostly because of economics of travel and time and all that. So, those [are the] kinds of efforts that we all need to look at. Because we don't have too much time anymore. Because the people who can tell us are fast moving on in their life.

AS: That is right.

MM: I think we are going to close our conversation. Do you have some closing remarks?

AS: Well, I don't know. Whatever we talked about, I hope it will help somebody down the road.

MM: Yes, it certainly will.

AS: I can get pretty dull sometimes.

MM: Well, it was certainly an interesting conversation here. I didn't expect that we would take so much time. But, there is so much to tell and the more we can tell, the more valuable it will be for the next generation. I want to thank you very much, Mr. Schatz, for taking the time. I know you are very busy preparing for the big event at the Logan County Historical Society Museum. Let me welcome you when we have our German Russian convention.

AS: Well, I've been to one. But many years, our CC convention was at the same time and there, I am the historian.

MM: Oh, my. You're very active.

AS: Well, you got priority. [Being historian] just fell in my lap. I didn't ask for it, but it fell into my lap.

MM: Thanks so much for your time.

AS: Yah. You're welcome.

Transcription by Joyce Reinhardt Larson
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies
North Dakota State University Libraries
P.O. Box 5599
Fargo, ND 58105-5599
July, 1994

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller