Conversation between Lydia Hass Knadle,
Hilda Hass Brown, Joy Hass Stefan, Joyce Brown Middleton and Henry
August, 1993 - Session 4
Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman
[Conversation begins with a discussion of where the family went after arriving in the United States.]
Hilda: Didn't we go to Wichita Falls first?
Lydia: No. We went to North Dakota.
Hilda: I thought we went to Wichita Falls. [This is correct; see below.]
Lydia: From the ship to Wichita Falls? No, we went to North Dakota where Uncle Dave lived.
Joy: Of course, you were only three or four, so we don't expect you to remember a whole lot about this part. But this is the first time I have ever heard of Uncle Dave.
Joyce: Yes, me too.
Joy: And you can probably fill in other parts of names and tell us more about these people because you would have known them growing up.
Joy: And Lydia said she thought his last name was Mueller?
Lydia: Now, he was a cousin to Dad that did recruiting to bring people over and down to Texas.
Joyce: Okay; well was he any kin to Rhiney Mueller?
Hilda: Dave - he was Mother's brother.
Lydia: Rhiney Mueller?
Hilda: Wasn't Dave Mother's brother? David Seefried?
Joy: Well would Rhiney Mueller be a nickname for Reinhard, and that was where Roland got his middle name?
Lydia: Yes, that's right.
Joy: Because Roland was Roland Reinhard.
Lydia: That's where he got it.
Joy: Rhiney Mueller was whose cousin?
Hilda: Mr. Mueller was Dad's cousin.
Joyce: Oh, and Rhiney was his son?
Hilda: That's right.
Joy: So Rhiney was Dave's son, maybe, Uncle Dave's son. Do you think?
Hilda: No, no.
Joy: Well, because Dave was Mueller, Uncle Dave Mueller?
Hilda: No, Dave was Dave Seefried.
Joyce: Dave was Seefried.
Joy: Okay, so he was your mom's brother.
Joy: So Dave was Seefried rather than Mueller.
Joyce: And didn't they have a son named Merle?
Hilda: Yes. Merle and Berthold; wasn't there a Berthold?
Joyce: Are we talking about Rhiney Mueller's...
Hilda: Yes, there were several boys.
Joyce: Rhiney and Edie Mueller; Edie was his wife. Merle was the son; I remember his name. And they lived in Oklahoma.
Hilda: No they didn't.
Joyce: They lived on Gramercy Drive in San Antonio and they moved from there to Oklahoma. I remember that.
Joyce: Yes, the Muellers.
Hilda: No, no, you're wrong. Rhiney worked for public service for years...
Joyce: In San Antonio. And they moved.
Hilda: ...and then he got sick and died.
Joyce: But they moved and they wrote to you from Oklahoma.
Joy: Let's back up a little bit. I'm really confused. Who was Rhiney Mueller's dad?
Hilda: Rhiney's dad was Mr. Mueller who did the recruiting to go to South Texas.
Joy: Okay. Wilhelm Hass was Gottfried's dad. Wilhelm Hass's brother or sister was Rhiney Mueller's, or rather Mr. Mueller the recruiter's, mother or dad.
Joyce: That's right.
Joy: Okay, so you said that you went to North Dakota from Ellis Island. And you stayed in North Dakota while you were waiting for your mom and Rudy to be admitted back in...
Lydia: From the eye doctors...
Joy: But they went back to Europe...
Joy: No? Well you said that they went back.
Hilda: The first time, yes, they did...
Joy: Because of Rudy's eye thing. When you first came over, they wouldn't accept Rudy, and so he and your mom were quarantined. And your dad took the rest of you kids to some relative to stay and wait until your mom and Rudy could come back and his eye condition was cleared up.
Lydia: To North Dakota. Right.
Joy: And you stayed with... the Muellers? or who in North Dakota?
Lydia: The Seefrieds.
Joy: The Seefrieds. So now you're with your mom's brother.
Lydia: Yes, that's right. What was he?
Lydia: Dave. He was her brother, yes.
Joy: Dave Seefried is who you stayed with.
Joy: So they were already over here too.
Lydia: Yes, they were here before anybody, I guess.
Joy: Did the Seefrieds live in Nikolaev also, or
Lydia: Gosh, they must have, because if they came from there.
Joy: Well, we don't have any information on August Seefried, who was your mom's dad. August Seefried was your grandfather on your mom's side. And no information on his birth or death dates.
Joyce: It's not even written in the Bible, is it?
Joy: No, no. But he married Katarina or Catherine Krueger. And no information on her birth or death dates either. And one of their children (and I have no idea how many children they had) but they obviously had Dave also, because he was your mom's brother. Right?
Lydia: Was he?
Hilda: Dave? I don't know... a cousin?
Joy: Well he was you uncle; he wouldn't have been her cousin.
Hilda: Well there was Elizabeth, no Christina... Christina that died. Aunt Christina, don't you remember?
Lydia: Yes, I guess I can remember.
Joy: Okay, so they named one of them Christina. I imagine they Americanized some of their names, because we have some different spellings of very similar names. In fact, when Penny got you to interpret the German in the Bible, you told her your mom's name was written in there as Juliana...
Hilda: Well my name was Hulva, H-U-L-V-A. [long a]
Joyce: Which is the German spelling.
Joy: Right. But Juliana is really a different name than Julia, to me.
Lydia: Well, see, they just shortened it.
Joyce: Did they call her Julia?
Joy: Dave was one her brothers.
Joy: And you said there was an Aunt Christina.
Joy: And I'll bet you wouldn't know whether that was with a C or a K, would you?
Lydia: C, I think.
Joy: Okay. Do you remember any other uncles or aunts on your mom's side? Of course, some of them might have still been over in Europe.
Joy: And you would only know the ones over here.
Hilda: Mother wrote to some of them yet.
Joy: She did? So there were still other ones there.
Hilda: Oh yes.
Joy: Do you know...
Hilda: In Germany, though. Weren't they in Germany?
Joy: Probably so. Now there are also two different spellings of Kruger. Your mom's mother's maiden name was Kruger. And we have two different spellings on that... we have Kruger and Krueger.
Lydia: Well I think that someone just made a mistake writing it down.
Joy: Which one is the real German spelling?
Joyce: Isn't it U-E?
Lydia: I think so. K-R-U-E-G-E-R, yes.
Joy: But Dave and Christina's last names growing up would have been Seefried, just like your mom's.
Joy: Okay. So you stayed with your Uncle Dave?
Joy: But he was not the recruiter.
Joy: The recruiter was on your dad's side.
Joyce: His last name was Mueller.
Joy: Okay, you are spelling it Mueller, but pronouncing it Miller. We always called that Mule-er or Mul-ler. But it was pronounced Miller. Some of this is starting to tie together now.
Joyce: At last!
Joy: And he would have been your uncle... Your dad's mom's name was either Marie or Maria Mueller.
Lydia: Marie. Mueller. I think they might have had it Maria.
Joy: His parents were Wilhelm or William Hass and Marie or Maria Mueller.
Joy: So, the Mr. Mueller that was the recruiter, would have been your dad's cousin...
Lydia: He was Dad's cousin.
Joy: And it would have been through his mother's side, because his mother's maiden name was Mueller. So it would have been one of your grandmother's brother's children, most likely.
Lydia: Could have been.
Joy: That would have made him your dad's cousin.
Joy: Well, good. We got that straightened out. Who can you remember of the Mueller's? Do you remember Mr. Mueller's first name? [pause] He was just Mr. Mueller to you, very formal?
Joy: Do you remember if he had children?
Lydia: Oh yes, a whole bunch of them.
Hilda: Rhiney was his son.
Joy: Okay. We've got Mr. Mueller was the recruiter...
Hilda: Rhiney and Merle.
Joy: And there was Rhiney, which would have been Rhinhold.
Joy: And that was Rhiney. And you said there was a Merle?
Joyce: That was their son. Didn't they have....
Joy: Ewald. Is that a boy?
Hilda: Another son.
Joy: Do you know if they had any girls?
Hilda: Yes, I'm sure. Asta. I hear from her still.
Joyce: Asta is their daughter?
Joy: Is that Osta?
Lydia: A-S-T-A. Asta.
Hilda: And Laura... and Flora.
Joy: Laura and Flora. Do you know how to spell either one of those?
Lydia: Ha. No.
Joy: Well, there are so many different ways...
Joy: And they were all cousins on your dad's side through your grandmother on your dad's side?
Joy: Do you know if any of them are still alive?
Hilda: Asta is still alive.
Joy: Asta is still alive?
Hilda: Laura and Flora. All of the girls are still there.
Joy: Okay, what is Asta's last name now?
Joy: Brooks. And do you know where she lives?
Hilda: I have her address. I send her a Christmas card every year.
Joyce: They exchange Christmas cards.
Joy: What state does she live in?
Hilda: California. California or Oregon.
Joyce: It might be Oregon.
Joy: We can look that up, since you send Christmas cards. How about Laura? Do you know what her last name is now?
Hilda: No I don't. But I think she's in a nursing home now. She's the oldest one.
Joy: Is she? Do you know what state?
Hilda: I think she is in the same vicinity where Asta is.
Joy: Okay, and how about Flora?
Hilda: Well I don't know a thing about her.
Lydia: I don't either.
Hilda: She was different from the other two, I think.
Joy: Do you remember how old these six kids were; they had three boys and three girls, right?
Hilda: If not more!
Joy: Do you remember how old they were in relationship to you?
Hilda: Well Asta was close to my age, and Laura was older by about three or four years.
Joy: Okay, so she would have been more like Emma's age then.
Joy: I just wondered if you paired off playing with someone your age?
Hilda: Well, Asta was my age. Sometimes, mostly
I was with Asta.
Flora was the youngest.
Joy: So you stayed up there, and your mom and Rudy then joined you, still in North Dakota?
Joy: When did you go to Lydia Young's?
Lydia: Oh lordy.
Hilda: Lydia Young's?
Lydia: When we moved down to...
Joy: So you went to Lydia Young's... what was the
reason you went
to Lydia Young's? I know, Lydia, you said you can remember;
I guess Lydia Young had some money, because she bought you a
real frilly pretty dress.
Joy: That was your dress up dress.
Lydia: We started to go to school there, and she bought our school clothes. School dresses for us to go...
Joy: Your dad, while you were still in North Dakota; now you were in North Dakota several years, because...
Hilda: He had a hardware store there.
Joy: So, you came over in 1908. And 1908 to 1914 is six years, at least, that you spent in North Dakota. And your dad had a hardware store...
Hilda: I started to school there.
Joy: You started to school in North Dakota. But your dad didn't teach school in North Dakota. Right?
Hilda: Dad never did teach school.
Joy: He taught school in Nikolaev. He was the school teacher there.
Hilda: Gee, that's news to me.
Lydia: Yes, Dad did.
Joy: So he had a hardware store. And what was it about making wine? Did he have a vineyard that he made wine?
Lydia: Not a vineyard. I think he...
Joyce: Maybe he just had a grapevine.
Joy: He got grapes and made wine, then. There was something about...
Lydia: He had a barrel that he had sitting on blocks and the end of the barrel had a faucet and we let the wine out of there.
Hilda: Oh yes.
Joy: And he stored it under the porch or under the house or something.
Lydia: Under the house in the cellar.
Joy: And you kids weren't supposed to play around that...
Lydia: No, but we did.
Joy: And did you sample the wine when you were playing there?
Lydia: Well, we were afraid of it.
Joy: But that was something that you and Emma talked about, playing under the house among the wine casks...
Joyce: By the wine barrels.
Lydia: Yes. Well, I don't think we drank much of it.
Joy: It wasn't any good?
Lydia: No, we didn't dare!
Joy: Well, I wonder... You know, Daddy made really good wine, and he never used a recipe. He just dumped things in and it was some really really good wine. Maybe that's where he got his wine genes; his wine-making genes...
Lydia: Must have been. Must have been.
Hilda: You know what I remember? Them gathering in the living room and when company came, and they chewed sunflower seeds and spit the hulls on the floor.
Joy: Oh my gosh. Well, I don't know about spitting sunflower seeds, but when people eat watermelon, they spit the seeds. They even have seed spitting contests. Maybe that was a forerunner to the watermelon seed spitting contest.
Hilda: Yes, they'd have sunflower seed hulls on the floor four or five inches deep. That's what it seemed like to me.
Joy: Now this was up in North Dakota that you remember this?
Hilda: Yes, we were living in back of the store.
Joy: Oh, you lived in the back of a store?
Lydia: Oh, yes.
Joy: Okay. How large a settlement was Fredonia?
Lydia: Not very big.
Hilda: Just a village.
Joy: Did they have any paved roads?
Lydia: Oh gosh, no.
Joy: No paved roads? This was like the wild west.
Hilda: Not then.
Lydia: Paved roads, back 80 or 90 years ago? Ha ha. No, I don't think they had any.
Joy: Well, was Fredonia like the typical western town that you see in old westerns with plank... they weren't sidewalks because they were attached to the buildings, but I guess they were the forerunners of sidewalks.
Joy: Did they have plank sidewalks?
Lydia: Oh, I don't think so. I'm not sure. Back then they were glad to have a dirt road to walk on.
Joy: Well, do you remember what kind of stores were there besides... your dad had a hardware store...
Lydia: Hardware store.
Joy: Not a general store, but a hardware store. And do you remember... I'm sure they had a general store...
Joy: And a saloon? Did they have a bank?
Lydia: Oh I'm sure they did...
Joy: And a jail... aren't those pretty much the basic things that make a village a bona-fide place?
Lydia: The run of them.
Joy: Have you thought of anything else about Fredonia that you remember at all? We were trying to figure out about how old you would have been when you moved. We know you were in the Valley by 1917, because Roland was born then...
Hilda: We moved down there in 1915.
Joy: You moved to the Valley in 1915?
Hilda: I was nine.
Joy: You moved to Sharyland... did you go straight to Sharyland?
Hilda: We had to live in Mission over a store. That's the only place we could find to rent, until the house was... well the land had to be cleared too, of brush and cactus.
Joy: Oh, so it wasn't really a farming community
Joyce: No, he was selling land then, developing it. He was selling land to people who would come and build.
Joy: Mr. Shary was doing this?
Joyce: Wasn't he?
Joy: So your folks did not... I thought all along, because you always talked about it being Mr. Shary's land, and Sharyland, that maybe it was set up like a sharecropping business.
Lydia: No, it was just a big tract of land that Shary owned and he sold lots.
Joy: Well, you said that you also lived with your Aunt Lydia Young at some point in there when you were young... Hilda, do you remember living there?
Hilda: No, I don't.
Joy: Well, I'm wondering if you didn't go there first and stay there until your mom and Rudy could come, and then you went to Fredonia.
Joy: Do you think that's the way it was?
Hilda: I think that's the way it was, because I don't remember anything about the Young's, when I was living there.
Joy: Well, Lydia and Emma both remembered something about it when Michelle did her research paper; they had to interview one of their older relatives, whether it be a grandparent or whatever. So Michelle decided to do it on... well, she named it "My First Banana and Other Memories" because of the story Lydia told her where on the ship coming over, with the cook giving her the first banana she'd ever seen, and she thought it was the most wonderful thing she'd ever seen.
Hilda: Oh really.
Joy: She'd never had one before, and of course bananas do taste good. But she also told me that she did not remember them having any kind of fruit, even apples. And I thought apples were world wide.
Lydia: Well, they probably did have them.
Hilda: In North Dakota we had plenty of apples.
Joy: But, I'm talking about a lot earlier, in Nikolaev. Over in Nikolaev, she doesn't remember any fruit. And she said that she didn't hoard it all for herself, that she took it back and gave everybody a bite.
Joyce: And that she was so excited, that it tasted so wonderful, and she wanted everyone else to taste it too.
Lydia: Yes, yes. It did.
Joy: When Michelle called Lydia, Emma just happened to be visiting at the time, and so she recorded all of this phone conversation. And then transcribed it and used it as a reference, because it was a little difficult to do a personal interview with the distance between us. Emma remembered, when Lydia brought this out about Lydia Young buying them a party dress or a Sunday dress, you know, outfitting them... and didn't she get you shoes too?
Joy: Just the whole nine yards, and Emma remembered that too. But you were too young and you didn't remember it. So, did your dad stay there too, or was he out looking for a place to live, a job, or do you remember any of that?
Lydia: Well, he must have been there too, because I don't remember living away from him, or being separated.
Joy: Well, I'm curious as to why you went to Lydia Young's instead of directly to Fredonia?
Hilda: Well, Lydia Young was Mother's sister.
Lydia: And Mother was still in the hospital up there with Rudy, and we had to have a place to stay until she got out.
Joyce: Someone to stay with.
Lydia: Uh, yes.
Joy: Okay, you said she was in the hospital with Rudy. That makes it sound like they were up in New York somewhere.
Lydia: Sure, they were.
Joy: Well, see, I thought you said they had to go back over.
Lydia: No, they just had to stay there... they were quarantined up there in New York. And they had to stay there until they pronounced his eyes cured.
Joyce: Well where did Aunt Lydia live?
Lydia: In Missouri.
Hilda: Mound City, Missouri.
Joyce: That was a long way.
Lydia: It was, sure.
Joy: So I can understand why, particularly farming people, if they had been farmers at all, they would go out and homestead and try to create a farm or a ranch or whatever.
Joyce: Oh yes. Well, who was Aunt Lydia married to?
Lydia: Uncle Chris.
Joy: Chris Young. Okay.
Lydia: Chris Young, yes.
Hilda: They had a pretty good sized family too.
Joy: Okay, how many Young's do you remember? I have a few of them written down... I have August and Mary and Edward... were some of their kids.
Hilda: They had a girl, Augusta.
Joy: There was Augusta and August?
Hilda: I guess so. And Katie, Kate.
Joy: Kate, and Augusta...
Hilda: Seems like there was another girl, but I can't remember what her name was.
Joy: Well, Mary was one.
Hilda: Was it?
Joyce: Well, that's three, is it?
Joy: That's three girls and two boys. And I have that they all lived in Missouri. You said it was Mound City, right? Do you know what Chris Young, your Uncle Chris, did for a living?
Hilda: They must have been pretty well to do, but I don't remember what he did though.
Joy: I got the impression they must have had money, especially if they could outfit all of you girls.
Lydia: He had a store. Didn't he have a hardware store, or...
Hilda: I don't know.
Lydia: I think it was a hardware store.
Joy: But you don't remember how long it was before your mom and Rudy were released, to come and join you?
Joyce: Did it seem like a long time?
Lydia: No, I don't think it was so long; a few months or something like that.
Joy: The baby that died on the ship died in June.
So, we will assume that you probably arrived sometime in July.
Can you remember...
Hilda: Well then there was another one born between Herb and me.
Lydia: Right, that died.
Joy: Right. But you were up in Fredonia then. I'm trying to get a handle on how long a time it was before Rudy got out of quarantine, and you all got back together again. Would it have been by Fall?
Lydia: I think so; I don't think it was over three or four months that he was in there.
Hilda: I don't remember any of that.
Joy: And see if you moved to Fredonia thn, that would have been in the dead of winter, just about. So, it would have been really bitter up there, I would think.
Lydia: I don't remember a thing about that, what the weather was like or anything.
Hilda: We had lots of snow.
Joy: Well, that was the next question I was going to ask. Lydia, do you remember if it snowed in Nikolaev? I don't know how far north that was.
Lydia: Gosh, I don't remember anything about that. I can't remember any snow.
Joy: Well, do you remember when you first saw snow,
I assume you were in North Dakota then...if that was the first
time you saw it?
Lydia: Yes, I think that's the first time I can remember anything like that. Because we didn't have any over there, and we came over, and I think that was the first.
Joy: Do you remember how large your house was in North Dakota?
Hilda: Well, we lived in the back of the store.
Joy: You lived in the back of the store. Well, was it just one room, or was it built on and have bedrooms...
Hilda: Seems like it was two rooms, but I'm not sure.
Lydia: I can't remember for sure, either.
Hilda: Two big rooms. That one and the one for sleeping in.
Joy: Did it have a fireplace? You know you told me the one in Nikolaev... she told me there was this big fireplace that she remembered in one end, and that instead of burning wood, they burned thatch or straw...
Joy: And they didn't even tie it in bundles to make it burn longer...
Joy: They would just feed it in a little at a time.
Lydia: I can remember that, when we...
Joyce: Did someone have to stand at the fireplace and feed the straw, forever?
Lydia: I suppose. I just remember this big pile of straw that they brought in and someone would stand there with a fork and throw a little on the fire.
Joy: Okay, you lived in Fredonia about... let's
see, you moved there in 1908 and you moved to the Valley in 1915...
Hilda: I was nine.
Joy: So you lived there about seven years, is that right?
Joyce: 1908 to 1915... yes, seven years.
Joy: And your dad ran a hardware store... Did the hardware store fail? Joyce got the idea that he probably had a lot of Gypsy in him. What was the reason you moved to the Valley?
Hilda: I think we moved to the Valley on account of his health.
Joyce: Oh, that's what it was. But the hardware store did well, I thought.
Hilda: I think he did well enough.
Lydia: He did.
Joyce: I didn't ever hear that it failed. The thing that really amazed me is that he came here from a foreign country and...
Hilda: Didn't speak the language...
Joyce: Didn't speak the language, and he opens a store, he learns to read; obviously he had to read and write the language...
Joy: Well, but they lived in a German community. Now I know your mom never did get too good a hold on English. Did your dad..
Hilda: No, ha ha. He was good at it.
Lydia: He spoke it real good.
Joy: But your dad did learn English, picked it up real well?
Lydia: Yes, he did. He got so he could speak it, yes.
Hilda: I know he didn't have any trouble with the language.
Joy: Well, when you moved down to Texas, then... Mr. Shary was trying to sell off part... how did you dad get wind of...
Hilda: Mr. Mueller was the one that...
Joy: It's a long distance between North Dakota and south Texas.
Hilda: Mr. Mueller was the one...
Lydia: Mr. Mueller was an agent for Shary...
Lydia: And he travelled around in the Dakotas and picked up people to bring down to there, to sell them Sharyland lots.
Joy: So Mr. Mueller wasn't the one who recruited your dad from Europe over?
Lydia: Yes, he was the same man.
Joy: Well, how did he end up in the Valley then?
Lydia: This was in the Valley? He was in North Dakota.
Joyce: Yes, but how did he know about Mr. Shary?
Lydia: I have no idea how he met up with Mr. Shary or how he got to be his agent.
Hilda: Maybe he read about it in the paper or something.
Lydia: He worked for Mr. Shary and he went around and recruited people to go down to the Valley and sell them land.
Joy: And it wasn't farm land then.
Joyce: It wasn't anything.
Joy: Well, that's what they said... they remember the cactus and having to clear the land.
Hilda: It was all brush.
Lydia: Oh, yes.
Joy: See, I just supposed the Valley was always farm land.
Joyce: I'll bet when you all saw that you thought, "Ugh, we bought this?"
Joy: Well, North Dakota is not real lush.
Lydia: Oh, no.
Joy: It's prairie.
Joy: Well, anyway, you guys all got down to the Valley, and you found a place in town to stay, you said?
Lydia: We lived in the upper half of a hardware store. This guy had a hardware store and the upper half was vacant, and he rented it out to people to stay when they had to wait for their house to be built.
Joyce: Well did you have running water?
Lydia: No...Gosh. We didn't even know what running water was. Yes, yes. I don't know what we had. I only know that we had to live upstairs over a store until we had something built out on the farm.
Joy: Well, I want to ask you some questions about your parents, what you remember about them. Of course, I know your dad died not too long after you went to the Valley, right?
Lydia: Oh yes.
Joyce: Didn't he have the flu?
Joy: Yes, he died in the flu epidemic, in 1919.
Joy: So you were only down in the Valley four years
Lydia: Well, I suppose.
Hilda: It wasn't very long, I know.
Joyce: Well, did he build a house?
Lydia: Our house? Sure.
Joyce: Were any of the boys old enough... Rudy, I guess, was maybe old enough to help him.
Hilda: He helped a little bit.
Joy: Well, if they moved in 1915, Rudy was 13.
Joyce: Well then he was plenty old enough to help.
Lydia: To help, yes.
Joy: Like I said, I want to ask you some questions about your dad. Do you remember, or your mom too... Do you remember what they did for entertainment? Well, when you think of Texas, you go square dancing or that sort of thing, or they had barn dances. They had all this sort of stuff in the West. I know they didn't have movies and that sort of thing... but did they get together with other people?
Lydia: I have no idea. I don't remember them ever having a party or being at a party, or seeing them dance or anything like that.
Joy: Now you did say that they were pretty religious and you went to church every Sunday and that sort of thing. Did the church have socials that you can remember?
Lydia: No. The church then was... this man, wasn't he a cousin of Dad's?... A cousin of Dad's; his name was Mueller, and he did preaching on Sunday mornings at his house. He had the living room fixed up so that the neighbors that he knew like us, came there and sat in there, and he did the preaching, and that was our church on Sunday.
Joy: Was this the same Mueller who worked for Shary?
Joy: It was a different one. Was it his brother?
Lydia: No, no. This was... he was just one of the farmers, I think.
Joy: But you said he was a cousin of your dad's...
Joyce: Another cousin; another Mueller cousin. I remember when we went to Kansas, this was many years later... but Grandma and Grandpa Hert said, "you all come and gather around us." And Grandma and Grandpa Hert sang hymns, and Grandma sang alto and Grandpa sang the melody.
Joy: What language did they sing in?
Joyce: It was German.
Joy: I don't remember a whole lot about Granny Hert, and I don't remember Mr. Hert at all.
Joyce: I do. I remember him pretty well.
Joy: Yes, but you're 15 years older than I am, or something like that.
Joy: So I can understand why you would remember him. I have some questions about that period too, because I don't know how any of that fits together. But, I felt lucky if I could understand her say, "hello and goodbye." I couldn't understand her at all. And I assume that she spoke broken English, and that if you were around her for any length of time, you would get to where you could understand her.
Lydia: Oh, yes. You could understand some of it, yes.
Joy: But I do not remember communicating with her very well at all.
Joyce: She was so funny. She took English phrases and turned them, just slightly. And they were just hilarious. I'm telling you she was funny. She was a funny lady.
Hilda: I didn't think she was funny.
Joy: She wasn't trying to be funny.
Joyce: No she wasn't. We were driving down the road
one day, and she looked at this old jalopy going down the road.
And she said, "Oh, look at the sa-lopy!"
Hilda: Do you remember when we went by that place where the sulphur smelled, and she says to you and Jackie, "Did you kids pop one?"
Joy: She had a sense of humor, huh?
Joyce: Yes, she really did.
Joy: While you were in the other room, Hilda, Lydia was telling us... I told her I wanted to ask some questions about what your parents were like, as individuals, what they did for entertainment and that sort of thing. She told me that they were pretty religious and went to church every Sunday. And after you went down to the Valley... she said that another one of your dad's cousins, not the one who worked for Shary and was the recruiter, but another Mueller, held church services in his living room... Do you remember any of that?
Hilda: Yes, but I don't remember it being any other Mueller.
Lydia: There was Rhiney Mueller and...
Hilda: Yes, but they were growing boys...
Lydia: Well, that was his dad that had the service.
Hilda: I know it.
Joy: Well, I thought Rhiney Mueller's dad was the one that was the recruiter.
Hilda: He was.
Lydia: He did that too. Yes, and he had little services on Sunday because there was no preacher.
Hilda: Sometimes they would have a preacher come in, the Germans.
Joyce: Oh, and it was all in German?
Lydia: Oh, sure.
Joy: It was Lutheran?
Lydia: Yes. They were all Germans.
Joy: Well, do you remember your parents ever playing games with you kids? I know you didn't have board games, but you know, the way we play games with our kids. Did you ever hit balls with bats...
Hilda: No. They didn't have time to do that.
Lydia: Somebody to catch the ball with a bat...
Joy: Well, it seems like on Sunday... You know, Sunday was pretty much reserved for a day of rest and church, and I thought that maybe on Sunday there was...
Lydia: Yes. We all got a bath and got cleaned up to go to church... ha ha.
Hilda: It was Saturdays... Saturday night.
Joy: Saturday night you had your bath. But what did you do Sunday when you got home from church? Did you do something as a family?
Lydia: What did we do?
Joyce: Well, did you knit or crochet or anything like that?
Hilda: Well, I had some little girl friends by that time and I'd get together with them on Sunday afternoons.
Joy: What did you do when you got together with your girlfriends?
Lydia: I can't even remember.
Hilda: Played with dolls or whatever, I don't know.
Joy: Okay, well, what were your dolls like? I know my mom... they would make dolls out of corn husks and things like that...
Hilda: I had a rag doll too.
Joy: Was it one that your mom made, maybe?
Lydia: Sure, who else would have made them?
Joy: Did your mom sew?
Hilda: Oh yes, she sewed.
Lydia: Sure. She sewed all of our clothes.
Joy: Did she?
Lydia: We didn't have very many clothes bought ready made.
Hilda: In fact, we didn't have anything ready made.
Joy: Well, some women sewed and some didn't, and I didn't know if your mom...
Lydia: At that time, I don't even remember seeing any ready made clothes in stores or anything.
Joy: Do you remember... I had asked Lydia when I was talking to her about Bessarabia, but the same would go for Fredonia or the Valley... Do you ever remember sitting around, of course you didn't have T.V., and you probably didn't have radio for a long time...
Lydia: Oh, no.
Joy: And I would think that of an evening, after supper, the family would sit around and do some kind of chit-chat, whether someone would read from the Bible or read a book or tell stories?
Hilda: I remember going down in the cellar and getting apples to eat at night.
Joy: Well, did your parents ever sit around and tell you stories about when they were growing up, or any family stories that way?
Lydia: I don't remember anything like that. No.
Hilda: I don't remember anything about that.
Joyce: Because I remember sitting around your old oak table, the round oak table, when she and Sag were married. And the boys, your daddy, and Roland and Melvie telling stories of things that they did, you know, and shouldn't have done. And Jackie and I looked forward to that time in the evening when we sat around the table after supper, we just sat at the table and told stories. But I imagine that they did that too.
Joy: Well, sure. That's why I asked if they didn't do that as a family... you would share...
Hilda: I remember taking a blanket out on the lawn,
and we would
stretch out on the grass there, and tell stories and talk.
Joy: Well, do you remember any of those stories?
Lydia: I have no idea what it was about.
Joy: Well, did your mom ever tell you... It's pretty common, I know, when I would be doing something with my mom; I might just be washing dishes or something, and she would say, "Oh gee, did I ever tell you about the time when...", and she'd tell me something that either was about her mother, or when she was a kid growing up. Did your mom ever talk to you about stuff like that?
Hilda: As I remember, she was very reserved, and he was too.
Joy: Do you remember any special meals or special foods that you would have?
Hilda: She made ka'-schi-nif-la.
Joy: And what is kay-schnif-la?
Joyce: Little squares of dough...
Hilda: Roll out the dough...
Joy: Is that the cottage cheese dumplings? We make that. It's one of Michelle's favorite dishes.
Hilda: She made...
Lydia: Well, tell her to quit eating kesh-nif-la!
Joy: How do you spell kesh-nif-la?
Lydia: K-A-S, kas, K-N-I-F...
Hilda: L-E-Y, OR L-Y...
Lydia: L-A, kas-knif-la, L-A, yes.
Joy: Okay, let's get it all for one. I've got about 17 letters here, mixed up... K-A-S...
Lydia: K-A-S... that was cheese...
Joy: K-A-S was cheese?
Lydia: And K-N-E-F-L-A is k'nefla, which is...
Joy: Like dumplings?
Hilda: Yes. Once you dip them out of the water, you know you boiled them...
Joy: Then she fried them, didn't she?
Hilda: She fried them, and she fried bread crumbs and poured it over them...
Lydia: Yes, or she would...
Joy: We fry bacon and crumble over them.
Lydia: Yes, that's what we did.
Joy: But I bake them in the oven instead of frying them.
Lydia: That's the same thing.
Joy: Well, do you remember any other foods that were particular to the German culture? Did she fix stews or soups very much?
Hilda: Oh, she fixed cabbage rolls.
Joy: Yeah, we've known cabbage rolls too. That and
the cottage cheese dumplings are the only things I know.
Lydia: Well, that's about all I remember too.
Joy: Did she bake cakes, or pies?
Hilda: Well, she made bread... two or three times a week.
Joyce: Bread, and sweet rolls... she told me she didn't like cake. She understood bread dough, and that's the kind of dough she made...
Joy: So she made sweet breads rather than cakes. And she didn't make pies either... She didn't do, like apple pies... You said they had apples... and sitting around eating apples in the evening was kind of a treat.
Hilda: She put apples...
Joy: Make apple dumplings some way, maybe?
Joyce: Listen, she had a jillion ways to make bread.
Hilda: Donuts, she made donuts out of bread dough.
Joy: I'll bet she didn't cheat and use canned biscuits, the way we do.
Joyce: I'll bet she didn't.
Hilda: No, she didn't.
Joy: Do you remember celebrating anything other than Christmas, did you do anything special at Easter? Hunting Easter eggs... did you guys do that?
Hilda: Oh yes.
Lydia: Sure, I think so.
Joyce: Did you have a Christmas tree?
Lydia: I think we always had Christmas trees.
Hilda: I remember going to church, and they had
Christmas candles, real candles, on the tree, and they had two
or three men standing behind the tree to make sure they didn't
burn up and catch the tree on fire.
Joy: Well, Kris Kringle was a German invention, right? Santa Claus was a German invention.
Hilda: Yes, I think so.
Joy: Or Dutch, one of the two.
Joy: Did you guys learn English in North Dakota?
Hilda: Well, I was the youngest one to go to school. I learned it from my older brothers and sisters.
Lydia: Well, we learned some English there, but there were a lot of German people that talked nothing but German.
Joy: I can imagine if you were in a German community, you'd have the tendency just to speak German.
Hilda: I know I didn't have any trouble learning English.
Joy: Well, I'm just wondering if you waited until you went to the Valley, where there weren't as many Germans, if you were forced to learn English then. And of course, you spoke Spanish too, right Hilda?
Hilda: Not very much.
Joy: You didn't learn much Spanish?
Hilda: I took it in school, but if you don't practice it, you lose it.
Joy: Well, I always thought that Lydia was very adept at communicating with the Mexicans, much more than I was.
Lydia: Well, you know, the last few years we didn't have them around as much, and you lose it.
Joy: Do you ever remember your parents having an argument about anything?
Lydia: I don't.
Joy: So if they had arguments, they kept it to themselves?
Lydia: That's right.
Joy: If you just lived in two rooms, I'd think it would be awfully hard to take it to the bedroom...
Lydia: Ha ha.
Hilda: We used to have a house, then, later on...
Joyce: You mean, before you moved to the house you were building?
Hilda: In North Dakota, I mean, we moved from the store.
Joy: Oh, you moved from the store to a house?
Joy: And how big a house was it?
Hilda: Well I know it had an upstairs.
Lydia: Yes, it sure did.
Hilda: We had bedrooms upstairs.
Lydia: I remember the school teacher used to board with us, and she had one of the rooms upstairs. And I used to have to take... help her take her bath, take her water, take a pan of water upstairs and she took her bath upstairs in that pan of water because we didn't have a bath.
Hilda: Was that Mae Hayes?
Lydia: Oh, what was her name?
Hilda: There was a Mae Hayes, and I was her pet I think.
Lydia: I can't remember.
Joy: Well, I can understand that. We have a picture of... it's a reproduction; I think Lydia probably has the original... Gottfried and Julia are seated, and Julia is holding Herb, and he's in a christening dress, or he is in a dress and it looks like a christening dress, and he looks like he is probably around a year old. Ten months to a year. You [Hilda] and Nettie are standing on either side of them, and across behind your parents are Lydia and Emma on the ends with Rudy in the middle. You were just as cute as could be. She and Nettie both had that Dutchboy bob, and Lydia and Emma were older, and had their hair pulled back and you could see the bow from behind. And Rudy up there doing his thing... Yes, but you were a real cute little kid.
Hilda: Red hair, freckle faced and snub nosed.
Joy: Well, the freckles didn't show, and of course you couldn't tell what color the hair was, in a black and white picture. But Nettie was really cute; she was pretty, wasn't she?
Lydia: Yes, she was.
Joy: Well, actually, your dad was really good looking too. Very distinguished looking. Have you [Joyce] seen a picture of him?
Joyce: Yes. Natalie thinks he's the most handsome man in the world.
Lydia: Yes, he was a good looking man.
Joy: And in that photo, you guys were all dressed real well.
Lydia: We had one good Sunday dress, and we put it on for the picture.
Joy: Okay, did you feel like you were as well off as the next person, or did you feel... I know when Mother was growing up, they knew that they didn't have anything. Did you feel...
Joy: Right, especially as immigrants.
Lydia: I can't think...
Hilda: I don't remember that part.
Lydia: Just like one of the bunch.
Joy: Did you remember any of the kids at school, and maybe they always had new clothes, and you didn't... and you didn't ever feel that?
Lydia: No. I don't think so.
Joy: So your dad was really able to provide for you pretty well.
Lydia: I think so. We had clothes to wear.
Joyce: And Grandma's sewing... she could probably dress them on very little.
Hilda: After he died was when we had the hard times... Lydia went to work, and I guess Emma did too.
Joy: Do you know if your dad ever hunted or fished, or did anything like that?
Hilda: He never had the time.
Joyce: He didn't kill jack rabbits? He may not have even had a gun.
Hilda: We always had a lot of birds to eat.
Joy: So there was a gun, then.
Lydia: Yes, yes, there must have been.
Henry: There were a lot of white wings at that time. There were a lot of white wings in the Valley then.
Hilda: Yes, we had doves. There were plenty of birds around.
Joy: But you had to have a gun to get them.
Henry: Not if you had salt...
Joy: Oh, after you moved to the Valley, do you remember taking any trips to visit anybody, a vacation or something?
Hilda: I remember going to... a group... I forget what we were called...
Joy: A church group, or a school group?
Hilda: A school group. We went somewhere.
Joy: Like 4-H or something?
Hilda: Something like that. That was in the Valley, though.
Henry: She probably went down to the seashore, down to Port Isabel.
Hilda: I don't remember even where we went, but I remember going on the train.
Joy: Oh, you went on the train somewhere? So it was at least a weekend trip?
Hilda: Oh yes.
Joy: Would it have been a camp, or...
Hilda: I think it was a camp, but I'm not sure now. I just remember the trip, going.
Joy: When you guys got ready to move from North Dakota to the Valley, what did you think about moving? Did your parents just say you were moving, with no questions asked?
Lydia: Oh gosh, we were all excited to get somewhere and go to the Valley.
Hilda: Oh I'll say... Mother made clothes, new clothes, and went over everything just to take along, you know packing and things. I remember that.
Joy: So you didn't particularly want to stay in North Dakota. You were looking forward to it. Do you remember how you got there, did you take the train again?
Hilda: Oh yes.
Lydia: Oh sure. That was the only way to travel then.
Joy: Well, I don't know. My mom travelled in a covered wagon. They didn't have the money for a train.
Hilda: Well, we went by train.
Henry: Well he had a store, didn't he, and sold it?
Joy: Well, moving from North Dakota to South Texas, and the points in between that were so dry and so desolate, like Joyce said, what did you think when you saw it?
Hilda: I don't think it made much impression on me.
Lydia: We were too young to worry about that then.
Hilda: I can remember when were in the Valley and they would send me down to the mailbox, which was about three quarters of a mile, and I'd be scared to death I'd find a rattlesnake.
Joy: So you did have a snake problem?
Hilda: Oh yes.
Henry: Yes, the Valley had snakes.
Lydia: Sure did.
Joy: Well see, when we'd go down there, I don't remember them ever even saying, "be careful of the rattlers..."
Henry: Well, they'd cleared the brush out by that time, hadn't they pretty well?
Joy: They had a big farm down there.
Joyce: How many acres?
Hilda: We had forty acres to start with.
Joyce: And then, did you buy more?
Hilda: Well, Dad got sick, why, he made a deal with Shary to take back twenty, wasn't it?
Lydia: I guess.
Joy: To try to provide money for the rest of you, or to pay the doctor?
Hilda: Yes, yes.
Joy: Okay, now, he cleared the land, right? Did any of you help clear the land?
Lydia: Oh no, no. Mexicans.
Hilda: No, we had Mexicans to do that.
Henry: At that time you had plenty of Mexican help.
Lydia: Yes, yes.
Joy: Well, I was wondering if they cleared it with horses and mules, or how they did it.
Joyce: No, I imagine by hand.
Lydia: By hand, yes.
Henry: By hand. They'd cut the brush down and pile it and burn it, and move on to some more. And grub it out with a grub hoe so they could plow it.
Joy: How fertile was the dirt down there?
Henry: Rich as the Nile.
Hilda: It was very good.
Henry: They considered it equal to the Valley of the Nile.
Joy: Well, I just wondered why there were cactus down there.
Henry: Oh, they just liked to grow in that kind of dirt.
Joyce: They grow anywhere.
Joy: Not where I've ever lived. It's too far north.
Henry: You didn't have any rock there at all, did you?
Lydia: No, there were no rocks I don't think.
Henry: I don't remember any rock in the Valley, just solid dirt.
Joy: Well, what kind of crops did he start out with, or did he start out with animals? Did you have pigs?
Hilda: One year I know we had broom corn. We built a shed to hold it and dry it in...
Lydia: It was several years before we had fruit.
Hilda: I know we had onions too.
Joyce: Well, how did he set his orchard? Did he know grafting and all that sort of thing? Did he have seedlings?
Hilda: I don't remember that.
Joy: Did your dad start the orchards, or was that after your dad died?
Lydia: No, he started them. You have seedings that you plant out.
Joyce: Did he plant them?
Lydia: Sure. And then they were grafted by... we had a neighbor that knew how to do it. I don't think Dad ever did that, but he had a man who grafted them, you know how you do it...
Lydia: That's the way we raised our first trees... we set them out and they got so they had roots, you know... and we set them out in the orchard, and started an orchard.
Joy: Well, I just find it amazing that he actually had three different careers. Because you said he taught school, and then he was a business man, he had a store, and then he went to farming. And all three of those things take different areas of expertise.
Lydia: We used to plant rows of vegetables and things between the rows of trees until the trees got so big they had fruit.
Joy: Were any of the other immigrant families from North Dakota? Did they come down to the Valley the same time you did?
Hilda: Well the Muellers came the same time, and the Hildebrands.
Lydia: They came from South Dakota, didn't they?
Hilda: Yes, they lived in South Dakota.
Joy: Who, the Hildebrands?
Lydia: The Muellers.
Hilda: The Hildebrands and the Muellers.
Joy: Who are the Hildebrands?
Joyce: I was talking about them this morning. We lived with John and Anna Lowry, and she was a Hildebrand. But they were just family friends.
Hilda: They were neighbors.
Joy: They were friends; they were not relatives. But they were were also German immigrants?
Lydia: Yes, they came over from Dakota with us to Texas.
Joyce: Not necessarily from Bessarabia.
Lydia: Oh no.
Hilda: I don't know where they came from; I don't remember that.
Joy: Well, when you got to the Valley, Lydia, you were about 16 or so? If you moved in 1915...
Hilda: You must have been close to sixteen, because
I was nine,
and you are eight years older.
Lydia: I guess I was about fifteen or sixteen years old.
Joy: How many of you went to school after you left North Dakota?
Joyce: You hadn't graduated yet, had you?
Joy: Did you go all the way through 12th grade?
Lydia: It was about tenth, I think.
Joy: Well, that was still a lot of schooling for back then.
Lydia: You bet it was.
Hilda: I remember Nettie and Rudy and I walking over to Alton to the school... about two and a half miles, and we'd come home...
Lydia: Two and a half miles... walk in the morning to school...
Hilda: We'd come home red faced.
Joy: Well did you have little lunch buckets?
Joy: Were they actually these little metal buckets?
Joy: That's what Mother and her brothers and sister had, that they packed their lunch in.
Hilda: All I can remember was a syrup bucket we carried for a lunch bucket.
Joy: Well, what can you remember about school there? You said you can remember walking over... you and Nettie and Rudy walked over...
Joy: Well what happened to Emma, didn't she go?
Joyce: She was older. I don't think she went to Alton.
Joyce: So Rudy was still in elementary school... I think Alton was the elementary school and Sharyland was the high school.
Lydia: Well, I think they had both at Sharyland, didn't they?
Hilda: No, they didn't have school until later...
Joyce: At Sharyland.
Lydia: Yes, we didn't get to go to Sharyland school until later.
Hilda: We walked about a mile and a half to Shary Boulevard where they built that new school. Well first, we went to that old building, on the corner there, don't you remember?
Hilda: A one room school.
Joyce: That was the town... you all had neighborhood meetings in that place, I remember going there with Jackie and you all.
Lydia: Ha, yes. They were pretty bad then.
Joy: What do you remember about the schools, Hilda?
Hilda: Well, in the new school, I know, a year or two later, I remember sitting in the classroom and the ceiling was falling down on us.
Joy: A new school, and the ceiling was falling down?
Hilda: The plaster.
Joyce: Why was it falling down... wasn't it put up there right?
Hilda: Evidently not.
Joy: Do you remember doing anything, specifically, at that school?
Hilda: Oh yes, programs that we gave. I remember them trying to get me to sing a song with a boy. And I couldn't carry a tune.
Lydia: I don't remember that...
Hilda: They had me stand up there by, with him, but I just...
Joy: You just mouthed it, huh?
Hilda: I guess they thought we were a cute couple,
Roby was the boy's name; his last name was Roby. What was his first name...?
Lydia: I can't even remember.
Joy: They were going to a different school than you were. What did you do when you got out of school, what kind of work? I assume you started working right away, or did you work while you were going to school too?
Lydia: Oh, I don't think I worked for... Maybe I did go around and do a little housework at the neighbors on Saturdays or something, but...
Joy: But you didn't have to go sweep out a store or any of that stuff?
Joy: Because your dad was making a good enough income. Okay, did it ever bother either one of you having to learn a new language?
Lydia: Not me.
Hilda: Not me either.
Joy: But your folks still... did they both speak German around the house? I know your mom did, obviously.
Hilda: Yes, they did.
Joy: Do you think that was because they were more comfortable with it, or do you think they wanted to keep you fluent in German?
Hilda: They were more comfortable with it, especially her.
Lydia: It was hard for them to speak the English. They had never had it before, never spoke it before, so they spoke German all the time.
Joy: They never entertained any ideas of going back to Germany?
Joyce: Well it really wasn't Germany.
Joy: But they still had relatives there.
Joyce: Oh, in Germany?
Joy: Or over in that area.
Joy: When you were growing up... I know that your mom had a baby almost every year, it seems like. What did you think about always having a nursery?
Lydia: I didn't think it was any different.
Joy: Well, did everybody have big families?
Lydia: Sure, sure.
Hilda: Well, look at the Hildebrands... They were closer together than we were.
Joy: Well did you ever wish that... "gosh, I wish I could just have my own little space for a half a day even?..."
Hilda: It wasn't even thought of.
Lydia: Ha ha mmm. Oh no.
Hilda: Melvin was just three weeks old when Dad died, wasn't he?
Lydia: Yes, he was just a baby.
Joy: Now I know that Lydia and Emma remembered trying to keep your dad separate from the rest of the family, and particularly from Melvin, because he was such a little baby. When he got ill...
Hilda: How could you keep them separate in a four room house?
Joyce: They probably tried.
Joy: Well, hang a blanket or something, I would imagine. I mean, that's the way my other grandparents would have done it.
Joy: Do you remember how long he was ill with the flu?
Hilda: Well I think, as I remember it, the whole family was down, except he and I. My dad and myself. And then he got down. He sat in a rocker, he couldn't lie down.
Joyce: Why? Because he couldn't breathe?
Hilda: He couldn't breathe. And I remember waiting on him, then. And some of the rest of them got better and got up and helped me.
Joy: Well, do you think that he was just so worn down from trying to take care of everybody else because everybody else got sick, and that that was probably the reason he couldn't fight it off?
Lydia: Well it was an epidemic then. Everybody had the flu.
Joy: Well I know, but if everybody in the family...
Hilda: He wasn't well to start with.
Lydia: That's right.
Joy: Oh, that's right... because you moved to the Valley...
Joyce: For his health.
Lydia: For his health, yes.
Hilda: He had heart trouble, I know that.
Joy: Oh he did?
Joyce: The winters were so hard up there... And he felt like if he could get to the Valley, if he could withstand the winters... I think he was afraid that the winters were going to kill him.
Joy: Okay. Now, World War I was in 19...
Joy: 1918. It may sound stupid, but why didn't your dad go in the war?
Henry: He wasn't eligible, I don't think.
Lydia: He wasn't a citizen.
Joy: You had to be a citizen?
Hilda: He had a big family to support.
Henry: You have to be a certain age...
Joyce: Oh, that's right, he had a big family, so he wouldn't have to go.
Joy: Oh, I didn't know that having a big family would keep you out.
Henry: And you had to be a certain age, I mean age had something to do with it. It depended on what age group he was in. They took the young men first, because they wanted single men.
Joy: What did you two think of World War I? Now, you were a teenager, so you would have understood what was going on, pretty well.
Lydia: Well, I didn't know really what war meant, because it wasn't over here.
Joy: Did any of the boys your age... you didn't know anybody who went off then?
Lydia: No I didn't.
Hilda: Didn't Irvin Kohle go?
Lydia: No, I don't think so.
Hilda: I'm sure he was a veteran.
Lydia: Well, he was later, after the war started.
Hilda: I remember the school bunch going to McAllen to see the first airplane that I ever saw.
Joy: Oh, you saw your first airplane, and it was in McAllen, and you went with a school group, you said?
Joy: Do you remember how old you were, about?
Hilda: Must have been about 14 or 15, I don't know.
Joy: And this was just to go look at it... It wasn't to ride in it?
Hilda: Oh, no.
Lydia: Oh, no they didn't give rides.
Joy: What did you think about it?
Hilda: I thought it was great. It was wonderful that a machine like that could fly.
Joy: Well did you think, well boy, this is just the maximum that anybody will ever attain?
Hilda: Something like that.
Joy: I was telling Lydia I think it would be fascinating to have lived from horse and buggy days; of course, they had invented trains... but other than animals pulling wagons and buggies, or trains, or ships... to go from that to cars and airplanes and rockets... and on the moon, and all of the satellite technology, it's just mind boggling...
Joy: That anybody could experience every one of those things.
Hilda: It didn't really touch us very much.
Joyce: Yes, but they came to pass in your lifetime... that's what she's talking about.
Lydia: Sure, yes.
Joy: Okay, so your dad died in 1919 and left your mom with a new baby and several other children. How long was it before she remarried?
Lydia: Well, the older ones were all practically grown. It was just mostly the younger boys. And she went up to Mason City, Iowa where Mr. Hert was living after his wife died.
Joyce: What did you think of your mother getting married?
Hilda: She didn't have very many unmarried men to pick from in the Valley.
Joy: Well, I was trying to figure out how old everybody was. If she had run out of money, she needed to find somebody to support her. And if Melvin and Roland were eight and ten, Daddy would have been about thirteen...she would have lived for eight years with no husband, and I don't know how long the money would have lasted.
Joyce: Did she work?
Lydia: We all worked. How do you think we ate?
Joyce: Well, the kids worked, but she didn't, did she?
Lydia: No, she didn't.
Hilda: Emma kept house for some people.
Joyce: And Lydia, what kind of work did you do?
Lydia: I sewed.
Hilda: And you worked out at Sam Fordyce, didn't you, during the war.
Joyce: What was that?
Henry: It was the army camp.
Lydia: The army camp.
Joy: Doing office work?
Lydia: Office work.
Joyce: And what kind of work did you do, Mother?
Henry: She was a bookkeeper.
Hilda: During the war I was still interested in school.
Joyce: I'm talking about after your daddy died... Lydia said she went to work and Emma went to work... Did you not go to work?
Hilda: No, I went to school.
Lydia: She was too young.
Joy: Okay. Your dad died in 1919; Hilda was born in 1906, so she would have been about 13 when he died, right? Or very close to 13.
Hilda: I was about that, yes.
Joy: So, she would have gone to school for another three or four years, probably.
Hilda: I was going to high school, and I didn't have a dress to graduate in. And we had a piece of dotted swiss, and I begged Lydia to make it for me, to wear that night.
Lydia: Ha hmmmm.
Joy: Did you do it?
Hilda: She did.
Joyce: Let me tell you, she's fast.
Joy: Oh I know she's fast.
Hilda: We even dyed it. We dyed it yellow.
Joyce: What color was it?
Lydia: White, I suppose.
Hilda: It was a real pretty dress. It had little buttons all the way down the front.
Joy: Well gosh, it would take most people all night to sew the buttons on.
Hilda: She was fast. She could make a dress in half a day, easy.
Joy: Well I hope you had an electric sewing machine by then.
Lydia: Ha ha.
Joyce: I'll bet she didn't.
Joy: Did you have a treadle sewing machine?
Joy: Well, the job that you had? You said you worked at Fordyce?
Hilda: Sam Fordyce.
Joyce: Which was an army base, did you say?
Henry: Where was that, Harlingen?
Hilda: Oh no, it was west of Mission.
Henry: It was a town of Fordyce?
Lydia: Yes. It was where they had an army camp.
Hilda: It just had two words: Sam Fordyce. I'd go out there for a weekend, sometimes, and stay with Lydia.
Joy: So you lived out there, like in a barracks or something?
Joyce: Did other girls live out there too?
Lydia: Yes. Sure. I think there were four of us that had this one house and lived together in it.
Henry: Yes, they set up tents in camps, and everything else.
Lydia: Yes. Sure did.
Hilda: Emma and Hoyt were married by that time, and they had a cafe out there didn't they?
Joyce: Where was there cafe, on the army base, or right next to it?
Hilda: I don't think it was.
Lydia: I don't think so either. I don't remember just where it was.
Joy: Well, was Emma the first one to get married?
Joy: And so she left with Hoyt, and set up housekeeping where?
Lydia: Out there.
Hilda: I think they must have lived out there too. Where they had the cafe.
Joy: Out where?
Hilda: Close to Fordyce.
Joyce: That's a little town. That's what the army base was named after.
Joy: Is Fordyce still on the map?
Lydia: I think so.
Hilda: I don't know.
Joyce: It was a little border town.
Joy: When did Rudy leave?
Lydia: Oh gosh, I can't remember.
Hilda: He was learning to be an electrician.
Joyce: That's right, he was an electrician.
Joy: Did he go to an apprentice school somewhere?
Hilda: I don't think he went to a school to learn.
Lydia: Lord knows how he learned, but he learned.
Joy: There is a picture that I've seen of Daddy on a horse... I think there were three kids on the horse, just stair-step...
Lydia: Yes, yes.
Joy: You've seen the picture? And I would guess that these kids were between the ages of six and ten or four and ten, for three of them to sit on there.
Joy: Did you guys have a horse?
Lydia: Well sure, we always had a horse.
Joy: You had a horse. What other livestock did you have?
Lydia: We had a cow or two... How many did we have, do you remember?
Joyce: Did you have pigs? Chickens. I remember chickens.
Lydia: Oh sure. Turkeys and geese and a pig...
Joy: Well, I can remember they had chickens and roosters out at their place.
Hilda: Do you remember when you hid Sag's whiskey bottle in the slop jar?
Lydia: Ha ha.
Hilda: And the pig got drunk and passed out.
Joyce: And he came in and said the pig was dead. He was going to have to figure out how to haul him off. And Lydia didn't say anything except, "just wait awhile."
Lydia: And he dragged the pig off, up on the bank of the canal...
Joyce: Oh he did, he hauled it off?
Lydia: Sure, don't you remember that? And the pig was laying up there on the bank of the canal, and after awhile the pig woke up and came home. He had sobered up.
Joy: When you were growing up... now Hilda had said that she remembers having a rag doll that she played with... Do you remember having any special toys or anything that?
Lydia: I sure don't. I was the oldest one and I had to do all the work... I didn't have any time to play.
Joy: Because your dad seemed so adapted to so many things... I thought maybe he... Did he ever do carpentry work or anything? I thought maybe he had even made some toys for you.
Joyce: Didn't he build a house?
Lydia: He helped build ours.
Joyce: But he didn't consider himself a carpenter, he only did it because he had to.
Lydia: He was helping to get it done and get it cheaper.
Joyce: Did you have somebody come out and build it?
Lydia: Well, sure. We had two or three Mexicans working to build the house. We lived in town until the house was built.
Joy: Well, do you remember what it was like the first time you saw a car? Or where you were, how old you were, or your first ride in a car?
Hilda: I remember the first car we had was an old Overland... that kept breaking down. Emma was trying to drive it.
Lydia: It wasn't even new when we bought it.
Hilda: Oh no.
Lydia: A second-hand car... it was an old Overland.
Joy: And you all were teenagers by that time?
Hilda: I think so, I think I was in my early teens. Dad was still living then wasn't he, when he bought that car?
Joy: Right. Because he didn't die until 1919. So he bought the car then, he did have a car. How big was an Overland? Was it one of those touring cars?
Lydia: Yes. It was such a car, I think...
Joy: What color was it?
Joy: Did it have running boards and no top on it?
Hilda: Oh, it had a top.
Joy: Oh it had a top?
Lydia: Sure. And I remember running boards.
Joy: It had a hard top rather than a soft top?
Hilda: I'm not sure about that.
Lydia: I don't remember either.I just know it had a top.
Joyce: Did it have windows?
Lydia: Did it have windows, or was it just open? I can't remember.
Hilda: I don't remember windows.
Joyce: So many of those older cars did not have windows.
Lydia: I don't think this had either.
Hilda: I don't think so.
Lydia: It was just an open car. And had a top on it.
Joy: Had a top. But you don't remember if the top folded down at all?
Lydia: I don't think so.
Joy: So I don't think it would have been a soft top then.
Hilda: Well, I have to tell you this one... Rudy and Nettie and I went to somebody else's field to pick up onions... They had gotten through with them and left a lot of them...
Joyce: In the fields...
Hilda: Yes. We went to pick them up. We had a wagon and a mule, and we got in that wagon, Nettie and I... and were going to turn it around to go home, I guess... Anyway, the mules started running away. Nettie jumped out, and that wagon... they turned it so short that the box on the wagon turned completely around. By that time, I finally had courage enough to jump out of it.
Joyce: Well, what was Rudy doing?
Hilda: I don't remember. He was probably trying to catch the mules. It's a wonder we didn't get hurt.
Joy: So those were the...
Lydia: Good old days!