Interview with Michael Wolf
Conducted by Dr. Homer Rudolf (HR)
15 July 2000, Strasburg, North Dakota
Transcription by Jayne Whiteford
Editing by Mary Lynn Axtman
HR: Do you want to tell me when you were born?
MW: I was born December the 6th 1916
HR: And in Strasburg? Outside of?
MW: In Strasburg.
HR: And can you give us your parents' names?
MW: Adam and Magdalena Wickenheiser
HR: Wickenheiser, and what is you maiden name?
HR: Where do they come from in Russia?
MW: We came from Baden, Russia.
HR: From Baden, it is nice to get that at the beginning of the tape so they have that information. We were talking just a little bit ago about music and you said that you and all your brothers
MW: My uncles.
HR: Oh, your uncles played instruments tell me a little bit more about that.
MW: Well they lived out of St. Michael that which is about 15 miles east of our place, where we lived in Strasburg. And a they had a community there that had the church there and two stores and then they had the band which my uncles were in the band, and they had big celebration every year on their feast day of the church, St. Michael Day and they had parade, and it was right out on the country road and they had parade on going about half mile. And that's what they celebrated their feast at, the church.
HR: What instruments did they play?
MW: One played the trumpet that was my uncle Mike, he was the youngest one, he played the trumpet. And I think Joe played the trombone and then some played the accordion but not in the parade. Some played the piano. My dad could play the accordion too. But he never played after he was married, anymore.
HR: Did anyone play drums?
MW: I think there was one; I think Casimer played the drums.
HR: Now did they play for dances too?
MW: No they didn't have a band. They just played for entertainment.
HR: The reason I asked about that is I had three uncles who, there was a school teacher started an band in the school and then my uncles joined the community band in Wishek and when that band broke up the bought the drum set from the school band and they started a little band of their own. There was a trumpet, drums and an accordion and they played until my one uncle had to sell his accordion to buy some horses. They played some barn dances too. So then tell me about how you were involved in music yourself?
MW: Well when one of my brothers, we were not all except the one brother Ignatius his was the one that was really interested in music and he still is and real good singer too.
HR: And this is the one in California?
MW: In San Monica
HR: Oh San Monica
MW: And we were out there last winter and we visit him that is when we made that tape. I said that I would have known that if this is going to be a deal like this I would have probably practiced before.
HR: No this is authentic, that is what we want.
MW: And sang more German songs.
Lady Speaking: Uncle Ignatius ended up majoring in music and graduating from the University of North Dakota in 1903, or so with a degree in music.
HR: Well that earlier. Did he teach public school then?
MW: Yeah he taught school for several years.
MW: In Ranell and where else did he teach? I think he taught just in 55. And maybe 56?? And then he ran into business that ain't too good from her father, a John Deere Business and a Chevrolet business and then he took over that business that was in 1940 it was before we were married.
HR: So that was one brother that was in music, what about, did you have all brothers or did you have sisters too?
MW: No I had sisters too. I had four sisters and six brothers and I was right in the middle.
HR: That's me, I was one of eight and I was right in the middle too.
MW: There was two sisters and three brother behind me and two sisters and three brothers ahead of me.
HR: So how many of them were in music?
MW: Well, they was only, I think the youngest one, Hal, was a little bit into music. The rest of them really were not.
Lady Speaking: I remember Uncle Joe, I remember Joe playing the guitar.
MW: Yeah Joe, Joe played the guitar too.
Lady Speaking: And sang cowboy songs.
HR: But did you sing around the house, all of you?
MW: All the time, we had some family gathering the singing was the main part.
HR: Did you have a piano at home?
MW: No we later had a piano for our own when we had a family.
HR: What about did you have a pump organ anytime?
MW: Well there is a pump organ sitting in the house yet, that a one of daughters more or less inherited or her husband inherited and that they storing it in our house because they haven't got no room for it.
HR: Parents always do that for kids don't they?
HR: Now does that have a high back?
MW: It use to have a high back but I think it was taken off
HR: That kind was common in the homes and in the churches. One that my grandfather played didn't have a high back so the organist could see over it.
MW: But it is still in good condition, it would probably have a little repairing in the structure in of the wind
HR: Yeah, the bellows or whatever they call them. So when you sang at home did you sang with the guitar or
MW: Sang with the guitar most of the time, yeah. He was the lead to singing every time we got together.
HR: So what kind of music did you sing? I'm sorry, go ahead.
Lady Speaking: Still, they still when they get together.
MW: Still, when we know he is going to be there we know there is going to be signing.
HR: That's Good.
MW: He's leader of the choir out there from their church.
HR: Oh, is he?
MW: Yeah, for many years early.
HR: So what kinds of songs did you sing when you were growing up?
MW: Well we sang all kinds of tournament songs, which are really forgotten
HR: But where they, they were folk songs?
MW: Folk songs, mostly folk songs.
HR: Were they drinking songs?
MW: Well, some of them.
HR: Brother Placid Grosz I was talking to him and he said when he, that they sang songs and that most of them were drinking songs. What they say about the music in the Russia was that the young boys would sing folk songs on the street in the evening and that was really common and they sang drinking songs and songs like that.
MW: Especially in weddings. And they brought all those old songs that they brought from Russia they had really good singing.
HR: Do you remember any specific songs, for weddings? That they sung, even names of them?
MW: I couldn't remember.
HR: Yeah, but it is interesting that they had special songs.
HR: And your weddings lasted one or two days?
MW: Two days, most of the time.
HR: Two days, yeah.
MW: Yeah, sometime three days
HR: If you really got going, huh?
HR: And then they had a wedding dance?
MW: They had a wedding dance, a wedding mass and then supper and then a dance.
HR: Oh, now did the bride
MW: But they always had the day before the wedding to prepare for the wedding and another day and then after the wedding.
HR: What did they do to prepare for the wedding?
MW: Well, get the drinks ready, get the food ready and practice for the wedding services.
HR: And partied a little bit too, I suppose.
MW: Partied a little bit too.
HR: Did the bride and groom where long white ribbons when they got married?
MW: They usually wore a veil, a long veil.
HR: Did they wear sort of like a flower ear with a long satin ribbon?
MW: Most of them do
HR: Yeah because I have seen a lot of pictures and my parents wore those too. Did you have one when you got married?
MW: I think so. I think we had
HR: Because you look at those old pictures and all the couples are, I think they had, my parents had dried roses and sort of like a little boutonniere and then
MW: I think that is it that bouquet, that's a bride, carries
HR: And then at the wedding dance they auction off the bride and they auction off the dances, and all that sort of stuff.
MW: Auction off their guarder
HR: And the shoe.
MW: And a shoe and sometimes even stole the bride.
HR: Oh well of course.
Lady Speaking: and the dollar dance,
HR: a dollar dance,
MW: Dollar dance, yep
HR: So what about music in school? Where did you go to school? It was in a farm school right?
MW: Well I went to farm school but I when to town school for several years because we didn't have enough students out at the farm school.
HR: Oh really
MW: Some years, but I graduated from the eighth grade out at the farm school.
HR: Did you, so you took the state exam.
MW: Stuck to it
HR: So in school did you have music at the beginning of the day, like opening exercises where they sang?
MW: Well we sang a song usually in the morning before we started, but that is about it for the day.
HR: Did you know English when you started school?
MW: Not very much.
HR: And I suppose like my parents when to school, my dad only went though the fourth grade and my mother went up though the eighth grade but she didn't take the state exam but they said of course that you weren't suppose to speak German on the school grounds.
MW: Oh-yeah, that was a strict rule, that you couldn't talk German.
HR: Did you walk to school?
MW: Most of the time we walked.
HR: How far was that?
MW: About just a mile.
HR: A mile.
MW: From our farm.
HR: How many kids were in the school?
MW: At the most I think was nine
MW: That was the most I think.
HR: Do you remember the names of any of the teachers?
MW: Well, the teacher I had was in the eighth grade was Martha, Martha Baumgartner.
HR: Yeah, I went to Ashley and looked at the school records for these schools where my parents went. And some thing were missing but you can actually go and at the end of the year the teacher would fill out a report and what classes each student took and the number of days they were there and stuff. Now when you went to school did you go the whole year, or did you harvest and planting drop out?
MW: Well, we only had seven months of school
HR: Seven months.
MW: Yeah, so it started later and we missed a lot in the fall and in the spring.
HR: Yeah, because my dad did too
HR: Yeah, that was just part of it. So when you got married did you still do a lot of music or did you sing with the church choir by chance?
MW: I sang several times with the church choir.
HR: And that was out in the farm?
MW: No, it was in town.
HR: In town.
MW: Yeah, I belonged to the parish in town.
HR: So that was the what, St. Ann's?
Lady Speaking: It was St. Peter.
MW: St. Peter and Paul.
HR: St. Peter and Paul, yeah, that's a beautiful church.
HR: And did they have an organ in that church?
MW: We had a pipe organ but it is out of condition right now.
MW: But collecting a fund to have it fixed. But Laurence Welk donated an organ, an electric organ for the church several years ago.
HR: So did you had the priest sang and then did someone else direct the choir?
MW: Yeah, we always had a choir director, at first it was Max Fiechtner that was the one that was in that grade school and was in the choir and then later on it was; I can't remember his name, but he always furnished, the parish, furnished the house live in for the organist.
HR: And was your organist the same as your choir director or were they two different people?
MW: They were the same.
HR: The same person.
MW: Yeah, and they usually taught school in the Parochial School.
HR: Oh, did he, and that was in town.
MW: That was in town, yeah.
HR: How big was the choir?
MW: Oh well we had about fifteen to twenty members in the choir it was all young people and old people, in the choir at that time.
HR: When I grew up too, it was the same thing, anyone who was willing to sing, they wanted you. Did the congregation sing too?
MW: Not, not really that much. That is why we had the choir the congregation didn't sing.
HR: Because most of it was Latin anyway and if the congregation would have had to be German.
MW: But later on, like now, the congregation sings along with the leader.
HR: So what other music do you remember, did you go to barn dances when you were growing up?
MW: Oh yeah.
HR: You did .
MW: Oh, yeah.
HR: Did you know that? How much did you have to pay to go?
MW: Well sometimes nothing?
HR: Oh really, you were that good looking.
MW: And then the dance in town we paid 50 cents and the ladies were free.
HR: That's what my parents said too, yeah, well yeah of course
MW: and then when we got to town and the ladies went in and started dancing with each other and then the men or the boys just came in later.
HR: You were outside drinking.
MW: Well, not really drinking, but we had to get together so we got in there all at once, at the same time.
HR: Load up enough nerve to go inside. And the dances, what were the dances you did?
MW: The dances were mostly at that time; well it changed with the times.
HR: Right, yeah
MW: First it was the fox trot, and then later I don't know what you would call it, that later started.
MW: And what their dancing now, I can't.
HR: We won't go into that. Did you do the polka too?
MW: Well I, my wife really likes to dance polka but I never really got into it. Never danced polka in my life.
HR: What about did they do the butterfly? Do you remember the butterfly?
MW: Oh yeah, the butterfly and the
HR: And the schottishe.
MW: And the schottishe and the square dancing.
HR: You did square dancing too?
MW: Oh, yeah. We belonged to the square dance club one time.
HR: Oh, did you.
MW: That was really nice. But then as things went along it just
HR: Well things always change.
MW: It broke up, yeah.
HR: People get busy. And then you had someone that called the dances when you had square dances right?
MW: Yeah, we had a caller. And then when, I can go back a little bit, when we went to high school, I
HR: Oh you didn't tell me that before.
MW: Yeah, I went to high school in town, and wintertime when it was servility cold I stayed in town. And in the fall and in the spring I rode in to town on horseback.
HR: Did you; how far was that?
MW: Six miles.
HR: Six miles.
MW: And then I tied the horse down by the railroad track and lots of evenings when I would go down there to go home the horse was gone and ran home. And then it was home by the time school was out so then my folks can in and got me. But then lot of times I had to walk all the way home.
HR: Oh, and those were the good old days.
MW: Those were the good old days, and when we went to grade school some years we all went to town to the grade school and then we went with a buggy and then we drove along and pick all the neighbors kids.
HR: Hey, you were going to say something about the music in high school.
MW: Well in high school I was always in the choir
HR: Were you?
MW: Well of course it was a course at that time. And I loved to sing but I never got to play an instrument. I tried one time at the piano but I couldn't master it.
HR: It is sort of like me I have always been a singer and play the piano good enough for myself but that is about it. Were you a tenor or a base?
MW: I was a tenor.
HR: Tenor, I have always liked tenors, better than I liked bases, they need them. How big was the high school or how big was your class in high school?
MW: Well when we graduated there was thirteen, thirteen in our class which was a large class at that time.
HR: So the choir was probably maybe twenty?
HR: And did you go to festivals? Did you have music festivals?
MW: No I don't think so.
HR: I had read about some in Mackintosh county were they had each school would have a contest, and they'd have declamation contests and people would tell stories and people would sing, solos and duets and things like that and then they'd go to regions and then they'd go to the county seat. And then that was in the 20's when that was going on.
MW: When I started high school in 31' I graduated in 35'
MW: When I graduated from high school, then I went to, that, in the book, I took an exam and then taught school for a year. Way over in Napoleon. And stayed for forty-five dollars a month.
HR: You were worth it too I suppose.
MW: Yeah, and then I stayed at my uncle's place and I paid eight dollars a month board and room. So made a lot of money.
HR: Saved it all so you can give it to your daughters.
MW: Yeah. The next year we had that bad year in 1936, and I went out to Grand Forks to work in the harvest fields
HR: Oh did you?
MW: First we went into the harvest field and we shot, there was three other guys and four guys, and we shot for a three dollars a day is what they made but we shot by the acre so we made a little bit more.
HR: More because you could work faster.
MW: Yeah. There were four guys of us and there were eleven guys that worked by the day and we shot just as much as they did, those eleven guys.
HR: We did that too, when I was growing up, my dad ran a road blader on, and grew up my mother and grandmother and all of us kids would go out and chopped. I have no idea what we got paid because I was really small but the wild oats was always fun.
MW: And then after the harvest field the harvest was done, then we went into threshing to haul bundles out there and then after that was done then I went to pick potatoes, that was hard work.
HR: Yeah, so when you taught that year did you have the kids sing too?
MW: Oh yeah, we had some singing. They thought I was really good.
HR: They did well, what do kids know?
MW: But there were some kids that were almost as old as I and a lot taller then I was at that time.
HR: And you had kids that didn't speak English too, at that point, or did all of them speak English?
MW: No, they all spoke English.
HR: Okay, yeah, made it a lot easier on you. Do they have a big celebration on the Fourth of July and Memorial Day and stuff like that too when you were growing up?
MW: Oh yeah, we had, like I said, mentioned that before like on the Fourth of July they had a big celebration out at St. Michael's.
HR: Oh, did they?
HR: Was that the St. Michael's where you stayed near then?
MW: The entire town had a big celebration every year.
HR: And they have a carnival and a
MW: The same way in town as St. Peter and Paul's feast day, they had a big celebration too. With the band was there in front of the church, and all kinds of things.
HR: Was that the town band?
MW: That was the town band.
HR: Did they have that most of the time, the town band?
MW: Most of the time they had them feast days.
HR: How big was the band?
MW: There was about 25 to 30 members.
HR: Now there pictures in any of the Jubilee books, do you know, of the bands, sometimes there are?
MW: There could be one in one of those Jubilee books.
HR: Because all those towns, Zeeland, Napoleon Ashley, Wishek they all had town bands.
HR: You know off and on they come and go. And did you go to movies?
MW: Oh yeah we went to movies.
HR: Did you remember silent movies?
HR: Now when you went to silent movies did they ever have music someone playing a piano or fiddle or something that you remember?
MW: No, I can't remember
HR: Because in Wishek they were saying that the 30's were at Zeeland they were outdoors and in naked lots and they sat outside and watched. Then later on Wishek had two theaters and indoors later. And then what do you remember about, did you have a record player when you were young?
HR: What about the radio?
MW: Radio, we had.
HR: When did you get that?
MW: Well we had radio in the early 30's.
HR: The early 30's, what stations did you listen to?
MW: To Bismarck.
MW: And that's when Laurence Welt was in Yankton South Dakota and then we listened to that Yankton, South Dakota station.
HR: That's what my parents said too, they listened to Yankton and Bismarck. All the music at that point was live on the radio they didn't play records.
Lady Speaking: And Mike Dosch.
HR: yeah we were talking about him the other day, because he was around forever.
MW: We had, we had a polka mass here lately here at Strasburg and Dolecheck was the one, no it was Schwan.
Lady Speaking: Schwan?
MW: Schwan had had the polka mass and then he played two extra numbers in memory of Laurence Welkand Mike Dosch.
HR: Oh, yeah. So do you remember the names of any bands, dance bands when you were growing up?
MW: Oh yeah, we had Manservant, Masselvang then we had, that is still going Quintuplets that is the Schwab family.
HR: S-c-h-w-a-b, Schwab
MW: Yeah. One of the players played, the drummer was one of the Schwab boys, that was James.
Lady Speaking: Some people say that Lawrence Ralph may have been the best accordionist in the country but he was only the third best in Strasburg. Tom Gutenberg and John Schwab, John Schwab was considered the most over Tom Gutenberg and they use to get together at the Schwab farms and on Sunday afternoons.
HR: I found a notice in the Wishek news about 1921 that Laurence Welk was going to be playing there with his accordion for a band, I mean for a dance.
MW: Yeah, I went to dances where he played.
HR: Did you?
HR: So umm, anything else that you remember about music when you were growing up that you did, or your family?
MW: Well the most important thing is when we got together, we always had singing. Especially when my brother Iggy was there.
HR: And he played guitar?
MW: He played guitar and he was the leader of singing and we always had short music at our family gatherings.
Lady Speaking: They still do that.
MW: Still do that.
Lady Speaking: They still do that when they get together.
HR: And he played by your brother?
MW: Well I think he later on, he started by year but later on he studied music. Played by notes.
HR: Now did any of your sisters play instruments?
MW: I think Phil the violin at one time.
HR: Oh, really? When my uncles were growing up they trapped animals in the winter, and that's, the guys were then able to buy baseball uniforms, and stuff. They were able to buy ice skates and they all we're also able, that's how my uncles and that group bought their musical instruments, by trapping firs and selling them. Is that how, how did your brother get his guitar or your brother that played? Did they get it out of a catalog you think?
MW: I think we worked for his uncles and aunts just doing farm work and that is how he earned the money to buy the guitar.
HR: So he was hired out?
MW: Yeah, they always, see we had a big family and then my mother was one of the oldest ones in the, in fact she was the oldest one. And then we always helped the rest of the uncles.
HR: So now does your brother have a, I mean does your family have a song book that you use at all when you get together or you just all remember thee?
MW: Just remember, well he made some, later on he made sketches and sheets to
HR: Or even a list of songs?
HR: Yeah and then you still have that?
MW: I use to have it but I looked for it and I couldn't find it anymore. I have always journal songs written down in a notebook. That 's my older brother that was Tony that use to be a real singer. But he died real young. And he had a book with all those songs written in, and then we couldn't find it anymore after that.
HR: Do any of your brothers have a list of songs?
MW: Oh, I think Beaky made a tape in honor of mother and that was a long ago and he sent each one a tape and I couldn't just find it when before we came up here. I was going to bring it along but I couldn't find it.
HR: Is it a tape of you mother singing?
MW: No, he sang in honor
HR: In honor of your mother.
MW: And a tribute to mother and the songs that she like most, he sang.
HR: Oh really? Well if someone in your family still has a song list it would be interesting to get a copy of because
MW: I'm sure that BB got
Lady Speaking: We can ask Alt.
HR: Because that is the sort of thing that would tell us a lot about what they sang.
MW: He's a good singer too, Alvin is.
HR: Well they are all good singers according to you.
MW: My youngest brother.
Lady Speaking: In our case, it skipped a generation.
HR: Oh it did huh?
Lady Speaking: Our kids can sing,
HR: Yeah well, I have no nephews or nieces that are singer either. That is often the way it is. Do you get to sing with friends at all when you were growing up also?
MW: Oh yeah, we sang with friends, by got. Still do, when we get together but my brother-in-law, Harry, is a good singer, that's my wife's brother and he's a good singer so we still, he knows more German songs than I do.
HR: Is that right.
MW: He remembers them better.
HR: Do you suppose he might have a list?
MW: I don't think he has got a list.
HR: He got it all up here.
HR: Did someone play the guitar when you sang then or did you sing without it?
MW: Sing without.
MW: Well usually when there is music, and then they make somebody play the songs that we want to sing. Like when we get together by all and he's pretty good. You just hum a song and then he'll play it.
HR: On the piano?
HR: So he plays real well by ear then?
MW: Real well by ear.
HR: So who else, you mentioned two people now, your brother-in-law and this fellow who plays piano,
MW: He plays the accordion too.
HR: Oh, does he?
MW: Jim Wickenheiser
HR: Jim Rodinhiser
HR: Anyone else, that you'd sing with, in town, or that you use to sing with?
MW: Not really.
HR: Do you have questions that you can think of that you want to ask?
Lady Speaking: Is it possible that Jim Wickenheiser has a list, a songbook?
MW: I wouldn't, I don't think so because he doesn't, a lot of times we mention a song and he doesn't know anything about it, and then we just hum it and then finally he plays it.
HR: Yeah, it's back there somewhere you just have to nudge it a little bit in order,
MW: Yes, he was really good at that, just picking it up and humming it.
HR: So what's your favorite song?
MW: Well, when we get together, like Iggy is along that "Lustig Ligeunerleben."
HR: That's why we started out with the tape like that.
MW: So that is your first song, so do you have songs that you usually sing as the last song?
HR: Well he likes to sing to sing that song "In Boehmenwald" that was my mother's favorite song.
MW: What is that then?
HR: "In Boehmenwald".
HR: I don't know that
MW: I don't think so.
Lady Speaking: Is that on the tape?
MW: I don't think so, it might be.
Lady Speaking: Can you sing a little of it right now, just enough so we can hear the melody?
MW: 483-487?? That's all.
Lady Speaking: Because I don't remember without somebody with me
HR: So was your mother a good singer?
MW: I never hear her sing but my dad was.
HR: Oh, is that right, but your dad was.
MW: My dad was a singer in the choir before he got married out there
MW: In St. Michael's
Lady Speaking: Did anyone talk about singing in Russia? Or what kind of singer they did there. Did they have choirs and bands?
MW: I think that the songs all come from Russia and they use to sing them over there and then when they got together the older people kind of started singing like in Name's Day or in any celebration they had, they sang those old German songs.
HR: This was when you were growing up?
HR: The older people sang.
HR: That is where we learned most of the songs. So they sang and sang outside on the street when they got together.
MW: Sang outside on the street on in the bars or where ever they got together. A few men, older men got together and they sang those German songs.
HR: Mostly men that sang or
MW: Yeah, mostly men. Well there was some good singers ladies in town to that sang along sometimes.
HR: Like your dad and mother were like older teenagers when they came over.
Lady Speaking: were they in choirs in Russia? Did they have choirs in Russia?
MW: They never talked about it. No.
HR: I would think that, the Glueckstal counties were my ancestors came from they had really big organs installed at those churches at the turn of the century. So I would think that, what village did your family come from?
HR: From Baden, I would think that there is only one churches have good pipe organs by then too, and had choirs and
MW: I would think that they should have because that was the first thing they thought about when they came over here. The first thing was the church, and all the stuff and like our church has got the big pipe organ and that's was the first thing they thought about was the church.
HR: When was St. Peter and Paul built? Remember?
MW: About 1910 it was finished.
HR: 1910, so before that do meet in people's homes?
MW: No, they had a church east of town before the railroad came in and then when the railroad came in they moved the church into town.
Lady Speaking: There was a town called Tiraspol.
MW: Yeah, Tiraspol, cemeteries still out there.
HR: Oh, really, I have heard of Temvik but I haven't heard of that one.
Lady Speaking: Well it doesn't exists any more; we do have some family buried in the Terrace place cemetery. There is a small cemetery there and that is where
HR: That sounds like a Russian name. I think it is.
Lady Speaking: Yes it was that was one of the diocesan see was in Russia. Do you have any idea when the Tiraspol Church was built?
MW: I think it was in the 1800's
Lady Speaking: Well our great grandparents were married there now that I think about it.
HR: Oh, were they?
Lady Speaking: In 1898, it's in St. Perter and Paul in Tiraspol?
MW: When was it 1914, that's when they had the first celebration, was 25 years
Lady Speaking: I don't remember, I don't think that is really right.
MW: The 25th Anniversary was
Lady Speaking: Of St. Peter Paul's?
MW: I think 1915, 14 or 15
Lady Speaking: Of the Terrace Bell Church?
MW: Yeah. It's probably because of St. Peter Paul's church
Lady Speaking: Right
Lady Speaking: Oh the parish.
MW: When it was started, when it was started. I think I was 1914, it was
Lady Speaking: Oh so they started in 1889.
HR: And that was when parents came across was 1889, somewhere around there?
Lady Speaking: No, they were a little later they were 1907.
Lady Speaking: And where were they married? Your mother and father? They must have been married at St. Peter and Paul in Terrace Bell.
HR: I would think so.
MW: I think so.
HR: Now they have special music for weddings that they used, do you remember?
MW: Well they just had the choir music and the choir. Same music they had at weddings.
HR: At funerals did they sing out at the cemetery?
HR: And was that just the choir or the congregation?
MW: That was the choir that sang years ago, now they don't sing at the cemetery. But years ago it was the choir they all sang that schicksal (fate) song in German that was a real sad song.
HR: Could you sing a little bit of it?
MW: I can't sing it.
HR: "Schicksal" is the name of it?
MW: "Schicksal" that is which would be a farewell. I know Butcher Pete and his wife and Mrs. Bowman and Mrs. Kline we were the leaders of the choir. And they always sang that song out at the cemetery.
HR: On Memorial Day, did they have something out at the cemetery too?
MW: Oh yeah, still have.
MW: For many years following.
HR: And the band would play, I remember when I was growing up we would march out to the cemetery with the band and
MW: Well they march in there but there is no band anymore.
Lady Speaking: Did they still do the gun solute?
MW: Oh yeah.
HR: Yeah, probably could only play taps I bet. Now when you were in high school you said that you sang in the choir, did you do a concert every year then?
MW: Yeah, we had a concert, a school concert every year.
HR: And that was just the choir, or did they have a band? They probably didn't have a band in high school, too small.
MW: No we didn't have a band at that time, no.
HR: So that would be everyone from the first grade on up would perform in that concert, then?
MW: No they had a, they had a choir for the grades and for the high school, two different choirs.
HR: Different choirs
MW: A chorus, what you'd call it.
HR: Yeah, did umm
MW: But we didn't go out and compete with the other schools.
HR: Did you do operettas at all, little plays? Because when I was growing up, did you do operettas when you were in school?
Lady Speaking: We had a Christmas program, which was usually an operetta.
Lady Speaking: and then we did
MW: out in the grade school I can remember, when I was a little boy. And then I had a part as a swimming goose, drummer boy or whatever we was, and the school, that was a small school. And by the time the parents were in it was almost packed.
HR: I bet, yeah. Now did you, at the church did you have a big Christmas program?
MW: Oh yeah, we always had a program.
HR: Now was that on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day?
MW: That was Christmas Day most of the time.
HR: Because we always had a big Christmas Eve program and then we got a bag of candy and nuts after the Christmas Eve program.
MW: They usually gave that, the pastor usually gave that out on Christmas Day after the services. But we had to on Christmas Eve, angles going around.
HR: Oh, did you?
MW: And all over town, from house to house, and Santa Claus. And we, Joyce was in, you were in that too?
Lady Speaking: If you were bet anywhere else, that is the most beautiful tradition,
Lady Speaking: We had teams of teenagers go out and usually there would be two or three young women and two guys usually. And the young women were dressed in these long glossy kind of robes and they would have huge homemade wings, I mean great big things.
MW: They looked like angels.
Lady Speaking: And they would have tinsel and garland and stars pasted on them and then they would wear some kind of contraction with a veil to cover their face. And then the Santa Claus's wore Santa Claus suits and they come around and they had these great big bells that were passed on from group to group and they rang these huge bells and that was your signal that they were there. I remember we always went to grandma's house in town and then they would come in; the Santa's would sing, it was a preset routine, Jingle Bells, and Up on the Housetop and then they would go like into the kitchen, the Santa's would go into the kitchen with mom and dad and then the angels would sing three or four songs to keep the kids occupied and then out in the kitchen, Santa, mom and dad would tell Santa which kid each gift was for. And then the Santa's would come back in and they would distribute the gifts and you know play a little rough you know kind of thing.
MW: Scared the kids.
Lady Speaking: were you good and were you not good and all of that. And then they would pass, they would go around with a purse, one of the Santas would go around with a purse, a black purse always a black purse and you know parents you know would dump in a dollar or two and so by the end and then go back out into the kitchen for a quick shot of redeye. So if you were the last house they got to you know the song could get kind of long and even though they were teenagers they were all walking around and stuff. But that I just thought that that was just a beautiful, beautiful tradition and I don't, do they do that still in Strasburg?
Lady Speaking: Now they did that all though the 60's and 70's it probably wouldn't take too much to restore. But I never heard of anywhere else where that happened.
HR: Well it is a variation of what they did in Russia.
Lady Speaking: Oh, yeah with the Belzenikel.
HR: and then the Christ child came in so, I think what happened was that it changed. Now do you remember that Belzenikel?
MW: Yeah okay I remember the Khristkind. That was the Christ child, and then the Belzenikel.
Lady Speaking: well the one time I went around as an angel, with a team of people, their were two Santas and Belzenikel, that went with us. And the Belzenikel wore a, I guess he came in first and had this whole list of questions for all these kids. The one did this we were out in farms, so we didn't go to too many places because you know by the time we drove from one to another. So then Belzenikel wore this, the way it is described in Russia, a big fur thing and a big thing with horns on his head
MW: a big chain.
Lady Speaking: and a ugly mask and he carried a chain and he did his number and then the santas and, so that was part of the transition because I just wrote a history of the Waller family and they all remember the Belzenikel and could not figure out any reason for the existent of the Belzenikel except to scare people. So then you are right, then they adapted to adapted to American customs apparently and went to the Santa Claus and angels. But that was, did you ever do that?
Person Speaking: No, I never did it, I remember, I mean I remember it at grandma's house all the time.
Lady Speaking: We looked forward to it. Sometime there would be so many teams going around you get tired of them. The third and fourth team of them, people appeared, you know, you could tell them to go away. And then a few times when we all, when we were a little older and had grandchildren, you know, our own kids, and we celebrated on the farm on Christmas Eve. But dad would go to town, get a team, pick up a team off of the street, and bring them out and they would do their number and then he would drive them back in to town.
MW: Or write a note before that they should come at a certain time that evening.
HR: So that is something that was not part of my background at all and I don't remember any one in Wishek
Lady Speaking: Talking about that
HR: having that as a tradition, I don't know, they may have been before out on the farm but not when I was growing up.
Lady Speaking: Well it was great. I tell people about that, it was the best Christmas Eve ever.
HR: I never realized they had different groups and they just organize themselves and I sort of assume that you just had you know someone in the community pick the group and then to all
Lady Speaking: Well they organized themselves, the teenagers usually about junior or senior in high school
MW: Usually organized be the nuns mostly. See the nuns would, were the instigators.
Lady Speaking: Oh really, not when I was.
MW: Well later on.
HR: Diane can you close the door?
Lady Speaking: Later on I think it was just the kids themselves that did it. Because you could make, I think we made at least twenty dollars.
HR: That was big money back then.
Lady Speaking: Yeah, in 1959, that was the good money. And a lot redeye.
HR: Right, yeah.
Lady Speaking: Or Schnapps or whatever it was that they were serving.
HR: Well my dad made hochseit schnapps, which was what we called it. Now when you made redeye did you use Merichino cherry juice?
HR: See my dad just used olives and so it didn't have the right color so we never called it redeye.
MW: Oh, yeah I used that sometimes too.
HR: I still make it, my dad taught us how to make it so.
Lady Speaking: That's been passed down.
Lady Speaking: We had it Saturday night at the reunion.
HR: Oh, did you? Right, yeah. Sunday we celebrated my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. Some of the relatives were there; they haven't had it for years so they were really excited.
Lady Speaking: Now it still appears pretty frequently in Strasburg, at family gatherings and weddings. And there are still a lot of people that know how to make it.
HR: Were there other church times like you said, the feast day for St. Peter and Paul that was important time, and Christmas,
Lady Speaking: What is the feast day that we use to do where you would walk around outside all the time?
MW: Rogation Days.
Lady Speaking: Rogation Days
MW: The what?
HR: Rogation days, prayer for rain. That is usually in the spring.
MW: Oh, really?
HR: That's just before, what is it, Ascension.
Lady Speaking: Usually in late April or May, I don't if it is the same time
MW: It goes with the Easter season.
HR: Yeah it would be somewhere between Easter and Pentecost.
MW: Yeah, Pentecost, it is before Pentecost, a few days before Pentecost.
HR: And what was that called now again?
MW: Rogation Days.
HR: Oh, Rogation Days.
MW: And we went out around the town several blocks and we carried the alter for a benediction which use to bless the sacrament and exposed and that service, like that and always carried. And at three or four different places, we set up that alter and then we went back to church.
HR: Did some prayers and did singing too.
MW: Yeah, singing and prayers at each stop.
Lady Speaking: I think it was the four points, did you make like a cross that you were doing or was it north, south, east and west?
HR: Well it was, that was what the precession went, all directions.
Lady Speaking: That was what it was when I was little.
HR: Do you know where you started?
MW: We started from the, left the church and then went west and then a block and then we when went south a block and then east a block and then went north a block and then went back to church again.
HR: And mostly the community,
MW: Most of the community
HR: Went along with that as a precession.
Lady Speaking: Yeah, we got out of school.
HR: Oh really, so that was in the middle of the day?
Lady Speaking: No the week was a
MW: It was before Ascension, a Pentecost. Whatever Pentecost fell on it was I think three or four days before.
HR: Yeah because Pentecost was about forty days after Easter on a Sunday, so it would have been maybe the Wednesday before, or something like that.
Lady Speaking: And then we always had another time when there was a lot of singing in the church. We always had the May crowing of the queen, the living rosary.
MW: The living rosary.
HR: Oh, see we didn't do anything on May Day at all. But we did May baskets. Did you do that?
HR: And I was talking to Placid Grosz how much something brought in by the teachers is not a German tradition. But now when did May Day, when you were younger did they put up a Maypole?
MW: No, no.
HR: But, so what you were talking about then was
Lady Speaking: A church ceremony is the living rosary of his cross. And oh, it was a big deal, when we were in high school and even going back the young women were, would create a rosary out of people instead of beads and go all the way around the church. And we would wear prom dresses and very, very dressy dresses, and they'd lead each one of us individually would be the Hail Mary. And then I think they had men to be the Our Father's.
MW: yeah, and what was that, what the First Holy Communicants turned around and put those flowers.
Lady Speaking: I think that was thee, I know what it was, then they carried, they carried the statute and four people were selected. They carry the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Ana really nice.
MW: Yeah, stand
Lady Speaking: Stand kind of thing, four people carried it and I think the people had just, it was usually the first Sunday after first communion and then the next Sunday the first communion kids would wear their, their white again and they would throw flower pedals
MW: In front of the
Lady Speaking: in front of the
MW: precession, they went ahead of the precession and threw those flower pedals.
HR: Yeah because confirmation was right around Easter time.
Lady Speaking: Confirmation wasn't every year.
HR: Oh, it wasn't
Lady Speaking: it was about every three or four years. Whenever the bishop could make the rounds. And that didn't go in with the, and it was when the bishop could make it. It wasn't a set day.
HR: Because in Russia they do talk about putting up Maypoles and then having the Maypoles celebration and (unclear) was very, very common. But the girls would dress up also and then fellows would put up the clothes the night before and stuff like that. But again I haven't heard of any place in the United States where they have that sort of thing. But the holdovers in one way or another, but in the Old Catholic tradition, they may have had thee, what you are talking about is the rosary observation week that made them (unclear) to small reading and see if I can find out more about that.
Lady Speaking: And the white dressed in white for the first communion, my grandmother talked about that, whose mother told me all about that day and then a young. She said that a few weeks or a few months after the first communion one of her classmates died and then all the communicants were asked to were their white again in so they made a precession to the cemetery. And she really remembered that, it rained that day, and it was a very, very sad day, she said.
HR: I'm sure, yeah.
Lady Speaking: It was a friend of hers that died. So I think they blended religion into their daily lives a lot more then we do now.
HR: Oh absolutely, that is for certainly the case. So what haven't we talked about?
MW: I don't know.
HR: We did talk about quite a bit.
Lady Speaking: Yes, we did.
HR: Well I really appreciate your taking the time to sit down and talk about this, it always sort of interesting to reminisce anyway. And a this type of information that we want to, you know, get down on tape too while we still can, so it is something. Thank you Marie for contacting me about that.
Lady Speaking: I am glad you let us sit in because we are just starting the interview process, we did the one, I did the Balher Family and next week I helped to interview my dad with the questions that I have on hand and so it is nice to sit and listen to an expert.