By Ervin Schumacher
Illustrations by grandson Reeve Schumacher, Published by Black Hat Press, Goodhue, Minnesota, copyright 1997, 102 pages, softcover.
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to announce the availability of Ervin Schumacher's autobiography, Dreams Can Come True.
In referring to his Germans from Russia heritage, the Schumacher and Schnabel families immigrated from Glückstal village (Moldova region) to Eureka, South Dakota, in 1889. His maternal Klooz (formerly Klotz) and Spitzer families originated from Kassel village. Although most German families were farmers, grandfather Klooz's career was unique as a wheat flour miller at Eureka.
Growing up in a family of fourteen children is reflected in Ervin's poem, "Mothers." He further recounts, "The entire basement was Mother's kitchen where she prepared our meals on the wood cook stove, and where we all ate at a large, long table. Our meals began with a table prayer; after the meal, Father said the prayer of Thanksgiving for receiving the food."
Borscht, a Russian soup of cabbage and root vegetables, was cooked in quantities of five gallons or more for each meal. Father exhorted us children to eat the lean pork along with the fat back, but this was difficult for our young tastes. Instead, we secretly fed our fat scraps to the house cat at our feet. The cat's stomach adjusted to this rich diet, and we were never caught!
Ervin imprints the fury of a tornado (August 1939) upon a ravaged farmstead -- theirs! The drudgery of constant laundry; continual hauling of barnyard manure -- dried for household fuel and isolation of severe winters. Fresh popcorn was a cold winter treat, with special hand-cranked ice cream. There were few toys! Poor lighting and a game of checkers. (Prairie life before electrical conveniences).
"Even though our parents were eager for us children to read and write English, once a week we sat around our kitchen table to read and write in German." "We also spoke our village dialects. What a confusion to speak four different languages." These differing German folk dialects helped preserve family traditions. Such experiences reflected Ervin's early youth.
The challenges of drought and economic hardship of the "Dirty 30s" forced many families to receive government-funded commodities, such as grapefruit and oranges. "Our father and his brother Ludwig were the only ones in McPherson County, South Dakota, that would not accept relief or food commodities during those hard years." "Our family worked hard, and despite the drought our family prospered." "My parents were among the few who were able to pay their taxes and keep their farm free of debt." Ervin witnessed the agricultural transition from draft horses to iron and steel tractors.
Life had simple pleasures. ... "We didn't have much time to play ... We went to Long Lake (rural village) where we met our friends. ... We could play table billiards in Zimmmerman's Pool Hall. "Very seldom in our teens did we travel to a bigger town."
This book continues through marriage, family life, church life, higher education, career advancement and retirement life.
While this autobiography recounts the stigmas, hardships, and strong determination for successful assimilation of an ethnic German heritage on the Dakota prairies and plains of North America, Ervin's complimentary sequel, Forward in Faith, provides 300 years of the ethnic German from Russia legacy, in their spectrum of diversity and adversity, from western Europe, Russian Empire, and North America to post-Tsarist tragedy and post-Soviet quandary. This world history educator provides unique cultural insights and political observations with reliable accuracy.
Review by Jay Gage, Exhibits Curator, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo
About the author:
Ervin Schumacher, after growing up on a farm in a family with eight siblings, farming on his own with his wife and two children, going back to school, teaching, and then spending twenty-seven years as South Dakota Medicaid Director in Pierre, South Dakota, where he lives with his wife Gertrude, now divides his time between Pierre and Mesa, Arizona, where they spend their winters. His time is spent refinishing antiques, keeping up their homes, writing and traveling. This is his first book in print. He plans to continue to write about his interesting and lucky life that took him from his stark beginnings in a farm home with no modern conveniences to the capital of South Dakota and a fine home on a tree farm outside of Pierre. In his own words the lesson of his life is this:
"...in America the opportunities are available to anyone who has the desire and determination to work and get ahead. There are times when we must sacrifice to obtain the life we dream about for ourselves and our children and grandchildren."
Wedding of Christian and Christina (Klooz) Schumacher
The farm where we were raised, eighteen miles northeast of Eureka, S.D.
Dreams Can Come True: An Autobiography
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