Can Come True: An Autobiography
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."
--- Ervin Schumacher
Wedding of Christian and Christina
The farm where we were raised, eighteen
miles northeast of Eureka, S.D.