Life-Style for an Early 1900’s Rural Kansas Settler
A 1986 Recollection by Pauline (Filbert) Kleweno
Carl also had a high school education. William Vogelman, the banker, convinced our parents that Carl should have a high school and college education. While he attended high school, he roomed and boarded with John and Bertha. During school days, he had a job as usher at the Bazine Theater—which paid 50 cents a night. (Pictures were in black and white only.) The theater was on the east side of the street north of Schenkel's Grocery Store. After high school graduation, he attend Bethany College at Lindsberg, Kansas, for two years. He then was transferred to Northwestern University at Chicago to study for entrance into medical school. Subsequently, he entered the University of Kansas to study for his doctorate in medicine. This was going very well – until his studies included cadavers (deceased human bodies). On his way home one day, he stopped for lunch; with him was a bag of human bones. He started eating and just couldn't! The thought of someone in his brown bag over-played his mind. He became ill, losing weight, and had to quit school He often wondered if the human bones he left behind were made into soup in the cafe.
Fritz Walkintz also attended university with Carl in the field of medicine. Mr. Vogelman also encouraged Sam Staley, who attended the Moody Bible Institute for Ministry.
The Harvest and Routine Chores
Harvest was a very busy time. Wheat, barley, oats and, in some years, millet was grown. Harvest Season lasted from two to three weeks. It was very hot during this season. The day always started with chores—milking from eight to ten cows. The milk was taken to a room for preparation. The separator was a machine which was turned by hand, and separated the milk into cream and skim milk. The cream was so thick you could spoon it out of a jar. The skim milk was fed to the calves and hogs. Our next task was to feed the horses and prepare them for the harvest activities. It took four horses to pull the header, and four horses to pull each barge. The morning chores ended with feeding the chickens and hogs.
Breakfast followed—with extra mouths to feed. Usually two or more men, who had their night's rest in the barn’s hayloft, were hired. These men were strangers, who were in need of work in order to feed their families. Some came on foot, or stole a ride on the Santa Fe railroad cars, and were called bums. Most of them were good, hard working men. Now and then one would quit after a day or two of work. They would work just long enough to get some good meals and enough money to move on to greener pastures.
Mother was a good cook, and always had a hearty breakfast, usually consisting of cream-of-wheat, sausage, eggs, or gravy on rye bread. Noon meals consisted of beef roast, or fried chicken, potatoes, and a vegetable (such as green beans, beets, tomatoes or cucumber) grown in our garden. When we were having fried or baked chicken, those chickens had to be run down, killed, and dressed before eleven o'clock. Vegetables were dug and cleaned. Bread was baked every other day. This was all cooked on a stove (range) fed by wood, cow chips, or corncobs. During winter months, some coal was used. Meals were served around a long dining table adjacent to a large wall bench.
My father always found time to share a scripture and prayer at breakfast, and prayer at every meal. After prayers were completed, I had to tend to an oil stove. It had four oil wick burners and chimneys, and was fed by a one-gallon container of kerosene, which seemed to me to be always empty.
Wheat was cut and stacked; later it was threshed by a threshing machine that was usually owned by one or two families who made this a business, serving the community—going from one farm to another. Additional to the machinery, there was a cook shack, which was a shack on wheels. The harvesters’ women traveled with the men. The women cooked for the men in the fields. This was of the period of time when farmers and neighbors helped each other until the task was finished. Individual families did not own their own harvesting equipment.
Coal, Wood, Cow-chips and Corncobs
A wagonload of coal was bought, to fuel the potbelly stove in the living room. It was stored in a coal shed. The coal shed and our “two-holer” (outhouse or privy) were under one roof. Privy description: a small building, having a bench with a large hole. To use, place buttocks over the hole to expel! Furnishings: Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs. They also served as reading material for passing time. We skipped the slick colored pages. Ha!
General Spring and Fall Housekeeping
We had a large kitchen, kitchen pantry, dining room and three bedrooms. This took a week of cleaning. All ceilings and walls were washed, curtains and bedding were aired or washed, and mattresses were carried out to air. One of the mattresses was of cornhusk construction: heavy ticking filled with cornhusks. One time it was hung to air on a corncrib. Bertha and Anna were in charge of doing the hard cleaning. In a few days, after all the cleaning had been completed, there was a strange odor in one of the bedrooms. As days passed, it became very bad. They checked the attic for dead birds....finally it dawned on them to check the mattress. We had been sleeping on dead mice! SO MUCH FOR SPRING CLEANING.
Preparations for Fall and Winter Months
Besides canning fruits and vegetables and rendering lard, we prepared meat. It was fried or roasted, then put into 5 to 10 gallon crocks and covered with fresh hot lard. The prepared meat was stored in a cave or cellar. Fifty-pound bags of apples and potatoes were bought (5 to 6 bags of each). Also, small watermelons were put in large barrels, then covered with salt brine and soured.
Our vehicles were a spring wagon (a two-seater), top buggy wagon, sled, and finally, a Model T Ford. On Sunday, it was the two-seater which was our "transportation of choice” with such a large family. On Sunday evening, the older girls used the top buggy to attend Espworth League. When it snowed, we were grateful to have the sled, as it would glide over deep snow.
Dick and Daisy must find their places in history, as they were the two most reliable horses. Dick was black and very streamlined. Daisy was gray, fat, and very gentle. We really enjoyed riding her; however, she was hard to hang onto with her roly-poly belly. Jack and Kenny were mules trained for the wagons, and hard labor for pulling tasks. Dad was a very patient man; wild horses were his specialty. He purchased many. He broke these horses for riding as well as for ""hitching to pull.” Dad did a lot of trading and selling.
The first beautiful car I remember was owned by Mr. Forbes. It was a white Buick, without doors and with a lantern on each side. Every time he came out to check the poles and lines, we would run to meet him so we could see that beautiful car. This was before we owned a car.
The Santa Fe railroad was a very important service to the community—for businesses as well as farmers. Groceries, fuel, grains, lumber, mail, and passengers were transported by train. To take a train was very frightening as a child. I recall my mother had not seen her sister Anna Maria(Pinnecker) Gieswein in years. She lived northwest of Garden City on a farm. Mother took August III (Gus), who was the baby, and me (Pauline). We left by train from Bazine. I cannot recall where they met us; however, it was by horse and buggy. I do not remember who met us at the train station. When Mother met her sister at the door, she thought it was a stranger with two kids. She said, “I have no woot (wood), my stofe (stove) is capoot (broke) and yo haff the baby.”
Brother (Jake) broke his leg riding a horse with his friends, Jake Foos and George Strauch, on a Sunday afternoon. They were racing in the pasture. Brother Jake’s horse stepped in a hole and threw him, breaking his leg between the hip and knee. Dr. Latimer from Alexander was called, also the doctor. from Bazine (name?). The doctors together set his leg. There were no pain tablets (such as aspirin) to relieve his suffering. He suffered so much for several days that Mother was at her wit’s end. She called Henry Weaver, a neighbor, to come and keep him company. By the time he was able to be up and walking, his leg was so crooked the doctors had to re-break and reset it without the use of any pain medicine. This sticks out in my memory because of his screaming “bloody murder.”
Carl's accident was with Daddy while husking corn. Carl and John were riding in the back of the wagon. On their way home, Carl reached out to catch a corn stalk and fell out of the wagon—with the back wheel running over his head. It was his first year of school. This accident caused Carl to remain in the first grade for two years. Our parents and his teacher thought this accident was the eason for his being a slow learner for the first few years of school.
John and Carl were playing in the hayloft. They were jumping from the loft into a header barge, when Johnnie missed and caught the door tracks with his hand. It hurt his hands so he turned loose and fell into the doorway, hitting his head on a rock. Carl ran to the house to tell Mother, “Johnnie fell, and he was kapoot” (dead). They carried him into the house and Dr. Latimer was called from Alexander. His only transportation at that time was a bicycle. Mother put hot packs on his head, not knowing anything about taking pulse. She was almost certain he was dead. She walked around the outside of the house praying that God would let him live. When Dr. Latimer came several hours later, he put cold packs on hi head and John regained consciousness.
The Epidemic of 1919
Many people died during the flu epidemic of 1919. Until 1919, we had not heard of the “flu .” It began in the army camps and very quickly spread all over the country. It was a bitter cold winter, one of the worst storms most had lived through.
The flu struck our family and all became very ill – except Anna and Daddy. They did all of the chores and took care of the rest of us at the same time. There were no drugs or medications, just home remedies. They used cold packs for high fever, and honey mixed with red pepper for coughs. Orange juice was considered important. I remember Dad going by horseback to get enough oranges. Aunt Lena took care of thirteen families during the epidemic and never contracted the flu. It was reported many men died in the army camps.
The Weavers bought a radio—one with earphones. We were allowed to pay them a visit and listen to the radio. About all we could hear was static. This itself seemed unreal: to hear “sounds out of a box.”
The German Methodist Church and Christian parents played a very important part in our lives. Sunday morning services, afternoon prayer meeting, Wednesday evening prayer meeting, and services Sunday evening. There were also programs for the youth (the Ephworth League) held on Sunday evenings. These services were always faithfully attended. It never was too cold or too hot, rain or snow—so long as the snow wasn't too deep for the horses to make it seven miles to town. (Never were there any excuses.)
Prayer meetings were often held in the homes. Guests were invited for dinner. The meal usually was a large kettle of chicken and noodles, or a large beef roast with roast potatoes, dill-pickles, and rye bread and butter. For dessert, canned peaches were served. After dishes were done, they gathered in the living room for the singing of hymns, prayer, Bible study, and testimonies! The church was the nucleus and social aspect of our lives.
Mother belonged to the women's missionary society. They believed a mission minded church was a growing church, with missions at home and overseas. Mother raised turkeys and kept a garden as her own mission projects. Ten percent of what she sold went to missions.
She would also spend one day a week baking sweet breads and other baked items. The following day, Daddy would hitch up Dick to the top buggy, and she would make the rounds visiting the sick, taking them some of her baked goods. One time she took me along to the Borgers, south of town. Grandma Borger had suffered a stroke and was in a wheelchair. She would also go to see Grandma and Grandpa Filbert, and Aunt Lydia. Grandma Filbert had suffered a stroke and was confined to her bed and wheelchair during her last seven years with us. Just a short distance from the Mayflower schoolhouse, they lived in a native ranch house. Mayflower schoolhouse is where we attended school. As infants, we were all baptized. This was a commitment, a dedication our parents made to God. With God’s help, Church attendance, Bible readings, prayer and through Christian example, my parents lived their promise—a part of their "Mission.”
Vacation Bible School
After the close of public school each year, we had three weeks of Bible School. Our teacher was the minister. We learned to memorize Bible verses, Bible stories, and also to read and write the "German Language.” We attended five days a week from 9 am to 4 pm. At age 14, we were confirmed and became members of the church. It should be noted—Volga German communities tried to preserve a similar colony life-style as in the colonies they left in Russia. They wanted to keep the language and customs intact.
We drove each day to Bible School with Dick, the horse, hitched to a top buggy. This was the only horse trained to pull single. The hitching post was north of the church and south of the parsonage, which is now (1986) owned by Pearl Craig. We took our lunch each day, which usually consisted of a jelly sandwich, apple, and sometimes-homemade cookies, if not eaten the night before. Sometimes we were allowed 10 to 15 cents to
spend uptown in Bazine. (Uptown refers to 2 1/2 blocks N.E. of the church.)
I mention the hitching post because of a learning lesson: weeds had grown between the hitching posts, and we found a nest of eggs. Not knowing who the hen belonged to that laid the eggs, Martha (Foos) Filbert, Deborah (Dewald) Kleweno, and I gathered the eggs and took them to the Henry Schenkel Produce. We received enough money to go to John Schenkel’s Grocery Store to buy chewing gum. When class started at one o'clock, we were late. The minister was waiting for us as we came in. We had to put out our hands and he used the ruler. It was the embarrassment that hurt. We were never late again.
Our celebrations were based around the religious holidays of Christmas and Easter. Christmas was most special because of the treats we received. Christmas at home and at church are fond memories. We memorized poems and looked forward to the Christmas Eve service. The church always had the most beautiful Christmas tree. After we had recited our poems and had done our very best, treats—which were in brown bags—were passed out to the head of each family as their names were called. Each family received the number of bags according to the number of children in that family. There were extra bags made for children of visitors. Our bag of treats always contained candy, nuts, plus an apple and an orange. At home, very little was spent on holiday gift giving.
We attended Mayflower Grade School. Only a grade school education was important in those days, especially for girls. Mother could teach us all we needed to know to be a good housekeeper and wife!
They thought it was more important for boys, for they were to do all of the business. Most of us had some grade school, but no high school education, except for Dorothy. Gus, Martha, and Dorothy finished grade school in Bazine. Gus was a graduate of Bazine High School. Dorothy had one year of high school.
I have written candidly for future generations of life and times as I have remembered. Hopefully, future generations of “Filberts” will enjoy knowing something of their ancestry. The Filberts’ are thankful for a “Christian Heritage.” Also, this is a Heritage of Courage, Faith, Hope and Love.
THE STRENGTH OF A NATION BEGINS IN THE HOME AND FAMILY!
Pauline (Filbert) Kleweno
Transcribed by Elizabeth Katharine (Kleweno) Slack
Inserts with the help of Dorothy (Filbert) Ely and Wilma (Kleweno) James