THE BONGERS STORY
Johan Wilhelm Laebrecht Bongers left his home in the Pommern area, Bromstad,Germany to avoid having to serve again in the Kaisers' Army. He was 22 years old when he was discharged after serving his mandatory time and now he was supposed to serve again. So at age 38 he left his family and traveled to Stettin, on the Baltic Sea, (in what is now Poland) to board the ship Polteria November 23, 1892. They did not arrive in the port of New York until December 11, 1892. He made his way to Wausau, Wisconsin and eventually in January of 1893 he arrived in Tomahawk. There was a large settlement or Pommern Germans in the Stevens Point, Wausau and Marathon County area at that time. We do not know what he did to support himself but have to assume that he found employment in the woods with the loggers as did many of the early settlers. We have a large trunk with some carpentry tools in the old farmhouse attic that I was told belonged to him, and we know he was skilled in carpentry, so maybe he also could have done carpentry.
His name was found in the communicant listing of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in the years 1895&1896, and as a Baptism sponsor For 3 different neighborhood children in the years 1899,1901 & 1917.So we know he was of the Lutheran faith.
He must have been frugal because in November 1897(just 5 years after his arrival) he purchased 80 acres of land south of Tomahawk, on what is now County Road E. It had a small 16x28 frame house that Grampa improved with a field stone wall and cement floor basement; and a small 24x48 barn to protect his horses and cows from the elements to which he also added a storage shed for the machinery. At the time he purchased the property it had 8 acres cleared; 12 acres left in stumps and 60 acres wild or new growth. There were two creeks on the property, one to the north of the house which later was called Bauer's Creek and flowed to the Wisconsin River. The other creek was to the south of the home and merges with the Bauer creek across the road to the east. This creek was convenient for watering the cattle since it was closer to the house and barn. All of the work was clone by hand like cutting the hay with a hand scythe, or planting any crops like potatoes or grains. His horse was invaluable for stump and boulder removal and plowing up the cleared areas for the crops. He worked hard clearing the land, planting crops and caring for his animals but he was alone. Meanwhile, further south along Hwy. E, the August Jaeschke family was struggling to survive following a fire that had destroyed their barn and animals.
August and Gertrude Jaeschke had left Schlessinger, Germany in 1896. They traveled on the steamer LA TOURAINE from LeHavre, Prance on March 7 and arrived in New York March 15, 1896 accompanied by their three little girls; Theresia ace 8, Margaretha age 6, and Anna age 2. August Jaeschke (also spelled Jaschke) and Gertrude Reuter (also spelled Reiter) were married in Aachen, located on the western German border near Belgium and the town of Köln in Germany. This is apparently where Gertrude was born and grew up.
August Jaeschke, Margartha's Father
Gertrude Reuter Jaeschke with Prize Jerseys.
Previous to coming to America they (August & Gertrude) apparently lived at Essen, according to a document I found. Gertrude was very reluctant to leave her family of widowed mother, brother and 2 sisters, but most of all she felt sorrow about her 3 children that had <lied and were buried there in Germany. August had been a miner and later a Bar Manager and had been "watering the booze" to get extra money for their passage to America. The story has been passed down that he was about to get caught by the authorities so they had to leave hurriedly in the night to avoid being arrested. This was even harder on Gertrude since she never had a chance to say a proper goodbye to her family.
I do not have the birthplace name for August, but I do know that his father was named Franz and his mother was name Theria.
I do not know why they came to this area but we must assume they knew people or relatives in this area. There was a cigar maker in the area with the name Jaeschke also but I haven't made a connection between the families. Apparently they homesteaded 80 acres in the town of Rock Falls when they arrived, and attempted farming. We heard the stories of the Jersey cows that were Gramma Jaeschke’s pride & joy. They also had chickens and pigs along with a work horse and the necessary farming equipment, wagons, etc. There was an abundance of wild life and wild fruits, especially blueberries and raspberries on their property. There was also a creek on the property which eventually ran into the Wisconsin River. I am sure this was used for watering the cattle. Gramma Margaret told my sister & the story of how she had to bury her younger brother and sister near the creek after they died of Diphtheria. I believe the brother was named Anton and the sister was Mary.
Margaretha-17 and Johan (Bill)-54 Bongers on wedding June 6, 1908.
August Jaeschke made an arrangement with Johan Bongers (who also went by the name Wilhelm) that his daughter Margaretha would marry Mr. Bongers in exchange for a cow. The Jaeschke's barn had burned with all the animals and whatever hay and vegetables that had been stored for the winter. Mother said that Gramma told her that there was a porcupine that had gotten caught in the fire and was roasted, which they used for food that winter. Also they managed to salvage some potatoes that had been buried under the hay, otherwise they had to depend on whatever they could beg from or were given by the neighbors. So Margaretha age 17, and Johan age 54, were married June 6, 1908 by Judge B.G. Roll at Tomahawk, Wisconsin. They had 4 children: Maria Adelgunda, Johanna Birtha, Wilhelm Josepht and August Laebrecht. Johan got his Naturalization papers in 1915 and continued to work hard with help from Margaret to provide for the family. A small spruce tree was planted near the front of the house about this time in recognition of his citizenship. All work was done by hand like milking the cows, cutting the hay with a hand scythe, and stacking it in shocks to be loaded by hand onto the wagon which was pulled by the horse that he was so proud of. Her name was Molly, and later they raised a colt named Prince from her, so they had a team. Molly was used for clearing the Land and especially pulling stumps. Field work was mostly done by hand also, although they did have a one horse plow. The horse was invaluable for pulling stumps when clearing the fields and for helping move some of the large boulders. The children's job was to help pick rocks and put them onto the stoneboat which would then he pulled to the edge of the field and unloaded to form stone fences to separate the pasture areas from the planted fields.
Mr. Bongers had built a large addition to the small home that included a large kitchen with wainscoting all around the lower walls. A large living room or parlor, a long covered front porch, a woodshed off the kitchen Chat could be reached without going outside, and a full upstairs attic that was divided into two bedrooms and a work area where grampa repaired harnesses, shoes, tools and built furniture. The floors in the kitchen and parlor were polished hardwood. Access to the cellar was gained through a trap door in what had been the main room of the cabin but after the remodeling was now a bedroom. This cellar was divided into three main areas. The first area at the bottom of the stairs had 2 special bins for storing potatoes and vegetables, the next area had shelves for storing the jars of canned berries, vegetables and fruits. Later (1929) a big wood furnace was added and wood was also stored there in an area beyond the furnace. After the house was finished Crampa cut logs and started hewing them by hand to build a new barn so he could increase the number of cattle and crops. He did not live to complete this new barn however. (We believe after his death the neighbors rallied to help complete what he had started.) Meanwhile, he had continued to clear stumps and pick rocks to ready the fields for crops. The children also had to help with the housework plus watching the cattle as they grazed, taking care of the chickens and pigs, helping in the garden with preparation, planting and weeding, and picking rocks from the fields.
May 2, 1923 was a damp, dreary day when Johan, Margaretha, Marie and Bill were attempting to clear another field. Johan was dynamiting stumps with picric acid. (According to an early newspaper article, the picric was supplied by the government following the was, for clearing stumps and fields) Margaret would drive the horse after it was hitched to the stump to pull it out and drag it to the side of the field along the stone fence. Marie and Bill were helping by picking up rocks and putting them onto the stone boat to be unloaded onto the piles making the fences. Johan was 69 years old, Margaret was 32, Marie was 14, Bill was 11, Johanna was 13 and Auggie was just 4 when their lives changed drastically. According to the newspaper account Mr. Bongers was killed when a stick of picric which he was using to blow stumps exploded while in the act of trying to light a sluggish piece of fuse. He was killed instantly. Mom, (Marie) told me that. She, Bill and Gramma "picked up the pieces of what was left of her dad and put them on the stone boat". Gramma went over to the Bauer's (neighbors across the road) to get help from Ernie and they took the body into town. After the necessary care and papers were taken care of, the body was brought back home where Mom remembered that it was lying in state in the living room and neighbors came to pay their respects. There was some difficulty surrounding the burial and as the story was related to me, although Grampa Bangers was Lutheran, apparently he hadn't been a faithful church member after he had his farm and cattle to take care of. The farm also was located at least 5 miles from town which would have made it difficult to get to services on time. So, for whatever reason, that Minister wouldn't bury him. Gramma Jaeschke was a staunch Catholic and paid the local Priest to allow Mr. Bangers to be buried in the Catholic Cemetery.
Johanna-12. Marie-14, Mom Margaret-32, Bill-11. August-4
Bongers homestead purchased in Nov, 1897, picture about 1926.
Some of mother's memories of her father were of sitting on the back porch after dark and the chores were done in summer, when he would tell her stories about Germany. Unfortunately she did not share any of them with us, at least not that I remember. The only thing was the fact that he had served his time in the German Army and was supposed to have to serve again but he didn't want to, so he left. She especially remembered that he used the smoke from his pipe to help ward off the mosquitoes. She felt very close to her Father and liked him although they lived by the old German adage that "children should be seen and not heard". Her brother Bill however did not have pleasant memories of his father and did not want to talk about or try to remember many details of life before he was killed. Mother told of how her dad would drive the wagon to town for supplies and if he encountered old Indian Pete along the way, he would give him a ride. This apparently was a kindness not extended to him by many and he rewarded Grampa with a small beaded leather pouch that was found with some coins, in his pocket the day he was killed. Other memories were that he always wore a battered felt hat and always had a pipe in his mouth. An old neighbor told me that he had no teeth and this neighbor always wondered how he kept the pipe from falling out of his mouth.
We have some wooden shoes that mother said her father had made by hand, and they were used by the farmers in Germany. They look like the shoes you sec in pictures of the Dutch in Holland. She also had a small pair of clog type shoes with a black leather piece across the top that she said he had made for her. In the attic was a small bed painted white and pale green that mother said was the bed her dad had made for her when she was a baby. There is also a smaller version of that bed painted red that he made for the girls (Marie and Johanna's) dolls. When we were young, my sister & I used them for our dolls. In the attic we also had 2 metal shoe repair stands, with four or five foot sizes- from 2 very tiny child size to a larger man's size. These would slip onto the base or stand while he was working on the shoe. He also had a hand stitching needle an awl and various other things used for shoe repair. These stayed at the house and with the family when Mom & dad were married. I remember my father using them to repair shoes and boots during the hard depression times. Grampa Bongers apparently used them when making the wooden shoes and for repairing the family's shoes. They have a square metal base and a metal shaft that fits into a slot in the base. On top of the shaft fits a removable foot shaped metal form that the shoe would slip over.
Mr. Bongers apparently was an educated man and according to a 1900 census he could read and write English. Prom mother's memories apparently he encouraged the children in school and was in attendance at the local school board meetings. The Bongers children attended a one room school only 1/4 mile from their home. It was called The Bigelow School apparently because the lumber for it was donated by a Eugene Bigelow who owned a sawmill nearby. The land was not owned by him however. Old records from the School Board meetings were found which listed Grampa Bongers several times as being the low bidder to clean the school every 2 months for amounts from $6.50 to $10. He never had a contract but it might be interesting to note that low bidders to supply wood for the school use were for 15 cords of hardwood at $1.50 and 2 cords of kindling at $2 per cord. Other interesting facts from these old records were that the school year was to last 8 months, with the month to consist of 20 days and in 1.913 through 1917 the teacher was paid $45 per month. Of course there were outhouses for toilets, the pump and pail with dipper for drinking water, (which often froze in winter), plus the wood stove. Apparently there were recitation benches around the stove, and the older children helped the younger ones with their seatwork or reading. Lights were kerosene lamps but were used only on very dark days. The children carried their lunches in the usual metal syrup or lard pails. Lunch was often a piece of homemade bread with lard and sugar, plus an available vegetable like raw rutabaga in winter. Usually there was an all school picnic at the end of the year that was attended by all the neighborhood. Mother started school when she was 6 years old and was to graduate at age 14 about 3 or 4 weeks after her father was killed.
Now the struggle really began. Gramma managed to find odd jobs to help support the family until the children were old enough to help. it must have been a time of great uncertainty, but they hung together and managed. I have learned through stories from family, neighbors, letters & pictures that at this time they had some of their woods logged off by a Mr. Emil Hanke from the Wausau area. During this logging time the Hanke crew made their camp at the farm and Gramma was the cook. Bill also earned extra money for the family by working in the camp, doing odd jobs including helping carry water for the kitchen, helping as needed with the meal preparation, as a "go-fer" for the loggers, as a helper with the teams of horses, and as an "jeer" on the water sled. At night, after the teams & sleds were all back in camp a sled would go out onto the trails that had been used and rutted during the day. They carried a large barrel, or several barrels of water, which would be dumped on the trail to freeze overnight to make it easier for the horses to pull the heavy sleds loaded with logs. This Hanke crew later had a Camp somewhere on County A where Gramma & Uncle Bill also worked. Uncle Bill once told me that he wanted to quit school and work in the woods because he could make 50 cents a day and they really could use the money, but Gramma told him he couldn't quit, that he HAD to finish eighth grade. Until they were out of school the girls, Aunt Jo and Mom(Marie) and Bill too, had to do much of the work on the farm like caring for the animals, milking, cleaning barn, feeding, haying, gardening, cooking, laundry and cleaning plus I suppose the mending and looking after their little brother August. As they were able and as they got older, they considered themselves fortunate to obtain jobs working as maids or helpers in other people’s homes, and eventually at local resorts. Although he was only 4 when his father was killed, Auggie had his jobs to do too I am sure. We have a picture of him leading the jersey cow at this tender age. It was common practice to stake the cows out and let them graze an area, then move her/them to another spot. In the picture, that's what it appears he was doing. I'm sure he was capable of carrying in firewood, helping to care for the chickens and maybe even helping weed the garden. There are always enough jobs to do on a farm and everyone was needed to help according to their abilities. Marie, Bill and Johanna all attended the one room Bigelow School located just 1/4 mile to the north from their home. Of course they walked. Marie managed to attend High School the first year or two by walking the approximately 5 miles or catching a ride with whoever might be heading that way. Because she was the oldest and felt great responsibility she also helped on the farm and looking after her brothers and sister, besides helping Gramma as much as possible. Her age and feelings of responsibility also helped to create a closeness with her mother. In her later years of High School, she worked for room and board at the home of the school principal, Mr. Boyle. She apparently was responsible for meal preparation and cleanup, laundry, other house cleaning and some care of their son "Bobby". I recall mother telling stories of some of the duties she had there and what a "picky", demanding person Mrs. Boyle was. Often criticizing her for not knowing how to do some task even though she hadn't been taught how. Marie had a fondness for Mr. Boyle and was encouraged by him with her studies. He apparently was the one who instilled the idea and encouraged her to attend the Normal School to become a Rural School teacher. This she did after High School and graduated in 1929. She worked as a maid and kitchen helper at Al Kahn's Resort several summers to save the money to go to school. Her first teaching job was at the Gladfelter School on Hwy. 86, for which she was paid 8100 a month. She boarded with the Van Harpen family during that school year. Because of the depression her job was given to someone with more seniority and she went to Milwaukee to find work. Through some old family friends the Boehlke's, she was able to find work as a maid, housekeeper & mother's helper for a family named Krohn, where the father was a banker. I believe in the fall of 1932, she was offered another teaching job, this time at the Copper Lake school near Irma, for $75 per month. It was a poor district where the students usually had to share books and supplies. Marie often supplied paper, pencils, library books, maps or other things to help the learning and teaching process. She even brought her complete set of 1929 encyclopedias for them to use. With some of the monies earned teaching and at her various other jobs, Marie saved enough to purchase an additional 80 acres of land to the north and west of the original 80 acres in 1932. In 1934 she married Henry Remmers and was no longer allowed to teach because of her married status. For a brief time the newlyweds lived with Henry's widowed, alcoholic mother in her home located in Jersey City. Mrs. Remmers soon became unmanageable at home because of her deteriorating mental condition and had to be placed in a safer hospital setting. This move necessitated the sale of her home so Marie and Henry made an agreement with Margaret to buy the homestead. A 10 acre parcel was set aside for Gramma and a small, two room, log cabin was built by Uncle Bill and Johanna's husband George Kasper, so she would always have a place of her own to go to. The cabin was built on Tamarack stringers from the nearby woods, and the outside walls were logs also from trees cut on the property. At this time Gramma Margaret was working as a housekeeper for the Nels Nelson family. Marie & Henry lived on the farm until their deaths. They had four children; Lillian, Eleanore, Edward & John. Henry also worked at the Paper Mill, Owens-Illinois and other jobs as necessary to pay the bills, besides keeping up with the farm work and other family responsibilities and recreation activities. Marie and Henry added another 80 acres to the property, west of the original homestead in about 1946. This was a wooded piece and was fenced for pasture. Because of Henry's varied work schedule, the necessary daily chores plus helping with plowing, planting, haying and harvesting often fell on the shoulders of Marie and the children, especially the boys as they grew older. As a result, the "inside" work like; preparing the food and cooking the meals, cleaning, canning & preserving, laundry, ironing & some mending, dusting, sweeping or scrubbing floors, keeping the wood fire going and the water reservoir filled in the stove became the girls responsibility, as well as gardening, and helping to care for the animals, helping with haying, feeding & watering the chickens or collecting the eggs, getting the cows from the pasture or watching them graze in the fields after the hay had been harvested, plus shoveling snow or helping to water the cattle in winter, picking rocks, carrying in wood to fill the wood box, or carrying in water for cooking or drinking were available chores for either sex. Marie was the "glue" that kept things working together, overseeing that things were done both inside and out in a timely way. Always the teacher however she encouraged the children to do their best in school and whatever activity they were involved in. She was available to help with homework and took an active part in what was happening at: the school. Both Marie & Henry always attended any school function whenever possible. Things like Parents Day, Special programs like Veterans Day, Christmas Programs, Spring concerts, Sports activities the children might be participating in, PTA meetings and other activities. Marie held one or the other of the offices ie; President or Secretary at various times through the childrens' years at Fulsher School too. The PTA also sponsored dances, pot luck suppers, card parties and box socials where Marie and Henry were active participants or supporters. Marie became an assistant 4-H Leader with Mrs. Gladys Van Maastricht and later became the Leader of the Jolly Mohawks Club. Often Henry's support or assistance was called upon too. For many years they were a very active club requiring much support and involvement from the adult leaders especially for the 4th of July Parade and at county Pair time. At the time the Remmers children were active members the club membership numbered near 20. The club was very active with each child involved in many projects and learning activities. Such things as animal care and grooming, (including cows, calves, sheep, chickens, geese and rabbits), sewing, canning & preserving, woodworking, gardening, environmental concerns, and nature study. These all required teaching and supervision time by the leaders or parents.
Grampa Bongers was an educated man and must have had an interest in seeing that his children were educated. Prom census records I learned that he could read, write and speak English as well as German. Prom old records of school board meetings from the Bigelow School I learned that he attended the meetings and also bid on some of the maintenance jobs, being awarded the contract to clean the school during several different years. One contract was for $8.00 and another that I saw was for $10.00. I am sure Marie benefited from being the oldest and having her father available to help encourage her with her studies. Johanna and Bill did finish and graduate from eighth grade because of Gramma's persistence and with everyone helping and encouraging each other.
Much of the "in home" responsibility must have fallen onto Johanna's shoulders after their father was gone. After school Johanna got jobs working for other people in their homes and at resorts as stated previously. When she was 16 she worked at a summer resort on what is now Hwy. 107 (the old River Road) called The Algonquin. In 1930 she married George Kasper and settled on a farm in the Schultz Spur area. She too became a widow when her daughter June was only about 6 years old. She managed to keep the farm and support her daughter through school. In later years she had a stroke and had to be hospitalized where she remained until her death.
Bill worked at whatever jobs he could get which were dangerous at times. Working in the woods, helping at the sawmill, helping neighbors with their chores, helping on threshing crews and when he was 17, "running moonshine to Chicago." He told me that at age 17, in 1929, he had a job driving a big heavy Desoto car from Harrison where they made the liquor, to deliver it to the "mob" in Chicago. They would load the stuff in the trunk and he would drive all night to Chicago to deliver it to various nightclubs owned by the Mob. He enjoyed the job because he made "good" money, and it was fun driving that car because it could go very fast! I do not know how long he did this but it couldn't have been more than a few trips. He did tell me that he had been shot at once by the Feds. But because it was such a fast car, he was able to get away. Later during the depression he told of traveling the threshing circuit through the Midwest, Dakotas and Nebraska. After that he made his way out west, picking up whatever odd jobs he could get along the way. Most of his travels were by hopping freight trains. He landed in Washington State but I do not remember what he said he did for work there. Eventually he made his way down to California and got a job working on building the World’s Fair in 1932. He also spent some time working on the Hoover Dam before he worked his way hack to Wisconsin. In 1938 he married Clara Bosi. Clara was the youngest child and only daughter of an immigrant Italian family that came here from the coal mining area of Illinois to try their hand at farming. She had six brothers and wan expected to help with all manner of the farm work but since she was a girl she was also expected to help her mother with the "woman's work" in the house too. When she was about. 16 she went to. Chicago to find work. She and Bill met through her brothers who had met Bill at dances in the area. After their marriage, they went to Florida where he hoped to find a job. They were disillusioned by the State and lack of work so made their way back to Wisconsin with just 50 cents left when they got here. For a while they lived in "Grammas cottage" until Bill found work on building the new Grandfather Dam. That summer they lived in a drafty shack, located on the River road quite near the dam construction site and owned by Elmer Reid who worked for the County. They stayed there until November when it got too cold to stay any longer. Then they went to Chicago, where Bill found work and their first child, a son Bob, was born. They stayed there about four years before moving back north and settled in the Merrill area which has been their home since. A daughter, Shirley was added to the family and at times during illness, Clara's folks lived with them. Uncle Bill worked for various people and companies primarily as a carpenter but had the capabilities of a jack of all trades. He could do almost any construction job necessary. He built two homes for his family, besides remodeling others for themselves, relatives and friends.
Meanwhile, Gramma had bought a 1926 Model A car that helped immensely in their ability to get to jobs and school. In fact, it became known as "The School Bus Car". In 1929, Margaret Bongers was awarded a contract by School District No. 1 of the Town of Bradley to transport all children on County Trunk Line E in District 1 to the Fulsher School for the school term of 1927 and 1928. (The Bigelow school had been closed with the building of the new brick 3 room Fulsher School.) The contract stated:" Mode of transportation is to be by automobile when roads are in condition for same." For this service she was to be paid the sum of $52 at the end of each school month. This sounds like a substantial amount considering the times, and I am sure it was a big help in meeting their bills. Auggie started grade school at the Bigelow School but was "bussed" to the new Fulsher School with the rest of the students from Highway E. He graduated from eighth grade at Fulsher and attended the first two years of High School there. By this time there had been many changes around "the farm" and Gramma had taken the job caring for the children of Nels Nelson whose wife had died shortly after their 4th child was horn. His wife had been a sister of Jennie Farmen. At this time (1935) both the Farmens and the Nelsons were living on the road now known as Theiler Road, on the southern edge of Tomahawk to the East. Jenny and Carl Farmen had no children of their own, and became very good friends to Margaret. When Auggie wanted to finish the last 2 years of High School, they allowed him to build himself a small shack (Uncle Bill told me that it was about 8 or 10 foot square) where he could stay and still be able to walk to school. For this I expect that he helped the Farmen's with whatever chores were to be done. He had a small barrel stove for heat and cooking, a few kettles and dishes, a small bunk that he had built as a bed, and a table, chair and kerosene lamp for studying. Uncle Bill remembered that it had a couple nails in the wall to hang his clothes on and a shelf for his dishes and food I surmise with his mother just next door he did get a good meal occasionally and I expect that she did his laundry and mending. My memories of Jennie & Carl Parmen as extremely kind, gentle and generous people also lead me to believe that they helped him as much as possible.
Both Auggie and Bill spent some time in the CC Camp near McCord to help the family meet expenses. I do not know what the dates were however. From research I learned that the men/boys at these camps were allowed to stay for two years maximum. Then they either had to leave or join the regular Army. Uncle Bill did not like the Military style life so he got out to look for other jobs. The men were paid $25 per month. Of that amount, they were allowed to keep $5 and the rest was sent home for their families. Auggie liked the order of the camp and later joined the regular Army in 1939 at Camp McCoy. AL some point after High School however, he traveled about the state looking for work and ended up in the Tobacco growing region of Vernon County working for a man named Herman Friedell who had a lovely daughter named Louise, who caught Auggie's eye. Louise attended Viroqua High School and Vernon County Normal School. Then she taught at two country schools before going to Washington D.C. to be with "Gus". In July 1942 they were married by a Judge in Virginia before Auggie was sent overseas in WWII as a 2nd Lieutenant. He served in.Italy where he received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in 1943. He also received the Silver Star, 2 Bronze Battle Stars and a Bronze Service Arrowhead. Their first child, a daughter, Kay, was born while he was overseas. He also spent some time in the Philippines before being discharged. It was there that he contracted Malaria. I remember in 1945 when I was 10 years old, he and Aunt Louise came for a visit in the summer probably after his discharge from the army. I remember it was very hot and humid. They slept in the "boys" west bedroom upstairs, when he had an attack of the malaria which frightened me. I remember seeing him in the bed with about four big down comforters on, perspiring profusely, and shaking so badly that the bed was moving. Although I had determined just the year before, that I was going to be a Nurse when I grew up, I believe T wanted it even more after that. We all were pretty much powerless to do anything to relieve his distress. After his discharge from the regular army they settled in Viroqua where two more children, a boy, Bruce and another girl, Kristi were added to the family. Gus served in the Reserves until 1949 when he became a charter member of Viroqua National Guard and had served continually until his death in 1977. He was also employed by the Postal Service.
Gramma Margaret continued working for other people, caring for sick spouses or doing housework as jobs were available to her. She also worked for the "County Home" in Merrill as a cook, before being hired as an assistant cook with Alice Herman at the Fulsher School where her Remmers grandchildren went. She began to enjoy socializing more at this time and met a wonderful man named Oscar Kriigel who became our "Grampa". They were married in 1946 and spent 14 happy years together before he died of cancer in 1960. She died after several strokes in 1966.
Mother mentioned Christmas as a special time for their family when she was a little girl. She said her dad would take her into the woods,(and her sister and brother as they got old enough to go along), where they would choose the Christmas tree. He would chop it down and they would pull it home on one of their little sleds. It would be set up in the living room in front of the windows facing the road. They would decorate it with small wax candles in holders that clipped to the branches. These might be lit but only very briefly on Christmas morning. Other ornaments that she remembered were some glass ornaments with gold lacy like wire decoration wrapped around them, and some glass birds with tails that were like a bunch of very thin, flexible white straw type rods stuck into an opening at the end of the bird's body. The children would also make popcorn strings and gingerbread cookies to hang on the tree. They had a Nativity and much time was spent by the children in arranging Mary, Joseph the manger with the baby Jesus the cow and donkey and the sheep & shepherd. The sheep had wool made out of cotton and when we were children this same Nativity set became ours to arrange, and I remember the tattered wool of those sheep. Somewhere along the way three wise men and a camel were also acquired. Their tradition was to get the tree and set it up ahead of time but it was not decorated until after the children went to bed on Christmas Eve. This tradition was carried out while we were growing up also. The tree would then stay up through the month of January until most all of the neighbors had stopped to visit. Another tradition that carried over to our childhood was the singing of "0 Tannenbaum" as we undecorated the tree.
I know that Mr. Bongers smoked a pipe and according to relatives and people who knew him, he always had it in his mouth, even if it wasn't lit and he usually wore a battered felt hat.
Some food preferences that we were especially aware of included Pork and Sauerkraut, Homemade donuts cooked in home rendered lard, potato soup and potato pancakes. I seem to remember Gramma making Stollen at Christmas time and dark fruitcakes. I'm not sure if these were old family recipes or not but mother also made them annually. Homemade egg noodles and dumplings were expected for any soup or stew and mother made a special dumpling that she would fill with fresh picked wild blueberries. These were always a special treat every summer. After being cooked like regular dumplings in boiling water and drained, melted butter was poured over and they were eaten with sugar sprinkled on top. Mother used to mention about the children picking wild berries when they were young. Raspberries were abundant in the logged off areas and often they would find good patches of wild strawberries. The blueberries came from their Grandparent Jaeschke's place where they grew abundantly in a cutover field. Gooseberries, chokecherries and wild hazelnuts were also harvested annually along with blackberries from a neighbors' pasture. I don't remember that they used dandelions for greens but I do remember that they used a weed that grew nearly all around the barnyard and in the garden. We learned to call it "pigweed, or lambs-quarters" and it was cooked and eaten like spinach. Dandelion wine was also made by Mr. Bongers.
A pig was usually butchered in the fall that involved rendering the belly fat for lard which was used for sandwich spread (lard sandwiches with sugar when available, was mostly what the children had for school lunch), cooking, and making bread. Hams and bacon were soaked in a brine and then smoked, usually with maple wood. After they were smoked they were wrapped in cheesecloth and hung from the rafters in the attic hallway that led to the upstairs bedrooms. This area was unheated so was cold in winter and good for that storage. Scalloped potatoes and ham was another favorite or frequent meal as was pea soup made with the bone. When we were young, in the 1930's the folks had a cream separator and made some of their own butter. Mother also mentioned that they had made their own butter as she was growing up. We also had an old ice cream churn which I remember that as a child we used on special occasions, like birthdays and usually for the Fourth of July. When we were small during Maple syrup cooking time a treat we called ice cream was to pour the just cooked syrup over fresh, new fallen snow. What a treat! Making homemade candy was another pleasant memory. Molasses taffey and chocolate fudge were two specialties. We tried divinity but that often didn't turn out well because we didn't have the patience or strength to beat the egg whites long enough with the hand beater. Homemade bread was always mixed in a very large tan/cream colored earthen bowl with a pale blue band around the collar. It would be put on top of the warming oven on the wood stove, or in a warm spot near the stove, to rise. After kneading and shaping into loaves, it was put in the old black tin pans and into the warming oven until time to bake. Warm, fresh bread with homemade jelly or fresh homemade butter was a great after school treat. My sister remembers that when Gramma Jaeschke was visiting or staying with us however, it was her habit to bless the bread before she would cut it. Homemade baked beans with home smoked salt pork, made in a big brown stoneware dish with a flat cover, or a smaller bean pot was often a winter favorite. Until later years when there was extra money to buy the dried legumes and other ways to preserve the garden produce, all peas and beans that weren't eaten fresh or canned were allowed to dry on the vine and one of our jobs in the fall was to shell the kidney, white and lima beans and the peas, to store for winter soups, baked beans, etc. Sauerkraut was made in a big earthen crock and stored in the basement each fall for winter use. When we were younger I also remember eggs being stored in some sort of white slimy mixture that resembled cottage cheese. These eggs were used in baking and seemed to keep a long time.
Laundry was washed by hand on a wooden scrub board and the clothes were draped over bushes or laid on the grass and turned to dry for years until a clothes line was set up with tamarack poles. The water was heated on the stove for washing and the rinse water was cold. After all the clothes were washed, the water was used to scrub the floors and then carried out onto the garden or where ever gramma had scratched in a few flowers. In winter the clothes were hung either in the attic or in the chimney corner behind the old wood stove to dry. If they had been outside and were frozen stiff, they were hung behind the stove to thaw and dry. Any ironing was done with the metal two piece flat irons that were heated on top of the wood stove.