Sunday, November 30, 2008

Those were the days...or were they?

Because of my daughter's interest in genealogy, she has asked me to write down my memories. I'm thankful that my mind is still good even though my body is wearing out. How I wish I would have used a tape recorder and recorded some of the information from my parents, but for some reason my Grandpa, George Koleber, didn't want to talk much about the old country. (Grandpa Koleber was born in 1874 in the colony of Germans in Kratzke, Russia). My mother, Mollie Koleber Margheim (pictured above with me in 1923), was born in Kratzke Oct. 6, 1902 and her family immigrated through Ellis Island, arriving in Russell County, Kansas in 1904. Her uncle, her dad's brother, also came over and in those days they worked for the Union Pacific Railroads. Mom's uncle returned to Russia, facing starvation in the 1920s. The Bolsheviks took away their livestock and grain and any means for subsistence.

My parents lived in the country west of Wakeeney, Trego County, Kansas. So for my first year of public school in 1928 I stayed with my grandparents (Mom's folks) near Trego Center, 9 miles south of Wakeeney. I remember one time Grandpa Koleber (pictured here with his wife and grandchildren) received a letter from his family still living in Russia (1928) and it told of life under the Bolsheviks. Grandpa was in tears reading that letter.

I was one of those kids who was raised in a German-speaking home, thus I had no inkling of the English language. You can imagine having to learn English upon entering public school. I went to a one room country school west of Trego Center, KS. Fortunately in those days, teachers often were only high school graduates that had a Teaching Certificate. My teacher was a local Deines lad, and his household was also a German speaking household as many Trego County farmers were at that time. But the byword was no German speaking on the school yard! I was told that wherever you see that American Flag, it is against the law to speak German. They implemented that where I went to school. Remember, right after World War One German families were somewhat ostracized. I also remember school always began with a salute to the flag and then the teacher would have a Bible reading before we took up our lessons. This was an every morning routine. And that was "Liberty School", a government public school. We also had a framed picture on the school house wall of George Washington and were taught who he was.

In those days, in front of the teacher's desk was a bench, and when it was time for a particular grade class, the kids came forward to that bench in front of the teacher. There might be only three kids in a class.

Some kids came to school on horseback, so they had hay in a trough on the school yard. My Grandparents had two of their sons still going to elementary school, so we walked cross county to school. It was only a little over a mile. Snow, rain, or shine, we walked. Those boys had set traps by a draw bank in those pastures, so they checked their traps on the way to school to see if they had caught a skunk. Once in awhile, kids came to school and their clothing smelled of skunk. All farm boys trapped and sold the furs. In those days, the courthouse paid a bounty for the ears only of coyotes. Yep, those were the days.

Thanks for listening.

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