Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Ei Schieza" New Year's Eve

Rural folks in Central Kansas would celebrate New Year's Eve with what the Volga German community called "Ei Schieza", translated "TO SHOOT IN (the New Year)". Neighbors or relatives would come to a friend's house on New Year's Eve as a social visit and bring their shot guns. At midnight, they would go outside to CELEBRATE with firing their shot guns into the air at the Stroke of Midnight. Much like today we still hear someone shoot off firecrackers at the Stroke of Midnight
My observation of this annual event took place as I was a boy of age ten or so (1931). It was an exciting and jovial evening, as I remember. Perhaps preceeded with a supper of "Schnitz Soup" (dried fruit soup with cream) and "Grebell" (similar to a sort of deep fat fried donut).
I've called this celebration "Ei Schieze". However, I'm confused a bit because in the German dialect we spoke, I thought it would be written as "Ein", the word actually defined as ONE. In the language usage it is pronounced WITHOUT THE ENDING LETTER "n", thus phonetically pronounced Ei defined as IN, like "shoot IN ". It goes back to DIALECTS, and words we used are not necessarily A DICTIONARY word.
For being a kid my age at the time, SHOOTING a shotgun into the dark night sky was pretty impressive.
The other childhood impression I vividly recall involved some of the Halloween tricks we did. One was to set a piece of farm machinery on the roof of the chicken house and one suspended by rope FROM THE WINDMILL . I think the windmill had the horsedrawn SICKLE MOWER, and the chicken house had the horse drawn RAKE. That took some "real doing" in the dark of night. I don't remember how Dad ever got them down. It would take some heavy block and tackle to lower them.
Well, my fingers are in OVERDRIVE. I'm talking about Halloween and tomorrow night is New Year's Eve. I often get off on TANGENT subjects. One word will trigger a whole other subject. I have a "multi-task" brain. Notice the word "multi-task" is a product of the current fad of "Politically Correct" terms. Language is FUN. Webster must have a hard time to KEEP UP with all our new words. I sure do!
Thanks for listenin' and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Remember the Old Gas Stations

Today I got an email from a close friend who was forwarding another email regarding the gas stations of days gone by. Among the many photos displayed of old gas stations was this one. In preparing to write this blog, I found that these photos had been posted by a gentleman named Dave Carter on his blog. You can find it here.

Many of you surely don't remember ever getting gas at a station like this. You may not even remember the days when you could drive into a gas station, sit in your car while an attendant hurried out to pump your gas and clean your windows and windshield. They would even check the air in your tires, open the hood and check the oil and the water in your radiator. Boy it's hard to find that kind of service today!

When looking at the pictures of the old gas pumps I was reminded of the days when I was just a small boy. At the station we went to, I remember that right near the pumps they had a square box about 3 ft by 4 feet, with a hand crank on BULK OIL. You can see that in the photo at left---the blue square box in the middle. In the 1920s and 1930s, many of the kitchens still had the KEROSENE cook stoves, so the gas stations had a prominent Kerosene dispenser also.

I remember in WaKeeney, Kansas on the south end of town there was a gas station that had the glass tank on top like in the picture at the top. We would first pump the gas up into the glass tank, then the gravity flow dispensed the gas. No electricity to the pumps!

That WaKeeney, KS station also bought our cream and eggs, and sold coal and a few groceries. I guess it was our version of today's "convenience store".

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Me and My Brother: Photos Through the Years

I love all this computer and digital technology that allows us to take pictures and put them on the internet the same day. Last night I joined my daughter Becky and my grandson Matt and their families at my daughter's house to celebrate Christmas Eve. Some of her husband's kids and their families were there too. My daughter took quite a few pictures and this is one she took of me.

A couple of months ago I joined Facebook and learned that my brother's granddaughter Mollye Margheim was also a member of Facebook. Mollye is named after our mother Mollie Margheim. Today Mollye visited my brother, who is her Grandpa, and she took this picture of Leonard Margheim.

I thought it'd be fun to post a few pictures of us through the years. In the photo below I'm at the far right end and Leonard is the baby on the left. Beside him is his twin sister Laverna. And at the far left is our brother Alfred who passed away in 1933.

Pictured here are Leonard and Laverna with me in about 1940. I was singing on the radio as "The Sunflower Wrangler".

In this family photo we are joined by our parents John and Mollie Margheim in the back yard at our home in Hoisington, Kansas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Greetings From My Cousin

I was happy today to receive by email a Christmas greeting from my cousin, Wayne Miller. It was sent to me by his sister Virginia, also (obviously) my first cousin. I'm really happy to have heard from her today because we're not able to visit in person anymore. As we were growing up, our families were not close. It seemed there was always a "feud" brewing among relatives so we weren't offered many opportunities to visit. But in the last 10 years or so, I've taken advantage of every chance I've had to visit with Virginia, even though she lives in Kansas and I live in Colorado.

Virginia asked me to post this Christmas newsletter from Wayne on my blog. Since it's set up in a web site and includes pretty Christmas music, an animated card and quite a lot of family photos, I've simply included the link for you. Wayne advises that it's only available EST 6:00 am-10:00 pm.

I noticed in his Christmas newsletter that Wayne says he and his wife are on Facebook. Since I've been on Facebook since September, I'll be able to connect with him as my "Friend". Friends and Cousins. Merry Christmas, Wayne!

I hope you'll take a look at his Christmas greetings and enjoy! I sure did.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Memories from 1930

A few years ago I attended a Margheim family reunion in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. A man named Fritz Margheim and his wife met me and asked if I knew anyone with the Margheim name who might be buried in a cemetery in Hygiene, Colorado. They'd been shopping for a burial plot and as they were looking around the cemetery, they noticed a grave with the name of Margheim on it. The plot next to it was available so they purchased it. I explained that I had a little brother, Alfred Margheim, who died in 1933 at the age of 9 and it was his grave that they'd found. Isn't it a coincidence that they discovered his grave while shopping for their own burial plots and they were able to purchase the plots besides Alfred's. All Margheims.

I explained that although my family was originally from Trego County, Kansas, in 1931 we had moved to the area near Hygiene, a little town west of Longmont, Colorado. When we lived in Kansas my dad worked as a Share Cropper on the farm. Dad was only 31 years old and everything we owned was mortgaged to the bank. He and my mom had 4 children. I was born in 1921, Alfred was born in 1923 and mom had twins in 1929, just 9 days before the stock market crash! One night an eleven inch rain assaulted us, accompanied by hail. We lived by a draw, with water coming by and around the house. The heavy rains moved the granary off its foundation, drowned our hogs, killed all the chickens, etc. It was springtime and the wheat fields looked like someone had run a disc through the fields. My parents had to take bankruptcy.

My mom had two brothers living in Colorado so we moved to Colorado. The only work my parents could find was "stoop labor". Remember, this was 1930, just one year following the start of the Great Depression. When doing this kind of labor, all the pay was according to "piece work". Every member of the family had to work, thinning beets or picking vegetables-- beans and tomatoes. We hardly earned enough money to pay the rent.

When we moved, Mom brought with us a barrel of homemade soup. We sold that door to door. Dad went to work for different farmers tending beets, irrigation, etc. I was 10 years old at the time and I had learned to milk by hand. So I helped the farm family milk their cows and that gave us milk. For our housing, a farmer hung old rugs in one corner of his hayloft and let us live there. Boy the winters were cold in Colorado!

My brother Alfred got pneumonia and died. It was tough going. It seemed like we were living like gypsies. Work was not steady. We probably worked that way for four different families. For meat I remember Dad shot rabbits and pheasant that we cooked. Mostly we lived on potatoes and noodles. Potatoes were a major crop around Brighton, Eaton, Greeley and Longmont, Colorado so we got the potatoes for free from the farmers who raised them.

We have to thank our good Lord for sustaining families like us in those Depression days. People really had to work hard. Many farmers couldn't afford machinery like they have today.

Well, I won't go on about that anymore right now. I'll write more about our experiences of beet farming another time. Thanks for Listening!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Memories From 1927

My dad, John Margheim, was born March 15, 1900. Seven years earlier on December 12, 1892 his older brother Jacob Alexander "Alex" Margheim was born. In the photo at left my dad is the youngest boy and Alex is above his left shoulder. They're pictured with their oldest brother Fred, born in 1886.

On January 2, 1927 my Uncle Alex wrecked his Pierce-Arrow automobile and was killed at age 34. He'd been married 10 years to Bertha Schneider and was the father of 5 children. Uncle Alex had a direct collision on a Sunday morning on his way to church. I was a child of 5 but I vividly remember going to Uncle Alex's funeral. Before the funeral his casket was in the living room of his farm house and his wrecked Pierce-Arrow was in the farm yard. I was quite impressed with the hood ornament. The Pierce Arrow make of car was in a class like the Cadillac is today.

Another recollection I have from 1927 was when my parents moved from living in the town of Hoisington, Kansas to a farm 3 miles west and 1/2 mile south of the town of Wakeeney, Kansas. Two years after we moved to Wakeeney, my mom gave birth to twins, my brother and sister Leonard and Laverna Margheim. They were born October 18, 1929. I remember that the doctor drove a Packard automobile from Ellis, Kansas in the night to deliver the twins. My mom's mother, Katie Koleber, was staying at our house to help my mom.

A week or so later the Lutheran minister from Trego Center, KS (which was 9 miles south of Wakeeney) came to our farm house on an urgent call to baptize Leonard and Laverna. Leonard was deathly sick from a fever and everyone thought he would not live through it. I'm glad to report he did recover.

Just 3 weeks later my Grandma, Katie Koleber, underwent a hysterectomy at the hospital in Hays, Kansas and died during the operation. I'm thankful that she lived long enough to see the twins born.

Incidentally, that Lutheran minister who came to baptize Leonard and Laverna was from Switzerland. His given name was also Leonard. Four years prior to that my dad's older sister had a son whom she named Leonard.

My mom told me that the name she had chosen for me was Alvin. I don't know what made her change it to Ernest. Actually in German it was "Ernst". But over the years I've just grown used to "Ernie".

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Heavy Homemade Patch Quilts

As the snow falls here today my thoughts go back to those bitterly cold nights on the barren, treeless plains of Kansas in the mid to late 1920s. The bedrooms in our house were closed off to keep the heat in the kitchen and living areas, so we wore our "long-handles" to bed. Brrrr. Sometimes we even heated bricks in the oven and wrapped them in towels to keep our feet warm.
In those days, there was not so much use of blankers because we had those HEAVY homemade patch quilts. They must have weighed 5 pounds each. They were made from suit material that my folks used to buy from the clothing store. The swatches of material were about 5 inches and at each of the 4 corners of the full quilt were those little yarn strings, about an inch long, where the quilts were tied and knotted.
The undersides were all flannel and the padding was probably cotton in those days. There weren't any synthetic fabrics on the market back then. But those quilts were HEAVY. I remember most towns still had stores where tailors made suits for men. Those stores had big books of material swatches. It seems like we got a new Sears catalog every year, so the tailors probably got new books of swatches every year too. Housewives would buy those outdated swatch books and use the material to make those quilts.
My mom worked a lot making quilts of all kinds. She made my wife and my daughter each a quilt later in her life, but they were much lighter, as they were pieced together from cotton squares and scraps she had left over after making all her own dresses, instead of that heavy wool.
On these cold winter evenings I'm thinking it would feel good to throw one of those wool quilts over my legs!
Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ardennes Forest

I stumbled onto a web site, that had  extensive side links regarding WW 2. I served in the Third Army Sector in the ETO 1943 to 1945.  We were present during that Dec l6th, 1943  area known as THE BULGE.  It was not pretty.  The Nazi Army, did not play by the Geneva Convention Rules.  Every unethical  trick in the book, you name it, they used it. 
Wearing our uniforms, speaking pretty good English, driving our jeeps, flying our P-47 fighters. They infiltrated our units.  You did not know who you could trust.  We changed pass word several times a day.  I shall never forget the Ardennes Forest. That soil should be rich  today with all the blood spilled there by our forces.  In the Bulge we were trapped on three sides and the weather was extremely cold and dense fog for a full week. We had snow, Nazi's wore white uniforms.  Fortrunately I missed the actioin for 2 weeks, as I was evacuated temporialy to a  make-makeshift hospital  in a cathederal in Belgium, before  I was sent to a Med Evac in Metz, France. This particular website brought back many disturbing realistic  memories.
This website has many pictures, many taken by photographers with the German Army.  What an enlightment.  Our newspapers did not mention some of the battles we LOST and the number of OUR CASUALITIES.  I feel it was only by the GRACE OF GOD, That the Allied forces won the war.  To my opinion,had it not been for Hitler to fight on two fronts, the Russians took much of the pressure off our Western Front engagements.   Near the end of March and April 1945, German soldiers were surrendering by the hoards. I was put on temporary detached service to drive a six by six loaded with German Prisoners.  I spoke German thus I had one of their POWs in the front seat with me to direct me to Trier, and the back end my truck was loaded with POWs. One lone GI with one measely carbine, ha ha 
 They were friendly and tickled to death to become our prisoners. After all, these were elderly and boys,((1945))  FORCED into uniforms to fight an enemy they had no ill feelings toward .
  We drove with blackout lights at night. I had a strip map,but my front seat assistant (German POW) knew the geographic area that helped.   After 63 years, it still 
 all becomes vivid in my mind

My Guitar and Fiddle Playing Days

I shall indulge on your patience to relate some of my background. You see, ever since I was in the 7th grade, I wanted to be a cowboy singer when I grew up. During my high school years, my guitar teacher told me that KVGB radio station in Great Bend, Kansas (my hometown) was engaging local entertainers to have programs on their station. Everyone seemed to have a handle in those days so I chose 'Sunflower Wrangler'. Receiving fan mail with dedications in those days was a thrill. I was able to set up correspondence with radio stars. I obtained a copyright on a song and hoped to become a song writer. Al Clauser, of "The Oklahoma Outlaws", was working in Des Moines and Topeka at the time. He told me "it's best to write your own songs to be a success in this business."

I began playing guitar in bands doing Barn Dances that were popular in Kansas, since it was a dry state. But we had an oil boom. Consequently bootleggers were an accepted thing. The law looked the other way. Booze flowed at all the private clubs and sometimes we played three dances a week. You get the picture.

After I came home from the Army and World War II, I was back to playing in bands. My background was in high school I played violin and bass viol in our orchestra, bass viol in the concert band, and tuba and drums in marching band.

In about 1948 Cal Shrum came through Great Bend with his B-Western movie and "In Person Stage Show". His guitar player was called back to Idaho, so he needed a guitar man. He called KVGB and they told him to call me. Thus I worked with him in a 100-mile radius while I still worked my "day job" as an accountant at a meat packing plant. Cal asked me to go with him until his tour ended on the West Coast. It was career decision time. He was going to pay me more that I was making at the packing plant. My wife and I had twins, a boy and a girl, who'd been born in 1947. My wife was asking me for a divorce and I would have custody of the twins. So I had to decline Cal's offer.

During those days I listened to Wilf Carter on a short-wave radio and I said "That's for me!" I turned my violin into a fiddle and also learned to play lead melody guitar. I worshipped Eldon Shamblin, the Bob Wills guitarist, and I studied his chords. You see, our part of Kansas had an oil boom and with it came the "Okies" and Bob Wills music.

I still have my D-18 Martin guitar, my ES-150 Gibson guitar and an F-5 mandolin. We have jam sessions at our local Senior Centers. I was pretty proud of my yodeling, a la Montana Slim style.

Well, that's enough for now. Thanks for listenin'!