Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two of My Early School Experiences

Just a tidbit of my early school experiences.
Number One: LANGUAGE was a problem since we were raised in a Volga German Russian environment. We had no idea school would confront us with speaking ENGLISH. My brother Alfred, who was born in 1923 and I (born in 1921) were dropped off at Old Bosna one room country school in the southwest part of Trego County, Kansas one fall morning probably 1929 or 1930. Our school was in an area where many of local families also were of Volga German heritage. The German language was forbidden on the school ground.

As the school bell rang, We remained outside, sitting by the corner of the school building, both of us crying . We could not understand any English speaking, etc. We did however learn to assimilate. It was a hurdle. Our school day began with Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, a short Bible reading by the teacher and the Lord's Prayer said in unison.

Encounter #2: Hygiene: Farm boys were not necessarily the most concerned with personal hygiene. Yes we took a wash tub bath once a week and we got dressed up on Sundays for church. However public school introduced us to some UPDATED HYGIENIC PRACTICES: washing your hands and brushing your teeth.

Gold stars were very impressive to us kids at school for a job well done. At that time Lifebuoy Soap had a public relations program where they gave our school small bars of Lifebuoy Soap and tooth brushes and tooth paste along with score charts for each student. Each pupil had a chart posted at the side of his desk, and each morning we were polled by the teacher if we 'Washed our Hands and Brushed our Teeth'. The chart would be marked. At the end of the week, a perfect score was awarded a Gold Star on our chart. This was a wonderful practice that instilled pride in us students. We looked forward to roll call!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My First Recollection

As I ponder over my journey in life, I often reflect on my very first recollections. The most "shaken up" experience I remember was from the time when I was very small. I was sitting in the center of a very large red ant hill. This was at the farm yard of my Grandpa and Grandma Koleber (Mom's parents) at their Trego County, Kansas farmyard. I looked at my body covered with red ants. I was sitting there scantily dressed as it was summer, and I was screaming from the pain of the ant bites. That's it. I don't remember Mom picking me up. Yes it seems I remember a lot of commotion. The farm was about 1 mile south and 2 miles west of Trego Center, a small unincorporated town on highway 28l, nine miles south of the Trego County seat, WaKeeney, Kansas. I've been trying to determine the time frame of this. I was born August 8, 1921 in the city of WaKeeney, Kansas. My dad worked as a lineman for the telephone company but I'm still unable to determine how old I was when this happened. But I'll never forget the sight of those red ants and my screaming.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Whatever Happened to the Doodle Bug?

It just occurred to me that in recent years, I have not seen a DOODLE BUG. Did they go out with the times?
What is a Doodle Bug? It was a Steam or Diesel Railroad Engine with just a couple of Railroad cars that served as a commuter/shuttle ten mile "Short Line" railroad. Also often termed, LCL, (LESS than CARLOAD LOT).

Where I grew up in central Kansas, we had two main east/west railroad lines, the (1) AT&SF (Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe) and the Missouri Pacific, St Louis to D&RG (Denver & Rio Grande in Colorado). Somewhat parallel from 40 miles apart to ten miles or less in places. Where I lived, the two lines were separated by 10 miles. There was a connecting North/South railroad for the purpose of a shuttle freight back and forth between the two towns in Barton County, KS. As I recall, it was called a SPUR LINE. Midway, there was a Grain Storage Elevator with a Truck Scale, to receive and load wheat into RR cars. The elevator was termed DENTSPUR. From Great Bend, KS to the west, Santa Fe also had what they called a BRANCH RAILROAD LINE, to Scott City, KS. This was before the prominence of semis (tractor-trailer trucks). Most of these Short Lines were abandoned with the steel RR tracks and wood ties removed. Many were then converted to Walking/Horseback/Bicycle Trails.

My daughter showed me how to look up pictures on Google Images and I've had a lot of fun browsing through all the pictures. I found many of these pictures of Doodlebugs there:

As a sidelight to railroad talk, freight rates are based on Classification of product. I worked all my 54-year career as an accountant/comptroller at a meat packing plant. Often we would see freight bills with the term "NOIBN". I inquired what this classification represented. It means ''NOT OTHERWISE INDEXED BY NUMBER".
Another side light to this subject: This short line railroad was parallel to a Highway. In the years of 1930/1940, Central Kansas experienced an OIL BOOM. This time frame era brought with it what was termed HONKY TONKS or ROAD HOUSES. It consisted of a small convenience store with a Juke Box, improvised dance floor, short order restaurant and beer. In the five mile midway point of this ten mile road, was one such Honky Tonk, named "HALF WAY INN". Shortly thereafter, in the northwest area of our county, a farmer set up a similar HONKY TONK, and called it "ALL THE WAY INN". The Kansas Liquor Law in those years were termed DRY YEARS, NO LIQUOR LICENSES, ETC. And beer was restricted to 3.2% alcohol. H-O-W-E-V-E-R, as with any prohibition or DRY YEARS, there were generated what is termed BOOTLEGGERS. And with OIL BOOMS, as with the GOLD MINING BOOMS, the term SOILED DOVES follows. THUS, this set up with HONKY TONKS served as a resource for both the Bootlegger outlets and Soiled Dove facilities.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Call Me Old Fashioned

I'm a member of Facebook and really enjoy staying in touch with my "new" friends there. This week one of my 'friends' Marcy Brown organized a new group called "Call Me Old Fashioned". I joined her group because I've been around long enough to remember doing things the "old fashioned way"!

I'm sharing what I wrote to Marcy yesterday: "What I miss, is that before Radio and Television and BEFORE AIR-CONDITIONING, folks would VISIT. Yes, we would bundle up the little ones, and walk across town, maybe 10 blocks to VISIT some friends. We would sit on the front porch, (every house had a front porch and porch swing) or couple of rocking chairs. The ladies might fix some lemonade or pop corn. That was before Soda Pop, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc. People don't know how to VISIT anymore. Few people had a telephone, and if you did it was a PARTY LINE. Everybody had their own ring, one long and 2 shorts. etc. In the winter we would visit our cousins that lived in the country, No anti-freeze then. When you got to their country home, you drained the radiator, and when you come home at 10 PM you would REFILL the radiator. You put cardboard in front of the radiator so it did not freeze from the cold wind. No heaters. Every one was bundled up with those HEAVY BUFFALO HIDE COATS men used to wear. Either bear hide or whatever, they were heavy and long, to the ankles. They had half-inch or one-inch hair on them. It was hair, not fur. They also had a high back collar. Our folks were Volga German Russians, so I don't know if the coats were from Russia or if you could buy them in the USA.
My mother's parents came to America from Kratzke, Russia in 1904. My mother was two years of age. Some of those coats were brown, but I remember most of them were black.
Explanation on the Front Porch: Many homes had a Back Porch, but they were usually screened in, with a Pitcher Pump that you had to prime before you could use it. Often when those farmers moved to town, they had the home builder add on a MUD ROOM, where you came in from the outside and removed your muddy boots. Often the Mud Room would also be the Maytag Laundry Room. It usually had a kitchen sink since that served as a lavatory to wash your dirty hands, etc. Hang up your work coveralls and jacket etc."
Call me old fashioned, but I wish we could still enjoy some of the things from those days--like VISITING!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Depression Style Cooking

As we've been experiencing cold weather here in Colorado this month, my thoughts have gone back to some of the soups and hot meals my mom fixed when I was young. The dishes we grew up with seem to always remain favorites, don't they.

You know growing up in the Depression was a stressful experience. There was a shortage of jobs, money, food, and clothes. A shortage of everything! There was no recreation except what we could devise ourselves. Everyone had to make do with what they had. My Dad worked for the WPA so we got clothes and food from the Welfare.

I remember they brought us grapefruit. Hmmmm? We had never seen a grapefruit. It was like a big orange but tasted bitter. We thought "Yuk, who would want to eat that"? Cauliflower and broccoli were another two items I first saw with welfare food. We'd look at them and say again "Yuk, do people eat that?"

We were growing up on MEAT and POTATOES. Milk, syrup, bread and noodles! You could add a few cherries for a glaze, and add cream to the dumplings. Good old country CREAM!

My mom made Schnitz Soup---we ate it a LOT! It was a staple. I'm borrowing this recipe from the internet rather than looking it up in some of my cookbooks:
SCHNITZ SOUP by Rachel Steinke
1 cup dried prunes
1 cup dried peaches
1 cup dried pears
1 cup dried raisins
Wash and soak the dried fruits overnight. Cook until tender in the same water it was soaked in. Add sugar and salt to taste.
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup sweet cream
Combine flour and cream, add to fruit and bring all to a boil. Serve.

On the farm, people ate what we raised or grew. Spuds (potatoes), milk, cream, butter, canned fruit and vegetables, sandhill plums for jelly or plum butter. Canned corn and string beans. We did buy concord grapes and Mom made grape jelly. Our staple meat was fried down pork from home or neighbor butchering. Many families would boil down watermelons and make watermelon syrup. When we ran out of syrup Mom would put sugar and water in the skillet and heat it to make syrup. We always had some cottage cheese hanging on the clothesline.

We also had a cheese that was prepared in a skillet that was sort of hard and was a grey translucent color. I don't know how they made that. It was sort of rubbery and chewy.

Well, that's not a very appetizing note to close on, but it's time to turn on the TV for the news.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Two Favorite Photos: Weekly Prompt #1

These are two of my favorite pictures. My wife Ruby and I took each other's picture in a field of sunflowers while we were out for a drive south of Ellinwood, Kansas about 1942. We met when she came to a dance where I was playing the guitar in the band. The sunflower field is especially meaningful to me because I went by the name "The Sunflower Wrangler" when I sang on my radio show in 1940-1941 on KVGB, Great Bend, Kansas.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wedding Dances in the Late 1930s

My birthday is August 8 and during the time of my high school years (1936-1940) many other Margheim family members had birthdays in August. So we always had a birthday dance at the Susank (Kansas) Hall. The music was provided by the Templing Brothers fiddle hochzeit bands. Henry, Jake and Emanuel Templing were real wedding dance musicians.

In those days of German Weddings, at the end of the wedding ceremony at the Church, the musicians would stand outside the church steps as the people exited the ceremony and play hymns on their horns: trumpets, baritones, trombones etc. That was a "goose bumps on your back" experience for me. The Templing Brothers made hammered dulcimers (SchlochBret) for other people. Henry Templing also made fiddles.

My Dad's brother Jake was married to Hannah Templing, who was a sister of those Templing Brothers. I was always so proud to hear them play at those weddings!