For my mom…
Memories of a Farm Kid, (in her own words) dictated to me for a rural township celebration.
MEMORIES OF A FARM KID
By Narciss “Nardy” Gilberg
My father was born in Vazec, Czechoslovakia on March 16, 1889 and came to the United States in 1912. My brother John was born in Vazec on December 26, 1911 and father left him with his mother at age 6 months and came to America. In 1916, he and his mother came to America also and stayed at Ellis Island for four days because his mother was ill with “Brights” disease, a disease of the kidneys and they were afraid she would have to go back. John was very glad to see our father meet them, and they all went to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John’s mother had a daughter named Mary who only lived 3 months in 1917. She died February 27th and is buried at Cedar Lake Cemetery. John’s mother never truly recovered from the Brights disease and she died February 1, 1918, and she is buried at Crystal Lake Cemetery.
My mother, Mary Svac, was born in Luzany, Czechoslovakia on November 23, 1895. She came to America and married my father at Holy Emmanuel Lutheran
Church on April 21, 1919. My sister Helen was born on February 14, 1920 when our parents lived in the Bohemian Flats. Father had bought the green house at 128 Mill Street. There was a faucet in the middle of the street where all of the residents got all of their water.
The outdoor “biffy” was in the back of the house. Everyone got along on the “Flats.” It was a nice village.
Father and brother John went to Blackduck on May 7, 1921 on a railroad train. They took furniture, wallboard, 2 horses and a heifer. Mother and Helen came up later since Helen was still such a small baby and Father and John had to ride in the railroad boxcar.
The folks lived in the south end of the log barn for the summer and moved across the road for the winter… where I was born on October 22, 1921. I was the first baby baptized at the new homestead on November 13, 1921. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Ferencik were my sponsors, and they came up from Minneapolis on the train with Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Soltis, (my mother’s sister).
We were poor by today’s standards, but we didn’t know it as everyone else was too. Mom worked hard at making it a cozy home without plumbing and the niceties of a modern house. We had kerosene lamps for light and we had horse manure piled up around the house in the fall to insulate it and generate heat. To wash clothes we carried in water to heat in a boiler and scrubbed them on a washboard by hand and then hung them outside to dry… summer and winter.
John was 10 when he went to Blackduck to the Maesse school. He never graduated because then if you could write your name it was enough. Father didn’t encourage us, but mother did. His word was law and you didn’t dare express yourself.
There were other families nearby. John Balash family was in Blackduck first, and John Michalicks in 1922. In Moose park Dan Zustiak was there before we came… he was the first settler, then John Mazurka and the Michaliceks. Mike Feriancek, Mike Garai, Paul Michalko, John Peterson, Sam Ellis, John Hagen, and Otto Stom were in Hornet township.
Brother John was confirmed in the Maesse school by Pastor Hiene of Tenstrike where there was a parsonage and the church was built later. Slovak services were conducted in the homes. Mrs. John Thullen was instrumental in getting services at the Maesse school on Sunday afternoons. We had mission stations at Hagali, Northome, and Moose Park for a few years conducted by Pastor Hiene.
We lived off the land and we never went hungry as many others did in the
depression. Our cows gave us milk and butter, hens laid eggs and we had meat and potatoes and canned foodstuff. Home churned butter was wonderful tasting with fresh baked bread every other day, and mother’s raised donuts were a delicacy and did a lot to give our home an atmosphere of love and security as we came home from school or the field.
We never grew tired of bible stories and there were discussions from time to time concerning the reading, and they made an impression on us. Confirmation classes were held on Saturdays and we studied bible verses and other material found in Luther’s small catechism. We were confirmed at 13 years old, and the girls were dressed in all white and the boys in suits. It was a solemn and impressionable occasion.
After that we joined the Luther League and met once a month, usually Sunday night at church. I knew Christ was a part of my life, a feeling that has remained with me always.
We attended a one-room Maesse country schoolhouse, there were as many as 31 students from first to eighth grade. I remember that when you had “to go” you always raised your hand and brought in a load of wood on the return trip! Boys on one side… girls on the other. I also remember that Mr. Baney was very strict and I cringed as he used the ruler on some kids.
Our Christmas program was singing carols and skits. We also had a manger scene, and Santa brought bags filled with nuts, candy and an apple. Father never got the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. It was brought in frozen with snow all over it and we decorated it with home made ornaments and real candles. We had to watch it so it wouldn’t catch on fire.
We also had a program at church on Christmas Eve which was put on by the Sunday school. Many classes gave recitations to do with the birth of Christ, and Bethlehem, the shepherds, Wisemen and we even put on a costumed pageant of the birth in the stable. After the last carol was sung, we’d get another bag of treats. When we got home we each opened the gifts from our parents… mostly things we needed.
My father had a rupture and a Dr. Albert Schweitzer operated on him on our dining room table. His wife was the nurse and he told my father that in 10 days he’d be all right. He later became famous in Switzerland.
Our last day of grade school was special and we had a picnic, and what a treat it was to have homemade Jello with bananas, homemade ice cream and fried chicken. After the Maesse school closed we were all transported to Blackduck. That was a hard adjustment to make for all of us. We went from ten-minute classes, to one hour periods. It was not easy to do especially since I worked for the seventh grade teacher on my study period. The bus cost us $4.00 a month to ride and so I worked for it. We each left the farm as soon as we were old enough, and with a big family coming up we had to make room for the others. My brother Rudy was 17 months old when I left.
We all got married and went our separate ways, however, we all still went went back to the farm to visit and help with the chores that needed to be done.
Father died on December 5, 1959 and Mother came to live with Shelly and me her last five winters. She died February 23, 1968… she was the sweetest woman who ever lived.
When we retired in 1984, we moved back up to Blackduck from Minneapolis and built a new house to retire in. We lived out on the Scenic highway and it was a beautiful place.
My family is still close. My brother John’s wife died and he lives alone in Menominee, Wisconsin and my sister Helen lives in Bloomington, Minnesota. Her husband died in 1967 and she still lives alone. My brother Dan lost his wife and re-married and lives in Minneapolis. My sister Mary and her husband Norman live in Rochester, Minnesota, and Ann and her husband Glen live in Scandia. My brother Paul’s wife died in 1990 and he lives alone in Two Harbors, Minnesota. Brother Tom and his wife Arlyce live in Bemidji, Minnesota and my sister Dorothy and her husband Ernie live in Richfield, Minnesota.
I was the closest to my sister Margaret who recently passed away, and her husband Pat still lives in Blackduck. I miss her very much.
Life was good on the farm and in the country, even though we thought it was tough at the time… it was good. There were potlucks, and pie and basket socials at the Hornet Town Hall. It was to earn money for the community.
I had my first trip to Minneapolis when I won a trip to the State Fair with a 4H gardening project. I stayed in a dormitory a whole week.
Our farm was a place where dreams grew as well as the livestock and crops, and all manner of things in the field and meadow.
My parents seemed to understand that without dreams, life on the farm would not be of much value. They left a promising, secure family situation so each of us could strike out on our own.
Dad’s dream was more of a practical nature that had to do with building up the farm where his family might know security in its growing years. And it would be a legacy to who ever chose to farm it.
Mom shared Dad’s dreams concerning the farm as well, but her dreams were also of a family that was loving and whole. Her dreams were for happiness… and she was a success.
My mom passed away June 23, 2008 but her memories live on.
I miss you mom.
From Marilyn with LOVE…