Monthly Archives: June 2014

THE CAR THAT WOULDN’t QUIT

As I have written before my grandparents George and Rose Meyer had to raise their family of five children during the Great Depression and then on into WWII. It wasn’t easy and they learned to make do with what they had. The following is another story written by my mother about a car they owned during that time period.

OLD HARD PAR
by Jeannette Meyer

“Where is Daddy?” I asked my Mom. I was a very little girl at the time, but I had noticed my father wasn’t sitting at his usual place for the noon meal.

“He’s gone to town to pick up a surprise for us,” replied my Mother.

I wondered what the big surprise would be. Dolls were always my constant companion and my number one priority. I decided the surprise was probably a new doll for me.

Late in the afternoon my Dad arrived home driving a new 1926 model, 4 door sedan, Dodge car. My Mom, brother and older sister were examining the car.I was waiting to receive my new doll.It never entered my little girl consciousness to understand or notice that this was a “NEW” car.

I finally asked Mother,”Where is the surprise?”2014-06-29 20.51.18-1

She looked at me and said, “Honey the new car is the surprise!” I can still remember how disappointed I was when she told me this 1926 Dodge was “IT!” I was just so sure it would be a new doll and what was so great about a car anyway? I watched as my mother and big brother examined the car enthusiastically but I had totally lost interest in it and went back to playing with my old doll.2014-06-29 20.51.32

How could a little girl ever dream that this car would have to get us from “here to there” for far more years than was ever intended? In 1929 the stock market crash on Wall street occurred. Accompanying that was the great loss of jobs all over the United States, eventually catapulting us into the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

All during the late twenties and the thirties this car was our mode of transportation. It’s dark blue, real leather upholstery was the most irksome covering. In the heat of a Wisconsin summer it go so hot you’d stick to it when you sat down. In the winter it felt like sitting on an ice cube. Mother remedied that situation by putting a cotton blanket over the cushion.

At one time the Dodge had a self starter, but as the years rolled along it finally failed and Dad had to crank it up to get it started. Sometimes it wouldn’t start at all.

In the late thirties by brother John dubbed it ” Old Hard Par.” I don’t know where he got that phrase but it certainly was a most fitting name.

The car grew older and so did we. It was the only means of transportation we had to get anywhere. Dad wouldn’t take the horse on the highway at anytime except in the winter when the snow became to deep for auto travel.

During those dreadful depression years no one traveled far. It was a big event to get to Fond du Lac 18 miles away or the fifty miles to Milwaukee. Except in warm weather, one wasn’t apt to travel very far because the car had no heater. Furthermore, Old Hard Par wasn’t up to it a lot of the time. I remember many times getting ready to go somewhere, only to be disappointed and have to stay home because Old Hard Par wouldn’t start. Even worse, one time we got stranded on the highway in ninety degree heat and had to await rescue.

How I wished Mom and Dad could afford a new car. The Great Depression was still stalking the land, so that was out of the question.

On Dec. 7th, 1941, we were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. World War II was declared. Now only a few cars per year were built. Old Hard Par just had to keep on keeping on. Second hand cars became ridiculously over-priced even if you could find one. We felt lucky to be allocated enough gas for our needs. New tires, were almost out of the question. The Japanese had gotten control of our rubber supply. The little there was went for the vehilces of the armed forces.

About this time the inventive genius of our engineers came up with synthetic tires. Those were scarce, too, and really not very serviceable. Every trip Mom and Dad made to town had to be a necessity. We didn’t know how long the war would last and people in the country absolutely had to have some means of transportation to get supplies from town.

World War II rumbled on and do did Old Hard Par. By this time it made a terrible noise everytime the motor ran. We always knew when Dad, in Old Hard Par, came within two miles of home because we could hear it. It had a noise totally unlike any other automobile. It became a family joke to see who would be the first to announce, “Dad is on his way home.”

If we kids had chores to finish while he was gone, this knowledge gave us loafing time. We always had enough time to gather together the necessary tools for whatever job we were supposed to finish and look industrious by the time Dad drove into the driveway.

I am sure it was an answer to the fervent prayers of my parents that Old Hard Par outlasted the war and we could finally buy a new car.

 

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Rose Uelmen And Her Treadle Sewing Machine

2014-06-28 17.40.43My grandmother Rose had to raise her family through the difficult years of the Great Depression and then WWII. Her sewing and creativity abilities kept her family clothed during these hard years.

The following piece was written by my Mother about her mother – Rose Uelmen Meyer.

The Treadle Sewing Machine
by Jeannette Meyer

When I see my mother in my memories I often visualize her sewing on her old treadle sewing machine that stood near the east window in the dining room.

When a very small child, I often lay near her chair as she sewed. I’d watch her feet move the treadle, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes in perfect rhythm. I admired the fancy wrought iron legs of the machine and tried to figure out what the design was. When I was older I realized that all the fancy design work really spelled the word “Singer”.

Singer was a good name for it. My mother really could make it sing and all the clothes she created from it made me sing many times.

Mother was an excellent seamstress. She could sew anything from the finest broadcloth to fur. Her sewing was a work of art. She must have spent a lot of time while doing tedious chores dreaming of the next design for a daughter’s dress.

Mother was an early riser and often found it was the only time she could find the solitude necessary to do the stitching of garments. She could make most anything if she set her mind to it.

During high school and college years was when I most appreciated her skill with the needle. There was practically no money to spend on clothes during this time and what little we did have we used to buy shoes. (Mother had not figured out a way to make those.) There wasn’t enough money in the budget to buy material. That didn’t stop my mother. An aunt lived in Milwaukee who had many wealthy friends who discarded their clothes after one season of wear. She collected them and brought them to my mother. They were kept in a big boxes in a spare bedroom upstairs, alone with the pieces of lace, buttons etc.

Each spring and fall my mother would go through the boxes with my sisters, Gert and Bunny and me. Edith was too young for this. Mother knew what each of us needed. As we sorted through the various garments we would tell mother which ones we liked. If it was suitable for the garment we needed and there was adequate material, she would okay our choices. Other times she would tell us what she could make from a garment in such a way as we could visualize before it was made.

We carried what we needed downstairs to the dining room. She equipped each of us with a sharp razor blade and a scissor with instructions to rip apart the seams.

After ripping and piecing, my mother somehow turned these pieces into clothes we were proud to wear. (I remember her saying in her later years and long after she had more money that she would still rather make something over than to start with a new piece of material. It must have been the challenge and creativity of it.)

Over the years my Mom made my Dad’s shirts, all her children’s clothes, drapes, curtains, pillows, Halloween costumes etc. Even my wedding dress and veil and my sister’s wedding dress were made on the treadle sewing machine.

When I got older I would do the housework while she sewed. The one drawback was all the sewing, fitting and ripping created a lot of lint which floated around the living room, and settling in every nick and cranny. Once in a while,we girls would complain about the messy dining room. My mother remarked, “Girls you can either sew or have an immaculate home, but you can’t have both.” It didn’t seem to hurt us, all our friends came by to see us just as often as to the houses of anyone else.

One of my most dearly loved coats was one she made while I was in college. Everyone that year was wearing stylish princess seamed coats of navy with white collars. My mom went to town and came home with a navy hounds tooth check for my coat. I was horrified and I cried and cried like an 8-year-old. How could I wear a hounds-tooth check coat when everyone about me was wearing a navy one? This did not move my mother one bit. She kept showing me the pattern she had brought from which to cut it. I had to admit it was a stunning design but it wasn’t navy blue.I cried some more. She told me not to fret, anyone could have a navy blue coat. I would be the only one with a hounds-tooth check. I cried more as she patiently explained that the best dressed people did not follow a fad but developed their own style. She assured me that my coat would always look good and no one would know what year it was bought because I would not look like I was wearing last years model. I finally dried my tears as I knew she couldn’t take the fabric back. I made up my mind I would wear it but hate it each time I did.

During the following week she cut and stitched and fitted until the coat had been completed. I was amazed. I looked in the mirror and saw that my mother had been right on every count. It was truly a beautiful coat. The next week when I wore it tom my college classes all my classmates gathered around to compliment me on my coat. One by one it passed among them to be tried on and modeled. I felt very smug when I realized no one looked as good in it as I did because it fitted my frame to a T. I learned a big lesson that day. To this day I find it hard to shop for clothes and know they don’t fit me as well as if they were made for me alone.

One year for Christmas she gave me a six gored wool skirt she make out of a huge women’s coat. I loved it. I was so thin and tiny and it looked so good on me. She also made me a pink batiste blouse from an another discarded dress. I appreciated this because I know how she labored to do this. She got up in the morning before anyone else arose to make these things as surprise gifts for me. I can’t go on and mention the many things she made me. She even made me a fur hat and muff.

Rosalia Uelmen Meyer

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Today I thought I’d share some memories my mother had of my Grandmother Rosalia Anna Meyer. She was born September 6, 1891 in Auburn township, Fond Du Lac County, Wisconsin on her parent’s farm. When she was around 10 she moved to the house and farm that is featured on the opening of this blog. She spent most of the remainder of her life there. The memories below were written by my mother Jeannette in 1996.

“> I always thought she was pretty.She had brown hair and stood about 5’4” tall. She had blue eyes and was quite buxom. She grew up in a time women wore long dresses with small waists and big bosoms and beautiful hats.

Her hair must have been long and in a bun when I was very little. One of my first memories was being in my grandmother Meyer’s house in Cascade, WI. My mother had gone to the barbershop. Dad and the other relatives were sitting in the kitchen.The door opened and in walked a lady with short hair. She came towards me. I remember running from her. I didn’t recognize her. She had had her hair bobbed. She picked me up and spoke to me and I realized it was my Mother.

She was kind, sweet and loving mother. We always knew we would be cared for. If she wasn’t at home when I returned from school it seemed as if nothing else was quite right until she got home.

Times I remember are when we’d be sick in bed with a contagious disease and were finally on the mend, we three girls (Edith hadn’t been born yet) would gather in her bed and she would read us a number of chapters every night from books like HEIDI, LITTLE WOMEN, LITTLE MEN etc. She could was good at making up stories too.

She also knew how to stand up for herself and live according to her principles she believed in. She very much valued her Catholic faith and lived according to its tenets. She believed in the ten commandments. She also held education in in high esteem.

Mother did not like gossip. When I reported some gossip I’d heard she say, “I don’t believe it! You should believe only half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

She could bake, sew beautiful clothes from other’s cast-offs and make beautiful hooked rugs and quilts and other crafty things. She had a good eye for design. She always told us girls to be a little different and not look like everyone else. She could tailor suits and sew with fur. She made some of me some of the most beautiful clothes I ever owned. She also liked to write poetry.

She kept a big garden where she planted lots of flowers along with the vegetables. I think she liked all kinds of flowers but I know she liked lilacs.

Mother and Dad loved to dance and went to the local dances. Children were brought along and when they fell asleep they were laid on the benches that lined the dance hall. Everyone watched out for everyone else’s children. In our area people did a lot of card playing, visited back and forth with each other.

Since I have grown up I’ve often thought my Mothers was a generation ahead of herself. She had been a teacher before her marriage and must have been well liked by her students because when she and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary she got cards from some of them. She was always encouraging us to learn and to educate ourselves about things. Getting a higher education was high on her list for her children. She knew it was a must for a better life.

She suffered a lot of heartache during the Great Depression. I know it broke her heart she could not find a way to get my brother John beyond a year of high school because of the scarcity of money and opportunity. Later she showed great ingenuity in getting her 3 girls four years of high school.

She would have liked to have learned to play the piano. She was supposed to take lessons but her younger sister Matie cried so much because she wanted to do that, too. Her parents gave in to Matie and Mother stayed home. I think that was one of her greatest disappointments as a child.

Her best friend was Gladys Cober Mead. They knew each other as little children. The lived in the same farming community and went to school together. From my recollection of the stories Mother told us about their friendship they must have shared their fondest wishes and bitter disappointments. When Gladys was in her early teens her parents decided to move to NY state. Gladys and mother corresponded regularly until she died. Gertrude continued the correspondence a few times each year until Gladys became to0 old and senile. Then Gladys’ older daughter, Millie and Gert corresponded.

Mother’s special place was going down to the swamp where the tamarack trees grew. In the spring there were yellow cowslips, violets and if one were lucky you could find a jack-in-the-pulpit or lady-slipper flowers. It was about 1/3 of a mile from our house. When Mother walked down there we were not allowed to follow. I believe she went there when she was very troubled and somehow found comfort to her heart in that place. In later life she wrote a poem about it.”

MY TRYSTING PLACE
by Rose Uelmen Meyer

Each day brings me more problems to be resolved
The more I think about them
The larger they evolve
So I think about my troubles
And no answer do I find
So I plan a tryst with nature
Where only beauty does abide
It is down in the lowlands
Where the river winds it way
And all along its banks and bays
Grow flowers in great array
The same each I’ve live there
No changes there at all
The birds sang as they always did
In tamarack trees so tall
To sit in this glorious paradise
One forgets the sting of sword
To contemplate with nature
Is like talking to our Lord
It is time to forget my worries
That brought me to this place
And all the world is beautiful
In our Lords embrace

 

Throw Back Thursday

This photo is in honor of my Dad and Father’s day this coming Sunday. I’m planning to spend the day with him so this is a little early.   Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

I actually have the sailor suit he is wearing. His mother made it.  I think he must have been 3-4 years old so the year must be  about 1925 or 26.   He’s holding a bunny so maybe it’s an Easter photo.

The photo was taken at his home in Puyallup, WA.  The stonework behind him was part of the porch his dad built.  The house and porch are still standing nearly 100 years later.  He carried the stones home from the Carbon River.

Who was Anna Maria Celicia Thomsen Meyer?

Anna Maria Cecialia Thomsen Meyer was christened on April 15, 1860 in Ullerup, Aaberra-Sonderborg, Denmark. She was the fifth child of Thomas Thomsen and Anna Maria Brok or Brock and their third daughter.

She joined a brother Hans Jorgen (John) age 6, sister, Kristine age 4, brother, Thomas age 3 and a sister Katherine (Kate) age 2.  It isn’t hard  to imagine her addition made  an already busy household even busier.  None of her siblings were old enough to be much help.

File:Ullerup Kirke.1.jpg

Photo of Ullerup church where Anna or Mary as she became to be known in the United States was likely baptized. Below is another photo of Ullerup.  It looks a lot like Wisconsin doesn’t it?The road to my parents land.

When Mary was only 4 years old the Prussian army marched in and took over the Schleiswig and Holstein areas of Denmark. Ullerup was part of Schlieswig.  She and her family probably saw  and put up with Prussian soldiers in their village that year.

My Grandma Rose left some brief notes about this family in a notebook my mother came to have.  Mostly she had used the notebook for household hints and things of that nature but near the end she had written down my Grandpa George’s, Mother’s family.  Although Rose made no mention of his name the 1880 census does show a son named Peter who would have been born in 1865.  The youngest son Christian was born in 1870.  Since the census records for Christian shows him born in Denmark the family must have emigrated after that date.

According the notes my Grandma Rose Meyer wrote down, Thomas and Anna did not want their sons to serve in the Prussian army and so the father immigrated with the sons first  with the women following later.  This also fits with the story my Mom frequently told us with regard to the Thomsen family.   Mary’s eldest brother would have been of conscription age about 1874.  So they most likely immigrated about that time.

My Grandma Rose wrote that the eldest daughter Kristine was ill and would not have passed the health inspection and was left behind with relatives.  Whether this is true or not can’t be verified but Kristine would have been around 18 or 19 when they left so perhaps she elected to stay behind. From the Danish parish records I was able to find that she did marry in 1883 to a Christian Bruhn, had 2 children, one of who was still alive when she died on Nov. 28th of 1885.

Thus far I have been unable to find  any of  the family in immigration records.  In the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census Mary gives three different years for her immigration being 1871, 1872 and 1875.  Sister Kate gives her immigration date as 1879 in both the 1900 and 1910 census.  Christian gives the date as 1874 and 1875 in the various census records.  And Mary’s obituary says she came at age 16.  I can find no positive proof for the eldest son in Wisconsin (his name would translate to John which is too common  of a name to identify without having something more to go on)   He is not in with the family in the 1880 census nor is someone with that name shown in Cascade or nearby areas.

My mother remembered that her grandmother said she arrived in the  U.S. as a teen and had to work in the fields etc. to help the family support itself.  Whatever the date it had to be between 1871 and 1879 as the family is found in Cascade, WI in the 1880 census records.  At that time Mary is living and working as a servant in the town hotel.

Near the hotel was John Meyer’s shoe shop.  In1881 the couple married.  They had four sons, William b. in 1882, Frank Charles in 1883, George in 1888 and Arno in 1893.  My mother recalled that she was a stern woman.  She said she had to be for her boys were full of mischief and got themselves into lots of trouble.  She recalled hearing them tell about times when they put  farmers wagons on top of their roofs as Halloween pranks.  She also recalled she was strict Lutheran.  My Mother also remembered her as an excellent cook.

After her husband died in 1926 she stopped taking good care of herself so the family helped her move to a home in Milwaukee.  From my Mom’s description of it, it sounds a lot like the retirement living places of today.  She had her own room with her special things and ate meals in a dining room. She still frequently visited friends and families homes. My Mother recalled her coming to stay at the farm often.  When my Mom went to stay at her Aunt Camilla’s and Uncle Frank’s in Milwaukee she would go to visit with her grandmother.  She remembered that she usually had some small trinket to give her and liked to show her off to her friends at the home.

Eventually Mary’s health failed and she went to a nursing home where she died in 1941.Her obituary in the Sheboygan Falls newspaper described her as a kind thoughtful person who liked people and had a friendly disposition.  She was survived by 3 sons and her brother Christian who lived in NJ.  She was a loyal member of St. Paul’s Lutheran church in Cascade and St. Mark’s Lutheran church in Milwaukee.  She is buried at St. Paul’s cemetery in Cascade, Wisconsin along with her husband and infant son William.