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Remembering Another Time: Pritzkau's Book Recalls Growing up in North Dakota, its Life, and Times

Johnson, Matthew. "Remembering Another Time: Pritzkau's Book Recalls Growing Up in North Dakota, its Life, and Times." Jamestown Sun, 15 October 1997.


Native North Dakotan Dr. Philo Pritzkau has a book out called Growing up in North Dakota: A Memoir. It's one man's personal look back at his German-Russian heritage growing up on the plains near Napoleon, N.D.

Now a retired educator living in Leeds, Mass., the 95-year-old Pritzkau ended his final trip to North Dakota Tuesday in Jamestown.

"It's a redreaming of a life, a redreaming of an existence," Pritzkau said at a convocation Tuesday at Jamestown College.

Pritzkau, whose book is being promoted by the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University, remembers Dr. Barend Kroeze, President of Jamestown College from 1909 to 1946.

It was either 1915 or 1916 Kroeze spoke at Pritzkau's eighth grade graduation at the courthouse in Napoleon, Pritzkau said.

"He gave a very wonderful speech," Pritzkau remembers.

Pritzkau himself started teaching in a one-room country schoolhouse near Napoleon.

After retiring from education in 1972, he started thinking of his childhood past in North Dakota and wrote it down.

He has also passed down his German-Russian heritage to his daughter, Patricia Pritzkau MacLachlan, an award-winning writer of children's books, including Sarah Plain and Tall.

In his book, Pritzkau tells about the rough trip his immigrant parents survived in 1885 and how they finally settled in North Dakota.

They built a sod house in Logan County near Napoleon, where Pritzkau was born in 1902.

His father obtained a large tract of land near a slough where the cattle would wander past.

"My dad always wanted land. Mother got after him from time to time. She told him, `You're going to lose your shirt,'" Pritzkau recalls.

As a boy, Pritzkau woke up early to chase down horses that grazed on 640 acres of pasture land.

And then there was the 21 cows to be milked by hand.

"Poor old mother had to do most of the milking," Pritzkau said.

Pritzkau recalls a big hill that nobody ever plowed. "Every spring the crocuses came up all over the place and beautified it," he said.

Pritzkau walked to attend school at a one-room school house. Once, he stayed home from school for a week to catch gophers until his father persuaded him to go back to school, he said.

Another time, one of the family horses, Jack, was standing in the 8-foot high doorway of the barn. A chicken from up in the hayloft fell and startled Jack, causing him to jump. He hit his head on the beam above and died.

"My father said, `I better go tell John that Jack killed himself,'" Pritzkau said.

Pritzkau's father told the horse's owner and the owner slapped his knee and said, "That's the best thing that ever happened."

Reprinted with permission of The Jamestown Sun, Jamestown, North Dakota.

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