Home History Culture Oral History Transcribed Interviews

Interview with Sam Eszlinger(SE)

Conducted by Delmar Zimmerman(DZ)
13 May 1997, Wishek, North Dakota

Transcription by Margaret Templin
Proofreading and Editing by Jay Gage and Lena Paris

(Continued on tape 1-B)


DZ: We are ready for our second set of questions in this interview with Sam Eszlinger. Today is part two, this is the evening of May 13, 1997, a Tuesday evening.

Sam, you talked about dorfs and chutors (hoot-ders) in the last interview. You explained what a dorf was, but what is a chutor.

SE: That is what they use, from what I understood, it means like a colony of little village or something. Chutors, they had different names. I think it was just like a little village or something. They used that word. [private country estates with small groups of families.]

DZ: So someone lived in this chutor, and someone else lived in another chutor. Something like a village.

SE: Yes, a location of some kind.

DZ: Now, we will go into a section here on courting, marriage, and relationships. What did your parents or teachers tell you about marriage?

SE: They didn't tell us anything. The most they said was, you better wait for another year. This is a drought year and there is no chance to get married or even to risk it. Just try to postpone it, which we did.

DZ: And you did, you listened.

SE: Yes, we had to listen to them.

DZ: What did you learn of marriage by seeing your parents relationship by watching them? What did you learn of marriage?

SE: We didn't know any better. We thought it had to go that way. It was the right way.

DZ: That's the right way.

SE: We didn't know anything else.

DZ: So, what kind of marriage life did they have?

SE: Oh yes, they raised a big family in a small home.

DZ: Did they encourage you to do the same thing?

SE: We could do whatever we were able to do.

DZ: How did your marriage differ than your parents marriage?

SE: I don't know what went on in those years. I just don't know anything about that.

DZ: I think we touched a little on this yesterday, were the marriages of your parents or grandparents arranged or "koeppeled"?

SE: That I don't know. I heard that word off and on. "koeppeled" this and that, but really there was nothing going on that I remembered, nobody got koeppeled.

The talk was this word "koeppled", they used it years ago.

DZ: As far as you know your father, mother, or grandparents weren't koeppeled then?

SE: No, That's too far back.

DZ: Now a little bit about family life. What did your parents tell you about raising children?

SE: Really nothing. That's right. They told us to belong to a church and to go to church. They pushed church.

DZ: They taught by example. Whatever they did, they figured you should do the same.

SE: They taught us to do about what they did. Then we had to follow, we did follow them.

DZ: What were some of the most important traits or virtues that you learned from them that helped you become a good parent. Some things they did, that you noticed, that made you a good parent?

SE: Oh well, he always told us to be honest and to keep busy. If you are put to work, work and satisfy. Even if you don't like it, do the work the way you are told to.

DZ: Be a hard worker and an honest person. A straight shooter, and you'll go a long ways. Those are pretty good characteristics.

Did husbands and wives have equal authority or rights in making major decisions? Were they both the same as far as authority was concerned?

SE: Well, I think they all talked about their rights. Whether to do something this way or that way or that way until they made an agreement on something, until they were both satisfied.

DZ: Your dad didn't act like he was the boss and, no one had anything else to say.

SE: He put us to work, I know that!

DZ: When you have a family that large, you have to get some work out of them!

SE: He was alright. They managed it, I think, very good, for being all alone on the prairie.

DZ: I think so too. A family of that size; and everybody turned out pretty good, that's for sure. Everybody was successful.

Were you able to express feelings of anger, sadness, fear, or criticism as a child? If there was something that you didn't like, could you express it?

SE: It was mostly kept quiet; we kept it. No argument, no asking, no anything. Just get over it!

DZ: Mind your own business. Do as you are told.

SE: There is always a brighter day ahead.

DZ: How was love and affection shown in your family?

SE: I think the full way. The way it should be.

DZ: They showed that they cared for you and all that?

SE: Everybody cared for everybody.

DZ: Who showed more direct affection and how? Your mother or father or both the same?

SE: I would say they both did their part.

DZ: They shared in that responsibility.

In a family of that size, was there confrontations between the boys and the girls?

SE: In what way?

DZ: Like in your family, you had 14 people, was there a lot of confrontations between all of you? Or did you all get alone pretty good?

SE: We had no problems. One for all, and all for one.

DZ: That's pretty good, a good motto. And your parents probably made sure that's the way it was.

SE: They didn't like arguments.

DZ: Did they ever argue in front of you?

SE: Not really, but they explained things and told us this or that. This you can do, and this you can both do. This is shaming if you do this. They always wanted us to be respectful.

DZ: If any of you kids got into trouble, how did they discipline you? If you did something they didn't want you to do?

SE: It was just all by talking and explaining. There was no fighting around or anything, just explaining to get it settled as good as it could be.

DZ: If they set the rules, you knew what to do and what not to.

SE: We really didn't have any trouble, no trouble at all.

DZ: Were there any changes between your generation and your grandparents? As far as family life was concerned.

SE: From their life I know nothing. I wouldn't know.

DZ: Would you say you treated your children the way as you were treated for the most part?

SE: I was on that track, and I figured I was gonna do it. Maybe it wasn't. But we did it pretty good, so far.

DZ: Yes, at least you tried. So you brought them up by the examples your parents set for you. That's how you grew up, and you were hoping your kids would do it too.

SE: I told them all when they were in college, I told Julie, like my dad told me, "If you are told to do something, do the work whether you like it or not; whether it is too heavy or not; but do all that you can and try to get it done." If you don't like it, you can come home and tell us. Don't complain.

DZ: Don't complain about it. I think that's a good philosophy.

If there were any disagreements between family members, how were they settled?

SE: I really couldn't say there was any that we had a special settlement of. We didn't run into that trouble.

DZ: Like you said earlier, you just talked about it and talked it over.

END OF TAPE 1 - TAPE 2 BEGINS

DZ: We just finished talking about settling disagreements amongst family members and the way that the family got along. There weren't too many disagreements; and when there were disagreements, they would discuss them and come up with a solutions of some kind.

The next question is were older family members ever consulted about matters such as settling disputes, finances, or farming practices. If there were any differences between family members, or any financial problems or any differences about how to farm this or that land. Were some of the older people consulted?

SE: I don't think we ever got into something like that. It just went smooth all the way. Everybody was on their way; the way they wanted.

DZ: Now, when young men and women got a little older and started dating girls or boys, how were you treated when you or your sisters dated someone of another religion? Someone that was was not your own religion? How were they treated? What did you say about that?

SE: There was no discussion about religion or anything. Just pick the one you like or see the one you like or whatever. It was everybody for everybody.

DZ: So if you picked someone that was of a different religion, then your family didn't say anything?

SE: That's right.

DZ: I suppose, your parents figured that the way they brought you up, you should make a wise decision.

SE: We figured our judgement was close enough to the way we wanted. We figured we were right, good enough. There was no argument or discussion about it.

DZ: So none of the young men or women were ever cut off from the rest of the family because of religion.

SE: Nobody.

DZ: That's good.

Who cared for family members in their old age, when they started getting older?

SE: All I can remember, the Salzer, my mother's side, their kids took care of the folks. On the Eszlinger side, the (Eszlinger) kids took care of their folks. Always the family members took in the family, as long as they were living. There was no rest home or anything like that in those days.

DZ: It was probably the older children who got involved in that?

SE: Not even the older children. It depended on who had the big enough house, or where they agreed to be, or where they would like to be. That's the way it worked.

DZ: They never had any problem that way.

Did your grandparents or parents have friends outside of the family with whom they shared private thought, emotions or feelings? Did they have friends who they would get together with?

SE: They were far apart, the first years they were here. My parents got a neighbor who moved close to them, he come from Russia too. So they were together a lot just as close friends. They were visiting each other quite often.

DZ: They were together real often, and they got along real well.

SE: They were close friends until they died. They are buried in the same cemetery.

DZ: Did they ever take your kids along? When they went over to visit the neighbors, did you get along?

SE: We had to stay home. We bigger ones had things to do; and there were too many of us to go along.

DZ: What did they do, just sit and visit?

SE: Well, they had other couples to come. Sometimes they sang or made the appointment to go the next evening or sometimes to visit others.

DZ: Would this be on any night of the week or mostly on Sunday night or when?

SE: During the week in the winter time, too. They did a lot of that, getting together. Going away in the evening; that was the way to do it. Now a days they don't do it. There is always something else to do.

DZ: How did they go, like in the winter time?

SE: Horses and sled. By the time later on when they had cars, I was almost gone by then.

DZ: Now when they went to the neighbors with the horse and sleds, did they just tie them up outside or would they put them in the barn?

SE: They put the horses in the barn to keep them warm. They took the lantern and went out and hitched them up again, loaded the sled and went home again.

DZ: That took a lot of time and lot of trouble at that time.

SE: Well, it took a lot of time away if you didn't know how to pass the time. So that took quite a bit of time, hitching up and driving a few miles then home and unhitching and taking the harness off. So it made the night shorter.

DZ: Yes that's a lot different than going out in the car, starting out and taking off. Those were the good old days.

SE: It's different now.

DZ: How did your grandparents or parents view the "freundschaft", their relatives. How did they get along with their family like with their brothers and sisters?

SE: There were no problems there. Of course they didn't live close to us, when my grandparents were staying with the others. They were usually staying with the others, and they were farther away. Our parents were never living close to us. They were always a few miles away, off by the others.

DZ: If the relatives were close and then they moved away, did your family try to stay in touch with them at all?

SE: My dad wrote many letters to those who were too far away to go see. They always wrote letters back and forth. They were sometimes waiting for a letter, because he would answer his letter; and then he would be waiting for a letter again. They always knew when it was about time to receive a letter.

DZ: Who made the money decisions in your family: your dad or your mother or both of them?

SE: There wasn't much decision to make, when there wasn't any money. The decision was whether it was going to last until the cream can was full or the egg case was filled to take into town to buy the groceries. There was no money problem; and it was the biggest problem, but it was worked out.
DZ: If there was any time when they had a problem would they go to the bank or did they borrow it from relatives? Did they never borrowed any as far as you know?

SE: I remember as long as we grew up at home, the money was always managed from selling the cream. It was a regular deal, so much a week for a can or two. Take the cream and eggs to town, and buy your sugar and flour or whatever. That was managed that way. The rest of the stuff, we raised everything. We had meat and butter and milk. The dough they started from scratch and made bread.

DZ: So as far as you know there were no serious financial problems at all?

SE: I can't say that we did or didn't have any problems.

DZ: But you always had enough milk and bread and meat?

SE: We always had enough to eat and that is what my dad always said, "As long as we are warm and have enough to eat we can be thankful." And so, that's the way we were.

DZ: That's a good philosophy. Now a few questions about family and the world. What was the most important religious teachings in your family? As far a religion was concerned, what did you mother and dad teach you?

SE: Our dad taught us to write the German ABC's, then the "Ten Commandments" and all the most important things. He would teach us that at home. We didn't get anything from school, Sunday school or anything.

DZ: Did you find comfort in all this?

SE: Well, we just went along. We thought it has to be like that. We weren't born into anything else.

DZ: Were you frightened by these teachings or were you scared?

SE: No.

DZ: There was nothing to be afraid of?

SE: We sat around the table, the four of us; and he taught us. He made us write the name and then the letters. If you didn't make them right he would make us do it again. We would have trouble with the "sc" and the "tc". That "s" sound meant quite a bit.

DZ: He wanted to make sure you got that right. So religion was a pretty important part of your family life?

SE: My dad was strict with that. That was first.

DZ: Was there ever anything as far as religion is concerned that you didn't agree with your dad or that you didn't like.

SE: No. We didn't get far enough for that. By the time they had a church and everything to go the way it should go, then we were all bigger and on our own mostly. It was never a problem.

DZ: You never questioned. You obeyed.

SE: Well, that's what we were set up for. We just followed him. We did this in all ways.

DZ: How did your family get along with people that weren't German Russians? We talked about this a little bit, about Jews, Indians, or other Germans. How did they get along with your mom and dad who were German Russians? For instance, how did your parents get along with the Jews?

SE: The Jews could talk a little German. They got along; the little bit they were together.

DZ: Because your religions were different, there was no problems?

SE: I don't know even if they got into that or not. There was a Jew with a little dog there. He and my dad talked a lot about the Bible. This was a Christian Jew. Whenever they got a little bit of a chance they would be talking about the Bible. They got along very good.

DZ: Yes. You told me that story about that dog But you just as soon not say it here.

SE: No, I don't think so.

DZ: That was a good story!

There weren't any Indians living around here at that time was there?

SE: No Indians. It was in 1937, when I made my first trip to California with the truck. I took some furniture out for some those who left here in the drought years. There was this Jew in the store. He told me if I had room, I could buy two cases of oranges and bring back to the store. I told her alright I would; and you know what happened while we were out there, the second day, the guy who went with me; he called home. He said two people died in Ashley since we left. I can mention the name?

DZ: Yes.

SE: It was Fred Hansen and the store keeper, Ben Mendelwitz. The one who wanted the oranges. So he told me I had better not take the oranges along, so we left them.

DZ: So you left them?

SE: Yes. We didn't bring them back.

DZ: Was he an older man or what?

SE: He was old enough to retire. He was about to quit at any time. But he said I was to bring him those oranges. I would have brought them. As soon as we were out there, there was a call that these two people had died.

DZ: How about your family. You have no problem with Jews or Indians or anything like that? Were you afraid to say you were German at that time?

SE: No. I was never afraid. At that time when I started to school, it was mostly Jews and Irish there.

DZ: Talking about speaking German. Have you felt comfortable expressing your German Russian background? Does it bother you talking about the fact that you are a German?

SE: No. We have never stopped for anything. We have just kept talking. We listened to the little Jews talk Jewish. I said when we come home from school I told my parents they laughed at me. I said those little Jews are so small, yet they know how to talk Jewish.

DZ: Have you been proud of your German Russian heritage?

SE: Yes I am, we got along good.

DZ: What about World War I or II? Were you afraid to speak up at that time?

SE: At World War I, I was pretty young yet. There was talk about this and that, but we had no problem. We didn't get around during World War I, but during World War II we had no problems.

DZ: Did speaking German effect your relationship with others in school or in town or church?

SE: No. We shouldn't talk German, but we did; off and on we did anyhow. We slowly talking English, and we got into.

DZ: Was there anybody in your company or any of your friends who could only talk English, they couldn't talk German, or was everybody in the same boat?

SE: There was nobody who could talk German. They talked English and Jewish. We were the Germans.

DZ: So there never was any problem between you kids.

SE: Of course, when we talked in school, us kids together. The German words or the Jewish words, of course they stopped us, and we had to get in the corner. They wanted us to talk English; which was the right way, I think.

DZ: Did they do the same thing to them? Tell them to talk German or to talk English?

SE: We didn't do nothing. We listened to the teacher. When she wasn't around we used our language anyhow, but it was against the rules. It didn't make us any trouble, but it was teaching us.

DZ: How do you feel about a German brogue, speaking with a German brogue, speaking and sounding like a German? When you are speaking and the "G" sounds kind of like a "K". We have no problem with that?

SE: We have no problem with that.

DZ: What do you think about the survival of the German language in our German Russian community? We have a German Russian community here and some still talk German and some don't? What do you think about that? Is it a good thing or not?

SE: I think if we get along and like it, I don't see anything wrong with that. They don't hurt anybody. If they enjoy and like it, I think it's ok. It's their business.

DZ: I'm sure you feel like I do. I'm glad I can talk German.

SE: Yes, and if I would know another language, some of them take Spanish now or whatever. Wouldn't another language be worth so much more?

DZ: That's right. Do your children or your grandchildren speak German?

SE: No. The grandchildren are completely English, but they take lessons at school, some of them.

DZ: Your children both speak German don't they?

SE: They can speak German.

DZ: Did you teach them to speak German or did they just catch on?

SE: They just caught on and talked it?

DZ: They learned it from you. Now a few questions on education. I think we talked a little bit about that yesterday on the other tape. How available were your educational opportunities? You said none of your family went to the eighth grade. What school went past the eighth grade?

SE: The school went up to the eighth grade.

DZ: What if somebody had wanted to go to high school?

SE: I wanted to go to high school, but there was no money to go. We had to stay home and work, and so I didn't go. I was going to go to tractor school.

DZ: How about some of your other brothers and sisters?

SE: I don't think they ever tried. All the younger ones, but they were the ones who lived in Danzig. I had a book ordered from Omaha, Nebraska; a book which you used with all the pictures. All the boys in the building there about my age and size went. I wished I could have gone with them.

DZ: Were you very interested in tractors?

SE: Those years they started with those little tractors in farming. I thought that would be nice if I could do a little bit of engineering, but Dad said there is no money to go. He always hired us to work to earn money to keep going. If I had gone that way he'd had to scratch it out of this end to put it into the other end.

DZ: It kind of reminds me of my dad. You know my dad said he wanted to go to high school. His dad said (GERMAN DIALOGUE 264). That's the answer he had when he wanted to go to high school. So there weren't too many who went to high school at that time were there?

SE: Well none of us. From our family, none of us went.

DZ: From other families did you know of anybody who did?

SE: There were some who went high enough to be able to teach school.

DZ: Where did they go to high school? Where was there a high school?

SE: Ashley had a high school that time.

DZ: Did your educational experience influence your own children's education? The schooling you had, did that effect your own children?

SE: It effected me so much that I thought if they wanted more schooling, I would go along with it. I wanted to farm and I told Kavin before I sold the farm out, "I will leave everything, and you can take over when I leave."

He said, "I'm afraid I can't handle it."

So, he wanted music. He had his way, and Julia had her way. She was nine years old. She had rheumatic fever, and she was in Bismarck in the hospital. She stayed up there by herself. When we went up there, she was happy, she liked it. She said then that she had made up her mind. She was going to get big and go to school and what ever. "I'm going to be a nurse," she said. That stayed with her, and it went with her to the end.

DZ: So just because you had an eighth grade education didn't mean you were going to stop your kids from going past the eighth grade? That probably helped you push them.

SE: No way. I know what I went through. When I was still going to school, they had a little band in Danzig. They called it the Bluebird band; and all those my age were after me to join them, so they could get a bigger band. I told my folks that I should have an instrument and get me lessons, because I want to play in the band.

At that time it cost something like $35.00 for a trumpet or a baritone or whatever you want to call it. When I told my parents what it cost, they said we can't afford to buy that now. That was the end of that.

DZ: So you didn't do it.

SE: I sure would have liked to have joined that band. There were a bunch of boys my age.

DZ: You couldn't scrounge up the $35.00 though.

SE: My parents thought maybe if they gave it to one of us, then the others would want this and that. We didn't break the ice. I just had to turn down a good job.

DZ: Anyway, you encouraged your kids to go to school, and they encouraged their kids.

SE: To do whatever their wish was. We would go to tournaments or music festivals or whatever there was, when one of them was entered, while they were both in band and Julia was a cheerleader. When the team played in a tournament; and they had to go, we were gone. They had no bus at that time. Everybody found their way there, and Julia was after us to go.

DZ: So you went to a lot of their activities that they participated in?

SE: The basketball games, I saw enough in those years. When they were done, I was done.

DZ: You were done too. Now if you had more education, how do you think your life would have been different?

SE: It would have been different; but, maybe, not as good as it has been this way; I can't complain.

DZ: So if you would have gone to school, it might have been different, but not necessarily better. You know, I think that is right.

Anything else about education you want to talk about?

SE: I should have had more education, but that is too late now. I settle for what it is now.

DZ: We learn every day now, don't we?

SE: Yes! It went alright, I guess.

DZ: Yes. You bet.

Our last subject is on politics. Were your parents interested in politics?

SE: No. None of us kids were interested either.

DZ: They never attended any political rallies or anything like that?

SE: We go voting and everything. We follow that. We go along with it, but we don't work on it during the campaigning.

DZ: At that time they were probably, there was during the probation years and women suffrage. Did they have any opinions on any of that stuff?

SE: I don't think so. Around us, it was kept quiet.

DZ: If they did feel strongly about something, they kept it to themselves.

SE: There was nothing they could do or try to do. They thought they would just wait and see how it would turn out.

DZ: But you did go and vote when you were voting age?

SE: I was on the election committee a number of times.

DZ: Was there a president, which your parents felt strongly about?

SE: No not really.

DZ: What about you?

SE: I never really had one. I couldn't do any changing by talking to them anyway.

DZ: Do you remember what they were politically, Democratic or Republican, or NPL?

SE: No, I don't know what my parents were. We didn't pay much interest to that.

DZ: I think you answered this already. You were never involved in certain political parties or issues?

SE: No.

DZ: But you are interested in everyday things that happen and go on?

SE: Not everything, but things interfere with us or comes up for us like farm programs and this and that. I watch it pretty closely how it turns out.

DZ: You try to keep up with that. You do have some interest though.

SE: Oh yes. I still have some interest in farming.

DZ: Somebody has to stay on top of things right? Is there anything else we should talk about in politics?

SE: No, if it go through politics then, that is where I come to the end.

DZ: Isn't there a saying that says, "Politics is what makes the world go around?"

SE: It still go around without it, or me. Where it stops, nobody knows.

DZ: That's good that you are interested enough to go voting and express your opinion.

I jotted down a couple of things that we should have probably have talked about some other place, but there weren't questions here on the paper.

Your parents were quite religious, and they went to church on a regular basis, and they went to the homes. Did your mother or dad hold church offices. Were they deacon, deaconess, ushers, or trustees or anything?

SE: My dad was a deacon for many years, until he got sick; and then he just signed off and said, "I can't do it anymore." Mr. Wallace took it over. He was the beginner of this church. He worked hard to get the church going.

DZ: Another thing I was going to ask was, what are some of the things that you do now that you are retired. You were a trucker, farmer and now you are retired. What are some of the things you are interested in now?

SE: Well, I wouldn't know. Just keep on living as long as I am able to. Hope for good health.

DZ: That's the main part. I know one of your hobbies is the train. Do you want to tell us about it?

SE: It may be too small of a deal. I don't know. I got it out here in the shed. Sometimes in the summer when I sit out there and have it going. There is a church right across the street; the preacher from the church across the road comes a little early until the services start. He comes over and watches the train.

The other day he was at the cafe. I knew him, but I didn't know where he belonged to. He knew me. I said I can't think of your name, but I know I know you.

"Yes I was there twice in your little shed, and we had your little train going. You still got it?"

I said, "Yes, and I got it in better shape than I had it at that time. I got a tape now to play with it, and it toots and whistles."

DZ: Do you have any other hobbies?

SE: I have those little tractors I collect.

DZ: Do you read a lot?

SE: I did read a lot but I had to give it up because of my eyes. They are just tired. What I do is a lot of puzzles. I do a lot of them. I do them once and when they are done I put them away. This is what I do now. I bought this little book, and I find the words.

DZ: Words circles. Those are fun games. Words that are diagonal, horizontal, and vertical and then you pick out the words. That is good to do something like that because it keeps you young and alert.

SE: Your mother does that; but she doesn't keep her lines straight, so I got her a ruler to help her get used to making her lines straight.

I don't quit until I've got the page done.

DZ: Do you watch very much TV?

SE: Not very much unless there is something that I want to watch like something special. Otherwise, all those junk stories I don't watch.

DZ: Are you or were you ever a fisherman?

SE: No.

DZ: A golfer?

SE: No, but I like to watch it on TV.

DZ: So you have enough things to keep you occupied and make the time go by.

SE: Yes, sometimes I should have more rest. I'm going here and there, and this and that.

DZ: Another thing I wanted to ask you about. You have a senior citizen center here, are you pretty active in that.

SE: Well, we just go there. Have our meals. I don't hold an office or anything.

DZ: Are the meals on a daily basis or what?

SE: Three a week. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

DZ: Do they have some activities at night sometimes?

SE: Yes. Sometimes on Friday nights, they go rather late. They have bingo, sing, play pool, or visit.

DZ: So, there are some activities here for elderly people.

SE: Yes, we'll be up there tonight.

DZ: Or it would be golfing, if the weather would be nice; you would be there also.

SE: Golf, I never tried it. Sometimes I watch them, and they miss it, and I think I could do better than that. But if you are there, I'm sure it's different.

DZ:I think so, yes.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your family life, or your relationships or how your family felt about this country or this community? How your kids feel about the community?

SE: The kids were raised here, but they left and went to California. They thought we should go out there too. I told them I would never move out there to live. I was here all those years, and I want to stay here.

DZ: How about the Minneapolis area?

SE: I don't like there either. I don't like that town.

DZ: That's a big town.

SE: When it's winter, it's cold there. At least in California it's warm. When they go to see the kids, Junior wants to take us along for about a week. We could go next week. It's alright to go but we don't want to stay.

DZ: You used to go to California and spend some time in the winter time?

SE: Just once.

DZ: Did you ever go south to Texas?

SE: We drove around there. We were in Texas just driving around. We talked about it the other day in the coffee shop about the driving with their trailers and fifth wheelers.

When we drove the most miles it was in the 60's, me and Esther. We took the car, just me and Esther; and we made a lot of miles and a lot of towns and a lot of states. In the 60s we made two long trips, which were over three thousands miles in thirty days. We did that twice.

Seven of the kids moved to California, and in 1974 we went over there the first time in a plane. From then on, we would fly. The car we are done with; we don't travel like that too much anymore.

DZ: Boy, I bet, with all your trucking and vacations that you have taken that you have put a lot of miles on a vehicle.

SE: Oh, gosh. I traded trucks every other year, there for a while; and they always had 90,000 to 110,000 miles on them. I just traded it off, and I had new tires and all.

With the four years I was alone, I was driving around a lot to Aberdeen to see the kids; Edwin was there. Ivan was living there yet; no, he was dead by then.

Anyhow I spent a lot of time chasing back to California. One year, I was to California and back, three times in eight months. Julia was my ticket buyer. She lived close to a friend who sells the tickets. She always calls her and tell her when a bargain is coming up, and says do your folks want to go someplace? You had better buy it now. So we always did that.

DZ: I had better give her my e-mail address or my phone number so she can do that for me! In the trucking business, what was your best truck a Chevrolet or a Ford?

SE: Chevrolet. Always a Chevrolet. I tried a Dodge two year, it was alright. I hauled a lot of gravel too, and a lot of machinery, and horses, and cattle.

DZ: You hauled a little of everything.

SE: I hauled a lot of cattle to Fargo. At that time, the Armour plant was new and built; up and now, it is completely shut down, so fast.

DZ: I used to work at that Armour plant at West Fargo in the summer time when I went to school in Valley City, ND. When I go through there now, it disappoints me, you know, that it is in such bad shape.

SE: The exchange building was built, when I was hauling. When they opened up, they had a little shack there to do your book work. The stock building, the exchange building was three stories high with six commission firms in there, so then you do your work in there. I saw that building go up from scratch; and a few years ago, Julia and I drove over there. We went down to see that building, and it was completely locked up. I went to the door, and she took a picture of me; the picture is someplace. A nice building locked up. They rushed through so many years, and then it was over.

DZ: What is your favorite make of car?

SE: It is still Chevrolet. This is the first Buick I'm driving now, and I don't like it.

DZ: The next one might be Chevrolet. What's your favorite food?

SE: Oh, I guess pizza.

DZ: Pizza. Well, that a wrong food. I thought maybe you would say dumplings or .....

SE: That old already.

DZ: I'll bet you have eaten a lot of dumplings and knefla.

SE: I can see our mothers working the dough almost every day.

We made ice for a number of winters for the father-in-law in Danzig for his meat market. There was no electricity, so they had to have ice for summer cooling. There were two winters we could hardly get any ice, because the lakes were so low. When you cut the ice, it couldn't swim, so it went down; and you couldn't use it.

We fooled around at all the different dams they had and pasture reservoirs. They were dry, so we had to go over to Cold Water Lake and find a spot were it was deep enough. In some places, it was eight feet deep. So we would cut ice, me and Otto Hays and the crew. We hauled about 60 tons to Danzig.

Everyday we had to cut a new section open. You have to take it all out or it freezes overnight, and you can't use it. So we finished up one day went home in the evening and unloaded in the morning. I had Fred to help unload.

I drove on the ice, and there was fresh snow on the place we cut out the day before. He moved to a different location, and I drove over that spot. As soon as I stopped, I was right on that spot that we cut out the day before. The ice started cracking, and the truck was breaking through. Fred jumped out on that ice. He was lucky he didn't break through. It was hard enough to hold the truck moving; and if I hadn't stopped, I would have gotten over it. I stopped and looked around where the rest of them were. Just doing it that fast the truck went over and laid completely down.

DZ: Did you get out?

SE: I got out. I jumped out on the right side and Fred jumped out the left side. They were across the lake waiting for us to come. They saw us standing there. This was at Cold Water Lake. The truck was down, we had to get it out.

We had to go to Ashley to get block and tackle and timbers. The whole crew until evening to get the truck out of the ice. We fastened it to the other truck and dragged it home. It dried about four days here in Ashley. We had about three loads of ice left and we hauled that.

Then I loaded some furniture, and we went to California, on a wet truck. I thought we are going to have trouble with water and everything in that truck.

I filled it with gas, when we went through town; and because the tank was full, it didn't take nothing. No gas problems! That was our first trip to California. That was in 1937. We stayed out over New Year and came back in 1938.

We were gone nine days. The truck worked for WPA at that time, and we had only so many days, and we had to have the truck on the job. So we had to hurry home, and we did.

DZ: Did you work for WPA too?

SE: I couldn't work, the truck worked. I couldn't even drive it. From the beginning, I drove it just so...It was my truck, so I thought I would drive it. Then they came up with a truck driver gets 5 cents an hour more. One of these men should drive the truck, so they can get the 5 cents more an hour; otherwise the 5 cents were lost. They couldn't give it to me.

So I kept my truck on there. That was when the new school house was built. My truck and Bob Hanson's, they used it for a scraper. They drove down and pulled off the scrapers, got most of it out. With the truck I was busy.

DZ: You said you did that for eighteen years.

SE: Then when I was done, they didn't let me go. I said I haven't got my license, and I don't know how in the world I can do it. So I went to Jamestown and traded it, just to see how I could trade, for a pickup.

So I got a new pickup. I had no truck and that ended that. The salesbarn had two semi-trucks and no drivers. One of them he sold, and one he had different drivers on. They never come home or there was always something. So he went after me, and I drove that truck for about ten trips to St. Paul, MN. It was late fall, and after that I said this is enough.

In the summers with truck driving, combining, and swathing, I kept going anyway.

DZ: I see you have got an American flag in the corner there. When do you put that up?

SE: We do it every summer. Me and Schroeders. We got one there, and we got one here. We heard, at the meetings, that it would be nice if people would show more flags. There are some who have got them here and there. I just open the door and put it on the side there, outside.

DZ: Is there anything else you would like to mention.

SE: I think I have mentioned too much already!

DZ: Well, that was a good interview.

SE: I don't know how they'll listen to it. What will they think of us old guys?! I can't think of anything else. I think I'm done, unless you've got another question. You got me into a lot of stories here with all this puzzle stuff. This is how I kill my time now.

DZ: Well, at least, you have a nice past time. Keeps you going on those long winter days.

SE: When I go to the doctor, he says,"At you're age, you should have more rest." I feel it too. At any time, I could just go lay down and rest.

DZ: There are a lot of people who can't rest and can't sleep, so if you are able to sleep then; that's good. Are there any more words or words of the wise.

SE: No, I think I said all of it. I could just say thank you for the trouble.

DZ: It was no trouble at all. It was a lot of fun and honor. Ok, I want to thank you my uncle, Sam Eszlinger, and this concludes our interview. Thanks again.

SE: You are welcome.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Libraries
NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: 701-231-8416
Fax: 701-231-6128
Last Updated:
Director: Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Library North Dakota State University North Dakota State University GRHC Home