Home History Culture Oral History Transcribed Interviews

Conversation between Lydia Hass Knadle and Joy Hass Stefan


Kerrville, Texas
August, 1993 - Session 5

Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman


Joy: When you guys came over on the ship, you were the same age then as Hilda was when you moved to the Valley. And there is a lot that Hilda doesn't remember about North Dakota, because she was just too young to take note of it.Lydia: Yes.

Joy: When you lived in North Dakota, there was a lot of snow up there, right?

Lydia: In the winter time, sure.

Joy: Did you guys make snowmen and stuff?

Lydia: Sure. We played in the snow.

Joy: I can remember the neighborhood boys used to roll great big snowballs and make a fort, and then they would have snowball fights. They were protected by the fort. Well, do you remember if you played in the snow like that? Did you throw snowballs at each other?

Lydia: I can't remember anything like that. All I can remember is making the snowmen. It was fun. I don't remember that we ever threw balls at each other, or fought with the snow.

Joy: Did you have sleds?

Lydia: Oh, sure.

Joy: Did they have sleighs that horses drew?

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: They did?

Lydia: How else did they get around? They didn't have cars.

Joy: Well, I know, but I didn't know if they sleighs, or if they still made their horses pull wagons.

Lydia: Oh, no.

Joy: But they had sleighs for winter time, huh?

Lydia: Oh, sure.

Joy: Oh, that's fascinating. If you have ever read or seen Dr. Zhivago, it has a lot of the Russian history. It's about the Russian Revolution, or it takes place then...

Lydia: I don't think I've seen it.

Joy: And they had the sleighs, the horse-drawn sleighs with bells on them that jingled... everything just looked like ice castles, it would get so snowy and frozen over.

Lydia: Yes, I suppose. It was a cold country.

Joy: Right. I guess I had just never thought about horse-drawn sleighs in the United States, because the only place I've seen them in movies was in Dr. Zhivago, and I've always thought of it as a European thing more than an American mode of travel.

Lydia: They had those up north when we moved up there.

Joy: How big were they?

Lydia: Gosh, I don't know. Big enough for the family to ride in.

Joy: For the whole family at once?

Lydia: Sure.

Joy: When you were in them, did they have two benches facing each other, and then whoever was driving the horses sat up above?

Lydia: Some were that way. Some of them just had one bench. Some had two facing the front...

Joy: Did they have doors on them?

Lydia: I don't think so.

Joy: And they weren't covered, were they? They didn't have a roof on them at all.

Lydia: No-o-o.

Joy: Well, some of the carriages had roofs, they were like miniature stage coaches, I guess.

Lydia: Yes, oh yes. Later on, especially.

Joy: Did you ever go any place by stage coach, or was that... you missed that era, because they already had the railroads by then?

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: Did you ever put picnics together and go out in the country? You said you lived in a community.

Lydia: In a village, yes.

Joy: Well, did people go picnicking...

Lydia: Not that I remember.

Joy: Was Fredonia near a river, or a lake?

Lydia: No, not that I remember.

Joy: They didn't have a water source, then, that they were close to. You know, usually when settlements started, they were always near water, either a lake or a river, and I guess I just thought that Fredonia would have had one too.

Lydia: No, not that I remember. I don't remember any lake or any river. Could have had, but I don't remember.

Joy: Well, I guess that explains why your dad never took you fishing!

Lydia: Ha, I guess so. No, I don't remember a lake or a river.

Joy: Now, you said that your parents... that you all went to church every Sunday.

Lydia: Oh yes.

Joy: Did they have church socials where they had picnics?

Lydia: Not that I know of.

Joy: Do you remember anything like barn raisings? If somebody was going to build a new house or barn, the whole community pitched in to help them?

Lydia: Gosh, I don't remember anything like that. That's too long ago.

Joy: Well, did you have... I know you had some animals down in the [Rio Grande] Valley. You had a horse... did you have more than one horse down there, do you remember?

Lydia: I think we did, later. Not that first year, maybe, or second, but later on we had more horses. I know that we had two that we used to haul the food from the fields on the wagon.
Joy: So, you had a team of horses to pull the wagon.

Lydia: Oh yes. Sure. I don't remember just one horse to pull the wagon or anything like that.

Joy: Did you guys have a milk cow?

Lydia: Oh yes. We had one or two, or sometimes three. If you had a big family, you had to have milk.

Joy: Did your mother make butter with a butter churn?

Lydia: Yes, yes.

Joy: One of those things with a stick down the middle?

Lydia: I remember that.

Joy: Did you ever have to churn it?

Lydia: Oh sure. When we were big enough to do it, we did it.

Joy: What were some of the other household type chores that you did?

Lydia: Oh gosh, we had to a little of everything. We would sweep, and mop, and dust, and just everything that's in the home, we had to do it. Yes, yes, yes.

Joy: Did you ever fight over who had to do what job?

Lydia: I suppose. Yes. Or sneak out so we didn't have to do it!

Joy: Where did you go when you snuck out?

Lydia: Oh, out to the barn, or down the road, or anywhere.

Joy: Just anywhere they couldn't find you, huh?

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: Or you could pretend you didn't hear when they called you?

Lydia: Ha ha, yes, yes.

Joy: Well, Mother talks about how she would sneak off to the barn and read a book. Or there was a cherry tree and she would climb the cherry tree and sit up there.

Lydia: Oh my gosh!

Joy: Well, she loved to pick the cherries and eat the cherries off the tree.

Lydia: Oh, ha ha.

Joy: So you had a couple of horses, and how many cows did you have, do you remember?

Lydia: Gosh I don't remember. Two I know, and sometimes three. We tried to keep milk cows, but you had to feed them. We didn't have the feed for any more.

Joy: Well, it was warm enough in the Valley that you didn't really heat your house very often, right?

Lydia: No, no, that's right.

Joy: Did your mom have a wood burning stove down there?

Lydia: Oh, yes, oh yes.

Joy: You had said when you were still in Europe, you could remember the big fireplace, but she had a stove instead of the fireplace to cook in. Did she burn coal, or did she burn wood in the stove to cook with?

Lydia: She must have burned wood. I don't think they had coal then, at all.

Joy: Did the Valley have a coal source?

Lydia: Not that I know of. Not while we lived there.

Joy: Well, you usually think of coal as being in more hilly places, where they have a source of it near. Well, did you guys ever have to help your mom do the cooking, or did she just say, "stay out of my kitchen"?

Lydia: Sure, we had to help. All the time, all the time we worked.

Joy: Well, what did you do besides boil the water?

Lydia: Peel the potatoes, watch the potatoes, cook the dumplings.

Joy: Did you guys eat a lot of sauerkraut and cabbage?

Lydia: Oh yes. We used to make sauerkraut.

Joy: You made it?

Lydia: Sure.

Joy: How do you make sauerkraut?

Lydia: Gosh, you get a lot of cabbage and shred it up, and put it in a big jar or pot. And put your seasonings in it, and let it sit, and it gets sour. It works.

Joy: Well, do you do it with vinegar, like you do pickles?

Lydia: No, no, no. It gets sour by itself if you leave it in the sun, or sitting in a warm place.

Joy: Well, what flavors it? Because sauerkraut doesn't taste anything like cabbage to me.

Lydia: Well, when it gets sour, it doesn't taste like cabbage.

Joy: I like sauerkraut, but I don't like cabbage.

Lydia: Well, sauerkraut is after the cabbage gets sour. Ha ha.

Joy: Okay, if you say so...

Lydia: Yes, it's made out of cabbage.

Joy: Well, it seems like it would rot.

Lydia: Huh uh.

Joy: That it would spoil.

Lydia: They just keep it going. Gosh, I don't remember just how they made it, but...

Joy: Well, did they make sausage too? You said you had pigs.

Lydia: Sure, sure. How else do you think we got sausage?

Joy: Well buy it in the store... everything comes from the store, didn't you know?

Lydia: There wasn't any store. Not at that time. They had to be able to make some at home.

Joy: Well, when they made sausage, did they just grind it up, or did they put it in casings so you had links and big fat sausages?

Lydia: They put it in casings. Sure they put it in casings. I remember Mother washing those casings, scraping them clean and washing them... Drying them out so they could put the sausage in.

Joy: Were the casings from the intestines?

Lydia: Sure. Where else do you think they got them? Ha ha.

Joy: I don't know, I don't know.

Lydia: That's where they got them.

Joy: Did you have to help do all of that?

Lydia: Oh, after I got bigger, I helped, sure.

Joy: You said that you watched your mom wash them out and dry them out... what did you wash them out with? Did you use soap and water? What did you wash them with?

Lydia: I don't think they used soap. You just had water, and you had scrapers and you scraped them.

Joy: Did you turn them wrong side out to scrape them, and then turn them right side out to stuff them?

Lydia: Sure, yes, yup.

Joy: Did they ever make bulk sausage, like you buy now?

Lydia: Oh yes.

Joy: Where you had patties?

Lydia: Sure.

Joy: Did they have a smoke house where they smoked the meat?

Lydia: Oh yes. They used to hang it in the attic too after it was... I used to see strings of it hanging up in the attic.

Joy: Did they hang hams, and stuff like that up there too?

Lydia: Sure, oh sure. After they were cured.

Joy: So they used a smoke house to cure them...

Lydia: Sure.

Joy: And then did they wrap them, or...

Lydia: Oh yes, they were wrapped with something.

Joy: With some kind of fabric, like gunny sack type stuff?

Lydia: Yes.
Joy: I guess it would be a finer weave, like flour sacks.

Lydia: I can't remember just what it was, but I know they were covered with something.

Joy: Did you have slab bacon, or do you remember cooking bacon very much?

Lydia: Oh sure. They had sides of pork, and they cured it, and then took the knife and sliced it and fried it.

Joy: Did your mom make biscuits too, or did she just bake bread?

Lydia: I don't remember her making biscuits. I don't think she did. I think she just made bread.

Joy: Did they cook with a lot of gravy too?

Lydia: Yes, she used to make gravy when she had meat cooking or fried, you know.

Joy: Do you remember eating much beef? That was cattle, though. You probably had more pork than beef, didn't you?

Lydia: Yes, I think so too. I can't remember much beef.

Joy: She probably did pork roasts, didn't she? Did you have roasts for Sunday dinner? You know a lot of people have special Sunday dinners.

Lydia: Well, oh yes, she used to have some roasts. But we didn't have very many pork roasts.

Joy: Did they have turkey down there, wild turkey?

Lydia: I can't remember a turkey.

Joy: I know that you had chickens. Did you use them to eat them, or did you use them for the eggs?

Lydia: Oh yes. I think they kept them for the eggs, and once in a while you'd kill a chicken and have a nice dinner.

Joy: I just wonder how many chickens she had to fix to feed...

Lydia: To feed that bunch?

Joy: I know Mother said that they would have one chicken, and each person had their certain pieces. And hers were the wings and the back, the least meaty of anything. We feed the back to the dog because there just isn't enough meat on it. But she still prefers the back and the wings. Each one of the kids... somebody got the drumsticks, somebody got the breast, somebody got the thighs, the pully bone, but they only had five kids. So I imagine your mom ended up having to fix 2 or 3 chickens at a time, didn't she?

Lydia: At least two, I think.

Joy: Well, did she roast them whole, or did she fry them?

Lydia: We had some roasted whole, and some baked. I don't know as she did much frying.

Joy: Well, fried chicken is really a Southern thing...

Lydia: I don't remember much fried chicken, but I know she roasted it.

Joy: Well what kind of vegetables did you have with it besides cabbage?

Lydia: Potatoes.

Joy: Did you grow carrots? Did you have carrots?

Lydia: Yes, I think we had carrots.

Joy: How about beets?

Lydia: I don't remember beets.

Joy: Or turnips? Did they have turnips?

Lydia: No, I can't remember turnips either.

Joy: Did you guys drink anything besides milk? Did your dad ever make beer? Do you remember that?

Lydia: No, I sure don't.

Joy: I know that he made wine, but was that just up in North Dakota, or did he try to do some of that in the Valley too?

Lydia: No, I don't remember that, only in North Dakota. Yes, the Valley was too open.

Joy: Oh, you mean it wasn't legal?

Lydia: Well, I don't know whether it was or not. Anyway, he didn't feel like making it where it would show, out in the open or anything like that. What he did make, it was always down in the cellar or in a closet somewhere.

Joy: In the closet... oh, he was a closet wine maker, huh?

Lydia: Yes, ha ha.

Joy: What kind of dishes did you guys have? Was it pottery or was it tin plates?

Lydia: Gosh, I can't even remember.

Joy: Well, if you had to wash dishes, did they break, or did they clatter? Do you remember?

Lydia: I think we had both. We had tin dishes and we had some others. When the kids were all little they ate on tin.

Joy: So it wouldn't break, huh?

Lydia: Yeah.

Joy: Did you drink out of tin cups?

Lydia: Sure.

Joy: Well maybe that's the way Daddy figured out how to... when we'd go camping, we each had a different size or shape tin can that, like beans would come in or something... and he just took some wire and welded on a handle so it was like a tin mug.

Lydia: Oh my gosh, he fixed them good.

Joy: Well, I thought maybe that's the way he got his idea... Did your dad ever do any welding, do you know?

Lydia: Oh, no. That kind of stuff wasn't in the market then.

Joy: Right. I guess they wouldn't have had blow torches back then, to do welding.

Lydia: No, I don't think so. Not hardly, that long ago.

Joy: Since you had horses, did he ever do the blacksmith stuff, or did he take the horses to have them shod?

Lydia: I think what little they got, he did. I don't remember him ever taking any to a blacksmith. No, I think what little they got, he did.

Joy: Did you like to ride horses?

Lydia: Yes, I sure did.

Joy: When you rode, did you have saddles, or...

Lydia: No, no, no, no. Bareback.

Joy: Just bareback?

Lydia: Yes.

Joy: Did you have bits for them, bridles?

Lydia: Oh yes, sure, sure. We had that so we could handle them, you know.

Joy: Well, whose job was it to clean out the barn?

Lydia: I think the boys had to do most of that. I don't remember doing it, so it was Dad and the boys, I guess. I don't ever remember having to clean out a barn.

Joy: Did they have... no I guess they didn't have tractors... No you said that your dad bought a big old car... an Overland?

Lydia: An Overland.

Joy: But that was in the Valley he bought that, do you remember?

Lydia: Yes, I'm sure it was.

Joy: Seems like if he had bought it in North Dakota you would have moved down in it.

Lydia: It was in the Valley.

Joy: So they might have had tractors then too, right?

Lydia: I don't remember any tractor. I just remember that car.And that's about the only one I remember.

Joy: So all of his plowing was done with a horse?

Lydia: Oh yes.

Joy: Did you ever have mules?

Lydia: No, I don't remember mules. Horses, mostly horses.

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