Dances in the hay barn were an annual event
The following is the second of a four-part series based on Milla Klammer's journal written while growing up and living in the Howard Lake-Waverly area.
By Milla Klammer
Dad didn't get a tractor until the 1920s. He bought one with steel wheels called a Samson.
My dad had a saw mill and sawed lumber for many people who built barns with the lumber. I know there is still one barn standing that is on Bob Schendel's place which was built from the lumber dad sawed. Robert Strich built it and lived there then.
In 1915, Dad built a new barn on our farm and most of that lumber Dad sawed. He also sawed off his middle finger on his right hand. That I don't remember. He had the saw mill a long time. After we built the new barn, things became more modern, no more hay stacks, no more husking corn by hand, and we got a corn shredder.
Mother used to set hens called clucks on chicken eggs and hatch baby chicks. She also hatched little ducklings from duck eggs, and she raised turkey and geese. Mother raised a lot of ducks. In the fall before Thanksgiving, we would have a duck raffle. Ten people would pay a dime each to shake dice for a duck. Then the highest number would get a duck for a dime and mother would get $1 for the duck.
There were more people raising ducks and having raffles on a Sunday afternoon for just a social time. I think she had about 30-40 ducks we had to sell, but it would take all afternoon. Mother also butchered ducks and geese. We'd pick the feathers off and she made feather beds and pillows. I still have pillows with those feathers in them.
In the new barn, we had stanchions for 20 milk cows, six to eight calves and one bull, and also stalls for six horses. Dad had four to five big work horses. While I was home, we milked cows by hand, hauled the milk up to our summer house and separated it there. We cooled the cream and put it in a can and hung it in the well pit to keep it cool in the summer. The skim milk we fed to the calves and hogs.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, Dad would hitch up the horses, King and Maud, to the wagon and take the cream to the creamery in Waverly. Sometimes mother would go along to sell her 12 dozen egg cases full of eggs and get groceries, like coffee, tea, and sugar. She would buy 100 pounds of sugar at a time.
When you bought flour, you would take two grain sacks full of wheat to the flour mill (Berkners in Waverly) to get 100 pounds of flour. Mother would buy five pounds of coffee beans, and I would grind it with the old coffee grinder that I have sitting on my shelf in the kitchen now. Butter we got from the creamery.
My brother Ruskin liked to take pictures and he did take a lot of them. He also developed the film, made the negative and printed pictures on a post card. Mother would help him make the prints at night. You had to have a lamp light to get the print on the card. I liked to watch them. I was just old enough to remember it.
Mother did dress making before she was married. She made all our dresses and coats and my brother's suits when he was little. Mother taught me a lot about sewing. Now I do sewing, and I like quilting, too.
When I was little, I liked to play with dolls. I made a playhouse under a tree on the lawn. I took gunny (burlap) sacks and cut them apart to make the walls, with the sky for a roof. I made mud cakes from sand off the road. My sister Esther didn't play with me, as she was older and had to work. My cousin Elsie and grandma (dad's mother) stayed with us for a while. Elsie and I made a playhouse upstairs in the old log house. We had a lot of fun.
I had work to do, too. I had to carry in wood for the cook stove and fill the reservoir on the stove with water, so we'd have warm water to wash dishes, clothes and take baths. We took baths only on Saturday night in the kitchen by the cook stove. On wash day, we heated water in a wash boiler, then poured it in the wash machine, which had a handle on it, so you could pull it back and forth to whirl the clothes around to wash. You hung the clothes outside in winter and summer to dry.
We went to church on Sunday, and my dad never worked on Sunday except to do chores. We didn't go visiting to many places. After Dad got the 1915 or 1916 Model T Ford, we went to Uncle Jules Stoppelman's more often. Uncle Charlie Stoppelman lived between Monticello and Buffalo, which was pretty far to drive from Waverly in those days.
I remember one Fourth of July, Dad hitched King and Maud to the top buggy, and we went in to Waverly to the celebration. We also walked to the neighbors sometimes.
I started school when I was four years old. We had a nice teacher and she held me on her lap sometimes. We had all eight grades in a one room school with big desks where two kids sat at one desk. We had a wood stove in the middle and our drinking water we got from a farm family a quarter mile away.
The school was one mile from our house, so we walked all the time, but sometimes in bad weather, we would get a ride with the neighbor. Later, when I was older, I got a pair of skis, and then I skied to school in the winter. I still have those skies (1993). We didn't have many kids in school, 10-12 at the most. We would have Christmas programs and little plays.
In 1922, I went to the parochial school in Howard Lake and was confirmed on May 23, 1923. While going to the parochial school, I stayed with four other girls in town from Monday to Friday. It was too far to walk the seven miles from our farm to Howard Lake (no school bus). But when spring came, my friend LaVerne Striech and I walked every morning to school and home again.
My sister Esther got married to Bill Schroeder on Nov. 26,1924, so then I had to help Mom in the house and do chores. My brother Ruskin never married.
In the spring of 1925, Dad rented the farm to Bill and Esther, so Dad bought a house in Howard Lake. The house needed a lot of fixing. Dad put a full basement under it, took out a few walls and put in a bathroom and new porches. Mother and I did the papering and painting. We worked there almost all summer. The house is still standing and Ellis Lutter lives in it now. I can see it from where I live now.
Dad didn't always have time to take Mom and me to the house to work, so that was when I learned how to drive a car. We had an old truck - Model T. Dad called it a butcher wagon. One day, Mom and I wanted to go to the house, so I took the truck and drove it, and I have been driving a car ever since. We didn't need driver's licenses then, but I applied for one later.
We moved in the fall of 1925 to Howard Lake. I just graduated from eighth grade that spring, so I thought I would go to high school that fall. I only went one year.
I did get a few jobs. I cleaned the dentist office (Dr. Mienstmas). I helped Mom do sewing, and I'd go to the post office every night before 7 o'clock to pick up mail. Dad got a German daily paper and he wanted to read after supper. In those days, the mail train came later, so the post office was open longer than it is now.
I helped Mrs. Ed Diers with the housework, but mother got sick and I came home. Not long after that, Mother went to the Itel Hospital and had surgery for a kidney stone. I stayed with her at the hospital for the two weeks she was there. I stayed right in her room. They brought in a cot for me to sleep on. Or, I'd walk down to a grocery store and get a few things. There was no problem walking in the city in those days, like there is now. I did fancy work for pastime and helped take care of Mom, no extra charge either. I don't remember what the hospital bill was then (1929).
While we lived in town, I went to Young People's Society (Y.P.S.) and sang in the choir. We sang nearly every Sunday. I was in three plays the Y.P.S. did, and taught Sunday school for four years (1925-1929). After I got married and had two children, I didn't teach regularly. I started to teach again in 1959 and am still teaching kindergarten kids (1993).
When I was older, we used to have parties in our homes. Our house on the farm had a big dining room, so the kids would come over to our place to dance. We had a piano, and one fellow played a violin, so we had free music and we danced and had fun. I remember celebrating my 15th birthday and we invited more young people. There were some kids from Howard Lake.
Then, one Sunday eve, May 3, 1925, a car drove up and a young man came to the door and asked for me. I had seen him before and knew his name (Erwin Klammer). Well, he asked me if I would go with him to a dance at Lester Prairie. I asked my dad and mom if I could go, and they said yes. I was ready in a few minutes.
He had his sister, Eleanor, and friend, George Krohn along, so the four of us went dancing. We had a good time. Erwin made another date with me, and from then on, we went together about 4 1/2 years. We went dancing in New Germany, Plato, Howard Lake and to barn dances. In those days, they built more big barns with hay lofts, and before they put hay up in it, they would have a barn dance.
There were many big barns, like Charlie Adams', Nels Larson's, Otto Klugow's and others. They would have dances every year before they put hay in them. We would go to shows more in the winter, especially during Lent. They never danced during Lent (like they do now).
After my folks moved to town, I went to Y.P.S. and choir. Sometimes, Erwin would take me home from Y.P.S. We went many places to pavilions, hall dances, roller skating, shows, house parties, July 4th celebration picnics and church doings no ball games or other activities, as there were none. I never went with another fellow.
In the summer of 1929, Erwin asked me to marry him and I said yes. He gave me a diamond, and later we planned our wedding day for Sunday, Nov. 10, 1929, at 7:30 p.m. in the St. James Lutheran Church, Howard Lake. I told my folks about it and soon Mother and I were making plans.
Mother and I went to the city shopping and got material to make my dress. In those days, they wore short wedding dresses. I made mine with three ruffles, below the knee length in front, longer in the back and sleeveless (quite a style). My veil was a long train and my bouquet was made of mums.
About a week before the wedding, we baked dozens of cookies which we served with sandwiches and coffee to our guests after the dance at the Howard Lake City Hall.
Bridal showers weren't popular then, but my friend Florence Luhman gave me a dish towel shower. The towels were linen and I have one yet.
On Sunday, Nov. 10, 1929, the wedding day was cloudy and dreary. In the afternoon, the bridal party went to the photo studio in Cokato to have our wedding picture taken. They didn't take pictures in church then. We had a supper for my family and the bridal party at my home. After that we went to church and were married at 7:30 p.m. by Pastor C. G. Seltz.
Our attendants were Eleanor Klammer, Erwin's sister, as the bridesmaid and Florence Luhman, a friend of mine, as the maid of honor. Elmer Klammer, Erwin's brother, was the best man. I didn't have my sister, Esther, as an attendant, because in those days they didn't have married people for attendants.
We had our reception in the Howard Lake City Hall for about 200 guests and danced to Tom Schieber music. We did not go on a honeymoon, because we couldn't afford it.
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