By Doris Schroeder
If you are one of the lucky ones who purchased the book “Dust Storm Days and Two-Holers,” you can visualize what some of the times were before the “technical” age we now live in. There were 353 writers and some of them lived as far back as 1921. We, who are in closer proximity of that era, have lived to write about the simpler times of life during the 20th century. Now. as we are venturing into the 21st century and the “age of technology,” you can see the tremendous change of life we have encountered. The celebration of Christma s is one example.
My family had moved around a lot in the early years of my life. My parents had both taught in the two-room country schools of the late 20s and early 30s. When the Depression hit, they lost all the money they had saved when the banks closed. My Dad had to find employment and he took a job in the Sam Schneider Oil Co. as a tire vulcanizer.
Of course money was very tight during that era. My Dad made $75 a month at his job and $25 went for rent. We did not depend on government assistance, as indeed, there wasn’t any. We always managed somehow. Since many people were in the same situation, we thought it a normal way of life.
Evidently my parents couldn’t even afford to buy the Hutchinson paper, as money was very tight. Sometimes, when Dad was home in the evening, he took me along to the Public Library so he could keep up with the news. This was especially true in 1936, a few months after my older sister Luella had been accidentally shot and killed by the neighbor boy.
Although I missed my sister very much, being three and a half, I didn’t quite understand things. When Christmas came, I took things as they came along. I knew this holiday was to celebrate the birth of Jesus but in those days, they also talked of Santa Claus. My mother put up a live Christmas tree and I helped decorate. At that time, they talked a lot about Santa Claus coming. I can remember wondering about that but I had a plan…if we put out some hot chocolate and cookies for him and they were gone in the morning, I would have my proof!
I woke up while it was still dark on Christmas morning and climbed out of my crib. The wooden floors were icy cold as I stealthily made it to the kitchen table to check on the dishes. There they sat, completely empty, with only a couple crumbs from the cookies. I had my proof! Somehow that made me happy.
I didn’t look under the tree because I had instructions not to until my parents got up. When the time finally came, I was totally overjoyed to find a doll buggy AND a Shirley Temple doll. As I think about it now I realize the special things must have come from my grandparents because of the economy.
I remembered my sister asking Mom when the three of us walked to the grocery store “will there be Shirley Temple dolls in heaven?” Mom had wisely answered “There may be!” That was before Luella was killed.
I hoped she had one now, too, as I had been told she had gone to heaven. I missed her very much because she had always looked out for me. I could remember her shaking a stick at the neighbor boys when they always teased me. “You leave my little sister alone!” She had warned them. I had felt so good knowing she would protect me!
For awhile after she had been killed, the neighbor boys had teased me…one time locking me in one of the neighbor’s shed. I could remember how I fought back the tears and had finally succumbed. Evidently their mothers had noticed because after that, they were all very nice to me. In fact, all the neighbors in the 300 block of West 14th had been very kind to me. I even watched the older neighbor girls make fudge for Christmas one evening.
It was a happy Christmas. We, of course, went to visit both of the grandparents on Christmas Day. The Peter Langes in their house on Main Street in Buhler and the George Kroekers on the farm. All my cousins would be there at both places and it was always very enjoyable. The grandparents would talk in the Low German which I never really understood but sometimes they even bent down and smiled at me which was great! In those days smiles were not so readily available.
Later in the day we would all get together in the parlor and they would ask each of the grandchildren to say their piece they had given at either their school or church program. Later, they gave each of us a sack of candy and fruit. Sometimes my grandfather Kroeker gave each of us a silver dollar.
Yes, life was certainly much simpler in 1936. We didn’t have a lot of material goods but we had family and most everyone believed there was a God, whether or not they had accepted Him into their heart. There was definitely the “Christ” in Christmas!
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at [email protected]