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Grandma's picture
Grandma's Passport photo

Thursday, November 25, 2021

51-What Was Grandma Eating?


Click here to read story from beginning.

Note to readers: While other things have been keeping me from posting more to this blog,  a cousin of mine happened to go back to read the most recent post, Grandma's Diary Entry, 26 June 1936: While Grandma Cecile waits at her sister Gustie's house for them to come home from work in the fields, she mentions getting some "sourbrunn" as she waits. My cousin Linda's question - just exactly what was Grandma doing? Was sourbrunn some sort of bread? Was she getting a snack? This post is the answer to that riddle.


Grandma Cecile does not give any clue in her writing as to what "sourbrunn" is. Seems she may have been hungry, it was 5:40 pm, was it some sort of food? As I often do, I turned to my friend Al Haunold for help - any idea what sourbrunn is?

Al's response: The word Sourbrunn as you wrote it here  is not a German word.  It would have to be Sauerbrunn meaning "a well with sour/acidic water like a  mineral spring". That is not unusual,  I knew of some wells like that when I grew up and most of the time they were not used, except in tourist locations for health bathing like in the town of Baden near Vienna or others in the Alps.

 Okay, that would make sense. Grandma's writing here in her diary was generally English, but it was a family habit. Maybe it is common for people who speak more than one language to mix the languages together in their speech or writing? It certainly was for my parents. 

I happened to be looking through the book "Unvergessene Heimat" while working on something else for this blog. ("Unvergessene Heimat" is a book about Nieder- and Ober-Mohrau.) I turned to page 78 and there it was - "Sauerbrunn-1965"! A photo beside the caption shows a small, roofed structure over a stream of water. Sure looks like a spring and/or stream to me! 1965 would probably be the date of the photo. The photo is one of many photos  in the picture section of the  book. The title of the page it is on "Nachkriegsaufnahmen" which was translated by Google as "post war recordings" or "images recorded after WWII".

Sauerbrunn 1965 in the book "Unvergessene Heimat"


Could it have been that Grandma was referring to getting a drink of mineral water? Again, it would make sense, going by what my folks did when I was a child, years ago. I can remember going on Sunday drives with my family to mineral springs at Sodaville and Cascadia, both in Oregon.

My folks would take along a gallon jug and fill it with the mineral water, take it home and drink it, like many other people. Back then some people thought drinking mineral water had medicinal benefits.

Now the Cascadia wellhead is closed. I would guess the Sodaville one is as well. Jack & I stopped at Cascadia State Park a couple of years ago (2019) and the pump is still there, but it is unusable. The mineral water is deemed unsafe to drink. Whether anyone was ever sickened from drinking it, I do not know, but since it is not regulated, it is probably a risk that the State Parks are unwilling to take. Just as well, I never liked it anyway, but Grandma must have! (The following photos are two of mine.)

mineral spring handpump - Cascadia 2019

Soda Creek at Cascadia

To see any of the images up close, click on any image and you will be able to scroll through all of them. To learn more about Sodaville and Cascadia, click on the links within the story.


Story to be continued......

Thursday, April 22, 2021

50 - Diary Entry - 26 June 1936

Click here to read story from beginning.

Story so far: Grandma Cecile had reached her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslovakia, after a trip across the continental USA and the Atlantic Ocean.Grandma had written letters back home and others had written to her as well as letters that were going back and forth at home. Her third oldest son was about to get married and was waiting for proof of his baptism so he could wed in the church.


Grandma had been in Europe for almost 2 weeks already. She must have been busy, because in that time she had only written in her diary once while there, to describe her arrival. On June 26, 1936, she made her next entry:

It’s JUNE 26. This morning Mina’s Hedwig [Grandma's niece] and I went to Romerstadt, I thought I would get my glasses, But they were not there. 

When we started it was warm. We had some shopping to do. I got 2 kilogram meat from Schaffer's daughter. It was 20 Kronen, one dozen [illegible word], 2 1/2 Kronen, my how terrible high [expensive] everything is in this mountain corner. 

At noon we walked fast, we seen a thundershower in the west and we didn’t want to get wet. We could have taken the bus, but I wanted to see how I could stand the walk. It is farther than to Stayton from our place [about 3 miles]

People were making hay and on Frau Feith’s place, the Festenhof, they had oxen hitched to the hay rakes. I asked a lady from Harachsdorf, to whom the Festenhof belongs and she told me it belongs to Frau Feith and that Mr. was dead and the only son was studying somewhere. There we were by a nice Hotel. She said that belongs to her too. Just
imagine, a big nice hotel by the woods in Harachsdorf, that Lady said they are doing a wonderful business. 

My, we passed some fields again, according to how everything stands, food should be more reasonable [less expensive]. I went to a confectionary [dry goods store]. That lady said if it wouldn’t be for the factories, they wouldn’t do such good business. 

When we came to Mina’s house it was quarter after 12:00. She had cauliflower soup and barley biscuits, filled with quark [curd, cottage cheese?] and boughten cherries. I stayed there, about 4:00 arriving here [back at Gustie's house]. (I have a key to the front door.) They were all in the field. The hired girl works, too, from four in the morning till about half past seven in the evening. It is 20 to six now. Wonder how long I’ll be alone. 

 I’ll get me some sourbrunn [mineral water - see Post 51 for more information] now, maybe after that if nobody comes I’ll walk to Johanna Schiebel, which is an old Lady, but who is a cousin of us and who knows all the history of this village, please do not think she is mean, she just remembers things so good.
I heard something rattle on the front door, going to the window a young fellow was there with a bicycle, he said he wanted to invite Herr Weihs, which is my brother-in-law [Gustie's husband], to the cino [theater] to Klein-Mohrau and he wanted to buy eggs from Gustie.

When people see me they always want me to come to their houses, but I’ll not do anything like that. I have to answer so many questions. I get tired of it. I guess I’ll have to invite them to come to America.
Grandma Cecile seems to be enjoying herself now. She's walking around - miles, in fact. Having grown up in the era of the automobile, it is hard for me to imagine someone walking from the farm to Stayton, we always drove. She does make it sound like she only walked this time just to see if she could still do it like she did when she was young.

 If you are wondering what the illegible word in the second paragraph was, take a look and see if you can figure it out. 

the word - after 1 Dz. - ??? Kncies ???
Grandma's handwriting was  sometimes a little hard to read, and her spelling not perfect. It looks like "Kncies" or "Rncies" or "Kucies", or ??? I have no idea.

Grandma must have used her notebook not just as a diary, but for taking notes. In the middle of this diary entry, at the top of a page, there is an entry written in German, in someone else's handwriting. It appears in the middle of a sentence that ends on the previous page and picks up after the insert.  In this case, she must have handed the notebook to someone else to write down as answer to her question while the page was blank. Her sentence would have been written around this insert later. Here is the page:

Page 11 of the diary, address note at the top
For the translation, I turned to my friend Al Haunold for his help. This is his translation:

Moravian Ostrawa:  Polish Consulate
A visa for repeated border-crossings regarding [visits to ??]  relatives is enclosed
In Teschen   call the business location of Polzer Josef
Someone must have been answering Grandma's question of where and how to obtain a visa to cross into Poland to visit her brother Josef Schiebel.

The other puzzle in this entry for me is just what is sourbrunn? According to Wikipedia, Brunn refers to a stream or a source of water. Perhaps this was some sort of mineral water that they drank? Or it could be something to eat, since she was waiting for the others to come home from the fields.  [11/25/2021 the answer to this question can be found in the next post "#51 - "What was Grandma Eating?"]

For a closer view of any of the images, simply click on one of them.
Story to be continued......

To read Post -  "51 - What Was Grandma Eating?" - Click here 

Monday, April 12, 2021

49 - Letter From Weisers to Grandpa - 24 June 1936

Click here to read story from beginning.

Story so far: Grandma Cecile had reached her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslovakia, after a trip across the continental USA and the Atlantic Ocean. All the while that she visited with her old friends and siblings, back at home the date of her third son's wedding was drawing ever closer.


One of the letters in Grandma's bag of mementos was one from the Weisers of Nebraska addressed to Grandpa. Dan Weiser was married to Grandpa Alois's oldest sister, Berta.

The letter was long, written in German, except for the last, short page. Sadly, the postage stamps were removed by "tiny stamp collectors", so I do not know how much an "Air Mail" letter cost in 1936. The question as to why people who wrote on scraps of paper to save money would send a letter via Air Mail was explained by page 5. Consider this - the postmark of the letter is June 25. The date of Gus and Ann's wedding was June 30 - only five days away! Page five was needed to fulfill requirements for the wedding to proceed!

Here is the letter:

the envelope - note the "Via Air Mail" stamp

page 1 of the letter

page 2

page 3


page 5 - in English, except for Berta's signature

My friend Al Haunold provided the translation:

Creston, Nebraska,  June 24, 1936

Dear brother and family,
    We received your letter and saw from it that the priest is not satisfied;  Anna and Adam
[Keimig] were at Florens’ [Florence Beitel's baptism] but not at August’s since Alois and Humphrey went to the priest and then they went to Pornelie (Vorlenelie ?) to Joe and Cecilia Partsch [cousins].  Emma was there two weeks earlier when Zielie [Cecile] was in bed and Zielie Pasch [Partsch] was with her and washed her knee,  she said I and Papa were godparents  and otherwise  nobody knew it. We had almost forgotten;  she dressed the child for baptism  and it will be good …. 

second page 

and we are also satisfied with that.  Dear brother, you know that I am not so young anymore  and I gave mother her (?? illegible) and that I give her all as I do and it is the same situation with Papa. I thought today a lot about that and the thought crossed my mind when we were the godparents and we drove  that afternoon to the baptism and thus we are the godparents.  Dear brother, when I received the letter from Zilie I was sick  and I was in bed and could not go to Colubus [Columbus] and yesterday I received a letter from her  saying that she did not go to Columbus when I ….

third page 

would have been in your place I would not have let her go or I would have gone with her, nobody would have prevented me if I would have gone by myself,  I was the second one in the church and we had to see the priest and he asked whether I knew a person by the name Josef Alois Beitel  and I said no. And then he re-read the letter from the priest  and then he said it was August Josef and he wanted to get married and the baptismal certificate at the priest’s was so old and (illegible, probably “damaged”)  and quickly something could happen and now for August we wish good luck and blessing in his state of matrimony and Zielie  and…

fourth page 

they should stay there. When their first son got married and she wrote about it  and that is nice and that she feels good.  I felt I should write to her but I feel bad about my posture and my knees can’t carry me anymore and I can hardly get up from the chair when I cannot hold onto something and I also cannot sleep well,  Papa is in much better shape what that concerns, he sleeps thought the whole night without waking up ,  we have accepted that and then they had to get out of the Poster ?? (Pester ??)  and for the sheep.  When it does not rain in a week or so we have to sell the young life-stock,
Best greetings to all of you,  Berta

fifth page

We as sponsors to August Joseph Beitel send our signature that he was baptized at St. Marys Catholic church near Humphrey.

Mr. Dan Weiser
Mrs. Berta Weiser 

What a letter! Al had a hard time with it and I can see why. It was written, all but the 5th page, by Berta Beitel Weiser, Grandpa's oldest sister. Her handwriting is poor and so is her grammar and spelling. She seems to write in a stream of consciousness, jumping from one thought to another, addressing thoughts without much detail. It would have been a little easier if we had the letter that Grandpa must have written to her.

I can make an educated guess as to more of what it meant to convey:

 Grandpa Alois had written that the priest needed more evidence that Gus had been baptized as a Catholic and qualified to be married in the church. Anna, one of Berta & Dan's daughters, was married to Adam Keimig before either Gus or Florence were born, so they would have been old enough to be a baptismal sponsor for either.   Emma Weiser, another daughter of Berta's, must have been with Grandma Cecile before she gave birth. Not sure about what the statement "washed her knee" is about. Something must have been lost in the translation. Emma must have helped dress Gus for Baptism and reminded Berta that she and Dan were the godparents/sponsors. The other names mentioned were similar to those of cousins in Nebraska.

 On page two, Berta is talking about her poor health - she is 70 already, but as she rambles, she remembers Dan driving with her to the baptism and that they were the godparents for certain and he was most definitely baptized. She remembers being sick when Grandma Cecile's letter said she wanted to meet her in Columbus on her train trip. (Grandma mentioned this near the end of her first diary entry, it turned out the train went nowhere near Columbus.) 

 On page three, she sympathizes with Grandpa - he should have either gone with her to Europe or told her she could not go. Then she switches subjects back to the wedding and how the priest in Nebraska asked if she knew the person getting married - he had the name confused at first.  

 Page four is more discussion of their aches and pains. The last sentence about needing "to sell the young livestock" if it doesn't rain is notable, since Nebraska, along with the central region of the United States of America was suffering from a terrible drought known as the Dust Bowl at that time.

Page five is the signatures needed for the priest. Obviously they did not need to leave it with him, as it was still with the letter - no scanners or copy machines back then. Maybe the letter was late and they went ahead without it, we don't know. A couple of interesting notes - Dan signs his name in English script, Berta signs in German script. Also, they attest that Gus was baptized at St Mary near Humphrey, which is where several of the young Beitels were baptized. However, family history stories say that Gus was baptized at St Bonaventure in Columbus because the family lived in Columbus after returning from a move to Salem, Oregon. When I was in Nebraska in 1996 on a family trip, we did not search for his baptismal record with the St Mary records because we were not expecting it to  be there.

It would have been interesting to know when this letter arrived and how close it came to holding up the wedding, waiting for documentation! I recently asked my cousin Robert, the oldest son of Gus and Ann, but he had never heard of this before.

To see any of the letters up close, click on the image and you will be able to scroll through all of them. 


Story to be continued......

To read Post -  "50 - Diary Entry - 26 June 1936" - Click here

Thursday, March 18, 2021

48 - Sr. Agnes's Letter to Betty 21 June 1936

 Click here to read story from beginning.

Story so far: Grandma Cecile had reached her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslovakia, after a trip across the continental USA and the Atlantic Ocean. As she traveled, she was writing letters home and others at home were writing to her.


Not only the letters between Grandma and others, Grandma also included in her collection a letter from her oldest daughter, Agnes, to her youngest daughter, Betty. 

Sr. Agnes was in the convent in Beaverton, Oregon, where she was in the process of becoming a nun. She would take her final vows later that summer. The letter reveals some of what life was like in the convent at that time. 

 Agnes and Betty were Grandma Cecile's only two living daughters. She had three daughters who died in infancy and one who died as a two year-old. Apparently Agnes and Betty were quite close even at this age. They remained close for their whole lives.

Here is Sr. Agnes' four page letter, written on one sheet of paper, folded to create a front page, two inside pages and a back page:

front page of letter

inside - page 2 & 3

back page

Here is what her letter said:


St. Mary's of the Valley

Beaverton, Oregon

June 21, 1936

 My dear little sister,

I received your letter last week and did not have a chance to answer sooner. I was surely glad to hear all about Gus' wedding and am anxiously waiting to meet my new sister-in-law. Mamma said they were intending to build a new house on the other farm. Have they started yet? And won't you be proud when you can go and stay overnite[sic] with Gus in his new home? After the wedding you must write and tell me [page2] all the details concerning it, for I'm quite sure that Gus will be too busy.

I received  a card from mamma last week. It was the first time that I heard from her and it was written while she was sailing on the  high sea. I hope that you are writing to her often as she certainly will be looking forward to letters from home.

So you are chief-cook and bottle washer, aren't you? Just as long as you don't use liniment for vanilla, and salt for sugar, and so forth, I guess you will keep them all alive. Are all of the boys at home now or are some at the sawmill? I imagine you [page 3] spend some time in the cherry tree behind the house, playing "birdie" and eating cherries, don't you?

Are there many strawberries and what all have you in the garden? Do you still keep your little corner of flowers? 

Betty, you know I came here with the intention of staying and I hope and pray that it will be so. I am looking forward to August 15th and do you know that after that I can come home once every year? (counting this year - probably late in August or Sept.) I surely know by this time what I'm doing and I also know that it is hard for both of us to be away from each [page4] other. I do remember you every day and pray, pray very hard for my dear little "sis" so that she will be a good, happy and healthy little sister and that some day "maybe" you will be here with me. How do you like the rosary that I sent home for you? I was rather disappointed that you did not come along. Are you still wearing the relic of the Little Flower which Sr. M. Mercedes gave you? Don't Stella and Ruth come and stay with you now and then? Won't you write to me at least every two (2) weeks while mamma is gone and tell me all about everything?? I'm so glad always to hear just what you are doing and how you are. Well Betty, I must write to mamma and Marie yet, too, so must make my ending short - trusting that you will be a real good little girl and never forget to pray for your sister who never forgets you.

With love,

Sister M. Liliosa

Why is the letter signed "Sister M. Liliosa" instead of Sr. Agnes? Mary Liliosa was the name she took when she entered the convent. It was many years later when the nuns made the ruling that they could return to their family names that Sr Liliosa went back to Sr Agnes. Since that is the name I became the most familiar with, that's the one I am using here.

The affection for her little sister really comes through in this letter. The first thing on her mind, however, is excitement for her brother Gus' upcoming wedding on June 30. He was the first of the family to wed. Sr Agnes' final vows would qualify as an equal lifetime commitment, so in a sense, she was second among her siblings to "take the plunge" when she took her vows on August 15. 

Apparently Sr Agnes had not yet met Ann (Krantz) who was to be Gus' bride. When Sr Agnes mentions coming home it becomes apparent that she has not been allowed to visit home for quite some time. I'm not sure how long Gus and Ann courted before the marriage, but Sr. Agnes had not been home enough to meet her. Ann was from Jordan, not far from the Stayton-Sublimity area.

A couple of other references Sr Agnes makes - "All of the boys" means her brothers, John, Tony, Gus and FB. The sawmill most likely was the mill owned by her brother-in-law, Bill Lulay, married to her half-sister, Marie. "...know what I'm doing" referred to her decision to permanently join the convent that summer after having been there for several years. It almost sounds like she may not have been entirely sure. It was a big decision. She did, however, hope that her little sister would some day join her as a nun. That wish would not develop. Betty would marry and have a family of her own.

It is also interesting to note how much things have changed in less than 100 years. If Grandma were traveling today, she'd have a cell phone or laptop and could instantly communicate with everyone back at home. Sr Agnes would probably be texting her little sister several times a day. None of this waiting, worrying and wondering what was happening. 

To complete  the picture of this communication, here are views of the front and back of the envelope the letter was mailed in:

The front of the envelope shows the address, written in Sr Agnes' neat cursive handwriting. The envelope was opened on the side, leaving the ragged edge. The dark "shadow" on the right side is smoke damage from the house fire. The shadow effect traces the outline of envelopes and papers piled above it inside the bag of souvenirs, inside the trunk in the old farmhouse.

The upside down writing on the right side says, "Beaverton" "Stayton" and "Oregon". Probably a "scribbler" practicing his/her handwriting after the letter made it to its destination. It was not meant to be part of the address.

The back of the envelope shows a bit of humor on someone's part. My guess would be between her brothers and Betty, or possibly between the brothers. It simply says, "Bah, you are the flies in mine soup". That is followed by someone's retort, "Oh, yeah". One can only wonder at what was going on. What does it mean? It would be hard to translate, easiest to say - it was a tease.

back of the envelope

For a closer view of the letter and/or the envelope, simply click on any of the images and scroll through them all.
Story to be continued......

To read Post "49 - Letter From Weisers to  Grandpa - 24 June 1936", Click here

Sunday, January 17, 2021

47 - Val. J. Peter Travel Bureau Letter to Grandma - 31 May 1936

Click here to read story from beginning.

A note to readers of this story, my apologies but we have to do a backtrack here. It's been a while again since I posted, but I had to stop and reorganize my materials so that I could find  my way through them all. I now have a spreadsheet of all that I have, so hopefully that will help. With this exercise I discovered a few things that I had completely missed. One is this letter  that Grandma received.


A letter, dated May 31, 1936, was sent to Grandma from the travel agency that had made the reservations for her globe trotting trip. The date must have been a typing error considering that she had left on the train on June 1, 1936. Perhaps the letter was written on May 1 or 3? There would not have been time for a letter to travel by mail from Omaha, Nebraska, to Stayton, Oregon, plus have time for her to reply with her final application and down payment in less than one day. She must have received the letter before May 31, because it asks for a down payment. She went on the trip, so obviously she fulfilled all the requirements.

Whatever the case, I had to turn to my friend Al Haunold again for a translation of the letter.  Al translated it as follows:

the letter

31. May 1936

Dear Mrs. Beitel:

Nothing has definitively been settled regarding the 2 cent mileage rate that you read about in the papers. The Eastern railroads resist to implement the 2 cent rate. Regardless, it would not have any measurable effect on the fare, because the longest stretch of your trip is from Oregon to Chicago on the Western railroads where the 2 cent fare already is in force. Besides that, you could also travel by bus from Omaha or from Chicago to New York which would be about half as expensive.

If you would want to wait until after June 1, it might be difficult to get space on any steamer because many steamers are already booked, as you can see from the enclosed brochure. Our suggestion, therefore, is that you might join our traveling group, go by rail to Omaha and from here, if you like, take the bus and thus the trip would not be too expensive. Several other customers are also planning to take the bus. The fare by bus from here to New York is only $ 21.85, or 37.85 for the round trip and the connections are very good.

Please send us your down-payment so that we can proceed with the reservations as long as cabins are available and we can continue to take care of all the other things for your trip.

With German greetings


sig. [hand-written signature] Val J. Peter

Grandma must have been checking to see if there was any way that she could get a better rate for her travel. They suggested a bus route for part of the journey, but apparently Grandma Cecile chose to go by rail all the way across the country.

Included with the letter is a clipping with some markings in red pencil:

attached clipping, note paper clip mark

Circled in red on the left edge is "HEAVY BOOKINGS FOR SEASON SAILINGS". The rest is:

Advance bookings for the Summer sailings have been heavy. For June outward and late August and September returning we have many applications for the preferred spaces that we have been unable to satisfy. Requests for berths that we cannot assign at the moment are placed on the waiting list for attention when vacancies occur through cancellation. The waiting list receives careful attention and we do not fail to use every effort.....

At that point the clipping is cut off and there is nothing else. The message is quite clear. If you want to get on the ship, you'd best hurry and make your reservations!

For a closer view of the letter and/or the clipping simply click on either.
If you have not read the other forty-some posts to the blog, the story would normally continue with Blog Post "14 -
Suggested Itinerary - Around May 31, 1936". To read that post, Click Here

Story to be continued...... 

To read Post "48 -  Sr. Agnes's Letter to Betty 21 June 1936" Click Here