Grandma's picture

Grandma's picture
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Sunday, July 5, 2015

26 - Letters From Betty & Stella - 9 June 1936

Click here to read story from beginning

Story so far: Grandma Cecile was on her way to visit her relatives back in her home village of Nieder-Mohrau, Czechoslavkia. She had crossed the country by train, from Oregon on the Pacific coast to New York on the Atlantic coast. The Europa, one of the North German Lloyd ship line, was carrying her across the Atlantic.

Meanwhile back home in Stayton on the farm, life went on as usual except that Grandma Cecile was not home. Providing a glimpse into how that life went, these next two letters came from her youngest daughter, Betty, and one of her granddaughters, Stella (Lulay) Neal

Betty(l) & Stella (r) - from Betty's photo album
 Betty had just turned 12 the day that Grandma had arrived in New York City. Stella would have her twelfth birthday a few weeks later. While they were almost exactly the same age, Betty was actually Stella's aunt, though I imagine they felt more like cousins or even sisters growing up together. Stella was the oldest daughter of Betty's oldest sister, Marie Lulay, here still called "Mary". (Mary's husband Bill Lulay was the one who at some point started calling her "Marie", which would eventually become her commonly accepted name.)  

Betty and Stella lived a scant two miles apart. Betty was on the farm on Coon Hollow Road and Stella was living on the edge of Sublimity where Coon Hollow met Church Street, in the house where the Farewell Party was held for Grandma before she left.

The envelope the letters were mailed in was not in the collection, but the paper used is identical - 8"x5" lined tablet paper. While organizing all the materials from Grandma's collection, I found these were written the same day. After reading the letters, I realized that the two girls had to have been together while writing. It's easy to imagine the two of them, probably sitting at the big kitchen table, trying to outdo each other in what they had to say to Grandma Cecile.

Here, first, is the letter from Betty:

Stayton, Ore.
June 9, 1936

Dear Mama!

It's eleven o'clock so I have to hurry. Mary and Mrs. Zimmerman[1] are here canning berries now and some of Mary's kids[2] are here. Mrs. Zimmerman washed and ironed yesterday. Please don't worry because we are all O.K. no one got sick so far. On my birthday Mary's kids came down and picked berries for Mary to can for herself. I went to [M]ary's for Sunday and Mary made me a birthday (the baby was just eating chalk.) cake. I got your letter from North Dakota. but please don't forget to write - I hope Me-Na[3] and kids are O.K. Papa is picking strawberries now The only thing he wishes that you were home again.
Betty on her bike

Gus is going to live in the [D]owning [P]lace[4]. He built a shit-house already. We got twelve geese from our goose[5].

I guess that's all because I am in a hurry.

Your Good Housekeeper,

P.S. Stella tries to write good but I am writing to tell you something

Next is the letter from Stella:
June 9, 1936

Dear Grandma,

Its eleven o'clock now and [I] have to hurry. I picked strawberries this week & last week & earned seven dollars. I would have went today but I got a nose bleed in the morning. I & Betty are helping clean the berries.

Berry pickers at Zimmerman's
(Clement is now eating a piece of chalk.)[6] Betty is getting along swell with cooking & don't you worry about anything, just enjoy yourself. I hope you enjoyed your trip on the boat. Did you feed any fish?[7] Ha! Ha! That is just like me to think up such things. Grandpa is picking strawberries, Mama & kids are fine, we had a sick chicken so she fed him linement[8]. I guess I'll close now wishing good luck. Good-by.

Your good 

P.S. Betty tries to write good but I am writing to tell you something.

[1] - Mrs. Zimmerman was a neighbor lady who did the main housework while Grandma was gone.

[2] - Mary's kids  refers to Bill & "Marie" Lulay's children

[3] - Me-Na - Betty's phonetic spelling of Mina/Minna Schiebel Bernt's first name

[4] - the name of a specific piece of property, named for the person who owned it previously. the property in question was owned by the Downing family. Gus Beitel would be getting married soon and must have started working on building a house on that property.

[5] - one of the farm geese must have hatched out a nest of 12 eggs, so a dozen new goslings for the farm!

[6] - Clement Lulay, Stella's baby brother, he would be 2 in the middle of July, 1936. A good clue that Betty and Stella were together when they wrote, as both made an immediate reference to the "baby eating chalk".

[7] - A reference to being seasick

[8] - She must have meant liniment, a salve or balm for aching joints or muscles. Not sure feeding it to the chicken did the chicken much good!

The photographs included in this post belonged to my Aunt Betty Silbernagel, the same person who wrote the first letter. The photos might not be from 1936, but probably within a few years. The one of Betty on her bicycle is included because she bought the bike with money she earned picking strawberries. The picture was taken east of the Beitel farmhouse, with a view to the northeast.

After originally scanning these photos, I showed them to some of my aunts and uncles to see what memories they brought back.

The picture of the berry pickers at Zimmerman's reminded Uncle Florence Beitel that this was Zimmerman's berry patch on the line fence between Zimmerman's and Joe Spenner's place. Also, he remembered that he was up at Zimmerman's shop one time and saw lightening strike the tallest fir tree in the grove of firs in the upper right of the photo.

Both Uncles Florence and Tony said that the strawberries were planted so that they could cultivate both ways through the patch, instead of being in rows like nowadays. That's why the bushes look so far apart in that picture.
Now cultivation is all done in a simple back and forth direction.

The picker with the hat is probably a Laux boy. The person hiding her face in the carrier Aunt Betty remembered as Margaret Laux Hendricks. She must have been camera shy. (Aunt Betty took the picture.)  Laux's were neighbors, not relatives.

Aunt Betty had a few other photos from the berry patch. This next one is Ed Zimmerman unloading the hallocks (boxes) from the carrier to the crates. Aunt Betty said that was Ed's job in the field.

Ed Zimmerman

The little boy with berries (below) may be from a different time and place. The photo did not have the sepia color, and the berries look like they may be raspberries instead of strawberries, but he looks like he's planning on eating some of them! Aunt Betty could not remember this photo and with her limited vision at the time, was not able to identify him. No one else recognized him, so if you do, please let me know!! I welcome all comments below.

At any rate, perhaps these photos will bring back memories of days in the berry patch as they did for me! I just finished picking my own strawberries this year - my back still hurts!

Little boy with berries

Story to be continued......
To read Post "27 - Postcards From the Europa - 10 June 1936" Click here

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