#614 – Dick Bernard: The Summer of 1920

Several photos are at the end of this post. Click on any to enlarge them.

Entrance to Veterans Memorial Park August 16, 2012

A conversation, a letter, and a visit to three ladies this summer brought to the surface some long ago memories, worth sharing.
Best I know, 1920 in North Dakota was a pretty ordinary year for farmers on the prairie. The horrid World War I had ended two years earlier; the Roaring Twenties were set to begin. It was, in relative terms, probably fairly good times on the prairie.
August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted. It was the Women’s Suffrage amendment. Finally, women had earned the right to vote!
But the summer of 1920 was a bit more dramatic for three farm families, as I had an opportunity to revisit this summer with three surviving first cousins, Marion Placke, Ruby Fitzgerald and Edith Busch.
My grandparents Busch had farmed between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND since 1905; their sister and brother, August Berning and his wife Christine, came in1906 and lived the next farm over, a short mile walk across the pasture (if the bull was nowhere to be seen). Grandma and August’s oldest sister, Kate Placke, lived in the home country, at the base of Sinsinawa Mound, in rural Wisconsin, a few miles from Dubuque Iowa.
Farm families were large then.
By 1920, Kate had been married 25 years and had a dozen children. Grandma Rosa by then had six of her nine children; and Christina nine of her thirteen.
That summer, Rosa and Christina were both pregnant. Christina was carrying twins, and the pregnancy may have been difficult. Rosa had Edith on July 20.
Harvest was looming and while we normally hear stories about the men “trashing” (as Grandma wrote “threshing”), harvest time was where the women’s work was truly never done.
Of course, everyone’s harvest came about the same time, and it was not a good time to share labor between farms.
What to do?
Likely through letter, but possibly telephone as well, It was decided that Kate would come west to help her sisters. Kate probably brought with her the three youngest kids, Lucina, 10, Florence, 7 and Marion, 4. Another sister, Lena Parker, also lived nearby and probably helped as well.
At some point, Christina Berning came home to her parents home, the Wilhelm Busch farm in rural Cuba City, and gave birth to twin daughters on September 25, 1920. Ruby lived, Ruth died in infancy.
Sometime that summer, probably after the harvest, and before Kate Placke and family and the Bernings left for Wisconsin the families gathered at the new Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Rapids.
Grandpa Busch most likely brought out the old ANSCO box camera, which had accompanied them to the prairies 15 years earlier, and took the below group picture. (The camera was last used about 1963 – we know because it had an unused roll of film with an expiration date of 1964 when we opened the box a few weeks ago.)
Life went on.
The Bernings resettled in Dubuque IA, living there till 1933 when the Depression caused them to return to the ND farm during the awful Depression years. The Dubuque plant in which August made radio cabinets closed, and the reasoning was that at the farm they at least could eat. Even that became questionable during the dry years. Uncle Vincent remembers 1934 as the worst of them all.
Busch’s and Berning’s survived the Depression, but barely. The Wisconsin kin seemed to fare quite a bit better.
Seven years after 1920 Verena Busch, then 15, died as a result of a ruptured appendix, the only one of the Busch’s children to not survive childhood; Ruth was the second Berning child to die in infancy; the Placke’s had seen one child die at age three.
Today, there remain only three of the children alive in 1920: Marion, 96; Edith, 90; and Ruby, soon to be 90.
They’ve all lived good long lives.
Thanks for the memories.

Group photo at Grand Rapids Veterans Memorial Park in 1920. Standing at center were the park caretakers, Art and Lena Parker. Lena was the sister of Kate, Rosa and August.

The Busch's Ansco camera, probably brought with them from Wisconsin in 1905

The "innards" of the camera, all wood.

Verena Busch gravestone at St. John's Cemetery Berlin ND

#471 – Dick Bernard: Armistice (Veterans) Day 2011

UPDATE: A reader sends along this Eyewitness to History link from the actual day/place in 1918.
Today is a unique date: 11-11-11 (November 11, 2011).
It is also Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I, when at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, a moment was taken to recognize the hope that the end of the Great War, was also the beginning of Peace (hope always springs eternal.)
My mother, Esther, then 9 years old, remembered the day vividly: “The hired girl and I were out in the snow chasing chickens into the coop so they wouldn’t freeze when there was a great long train whistle from the Grand Rapids [ND] railroad track [about 4-5 miles away, as the crow flies]. In the house there was a long, long telephone ringing to signify the end of World War I.” (page 122 of Pioneers: The Busch and Berning Family of LaMoure County ND).
WWI was very deadly and confusing: my grandparents and most of the neighbors in their home (Wisconsin) and settlement (ND) communities were German ancestry, first generation American, and spoke German. One of my grandfather Busch’s hired men was killed in the war, and Grandpa wanted to enlist. Mom’s younger sister Mary, born 1913, remembered “there was a lot of prejudice against Germany at that time so the language was kept quiet. Being called a “kraut” wasn’t the nicest thing to hear. Most of the neighbors had German ancestors. Most of them came to the U.S. to avoid compulsory military training.” (p.136)
Esther and Mary’s Great-Uncle Heinrich Busch in Dubuque, a successful businessman who with his parents and brother had migrated from Germany in the early 1870s, wrote a passionate letter, in German, home to his German relatives Nov. 5, 1923, saying in part “The American millionaires and the government had loaned the Allies so many millions that against the will of the common folk, [P]resident Wilson was pulled into the War. England had nine million for newspaper propaganda [for war] in American newspapers about the brutal German and that the German-Americans had come to suffer under it, they were held [arrested] for [being] unpatriotic and were required to come before the court for little things as if they were pro-German. The damned war was a revenge and a millionaire’s war and the common people had to bleed in this bloody gladiator battle…..” (page 271) He went on in the same letter to predict the rise of a regime like the then-unknown Hitler and Nazis because of Germany’s humiliation and economic suffering in defeat.
War was not a sound-bite. History did not begin with Pearl Harbor and WWII….
Armistice Day is still celebrated in Europe, especially.
In the United States, in 1954, the day was re-named Veteran’s Day.
Whether intentional or not, the original intention of Armistice Day has come to be diluted or eroded: rather than recognize Peace; the effort is to recognize Veterans of War.
I’m a Military Veteran myself, so I certainly have no quarrel with recognizing Veterans.
But today I’ll be at the First Shot Memorial on the Minnesota Capitol Grounds, recognizing Armistice Day with other Veterans for Peace. Part of the ceremony will be ringing a common bell, eleven times.
A block or so away the Veterans Day contingent will be gathering at the Vietnam War Memorial.
The same kinds of people; a differing emphasis….
Ten years ago today, November 11, 2001, we were waiting to board our plane from London, England, to Minneapolis.
At precisely 11 AM…well, here’s how I described it in an e-mail March 20, 2003: “One of the most powerful minutes of my life was at Gatwick airport in suburban London on November 11, 2001, when the entire airport became dead silent for one minute to commemorate Armistice Day, which is a far bigger deal in England than it is here. The announcer came on the PA, and asked for reflective silence. I have never “heard” anything so powerful. I didn’t think it was possible. Babies didn’t even cry.”
A year later at the Armistice Day observance of Veterans for Peace at Ft. Snelling Cemetery I related this story again for the assembled veterans.
Today, whether you’re observing Veterans Day, or Armistice Day, remember the original intent of the day.
Peace in our world.

UPDATE – Noon November 11, 2011
Some photos from the Armistice and Veterans Day commemorations on the State Capitol grounds. The ceremonies were about one block apart. I spent time at each. Factoring out the band and other official personnel at the Veterans Day observance, the number in attendance seemed about the same. At the Armistice Day observance, eleven peace doves were released after a bell was rung eleven times. At the Veterans Day observance there was the traditional 21 gun salute. (click to enlarge the photos)

Bell Ringing Ceremony

Some of the eleven doves of peace released at the ceremony.

At the Veterans Day observance at the Vietnam Memorial, Capitol Ground

Statue between the Armistice and Veterans Day observances today, at St. Paul MN

#439 – Dick Bernard: Walter McFadden, Jr.

Today is the funeral Mass for my second cousin Walt McFadden. Walt died Sept 13 in an accident on his farm on the edge of Dubuque IA.
Our condolences to Mary Lou, daughters Dena, Angela, Marla, their families, and Walter’s siblings Phil, Marianne, Paul, Jerry, Carolyn, Hugh, Kathy and Richard.
The last time I talked to Walt was a couple of weeks ago: a phone call. He and Mary Lou had been at the Minnesota State Fair. The last time I saw him was July 10, when I took this photo of him on the family acres. (click to enlarge all photos.)

Walter McFadden Jr. July 10, 2011

Walt was a picture of good health and spirits when I last saw him.
He and I didn’t know each other well. I was in Dubuque for a family reunion put together by Walt and his siblings in early July. Before that, the last time we’d met was in 2005 at another reunion. Walt’s mother was my mother’s first cousin, less than two years younger. In fact, they were double cousins: their parents, sister and brother who married brother and sister in Grant Co. WI about a year apart, took up farming on adjacent farms in ND in the early 1900s. As happens over 100 years, my branch more or less centered on ND and Minnesota; Walt’s branch in Iowa and Illinois. I know them basically through family history.
So I can’t wax eloquent about Walt’s gifts to family or to society at large. His obituary suggests they exist abundantly.
What the sudden death of this apparently very healthy 74 year old man demonstrates once again is the importance of doing relationship things now, rather than waiting for a better time – next month, next year, sometime….
As best I understand, Walt died only a very short distance from the farm home in which he grew up. He and his wife Mary Lou lived just down the road a mile or so. One of his brothers, Dick, and spouse, lived between the two houses. Other siblings in the large family live elsewhere.
In July, Walt took me into the old house, which he had been gutting, with uncertain plans. It had been a farm home. Now, across the street both north and east all of the property is urban development.
Walt is at Peace. May all of us learn from him.

The Walter and Lillian McFadden House, Dubuque IA, July 10, 2011

The old home, many a footstep up and down....

A family gathers at the McFadden home July 10, 2011. Walt is at right in the photo.

PS: Yesterday’s Sunday Bulletin at my Church, the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, had a column by Johan van Parys which seems to apply directly to today’s sad event in Dubuque. It is copied here: Van Parys Sep 18002. Dr. Van Parys is a native of Belgium.
PS2: I note in his obituary that Walt was a letter carrier. I wrote recently about the U.S. Post Office. It is here.

#402 – Dick Bernard: Day 14 of the Minnesota Shutdown, Day 19 to Default of the United States. A Chance Encounter With the City of Dubuque IA and a Glimpse of Hope

The Family Reunion over on Saturday, I settled into my motel room in Dubuque IA. I had just given myself a mini-tour of this small Mississippi river city which I have visited a number of times over the years, and I felt impressed with what I saw. It seemed transformed from the generally drab place I remembered in the past to a quite attractive present.
Something in Dubuque seemed to be working okay.

On the Mississippi from riverfront Dubuque IA July 9, 2011

I was too tired to leave the motel room, and too awake to go to sleep so I turned on the television. I’m not a TV guy, but this was at least company. A stroll through the wasteland found me at HBO, where the selection of the moment was Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The movie was a few minutes in, and I entered it where a wealthy broker was talking with a young broker in training about some investment deal apparently taking place someplace many times zones east of the Street. I wasn’t taking any notes – this was, after all, a movie – but the segment I had reached had a particular piece of dialogue which I generally remember: Broker to kid: “To me, $125 million is like a buck and a quarter.” He grabbed a handful of money, gave it to the kid and said something like “take this money and go out and stimulate the economy”. Next scene had the kid in a bar about to spend wildly, presumably on wine, women and song.
The movie didn’t interest me, so I started channel flipping and stopped for some reason at the local TV channel replay of the Dubuque City Council meeting of July 5, 2011.
I never watch this stuff at home, but for some reason the Mayor and Council drew me in, and I watched the entirety of the meeting till it went in closed session for some legal matters. It was fascinating. (The Minutes of the particular meeting can be accessed here. Select “View All” under City Council Meeting Minutes, and then select July 5, 2011). I entered when a citizen, unpracticed in public speaking but clear and eloquent in his own way, was complaining about enforcement of a local noise ordinance which resulted in some motorcyclists being ticketed. He was representing effectively a bunch of unseen bikers in the room with him, people who appreciated what he was doing in their behalf.
The Mayor and Council listened respectfully, and while they didn’t agree immediately with his request, they identified for he and the audience the process that would be followed to determine if some modification in policy could be made. I thought to myself: were I in his shoes, I would have felt I had been listened to, not dismissed. The situation must have been tense. The Mayor indicated he had had lunch with the bikers representatives earlier, to better understand the situation. Great move on his part: defusing the situation.
The meeting continued with the normal ‘this and that’ of city government. There was a fascinating report on an ongoing and obviously carefully planned program to work towards elimination of plastic bags in Dubuque stores. I got the impression that such a controversial plan had some potential for success.
It is said that the more local the government, the nastier and insane it can be: you can read examples of this most every day in community reporting because it is news. Quite certainly that Dubuque Mayor and Council could tell stories about their own city government. My whole career was working with people in organizations, and I have often said that if you have 100 people gathered anywhere, there are at least a couple who will cause a dilemma. Magnify this by thousands (towns and cities), millions (states), hundreds of millions (countries) and there’s plenty of differences to deal with.
But on this particular night, July 9, 2011, through the eyes of local community access television, I saw a city that seems to be working well. An hour or so earlier I’d seen the evidence as one simple tourist driving around the Mississippi River town.
And here I write, in a state that is shutdown due to paralysis at the State level (with a potential for settlement just announced 11 a.m. on Thu July 14); and in a country that is lurching towards catastrophe. What can I say? If they can get things done in Dubuque, why not on a larger scale?
Of course, there are answers to this question, but that’s for another time.

Thanks, Mayor and Council of Dubuque IA for giving me some hope.
As for our state, the big news (till the aforementioned announcement) is the possibility of running out of beer. And as for our nation, my favorite blogger filed a most interesting compilation about the Washington D.C. scene. You can access his 3000 or so words here.