Life in 1915

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Diary of area youth reveals how different life was living in the early 1900s

Suzanne Winterhof shared an interesting diary at the annual Hanover Historical Society meeting Sunday that belonged to Lizzie Wolters Reunitz. The diary was written in 1915 and had references to the Hanover area. What was most interesting was reading about the daily chores, mode of transportation and prices.

Suzanne was thrilled to discover the diary of the young Lizzie - who eventually became her grandmother.

Here are several of the entries that she shared.

Hello!  The year is 1915.  My name is Lizzie Wolters.  I was confirmed at the Hanover Church in (1890 something - the exact date was unreadable) just a year after teacher Schmitt came.  I am the oldest child of Heinrich and Dorothea Wolters, and my family lived on the farm where Roger Kuhrts lives today.  The following year my parents joined several other Hanover families (Lietz, Holle, Van Engeln, ) loaded all their possession on railroad cars at Alta, and headed to Rawlins County, Kan.  It was reported that one farmer sold his quarter section here for $5,000 and bought a section in Kansas for $4,000.

For almost eight years I have worked for the Dakin Family at Schaller; The Dakins own the town's general store and are the parents of girls.

What better time to start a diary than when one takes a trip!

 July 7, 1915 - In the afternoon I went to Galva to Whealens to start my trip.  Edgar Whealan took Mildred and me and Mr. Marmet took Mrs. Marmet and Mrs. Whealen to Ida Grove, where we caught the 9:45 train to Omaha.  From Ida Grove we took the 4:30 tourist train to Denver.  Mrs. Marmet and I had upper berths --- our tickets were 76 inches long.  It was 7:30 Friday morning when we arrived in Denver. Two ladies who are rooming here started to walk from Chicago to San Francisco making this a stopping place. We did sight seeing in the Denver area, Colorado Springs, Seven Falls, Garden of the Gods, before leaving on the 15th for Salt Lake City.

 July 17 -  After seeing the Great Salt Lake and hearing the Morman Organ, we left on the 6 p.m. Southern Pacific for San Francisco.  Just before we got to Ogden our train ran into a buggy. Ground the horse all to pieces and killed the man and crippled the woman. They were both deaf and dumb."

 July 19 - We got to San Francisco where we will attend the Panama Pacific International Exposition (or World's Fair).  Day by day we tour the various buildings...the Kansas and Iowa buildings, the exhibits from Canada, China, Hawaii, Bolivia; we got to hear the Sousa Band and the Marine Band. 

 July 27 - Left San Francisco at 8 a.m. and arrived in Los Angeles 11:15 p.m. We did sight seeing including riding a glass bottom boat (cost 50 cents) to Catalina Island.

 Aug. 4 - Mrs. Marmet and I went on to San Diego and even went crossed into Mexico at Tijuana. Our tickets had to be validated and they added 12 more inches. (It seems that Balboa Park in this city was also part of the Exposition.) We went to Coronado Island and saw the largest wood hotel....rooms rent for $5 a day!

 I kept an accurate record of all the expenses I had on the trip. 

* Train ticket $21.90

* Meals on the train - breakfast - 15 to 25 cents; dinner - 20 to 35 cents; supper - 20 to 25 cents; lemonade 10 cents

* Pullman - 2.50 to 3.20

* Daily admission to Exposition 50 cents

* Souvenirs and stamps $1.50

* Room rent in San Diego - $1

* Gloves - $1.00

 Aug. 11 -  My traveling partners headed back to Iowa.  I went on to Fresno to visit my cousins Fred and Laura Grieme.  (Fred is a brother to Dietrich who married Emma Huseman and a brother to Johann who married Mary Harjes - parents of Mrs. Dwight Steig, and his sister Bertha married Fred Lichtenberg.)

Suzanne shared that the ensuing entries tell about rural life. "Almost every day is an entry that someone took cream to town.  They worked in the hayfield which was irrigated," Suzanne said.

 Aug. 21 -  I got two dresses in the mail from Schaller.

Oct. 7  - Packed to go back to Iowa and arrived in Council Bluffs. 

 Oct. 8  - The ride from Council Bluffs to Sioux City was from 6:45 a.m. to 11:30.  Took the 4 train and got to Schaller at 6:45 where Mr. Dakin met me. Mrs. Dakin is in bed with the grippe.

Oct. 18  - Went to see Mrs. Bennett; churned,  baked bread, mopped the floor and got a hat.

 Oct. 19 - Went to Galva on the 10:40 a.m. train.  Paul Langner and wife met me and took me to Lichtenbergs, and went to Mrs. Winterhof's funeral.  "Saddest funeral I've been to in a long time."

 Oct. 20 -  Edna Lichtenberg (she was Fred and Bertha's daughter) married Charley Langner at 3 p.m.  We all went.  Had about 25 here for dinner and supper and there were about 70 at the shivaree.

 "The following day's entry says, "We washed dishes for a long time."     

Oct. 22  - I did some sewing.  In the afternoon Mrs. Lichtenberg and I went to Claus Otto's to spend the afternoon.  Pa Lichtenberg helped Henry Lichtenberg saw wood.

 Nov. 2 - It is cloudy.  I baked bread, churned and cleaned. Mrs. Dakin sprained her foot so she can't walk.

  Nov. 7  - I went to church with Mrs. Otto.  I went to Chris and Emma Jensen's in the evening and stayed all night.  The next morning Chris took me to me to town for the train to Schaller.

 Nov. 9 - I cleaned woodwork in the sitting room, parlor, and library.  Milked the cow.  Mr. Dakin is off to Des Moines to buy goods.

 Nov. 12  - Mr. Dakin and Mildred came home.  I milked the cow, baked bread and buns, pounded the parlor and hall rugs.  Mrs. Dakin and I washed the dining room plates.

 Nov. 15  - After eight years with the Dakins, I am packing up my possessions and going to help the Charley Bennet family.  The Bennets have a baby and several older children. Edna Lichtenberg Langner came to see me.

 Nov. 17  - I did the washing with a gas machine. (An exciting event.)

 Dec. 16 - Six down with measles.

 Dec. 18  - President Wilson was married today

 Dec. 19  - Sick folk better ex 

"The diary ends (Dec. 21)," Suzanne said. "All the pages of the nickel book are filled. Lizzie Wolters was my step-grandmother, who married my grandfather, W. H. Reunitz on Dec. 20, 1920. Yes, how things have changed over the years in the types of house work and family life! Some of the things that were tourist attractions almost a hundred years ago are still visited today; only it will cost you much more for sight seeing.  The rail has disappeared as a prime form of travel."

While presenting Lizzie's story, Suzanne was attired in a striking fur coat that belonged to the diary-writer and wore one of the many hats in Lizzie's collection.

Those in attendance at the annual meeting found the diary interesting and some even commented on references to some of the people listed in the nearly 100-year-old diary.

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