January 31, 2012
My Family & ChildhoodUnfortunately, I never really knew my grandparents as my grandmothers died before I was born and my grandfathers died when I was young. However, I do remember my dad’s father had a full beard and my mom’s father had a moustache.
My parents, Otto and Laura Kohls, lived on a farm one mile south of New Germany, Minnesota. Dad was a good father and provider. He didn’t swear, drink, or believe in spanking his children. He worked hard on the farm and enjoyed singing in the church choir. Mom was a great cook and worked hard doing all the household chores. She was also very good at making our clothes, crocheting and even making doll clothes. They had very little time for themselves, but they did enjoy the local barn dances now and then.
My older siblings, Marvin and Elvera, were born two years apart. I was in the middle and born on June 3, 1918. Walden and Delmont were the youngest and also born two years apart. We enjoyed sledding, playing hide-n-seek, making things with Tinker Toys, coloring in books and playing card games including Sheephead, 500, and Rummy. My youngest brothers enjoyed playing bat and ball.
We did not have radio or television and spent a lot of our time helping with the farm chores. I enjoyed spending time with my dad and was his helper on the farm. I cleaned the chicken coop, pitched manure, milked the three cows before and after school and fed the chickens. My sister Elvera was usually in the house helping Mom. We had farm dogs and cats, but they never lived in the house. I remember one dog was named Mupps. We also had horses and they were used to help in the fields until we bought a tractor.
We had a new farm house built in 1932 with indoor plumbing, electricity and new appliances. The three boys shared one room and my sister and I shared another. Dad bought a pedal organ for our home and taught me how to play.
We had a very happy childhood and all got along well. Our parents taught us good morals and values from the Bible. They were very loving and caring. We were not rich, but our parents did well to provide everything we needed. I still admire them for all they taught me and for bringing me up as a Christian.
One of my best memories was playing house with my cousins. My sister and I each had one doll with eyes that would open and close. My best friends were Audrey (a boy who later became my husband), Mildred Brelje, Renata Rolf and Ruth Wiendorf. We were all good kids and never got into much trouble (no smoking, drinking or swearing) because I never wanted to disappoint my parents.
I attended public school until fifth grade when I entered St. Mark’s parochial school. I don’t remember much about my classes, but really enjoyed spelling bees. I continued school until my Confirmation when I was 13 or 14 years old. I then worked at the canning factory and gave my parents the money I earned and they in turn bought me everything I needed.
When I was a teenager, we liked to talk on the crank phone, but our conversations were frequently listened to by some of the nosey people on our party line. I also went to dances in New Germany and Norwood Young America when I was 16. I remember birthdays were usually celebrated with our neighbors coming over for cake, which I loved. One of the best gifts I ever received was a doll with handmade clothes from my mom and the many dresses she made for me.
The most significant event during my childhood was WWII. I remember wishing for peace. We all had to do our part by rationing gas and sugar. I also remember wearing dresses throughout my childhood, never slacks, and my hair was straight and cut short. Men wore farm clothes, but three-piece suits were worn to church.
Audrey and I were childhood friends. As we became teenagers, a group of us started going to dances together. After a couple months, he asked me to go with him on a date. After four years of seeing each other, he confessed his love for me one night when he drove me home from a dance. He just said, “I love you.” I never had another boyfriend or another love in my life. Audrey was and still is my one and only.
We planned a nice wedding, but did not have a honeymoon. I always wanted to be married and have a family and my wish came true.
My happiest memories include my wedding day, helping my husband on the farm, doing the bookkeeping, having children and grandchildren, and singing in the church choir. I also loved creating a home with my husband and raising our children.
My saddest memory was losing Audrey to a massive heart attack. I was also sad when my grandson Danny was in a car accident and left partially paralyzed.
My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love all the food including mixed nuts or walnuts, kuchen (German coffeecake) and cutout cookies. I also love real Christmas trees and going to church on Christmas Eve and Day.
Audrey and I never had extra money to travel to faraway places. However, we did travel to a number of towns in Minnesota and neighboring states for farm conventions. We also visited family in Florida after we retired and did a little fishing. We were most happy when we were home with our family.
I am most proud of my children and grandchildren. I am also proud of being a life-long member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in New Germany, MN. Both Audrey and I enjoyed singing in the choir.
A few of my favorite things include: eating mashed potatoes and gravy, hamburgers, pumpkin and apple pie; watching polka dances on TV; reading the Bible and doing my Devotions; singing Amazing Grace and other hymns; reciting Psalm 23 – The Lord is My Shepherd; enjoying Gene Autry perform in anything; visiting any place where my family is along; driving in the country to check on farm land; waiting for the beautiful colors in autumn to appear; enjoying my favorite colors of blue and pink; collecting old coins; and smelling fresh air and freshly baked bread.
I have no regrets and will always have fond memories of my good childhood. I feel I lived my life to the fullest and had many wonderful roles including Wife, Mom and Grandma.
Words of Wisdom
Here are a few words of wisdom I would like to pass on to my grandchildren:
- Work hard and you will have many good life lessons.
- In order to get things in return, you need to give of yourself. This is especially true in religion.
- Family should always come first.
- In marriage, love your spouse as much as yourself and try to work together, never apart.
- Life is great when your spouse is your best friend.
- Always believe in the Lord, he will never fail you and everything will fall into place.
- Always pray.
- Walk every day, do what the doctor tells you and try to do things that are healthy. Good health is so important, especially as you get older.
- Keep your mind sharp by reading and don’t worry about too much – it’s in God’s hands.
- If you want financial happiness, pay cash for everything you buy except your house.
- In your career, do what is right, be honest and listen to your boss.
- Keep a clean home and you will feel good.
- Help your family as much as possible and always give what you can to the church.
- Take time to enjoy life.
- When life is difficult, take it as it comes and keep praying.
I am thankful for a good life, the opportunity to help others and to be involved in my church. I am thankful for my children: Myra for being a caring daughter whom I miss when she is away, and Dennis for being a supportive son and for helping me every day. I hope you and your families will always get together and remain close when I am gone. I also hope you will plant a garden, even if it is small, to remember our heritage as farmers.
Mom and Grandma