RECOLLECTIONS OF FRANK T. RUMREICH, DATED MAY 1, 1978
In Pisek N.D. at about 5 years of age I tried to board a moving wagon which the hired man was driving. I slipped off and the rear wagon wheel rolled over my face. I can recall being bandaged up like a mummy. The imprint of a wheel was slightly visible at age of about 35. Also remember being in 1st grade or kindergarten at Christmas time when we had to cover our eyes while Santa came in.
Dad had a furniture store in Pisek but I don't remember much about it. Wallace Rumreich (Felix's son) has the store ledgers which contain many interesting entries. We moved to Montana on a 1/2 section of land about 12 miles North of Havre in 1911. Mother's sister, Anna Kolar (nee Jestrab), lived about 1 mile away. We lived in a tar paper shack (see picture taken in 1912?). One of our daily tasks in summer was to pick "buffalo chips" which were used as firewood. Mother made soap in a large black cauldron set on a homemade tripod. She also "canned" jack rabbits (which were very plentiful) in 1/2 and full gallon jars. Wood was scarce and coal was expensive. In winter the house was banked with manure for warmth and to keep out Arctic winds. Whenever a "farmer" (rancher) needed a building all neighbors within a 10 mile radius came to help put it up. When finished, a big "shin dig" was held. At our barn "shin dig," my brother Felix and I attempted to get some beer out of a barrel and we could not shut off the spigot so we let it run on the ground. You should have heard the cussing. Us kids had to walk 2-3 miles to school. It was a one room school with 8 grades. I was the only one in 1st and 2nd grades and as the upper grades would recite, I would take it all in. (That's why I'm so smart.) There were 9 kids in school.
After a 4-5 year draught in Montana we moved to Mahnomen where dad opened up a grocery store (about 1915). In my freshman H.S. year (9th grade) my principal caught me reading (Buffalo Bill books) behind a large geography book on 2 different occasions and made me take 2 extra subjects. The next year the same thing happened. So the 3rd H.S. year I had enough credits to graduate, which I did in 1923. On my way home that May evening with diploma under my arm, I went to the drug store and bought my first pack of cigarettes (Camels). Uncle Cy used to smoke Camels.
In the month of August (harvest time) at age 14 and 15, I went to North Dakota to work in harvest fields. I got the same pay as grown men - $5 per day plus keep. Meals were good and bed was in the haymow with pigeons roosting overhead. I usually came home with $100-$120. I worked from sun up to sun down 6 days per week. In the summer of 1923 I worked 90 hours per week in uncle Doc's drug store filling prescriptions and clerking for $30 per month. After 3 months I got a raise to $35 per month. I saved money during this period as I had no time to spend it.
Our family made many trips to North Dakota - Pisek and Grafton, where relatives lived - in automobiles. It was about 130 miles, which took all day and sometimes 2 days if it rained. Several cars always made the trip in a caravan to assure safe arrival. (Rain, mud, mishaps, flat tires, etc. - several men would be required to help.) It was a brave man who ventured the trip by himself. At one time my dad had a 1916 Chevrolet which had to have the carburetor dismantled and cleaned of crud every 30-50 miles. After some experience this took about 10 minutes. Our headlights were fueled by acetylene and had to be lit with a match.
I did a lot of bumming in the early 20's via coal tender or box car - Omaha, Duluth, Sioux City, Minneapolis areas. I never did have much "dough" but managed by washing dishes in restaurants, cleaning up, etc. A friend, Bill Weirouch and myself always talked about going to Alaska, but he was somewhat reluctant to leave his girl friend (he was older than I). One day she broke up with him and the next week we were on our way. We stopped in Fargo to replenish our finances for a few days by working in a coal yard. We went downtown one day and were to continue West the next day when a gust of wind blew Bill's hat down the street. Bill ran after it and where he retrieved it, there was his girl friend standing. Well, there went Alaska.
In Mahnomen us kids always had to go fishing for our Friday meals. This became a drudgery and we tried every which way to get out of it. Mother said "no fish, no dinner," so we went.
When Grandma Jestrab wanted to have fowl for Sunday dinner, grandpa would take his shotgun and walk around one of his 40's and come back with 8 or 10 prairie chickens or grouse, which us kids had to defeather and clean. In eating the birds we usually bit into a buckshot pellet.
I had a 22 caliber rifle most of the time at Mahnomen and became quite proficient in using it. The county paid a bounty of 3 cents per gopher tail and when I went out I usually brought back 48-49 tails with one box of 50 shell. If a gopher ran into a hole, we'd snare him with a fish line noose over the hole or drown him out if water was near, by pouring buckets of water into the hole.
Being in the grocery business, my dad was required to "barter." One farmer brought cords and cords of wood to our home for his grocery payment. Piled up, the stack was about 7 feet high, 4 feet wide and 100 feet long. When sawed into stove length of about 15" long, there was a horrendous pile of wood chunks which had to be chopped (split) into pieces about 2" square.
During grade school we often came home late for supper because we played "marbles" for keeps. We dirtied our hands, wore holes in our knee pants (I wore knee pants all through H.S. - my first long pants were for H.S graduation), got cracks in our knuckles from the wet and cold, and generally caught "H" for not coming home after school.