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Bailey-Skrivan Family

Louisa née Skrivan Bailey, circa 1925

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My great-aunt, Louisa Skrivan, was born 1907 to Thomas (Tomas) & Marie Hejman Skrivan, in Baltimore, Maryland.  After immigrating from, Strakonic, Bohemia, Czech Republic.  I believe the family moved to Wolbach Nebr. in 1908.  Thomas Skrivan died and my great-grandmother, Marie, married Frank Vopat, Sr.  Frank's father was Joseph Vopat.

[Temporary notes: Thomas and Vincent Skrivan were brothers. Thomas married Marie Theresa Hejman in Bohemia. Vincent came to America and married Aloise Flos. There are two sisters that I am still searching for. 1910 census has Frances living with Thomas, his mother. Now to find her last name.

The Skrivan family lived in Baltimore MD before moving to Wolbach, NE. Marie remarried after Thomas' death to Frank Vopat, a widower? That remains to be proven. When Frank died, she stayed on the farm with his son and wife until her daughter Amelia Puncochar had a horse accident of some kind. She lived the rest of her life in St. Paul, NE. ]

These are names that my great-aunt mentioned: Rochek, which are related to the Vopat family. Two of her friends, Vedia Oakley and Hilda Bartenak.  Mr. Oakley had a store and Mr. Bartenak owned a shoe repair business.

Submitted by Debbie Callison (

Louisa Skrivan Bailey's Story

Louise’s Story:

My parents, Thomas and Marie Skrivan, were born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. After having four children, they decided to come to America where there was more opportunity. Other members of the family were already here. In 1899, they brought their children, Vincent (Jack), Albert, Harry and Mary. Grandmother Skrivan came with them.

My parents, the four children born in Prague, and Grandmother Skrivan came across the ocean bringing with them all their possessions–pictures, featherbeds, dishes, etc. They came through Ellis Island, then enroute Baltimore, Maryland where they had relatives. They had to leave the graves of three infants who had died and were buried in Prague.

They lived in Baltimore for a few years, and this is where I was born on December 8, 1907.

Thomas’ brother, Vincent (for whom "Jack" was named) and two sisters were already living in Nebraska, and he urged Thomas to bring his family and move out there. Thomas was a carpenter, and there were more opportunities for carpenters in Nebraska. Times were hard in Baltimore and not much work...and Thomas had eight people to support. Vincent lived in Wolbach with his wife Louise. I was named for her. So we loaded our belongings on a train and headed west.

I was just learning to walk, and the train trip to Nebraska was a long one, and so I spent the trip wobbling up and down the aisle. This embarrassed my Mother-she was afraid I would bother other people.

When we got to Wolbach, my father moved us into a small home-too small for the big family, and now the family was expanding. By now they had four more children: Milly, Jim, Bessie and Bill. Bill was a surprise. Mother was 51, and thought her child bearing days were over. My father built a big house: four rooms up and four down. He built a special step in the stairs-it raised and became a place we could put our laundry. The house had no closets (we had wardrobes) or bathroom. Grandma Skrivan still lived with us, although she had the other children in the area. She treated my Mother horrible-made her life miserable. Mother could never please her.

Times were hard, and carpenters were often out of work...especially in the winter. I can remember friends of the family bringing gunny sacks filled with clothes for us kids. Sometimes my father got down in his back..he would lie on his stomach on the floor, and my mother, who was not a very big woman, would walk on his back to get it back in place.

In 1917, when I was 10 and Bill was only three, our father became ill and it was diagnosed as throat cancer and he went to Omaha for further tests by doctors there. He was told it was incurable. I remember my Mother crying so hard. This was during World War I, and three of my brothers were in the service: Jack, Albert and Harry. We had a blue service flag in the window with three stars on it-one for each boy. Harry hoped to go oversees, he wanted to see funeral, but the armistice was signed and the war ended. Harry’s dream to go oversees ended.

My father’s funeral was in the Catholic church. Mother was always a strong Catholic. Milly and Mary were too.

To support us, my Mother had a big garden. She would load vegetables into a little wagon and haul them downtown Wolbach to sell them. She still could not speak English, but she could understand it, so she could do business. She never spoke it, as Mary laughed at her when she tried. She took cabbages, potatoes and other vegetables to the market, pulling them in a little wagon. This would not have ben easy, being unable to speak the language.

When Mother left for market, Bessie and I would get a little skillet-mix up sugar, cocoa and water or milk in the skillet and cook us some candy. One day we were making our chocolate candy and saw her coming home early. We ran and hid the skillet under the porch steps, until we could sneak out and eat it.

Bessie was quite the bookworm and I’d get so mad at her, as I wanted her to play with me. One day I took her book and hit it-then forgot it and it rained on it-and completely ruined it. She was really mad at me.

Mutual Bohemian friends used to have all of us to dinner, and invited a nearby widower, Frank Vopat. Frank had a son about 4 years older than I. About two years later Frank married my Mother. He was a courageous man taking on all of us children. By now, Grandmother Skrivan had died after having to go to a home for dementia.

Frank had but one arm- he had lost the other to blood poisoning. But he could do as much with that stub than most men-he could even pitch hay. He was a farmer.

He was a good man and we all loved him, and called him Dad. He moved all of us into his little home, quite a change from our big house. He was rather partial to me, and if we wanted something, the kids would say, "Louise, go ask your Dad," as they knew he would get it for me.

When Dad went to town on Saturdays, he would always bring us a treat; bananas or round rings of "garlicky" bologna. We loved lunch meat.

Often we would go to relatives for dinner, and people could be cruel. One day they were passing fried chicken, and they told him to take the drumstick–as he did, they said, "That’s your arm you lost." He wasn’t able to eat it.

His farm was about a mile and a quarter from Wolbach, so we had to walk to school and in the winter it seemed a long way-sometimes we had to cross through the pasture because of drifting snow. We girls wore leggings that buttoned up our legs and big boots. There were four big hills on the way, and they seemed really big to us.

There were always chores to do, but we made a game of everything. We picked up corn cobs to be used to start the fires, and also to put in the pig lots. In the evenings we’d all gather in the kitchen and have work to do. We would shell dry the dry shells hurt our fingers. Sometimes, after dressing chickens, she would bring us baskets of dry feathers. Our job was to strip the soft part from the stiff core. She used the soft feathers for pillows and feather ticks.

We had lost of fun with almost nothing. Our step-brother Frank found an old bike frame-he could do about anything. (He only got to go through the 4th grade, but educated himself by reading books. He read all the time, and later had a good job in town. He died several years ago, but his wife is still living. She is 91.) Frank took some thick rope and wrapped it on the bike’s rims (it had no tires). He would push it to the top of a hill, and one of us kids would ride it down-then push it back up for another one to take a ride down.

Frank was a tall lanky kid and Dad was hoping either Bessie or me would marry him. But, we thought of him as a brother.

Vedia Oakley had a brother, too, and he wanted to date me. Sometimes we would go as a couples somewhere, and he would try to put his arm around me and I didn’t like that. I’d huddle way over in the corner of the car so he couldn’t do it.

I didn’t get my hair-cut until I was in high school. Dad didn’t want me to-he said "Your hair is part of your body and you shouldn’t cut it off."

I was a very good student-especially in Algebra and Latin and just loved both of those subjects. Vedia had a terrible time with Latin, so I tutored her. I could even illustrate what I was teaching her, hoping it would help, but she just couldn’t remember it. I loved school and took part in everything...I was a cheerleader-this was more like today’s "pom-pom" girls and I was in plays. We put on a play,"Ann of Ann Arbor" and I was Ann. When the curtains opened, I was sitting at a typewriter, typing and chewing gum.

I always liked music. We had a pump organ before my real father died, and took it to the farm with us. Later Dad bought a piano and I loved playing it. By now, Jack had moved to town to work, and he sent money home for me to take piano lessons.

For entertainment. We had neighborhood barn dances-doing folk dances like Skip to my Lou. Mother loved to dance, but she was so self-conscious, she would not go to the Country Dances and get-togethers where they did folk dances, but we would catch her dancing at home by herself. The rest of us went to the get togethers and danced to fun group dances like Skip to my Lou. I could drive us to the dances—started driving when I was 12 or 14.

Mr. Rochek and his son provided the music-the father played the fiddle and the son the accordian. When they played in homes, I accompanied them on the piano.–About everybody had a piano. Sometimes in the barns, the Birney Boys joined in with their banjos. I played "swing" music.

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Bread sandwiches. I was a little Mother to Bill when he started the first grade. One day we were walking to school and couldn’t see Bill, so we went back home and found him curled up in the spring wagon fast asleep. Seems he had gotten in trouble at school the day before and was afraid to go back.

Our school had four grades in one class.

My best friend, Vedia Oakley, walked with me. There was another little girl who wanted to walk with us, but we didn’t like her. She had lice and was younger. We decided she was too little and not smart enough to walk with us. We had a croquet set, and we had lots of fun playing it. The girl we didn’t like, wanted to play so bad, and we wouldn’t tell her the right way to play...we were little meanies. In the Spring, we loved to walk along the railroad tracks and pick violets and dandelions and fill May baskets. We would hang them on door knobs, knock on the doors and run.

Vedia’s father had a store and we made the most of this. About everyone in Wolbach had a cow, so I would walk with her to take it to pasture. We had to go by her father’s store and she knew a way to slip in. She would remove a cellar window, drop into the storage room where the boxes of candy were stored, and fill us a sack of candy to eat while we walked the cow home.

Another friend of ours, Hilda Bartenak, also could get us teats. Her father had a shoe-repair business, and kept his money in a box on top of a cabinet. Hilda would climb up, get a dollar bill out of the box, and give each of us a quarter to spend. I can’t believe her father didn’t notice the money kept coming up missing.

We were a healthy bunch of kids–seemed like we were never sick, but we did all have the mumps one year. When there was an epidemic of Small Pox, we were vaccinated, and the place they did it made a big sore that scabbed up and looked awful. The were big, crusty scabs.

Mother worked so hard, between cooking, cleaning and taking care of Dad and all of us kids. She always had a big garden, milked cows, canned...was working all the time. She was a wonderful cook and made bread every other day. She made the best Kolach. She would fill them with apple butter and apricot preserves. Dad really liked soup-she made lost of noodle soup, cutting up the dough into little rivels. We always had plenty of food as she had a big garden and raised chickens and milked cows. I would help with the later years, after I was married and living here and we went back to visit, I’d always help with the milking. She filled the fruit celler with canned fruits and vegetables and always had a huge crock filled with cucumber pickles in brine. Living on the prairie with its bad storms and occasional tornadoes, Dad, if he felt a bad storm was brewing, would make us get blankets and lanterns and go down in this fruit cellar.

On wash day, Mother started the laundry on the porch early in the morning-heating the water in a big wash boiler, scrubbing the clothes on a board, then hung it on lines to dry-even in the winter. It would smell so good and fresh when you brought it in.

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Baby. The new mother had suffered a cut from the instruments during birth, and then would need to be cleaned and dressed frequently. The doctor was impressed with the care I was giving, and asked me to come and work for him. I thought I’d just be handling the instruments, but he soon had me doing other tasks. I hadn’t been there 3 or 4 months when he had me help him operate. He said, "Just pretend he’s a chicken and cut away."

There were other ladies working for him–Mary and Eleanor: Mary cooked and Eleanor cleaned his house. He had a lovely home and he was a widower.

I always loved to sew. When we were still little girls, my sister Milly wanted a dress with side ruffles. Mother didn’t have time to make the dress. I was about eleven at the time, so I decided to do it. With no pattern I created the dress Milly was wanting. Later I was upset to see that there were 12 ruffles on one side and 13 on the other. But I didn’t tell Milly...and she loved her dress.

After graduating from high school, I moved up to Milly’s (she was now married and living in St. Paul.) And I attended the St. Paul Ladies’ Sewing School. The tuition was $35.00, no small sum in the 1920's. Upon completion of the course, I started my own business. I scheduled appointments, staying in customer’s homes for two or three weeks while sewing their new wardrobes. Since my talent was in great demand, I was well-paid in an era when there were few opportunities for young women.

One time I was making a two-piece green dress with covered buttons. I said I needed a pattern and Bessie said, "Why? You never did need a pattern before." Later I used a cardboard pattern that had rows of dots you used for whatever size was needed.

By now the Bailey’s had moved to nearby farm, and when I was 17 or 18, I was at one of the neighborhood dances and met Clyde and fell in love.

On the day of the wedding, we started to the city of Fullerton in a bad snowstorm. We had taken heated bricks to keep our feet warm, since the car had no heater. Although it was only 20 miles to the city, cars traveled slowly even in good weather, so with the snow it was quite a trip. It turned into a blizzard and the car slid off the road. A passing bread truck stopped and the driver helped get us out of the ditch and to the church on time.

Clyde was working for a bachelor, Niles Jorgenson. He had wanted a couple to work for him-the man to help him farm and the woman to cook and keep house. He paid $500.00 a year in cash, provided us with a nice house and we got along fine. We had a big blue kitchen cook stove-they have replicas of it on the market today, only ours burned coal and wood. We had a new kitchen table and chairs, among other things. Niles gave Clyde a sow and pigs and we had money from that. I raised chickens and had eggs, and we milked 12 cows--so we had plenty to eat. Niles even showed me how to make a Buttermilk Rice Pudding that was really good.

The government, as part of a depression relief program, gave us two cows: Holsteins. One was really hard in the chest.

We were hoping to have a baby in December, after the farming was over for the season, but it didn’t quite work out like that. Mary Lou wasn’t born until March. I got the Lane cedar chest to keep her things in. It is the one I still use.

I always like to sew for her. I made her blankets and little dresses. I made her a black taffeta bonnet that had little puckers going into big pompons. It had red satin ribbons. I also made her a little beige coat and a red wool one she wore with the black bonnet. We were crazy about her and Niles really liked her.

When I went out to milk, I would take her with me and put her in a box. I would squirt some milk in a cup. We didn’t worry about pasteurization then. One time when Mary Lou was only about 2 ½, she got out the door without my knowing it. When I saw her, she was at the kerosene barrel and had turned it on. I didn’t know whether she had tasted it or not, so I made her drink lots of milk.

When Mary Lou was only four, she started school and Clyde always walked her there. By now we had moved to Litchfield where he was working for another farmer. Later he worked for his brother Everett. Clyde decided he needed training in diesel engines and went to a Diesel school in California.

When Mary Lou was in the Third grade, we moved to Noblesville. Diphtheria was really bad and the children were being inoculated for it. She got awfully sick.

For awhile, I worked for Fred and Mable Anderson at their hatchery. One thing I had to do was check the new baby chicks. If they weren’t going to make it, I would have to kill them.

By now other members of the family were living here. Bessie and Dean moved here, too. Bessie and I had dated brothers in high school, and here we were--married to the Bailey brothers. Gladys and Everett (another brother) were here, too, and since Gladys and I liked to sew, we opened a shop over J. C. Penney’s and called it "The Bailey Sisters".

Clyde was a mechanic for John Fisher and had the Packard Dealership here in Noblesville. Mary Lou was in high school then. In 1960 we sold the house on South Ninth Street and moved to a farm. In 1966 we bought this farm and moved out here so Clyde could return to his love of farming.

I still have the Lane cedar chest I got when Mary Lou was born to keep her clothes in. Of all the dishes my parents brought with them from the Old Country, I have only one piece. It is a pretty pink cup with gold trim. Mary inherited a lovely pitcher and glasses -- it was blue with a lot of gold scrolls. She gave Bessie a dark blue vase with handles that was a real heirloom. It was supposed to come to me when Bessie died. When I asked Johnny about it, Karen said, "Oh no, Bessie said I could have it. So, all I have left is the one cup.


NOTE FROM JERRY: Louise and I had a lot of fun doing this Memory Book. There are other stories which I didn’t get recorded. Louise and Clyde were the two sweetest people and most wonderful couple I’ve ever known. They were always so patient with Mary Lou’s friends and treated us all like their children. I’ll never forget her piano playing...we would bring new sheet music(the latest songs on the Hit Parade) for her to play. First play through, she would play it exactly as written..THEN she played it "Louise-swing-style". She was accomplished enough to go on stage. She kept Lou in beautiful clothes-says she always loved sewing for her. One year, when we were in high school, pedal pushers became popular and she made us matching outfits in a dark-green plaid. How cool we thought we looked. And..her cooking was out of this world. I really loved her Goulash, Apple Pie and Apple Dumplings. About two years ago she had me out to the farm for dinner, and made the Goulash and Apple Dumplings. It was just as delicious as ever.

Louise is an example of what every Mother should be and I loved her dearly.

William Anthony Skrivan, 1929
William Anthony Skrivan-1929

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