THE GREAT DEPRESSION
The stock market crash of 1929 caused many economic problems in small communities of Nebraska. The depression left many jobless, as men went from place to place asking for work, willing to work in return for a meal. When the price of wheat dropped in the 1930's, many farmers were forced from their farms, unable to pay their high interest mortgages. With the loss of work or farm, it was necessary for families to double-up, by moving back to live with their parents.
The price of farm products dropped. Eggs were a nickel a dozen and milk a dime a gallon. Wheat sold for 27¢ a bushel and corn for 13¢. With the shortage of cash to pay the doctor or other bills, the people traded cream or chickens in return.
By 1934, people believed recovery was in sight, but worse days lay ahead; when little corn or wheat could be harvested during the drought years of the 30's -- the heat, high winds -- created the Dust Bowl. It became impossible for anyone to make a good living -- they merely survived. Submitted by Marlene McDonald
Having been born at the very beginning of the First World War, one of my first memories is of hearing the church bells ringing on November 11 for the Armistice. Someone from town had phoned Mom and told her. She came away from the telephone, and with tears in her eyes, went out on the back porch where we quietly listened to the church bells tolling their announcement of peace. Twenty-six years later, I again heard the announcement of peace. This time, with the loss of my brother, Bob, and many of our friends.
Our church was very important in our family and community. We had a small country church and I remember our church picnics, Easter, and Children's Day programs. We also had Oyster Soup Suppers held late in the fall or spring. One unusual sight was the making of coffee in a wash boiler. The ground coffee beans were tied into a small bag and when coffee was strong enough the little bag was removed. I was too young to drink that coffee!
Our school was an oblong building with 4 windows on either side. A large jacketed stove sat at the back. Our programs were often held in the afternoon because there was no electricity in the building.
We came to school well-clothed because we walked and because the room wasn't any too warm. Often times we left our overshoes on to keep our feet warm while we studied.
Children in our neighborhood usually had 2 pairs of shoes a year. They were purchased in the late fall and in the spring. In summer we usually went barefooted, only wearing shoes on Sunday. Long black or tan stockings were worn daily, with white ones worn on Sunday. Our winter underwear had long legs and over top for modesty we girls wore black bloomers. Again, on Sunday, we wore white bloomers.
Aprons were often donned over our warm wool school dresses. In the spring and fall our mothers insisted that we wear sunbonnets to keep our fair complexion. Often times the sunbonnets hung from the back of our necks as we hurried on the way to school or raced in some game. For Sunday, a pretty, warm dress was kept for winter, often moving down from one girl to another in the family. Pretty cottons were worn for summer, even sometimes a ruffled organdy.
Our Christmases were a quiet day with most emphasis on a large dinner. Stockings were hung, and fruit, candy, and nuts were hidden in them. One Christmas, when I was 10 years old, I finally got the doll I had longed for. Besides, grandmother had made a set of clothes for the doll. That was the greatest Christmas ever.
Easter was an important religious holiday. Winter was often long because the roads were bad; the car wouldn't always start so sometimes we couldn't attend church. Easter clothes were important for us because we usually had a Sunday School program on Easter morn so we were expected to look our best.
Contagious diseases were always prevalent and the weakest children suffered because there was no knowledge of our present-day medicine. Many children were left with weak lungs and hearts as the result of these diseases.
Visiting our relatives and friends was a Sunday afternoon privilege. Cake and pies were baked on Saturday in readiness for these visitors. One old relative was unusually interesting to visit because they had a talking parrot. He could not only talk -- he was also mean.
One did not dance any day, let alone on Sunday, in our small church group. Sunday was a day of rest and was meant only for church attendance, quiet reading or visiting relatives and friends. One did not sew, bake, cutout paper dolls or play ball on Sunday.
Death was fairly common. This is one time when the Protestants and Catholics were brought close together.
Sex was unheard of in a discussion. Pregnancy was whispered when mentioned, divorce was shocking, drunkenness and gambling was also swept under the rug and only brought to attention when there was a dire need.
In the community the farmers worked in crews for threshing oats and wheat. Mr. Jim Broz was the operator of the big steam engine. What a sight it was when the belching smoke monster came into our yard to thresh our grain. Sometimes he would let us kids ride with him There was a lot of politics played in the gang. Who would have their grain threshed first? Would each man furnish the same amount of help? Was his man doing his share? The woman's load was much heavier at this time too. She must furnish the food for the threshing crew twice a day. They were big meals much more food than most people eat nowadays. This was a time in a farmer's life when he worked the hardest. Corn shelling was done much the same but usually lasted only one or two days.
Times have changed; but in their changing we hope we have grown stronger in our understanding and acceptance of each other. Submitted by Marjorie Wilcox Alm
THE FLEMING TABLECLOTH
A letter to my niece in California before her wedding in 1975:
I am bringing two white tablecloths for your wedding reception table. One is brand new and the other one is very old -- a family heirloom. Which one you use is your choice to make but first let me tell you about Grandma's BIG LINEN TABLECLOTH.
Sixty three years ago next December, Grandma and Grandpa received a beautiful linen tablecloth as a wedding gift. And so it became a part ofthe family. At all family gatherings or whenever a crowd required that a big table be spread, the BIG LINEN TABLECLOTH was brought out to grace the table in a beautiful and dignified manner.
Just about this time of year, the grain was ready for harvest. On the Sunday after the grain was cut and put into shocks, Grandpa and Tom Roberts (Grandpa's cousin) pulled the threshing rig out of the corn crib and got it ready to go to work. It was a big, cumbersome thing with lots of wheels, spouts, etc. It was pulled and driven by a huge Avery tractor. (I particularly remember the huge wheels, When I was small I could hardly reach to the axle.) They would start the rounds from one farm to the next until all the wheat was threshed. Then they would start back and thresh the oats.
We never knew for sure when we would have threshers for dinner or lunch -- there always were breakdowns and rains. When we were going to be next, for example, Grandpa would send word with the wagon load of grain going to the elevator, "Stop and tell Lou we will be finished here about 9:30 so we will be there for dinner." When we saw the first hayracks come down the hill to go to our fields, we knew for sure.
That meant a trip for groceries. Grandpa was too busy to take Grandma to town and she never drove the car except at threshing time. She was scared to death.
Grandpa had a big black Hudson. It was an open "touring car" that had ising glass curtains we snapped on in the winter. And there were little "jump seats" in back like you sometimes see in airport limousines. Anyway, Grandma wouldn't think of backing the car out of the garage so we'd all have to push and maneuver it so it was facing down the drive. There were acres to turn around in but to her the car was a dangerous thing in reverse.
Slowly Grandma drove down the road and even more slowly around the corners making sure she stayed out of the ditch on either side for the long five miles to town. The main street was only a block long and at that hour in the morning no one was around, but Grandma always stopped at the side door of Walla's store. She was so nervous she could hardly pay for the groceries.
When we got home we'd scrape, peel and chop vegetables; bake, stir and cook! Grandma usually had roast pork and beef "because it made such good gravy!" Sometimes we dug new potatoes in the garden. And, I can never forget the beautiful loaves of homemade bread.
Setting the table meant putting in all the leaves and getting the good dishes out of the buffet so we could have enough. Out from the bottom drawer came the BIG LINEN TABLECLOTH. (We sorta turned our thoughts to ironing it afterwards. I was thinking as I laundered it today just how many irons it took to iron that cloth. The irons -- not electric -- had a detachable handle. When the iron cooled, we'd put it back on the stove, detach the handle and fasten the handle onto a hot iron. Whew, was it hot! Air conditioning was a much appreciated faint breeze that drifted into the kitchen window. Such irons are museum pieces today.)
As the noon hour approached, the entire threshing operation was shut down and all the men -- twenty or so -- came to the house to eat. They "washed up" outside under the big tree by the pump. We had an old wooden bench out there with a couple wash basins and the men took their turn. It was usually my job to see that there were plenty of towels and soap. The men's overalls were dusty and sweaty. Grandpa and Tom were the worst -- grease from head to toe -- because they operated the machinery. Tom always had a long-spouted oil can in his hand.
Then they came into the house for dinner. The beautiful white BIG LINEN TABLECLOTH regally enhanced the food-ladened table. It always survived the spills and the grease that rubbed off. It never lost its dignity.
Modern combines with air conditioned cabs and "permanent press" have retired the old threshing rig and the linen cloths but I know Grandma's BIG LINEN TABLECLOTH would be humbly proud to grace your wedding table this July 12, 1975.
P.S. She had no doubts about which cloth she wanted to use. Submitted by: E. Odette Asay
BRIDGES FOR 1983 WORK
A plan is in the works for building two bridges amounting to $315,000. These two bridges located in Douglas Precinct will mostly be paid for by federal funds, with the county paying the remaining costs. The first bridge is located about three miles south of Morse Bluff. Seven miles north of Malmo is the second location.
Elk Precinct is situated in Township 15 range 5. It is bounded on the north by Chester, on the east by Mariposa, on the south by Newman and on the west by Butler county. The Burlington Railroad cuts through the northeast to the northwest, ending in Prague.
The first Czech settler, Peter Kastl, came to Elk Township in June of 1867. He settled next to a stream several miles southwest of Plasi. In 1868 he was followed by Michael Petrzelka, John Vanous, James Reap and Joseph Simanek. In 1871, Martin Vanek, Vencl Kaspar and George Ebling came.
The first country school in the county was known as "Vanek School" and later was called District #84. It was founded in 1878. As in all early schools at this time, books were kept in Czech. It cost $20.80 to build the school. The lumber cost $720.63. The teacher received $29.00 a month for 8 months. This school was in existence till 1968 when, by vote of the patrons, the school joined District #104.
Records of District #83 go back to 1898 and the boundaries are the same now as they were then. The original building was dismantled in 1905 and a new one built at that time. This school is still in session because of a continuing enrollment.
District #19's records start in 1884; and in 1963 Districts 106 and 94 voted to join #19. The building of the original #19 was sold to a former pupil, Josephine (Havlovic) Koranda, who moved the school intact to a farm nearby that she owned. It is being kept as a keepsake. The three districts moved the newer, more modern school from District 106 and remodeled it to conform to much newer teaching methods, As in the other districts in this township, the students were mostly of Czech descent. The teachers in the early years were mostly male and not of Czech descent.
In section 15-5-5 the cemetery was organized at the same time as the Catholic church. It was consecrated, on July 1, 1880. Several settlers' graves, at this time, were moved from a field owned by Frank Jambor to the present site. In 1970 the Cemetery Board added more burial ground and erected a Calvary Group.
On June 8, 1874, land was purchased for a church and burial place. SW¼ of SW¼ section 3 township 15 range 5 was the site. The organization for the development of this site was called "Cesky Bratersky Evangelisky Congregation." The Church was moved to the town of Prague. The Cemetery is still used for burials.
A private burial ground is in section 4. It has only two or three graves and is maintained by the descendants of the Vavak family.
The Precinct officers for 1983-87 are: Charles R. Prochaska, Chairman; Larry Woita, Clerk; and Leonard L. Chapels, Treasurer. Submitted by Charlotte Sousek
Josephine Mach Sousek of North Bend lived in the Plasi community as a child. She recalls and tells that on Christmas Eve they attended Mass at Plasi Church. They usually walked and so did many of the neighbors along the way. Before they arrived at church there was a large group of them.
She mentioned that there were barns on the church property then. Before Mass, some would tie the horses only to a post, while others put them into the barns. Many times they walked or rode carriages to church. After church services, everyone would gather to visit. There was also a Post Office on the church property, where everyone picked up their mail. It was brought once a week from Prague to Plasi by Mr. Kocarnik. Catechism was every Saturday during the summer months. Many times the children would cut through the meadows to make the miles shorter, rather than going on the roads.
SS. CYRIL AND METHODIUS
|Church -- At Plasi|
During this time Plzen (Plasi) was being considered for a monastery. Due to a misunderstanding and influence of some freethinkers the project fell through.
In 1890, the parish consisted of almost 300 members covering an area including Wahoo, Touhy, Weston, Prague and Bruno.
Lightning damaged the steeple in 1891 and it was removed and a new taller steeple with a bell and 24 feet were added to the church.
The women of the parish organized the Rosary Society with the purpose of cleaning the church and the upkeep of linen vestments and sanctuary equipment.
On April 14, 1901, by an unknown cause the first church burned. Under the leadership of Father Vlcek and a Building Board, a larger church was planned and built. It was completed by Sept. 1, 1901. In 1927 the Parish celebrated its 50th Jubilee. The pastors during this time received only a small stipend for their services. They were often given a cow, some chickens and sheep, and possibly a hog for butchering. In addition parishioners brought them some food. Open air dances were held along with the annual (Pout) Sts. day dinner, with neighborhood bands playing Polkas and Waltzes for entertainment.
August 4, 1934, the second church was destroyed by fire. It was 114° and it was believed that a lit candle bent in the heat and lit the papers which set the church afire.
Immediately a building board was chosen and under the direction of Reverend Victor Mlejnek a new church was built. It was dedicated on October 24, 1935. During these hard times Father Pastorak initiated card parties, bingo, Czech plays, and a softball team for entertainment.
The church has been maintained as a Mission to St. John's Prague since the retirement of Father Pastorak.
Many improvements and changes have been accomplished through the years with generous donations and gifts of individual parishioners.
Religious education programs are taught by volunteers under the direction of the Pastor.
Pastors who have served in this church are as follows: Frantisek Sulak, Frantisek Bobal, Vaclav Kocarnik, William Coka, Jordan Stutz, Frantisek Hovora, Jan Vlcek, Victor Mlejnek, Alois Gryc, Frantisek Kopecky, Vaclav Pokorny, Josef Blacha, John B. Pastorak, Ray Roh, John J. McCabe, and John Glaves. Submitted by Charlotte Sousek
Mrs. Ed (Lucille) Kremlacek started teaching in 1952 and is still teaching piano and accordion students in her home. She has had as many as 40 pupils taking individual lessons. Students have entertained at local events and participated in Mid America Music Contests, winning many superior ratings and trophies. She has had several recitals.
| Accordian Recital
Back Row: Joan Snitily, Roger and Ronald Johnson,
Mark Olson, Gary Johnson, Norris Fujan, ___ James,
Shanon Hakel, Sharon Peterson, Jodi James, Jim Hakel.
Middle Row: Mrs. Kremlacek, Teacher; Linda Nordahl,
Sharon Kucera, LaRhea Pageler, Donna Wotipka,
Shirley Pekarek, Julie Sindelar, Bill Pageler, Ray
Zahourek, Eugene Snitily, Ermin Snitiy, Eddie Booth,
Robert Meduna. Front Row: Judy Voboril, Shirley Peter-
son, Ivan Dvorak, Don Meduna, Jimmy Sousek, Byron
Fujan, David Pleskac, Joe Voboril, Larry Dvorak.