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Philip and Rosa Goertz

My Parents

By Nelda Goertz Thompson

Philip Goertz born June 19, 1900 and Rosa Friske born September 4, 1901, married on October 18, 1921. For wedding gifts, they received a cow and calf, turkeys, hogs and $100.00 cash from their parents, Peter and Mary Goertz and Anton and Augusta Friske. Friends and relatives gave them turkeys and chickens. Their first year of married life, they rented 20 acres of land from Ben Osborn, near where the VFW, Rockne, is now. In 1922, they moved to Walnut Creek, on land that Peter Goertz, his father purchased from Ross Huston. They lived on this property all their life. They had seven children, Arnold, James (died at birth) Luella, Milton, Maurice, Merlin and Nelda, 17 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.

They both grew up working on the farm, so when they married they knew what farm life was about. Papa always planted big gardens, enough to provide our family and others with vegetables, watermelons and cantaloupes. Mama canned our vegetables, to provide us with enough to eat for most of the year.

Before we had electricity, (which we got around 1946 when the REA came to our area) on what seemed to be the coldest day of the year, they butchered hogs. They hung them from the trees with a double tree (used to harness two mules together). They built a fire under a big black kettle and when the water was boiling, poured it over the hide of the hogs in a trough and then scraped the hair off, before butchering. They used almost everything from the hog except the squeal, as the saying went. Sausage, hams, chops and bacon were hung in a smoke house to cure. Later they would pack this in crocks filled with lard that they rendered from the hogs. Mama would take the fat from the hogs and put it in the big black kettle, build a hot fire and let it boil and melt into lard; the rest was turned into cracklings.

Mama also made homemade soap in this kettle and on washdays, this same black kettle was used to make hot water for washing our clothes. Papa would build a hot fire under the kettle and when the water got real hot, Mama dropped the homemade soap in and when it had dissolved, she would put a small amount of clothes in the hot water and used a stumper and stump (agitate) them standing by this hot fire. She then would take them to a #3-washtub and scrub them on a scrub board and then to another #3-washtub for rinsing. All of this was rung out by hand. She then hung all of this on the wash line. We did not have many clothes and didn’t wash but once a week, so we wore the same clothes for several days. You can imagine the condition of some of the clothes they wore out in the fields to plow, plant and pick cotton. Mama sewed our clothes made from flour sacks. Some had pretty prints and others were solid white.

There was no indoor pluming, no running water. The water was caught in a large cistern from gutters on the roof of the house. Whenever it was a dry year and the cistern ran out of water, they would go to a hand dug well on our place down by Walnut Creek for drinking water. The well had a bucket hanging from a pulley and they would take a barrel on a skid-slide pulled by a horse or mule, and fill the barrel, bucket by bucket until it was full.

Sometimes on the way back to the house, the barrel would fall off the slide, turn over, and spill all of the water. They would have to go back again for more water. This well supplied several families and sometimes they would line up for their turn. Most of them had barrels on wagons. We washed our dishes in a big dishpan, our drinking water was in a bucket with a dipper in it, and every one drank out of the same dipper. We bathed in a #3-washtub and our hands were washed in a small wash pan. (I still have the dishpan and hand pan).

We didn’t have much but we had a lot of love. I remember hearing them talk about the depression, how some days they had only bread and gravy to eat. They alternated with milk-gravy one day and the next day, tomato gravy. Most Sundays, we had fried chicken, since we raised chickens. Mama’s homemade bread was tops. I don’t know how they knew how to keep enough wood in the old wood cook stoves to make the bread come out so good. Papa said that things tasted better cooked on a wood stove. When it was time to eat, we all sat down at the table and said our prayers before the meal and after we ate, we all said a prayer of thanksgiving for our food. Papa described these years as, “It wasn’t all gravy; it was root hog or die.”

They raised hogs, chickens, turkeys and sometimes milked six cows. They had a cream separator, which divided the milk from the cream that they sold. Mama talked about how hard it was to clean all the parts of the separator. The big, black cast iron frame held a large steel bowl on top that held the milk. You turned a crank handle and the milk came out one spout and the cream another, into different bowls. They planted cotton and corn. I remember hearing Papa say that he and Uncle Louie Goertz farmed some together and that Grandpa Goertz would come and inspect what they had done, to make sure that they had planted everything correct. I also heard Papa talking about the time they had to plow up some of their cotton and kill some of their cattle during the depression. They weren’t even allowed to eat any of the meat from the cattle. There was too much cotton and too many cattle and he said that he couldn’t even make enough money to buy malt to make home brew, but after President Roosevelt did this, the economy improved.

Papa got his first car, a black 1926 T Model, in 1929. He said it was a beauty and had curtains. He paid $200.00 for it, which back then was a lot of money. He bought it from someone named Harris Green. Before he bought the car, their transportation was horse and buggy.

Our family always enjoyed music, especially Papa. On Christmas, we always played music and sang. One Christmas when Arnold was little, he was playing the guitar and Papa playing the clarinet. They were really getting into it, sitting around the wood heater, patting their feet keeping time and the stovepipes fell down and burned a small hole in the floor. Later they taught Merlin and Nelda to play the guitar Christmas was very special; we would all go to church on Christmas Eve, in the afternoon, go to confession, and come home and then have a great treat. You see, they would decorate the Christmas tree, close the door, and not let us see it until after we got back from church. The surprise of seeing the decorated tree was an important part of Christmas. Each of us received one gift. Later, we would all go to mid-night Mass, come home and eat some of that good homemade sausage. We also got a box of apples and oranges for Christmas. I associated the smell of that box of apples, with Christmas for years. Now people use potpourri for the same aroma.

Later years, Papa worked with Frank Goertz, Pius Goertz and Emil Wilhem and built many homes in the community, he earned 25 cents an hour. One of the homes he built was ours in 1948. He was one of the individuals who donated his time during the construction of the Sacred Heart Church and School. He also worked for the Uvalde Construction Company, cutting right-of-ways for roads and earned 40 cents an hour. He did mill work at Camp Swift and retired as a painter from Bergstrom Air Force Base. He continued to do carpentry work and painting in the community after retirement. He worked for Verlin (Lee) Lehman as a painter and Lee tells this story. One day he, Papa and Gordon Probst were painting a woman’s home and she came out around noon and said that she had cooked a steak lunch for them. Well it was on a Friday and Papa thanked her, said that he was a Catholic, and did not eat meat on Fridays. Lee said that he could just taste that steak but since Papa told the woman they were Catholic, he and Gordon decided not to eat meat either. The woman was kind enough to make tuna sandwiches instead.

Papa and Mama taught us the value of prayer by kneeling with us morning and night, and never missing Mass or any church services. In later years, her rosary was Mamma’s constant companion as she sat in her rocking chair praying. She held on to her rosary even when she had visitors. She never spoke a harsh word about anyone and always saw the good in people. She would say, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything,” She also told me. “It takes two to argue, if someone is trying to argue, just keep quiet, don’t say anything, they’ll get tired of talking to themselves.”

Our friends were always welcomed at our home and most of them thought of my parents as their own, in fact some of them called them “Papa” and “Mama.” On weekends, we would sit on the front porch and visit, and other times, we would gather in the living room, and sing and play music. Buford, their son-in-law, married to Luella, Merlin, Otto Goertz, Roger Beck, G. W. Smith, Alice Goertz (Beck) and Nelda, members of the Rockne Playboys, at different times, would sing and play music. We all enjoyed this time with my parents.

Papa and Mama loved to dance as much as they liked music. They, along with Uncle Alfred and Aunt Mary Goertz, and Emmitt and Paula Hendrix followed the Rockne Playboys to most of their dances around the country. Papa also liked to hunt, fish, garden and make homemade wine until he was 88. He died when he was 91 and Mama died at the age of 92. If Papa had lived 3 months longer, they would have been married 70 years. I thank God for giving me such wonderful parents who taught me the true value of life.

Papa and Mama will always stay close to our hearts; we can still see them every day in what they blessed and passed on to us.

I can sit on my front porch and see the spot where I was born, our old home place just several hundred feet from my home. I can still vision them, especially Papa, down at the old corn barn and cow and hog pens.

Patsy’s house is on their land that raised nine of their grandchildren and eight of their great grandchildren. Papa and Mama help hold the love in their hearts and switch to their backsides when persuasion was needed.

Grace’s house is on part of the spread where his cattle roamed. The 1998 flood waters on Walnut Creek came up near her back yard and I like to think that Papa prayed and asked God to not let the water get any higher and get to her house.

Rodney’s property is on the creek bottom of Walnut Creek and holds numerous pecan trees. Papa always kept it mowed and looking like a park and Rodney keeps it looking the same. Deer bed down under the big live oak tree on this property, near Rodney’s house. Papa must be looking down smiling.

Maurice has the property at the end of “Papa’s Garden Road.” You can still see Papa in his big garden, picking his vegetables and boysenberries, cuttings from Germany from our ancestors, many years ago.

Milton’s property holds the fences that keep his brother, Arnold’s cattle. I see Papa serving as their herdsman, to keep them all fit and safe.

Lisa lives in Papa and Mama’s house and she feels their presence looking after her. She has the roof over her head that Papa built, which was home to family, friends and relatives.

We can all see Papa every day, with either a hug, a pat on the back and a grin, by never knowing what an enemy is, because all you have are friends.