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contributed by Mike Polzin

"Mildred Zingler, daughter of Eric Erickson, wrote most of her memoirs  in the late 1970's. They were written by my grandmother's sister who passed away a few years ago at the ripe old age of 90 and are transcribed just as written. Her memoirs are a true reflection of how different life was back in the early 1900's."

Erickson History - Oconto County Childhood

I am writing these things down just as they come to mind.

Memories - Nov. 9, 1977

Ours was a happy family - there were 7 of us until Violet passed away at age 18. One boy and 4 girls. The last three girls were just one year apart, me being the youngest, but all 4 girls had their birthday the end of September. Grandma Petersen used to say "Erick must have been very happy at Christmas time." That was the only time in those days there was liquor in the house, which usually was one bottle of wine, could that account for it? I remember the wine sat on the pantry shelf and I used to sneak in there and get a little sip once in a while. Maybe that's why wine is still one of my favorite drinks.

Mom said Pa and Uncle Martin where the best sawyers in the area. That was hand sawing with a cross cut saw - it took a team of two.

New Years Day - 1979

The folks bought their first 40 of land in about 1901. It was completely forested, they had to clear a piece to put up their buildings which father and Uncle Pete did themselves. The house was frame but the other buildings were logs except the wood shed and privy which was just vertical unfinished boards. The first winter Pa worked in the woods (to make extra money) which of course left mother home alone a great deal with Edwin, who was a baby at that time. In a couple years they got a few cows and Dad told (?) alaus to go fetch them always with a grin. One time a wild cow followed him all the way, jumping from tree to tree. After the girls started cowing they decided they had to have more land in order to support more cattle for a larger income, so another forty was purchased. It also had to be cleared. I remember helping to pick up branches and roots and making a huge pile and then burning them. The fire part was fun - the other was hard work but we all had to help. I also remember hearing the wolves howl on cold winter nights which was scary.

All of us had to help with the farm work and each one had his own special chore each day. Mine was wiping the dishes and after school help carry in fire wood for the winter nights. All cooking and heating was done with wood stoves and of course the lighting was kerosene lamps. Us girls slept upstairs and (?) harr we rushed through the hallway and stairway, it was not heated. All four of us girls slept in one large bedroom and it was heated with a single floor register which was above the dining room heater. Mother came up every night to tell us goodnight and hear our prayers and then to blow out the lamp. She carried another small lamp up and down with her.

We finally got and Aladdin lamp and that was really great. The corners of the rooms got some light then, otherwise with the other lamps only the immediate area was light.

In later years I remember Mother telling me she stood in the grocery store wishing she could buy some of the bananas she saw, but could not afford it. That really hurt me.

We had chickens and the egg money was Mother's to buy groceries with. Occasionally there was a little left over and that was her "prim money." All the groceries were bought at "Seriers" and Mr. Serier always put in a bag of Jelly Beans for us kids. Pa always bought ginger snaps or fig bars and I sure got tired of ginger snaps. After we got a little more prosperous there was always a bag of chocolate drops for us. We also each got a nickel to buy an ice cream cone when we went to town. I remember the anticipation of that cone, the horses couldn't go fast enough.

Christmas Memories

I guess it started with the arrival of the big catalogs in the fall -Sears and Wards. How we paged through them and picked out the things we'd like to have.

Pa always insisted the cows had to be milked about the same time each morning and evening otherwise they wouldn't let the milk down. During the winter months most of the cows dried up so Pa did the milking alone. On Christmas eve we all coaxed him to go milk a little earlier so we could get to open our gifts and how happy we were when he finally lit the lantern and went to the barn. Pa always cut our tree in our own woods and it was placed and trimmed in the "front room" and we children did not see it until Christmas eve, then the candles were lit and the gifts given out and how exciting it was. One year I was really hoping for a little toy stove and I remember watching all the packages as the folks came in from their Christmas shopping trip. I couldn't recognize a stove there is was Christmas eve. It was made of tin and the lids on the top were all painted on but the little oven door opened and how happy I was.

One year Violet and Lil got new doll buggies with tops, "Get" and I got the old one which had been shared by all of us. We each had 3 or 4 dolls and spent a lot of time sewing clothes (by hand) for them. In those days each of us got one gift and I imagine the cost was about 50 cents, but we were just as happy with that (probably more so) than the kids now days with their over abundance.

I remember the last year I hung up my stocking and I got a large orange and a big red ball to hang on the tree.

Uncle Martins' and Uncle Willies' lived near us and each family had a party one evening during the holidays. At each house all of the children received a bag of candy and nuts. I remember Mother getting the bags ready. She set our soup plates on the kitchen table (one for each child) and divides the candy and nuts evenly. We received a bag of candy at the school program and one at the church program also, which was a real treat for us. The aim was to see how many candy bags we could get. For several years the Winters' family (the cheesemaker) joined our group so that meant another bag of goodies. Aunt Irene always made a dish pan full of popcorn and sometimes popcorn balls also. In the very early years when Grandma Petersen was alive she always had a jar full of ebelskines for us.

I remember one year when there had been sickness in one of the families Uncle Willies' had their Christmas party in March and the tree was still up.

Mother sometimes managed to keep a little gift for us for New Years, one year I remember getting a comb for my hair.

Uncle John and Uncle Pete (Pa's brothers) both bachelors always came down from the woods for Christmas and of cousre they were invited to the parties. One year Uncle Pete brought dolls for all of us, he liked Lil best so she had first choice, but that didn't bother us, we were so happy to get a new doll and one with hair which was really special.

One year they brought a friend along, he had over imbibed and would spit on the floor occasionally. Then he would pay one of us kids a quarter to wipe it up. Needless to say we were all willing and just waiting for him to spit again. (tobacco juice)

There was always a program at Church during the Christmas season and of course all of us were in it. That was another "Christmas Special", Pa had to hitch up the horses and we all went in the big sleigh. There was a shed built by the church with several stalls, if you got there early enough the team had shelter, we usually got there too late and the horses had to stand out in the cold, but there was a nice warm horse blanket to put over each one.

There was always a large tree in church and lit with real candles. Two men always stood watch at the tree and each had a long pole with some kind of snuffer on the end of it. Just in case of a candle igniting the tree. I think now how risky that really was, however there never was an accident. After, the children got their bag of goodies, the high point of the evening. We had to walk to church about 2 miles to practice for the program. On one of these trips Violet got wet feet, caught a bad cold which finally turned into pleurisy, and then eventually T.B. It was a hard time for all of us, now it would never have happened. She dies in August 1927. The folks did all they could for her. Built a sun porch onto the house so she could sleep out there and get a lot of fresh air and sunshine, the prescribed remedy in those days. Also bought a hammock so she could lay out in the sunshine in the apple orchard.

Mom sort of favored her through the childhood years, she though she was not as strong as the rest of is and she probably wasn't. She always got to go home from the field and help mother cook dinner, also she didn't have to milk cows and sometimes we resented that. How I hated to milk cows, a dirty, smelly job in those days.

How great a sorrow that was when Violet died and for the folks it must have been doubly hard to bear.

Our winter evening were all spent reading aloud and eating apples. After chores Pa always went to the cellar and brought up a pan of apples. They were set on the heater in the dining room where we all gathered. We all took turns reading aloud, mostly Zane Gray novels, they were read and re-read. We had one magazine we subscribed to, it came once a month and how we waited for that - "The Illustrated Companion." I still remember one story "His Yellow Rose of the South."

Summer evenings (many of them) were spent sitting on the front porch, Pa played the accordion and the mouth organ (Edwin also) and we all sang. Many time the neighbors would come and join us.

The grain harvesting season was very exciting. The thrash machine came with its huge steam engine, water wagon and separators. Then they turned in the yard they always blew the whistle and a blast it was. When they finished at one farmers place the whistle was blown a certain number of times, then the next farmer knew they would soon be coming to their place.

The thrashers worked hard, so they had to be fed a veritable feast. There was always home made pie and there had to be enough so that anyone who wanted it could have two pieces. The neighbors usually helped one another so of course every one stayed to eat. The thrashers always got 5 meals a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner at noon, afternoon lunch, and their supper. Sometimes they stayed overnights but just slept in the barn on the hay.

One of the team was a mare and Pa had her bred twice. One colt was raised and became a work horse for us - the little King was born and when he was a couple months, old Thiele it was, he was neutered, got an infection and had to be put to sleep. This really hurt us because he was so cute and we all loved him. We sure disliked that vet, they said he didn't keep his instruments clean.

High School Days (What fun it was)

In those days there were no busses to pick up the county students so our folks had to rent rooms in Suring so we could go to High School-just Lil and I went.

We had one large room with curtains drawn across it to make our bedroom. Our cupboards were orange crates with curtains on. We had one oil stove to cook on and a wood burning heater for heat. Oh how cold it was in the morning when our fire went out over night. Of course there was no plumbing so we had our potties under the beds for nights, and a big slop pail for dish water and etc. There were usually three or four of us stayed together and all had to take turns emptying the pail. We were on the second floor ao we had to carry water and wood upstairs also. The privy was in the wood shed and on how cold this was in winter, that's when I first became constipated.

The folks brought us to Suring on Sunday P.M.'s with a lot of food and usually came on Wednesdays again with more food. We didn't have much money - I remember we made vegetable soup without meat.

The boys around town liked to come visit us especially on Sunday night, then we had a lot of good home made cake. They would eat some ot it, that made us mad at them, we would be short. Len Z. liked to come up and make fudge. He swiped sugar and coca from home so then we all had a treat.

In winter we came down in to the big sleigh. Cars were put up on jacks in winter as the roads were not plowed. Al ot of straw was put in the bottom of the sleigh and mother used to hear bricks for our feet. Extra boards were put up on the sleigh box and then a blanket thrown over the top to keep the wind out. Poor Pa had to sit on the seat up front and drive. I remember icicles hanging from his nose.

We used to go sleigh riding on the big hill west of Suring (Hayes Holl) and oh what fun that was.

One night the High School Principal and three of us students went to Brandon to a basketball game. On the way we ran in the ditch and had to get a farmer to pull us out. It was a real foggy, rainy night and the people in the area were all Kentuckians. When we went into the farmers yard to ask for help he said, "What a good night for a murder." Needless to say we were quite shook. Finally got going again and got to Crandon just as the game was over, so after a hamburger we started home again. Ran in the ditch again and landed directly across a tree stump, so had to go for help again. We finally wound up with no lights, no brakes, and no reverse. If we missed a corner we had to get out and push the car back. Finally got back to Suring at 4 am with the sun coming up.

Incidentally the car we had was an old rattle trap ford which we had borrowed from the father of one of the students who was with us. Guess he didn't appreciate what we did to his car.

Bits and Pieces

We never chewed gum in the privy, the gum was always deposited on a fence post and then picked up on the way out.

Lil and I went over to Jim's woods across the road from home and lost ourselves among the trees to avoid work. When mother asked if we didn't hear her call we always said no. This happened especially when we thought Violet would want to go picking raspberries.

I remember one day I accidentally knocked three cups out of the cupboard and all were broken. The folks had gone to town and I shivered all afternoon in anticipation of the lickin' to come. I was surprised and much relieved when mother said, "I know it was an accident." and that was all there was to it.

When Edwin got "mad" at Hilda he always got us three younger ones not to talk to her either.

Hilda had a nasty habit of wringing out the dish rag while washing dishes, and flipping it at us.

Hilda was the oldest of the 4 girls, ( 5 years older than I ) and at 8 pm she'd always start, "Ma make those kids go to bed."

When Edwin was older (in his teens) he went up north to work in the woods. When he came home Mother's first job was always to de-louse him. One year, guess it was in March, he came home with the flu. He was behind the heater in the dining room (had chills), so close his overall jacket caught fire. That made from some excitement.

Mildred Erickson Zingler