So, I was checking my email last night and the phone rang. It said private caller, so I almost didn't answer. Maybe it was exhaustion after a long work week, but I decided to answer.
Someone asked for me by name and I asked who was calling? He started to talk about Germans from Russia so I knew he had the right person.
After a few minutes, I discovered my new friend grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (just like me) and knew my grandmother. His mother was her good friend and knew her pre-1925 when my grandfather lived in Sheboygan.
I learned that Sheboygan was the ideal place for Germans from Russia to settle because in the spring and summer they would grow and harvest the beets, then in the winter they would work at Kohler. In those days, Kohler would stock up on inventory in the winter months and needed winter workers. I know when my grandmother came to the United States she traveled to Fresno, Flint, and many other areas to work the fields so the story made sense to me.
Kohler is a small village outside of Sheboygan. My father, uncles and aunt worked there for many years so again the story is very realistic since both the Dalhaimers and the Herzogs worked there. Kohler was a small, company-owned village which has evolved into a beautiful, picturesque corporate town. I loved it as a young child so much that when I visited Sheboygan last April, I ate dinner at the Horse and Plow. restaurant in the heart of the American Club. For more information, visit http://kohler.com/ and http://www.akohlerexperience.com/. The gorgeous web sites are exquisitely done which gives you true insight into the Kohler family. The history of the village merits another story on another day.
My new contact, Ray, was a friend of my Uncle Freddy and they played basketball in the alley behind the house. Ray said he remembered my Uncle John, who he called Johnny, as the best looking of the athletic Dalhaimer boys. John was well known for his "horrible temper." (I could probably write a book on the Dalhaimer temper at some point, with most of the evidence coming from my Uncle Zeaman, Uncle Fred and myself, not necessarily in that order).
If the kids were playing basketball and they saw John coming, they left the area until John was done with whatever John was doing. My friend knew John was killed in World War II, as was another good friend named Klunk. I know I have a picture of of Klunk with my Dad in their military uniforms, but I had assumed Klunk was a nickname. John hung out with Huntzie Klunk and Kaiser, both of whom were killed in the war.
Ray described German Russian weddings at the 99 Hall, ties with Reimers, Ruppels, Bruder Reimer and how he knew the Knaubs (Jacob, John, Gottlieb known as Ace, Emily and Gubby).
His mother and my grandmother were members of the Volga Aid Society group. As a young girl, I remember my grandmother quilting in her living room with these women. I remember how important those meetings were to her and I could not disturb her during those times. Ray said this group was a focal point of their lives. They had coffee together, met often and marched in 4th of July parades in uniforms with zorro style capes and tams. Apparently my grandmother knew how to have a good time with some of the stunts she did with this group.
His mother also knew why my grandmother married Gottlieb Bauer, her second husband, who was Lutheran. Many of the German Russians who settled in Sheboygan were from Reinwald, which was a Lutheran village. My grandmother was from Mariental, which was Catholic, and Catholics were the German Russian minority in Sheboygan. Unfortunately, there was not another German Russian Catholic in the entire town, so my grandmother married Gottlieb.
Ray also knew Herman Schneider who was the brother of my mother's best friend, Lydia. There were many more anecdotes we shared during our hour on the telephone. Some of the best news was that Ray attended the AHSGR conference in Hays, Kansas, as I did, and will attend the next conference in Casper, Wyoming. For updates on the convention, visit http://www.germansfromrussia-casper.blogspot.com/. I look forward to meeting him. When I answered the phone last night, little did I know what private information this caller would bring. Private and fascinating.