When I glanced at the article “Family Aid Society of North Milwaukee of the Volga Deutsche Bund,” in the Spring 2013 AHSGR Journal, little did I realize how many memories would be resurrected.
The article was written by Wilhelm G. Doos and Marie L. Korth, members of the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of AHSGR. These two have made it their mission to document and research the Family Aid Society which they have so far traced to Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Chicago, and perhaps one in Michigan.
I was intrigued with their research. When I heard Brent Mai’s presentation on the Volga Relief, I knew the association in which my grandmother was involved had to be something different. The Volga Aid Relief Group provided food and clothing to Germans starving in Russia. On the other hand, the Family Aid Society was a means for providing support for women and children in communities in the United States “who found themselves suddenly widowed and without any financial assistance” (pg. 10). The society collected dues and distributed to those who needed it most.
Doos and Korth share the history of the Germans from Russia who settled in North Milwaukee. They have unearthed society records, and determined that it was more than a financial group. It became part of the social center with picnics, dances, and dinners. I was most intrigued with the establishment of a Women’s Auxiliary. On page 13, they explain that a “similar society was formed in Sheboygan and was called the Volga Ladies Aid society.”
As I read the article, I realized that my grandmother, Clementine Herrmann Dalhaimer Bauer, had ties to the organization. First, I checked my grandmother’s obituary which was printed in The Sheboygan Press. It states:
She was a member of Holy Name Church, the Christian Mothers Society, the Third Order of St. Francis; St. Luke the Evangelist Unit of the Good Samaritan Guild, Gold Star Mothers, Volga Ladies Aid Society and an honorary member of the Snafu Club.
To be honest, I have not read my grandmother’s death notice thoroughly in years. I vaguely recall hearing the term Guild or Ladies Guild. I have no idea what the Third Order and Gold Star Mothers represent, but I certainly recognize the Volga Ladies Aid Society. Could these other groups be sub-groups or specific designations members earned? More questions mean more research.
I looked for additional clues to get a better understanding of the group. I quickly remembered two items that tied to the group and raised more questions for me to solve.
First, I always remember our family displaying a small trophy award which my father brought home, presumably in 1960. I was only three years old so I simply remember it as a decoration in house for years. I knew it was tied to an organization my grandmother strongly supported. Above is a picture of the trophy. Written across the front of it is “Volga Aid Reunion May 1960.” As I child I thought it was tied to one of the many softball tournaments I attended. I associated trophies with softball because that is where I saw the winning team receive them. I know the trophy was important to my dad.
I searched the archives of The Sheboygan Press and googled the term to no avail. Next, I emailed my sister and a few relatives to try to capture their memories. Sonny Krause remembered that the Volga Aids were a baseball team. He googled “Volga Aids baseball” and came up with better answers than I did. Two sites offered insight into the event.
· This site shows an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel on May 8, 1960. It describes that the Volga Aids were having at reunion and were sponsors of many athletic teams. Retrieved June 2, 2013 from http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19600508&id=yCkxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7A8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=1832,4405311
· The other site displays a great photo of 8th Street in downtown Sheboygan and explains that the Volga Aids were a “baseball team sponsored by the Volga Aid Society and was formed as a way to give the young German-Russian men something to do to stay out of trouble.” Retrieved June 2, 2013 from http://www.sheboyganspirit.com/history/pics/image016.html.
Both of these sites add explanation and significance to the reunion event.
Second, when I see the words Volga Aid Society, I see my grandmother and “her lady friends” in the living room of her house on St. Clair Avenue. Every Wednesday the group met and sewed a quilt for the cause. A huge table filled the entire living room and approximately twenty women sat around it, needle in hand, sewing together the material and batting amidst constant conversation. Perhaps society members in need received these quilts, or perhaps they are treasured memories of the ladies’ children and grandchildren...much like the ones my sisters and I received after months and months of waiting. My quilt is purple and is certainly one of a kind.
While the article has provided answers about the society to which my grandmother was so committed, it has also encouraged me to continue to ask questions of the few people I know who could remember this society. A genealogist’s work is never done.