Stories from Emails, Part 2

Paula, 5/20/2021
Hello from Paula again.  I just have to tell a few memories I have of Grandpa Christiansen.  He was the nicest, sweetest man.  We kids flocked around him in his rocking chair for stories.  I remember him knitting socks and caps for soldiers during WW II.  I never heard him say a cross word.  He liked to have a beer with the guys when we had our big holiday dinners, in spite of dirty looks from Grandma.  He was an expert wallpaper hanger, and would help anyone in the family out with household projects.  One thing freaked me out as a kid.  That was when he would run his upper plate out at us to tease us.  I couldn’t look at even a picture of false teeth until later when I worked for Dr. Knapp in his dental office.  (That is a whole other story which I will send if anyone is interested.)

Grandpa C. was a smart guy, coming here from Denmark (or Germany?) with the proverbial two dimes in his pocket.  He started out as a farm hand, and ended up owning quite a number of farms when he retired in Denison.  Both he and Grandma lived frugal lives, which no doubt contributed to a full bank account.  Mom used to tell me they regarded the Sears catalogue as their Wish Book.  They studied it and wished they could buy something, but rarely did.  We all know the fate of outdated Sears catalogues.  I hated going to that outhouse because the chickens would flare up and squawk at me going by. 

Mom adored her father, and was in tears when he lay dying a slow painful death in the hospital from stomach cancer.  In those days they didn’t give you any pain relief, they just let you lie there and suffer.  RIP, Grandpa and Grandma, and all those who are not with us any more.

Steve, 5/21/2021

The Christiansens came from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany which shared a border with Denmark and they interacted with Danish people, but the Christiansens considered themselves German. According to Richard Runge, our ancestors referred to people who spoke Danish as having Die Kehlkopfkrankheit, the throat sickness. So, I maintain that I am German, although I use the Danish loophole to get along with my wife’s Norwegian family.

Jim, 5/21/2021
The big thing I remember of Grandpa Christiansen:  there was a sawmill a few blocks from the house.  Grandpa and I would take the wheelbarrow there and load it up with bark shavings they trimmed off the logs before sawing them into useful lumber.  The house was heated by a coal burning furnace but needed something to get the coal going.  The wood shavings were used to get the fire going to start the coal burning.  I remember everyone would be in the kitchen in the winter because it was the warmest place in the house until the furnace got fired up.  That big cast iron stove was wonderful.  But in the summer Grandma cooked on a kerosene stove that was located just off the kitchen on a landing that led to the basement.  That was a wonderful old house for a young kid.  I remember grandpa lying in state in the front bedroom before the funeral.  His big rocking chair was the best.

Tina, 5/21/2021
I have many things to say about Grandpa and Grandma Christiansen. First Grandma. She was all business. Hard-working. She really had no sense of humor. But she loved to dance! Mother told me they worked hard on the farm all week, but on Saturday night they’d go to a dance, taking the kids with them. The kids would sleep on one of the beds in wherever they were, and Grandpa and Grandma would dance all night.

When my mother was twelve, they moved to town. She’d never been in a church before that. She really took religion seriously from then on for the rest of her life. (Dad, a minister’s son, on the other hand, slept through most sermons and didn’t hesitate missing church when he was on fishing trips). When Mom was little, a cow stepped on her foot (toe?) once, and she hated farms from then on. Grandpa, who toiled in the fields all day, often lay in the field vomiting his guts out. It turns out he had stomach cancer. Amazingly, he had surgery, which gave him many many years of pain-free life. He owned farms, which allowed him to retire to town, as I said, when Mom was twelve, which would have been around 1918, I guess. I think he died in 1949. I may be off a year on that. Anyway, I went to see him in the hospital the day of our high-school prom. I’ll never forget seeing him there, suffering. It was awful.

Grandpa was a…a…deacon?? Is that the word? He did something at Zion Lutheran Church every Sunday. And every Sunday after church he stopped by our house (a block from church). He especially liked it during the holidays when Mom made fritjens (can’t remember how to spell it, but boy were they good). For many years they lived across from the main park in Denison. In the winter a small area would freeze. I can’t remember why it was water that froze, but it created an area where you could ice skate. I borrowed a pair of ice skates from Liz (Uncle Mark’s first wife), and Grandpa already had a pair of ice skates. He and I would go to the park and ice skate.

Paula’s right. My mother absolutely adored her father. So did all the girls. And so did I.

Jean, 5/21/2021
Tina, this is just wonderful!  I never knew Grandpa but remember Grandma as tall, thin and taciturn.  But she loved her garden and her family.  I remember how her garden took up her entire back yard at the home she had after the one by the park.  One of the special things she would make when the family got together was Beedle Meat. (sp?)  It was a combination of ground meats and cooked in a cheesecloth covering.  I also remember her huge Christmas cactus loaded with blooms and beautiful Begonia houseplants. 

Likely Grandpa was an elder who would help out at services and also serve on a board that made decisions for the church.  Don’t we ALL love Frigens???!!  I have a recipe from Paula and am ashamed I have not made it yet.

Tina, 5/21/2021
Ah yes, beedle meat!!! It was pronounced closer to something like buedle. A Low German word meaning bundle, or something. Actually, I think it had reference to males’ family jewels. Anyway, we always said it with kind of a hee-hee voice. I made it for years and years. I still have the recipe, although I haven’t made it for decade.
2 lbs. smoked ham, ground
1 lb. fresh pork, ground
2 cups moist bread crumbs
3 eggs
2 tsp. dry mustard
Mix together well, roll into cloth and tie well. Add 1 cup vinegar to boiling water to cover meat and boil 2 hours.

I also have a recipe for fritjens, but I’m not sure this is the one Mother used. I think I had to research and reconstruct it:
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 pkg yeast
½ c. sugar
3 tblsp. Crisco
½ tsp salt
Juice and rind of ½ lemon
½ tsp cardamon
Raisins, plumped
Warm the milk, dissolve the yeast in it, add 1 tblsp of the sugar. Add just enough flour to make a very slurpy sponge. Let this rise till bubbly. Add the rest of the ingredients and flour to make a batter which can still be beaten, but not too stiff. Let rise (not too long, about ½ hour), stir through batter once with spoon. Cut off a good teaspoonful and drop into deep fryer (375 degrees). Cook till done, about 2 minutes each side, turning once. Stir through batter once each time you drop in a new panful. To plump raisins: Wash, drain on flat surface and cover closely. Put in 350 degree oven till puffed up a bit and not wrinkly.

Paula, 5/21/2021
Just remembered Grandpa C. was an expert horseshoe thrower.  Every year back then Denison had Old Settlers’ Week, or some such name.  Denison men were supposed to grow beards, and many did.  The horseshoe event was held in Washington Park, right across the road from our grandparent’s house.  I think dad took Tina and me there once to watch grandpa throw.  He always won the prize.  Speaking of Washington Park, we all loved that merry-go-round.  There was a wonderful wooden bandstand there, too, that we played in sometimes

Did you know grandpa had a brother named Carson right there in Denison?  He and his wife lived on a street near the highway, and mom sometimes dropped me off there for babysitting while she played golf.   I was preschool at the time, but I remember I loved going there.  Uncle Carlson would fill a big tub with water from his garden hose so I could “swim.”  He made boats out of folded paper, which somehow turned into a hat I could wear home. I wonder why they were never included in family events, but maybe it was too difficult because his wife was wheelchair bound with something called milk leg.  We also had an Uncle John Fastje who made beautiful furniture, but we never saw him or his family at our dinners.  And what about Grandma’s sister, Aunt Annie Thomsen?  That’s a sad story.  Her husband Pete tended more toward drinking than to farming.  She had to clean houses to put food on their table. I used to email with her son, Gary Thomsen, and I wonder if he is still active.  I will check it out.

I also remember as a kid stopping by Great Grandma and Grandpa Lochmiller’s on my way to the swimming pool.  They lived in a house near ours, and they always had hard candy to give out.  Mom told me Great Grandpa had all his teeth, and had never gone to a dentist.  And he used to crack nuts with his excellent teeth.  Wish I had inherited that gene.   I believe Mark and Gladys lived in that house when the older folks were gone.  Probably Steve and Jan lived there, too.  It was right across the street from the hatchery. One more thing. I always associated our family with Denmark because of the –sen at the end of our name.  The Germans used –son.  I don’t know for sure what the Swedes did, but I think it was –son.

Steve, 5/22/2021
I still make beetle meat to this day, although I cut back on the amounts because it’s just Pat and me at home these days. It has become a tradition in our house to serve it on New Year’s Eve. I don’t know much about Low German, but in High German, “Beutel” (pronounced Boytel), means bag, sack or pouch. So, Tina may be correct in her reference to the male “sack.” In Low German, the spelling and pronunciation may have been different. If it was spelled “Büdel,” the pronunciation would be close to Tina’s suggestion.

Paula, 5/24/1021
One more story about language.  Mom told me when The Lady’s Aid Society in the Zion Lutheran Church in Denison met, they would sing hymns in German.  Mom and her sister, Aunt Marie Leahy would sing along as loud as they could in English. The younger women later formed the Dorcas Society where they raised money for the church by hand quilting beautiful quilts.  In about the eighth grade I learned to hand quilt along side the ladies.  I liked quilting, but I loved listening to their gossip.

Tina, 5/24/2021
One other thing. Dad made a beautiful doll bed. My Paula got a Ken doll one Christmas to go with her Barbie doll. She put them both in that doll bed. So Dad told her that because they’re going to sleep together she should take them to Rev Schmidt and ask him to marry them. I’ll never forget watching that child walk the half block to the parsonage. Luckily, Rev Schmidt had a very good sense of humor. And my dad’s wit was unmatched…well except for Dick, perhaps the funniest man I’ve ever known.