Memories from the Children

Life on the Wisconsin Farm

As the oldest of 8 children, my earliest recollection of my living environment was sleeping on the second floor of our grey stucco farmhouse. Except for one floor heat register, the upstairs was unheated- we slept under feather ticks, the boys in one bedroom, and the girls in the other, and Uncle Hermie in the other. Each evening we set mouse traps upstairs and downstairs, and upon awakening ran to our traps to see who would be the leader catching the most mice.
In the kitchen was a wood burning stove- beside it was a woodbox which we filled as needed from the wood we cut and sawed after the fall harvesting season, from a 40 acre swamp located in Hayton, Zastrow Family FarmWisconsin about 3-4 miles from our farm house. To keep warm on cold winter days, we would often crawl behind the stove. The dining and living rooms were heated by a single floor register- being supplied by a woodburning (later coal burning) furnace in the basement. To keep warm we would stand on this 4X4 register if Mom and Dad felt it necessary to use this furnace, along with the kitchen stove. Much of the time the door from the kitchen to the living, dining, and Mom and Dad's bedroom were closed so the kitchen could be kept warm particularly on Saturday evenings when we took our baths in the galvanized tub in front of the woodburning stove by kerosene lantern light. We listened to Barn Dance from WLS Chicago on our car battery operated radio while taking our bath, if there was enough juice in the battery. Weekdays after school it was, Jack Armstrong, Tom Mix and Captain Midnight providing the batter was strong enough so we could hear the voices.
The woodburning stove was used to cook our meals and bake breads and cakes. We ate lots of bread and Mom made lots of soup during the depression. The stove area was a favorite hang out for our pet dog, "Spotty", a small miniature mix of about everything, but a fun dog to play with.
The most difficult times were when my Dad worked at Kohler (from 1931-1940), before we came to Sheboygan. Dad would leave Monday morning at 4:00am and come back Friday at 3:00pm. He roomed at the American Club in Kohler.
My Mother was more of a farmer then my Dad as I recall, she did most of the milking. We had cows, pigs, chickens, and 3 old horses. It was a samll 40 acre farm with a big woods at the west end of the property with a creek running through the woods. (Trib. of the Manitowac River). As a boy we would often cross the highway (57) alongside our farm house, walk down the lane to the woods and look for frogs or snakes on the bank of the small creek.
The woods teemed with raspberry and blackberry bushes and in the summer my mother and us would pick berries to be canned for dessert year round.
The most exciting season was the threshing season. The grain threshing machine would be rented by a contracted group of farmers and move from one farm to the other. Threshing crews (the neighbors) would then thresh the grain. It would take 1-3 days each farm depending on how much grain had to be threshed. It was so exciting to have all those people around. Lots of good food and fellowship.
My recollection of family life was naturally mostly the week-end. We would go to church at St. Martins in Chilton on Sunday morning. We were traditionally there as the bell rang. How we did hurry and scurry to get ready and get there on time in our 1936 Buick.
I recall Saturday evening when Mom and Dad had friends or neighbors over. Those were fun evenings even though we had to go to bed early. They would get an 8th barrel of beer. There was a fellow who played the accordian and they would play cards.
Farmhouse TreeOutside on our lawn alongside the Highway we had an old rubber tire that we would swing on.
At Christmas time we wrote to Santa. The program we wrote to was, "Billie the Brownie", from WTMJ Milwaukee. They were read on the radio (just some of them). How excited we were Christmas Eve day when the door to the dining room was locked and Santa put up our tree, came down the chimney and, brought our toys.
We went to a one room school house. My teacher had me skip first grade because I was the only one in first. We walked the 1 1/2 miles to school. Once I saw a big pile of snow fences (rolled up) along the side of the road and thought they were bears and ran home. Often we would get my sister to cry so we could tattle on her. If she gave us our fruit in her lunch, we promised not to tell- but we did anyway- she was quite a cry baby. I had to wear knickers and I was not particularly fond of my freckles.
When I was in 5th grade I attended school in Chilton (just for 1 year) before moving to Sheboygan. My schooling there continued at Bethlehem.
At our new home our family continued to grow and there were always allot of neighborhood kids. Mom continued to bake and they all liked her bread, including our Pastor at our church who used to rave about her baking.

Family Life and Lessons

On August 7th, 1931, I arrived on the scene in the gray stucco house, just outside the city of Chilton. I do have some wonderful memories and many blessings from that wonderful home near Chilton. We had outdoor plumbing for a bathroom and boy the old outhouse was cold in winter! You learned to do your duty and get out of there. It was not the place to read my 1st grade primers.
There were no electric lights, no television, no McDonalds, no computer games but I had a most wonderEarl, Harold, and Lorraineful childhood.
We had no McDonalds as I said, but I had a "mom" who baked loaves of fresh bread at least twice a week. It was Oh-ooo so good. There were kettles of soups, (potato was my favorite), roasts, rice, and oh so many good thing's Mom made. I can't ever remember Mom or Dad taking the family out to a restaurant. As the family grew and uncles and aunts were added to the family Mom was always cooking for 10 or more. We learned to eat and enjoy all the foods although I think some of my sisters might have been a little picky at times.
I want to thank my Uncle Hermie for starting us off on the right track about working early in life. I can still hear the words WASHER- WIPER- SWEEPER yelled out as soon as we had returned thanks. Life can't be any better when a family works together. Can you imagine setting pins from 7pm-11pm at Bethlehem bowling alley and then putting the $2.10 on the kitchen table for Mom and Dad? Have you ever heard of brothers and sisters picking green beans all day and then putting the $10.00 to $20.00 on the table for Mom and Dad? I can't thank God enough for the valuable lessons my Mom and Dad taught us about being a family and sharing.
We learned sharing and hard work from my Mom and Dad. We all remember Dad coming home Friday night from working at Kohler all wee and sharing a small bag of corn candy or chocolate drops with the family. What a treat!
Oh, yes we didnt' have TV or much on the radio and sometimes it didn't work but I had a Mom who played checkers and other games with us kids. That's family fun and relaxation.
I remember kerosene lamps and lanterns until the age of 9. I remember the wooded swamp near Hayton where we sawed down trees and cut into logs for the wood stove in our kitchen. That old wood stove was a wonderful place. Mom cooking some good food on it or warming up some flat irons to do some ironing; We children standing near the stove to get cold toes and numbed finters toasty warm.
I do remember a little about the school at Chilton. Miss Wilborscheid must have done a great job for all of us in that one room country school.
The thing that most endears me to my parents and my family is Sunday. Can you imagine 3 adults and 7 children (more or less) getting into a 1936 Chevy. It was the same every Sunday. I can't ever imagine missing church. I still see all my brothers and sisters belong to that church that my mother and father took us to every Sunday. The Holy Spirit had worked that faith that saves through Jesus our Beautiful Savior into all our hearts.

The Move- From Farm Life to City Life

I was born in the evening of August 10, 1932 in the farmhouse in Chilton, Wisconsin, the third in line of 8 children, sandwiched inbetween my 3 brothers. Memories of the farm are, looking for Easter baskets outside, Christmas tree decorated with real candles (no electricity on the farm) and lots of candy, beds upstairs with fluffy feather quilts, pumping the little pump in the house and the big pump outside, outdoor plumbing accompanied with a Sears Catalog, Saturday night bathtime with brothers and sisters in a big, gray galvanized tub in front of a woodburning stove, a big swing that hung from a huge tree near the road, a dog named Spotty and a lot of kittens.

I went to a one-room schoolhouse about a mile down the road with my brothers for my first 2 years of schooling. A vivid memory of my first schooldays is my 2 brothers running ahead and hiding behind big rolls of snow fencing and then jumping out when I came along. It was really scary...rumors have it I was a bit of a cry baby.

We moved from the farm in Sheboygan on April 1, 1940 when I was 7 years old. We now had running water, electric lights and the convenience of city living. Our neighborhood had lots of kids and good neighbors. Soon our house was the meeting place of the neighborhood.Mead Street House

Grade school days now were at Bethlehem Lutheran School where I was confirmed in 1946. A highlight for me was taking first place in an essay contest entitled, "My Favorite Hymn"...mine was "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and it is still a favorite today.

Fun time with my brothers and friends included lots of sports, also "Kick the Can" was a favorite game. "Spin the Bottle" was the most risque game we played!

High School days were at Central High School...but I did not plan for college as we didn't know or have the opportunities of today.

I did a lot of cleaning and babysitting for people and got paid $.50 a night and this included doing the dishes and cleaning up. Bean picking was a big thing for us. We worked hard but had lots of fun. I remember one day riding 4 on a bike to go bean picking. I was the last on the back, slipped off and no one even missed me for a few blocks. I ran home, had a few bruises and chipped teeth but after I got cleaned up, I ran to join the others bean picking.

For two summers during my high school years we went cherry picking at Sister Bay in Wisconsin with a bunch of girls. We bunked in a barn. I was the fastest cherry picker.

Being the oldest girl, I was the big sister, babysitter and hair sylist. I would braid their hair and put a spit curl on their forehead. Also, they all seem to remember short haircuts! Also, would curl and perm my Mom and Gramma Peik's hair.

Some other traditions and memories from childhood and teenage years are:

  1. Good grades were expected.
  2. Sunday morning everyone always went to church.
  3. You never talked back to your parents.
  4. You would try to do extra jobs to please your parents.
  5. You proudly and happily gave all the money you made to your parents.
  6. You expected a spanking if you did wrong.
  7. There was always room for one more who came to our home.
  8. Prayers and kisses at bedtime.
  9. Christmas was the favorite time of year. Christmas Eve we all would to to church where we participated in the Christmas program. Afterward we would rush home to find the Christmas tree lit for the first time with lots of un-expected gifts under the tree.

Unless you planned a college education, girls married soon after or within a few years out of high school.

I would like to say I truly feel fortunate to come from a large family of fun and caring brothers and sisters and for Christian parents who taught us all by the way they lived.

Fun & Games

I was born in Chilton, Wisconsin and moved to Sheboygan after a few years at a young age. I was too young to play with my older brothers, however they did include me most of the time. We always had a lot of friends  around our home so we always played a lot of games, Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, and Spin the Bottle.

I always ended up sleeping with one of my brothers as we had 3 boys and 2 beds- rest assured I didn't get to sleep alone. In the winter it was nice and a little warmer in bed.

We picked a lot of beans at a farm and my younger sisters always thought I was a little bossy as I kept them picking and they always wanted potty breaks, but I told them to hold it until they filled their pails with beans.

Had a lot of fun as a family and as a whole got along very well. We had to, otherwise the possibility of a licking occurred and I get my share of spankings and better to avoid one if I could. Although it wasn't easy for me. I can't say I was perfect. I can't say I even tried!

Played sports in High School and Mom and Dad really enjoyed the games and Dad almost got into it with a fan. Can you imagine Dad doing this- he was fast rooting for me.

The 3 Little Ones

I came on the scene in the white stucco house in Chilton, Wisconsin, number 6 of 8 children. I lived in the white stucco house for nine months and then we moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin where all 8 grew up. I was the middle of the "Three Little Ones". We were always busy playing and working together. One time, we three found a little kitty and wanted to keep it. Daddy was not in favor of pets, so we tried to keep the kitty in our little doll buggy. That lasted one day, for we weren't up on litter boxes and the alternative caused us to give up the kitty quickly. We didn't bring anymore cats in after that.

My eyes were crossed and I had to wear thick rimmed glasses. Apparently not many youngsters wore glasses at that time for my kindergarten classmates called me "Gramma". Mom tells me that I often hid my glasses in the snow. She would ask where they were and I would say, "I don't know." Apparently they always found them. High School graduation and purchasing contact lenses was a real joy to me.

Our home was a special place. Mom and Dad were always there for us. We were brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Love and caring prevailed in our home. We never knew that Mom and Dad were challenged financially at times for it always seemed like our needs were met. I remember Mom sharing this experience. She had one dime left and went to buy yeast for baking bread. As she left, Dad asked her to buy tobacco for his pipe. She so wanted to buy both items, but choose to buy the yeast. As she was leaving the store, she saw a shiny object on the ground. To her suprise, she found a dime and was able to buy Dad his tobacco.

What a rich heritage. Thank-you Mom and Dad. We were taught with wisdom.

Our Relatives- More People, More Fun

Being one of the 8 children, I was the 7th in line. Our family moved from the farm in Chilton in 1940 to Sheboygan where I was born and we grew up.

I had a very happy childhood! Mom and Dad worked at Kohler when I was small so Uncle Shorty baby-sat me. Everyday he took me to Frank's tavern for a soda and candy or chips. I loved it and all his friends fussed over me. Uncle Shorty had a heart of gold and us kids were his life. He always gave us treats and if I remember right, he bought us our first T.V. I was the youngest of the "Three Little Ones". We were always together--being a year apart we usually got the same things only in different colors.

We each had a doll alike and every Christmas our Grandma Peik made us new clothes from Santa for our dolls. We were so excited! A lot of the clothes were made out of flour sacks. Believe it or not, our underpants were also homemade!

We visited relations almost every week-end and really enjoyed--hot dogs, beans, cake and Jello seemed to be the usual meal. The adults played cards and we got to go to the park and play games. We were a very close family with relatives, it was either Manitowoc or Chilton!! Christmas was a very happy time--relations, cookies, candy and some new games. Monopoly, Canasta and Parcheesi were our favorites. I remember when we were small we loved playing canasta so much, after Mom made us go to bed and turn the lights out we'd play with flashlights under the covers 'till we got caught. I went to Bethlehem Lutheran School from 3rd to 8th grade. We usually left late so we had to run most of the way. I never realized how lucky I was to always have home-made bread and cake for our school lunches!!

As a family we picked beans and baby-sat to make money--we gave all our money to our parents. We use to sing in the bean fields and couldn't wait for our brother to let us go to lunch for Kool-Aid! Even our relatives came for vacation and went bean picking with us!

I graduated from Central High School. I loved and respected my parents and thank them for bringing me up in a happy Christian home. A big family is truly a blessing.

Later Family Years- So Different from the Farm

It wasn't easy being the youngest of eight children and, added to that, I had a premature start, small enough to fit into a shoe box I understood. Luckily, I was blessed with the red hair of the family.

A few of my favorite childhood memories include the Kool-Aid stand on the corner of 7th street. It was served on a white wooden table and chair set made by a friend. My friend and I sold the watered down beverage for 2 cents a glass. Neighbors and passer-bys were good about buying the Kool-Aid. My favorite toy was my electric stove. I made the best mashed crackers and HOT water. I had a play room off the kitchen where I spent many hours baking, ironing, and playing with friends and relatives. On the days when I felt grown up I would go upstairs and venture into my sister's large closet and check out some fo their beautiful attire. Modeling my sister's clothes was really fun. I don't understand how sometimes when I put the clothes back in the closet I found a button off or a seem starting to tear. A bit later, you would hear my 3 sisters argue about who wore a particular piece of clothing and how did it get torn.

Being the youngest had some advantages. I got to be the tag along for anyone who wanted a companion when they went on errands. I even got to go on dates.

One of my nicknames is Honey(do). Epecially in my teen years it was "Honey, please do my dishes, polish my shoes, etc. and of course, could you BABYSIT. Nieces and nephews were pretty good kids.

Some of my favorite family gatherings were the Peik Christmas party at my Mom and Dad's home, Grandpa Peik's birthday party and Luxembourg, and the Zastrow family reunion. I also enjoyed Saturday evenings with Aunt Josephine and Uncle Lefty and my cousin would come over and play games.

A special relative I have to mention is Uncle Shorty. He was a loving buddy to ME and my family. Every day he would bring me a Hershey bar and pack of Juicy Fruit gum. This was after he returned from his daily visit to Frank's for fellowship and a morning eye opener.


An In-Laws View of the Family Grown

My memories of Mom and Dad Zastrow are not as long in years as other spouses, but they are just as precious to me. I first met them in the spring of 1979. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel very welcome, a few months later, I met the rest of the brothers and sisters and they made me feel like I had been a family member for a long time.

After we married, I got to know Mom and Dad Z. a little more. I looked up to Dad as my own father. My own Dad was killed in WWII when I was only 2 1/2 years old, so I never knew him. My mother raised my brother and myself all alone.

Mom and Dad Z. always had the coffee pot ready whenever anyone would come over. On the Sunday mornings, that I did not work, I would go over to their house after church for a cup of coffee and a piece of bakery, or cookies, or whatever Mom Z. had there to eat. I always looked forward to that Sunday morning as did they.

My memories of them also include the trips to Madison and Door County. My most memorable trip with Mom and Dad was Dad's last trip to Michigan. On the morning we were to leave, we went to pick them up. We walked into their house and Mom said, "Daddy doesn't want to go." I told Dad that I would get him over to Michigan and back without any problems. He then said, "OK, let's go." Mom was so happy that we were going.

Mom and Dad never wanted any one to be alone on special holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Mom Z. always told me to bring my mother along because what is one more person in the family. They made everybody feel like they belonged to the Zastrow family. This included neighbors as well.

I can still see Dad Z. sitting on a chair on the front lawn, the last time the sons and daughters painted their house. He wanted so much to be able to help, but instead he was made the official superintendent of the project and he was satisfied with the title, but you could tell he was itching to get a hold of a paint brush.

I will always have fond memories of being able to help the Zastrow crew when Mom Z. wasn't able to do all she wanted. Pitching in during family holidays and working on little projects Mom Z. would always come up with kept us all busy.