Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ernie Margheim: Speaking German in an English-Speaking Grade School

Old Bosna School, Trego County, KS
A letter Ernie wrote to a fellow genealogist in Nov. 2007.

How we wish we would have used a tape recorder and recorded some of the information from our parents, but for some reason my grandpa, George Koleber, didn't want to talk much about the old country. My mother Mollie Koleber was born in Kratzke Oct 6, 1902 and their family came to Russell, KS in 1904. Her uncle (her dad's brother also came over) worked for the Union Pacific Railroads in those first days and then her uncle returned to Russia, but was among those people who faced starvation in the 1920s. The Bolsheviks took away their livestock and grain and any means for subsistence. 

My parents lived in the country west of WaKeeney (Trego County) so for my first year of public school in 1928 I stayed with my grandparents (Mom's folks) near Trego Center, 9 miles south of WaKeeney. 
I was one of those kids who were raised in a German speaking home, thus I had no inkling of the English language. You can imagine having to learn English upon entering public school. I attended Old Bosna School, a one room country school west of Trego Center, KS. Fortunately in those days, teachers often were only high school graduates that had a Teaching Certificate. My teacher was a local Deines lad, and his household was also a German speaking household as many Trego County farmers were at that time. But the by word was "NO GERMAN SPEAKING ON THE SCHOOL YARD"! I was told wherever you see that AMERICAN FLAG it is against the law to speak German. They implemented that where I went to school. 
Remember, right after World War One, German families were somewhat ostracized. I also remember school always began with a salute to the flag and then the teacher would have a Bible reading before we took up our lessons. This was an every morning routine. And that was a "Liberty school" a government public school. We also had a framed picture on the school house wall of George Washington and were taught who he was. 
In those days, in front of the teachers desk was a bench and when it was time for a particular grade class, the kids came forward to that bench in front of the teacher. There might be only three kids in a class.
As a funny, if we had to go to the bathroom (outside two holers) to get permission we would hold up our hand with one finger or two fingers to indicate how long we would be out there. haha. Some kids came to school on horseback so they had hay in a trough on the school yard. My grandparents had two of their sons still going to elementary school so we walked cross county to school. It was only a little over a mile. Snow, rain, or shine, we walked. 

Those boys had set traps by a draw bank in those pastures, so they checked their traps on the way to school to see if they had caught a skunk, etc. Once in awhile, kids came to school and their clothing smelled of skunk. All farm boys trapped and sold the furs. In those days, the court house paid a bounty for the EARS ONLY of coyotes. 

Yep, those were the days! Thanks for listening.
Friend Ernie

1 comment:

Unknown said...

So very interesting :) loved reading about his time in school. Wish I had known him better. Thanks for posting Becky.