Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

June 7, 2006, Page 12

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 


The Good Old Days

June 1906

Gilbert Johnson has purchased an automobile, which was received the first of the week. It is a fine Mitchell machine, twelve horsepower, with two-passenger seat, gasoline mobile power and a Jim-dandy.

There ought to be an ordinance passed in this city, compelling those who take cows and other livestock back and forth through the city, to lead them in every case. The critters are quite apt to make a break and gallop all over some of the city lawns, cutting them up with their hooves and spoiling them. The home-owners have expended much money and labor to bring their lawns to their present condition of perfection. A professional cistern cleaner tells that at least once a year, each housewife should put a cup of common baking soda into the cistern. It not only kills all insect life that may be in the water, but renders it softer and better for all purposes, even for drinking. It will make cleaning unnecessary unless trash has been dropped into the cistern.

Nearly 20,000 pounds of butter and limburger cheese were shipped out of Greenwood, Tuesday, over the two railroads. As the county continues to develop, some day this amount will seem small.

Mrs. John Walk is in Milwaukee enjoying a visit with relatives and friends. In her absence, the genial mail carrier is doing the housework and the culinary act. He says the dog has already left home.

June 1956
A promenade of the Clark County Voiture of the 40 Et 8 has been called for 8 p.m., Friday, by Chef De Gar Tom Polnaszek of Thorp. The meeting will be held at the American Legion Hall in Thorp. Delegates will be elected to the state convention at Stevens Point, June 15, 16 and 17. A lunch will be served.

Herbert Jaster, formerly of Neillsville, has received a call as assistant pastor to the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of La Crosse. During the past year, he has taught at the Winnebago Lutheran Academy at Fond du Lac. Mr. Jaster will assume his duties in the latter part of July.

Miss Clara Hein, 75, last member of the John Hein family, died Friday in a hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. The body was brought to Neillsville for burial, with the Bergemann Funeral Home in charge of arrangements. There, a rosary service was held Tuesday evening and funeral services were conducted Wednesday from St. Maryís Catholic Church. Burial was made in St. Maryís cemetery.

The John Hein family was early residents of Neillsville. Mr. Hein and sons were engaged in lumbering and some manufacturing of wood products. Heintown is named for the family who at one time operated a saw mill there.

In Neillsville, Mr. Hein had a general store in a building located on the lot where the Northern States transformer now stands, just north of OíNeill Creek on Hewett Street. Mr. Hein built the house now the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Prochazka and his family, living there until they moved to Tony, where there was more timber for their saw mill. The house was built according to plans made by Mrs. Hein.

About 25 years ago, Mr. Hein and his daughters Clara and Frances, moved to St. Petersburg. Clara had been in poor health for several years suffering from a heart ailment. She is survived by several nieces and nephews.

June 5, 1956 marked the Golden Wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. John Goetz. They were married in Tony, June 5, 1906. They lived at Tony for one and one-half years and then came to Clark County and have since lived in this area.

A golden wedding celebration was held Sunday at the home of their son, Romie Goetz and family, on the home farm in Heintown. Dinner and supper were served, and the honored guests received a substantial money gift.

Irnfried F. Harder, a former Hitler Youth member and German soldier, is now residing in Owen, where he is the tester for the Clark county DHIA. A former newspaperman in Germany, he tells here his own story of escape from Russian capture following World War II:

ďThe war was over, in long columns prisoners-of-war were marching east. I was one of them. Until the very last hour of the war, our small group was fighting against the arms of Red Russia. Twenty-eight of my friends and comrades were killed during these last hours. When I woke up from the wounds, given to me by shrapnel, the happy voices of Russian soldiers with their ďWoina Kaput,Ē the war is over, were around me, and the survivors were driven together like a herd of cattle and in long rows driven to the east with the destination of terrible Siberia. An unknown fate in front of us; tired from war, hunger and thirst, disarmed and disappointed. What would be our destiny?

Many uncounted days in prison camps, patrolled by Cossacks on horseback: once a day a cupful of cabbage soup, no medical treatment; the first experience as a Russian prisoner. The transport in open coal wagons toward the east, with Kiev as our destination. My friend, Ludwig, and I are planning to escape, but how? The days went by and there was never a chance. The farther east we drove, the harder it would be. The train moves through thick forests and marsh country. A curve, the train moves slower and one word to Ludwig. Now! How it happened, we didnít know. Suddenly, we were lying quiet beside the railway. Did anybody from the guards see us? The train disappeared. The fellow prisoners would be quiet. Another fellow, Hans, former sergeant of the Air Force, like me, jumped with us from the train, though we never discussed it with him before. Here we were now, three young escaped prisoners, alone in a foreign world; no maps and no idea where we were, only the one wish; back home, toward the west, toward freedom. Would we ever make it? What will be our fate?

We walked westward, sleeping during the daytime in earth-holes, walking by the light of the stars. Feeding on things we can find in the summery forests. But then fate seemed to be against us. A patrol of Cossacks discovered us, bringing us to their captain, a young-looking officer. He and his fellows were celebrating the victory of the Red Army. What to do with us? He was in a good mood and we were invited to be his guests for this night. We joined his party with the Ukrainian women, vodka and good food; something we missed for so many days. Long after midnight, they locked us in. Having no convenient place, they put us in their pantry, an ideal apartment for escaped prisoners.

A restless night followed. What would happen to us the next day? But soon the spirit of life came through and we filled our pockets with food, taking the best we could. The next morning, we had to meet the captain again. Tired and with a hangover, he didnít look so friendly any more. He gave orders to deliver us to the next prison camp. A soldier mounted on his horse and we moved back east again.

As soon as we got out of sight, the poor soldier (he had a hangover too) stopped to rest. We asked him politely, Hans spoke fluent Russian, if we should go on by ourselves while he rested. The soldier found this a very good idea. So we went on, a little stretch toward the east, and then in the brushes again, westward. It turned out wonderful.

Many days passed by. We were traveling west. Ukrainian people met us, and in their friendly way helped us go around dangerous places, giving us food. They didnít like the Red Russian government and took every chance to do some harm to their regime. It probably saved our lives.

How to travel through Poland?

For days we rested and tried to find our way through that country. Again fate is with us. We ran into a Russian transport company, bringing arms and ammunition to Berlin. A car stood on the road with trouble. A young lieutenant was trying to get it fixed, but he didnít know a thing about it.

Hans was an experienced mechanic and offered to help. The officer was very happy. Hans soon found there was no gas in the tank. Everything else was all right. To make more out of it, he took some parts out and put them in again. Then he asked for gasoline to get it started. The lieutenant was very happy and asked us if he could do anything for us. He seemed so honest that we trusted him and told him our story. He was typically Ukrainian and offered us help. He, too, risked his life but nevertheless we could hide in the truck and ride with him to Eastern Germany.  

But soon the happiness disappeared, the troubles, were worse than the ones we had gone through before. Every little village was occupied by soldiers, who were mostly of the Mongolian cavalry. Every few minutes, somebody asked us for passports. It was just good luck that most Russians canít read. So we just showed some old freight bills, membership cards from soccer clubs, or such, to them; and after turning them upside down and downside up, they gave them back to us and let us go.

Once we met a horse herd, driven east by a few soldiers. These horses were taken away from German farmers to be shipped to Russia. Our explanation to the soldiers, that we had to work for the commander in the next village, didnít help. They were commanders and we had to stay with them, watching the horse-herd. We did it well.

After some hours, when the Russians slept, we each took a horse and rode off, sold the horses some miles away to a farmer, and went on.

We traveled until we reached the Elbe River. On the other side, freedom was waving. British soldiers were there. But how were we to cross the big river? Strong Russian patrols guarded the stream. We spent several days watching the patrols and decided to cross by wearing lifebelts, which we traded with the fisherman.

It was dark and stormy, the water cold, but freedom was calling. We tried. Ludwig was first, Hans second and I left last. Suddenly there were lights and shooting of a machine gun and pistols. We had been discovered. Ludwig passed the center of the river and was saved. Hans, hit by bullets, was dead, and I, last was hit. I had to take the punishment from the mad soldiers. Everything I had in my possession was gone.

The soldiers took me back to a camp some miles from the Elbe River a camp where the Russians collected all people caught trying to cross the Iron Curtain.

Once again, fate was with me. The kitchen of the camp, on a big farm, was outside of the guarded space and right beside a railroad track. Someone was wanted for peeling potatoes. I volunteered for the job to catch some fresh air, because in the camp we had to lie still on the floor of a barn.

I had peeled nearly a bushel of potatoes when a train passed by. Without thinking, I ran away from the potatoes, jumping onto the slow-moving train, riding away from the camp.

From some people in town, I heard that from Berlin, American and British sector trains were leaving for Western Germany. If I had regular papers of discharge from the Russian Army, I could take one of the trains and go home.

A British soldier told me I could try going with discharged soldiers to a British prison camp in Germany, from where I could soon be released. But he also warned me that most of the trains had to pass a control point of Russian soldiers at the border station, Marienborn. I tried it. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The train stopped at Marienborn and the Russian soldiers could read, they checked the papers of every person on the train. I was on the third car from the last, and when the soldiers discovered I had no papers, I had to leave the train. The soldier told me to go around the train to the truck and soldiers on the other side. I told him I would crawl underneath to save going around the train, but I did not appear on the other side. Instead, I went to the car in front of the one I had been on as it already had been checked. Some prisoners, seeing my trouble, formed a wall around me so I could hide. A few minutes later, the train went ahead, into the freedom of the Western world.

But, I was still not free. I was still a prisoner of the British.

The train went through Northern Germany with the great camps in Munster as its destination. Then miles from there, my parents were waiting. They did not know what had happened to me, whether I was still alive or whether I had passed away during the war. The train came closer to their home. It was my sisterís birthday. A few more miles and the train would pass Uelzen, our hometown. The train stopped in Uelzen and it was almost midnight. A jump into the darkness and I was free again. Every step I took was known to me as a school kid. Within a few minutes, I stood in front of my home. Every-thing was dark. Would they still be alive? My Dad served the German Army and received a serious wound during the Russian campaign. That was the last news I had heard, eight months ago.

I whistled our old family whistle, and a few seconds later my Dad opened the window raising hell, because he thought, my brother made a joke; but when he heard my voice, he did not know what to say. Within a few seconds, the whole family came down in their night-robes. It was the happiest moment of my life. Back to freedom, forever!

A few more years later, almost at the same time of the year, I was able to enter the country of freedom, the U.S.A.

It is hard to fight for your freedom, but you can succeed. Many comrades tried to escape from Russia. Very few succeeded. Ludwig and I were among the lucky ones. Hans had to pay with his life; but his wish, to die or gain freedom, came through. He did not die as a prisoner in Siberia.


A post card of the early 1900s displays the Neillsville High School, built in 1906, along with a sports cheer. 

(Photo courtesy of Charlotte Drescher's family collection.)

Colored Version (From the Bill Roberts Collection)




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