Hendren Township

Clark County, Wisconsin


By Rose Plautz Pakiz (1982)

Born on sunny Sunday in October nearly 70 years ago. There were 11 already in the family. Six brothers and five sisters, my arrival made it six each! Two years later another brother broke the tie putting the boys in the majority. My earliest memories were of the log house I was born in. A large kitchen with a big black wood stove and a large kitchen table stand out in my memory with a sort of open cupboard with deep wide shelves on the wall next to the stove where we kids would take naps. A pot bellied wood heater stood in another room, which also had some beds and another bedroom, which was always called the "new room" apparently because it was added on later. When I was four my father died, I remember very little of him, but one thing that I have never forgotten is someone lifted me up to see him in the casket that stood in the corner of the first bedroom. Wake services were in the homes, relatives, friends and neighbors came to offer sympathy, comfort and bring food. Neighbors would stay for the night, in the morning the casket was taken to the church for burial service.

Some of my older brothers and sisters, left home to find jobs locally or in cities so I don't remember them being at home. We lived in the old log house till I was in the first grade when a large eight-room house was built. The "new room" of the old house was torn down. The school we went to was called North Willard, a ½ mile walk to a one-room school with one teacher for all 8 grades. Each grade would take turns going to the front of the schoolroom to sit on a long bench (recitation bench) and would be taught their subject by the teacher. Of course those of us back in our seats would spend some of our time listening to what was going on up front. It's funny we got our own work done! I remember wishing I was in certain classes already because the work they were doing seemed so interesting.

Drinking water was brought in from a pump outside the school. First only a pail and a dipper we all drank from. Wasn’t very sanitary but we didn’t seem to have any more ailments than kids today. Later we had a water fountain, filled with a pail with water from the pump. A wood heater stove stood in the middle of the room. Those with desks close to the stove roasted and those away from it and especially those with desks close to the walls; would be cold. In winter we all wore "long johns", both girls and boys. On real cold days we carried lunch in syrup pails, otherwise most of us ran home for lunch at noon. And I mean ran! There wasn’t that much time, especially in spring and fall when we’d stop to look for bird’s nests, flowers, pretty leaves and so on. Part of the road to school was up a long hill and through some beautiful trees, which arched together and made a wonderful roof effect over the road. I loved that and will always remember it. Practically all the food on the table was grown or produced at home; not having money to buy much from the stores (which were two miles away.) We had sauerkraut an awful lot of time and I remember coming up the driveway (we had a long one) at noon and hating the smell of it and having to eat it! I always felt good when I didn’t smell it and knew we were having something else for lunch!

Always liked school, unlike my sister Sophie, who had to be bribed and coaxed and sometimes carried "piggy back" to school by older brothers and sisters. Once when she was set down because she was getting heavy to carry, she beat it back home!

The highlights of the school year were the Xmas Program and end of the year picnic. We made a stage out of planks a neighbor close to the school would borrow to the school. We kinds would have to carry each board and "2x4" to school; the older kids would put the stage together. The day after the Program, we would have to carry all the boards back to the farm a quarter a mile away. Curtains were made for the stage by bed sheets donated by parents, hemmed on one end and strung on wire. Rarely did we get thru a program without a wire breaking, bringing down the sheets on the actors. All added to the fun. We always had a "Fairy Drill"; girls dressed in white cheesecloth gowns. We exchanged names for Xmas gifts. We always dreaded when a member of a certain family got our name. They always gave one cheap white handkerchief - year after year after year! We played ball at recess with a rubber ball and a narrow board for a bat. In winter we’d play in the snow, the schoolyard sloped so we had a place to use our wooden homemade sleds. It was an hone to have the job of hoisting the flag on the flag pole every morning and taking it down after school. More than once a pupil started for home and then remembered not taking down the flag and running back to do the job so the teacher wouldn’t have to. We were assigned jobs for the week. "Clapping" erasers was never my favorite, I didn’t like the chalk dust settling all over me and besides in winter it was cold out there on the school porch!

Eighth grade graduates went to a ceremony in Neillsville to receive their diplomas along with the students from all the schools in the county. In 1936 I received mine, the graduation ceremony was in the grandstand at the Fair grounds. In spite of the not-so-formal setting we all wore our best. I wore a lovely pink lace dress my sister Ann made for me out of an old bridesmaid dress of hers. Bless you Ann! And for curling my hair with a curling iron heated in the kerosene lamp! This was for very special occasions like Xmas school programs (that called for a new dress too-made over usually from an old one). First Communion and the like (there was a feast day in church we kids had to march ahead of the priest outside of church, he carried the Blessed Sacrament and we girls wore white dresses and carried bouquets or baskets of petals, which we scattered on the ground ahead of the Blessed Sacrament. It was in May or June. We never had any flowers around our house so we’d go across the road to Lucas. Mrs. Lucas was godmother to most of our family I guess. She would let us pick roses and peonies, which were in bloom that time of year. My mom was a very simple down to earth lady – to her a flower was a flower whether it grew in a garden, field or roadside. Once I didn’t have any flowers; for once Lucas’ were all gone, some other neighbor kids got there before I did! So mom picked some clovers, arnica, chamomile and horror of horrors tied them with a strip of cloth ripped from some old dress! There was no way I was going to that procession with that bouquet of weeds! A good hot argument was in progress between the house and car with her determined I was to take them and me even more determined I wasn’t. She wasn’t going to that Mass but to the second mass at 11 a.m. – but Ann was home from her job in Milwaukee and she was going to church too, I guess George was driving. Ann whispered to me to take the flowers, we can toss them out the car window on the way to church! Which we did, we tossed them in a ditch. I don’t remember if I shared my partner’s flowers or what in the procession but I still see that bouquet tied in that terrible ribbon! Now I’m old and wiser I can see those wild flowers would have been just as pleasing to God as Lucas’ peonies. Tell that to an 8-year old in 1930!)

Our playhouse was the old corncrib, I always liked to play store. We’d save cans and boxes (salt, cocoa, butter) etc., all winter so we ‘d have something to put on the shelves, which were old boards we placed through the openings of the crib. Once some younger city kids came to visit and played with the stuff in the cow-watering tank. All the labels came off the cans: boxes of course were soaked and collapsed. I was pretty made at those "dumb city kids" for a long time.

I didn’t have to start going to the barn to milk till I was 11 or 12 years old because I had plenty of older brothers and sisters. When I did milk my first cow I ran excitedly in the house to tell mom. She didn’t get enthused; I guess after 11 older kids milking their first cow, it was old hat!

We had to plant rows and rows beans, then, hoe them in the hot sun. Then pick pail after pail, sack after gunnysack; till we though our backs would break. Mom could pick faster than us younger kids and when she’d get ahead of us by 10 or 12 feet she’d turn around and pick over a row back to meet us and help catch cup. I was so grateful when I’d see her coming back on my row. At night we’d dump a huge heap of beans on the shed floor and snip them and put them back in bags. The next morning the boys would put them in the box of the old Model T Ford and take them to Willard where the canning company would buy them. When planting all those rows of bean seed in spring my older sisters got so tired of the endless supply of seed they poured some seed in an old hollow stump close to the field. I suppose when Ma went home to fix lunch. They never gave it a thought the bean seed would eventually sprout and their secret was out. Helen tells that once they had to go out to the field to do or pick something they weren’t too happy about it, as usual! When they got out to the field, there were rows and rows of onions growing; and being mad they got down and rolled and rolled over the onions, flattening all the stalks. Ma never suspected the girls did it; she blamed the heifers that had gotten out of the pasture. Mothers are so trusting.

We had a small creek south of us, past Bukovec’s. It had a little bridge over it and we spent many Sunday afternoons puddling around in it, trying to catch polliwogs and minnows. Summer evenings we would be at each other’s houses playing games till dark. "Pump, Pump Pullaway, Old Sow among two favorites. No investment whatsoever, just sticks, rocks and our two feet for running. Parents would go to bed early. How could they sleep with us running and screaming outside? We’d go in the woods a lot too on Sundays and climb North Mound and go up the fire tower when we were older and braver. George used to tap some maple trees each spring and make a gallon or two of maple syrup. We’d stop after school, the woods was between school and home. The woods smelled so nice with the sun’s heat on the leaves on the ground and the smoke from the fire he was cooking the sap on. George always made wood sleds and it seems he made a two-piece bobsled every winter. He was so good-natured and comical. Played the harmonica too, he, Helen and Sophie. I never could get good at it but I sure tried.

Our poor mother, what she all had to go through as we kids learned to drive she wasn’t afraid to ride with any of us, call it faith or whatever. Maybe growing up with a horse and buggy she just plain liked riding in a car every chance she got! Which wasn’t that often--to the store in Willard for groceries and to church on Sunday. George was so small and short when he first learned to drive he couldn’t see over the steering wheel. He gave his mother many a hairy ride but she never complained. I was about 10 or 11 when I first got behind the wheel of the old Model T pickup we had. It had three pedals, a low, reverse and brake and a brake lever on the left side. The gas pedal was on the floor but also had a gas lever on the steering wheel. After stepping on the starter, you pushed in the "low" pedal and started moving ahead. The next trick was to push the brake leaver ahead, release the "low" pedal and push the gas pedal sort of all at the same time to make a smooth transition to "high" or traveling gear. If you didn’t get it right, and usually didn’t, the pickup would chug and jerk along, sometimes it would finally take off okay, sometimes the motor would choke and kill which meant starting all over, once in awhile if I was quick enough I’d pull back the brake lever and keep the motor from choking. It was always a new experience till you got enough hours in! I started out first by just pushing in the low and moving the truck from the barn to the cow tank where we cooled milk, the milk was in 10 gallon cans and it was too far and heavy to carry so we put it on the truck to haul it the 3 or 4 hundred feet. You could use the low pedal for short distances only. Then I graduated to the field where there were no ditches to run into. We would bring all those sacks of beans out of the field with the truck so that was a good time to practice. We had a farm four miles away from the home farm and in summer we would drive the cows those 4 miles and keep them there all summer and go twice a day to milk them in a corral because there was only a small barn there not big enough to put all the cows in. It was also cooler to milk the cows in the open corral than the hot barn. So there was plenty of opportunity to learn to drive. Sophie was two years older than I but she wasn’t interested in driving so my turn came that much sooner. George was four years older than I so he was in line to teach me. I had made the two miles from the other farm in right good style, kept out of the ditches and as we were coming to a cross road where we had to make a right turn toward home, George started yelling "Step on it, step on it!" Well, what would you think? Step on it means to go faster doesn’t it?" So, corner coming up or not, I didn’t hesitate to follow orders. I stepped on the gas pedal, we flew around the corner with George screaming "the brake, the brake, I meant to step on the brake!" I was pretty meek all the way home. I soon was on my own and driving at the age of 13. I wasn’t too worried about not having a driver’s license as the laws weren’t so strict, lots of people didn’t have them. Cars weren’t so numerous; traffic wasn’t heavy. Anyway the roads were rough and how fast could you go with an old Model T. It would have rattled apart if you did try to go fast. I wonder now the maximum speed it could go. But I’d get uneasy when I was sent by my brothers to a repair shop right in Willard for some parts or repairs, it was operated by a small dark-skinned man who also was the Town Constable. I was always a little scared of him anyway when I much younger, the shop seemed so dark, too. So when I had to go to the shop I was scared he’d say something about my driving. One day somebody was in the shop while I was waiting and he said to the guy – "This little gal here, she’s been driving since she was knee-high to a grasshopper." Whether he knew it or not, I didn’t have a license, I never knew, but after that I wasn’t scared anymore. When I was about 17 I finally got my driver’s license in Greenwood and it seems to me it cost me a quarter. I answered a few questions. I guess we went for a drive of about a mile and that was it. By this time the old Model T was long retired. We had a red International pickup we call the "cornbinder". My brothers had cars by then too.

I don’t remember Steve, Joe, John or Angie being home. I was so young when they left home. Mary was the cook while she was home, after Angie left. She made baking powder doughnuts a lot to me it seemed every day. She didn’t use a doughnut cutter but the dough in squares and made two diagonal slits in them. They sure tasted good! And there were never any left over. Ann was always outside doing something tomboyish: making milk stools, flower stands or fixing the pigpen fence. But she could cook too if she had to and could sew up a storm. New material was unaffordable, clothes would be made over from old clothes and she could come up with some wonderful ideas. We were recycling long before we knew what the word meant!

We kids wore long white stockings to church. I took it upon myself – why I don’t know – (because nobody else did!) to make sure on Saturday that my white stockings were clean for Sunday. One Saturday afternoon I washed them and then put them in a pot and put them on the wood stove to boil in order to get them whiter. I then went across the road to visit a friend who came from Chicago to her grandma Lucas to spend the summers because her parents worked. They had an old pump organ upstairs in one of the bedrooms. Irene was taking piano lessons in Chicago and the minute she came from Fairchild on the train, she would head straight for that organ. I could hear it from our house and I’d go right away. I was so happy to see her – she’d leave on Labor Day and come back to her Grandma’s on Memorial Day after school was out. I thought it nothing short of a miracle that she could play that organ. I loved music but had no opportunity to learn to play that organ. I loved music but had no opportunity to learn to play anything. After spending the afternoon at Irene’s house I came home to find the water had boiled away in the pot my stocking were in and big holes were burned in the stockings. The fire in the wood stove must’ve been pretty hot and I hadn’t thought of that. I couldn’t understand why Mary didn’t realize what the burnt smell was coming from and check it out. She was napping in my mother’s bedroom just off the kitchen. I was real disappointed in her. What to do? I was scared to tell Mom, she did a lot of scolding anyway I knew I’d catch it good. Someway I disposed of the mess and at suppertime I told her I didn’t have any white stockings for church the next day. Seems to me it was some special occasion. I had to wear a white dress and my old brown everyday stockings wouldn’t do. So that evening we drove to Greenwood and went to the "Big Store" and she bought me new white stockings. I remember her telling the store clerk she was sure I had white stockings but couldn’t figure out where they’d disappeared to. I didn’t say a word.

George got a guitar for five dollars when I was about 12 or 13. He and Sophie and I learned to play a few chords from the "Learn to Play in Five Minutes" book that came with it. Believe you me it took more than five minutes and practically blistered fingers to learn the limited number of chords we could finally play. There was a harness of some sort you could get to hold the harmonica and so free the hands to play the guitar accompaniment. George and Sophie sort of mastered the art, I never got good at that. There was one song that George would play over and over; I can still hear it. But I’ve forgotten the name of it. We graduated from the 5 dollar guitar to one we jointly ordered with money we earned picking beans. It cost $12.50 and we ordered it from Sears. I somehow ended up with it, even had it in Milwaukee the two years I worked there in 1944 to 1946. It came back with me to the farm when I got married. It spent its last days in the attic crawl space where it got knocked around by the kids and it finally came apart. Wish now I’d have had taken better care of it and at least had it repaired. But there wasn’t any money and too busy raising a family to care about a cheap broken guitar! Sophie and I used to harmonize with the guitar accompaniment. By this time Helen was married and when she’d come home to visit she’d ask us to sing "Chime Bells are Ringing." She and Sophie still play the harmonica. A guy – John "Tietaman" Gerc was the hired man at Tex Luzovec, northwest of our place, about 40 acres away; he’d play his accordion on the back porch after chores in summer. I’d hang out one of the west dining room windows and listen to him. It was the one that didn’t have a screen so I could hear him better if I hung way out of the window! Then Frank and Josie Peroshek about another 40 to the northeast would practice their dance band music evenings, two saxophones in harmony. In order to hear them better I’d walk across our pasture to our fence line and sit in the fencerow between Koklaly’s and our land and listen till it got dark or the mosquitoes chased me. It was pure heaven hearing them. Ma used to work outdoors past dark, cutting grass for the calves with a scythe or in the garden always doing something outdoors. We kids would come home from playing at the neighbors and the house would still be dark and we’d start crying and calling for her and she’d finally answer from behind or somewhere. What a relief, then she’d come in and light the kerosene lamp on the kitchen table. We’d do this time and again. I don’t know what we thought was going to happen to her. I guess we’d be called insecure in this day and age. She was always there, where would she have gone at night anyway with a bunch of kids to look after! "Baby sitter" was an unheard of word.

Helen had a lot of problems with enlarged tonsils. Periodically they’d swell and she’d be so sick. It was called "Quinsy" and there wasn’t much to be done for it. Sometimes the doctor would lance them to drain them. She was a good cook and baker and very fussy housekeeper. She’d bake something on Saturday for Sunday dinner and would have to hide it otherwise the boys would have it eaten before Sunday came. I remember once she took the Peanut Bars upstairs and kept them in the bedroom overnight. One Fourth of July she came down with the "Quinsy" and was in bed. The kitchen floor needed scrubbing badly; it was killing her because she couldn’t scrub it for the weekend. The rest of the family, were out cutting peas I think, and I was the only one around the house and she talked me into scrubbing the floor. I did one half at a time and between the two halves I didn’t overlap so there was a dirty strip about 4 inches wide across the kitchen. It bothered me but I didn’t do anything about it – I suppose I was tired by then; it was a big kitchen and I was 8 or 9 years old. She was real happy though and didn’t scold me!

We liked cats, I guess because we never had any toys. I came home from someplace and found out Ma had given a couple kittens away while I was gone. I went to bed and cried because I knew these kittens were lonesome for their mother! George used to make harnesses out of string and put them on the cats! We didn’t have any toys like I said. For Xmas I only remember an orange and some hard candy in the bottom of the stocking and I had it under my pillow. In the middle of the night I’d be searching in the stocking for sticky candy.

I longed for a doll but the only one I got was when I was in the 7th or 8th grade and a schoolmate drew my name at Xmas and gave me one. It didn’t have hair though and it had a stuffed cloth body; it wasn’t quite what I had in mind but finally I had a doll. Can you imagine a 7th or 8th grader today playing with dolls?

After Angie and Ann were working in Milwaukee, they’d send packages home for Xmas. What a thrill to see the bundle down by the mailbox. We’d open it right away. I still remember a pair of crystal beads and there was an enamel roaster full of mixed nuts once. They bought the first linoleum for the kitchen floor, the first good set of dishes and silverware. We had enamel plates before that. A beautiful pink bedspread with fringes, for Mom’s bed. Of course it was too nice to put on the bed so in the old trunk it went along with other nice things they sent, pillowcase, towels, etc. She’d say she was saving them for when she was old and sick in bed, then she’d put them on the bed. Every once in awhile we would rummage through the trunk although we weren’t supposed to. I’d think I was being real careful and put everything back exactly like it was but apparently didn’t because she’d start scolding someone who messed up the trunk and who did it! But of course "It wasn’t me" every time.

Sophie decided to bake a cake one day. She just stirred all the ingredients together a little and poured the batter in a cake pan and put it in to bake. By this time we had a pale green and cream-colored wood kitchen stove (Montgomery Ward). The catch on the oven had broken soon after we got it, so whenever something was baking in the oven, it had to be propped shut with a stick. In due time the cake was baked, it was all lumpy and looked awful, which I made sure to tell her. But Frank cut a piece and praised her, giving me a dirty look because I had made fun of her.

Helen apparently was scared of the dark, of course we had no indoor bathroom. So at nite we had to take the kerosene lantern and make a trip to the outhouse. Helen always picked on me to go with her. I bet the others just plain refused to go. I don’t remember. But I got talked into it and I sure hated it. Besides in winter it was cold standing and waiting. Not one of my most pleasant memories growing up!

Emil was always into something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. Frank had a wristwatch (probably his first one), it had a black leather strap and he’d hang it on a hook in the upstairs hallway outside of his bedroom door. Emil got hold of it and of course took it all apart. Was Frank mad; he tried to swat his behind but we all stood up for Emil, he was the baby of the family and they all spoiled him. He and cousin Johnny Popovich decided to make a fire in a wheelbarrow on the driveway of the barn. They were caught just in time; the barn could’ve caught fire. Those two bore watching.

Mom always wanted to go back to "Old Country" to see her father one last time. Her mother had died long before I was born. I think 1918 so she didn’t talk too much about her but kept in contact with Grandpa Popovich. I was under the impression she had a few years of schooling but when we visited Aunt Danica (her sister) in Jugoslavia in 1984 she told us that when it was time to go to school, her father "Dako" asked the parish priest if she could stay home and watch her baby brother "Janko" (Uncle John Popovich) as the parents had to work in the fields. Visiting Krasnji vrh now in the 80’s, I see the village is up on a hillside and fields are all down in the valley, probably a mile away so there was a need for someone to stay in the house, as the distance was too great to run in and check on the baby. But our mother was only three or fours years old herself!! What hardships they endured. Mom always sent packages of clothing to her father and sister. She would tightly pack a 100# washed cloth sugar bag and sew the top closed with heavy string. As I got old enough I would address the heavy cardboard tag that she sewed on and also print the address on the side of the sack with ink. It was a special feeling then in 1982, to first visit "Krasnji vrh, Posta Metlika." Like a dream fulfilled. She always dreamed of going back to visit her father – she’d say she’d take us along too but whenever we didn’t obey or otherwise did something to displease her, all it took was for her to say we couldn’t go to the Old Country with her and we’d straighten right out! Sadly she never made the trip – he died when I was 15, March of 1937, at the age of 88. I remember she got the news on Good Friday and after church she went in tears to Uncle John and Aunt Katie’s house right next to Perko’s store to share their grief. We have traveled to Slovenia six times and visit the tiny village of Krasnji vrh every time. It’s an indescribable feeling – like coming home. There is a second cousin there, a diamond in the rough, Niko Badovinac. His mother, Anna Popovich, was a first cousin to our mother; their fathers were brothers. We also visit Doblice near Crnomelj where our father was born. Second and third cousins still live in the house where grandmother Katrina Movrin was born and stay overnight with them. The Aloze Starc family.

There are many more memories of growing up and someday I might take time to finish this. 1982

Stories from Rose – life on the farm.

One summer afternoon when my older brothers and sisters were bringing hay in from the field, Sophie, Emil & I, who were too young to help, were playing up in the haymow, waiting for a load of hay to come in. We decided to go up in the haymow, which was about 10-12 feet high by this time and ride the hoisting rope down to the hayloft floor. We pulled up what we thought would be the right amount of rope to get down to the floor. I was elected to try it first. Eyeing up the coil of rope we had pulled up on the mow, I decided it looked too short. I didn’t want to be left hanging mid-air if the rope was too short.

So we pulled up more rope to be sure there was enough. Figure it out (we didn’t) there was absolutely no slack in the rope and I hit the hayloft floor flat on my back. The wind was knocked out of me, I was gasping for breath, but screaming, "I’m killed! I’m killed!" Sophie and Emil, scared out of their wits, scrambled down the ladder to where I was. A quick conference decided not to go in the house to get Ma. We’d get scolded for being so foolish. I asked for water so Sophie quickly ran down to the pump a short distance away and brought me a tin cupful of water. By this time I was able to breathe a little better. No bones were broken, miraculously, but finally the realization of what could have happened overcame us. No more playing for that afternoon.

We went to the house. There, Ma found some chores for us to do. Mine was to iron clothes. I remember how my back ached bending over the ironing board, but I didn’t say a word. My back ached for weeks, but we didn’t tell Ma for a long time. And guess what? We did get scolded for being so dumb and for not coming to get her.

Cut on glass under porch retrieving baby ducks. Fell off running board on ride to Bukovecs one summer Sunday afternoon.

To be continued some day.



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