I know little about the circumstances surrounding my birth, only which many years later Aunt Emma, wife of Mother’s oldest brother Charles, told me they had decided to adopt me if anything happened to my mother. I can only guess what the difficulties may have been. In those years pregnancies and the birth of children were never discussed openly. I don’t remember when I finally learned that it was not “the stork” that brought the babies.
I was born in the St Francis Hospital in La Crosse. That fact alone hints of possible problems, because at that time most babies were born at home with the doctor coming to the house for the delivery. It was winter and Dad’s Rio Touring car had been put on blocks for the winter, so a quick trip to La Crosse was unlikely. Consequently, Mother spent the final weeks of her confinement with my aunt and uncle in La Crosse.
I remember the Rio, a two seated passenger car with side curtains. It was a prized possession and carefully cared for. There was no antifreeze so when freezing temperatures arrived the radiator was drained and the car was put on blocks for the winter. “Put on blocks” means they jacked up the car, then rested the frame on blocks of wood to reduce the pressure on the springs and tires.
With my arrival we were a family of five – Grandpa Herold, whom we called “Pa”, Mama, Papa, 3 ½ year old Ralph and me. A hired girl was added to assist with the chores and housework. Most farm girls, after completing 8th grade in the rural schools, either stayed at home or went to work for another family for a few dollars a week plus their room and board. In summer they helped with the field work.
The farm home was a large two story clapboard sided house. Several additions had been made to the original log structure. The barn was a new building, was large and roomy, and very modern for its day. There was a sheep shed, a blacksmith shop, chicken coop, wood shed, granary, and several machine sheds.
There was plenty of room in the house. We had a large kitchen with a pantry, a sitting room. Two bedrooms downstairs and five upstairs bedrooms. Another room, simply called “the old house” which was a part of the original log house, served as a wash house and separator room. In it was a gasoline engine which powered the wooden tubbed ringer washing machine. It could also power the cream separator when we didn’t hand crank it. The milk from our dairy herd was processed to separate the cream from the milk. The cream was cooled and sold to the Iris Restaurant in La Crosse. The skim milk was used for pig feed.
Next Week – More about the Farmhouse in Chipmunk Coulee