Autobiography of Linda Unruh
I was born and lived on a farm 10 miles east of Newton, Kansas. It was a 2 bedroom home, later as family got larger, built 4 bedrooms. There were 14 children in our family. We spoke high German at home and English. When the war broke out, we were not permitted to speak German in church.
One time a tornado broke all glass windows, fire broke out and damaged a lot.
We had no electricity. We used kerosene lamps and lanterns. No running water. We drew it from a well, or had a cistern to store rain water. No washing machine, only a washboard. Had to hang our clothes outside to dry. In the winter they froze stiff. We heated water on a wood stove, or in a tank back of the stove. We heated our home with hedgewood, which was very hard to cut. Had lots of fruit trees and canned the fruit. Also canned a lot from a large garden. We raised wheat, corn, alfalfa, cattle, horses, mules, hogs. We canned beef, pork and chicken. Raised ducks. No refrigerator. We made our own butter and cottage cheese. We kept it on a rope down the well or in the basement. Had lot of volunteers come in to help whenever we butchered. We had several acres close to home with lots of rocks, so we cleared them off so we could farm.
We had gypsies around. One day they came walking down the lanes. Mother put a broom across the door. They won't cross a broom. She told us to be clam and not talk, to let them take whatever they want. Well, they took all the eggs and young fryers and left. We also had hobos traveling. We often found them sleeping in barns or on straw stacks. Sometimes we were scared to go and milk the cows.
We always had plenty to eat. When we got hungry for fish, we would go to the stream close by with a hammer, chip a hole, and we had all the fish we wanted. We got cold doing that!
We were brought up in a Christian home. Lots of talent of different kind. Lots of singing. Each child played a different instrument. We would play and sing in our home by ourselves and at times for other people. Dad and Mother loved music. We had an organ, had to pump it with your feet. Later we got a piano. We didn't have any cars, only a carriage to go to church. It was only better than a mile from home and called Grandenburg. It was made out of rocks in 1881. Dad was custodian there so we girls swept and cleaned it many times. Later it was torn down and renamed Grace Hill. I sang in the choir, played the organ, and Rosa played the piano. Had a lot of sing-alongs and recreation there. We went to Star School, only one mile from church. There we had box suppers, one who brought your box, had to eat with your players, singing liturgies, had a lot of dancing at various places, not in the building, outside on ground. Lots of skating on real ice, picnics. No cars, only trains, then later cars.
Dad owned a threshing machine. Threshed wheat at various fields. A lot of times I would be called to help cook for the crew 5 times a day. Mother could make the best bread. I tried many times, but none like hers. Though I can still make good cinnamon rolls. Don't cook too much anymore. We never knew to eat in restaurant when young. Baked a lot for large family.
I went to high school one year, quit to go to work to get my clothes. We used flour sack material. It was colorful and great. Still have one card table made from that material. I did lots of fancy work. Made a lot of covers from men's suits. Later years made a lot out of knit.
Had a lot of very bad snow storms, some 5 feet or more. One was so high it was above the cattle fence with ice on top. So we just walked across field to school as a shortcut. When thawed, we were only able to go in lumber wagon pulled with horses. Also had a lot of tornadoes. Had storms, trees had no leaves.
I worked as a maid to lots of homes doing washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, for $7 a week. On June 7, 1919, upon confession of faith in Jesus Christ and Lord, I was baptised in the German language by Rev. G. N. Harms, joined the Gradenberg church (now called Grace Hill).
I met Carl at his sister's home, then he left for Cal to work for farmers. He came back and I met him on street in Newton. We married October 22, 1924. We were blessed with two children: Mildred Elaine and Delbert Charles. We lived 17 years in Newton. Carl worked for KG&E. One Sunday evening after church (at Mennonite First), Carl was called to work as a tornado hit southeast of Newton. He left and I didn't know where he was until two days later when he came home. He slept and then was called back. Every cloud looked terrible, didn't even have a hot meal. Streams were overflowing, picking up dead people. Wheat fields looked like rivers. Lots of people lost everything. I was really worried. Thank God they came home safe. Told them to stay home and rest. He was called out many times. Finally he got two weeks vacation with pay.
Carl's sister Marie and her family had previously moved to Califonia and later his folks also moved there. Some of his other brothers and sisters also moved to California. We had been there for 20 years, so we decided to go to visit his folks in California. While there, decided to go to Cal-Ship to look where they built cargo ships for the war. Well, they gave him a job the rest of the time we were there. We went home to Kansas and Carl continued working. Carl got hurt one morning after a storm. He climbed a pole and it broke. He fell and was in the hospital for two weeks. The company never paid him, so he quit. He always wanted to back to California, but I didn't want to move so far from my folks. Tried to find larger home, couldn't find any within our budget, so we sold our home and moved to California in September of 1941.
When Carl told KG&E he was quitting, their office told Carl, "don't you know the bread line is a mile long?" We didn't see such a thing when we were there. Carl only got 76 cents an hour. Gave him double there in California.
Carl got his job back at Cal-Ship. We bought a home in Willowbrook and later in Compton. In 1950 we moved to Bellflower. He worked and I grew orchids. The business paid for our home. We belonged to the Orchid Growers Association. One year we went to Seattle, Washington, for their convention. Carl was a delegate. I got to go and see the place where they have cup races by way of the hanging bridge. Drivers told us how deep it was, we just sighed and looked at each other. What a sight!
We enjoyed giving flowers and plants to share our joy and pride with others. Many were blessed by receiving them, including churches, hospsitals, relatives and loves ones. We sold the orchid business 29 years later, just before our 50th anniversary, as Carl wasn't well and he was retired.
During the war with Japan, we lived in Wilmington, California. I saw my first barage cover up the oil factory. Planted flowers spelled out for a signal. We had placed anticraft guns along the shore, tried them one night, like war in the sky. Replaced them with larger ones. When curfew came, no one could go anywhere until it cleared. We watched them move our soldiers to the ship, then the curfew cleared.
We had joined the Emmanual Church in Downey. We both sang in the choir and were on several committees. Carl and I celebrated 55 1/2 years together. Carl passed away in 1980.
In 1988, my daughter Mildred (whose husband Bill had died in 1985) and I decided to sell our homes and move to Prescott where her son Alfred lives. My son, Delbert, and his wife were still working full-time. Mildred bought two condos next door to each other. I lived in one and she lived in the other. I've enjoyed all the modern things which I didn't have before. My brother Arthur and Elva live in a home place (the farm wehre I was raised) and also enjoy all the modern things. My son died in 1995 at the age of 64.
Linda Unruh is survived by:
One brother - Art (lives in Kansas)
Two sisters - Alvina and Grace (live in Kansas)
Her daughter - Mildred Hartzell
21 great grandchildren
7 great, great grandchildren