Welte Family History Research

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For over 40 years, I have been researching my family history. Now that I'm retired, I can devote more time and effort into more research, compilation, and organization of that work! Over the past 12 years, I have been very fortunate in teaching genealogy classes, along with my computer experience, at Blackhawk Technical College. I've also created a business - "Field of Genes" - a "Ride-N-Seek" experience to help other families find their own ancestors.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

52 Ancestors: #12 Beryl Imogene Swanson and Some Not-So-Wonderful South Dakota Memories

Mom’s Young Years
In 1925, my mother, Beryl Imogene Swanson, was born on the rented Gardner farm in Broadland, near Huron, South Dakota. After her family moved to another farm in the surrounding area, she and her younger brother, Wendell, would play hopscotch in the dirt. They lived there until 1934 when they moved to northern Minnesota.

Back Row - Maxine, Teckla,
Front Row - Beryl, Thelma
When my mom was just a baby, her sister, Thelma, who was seven years old, wanted to hold her and my grandmother said it was okay. Thelma was trying to go down a flight of stairs at the time, but she lost her footing. My mom, who was in a blanket, fell out of her sister’s arms and tumbled the rest of the way on her head to the bottom of the stairs! My mother always said that she had a head injury that day and that was why she wasn’t as smart as her siblings. She always said that she couldn’t understand why her mother would allow a seven-year-old child to hold a baby while going down the stairs.

Gypsy Fears
In the South Dakota years, gypsies roamed the countryside. As a form of fear and punishment, my grandmother would tell my mother and her siblings that if they didn’t listen to her and do what they wanted, she would “sell them to the gypsies” when they came through the town.

The gypsies would have large wagons filled with what they were selling, along with their own worldly belongings, a team of horses in front, and straggler horses, dogs, and children lagging behind. They were considered an inferior group of people, and it was rumored they drove through cities and farmlands and snatched children from their families to sell them and make money. As a young child, my mother didn’t know any different and she was fearful when the gypsies appeared on the roads. In her later years, she finally found out that these stories were untrue.

End-of-the-World Fanatics
Even in the early days on the South Dakota plains, there were those who believed that the world would come to an end on a specific date. My mother told me of several times when complete families, with their so-called faith leaders, would go to the highest point in the area, a mound, or a ridge, and claim to be ready to “meet their maker.” The group would then stand and pray that they would be taken to see their God because they were ready to go.

After a few hours, however, no light appeared, no clouds parted, and no voice came from heaven. With heavy hearts, they dispersed and went down the hillside to wait for another day. My mother said that over a short period of time, the group would be there again, in their designated places, and pray for the end to come, but it never did!

School Day Taunts
My mom wore flour-sack dresses to the one-room country schoolhouse outside of Huron. Her mother used to get cotton flour sacks which happened to have a flower design. When she could afford it, her mother ordered material from Sears so that she could make mom’s dresses with straight seams. She remembered that her schoolmates used to say about her - “Here comes the girl with the flour-sack dresses.”

Mom’s sister, Georgia, sent clothes back home which were former “flapper” dresses that she had from nightclubs. Mom sometimes was embarrassed because these “flapper” dresses had sequins which did not go over too well at the one-room school house with the schoolteacher.

Depression Years
She and her parents lived through the Depression which was from 1929 through 1940 and was known as the “Dirty 30s.” Her mother was never able to really clean  because when the dust storms came through, lasting for several hours at a time, there would be an inch of dust on everything in the house. She remembered that the as the storm hit their house, she would see the dust “sift through” cracks in the wall. What made it worse was that there was no electricity or running water, but they did have an artesian well.

Even though my grandmother was a good cook, during the Depression, sometimes there was only oatmeal or raisin-sauce on bread slices that they had for dinner. Thank goodness there was a garden because that supplied much of the needed vegetables. If you were lucky, you could have meat or your own chickens or turkeys and have a nice Sunday turkey dinner.

With her hand-me-down clothes from her sisters, mom always tried to hide the pictures of her in her “snuggies” that fell around her ankles. Then to her surprise, one of the relatives would go through their photo albums and bring out the same picture!

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