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  • Martha Rasche

100 Years Ago

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

One hundred years ago this summer, Frank and Anna (Schroeder) Rasche welcomed son Ernest into the world. Forty-three years and some months later, Ernest became my father.

When my mom (who will be 94 next month), siblings and I had a socially distanced gathering this past June, we observed the centenary of my dad’s birth and shared memories of him.

At about age 13, my father moved full time to his godparents’ home, where he had spent summers since completing first grade. His godparents, whose only child had died five months after my dad was born, needed help on their farm, and my dad’s poor parents — who lived just a couple of miles away — could do with one less mouth to feed.

At his godparents' home, Ernest slept on a cot in the hallway upstairs — while three upstairs bedrooms, fully furnished, remained unused.

A one-room schoolhouse stood amid the godparents’ property, and it fell to my dad to start the coal fire there every winter morning, to have the building warmed by the time students arrived. During those prior summers, he and his godfather/uncle had cleaned the two outhouses and kept the lawn mowed.

As my dad gradually took over his uncle’s farm, he also took over the egg route his uncle had started in the nearest city. Ernest bought 400 pullets every spring, and all week, every week, he collected eggs from the laying hens and cleaned and sorted them for the Friday morning route. He started the job on his own in about 1950.

His uncle had maybe six egg customers when my dad had started accompanying him some years before; when Dad retired from the route in 1980 or so, he had built it up to 60 stops, some covering four or five homes.

Another farm chore for many, many summers was planting enough potatoes to cull from to sell only the best to the local school district, to be served in the cafeteria throughout the school year. All nine of us kids quickly learned that digging and washing hundreds of pounds of potatoes was not for the weak, the weary or whiners.

My oldest brother, 70, recalled that in the 1950s Dad would take his father to a nearby community to have feed ground for his horses. When Dad and my brother picked up Grandpa, who never had a driver’s license, they dropped off my older sisters to spend time with Grandma. She treated them to orange “sodie” and cookies, one of my sisters said. Another mentioned that Grandma always used Ivory Soap.

When Dad wasn’t working, he found pleasure in simple amusements. He whiled away many weekend evenings sitting on the front porch listening to the music playing behind nearby Beaver Lake, and he enjoyed dancing waltzes, polkas and other old-time numbers at wedding receptions.

It is good to honor loved ones who have passed on by sharing stories about them. Whether on the anniversary of their birth or of their death, at a family reunion, or for no particular occasion at all, there is satisfaction in remembering those who have helped make us who we are.

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