Robert C. Daniels

Author / Adjunct History Professor


Interview conducted as part of research for the writing of World War II in Mid-America

Bessie (Douma) De Jager  © Copyright 2006

Interview by Robert C. Daniels

Bessie (Douma) De Jager was interviewed at the Union-Congregational Church in Waupun on 15 March 2006 starting at 10:45 A.M.  The interview lasted 47.51 minutes.  At the time Bessie was seventy years old.   Mr. Jim Laird of the Waupun Historical Society sat in on and assisted with Bessie’s interview.


What is your full name?  Bessie DeJager.

And DeJager is spelled D E, capital D E capital J A G A R?  G E R, J A G E R.

G E R, okay.  Do you have a middle name?  No.

No, okay.  Do you have a maiden name?  Yes, it’s Douma, D O U M A.

I know a lot of people born in the early twentieth century were not born in a hospital, but at home.  Where were you born?  Well, actually I was born at 2 o’clock in the morning, um, on December 20, 1935.  And it was such severe cold, stormy weather that my father took the horse and sleigh to Highway 73, and he picked up the doctor from there and brought him to the house with the sleigh, and so.  And back then they had women coming to the house to help, and I think it was just my dad and the doctor that took care of the things there that evening because of the severe weather.  But another lady did come in to help after the birth.  I was the seventh of nine children.

Wow!  And, um, then, um, going up a little…, like I said I was six, seven years old, then I did drive horses on the farm while my older brothers and sisters picked the corn and threw that on the wagon because that was all done by hand back then.  And then at the end of the summer we got paid.  My dad would take us to town and he gave us all an ice cream cone, and that was our pay for the summer (she laughs).  Well, then, um, a few years later I also had to hoe in the fields with my brothers and sisters.  And so then I was driving horses and also hoeing.  But the pay was still the same, it was that ice cream cone (she smiles as Jim and I laugh).  And then, then I had to graduate a little.  I had to first hoe in the fields, and then I had to pick corn and throw it on the wagon, because then my younger brother was driving the horses.  

And there was a way, we had a certain way we had to do that (referring to harvesting the corn).  We had to twist it as we brought it down, because otherwise you are pulling and it’s very hard to get them off.  But if you take that (indicating with her hand) and bring it down and twist it at the same time it comes off easier, and we’d throw them on the wagon.

Wow, that’s twisting the ear of corn.  Right.  Yes.  And so, um, those are the things I remember of my younger years.  We walked two miles to school back then.

(Jim Laird):  One room school?  No, it was a three…, no…, yeah, a three room…, actually it was two rooms, but one room had a dividing doors in it.  So I say we got double education; we could hear two teachers.  But it was three rooms and a basement.

And where was that at?  That was at East Friesland (Wisconsin).

East Friesland.  In town?  No, that was a little village there.

Okay, but the school was in the village?  Yeah, it was in the village.

How do you spell Friesland?  F R I E S L A N D.

Okay.  And did you go to high school also?  Yes, I went to high school in Randolph.  I went…, I actually had nine years in East Friesland and then I had three years of high school, public high school, in Randolph, from which I graduated in 1954.

Did you have any college?  No, this is never good, but, um…, I worked in canning factories.  I worked at the turkey ranch once, but then my sister called me one day and she said, “I’m going for CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) classes, would you please come with me?”  Well, I went and I took the classes, and so I did work for, um, twenty-one years as a CNA, as a certified nursing assistant.  And that did bring my wages up, of course, a lot, because as the years went [by] the wages went up.

And where did you work at as a CNA?  I worked at the Christian Home in Waupun.  Also I worked at the Homestead in Waupun for five years.

What is the Homestead?  Where is it?

What is it?  It’s a beginners Alzheimer’s Unit.

Okay.  So you were a certified nurse’s aide?  CSA?  Yes.

Okay.  And who was your mother and father?  My father was Duey Douma.  And back then there was three Duey Doumas.  There was R, H, and A, and their mail was always mixed up.  It was an awful mess, it was.  But they named after back then a lot more so than now, I think.  And my mother was Martha Alsum.

Could you spell Alsum, please?  A L S U M.

Okay.  And, ah…, you lived…, I think you maybe have told me this…, you lived in, by Friesland?  Yes, we lived not real far from East Friesland, then latter on—when I was, when I was young, that is—and then we lived later on by (Highway) 33 by Randolph.  And then, when we got married, we lived in Randolph, then we lived in East Friesland, then we lived by Fairwater, and from there we moved to (Highway) 68 by Waupun.  And then we lived on Lakeland Road by Fox Lake.  We did a lot of moving.  I thought we should be professional movers (we all laugh).


(Jim Laird):  Did you have electricity on the farm or...?  Um…, when, when at first…, I don’t re…, no, I don’t…, no we didn’t.  But they did get…, I remember my brothers and sisters talking about getting electricity, that they wanted to flick the switches all the time because it was like magic to them, you know, so.

Did you have a telephone?  Um, yes.  We did have a telephone.  Of course, those were all party lines back then.

I know you mentioned on the farm that you had horses, did you have tractors at all?  Um, later on they did, yes.

Do you remember about what timeframe?  What year?  Um…, no, that I couldn’t tell you.  But they did have tractors later on.  Of course, they were very small.

 And we had a barn that had those carriers, and then they had those manure buckets.  And when my father went away, my parents went away, we had neighbors and friends come over and we would run on that manure pile and swing on that carrier which would bring us to another part of the barn.  We’d kick our feet and that would bring us on back to the manure pile.  We didn’t have TV back then (we all laugh).  And, anyway, the fun was if it rained we’d try to get someone to laugh so they couldn’t hang on and they would slip and fall into the soup on the ground (we laugh again).  

But then, I should tell you this gets quite dramatic because I had two younger brothers.  And the younger one I was babysitting—and he was a beautiful child with dark hair—and my parents went away, and, of course, there came the neighbor kids and some other ones.  We were going to swing on that carrier on that track.  And I opened the barn—the barn door happened to be open—and I sat my little brother next to that door.  And I said, “Now you stay there and you can watch us.”  Well, I don’t know if it was the first or second swing, but that whole track came off the barn.  It ripped off the barn and it came down.  And it was lodging on that door.  If that door hadn’t been opened, I think he would have gotten severely hurt, or who knows what, but.  I ran to the house and my father came home.  And that is the only time I can remember he sent me upstairs and I wasn’t suppose to have supper, I don’t think.  But I think, maybe, somebody snuck some food up there for me.  But he came home.  I don’t know if he heard while he was gone what was going on.  He seemed to always find out what we were doing.  And so I was sent to bed for the night.

(Jim Laird):  Do you remember the era in which the neighbors, the men and things, would come over and help with the thrashing and the….  Oh, yeah.  They had a lot of people come to help with the thrashing, like you say.  Now, I don’t know if, though…, I would think, though, it would be mostly neighbors, but I don’t really….

(Jim Laird):  And then conversely, your dad and older brothers would go over and help them.  Right, right.  And there was a particular time when they were all over at our house, and my mother had, I think, a wood and coal stove, and she thought that dinner was getting prepared, and the fire must have gone out.  And I recall her…, that was the only time I seen her cry.  She broke down and cried because she had all these men there and this meat was not prepared.  And so then my father went to town and he came home with, I think it was big bologna.  It was big bologna, and she prepared that in a frying pan somehow.  And I thought it was delicious because we didn’t get that often.  It was usually beef from the farm.  And…, but after that he did give her a combination stove so that it wouldn’t happen again (we all laugh).

What were you doing…, you were probably in school, but during the 1939, 1941 timeframe, just before the war started, do you remember that?  See, now I don’t recall a lot of that.  My…, I talked to my brother Clarence last week, and he said that my father had said we had to all be in the kitchen at 8 o’clock and we had to all be very quiet because the president was going to give a very important speech.  And so we were sitting there and he (the president) gave his speech, and then he (Bessie’s father) said in Dutch—I suspect to protect the younger ones because we didn’t all understand that back then—that he said, uh, oh, “We are in war.”  And, um, so yeah, and, um….

There were some hurt feelings during the war because quite often they left the men on the farm.  They left them on the farm and they took people from the cities.  So there was hard feelings between the two…, between the city dwellers and the rural area.  And, um, I expect that, I thought it was because that was their livelihood and so much had to be done by hand back then.  But then someone said to me they thought it was done because there had to be enough food sent to the troops, also.  That had to be supplied, so.

So you heard about the war about 8:00 p.m. on the radio?  I think that must have be 8 o’clock on December 7, 1941.

Okay.  And did your older brothers, did they go into the Army?  Were they old enough to go into the military service?  Um, my oldest brother did not go in the Army.  I expect because he had to help on the farm because there was like eleven of us living off the land, you might say.  And, um…, but later on I have another brother that was in the Army.  And then my brother Clarence, he was disqualified.  Um, my brother Andrew did not serve, but Harvey was in the, um, Superior (Wisconsin) area.  They had rockets or missiles there, something like that where he…, that’s where he was working, did his service there.

Okay, but your older brother didn’t serve in World War II because he was working on the farm?  No, no he didn’t.  I think he was…, I recall my mother writing a letter about that.  Asking, hopefully, that he could stay at home.

Okay.  And your other older brother, you said he did serve?  Was in World War II he served, or later on?  Yes…, no!  No, I had this written at home.  Could that have been the Korean War maybe?

Could possibly be.  But, he didn’t serve on the fields at all.  No, he never had to…, he was always in the States.  His name was Garrit Douma.

Garrit?  Yeah.

How do you spell that?  G E R R I T.

Okay.  It might be G-A, I’m not sure.

Was he in the Army?  Yeah, I think so.

Okay.  What did you do during the war?  I know you were young….  I had, um…, we walked two miles to school, two miles home.  And then mother would give us a little lunch, and then we were all handed a gunny bag and we had to go and pick milkweed pods.  And that was always “Hurry get out there, get it done before it gets dark.”  And so that’s what I recall doing after school.  Um, and we did pick a lot of them.

And were they weeds or did you use them for something? 

(Jim Laird):  Do you know what they were used for?  Well, yes, I do know because they were…, you know, if you open a milkweed pod there’s that silky stuff inside, and that’s what they made the parachutes with for the war.  That’s, that’s why we were asked to pick those milkweed pods.  And then my father brought ‘em somewhere with a truck, but I don’t know…, there was…, you know, military things in Portage.  I don't know if they went way to Port..., I’m sure he didn’t bring ‘em that far, but there was a point where he had to bring those.

Did he sell them or where they donated?  No, that was all volunteer work and volunteer, I think…, as far as I know.

Wow.  And did they grow…, did you plant those or did they just grow wild?  No, they were in the ditches.  They grew wild in the ditches.  I think they’re still milkweed pods today if you look for them.  Yeah.

Okay.  They weren’t real large.

That’s really interesting.  That really is.  Oh, I thought that you would have heard about that before.

No.  I haven’t.  That is good.  Okay.  Well, we were proud to do so, that we could help with that.

You were born towards the end of the Depression era.  Do you remember any of that…, were you guys strapped or…?  Well, I think it helped that we lived on the farm because we always had beef and milk and vegetables.  My mother always had a large garden.  But, I—and I’ve heard other people say this same thing—lots of times supper was bread with milk on and sugar.  And we could have two pieces if we wanted, but quite often that was our supper in that time.  

And I recall riding with my father in the truck one day and he was singing.  He was so happy, and I didn’t see him like that real often that he was so exuberant.  But then when I got into high school and I was studying all this history, then I realized that was when we were getting, going out of the Depression and better times were ahead and things were getting good for him.  And so I expect that’s why he probably was so happy that day, so.

Did you guys have indoor plumbing?  Um…, well, the first house we lived in no, we didn’t.  The second house…, my brothers and sister were quite upset.  “How could he find another house without a bathroom,” they said.  And he…, my father didn’t think it would be very healthy to have a bathroom in the house.  So we still had that out-door toilet.  But, um…, then, after some years living there, he did put in a bathroom and, it took awhile, but I think maybe on a real cold day he started using it too.  He did use it after awhile (she laughs).

Where things different when the soldiers came back from the war after the war was over with?  Did you see a difference in people and other things?  Well, see, I was ten years old when the war ended.  I can’t really say because, you know.  Well, I suppose there must have been a difference because that was such an exciting time.  I thought someone said to me once that it seemed like more people were smoking then than before the war.  I don’t know why that would be.  But, um…, so…, but otherwise, you know, we always thought we had it quite good because we didn’t know any different.  I do have my…, I took my book along that you can see if you want.

Oh, yeah, a ration book.  Do you remember the rationings?  Yeah, yes, I do recall that because my parents…, can you image having eleven books and you were suppose to keep track of how much sugar each one used, you know?

So you had one for each individual?  Yes!  Uh-huh.  I was eight years old when I was given this book, and I was four feet and three inches tall and weighed fifty pounds.

(Jim Laird):  And that’s all in the front?  Yes, uh-huh.  It says Rural Route 2, Randolph, Wisconsin, where I lived at that time.  Yeah, um…, but…, and it’s interesting that, um…, I don’t know, do you want me to read this to you or not?

No, if you like, yes.  “This book is the property of the United States Government.  It is unlawful to sell it to any other person or to us it or permit anyone else to use it, except to obtain rationed goods in accordance with regulations to the office of Price Administration.  Any person who finds a lost war ration book must return it to the War Price and Rationing Board which issued it.  Persons who violate rationing regulations are subject to $10,000 fine or imprisonment or both.”  Yes.

(Jim Laird):  $10,000 was a lot of money back then.  Did they not mean business, huh?

Do you remember if you could swap those around or not from your neighbors?  No, each had to have our own book, yeah.  And I even have these stamps left.  I can still get more sugar (we all laugh).  

And I should tell you, my sister, Dorothy, had said that her husband had told her that his dad had said to the children that they couldn’t have sugar on their cereal in the morning, but they said his own cereal was always white on top.  So they knew where the sugar was going.  So it wasn’t always divided like it should be.  

But see, I’m not sure what this is.  There is a platoon boat stamp, and there is a tank stamp with army tank...

Each one of them represents something else, but….  … and this one I think is, looks like a…

A cannon.  …a cannon, yeah.  So, yeah…, I have really quite a few stamps left.

You’d be surprised at how many people actually have those.  I was surprised. Really?  I’ve only seen them in museums.  But, of course, our children would like to have this book.  They don’t want me to give it away, so.

No, no.

(Jim Laird):  Can I ask you?  You talked about your getting plumbing in the house and that sort of thing.  We didn’t have it and our bath was in the wash tub in the middle of the kitchen floor.  Now when you got the bathroom, you had a tub?  Uh-huh.

(Jim Laird):  Now was it more or less a family tub?  I mean, did you put water in it and the oldest kid started first?  Well, you mean when we had those round tubs?  Yes, I’m wondering about that.  Did we all use the same water?

(Jim Laird):  Yes, I think we did.  And we…, like I said, we did have one of those pots upstairs too, yes, that we could use.

Now, when you finally got a bathroom and a bathtub, did you have a hot water heater, or did you have to carry hot water up?  I think that at that time they put a hot water heater in too.

And the farms that you lived on, did your father own those?  Yes, although both the farms we lived on, neither house is standing anymore.

But when he moved from one house, from Friesland, I think you said, to Randolph?  Yes, East Friesland.  Then we moved on to a road that was between East Friesland and Randolph.  It was by (Highway) 33.

Did he sell the one farm to buy the other farm?  Yeah, yes, hmmm, hmmm.   And my brothers told me, they recalled once that we needed food, we were just out of food.  And so he took a pig and went and sold that so they could buy, he could buy groceries with it.

Now, did your father go in debt to buy the farm?  That I don’t know.

(Jim Laird):  Farming was so labor intensive.  Do you remember how many acres you had?  No, I couldn’t say.

(Jim Laird):  It seems to me that several people I talked to, they were talking maybe having eighty areas, you know, about that time.  And now, you know, there are multi-hundreds of acres, and it’s because of the larger farms that the homes you are talking about, that the homes were torn down.

(Author):  And wondering, not having tractors, having horses, pulling a horse drawn plow, do you have any idea of how many acres you had under plow?  No, I couldn’t tell you those things.  You would have to ask an older brother about that.  I do have an older brother, Aulkie, that would know those things, I think.

Okay.  I thought the second farm was over one hundred acres.  But the first place…, farm we lived on, I was told that my mother had to walk down the hill across the road and there was a pump that she could get the water from.  Then she’d haul it all across and back up the hill again.  And that was a lot of work, I think.  And also I was told that—I think it was just a very small basement—we had just a wood stove in the living room, I think, in the middle of the room.  But I was told there was always so many rats there and they tried to poison them and get rid of them, but it was like they just ate that too.  And it was like they couldn’t get rid of them there.

Wow, okay.  And you got married?  Yes.

When did you get married?  Oh, dear.  Well, we're gonna be married for fifty years on July 6th.  It will be fifty years.

Wow, okay.  And who did you marry?  Lambert DeJager.  And he immigrated from Holland when he was twelve years old, I believe.  I wanted to take him with me today, but he’s working.  

But, of course, in Holland they had to have all their windows covered at night, and, um, he said that they didn’t get away very much, weren’t allowed to go anywhere.  And his brother, he had a brother that had to hide a lot because they were always looking for him because he was always like military age.

And your husband was not?  No, no.

So his brother did not serve in the military?  He was able to escape?  Well, his father had been in the military before the war already.  But his brother; I think he was later on in the military, I’m not sure.  But in Holland they were always looking for them.  They were always hiding.  They would hide in hay barns and sometimes in threshing machines and….  Because if there were out in the hay stacks outside they could just put weapons in the hay stacks, so they were safer if they could get into a small building or whatever.

And this is the Germans who if they got caught they would have to serve in the German Army?  German Military?  Well, I don’t know, or did they have them work for them.  I’m not sure what they did with them.

And do you know what town this was?  What village?  What area?  It was Oostrum Holland where they lived.  And that was close to Dukkum, which is today about the size of Beaver Dam, I think.  He went to school in Dukkum.

Could you spell those please?  Oh, um, Oostrum.  I’m not sure…, O O S T R U M, I think.  And Dukkum is D U K K U M.  I might have the spelling wrong on both of those.

You spelled them better than I could have done (we chuckle).  Dukkum, okay.  Thank you.  So his family still lives back there?  No, they all immigrated.  He does have some relatives there.

(Jim Laird):  His mother lived right next door to us for years.  Yes, and we did go to Holland twice now since we’ve been married to visit there.

Okay.  And where did you meet?  (She laughs) We met on the main street in Randolph.  Yeah, that’s where we met.  We were just with some young people and he took me home that night.  But it sounds kind of funny doesn’t it.

(Jim Laird):   Love at first sight?  Must have been (she laughs), we’re still together.

What brought you to Waupun?  Um…, boy…, we were…, we farmed for a while, and we had moved by Fox Lake there on Lakeland Road.  And the interest went up big time.  And so we decided to sell out.  And then we moved to Alto.  Right now we live in Alto.  And then he started trucking.  He drives a semi-truck.

Okay.  Does he own his own business?  No.

Does he work for someone else?  He works for Elvin Weiss Jr. from Knowles (Wisconsin).

Okay.  Do you work or have you worked?  I just retired in November, I think it was.  Um, I had eye surgery in December and as I’m speaking I cannot see with my left eye.  I have to have another operation with that.

What did you do before you retired?  What did I do?

Yes.  I worked at the Christian Home and at the Homestead.

Oh that’s right.  I’m sorry, you told me that.  Okay.  Did you have any children?  Five.

Five, okay. 

(Jim Laird):  I would be interested in any comments you could make about the changes you saw in the nursing profession the years you were at like the Christian Home.  For instance did you wear a nurse’s uniform when you started?  Yes.

(Jim Laird):  That was probably required?  Yes.

(Jim Laird):  Did you have a special hat that indicated what school you graduated from or was it only the RNs (Registered Nurses) that did that?  No, um, we always wore a pin on our uniforms with our names on it and our status, and, um….  Actually, I had gone to Cutlerville, Michigan.  Back then you could go to school there, work part time, and you got free room and board.  And so it was an excellent opportunity.  But I became ill while I was up there, and so then I returned home and later on took the CNA class and completed it.  

(Author):  And did you take that before you got married or after?  Um, that was after.

(Author):  Okay.

(Jim Laird):  And I guess by the time you retired you were able to be much more leisurely than when you worked?  Is that right?  (She laughs).

(Jim Laird):  I mean, in terms of clothes and that sort of thing?  Well, it would seem that way, but I’m just, I’m just busy all the time it seems.  But I like music, so I play the piano, organ, auto harp, and the harmonica.  I like to write poems, which I haven’t had a lot of time [to do].  I started writing my life story but I haven’t gotten very far, so.  

But going back to the nursing, one of the biggest things for me was when they came out with the lift machine, because before that point we had to do all the lifting, which could be quite a task.  And I’m short so anyone that was real tall it was kind of difficult, really.  So, um, that helped a lot when they came out with that lift machines, which they didn’t have when I started nursing.

(Jim Laird):   Now, did you give injections?  No, no.  That I didn’t do.

You said you had five children, were they boys or girls?  We have three girls and two boys.

Okay, did any of them join the military?  No, none of them have been in the military.

Do they all live around here?  No, the oldest girl lives in Bloomington, Minnesota, which is a suburb of Minneapolis, and she is like a medical secretary.  Her husband is an electrician.  And then our oldest son, right now he works for McDonalds in Beaver Dam as manager.  Um, then we have a daughter whose husband was a landscaper, so she has been doing bookkeeping for him.  She’s married to Mike Gance, he was from Waupun here.  And Vicky, she’s married to Allen Pound who came from England.  She met him when she was going to college.  And, um, she teaches special needs children, I believe.  And Robert, he drives a semi-gas truck.  The youngest boy.

Okay.  Do you have any grandchildren?  Thirteen.

Thirteen!  Wow!  Big family reunion.  I didn’t want to be grandma, but it sure is fun.

You’re too young to be a grandmother.  Especially to have thirteen.  Wow!  (She laughs).

That’s something.  Okay, is there anything else? 

(Jim Laird):  Well, she came prepared to talk a little bit about the end of the war.

(Author):  Oh?

(Jim Laird):   She has a note from her brother….  Well, I had talked to you about that now, I believe.  Yeah, I did talk to you about that.

(Jim Laird):  But not on the machine (indicating the video camera whish was taping the interview).  Yeah, I had said that about…, well, that was the beginning of the war where we were in the kitchen there, and, um.  Well, the end of the war…, like I said, I just recall being on the back lawn and hearing horns blowing in Friesland there.

What kind of horns?  Car horns?  Well, I thought they were car horns, but my brother said that the trains where blowing their horns there in celebration.  But I think…, I was told they were both blowing, so.  I imaged that happened in more cities, that they…, yeah.

So a lot of people were celebrating then?  Yeah, it was quite a thing.

Do you remember if that was V-E day, Victory in Europe day, or the Pacific against the Japanese…, or both?  Well, the end of the war was in ‘45, right?

August 1945.  Right, 1945.


(Jim Laird):  That was V-J Day, Victory in Japan.  And Europe was settled a little while before that.

Yeah, a few months before that.  Okay.

So I was wondering if you recall if there was two periods or just the one at the end of the Japanese War?  That I don’t know.


(Jim Laird):  We are approximately the same age…  And you probably remember….

(Jim Laird):  …and I have some of the same trouble, because I remember a big celebration, and I would guess it was V-J Day, because everything was over then.  Yeah.

(Jim Laird):  And I don’t know, I can just sort of recall seeing a news reel at the motion picture theater talking about the V-E day.  And that was the only way we got visual news.  I mean, there wasn’t TV.  Hm, hmmm (nodding her head in agreement.)  And I don’t know.  Is this correct?  The radios seemed like they staticed a lot back then.

(Jim Laird):  Yes.  They weren’t real clear.

(Jim Laird):  And it was because it was AM.  FM didn’t come along until well after the war.  So radio was AM, which was susceptible to static and bad weather and things that went with it.  So you’re right, it was bad.  And you had one speaker and it was all…, you know.  I remember so distinctly when I was a child turning on the radio and somehow I thought they had to warm up.  And somehow I thought if I turned it up full blast, it would warm up faster.  And, of course, it didn’t.  It was just an idea that I had in my head.  The type of things that happened back then.  But it was, you know, there was vacuum tubes inside and you had to wait for the vacuum tubes to get hot enough for it to operate.  You remember that portion?

(Author):  Do you remember…(Bessie begins to speak), I’m sorry, go ahead.  Well, I was going to say not much.  But the telephone, they had a special number, didn’t they for emergencies?  Like if somebody had a fire, then they would ring a certain amount of time so that everyone would pick up the phone and listen to the message.

(Jim Laird):  It may have been different from town to town.  Okay.

(Jim Laird):   And we…, because as I understand it, most communities…, it was not unusual to have people get together and actually own and buy the telephone company and put it in.  Okay.

(Jim Laird):  I think it was the operator.  You turned the crank to get the operator and the operator then would call the people you needed.  But, ah, you might be right, actually, about a special….  No, I think they had like five short rings or something like that, and that was for emergency.  Everybody was supposed to pick up the phone then.  But I think there was like five of us there on the line, maybe.

(Jim Laird):  As I remember correctly, in town you had four.  And out in the country it got as often as ten or twelve.  And it was pretty dim.  And they had a special expression for picking up the phone and listening to the conversation.  You remember that?  That was done a lot.

(Jim Laird):  Rubbering.  Yes (she laughs), and I was naughty.  I liked to listen to…, we had two neighbors, um, older men, and they loved to visit on the phone.  And I liked to listen just to hear what they were talking about.  They spoke Gelders, and I didn’t know Gelders.  But after a while I started picking some of that up.  That’s a Dutch dialect, Gelders is.  I’m Friesian, so I can understand that and speak that.  But I was beginning to learn some of that.  And, of course, later on we had our own private lines, so. 

(Author):  I was telling yesterday in the late 60’s early 70’s we still had a party line out on County Trunk AS on the way to Oakfield.  It was just two of us, us and the neighbors.  And you could listen in if you wanted to and every once in a while I’d be talking on the phone and I’d hear a click and think, okay, I’m being listened to now. 

(Jim Laird):  I commented one of the things I remember so much about it was everything was labor intensive.  Like the laundry, you know, and the ironing and everything that went with it.  But by the same token, we addressed the idea that your neighbors came over and helped you farm and you went over and helped them farm.  And there was a wonderful sense of cooperation.  And I’m told by people I knew that lived in the country that if you hear that phone ring at 11 o’clock at night, you knew something was wrong and you went and listened and you went and helped.  And today you don’t…, you know, that just doesn’t happen.  Yeah.  Well, I remember my mother having driven a car for many, many years without a license, and, um, finally she went to get her driver’s license.  She didn’t drive real far with the police officer.  He said to her, “You might as well park the car.  I can see you’ve been driving for a long time.”  So, she didn’t fool him.  But then that was done a lot back then too when people were driving without [a] license.

(Jim Laird):  And if I remember correctly, in the very, very young time you could actually just order…, do you remember that?  No.  Just order the license through the mail?

(Jim Laird):  Yeah, it would be something to research.  And they always talked about that from Sears or J.C. Penney’s or something.  And I remember so vividly they pasted the law that required a test.  And my mother knew the police chief and she talked to him, and the police said to come over here, and next week or something like that you would have to take a test, but if you do it today you can just get it.

(Author):  Waupun and Fox Lake had German POWs here.  Do you remember anything about that?  I know you were young then.  No, I don’t, but I’ve read about it somewhere.

There’s a book about it.  I think it’s called Stalag Wisconsin, or something like that.  It’s out.  Okay.  Yeah, that I don’t recall.

Okay.  Well, was there anything else you can think of?  I don’t think so.  Like I said when I came, I was quite young and I don’t really remember a whole lot.

(Jim Laird):  You remember so much Bessie, it’s wonderful.

Yeah.  They said too when we were in grade school they had these, what do you call it, drills, where we were suppose to go under the desk.  And maybe two times…, we didn’t do it that often, I don’t believe.  We had those drills.

Oh, Nuclear Drills.

(Jim Laird):  And, of course, the interesting thing is I don’t remember too much being afraid during World War II, but I remember being afraid during the Cold War because of that.  And I know that there were people here in Waupun that had air-raid shelters in their home, and because of that.  And, um…, it was a frightening experience.  I was in high school at that time, as you probably were, and you’re right.  It was a very frightening experience because we were told the atom bomb could be dropped and blow us all to kingdom come at anytime.  I felt much more afraid during that era then as a child in the actual war.  Okay.

(Author):  Well, thank you very much.  I think that’s it.  I can’t think of anything right now.

Okay.  Thank you.


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