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Remembering the Wenzel family during the Depression
Rainy Days and Starry NightsJanuary 15, 2014 | 4,232 views | Post a comment
The house was spacious, airy, and clean. The Wenzel house was cool, with the breeze blowing in from the south. I loved it when we would all go visiting the Wenzel family over in Camp Ranch. It was during the Depression years, middle of the ’30s that Daddy would hitch up the wagon with Molly and Prince, our mules, and Mother would dress us all up, help us in the back of the wagon, and take the trip back to the Camp Ranch community from the Kasper community to spend all day Sunday at the Wenzels.
The Wenzel family consisted of Reinhold, Max, and Pauline and their parents, Reinhold Sr. and Pauline. At that time those three people seemed old to me, and their parents seemed really old. Their mother and father were 79 and 74 in 1940. So I guess they were old, but Reinhold Jr. was 51, Max was 45, and Pauline was only 39! I found a picture of the old man Wenzel and his wife Pauline while looking through Ancestry.com. That is exactly how I remember them! He wore overalls and she wore a dress down to her ankles.
As far as we knew, the three Wenzel children never married, and we thought Pauline was an “old maid,” which is what they called any woman over 30 in those days. And the two brothers were bachelors. They had two sisters, Annie, who married Louis Stobb, and Martha, who married Charles Fahning. They were of strong, staunch German heritage. They were very thrifty and made every penny count. Reinhold was big and strong and always wore a straw hat and overalls. His belly was big and rounded. He seemed to always be working in the barn or the field.
Pauline was sprightly, wearing plain homemade dresses that came down to her ankles. She was very old-fashioned. But she seemed to be my mother’s only good friend. They could talk and talk in the kitchen, along with old Mrs. Wenzel, while we kids played out in the yard, or sat out on the big front porch in the cool shadows, watching their guineas run around. We didn’t have guineas. They fascinated me. We helped Pauline gather the eggs, and what puny little eggs those guineas laid!
Pauline could cook too. And her food tasted different from Mother’s. The rich German meals smelled and tasted so different! They always seemed to have cabbage cooked all different ways. We had to eat it, but picked at our food. But her bread! Umm, the aroma of the baking bread, the smell wafting through the house and out to the yard! It makes my mouth water to this day. It smelled different from Mother’s bread. It had a sort of sour smell to it. Maybe it was sourdough bread! In the middle of the afternoon, we would have what they called “lunch.” We had coffee, for the adults, glasses of milk for the kids, and that wonderful homemade bread with fresh-churned butter, and Pauline’s homemade preserves and jellies. The plum preserves from their plum orchard were the best.
Sometimes in the afternoon, Mother insisted we kids take a nap. With four of us under the age of five, she needed a break I am sure. But we didn’t mind! Pauline took us into her bedroom, where there was a big four-poster bed piled high with feather or down mattresses and they would lift us up on the high beds, and we would sink down in the wonderful softness of those beds and float off to sleep. I pretended I was sleeping on clouds. Those beds were the highlight of the day. Our beds at home were hard and these were so soft!
The Wenzel family was an old German family, and the old man and woman Wenzel were born in Germany. Their traditions and lifestyle were so much like so many families in the Wilson County area. Pauline was one of the few friends Mother had when all her kids were small. To us kids, they were mysterious and different and interesting. We always wondered why none of the three married. It was an intriguing mystery. When I would ask, Mother hinted that Pauline had been in a sad relationship in her younger days. But you didn’t talk about those things to kids.
Max Wenzel was tall and thin and always wore a straw hat, too. I couldn’t help staring when he was laughing and talking because he was toothless or at least had very few teeth! He didn’t seem that old, but he didn’t have any teeth. Where were his teeth, I wondered? I was a little scared of him because he had eyes like a hawk and his chin jutted out, without any teeth in his mouth. And he could talk! Reinhold was quieter, but Max and Daddy tried to outtalk each other. Daddy really did like it when Max came to visit us in the Kasper Community.
(Read part 2 in my next column).
Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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