Category Archives: History

Inauguration Poetry

I’m not an inauguration kind of person.  I know they happen, but political speeches just don’t do it for me.  Even on a day when I was particularly glad that a certain inauguration was happening, I just didn’t want to watch.  Except for the poetry.  I can’t put the whole poem here (copyright issues) but I like this part quite a bit:

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried

I was surprised to discover that only four presidents have included poetry at their inaugurations: JFK, Clinton, Obama and now Biden (Carter had a poem but it was read at the gala not the swearing-in ceremony).   It will be interesting to see if the other party eventually decides to add poetry to their inauguration traditions.

While I’m happy about events this week, I admit I am still shaken by what the last four years has unearthed and disgorged in our nation.  So here is my haiku for the inauguration:

Breathing easier –

But still worried about us,

Too many crazies.

Any poetry speaking to you this week?  Yours or anybody else’s?

Grandma’s diaries

Today’s post comes to us from Ben

My grandmother, Lillie (Betz) Eggler, kept a daily diary from the mid 1950’s – about 1987. The small 3×5 book that allowed 1 page per day.   I didn’t know about these until this past summer when my oldest sister mentioned that she had them all. Grandma died in 1990.

It’s been really fun to read about ourselves or the cousins. Seems like every time a grandchild was sick, they went to Grandma’s house. The weather might be terrible but that didn’t stop them from going somewhere; she’d write how bad the roads were, yet she still went to Mothers and Daughters club. Or drove 60 miles to visit her brother. It’s given my siblings and I a lot of things to talk about.

Grandma wrote that she went to a 4H softball game where my brother pitched. He won. The Siblings talked about a club that was our club’s nemesis and their coach. I talked about knowing the coach in later years through farming activities. Part of what is so interesting is that she was still in this area; I know many of the people or places she’s talking about.

Grandma wrote about changes at the farms: Joe and June (my parents) are having a silo built. Who is combining corn or who is planting. She writes about the weather and going over to stay with a friend who had surgery.

On October 27th, 1970 She wrote about June and Joe driving to Menominee to celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary. My oldest sister, Ellen, was at Stout University Menominee for college. That sort of blew my mind. Twenty-two years! Five Kids! One in College!! Grandma and Grandpa (Victor) were also married on October 27th, 1920. 1920!!  Grandma writes it would have been 50 years for them. Grandpa died in 1963. (My brother and his wife also married on October 27th, 1979.) But, I just can’t get over mom and dad at 22 years! So Young!  

There’s a lot about taking off or putting on the storm windows.  There’s a lot about car repairs, washing clothes, or going to the doctor. I learned that bad lower front teeth were a family trait. That explains a lot; Her, mom, me; those lower front ones have always been a problem. A lot about the weather and things in the national news: Earthquakes. Vietnam, Apollo missions. 

Sometimes Grandma wrote about things she was canning, freezing, or cooking. She made a lot of jams, buns, watermelon rind pickles, or fried mini dragons. My mom doesn’t remember a lot of this stuff. And it was 50+ years ago so I don’t blame her.  I had to look up watermelon rind pickles; never heard of them before. Fried mini dragons? Anybody? No one in my family knows what they are. Anyone still making watermelon rind pickles? I was a good baby. My brother was “busy”.

I wrote about Grandma and her car in a post back in July of 2011.

I also have a 5-year diary from 1926-1930 from Kelly’s Uncles mother. It’s just a sentence per day. Lots of household chores, car repairs, and what they did for entertainment that day. She saw Louie Armstrong in concert one night. Pretty cool.

Do you keep a diary? Have you ever?

Talkin’ ‘Bout My G-Generation

Last week, the Day After the Madness in DC, my daughter and I had a conversation. We packed a lot into a few minutes, she and I – and that conversation has stuck with me, because of what she asked and how she asked it.

On the Day After the Madness in DC, she said that each of her classes took some time to let everyone talk about the events of the prior day. What were their thoughts, what were they feeling, what might they do (if anything) about it? The sort of questions you might expect, especially in a high school history class (one of her classes that day).

This is what stuck with my daughter: her teachers reminded her and her fellow students that they are the future and they can make things better. And she wanted to know, appealed to me to know if I am honest, if I was told the same thing when I was her age. It was clear she felt the message was that the onus was on her and her peers to figure out how to fix what we did not. She wanted to know if the same demand was placed on me, because her eyes and her person was telling me it felt like too much in that moment – too much for her and her peers to take on alone, unfair that my generation was asking them to repair and change what we could or would not, and not right that we should deny responsibility for the mess that we made or allowed to happen.

I assured her that yes, we were told the same thing – that we could and should make things better. That yes, with each generation some of the responsibility to make change is passed on. We tried our best, we got some things right and some things we clearly did not. There is work that takes more than a generation to get right, change that was started before I was born that still needs our voices and labor to bring to fruition. I did my best to assure her that it wasn’t all on her and her peers’ shoulders, I and my peers would be standing with them.

In that moment I saw her fear that change wasn’t possible, that hatred and bigotry are more powerful than inclusion and justice. All I could do was assure her that we can still aspire to be better, we have been working for and will continue to work for change. That while we have made progress for equity in some places, in others there is still a lot to do and I will be there along side her as the generation before me stood with me in the work of justice and change. I’m not sure it was enough because I couldn’t tell her that there will be an end to when each new generation is asked to pick up the mantle, that maybe, just maybe, she will see real change in her lifetime. Because in that moment, I wasn’t sure that I had seen it yet in mine. (Yes, with distance, I can see that there has been good change, real change, but in that moment it was hard to see.) The kids have picked up the mantle, of that I am sure, but don’t let them carry it alone. We still have time. We don’t have to take our hand off the baton in this relay just yet. We can still make change.

Have you ever felt like too much was being asked of you? What did the prior generation pass on to you that you weren’t ready for just yet?

A Little Diversion: The Queen’s Gift

Today’s post comes from Barbara from Rivertown:

Drawing on our recent discussion of what it’s like to be Royal, I wonder if part of the fun might be owning stuff no one else owns, and having the power to give things away if one was so inclined.

I happened on this article listing 31 unexpected things owned by HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

They are as follows:

1. All the swans on the River Thames

2. A pair of corgis

3. All the Dolphins in the United Kingdom

4. Nearly all of London’s Regent Street

5. Half of the UK’s shoreline

6. Six royal residences

7. More than 200 Launer handbags

8. A private ATM

9. The best seat in the house at Wimbledon

10. The Tower of London

11. 150,000 works of art (many of them priceless)

12. Queen Victoria’s Sketchbook

13. A winning team of race horses

14. A car collection worth more than $10 million

15. A tiara covered in 1333 diamonds

16. A massive Faberge Collection

17. Westminster Abbey

18. Hyde Park  [et al.]

19. A Gold Record

20. A bat colony

21. The world’s largest clear-cut diamond

22. Three Crown Dependencies

23. An Aberdeen Angus Cow

24. Two tortoises from the Seychelles

25. Her own flag

26. Four Guinness World Records

27. A bold Blue Peter badge

28. The British seabed

29. An offshore wind farm

30. The UK’s Continental Shelf

31. All of Scotland’s gold mines

32. 25,000 Acres of forest

33. Trafalgar Square

34. Queen Victoria’s wedding dress

35. Henry VIII’s armor

36. Queen Elizabeth II’s own tartan

37. Millions of square feet of retail space

38. A baptismal font

39. A national collection of Mulberries

The game is:  

The Queen has decided it’s time to “lighten up”, and will give each of you one  (or more) of these gifts.

Which of these items would you most like to have?

B-17 Fridge

We are extremely unhappy with our kitchen fridge. It is a GE brand fridge, with a top freezer and bottom refrigerator section. It is no frills, without an ice maker or water dispenser.  We have had it for about 10 years.

The  plastic edging on the glass refrigerator shelves cracked and we had to replace the shelving. That was not cheap. The fan for the freezer burned out once already, and was also replaced.  A couple of months ago it started making a horrendous noise every time the motor runs. It is so loud it is hard to hold a conversation in the kitchen, and it seems to run all the time.  It wakes me up at night. I manually defrosted the freezer the other day, and that helped for a day or two before it started with the noise again.  I refuse to throw any more money at it.

My father never liked loud noises or cramped spaces. I attribute that to his time as a gunner in a B-17 when he was stationed in England during the Second World War.  He would have found the noises from this fridge disturbing.  He also hated throwing money at appliance repair. We went to our main appliance store a couple of weeks ago and found an LG fridge that fit in our kitchen space. It has a double fridge door with the freezer section at the bottom.  I was shocked to find that it will take two months to get it. This was true for all the models and brands we looked at. I guess Covid has slowed manufacturing.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that the current fridge lasts until the new one arrives.  I will think pleasant thoughts about my dad to counter the annoyance when the Flying Fortress in the kitchen roars.

What appliance or machinery woes have you had?

A Winner

It was on this day in 1934 that Ella Fitzgerald headed to the Apollo Theatre in New York for Amateur Night.  It was a weekly event that had only been started earlier that year and to get onto stage, your name had to be drawn from a hat.  Ella was just 15 and had gone on a bet with two friends.  She had intended to dance, but the act preceding her was a dance duo; she didn’t think her dancing would measure up, so on the spot she decided to sing instead.  She sang “The Object of My Affection” and brought the house down. 

Within a year she joined Chick Webb’s band with whom she scored her first big hit “A Tisket A Tasket”.  The rest is jazz history.      

Have you ever won a drawing?

All Saints

Sunday was All Saints Day, a fairly solemn day in our church when we remember all our congregation members who died over the past year, as well as our own dear departed. I thought how nice it would be to hear my father’s jokes and teasing again, along with my mother’s keen observations and funny stories. I also thought how much fun it would be to scritch our two Welsh Terriers  behind the ears again, and see the trouble they might get into. I consider them departed saints, too, no matter how naughty they were.

Who are the departed saints  you might like to have a nice conversation with today?

Big Dig

My third cousin, Tom, lives in Madelia and likes to hunt for fossils. He posted recently a story about  someone finding a 5 foot long wooly mammoth tusk near New Ulm. That must have been so exciting to dig up! Who would have imagined mammoths near New Ulm?

Paleontology was fun to learn about, but I always wanted to be an archeologist.  I love reading about history,  and right now I would really love to focus all my attention on the very distant past. (Thinking about the future isn’t so pleasant at this point. ) I think I would like to explore Frisian and Saxon settlements anywhere in the world, just to get a better sense of my ancestral culture.

What era of history fascinates you? What would you like to dig up?

Popular Names

Today’s post comes from Jacque.

Recently I scrolled through the Social Security Administration list of popular names.   I found a lot of Liams, Michaels, Benjamins, Emmas, Avas, and Fridas.  Brittany and Tiffany are now parenting Liam and Ava.  It is so interesting how names run from generation to generation.    I found this in my own family tree during 3 generations of naming that stretched from 1718-1750’s.

During the early part of the pandemic, when we were socially distanced at home without end,  sorted and scanned  family history information which I have inherited from my mother and my grandfather’s cousin, Muriel, who gathered together some Civil War letters from her grandfather who fought in Sherman’s March to the Sea.  She, at age 92 years, is his only living grandchild.

In her things I found a letter and application to join the DAR under the Patriot Christian Hamaker.  A polite response from the DAR points out that there was no documentation for a Christian Hamaker.  This must have been disappointing for Muriel, who wanted badly to join the DAR.  Only a John was documented.  HMMM, I thought, logging on to to clarify.  Yes, indeed, Christian fought, but with a name complication.    Here is what I found.  Johannes Adamus Hammacher emigrated to America in 1740, marrying Eva Marie Licht upon arriving.  They produced 12 living children from 1743-1764. They were as follows:

Johannes Adam Hamaker

Anna Maria Hamaker

Maria Salome Hamaker

Maria Eve Hamaker

Elizabeth Hamaker

Johannes Henry Hamaker

Johannes David Hamaker

Johannes Abraham Hamaker

***Johannes Christian Hamaker –my direct ancestor

Johannes Isaac Hamaker

Johannes Samuel Hamaker

Johannes Phillip Hamaker

Do you see patterns here? Poor Elizabeth with no “Maria” listed must have felt left out.  All eight sons fought, all were recorded as “Johannes” or “John” from in the same Pennsylvania Regiment from 1776-1783.  It appears from the records that after one of them married and started farming or running a sawmill, the next brother would report for duty when the call was issued because the practice was that they travelled back and forth from home to the front as needed. I suspect that the oldest, Adam, fought the most since there were four daughters between him and the next son.  Poor Muriel did not know this.  I called her several years ago to discuss it, but she could no longer follow the conversation, which was sad.  She did the family such a service by preserving a great deal of important family history.

In subsequent generations the last name is recorded as  Hamaker, Hammaker, Haymaker, Hammacher, Hamacher.  My three greats grandmother is listed as Nancy Ann Hammacher in an Iowa census.  She then married Martin Klein.  Kline.  Cline.  Only George Foreman who named all his children, George Forman, including the daughters, created more confusion.

Got some interesting family names?  What names would you like to see come back into fashion? What names are you tired of?

Snippets That Stick

Today’s post comes to us from our Ben

I was talking with a friend the other day and we were talking history of our area and I made the comment that I am always surprised to see in older photos how few trees were in the area. I tend to think, in the terms of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of the men clearing the fields of trees and making room. So to see these old photos and there simply are not any trees for hundreds of acres.


And my friend says “yes, Minnesota was Oak Savannah, so clumps of oaks, but really, not much else”. And I thought oh yeah, I guess I must have learned that in middle school, US history, or Geography, or a visit to the nature center, or something. But I forgot. And then he simply says “It was Oak Savannah” and now it’s stuck.

Isn’t that interesting how we can learn something in school but it won’t stick and then 23 years later someone says “Big pointed bars are called ‘drift pins’” and there it is. Stuck in your brain.

People say “lefty loosey, righty tighty” and I’ve never been able to make that work. I just know you turn it this way to put it on and that way to take it off. Lefty?? From the top of my fingers or bottom?? That just makes me think too hard.

What’s stuck in your brain?