Before Effingham County dairy farmer Martin Feldhake died in 2000, he penned a history of his family, and life on the farm. He called it Feldhake Memoirs. It tells the story of Effingham County agriculture by telling the story of an Effingham County farm family. The Effingham Daily News presents the memoir in four parts. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
Tuesday, Part One: Taking root in Effingham County
Wednesday, Part Two: Growing up on the farm
Thursday, Part Three: Expanding the farm
Friday, Part Four: A farm family
By Martin Feldhake
I, Martin, wish to leave this legacy of some of the years of my life and that of my ancestors and family to my children and to the future generations of the Feldhake family.
In 1973, Clarence decided to retire from dairying and farming. We wanted to keep the farm in the family so I decided to buy his half of everything.
After a lot of arbitration we came to an agreement on the price of the livestock, land and machinery. Clarence kept a small tract of land down the road from the farm where he built a new house.
In regards to our family, Margie was the first born. She was born on April 15, 1941 at approximately 5 p.m. I was working at the J.W. Dryden dairy farm near Jewett. It had rained all day and I arrived home in time for the birth. Clara entered the hospital at 8 p.m. on Monday night and Margie wasn't born until 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
When she started to St. Anthony's Grade School, she rode with me in the milk truck along with my brother Ed's children. In the evening they were supposed to walk home. At this time, the public school buses would not transport the Catholic school children. Several years later the pastor at St. Anthony, Father Goff, was instrumental in getting the public scvhool system to agree to transport the Catholic school children. At first they were dropped of at the corner of Fourth and Fayette in Effingham. Later on they were taken all the way to school.
Margie often suffered from leg pains. If she complained of this after school, her cousin, Richard Feldhake, would stop at Stephen's grocery store and call Clara and tell her that Margie's legs were hurting. Then Clara would take the car and pick them up.
When she was in the sixth grade, she developed rheumatic fever and was put to bed for several weeks. During this time, she had to take twelve aspirins each day. Her heart was saved but the fever left other damages. She had to miss a lot of school and that made catching up with the other students very hard.
In 1954 we bought our first television set. Margie graduated from St. Anthony high school in 1959. When she was 16, she worked at Blalock's Five and Dime as a sales clerk. This store was located on the corner of Jefferson and Banker Street. She kept this job until she married Ray Kaufman on Aug. l1, 1960.
The winters of 1959 and 1960 were marked with big snow storms. The road from the highway was drifted shut several times each year. On those days, Margie would leave her car at Alf and Alice Haarmann's and walk the rest of the way home through the snow drifts. The school kids also had to walk home from the highway since the snow was too deep for the buses to travel. Back then the schools did not have "snow days." School was never canceled. If you could not get there due to the weather, you had to make up the school work that was missed whenever you returned to school.
The second child, Virginia, was born on July 19, 1943 at about 5:30 p.m. weighing 9lb. l4oz. By the time she started to school, the bus picked them up at the highway. At this time the schools were not consolidated. She graduated from St. Anthony High School in 1961. In the fall following her graduation she entered the Ursuline convent in Belleville, Illinois. She remained there until 1967. She left the order shortly before making her final vows.
While in the convent, she attended Marialac college in St. Louis and received a degree in social work. During the summer she and several nuns from the convent would come and spend some time enjoying
life on a farm. They tried their hand at milking cows, driving the tractor and other such farm related chores. After all this "fun," they would come home with us and enjoy one of Clara's good home cooked meals.
The other three girls that entered the convent at the same time also left the order. All this occurred at a time when many changes were being made in the Catholic Church which caused many changes within the convents.
On April 25, 1970, she married Mark Habing. They have four children: Christy, Ben, John, and Greg. One child, Jennifer, died at the age of eight months. They reside on the outskirts of Teutopolis and their children attend the Teutopolis schools. Christy is presently enrolled at Lake Land College, Mattoon studying child care.
When Virginia was small, Margie had difficulty pronouncing her name correctly. Henceforth her name was shortened to Jeanie. Today, Jeanie continues to use her degree in social work. She is presently a caseworker with Catholic Charities in Effingham.
James was our third child and only son. He was born on May 29, 1945 at 3:30 p.m. weighing 6 lb. 12oz. He, too, was born at St. Anthony hospital, Effingham. I remember this particular spring distinctly because it was a very wet year. The crops that had been planted early had to be planted over. We planted corn in the bottom land on the Fourth of July and used it to fill our silos that fall. This was also a memorable year because we got electricity, which brought about many changes.
As a boy and even into his youth, Jim seemed to have a knack for getting hurt. It was a known fact that when I came through the pasture headed home with Jim on my shoulders, he had gotten hurt somehow. He managed to live through those small catastrophes and graduated from St. Anthony grade school. He attended St. James Trade school in Springfield, where he received his high school diploma and learned the machinist trade.
That first year away from home was not an easy one. At first he was very homesick and even thought of running away. The religious brothers who manned the school from principal to cook were very strict and religious. Jim profited from such discipline and training. Once a month he was permitted to come home for the weekend. Since there were very few boys from the Effingham area attending the school, Clara would go and pick him up and another parent would take them back on Sunday evening.
He also got one month summer vacation. He graduated from St. James in 1963. After graduation he became employed in the machinist department at Norge in Effingham. After working there for six months, he enlisted in the army for two years. In the long run this proved to be good because his tour of duty in the army was up shortly before the country became involved in Vietnam.
After service he enrolled in the vocational school in Mattoon and continued his machinist education. He married Susan Loy on Aug. 20, 1966, three months before he finished school. The school placed him in the machinist department at a large factory in Decatur. When this place closed down he worked at Firestone as a machine maintenance person.
In 1973 he returned home to the dairy and farming business when Clarence retired. At this time
Jim had a good job in Decatur and owned a home with a small amount of acreage near Decatur. I was not aware he would like to come back home and farm. When I made the offer to him, he decided
he wanted to try it.
Clarence settled for the appraised value of the land, cattle and machinery. I in turn sold this half except our residence to Jim. In 1973, we formed a partnership which continued until l976, at which time I partially retired.
Jim and Susan are parents of seven children. Bill who is married and lives in Heartville. He is employed as a welder for Higgs Welding Shop near there. Carolyn lives west of Effingham and works with TSI as a computer operator. Barbara works in the suburbs of Chicago as a nanny. Diane is studying nursing and is presently working for an allergy doctor in Effingham. Andy, Kenny and Danny attend school in Effingham.
Evelyn, our fourth child was born on April ll, 1948 at 8:30 p.m weighing 6 lbs. 8 oz. It was a rainy Sunday night. She was the last of our children to be born in the old St. Anthony hospital building. That Sunday morning before Evelyn was born, we put Margie to bed with measles. Dr. Runde had me bring Jeanie and Jim into his office and gave them a measles shot. They got the measles, but only slightly.
When the hospital found out that we had measles at home and that Clara had never had measles, they became upset to say the least. First they put Evelyn in the room with Clara so she could care for her. They talked about isolating the two of them and finally they took Evelyn back to the nursery.
When Evelyn was 4-years-old she had a heart murmer. The doctor put her to bed in her crib for four weeks. We had the crib in the dining room window. She couldn't stand up or crawl around. At night I would carry her to the bedroom and she slept with the other two girls. She recovered from this just fine and it never bothered her again.
She attended both St. Anthony grade and high schools, graduating in 1966. After she turned 16, she worked as a sales clerk at P.N. Hirsch department store in downtown Effingham. After graduation
she was given a political job at the capitol in Springfield. She lived in Springfield with several other girls from this area. She took some evening classes and passed a civil service test. She was then employed as a secretary at the State Highway Division of Transportation in Effingham.
On Jan. 10, 1970 she married Ron Weber. They moved to Collinsville and he worked as a CPA in St.
Louis. Their wedding day is easily remembered since it was 10 degrees below zero that morning and there was about ten inches of snow on the ground which had fallen earlier in the week.
Evelyn worked as a secretary in St. Louis for a few years until their first child was born. They are parents of four children: Christine, who is a student at SIU Edwardsville, Sharon, Doug and Janenne, all in school.
During her years of homemaking and rearing her children Evelyn learned to play the guitar. She later taught guitar to others and plays at masses at their parish church, St. Peter and Paul, Collinsville. After her children became school age she returned to school herself attending H&R Block Income Tax school. With this knowledge she and Ron opened their own accounting business in Collinsville. In addition she sells insurance.
Dorothy is the last born, or I guess you would say is the baby of the family. She is the only one of our children born at home, since shortly after Evelyn's birth, the hospital burned down. She
was born on Oct. 7, 1950 at about 8:30 p.m. She was our smallest, weighing just six pounds.
A county nurse was summoned out to the house to stay with Clara. Dr. Runde walked in the door that night just in time to deliver her. We had tried to call him earlier but he could not be located. Of course, Jim was very disappointed because he wanted a brother. It didn't take too much to cheer him up. I believe a pack of gum did the trick.
It took a lot of preparation to have a baby at home. Water had to be tested and certain bed clothes were made. We hired a young girl to help with the cooking, housework and the other kids, but she didn't work out too well so we sent her home and did the best we could on our own. Back in those days a mother had to stay in bed for ten days after giving birth.
When Dorothy started school, Clara had to drive around the block before she would go into school. For years she would always have a stomach ache. She was nervous about school. She always liked to sing especially when at the barn doing chores. During her senior year at St. Anthony High School she had one of the main vocal parts in the school play. During high school she worked as a sales clerk at P.N. Hirsch Department Store.
After graduating in 1968, she was employed as a receptionist at Samuel Music Company. Later she worked at the Effingham Daily News as a reporter and photographer.
Dorothy married Tom Zumbahlen on July 25, 1970. They are parents of three children: Bill and Mike, who are presently working as carpenters, and Lori, who attends Teutopolis High School.
Tom and Dorothy own and operate a dairy farm north of Effingham and they belong to St. Mary's parish, Green Creek.
Retired from farming
In 1984, I built a work shop to spend part of my leisure time. After purchasing some shop equipment I became interested in making novelty things. I enjoy making things for my children, grandchildren and friends. In 1991, I constructed a large wooden cross as a memorial for my long time friend, Dale Loy. Dale died earlier in the year. The cross was installed on the bell tower of Loy Chapel during a dedication service at the church.
Even though I am retired from the farming and dairy business, I continue to help Jim with the farming whenever he needs an extra tractor driver.
Clara and I celebrated our Golden Wedding anniversary on Aug. 20, 1989 with a dinner and an open house at the Effingham Knights of Columbus hall. In March 1991, my wife and children
had an 80th birthday party for me. I enjoyed seeing relatives and many old acquaintances.
I have seen many changes in my life since those days of horses and walking to school. I hope this autobiography will enable my children to pass on some of their heritage to their children. The
days were not always easy but with the help of my wife, Clara, and my children, each day became a day to cherish and remember those things shared together.
It is unbelievable the changes that have taken place in my lifetime. When I was born, the automobile was just coming into use. It was made very crude. If driven about 30,000 miles, it was junk. Very few people understood how they operated.
When I started to school, we seldom saw an airplane – maybe a couple of times a year. If we heard one, the teacher would leave us go outside to watch it fly over.
Farming has gone from hand labor to mechanized equipment. Milking went from hand milking cows that took about 10 to 15 minutes a cow to machine milking 15 to 20 cows at a time. Breeding went from a neighborhood bull to automatic insemination.
When I was a young boy, maybe one farmer in a hundred had a car and it was usually broke down. My first ride in a car was in a 1914 Ford that my Uncle Joe owned. Labor went from $2 a day for nine hours, which was considered a good job, to maybe a hundred dollars a day.
My Dad went through a two hour operation, with two doctors at a total cost of one hundred dollars. What would it cost today? There was no such thing as hospital insurance. Farmers were more content. They walked or rode their horse driven implements. They rested the horses every hour or two, they also took an hour off at noon to rest and feed the horses and themselves. With all of these changes the young generation can see why we older people seem to drag our feet a little these days. But of course this is progress. Teaching has gone from the slate, ruler and pencils and the three
"R's" to computers and calculators.
As I close my book of memories, it remains to be seen what changes will take place during the next 50 to 80 years that you, my children and grandchildren, will experience.