Saturday, March 29, 2008

Trip to Orland

My sister and I drove to Orland recently to visit my grandchildren on the dairy. Laura requested that I bring Pizza Villa pizza and Rollen Donuts from Merced. We only stayed one night.
We turned off I-5 at Willows to see the Drive-In where my sisters worked for a couple of weeks back in 1952. I think we found the right building on the old 99 Hwy and Road 162 going to Glenn. We then drove to Glenn; a long drive with not much to see until you get to the community of Glenn at Road 45. The grocery store with the gasoline pumps is no longer in business, but the building is still there. The little post office is still in operation. We were surprised to see so many mailboxes with the Giesbrecht name on Road 45. We stopped by the Mennonite Church and took a picture.
Also went down Road 48, where we used to live. Nothing is left that is recognizable. Our old house was torn down as soon as Uncle Abe purchased it in 1953. We moved back to Winton before Christmas in 1953.
My daughter and son-in-law like Orland a lot and don't intend to move back to Merced County. That was hard for me to believe at first, since my sisters and I were anxious to get back to Winton.
We had an interesting 2 days, watching the grandkids do the milking and other chores while the parents were away. Mandy and her boyfriend John were in charge of the milking. Tom and Laura pitched in to lighten the load. Mandy is the cheese maker and oversees that part of the dairy operation on a daily basis. Mandy has been on the Rachael Ray Show, which aired the day before Thanksgiving in 2007. Cojo did a makeover on Mandy for the show. See Mandy's blog here. To see more pictures from our Orland trip click here.
When I got back home and drove into the garage, I could see Maggie the cat, watching me from her cat door. She watched me leave and watched me come home. She doesn't like to be home alone. I love to visit the grandkids, wish they were closer so it would be an easy one day trip.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fruitland Avenue in the 1940s

Mrs. Manuel Morgado is standing in front of their property on Fruitland Avenue, the mailing address in the 1940s was Rt. 1 Box 426, Winton, Calif. My dad purchased this property in the mid 194os and the Giesbrecht family lived there for many years. The white house on the left was Tony George's house and across the road was Fred Vallado's. Their two wives were sisters and Manuel Morgado was their brother.
This old road holds many memories for my sisters and I. We rode bikes up and down this road, roller skated and walked to and from school. At the end of Fruitland was Winton Way. Sometimes we would catch a ride to school on Winton way with Mrs. Crookham. Sometimes it was so cold that the hair on our legs stood straight out with white frost on them. (Girls only wore dresses to school back then and ankle socks, no tights or stockings.)
Joe Caton lived at the other end of Fruitland Avenue, at the curve. He had a very old Model T truck (flat bed) and we liked to watch him drive by. Once we even got to ride in it. It shook as he drove along the road. I thought it was pretty exciting to catch a ride with him.
My dad sold this property about the time the Atwater High School was being built on the left hand side of Fruitland, near Winton Way. My parents, with Johnny and Elsie moved to Bell Drive in Atwater.
Tony George's house was moved to Merced and became the office for the Merced Union High School District at the corner of Olive and G Streets. Fred Vallado built a new house for his family closer to the road. Everything changed quickly after that. The area is now within Atwater City Limits.

Early Memories of the Giesbrecht Sisters

When our parents, John and Eva (Dirks) Giesbrecht were first married, they lived on Gertrude Avenue in Winton. The two oldest girls, Carolyn and Ina were born in that house, but although the family still lived there in 1937 when Lorraine was born, she was the first in the family to be born in the Merced General Hospital.
Carolyn remembers the house didn’t have electricity at first. "Dad fixed this with about 12 batteries in the garage and charged them up someway to supply lights to the house. When the lights began to dim – he’d go out and start the Delco Battery Plant, as it was called. (Above picture of the Gertrude house was taken much later, about the time it was torn down.)
I have one of the kerosene lamps we used back then. We were ‘modern enough’ to have a Model A Ford. Dad would crank it up and away we’d go.

When I was old enough to read – I remember a sign saying ‘population 300.’ Winton Way was 2 lanes – Gertrude was a narrow 2 lane – somewhat black-topped. We lived just West of the irrigation canal. Seems like the bridge was a little of a climb for us youngsters to cross to get to the bus stop in front of Simon Friesen’s house. And the blackberries were right at the edge of the road. They were growing onto the barbed wire fence of the Frank Furr property. We had to be careful to not back into the vines while waiting for the bus.
I fell into the canal when I was perhaps 3 years old. Mr. Fernandez saw me fall in and got me out or I’d have drowned. This I don’t remember."
Our Dad spoke of working in the wheat harvest, not far from home on the Groady Lee Ranch. He sewed the sacks closed after they filled up with wheat. He showed me his needle and how he did it. Later I asked for the needle and I hope I still have it somewhere.

Dad met Mom at the Livingston Raisin Stemmer. He was the mechanic there and Mom and some of her sisters worked on the belt as the raisins came down the belt. I guess they tried to pick out the stems from the raisins on a shaking belt.

Mom was the first born of George and Susie Dirks. They moved to Winton from Greensburg Kansas in 1923. They bought the 2-story house on Cypress from Frank Dirks, brother to George.
Dad was the second child and first son born to Cornelius and Katherine Giesbrecht who came from Canada in 1911. They lived on Gertrude Avenue when Mom and Dad met.
I went to Winton School with Dave Koehn being the bus driver and custodian. I think Tom Miller was the principal and in those days kids behavior was pretty good. There were paddles for those who needed it. I don’t think parents objected to their kids getting reprimanded.
Sisters, Miss Massengale and Mrs. Hinton were the 1st and 2nd grade teachers. There were two buildings connected to each other with a sort of breezeway. The restrooms and supply rooms were a separate building near the playground. We played Red Rover - over the building during recess."

Both Carolyn and Ina remember the iceman delivering a block of ice for the icebox on the porch. They also had milk delivered to the door. We also had bums/hobos come begging for food. Mom always made them something.
Picture is Ina and Carolyn when they lived on Gertrude Avenue.
Ina remembers going to Simon Friesens’ quite often to play with Adeline. "I would have to cross a ditch to get there, but there was a nice foot-bridge across it. Adeline’s mother, Dorothy was worried about me going alone as they lost a daughter in that ditch. Dorothy would walk me across it to go home. I guess I would run off without Mom knowing where I was. One time I was standing in the ditch by the main road. A man came by in a car, stopped on the bridge and helped me out of the ditch. I was just standing there, very little water, but a cement ditch. So he walked me home."
Mom and Dad had dark green shades in their bedroom. I had measles or pink eye – had to stay in that room quite a bit to stay out of the sunlight.
As we got older, we would go to Grandma Dirks for family gatherings. The bigger kids would play Kick the Can, Red Rover. They had an apple tree. We would get to bob for apples out of a tub.
"I was about 7 years old when we moved to Fruitland Avenue to a larger farm. We were in the Atwater School District and was supposed to go to Atwater School. I was in the 2nd grade. I cried every morning as I wanted to go back to Winton. Daddy finally got permission to let us go back. He went to Montgomery Wards and bought me a little blue bicycle and I stayed home from school one day to learn to ride it. We were glad to be back at Winton. We had to ride bikes or walk 2 ½ miles each way."
Carolyn: "Later we would sometimes catch a ride to school with Mrs. Sybil Crookham or the Hinton, Massengale teachers. We never had rides home with them. But I guess it was worth it to stay at Winton. We sometimes skated from Fruitland Avenue to the Livingston canal on Winton Way. Skates had a way of needing oiling. Dad had a 50 gallon drum of oil. I’d dip my skates in there for a fast oiling!
Once or twice we had baby chicks delivered by our mail carrier, Sam Alexander. We always looked forward to receiving mail, Christmas catalogs were especially exciting and we girls would pour over them and pick out what we wanted, but usually didn’t get as there wasn’t much money for toys. But still it was exciting to decide what we would like to have.

Ina: On Fruitland Avenue, Daddy bought 20 acres first, then another 30 acres on the right and later another 20 acres on the left. We had 5 acres of peaches, acres of grapes plus a small dairy. We would play in the little irrigation ditch dad would make to irrigate our vineyard. We had a little dog that would take us by the arm and try to pull us out of the water. We would be on our hands and knees mud crawling.

We also had to help on the farm. We cut peaches, went out in the orchard to pick them, then work in the dry yard after they were sulphured. We didn’t like cutting grapes at all. So Dad let us drive the tractor to throw out boxes for them to pick in. Then we went back to pick up the full boxes.
Carolyn: Dad made his own tractor and I learned to drive it. I drove it as he french ploughed the grape vineyard, hauled out the picked grapes, etc. Farm life was hard.
Dad was a "jack of all trades." He could fix most anything. Mom was the homemaker. Seemed like she was cooking or baking all the time.

Lorraine: There were several old outbuildings on this property. One was an old shed with a 2nd story, a rickety old stairway was on the North side. Some boards were missing, so we girls had to be very careful going up to the top.
Inside we had old comics from the Sunday newspapers. The "Katzenjammer Kids" (by Rudolph Dirks, no less) was always my favorite, but there was also "Bringing Up Father," "Dinglehoofer and His Dog," "Little Iodine" and others. We never had comic books, but the neighbors were generous in loaning us theirs.

Another old building, between the house and the cutting shed, we girls were allowed to make into a playhouse. We used orange crates for our cupboards. We had a mixture of toy dishes and cast-offs from who knows where. I remember one day we rode bikes to Winton to the second-hand store and bought some dishes for the playhouse. I picked out a very pretty blue pitcher with Shirley Temples’ picture on it in white. I had quite a time trying to hold it and the bike handle bars at the same time. I dropped the pitcher and broke it. I was quite upset. I don’t remember what Carolyn and Ina bought."

Another early memory (I was a pre-schooler) is walking through our grape vineyard and finding quite a few bird nests. Some had very pretty eggs in them. We decided to take the eggs home, even though the birds protested loudly. When we got home Carolyn and Ina cracked the eggs and fried them in our playhouse. (They would stack a few used bricks to make a campfire.) They told me to eat the fried eggs. They tasted o.k. and I didn’t notice that they weren’t having any. Dad sure laughed when he heard about it later that day."

Carolyn: As a teen we had to help on the farm. Irrigating the sweet potatoes. It was so hot out there – we’d wear our bathing suits and get a tan. We also had to learn to milk cows. We had what was called a Grade B Dairy. I hated milking. For a while we had to carry the 15 or 20 gallon milk can to the road – put it in a barrel of water to cool before the milk truck came by.
Finally Dad bought a milk cart, making it much easier. Then later we had a circle drive so the truck could pick it up at the barn.

Ina: I enjoyed the Dairy. I wanted Dad to put stanchions on both sides of the barn so I could milk more cows. We never got that far, had only 15 cows at the most.
Dad built a large shop on the dairy farm. It was 24 X 40 feet with cement floor. Before the walls were up, we kids would roller skate on the cement floor. It had a center post, which I thought I would swing around it. I wasn’t too smart– got slivers and almost fell doing it.
Dad would work on cars in there. Even Judge Walters in Atwater came to have some work done. That’s where Dad had his accident from working on Dave Loewen’s car, used jacks instead of a hoist and the jack slipped and the car fell on dad, breaking his back. Dave’s son Jim was there to help him out from under it. He was in a cast from his chest down past his hips for months. Dr. Jackson finally cut it shorter so he could sit.

Elsie: Our brother, John was born in 1943 and I in 1946 when the family lived on Fruitland Avenue. Neighbors were a very special part of our lives. My brother John and I played almost everyday with the Boesch children.
We had a circle driveway going past the barn where many adventures were had. The hay bales were great to climb on or hide behind during games of Western shoot-outs. We often took names of our favorite characters – Annie Oakley, Dale Evans, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and used fence posts and twine to ride away.

We had a section next to the shop with every fruit tree imaginable, also grapes, walnuts and almonds. It was great — the soil was sandy.
One year after a lot of rain our field was left with a large lake, so my Dad put his fishing boat and oars in it for us to row around. My Mom often made chocolate pie and potato salad for our friends and me to picnic. We went to the back of the field, sat beside a very small ditch and if we were irrigating, we would try to swim afterwards.
One hot afternoon our only swimming resource was the slimy cow trough. We were soon whisked out of there, so as not to disturb the cows when they came for a drink.
Animals added much to a carefree childhood. I sat on a large Holstein cow named Dora who had the prettiest curly bangs and would walk around with me in the corral, allowing me to pretend I could be sitting atop a beautiful horse!
Wednesdays I felt lucky to go to the Atwater Auction with my Dad. . . . the smell of those delicious hamburgers and onions . . . the smokey section where the buyers sat and gave their sometimes secret bids. . . and the hope of finding a calf or horse just for me.
We always had special dogs, cats, chickens and once a duck and a goat! The neighbors let me borrow their donkey one day and their horse one winter.

In the evenings we played hide and seek or kick the can. Sometimes John would be busy striking matches behind a tree that he hoped was a barrier between him and my Dad who was milking cows in the barn.

We often had fish frys and homemade ice cream. Once my folks, with our aunt and uncle, Katie and Henry tried to make root beer. They were even going to bottle it! My thoughts of having all the root beer I ever wanted was short lived as I watched their faces as they sipped and tablespooned that root beer, trying to figure what went wrong in the fermenting process.

My Mom usually made hot fried bread dough – a real tasty treat for after school.

When my sisters were out working, Margie and I would secretly indulge ourselves with their jewelry and makeup. Since we didn’t know about fingernail polish remover we used a razor blade trying to speedily remove red polish before her Dad came home.

When we visited the Down’s who lived ½ mile around the corner we always walked each other half way home. We knew all the neighbors. They were all very good people and nothing compares to the memory of walking those familiar roads home on a beautiful summer night.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Brother, John

My brother, John B. Giesbrecht was born in 1943, the fourth child in the family and the first boy for my parents. My dad was thrilled to have a son at last and wanted to show his love by giving him all that he could. Money was not plentiful, but Johnny got pretty much what he wanted.

For some reason, Johnny had a serious stuttering problem, which started at an early age. This made school difficult for him. I learned later that the kids teased him, which didn't surprise me. His teacher and the school principal tried to help him and set up an appointment with a hypnotist to come to the school. A note was sent home informing my parents of the appointment. My dad did not trust this method of treatment, so he kept Johnny home from school that day. So, life was not easy for Johnny. He graduated from the 8th grade at Winton Grammar School and that was the end of his formal education.

The neighbor boys were his close friends and he had a close relationship with them all his life. They liked to go camping in the mountains, in the higher elevations where they had to pack in by mule or on foot.

At the age of 18, Johnny's brother-in-law taught him how to drive truck. Johnny loved trucks and this would have been a wonderful career for him, but he became addicted to alcohol and gambling. Johnny never married. At times he verbalized his dissatisfaction with his life, but was not willing to give up the gambling or alcohol. He wanted to make a living by gambling and at times he did win big, but of course lost more than he won over time.
On December 23, 2006, Johnny fell (he had been drinking) and broke his neck. This fall caused him to be paralyzed from the neck down. He was able to gain some movement, but not enough to be able to summon help from the nurses if he needed it. Johnny could not breathe on his own and had a Trac and a ventilator, which he depended on continually. Johnny was transferred to Los Angeles County because the hospital in Fresno could not find a bed for him in a Sub-Acute facility closer to home. His big desire was to be moved back to Winton and be closer to family and friends.
Johnny died on February 1, 2008, exactly one year from the date he went to LA county.
Click here to see more pictures of Johnny.