Interview with Helen Letkemann 1.2

Dublin Core


Interview with Helen Letkemann 1.2


farm life
religious identity
ice skating







Oral History Item Type Metadata


Kampen, Christine
Thiessen, Angela


Letkemann, Helen

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Helen Letkemann 1.2 2005-091-4753 29:43 G3 Local Cultures farm life religious identity ice skating Letkemann, Helen Kampen, Christine Thiessen, Angela wav 2005-091-4753.wav 0 Other audio English 0 Skating Letkemann continues to talk about activities at school. Her brother who was the only one in the family who had skates learned to skate. She is not sure whether her other brother used the same skates. She has to ask them. It was the same with the bicycle, they didn't have one at Roseisle, Manitoba, yet. Letkemann asks is she could now talk about her time in Graysville, Manitoba. 49.181667, -97.939722 12 Interview location: Winkler, Manitoba, Canada. 37 Farming at Graysville, Manitoba After 11 years in Roseisle, Manitoba, the farmyard was sold. Actually it was sold beforehand, and her father started to look for a new place but didn't find anything for a long time. It was the last month before the family had to move out that her father found this place at Graysville, Manitoba. It had a big house and a big yard, and a barn that was &quot ; fairly old&quot ; (Letkemann shows a picture that was taken later). There were no granaries but a chicken barn, and another one that could be used for chickens or pigs. The house had been empty for two summers, and the weeds were high, all over the yard. There were holes in the walls. People had made them to take the honey from the bees that had been inside the house. For years they had trouble with bees coming in after the had fixed the holes from the inside. There was a well, 160 feet deep. 100 feet were dug, another 60 were drilled (or it was the opposite). They had to pump 100 times before they got any water. The well was dry because it wasn't used. There was a cistern in the house which used the rain water (for washing). Later, they would always melt ice and snow for washing. They would haul drinking water from two miles away. Lektemann shows a picture depicting watering the cattle. There was a big tank, and her brothers had to go and haul water everyday during the week, not on weekends. They hauled it with four horses from 1 mile away. They emptied the water into the well and pumped it for the cattle. The also had two dugouts (an old one and a shallow one which they enlarged), and they used machines to make a &quot ; great water pool&quot ; out of them. All the water running off from the fields, and rain, collects there, and that was the drinking water for the cattle in summer. In winter, they had to haul in the water. They got their own drinking water from other neighbours. They could also drink the water they had in the well (it gave them more water after a while) but when they first moved there, it was only one pail a day. Later they cleaned the well and they got more water, but it was very hard water with lots of minerals, &quot ; it was not a good-tasting water&quot ; . At Roseisle, they had had good water but at Graysville they had to be very careful how they used water, and they had a lot of cattle by then. At Graysville, they had a section of land (much more than before), and it was of better quality, not as sandy as at the previous place. It was not really clay but better, and gave a better yield. The horses couldn't do all the work, it was too slow to work all the land. It was bush there too. So her father bought his first tractor, a John Deer-second hand tractor. It was &quot ; very pleasing&quot ; for Letkemann's brothers to drive a tractor. The family had moved to Graysville in September 1938, and they got the tractor maybe in 1939 or 1940. Letkemann also drove the tractor but didn't like it as much as her sister, as Letkemann was &quot ; more fearful&quot ; . 49.509167, -98.1575 12 Locality: Graysville, Manitoba, Canada. 452 Harvest time, adventures with watermelons Letkemann recalls that she did &quot ; whatever chores had to be done&quot ; . There was also &quot ; inside work&quot ; , and a lot of garden work. During harvest time, stooking was her and her sister's job. Her older brother would drive the tractor, the youngest would help them stooking the sheaves but it was hard for him. An implement to cut the grain was pulled by the tractor (Letkemann can't recall the term). It was a binder but not a self-propelled binder. They had to go swathe by swathe around the field. Her sister was driving the tractor, and sometimes, she had to stop but couldn't hear their father calling with all the noise, and she didn't want to make mistakes. In a way, it was easier doing the stooking. After a long day on the field, they still had to do the milking, feed the chickens and pigs. When the men came home from the field, they had a late supper, and then they had to wash the dishes. By the time they went to sleep, they had dreams about stooking and picking berries. They did a lot of canning. At Roseisle as well as at Graysville, they had a lot of watermelons in their garden. They hauled them home &quot ; with a trailer you might say&quot ; , with a wagon and horses: &quot ; Lots of people got some of our good-tasting watermelons&quot ; . They also pickled them. They had a big barrel in the basement, with whole watermelons, and they would scoop them out. They preserved them with salt water, dill and horse reddish. It was pickled watermelons. They also made syrup out of watermelons. They boiled the juice, and the sweeter the watermelons, the nicer the syrup, or it would be faster to make the syrup and yield more. They had a big cauldron, and they cooked the syrup outdoors. They called the cauldron M... (inaudible). It was a big pot, it stood on a frame, and underneath was the fire. They poured the juice into the pot and cooked it until it became syrup. The smell &quot ; wasn't all that good&quot ; but would drift away in the evening. They had neighbours not very far from them, and they must have felt that smell, &quot ; and they thought that dad was making home-brew&quot ; . Letkemann thinks that the neighbours were familiar with that. &quot ; One day the police came into the yard, and they wanted to search.&quot ; Letkemann's father was &quot ; quite open and free, they could search whatever they wanted.&quot ; The police even went to the straw stack in case they had anything hidden there. Her father had to explain to the police about the barrel with the pickled watermelons. The police found no home-brew. The policeman didn't reveal &quot ; who had mentioned their name that they should be checked out. We figured, probably it was our neighbours, who else?&quot ; Letkemann's father could understand some English, her mother very little at that time. Her aunt burst out laughing when she was told why the police had come. Asked whether the neighbours were also Mennonites, Letkemann says that they were Ukrainians: &quot ; I guess they were more familiar with maybe making their own, I don't know.&quot ; (The interviewers are laughing.) 863 Family life Letkemann is asked about her aunt. It was her father's sister, she was a young widow. She came from Russia and didn't have her own home, &quot ; it was much more common in those days that families were living together&quot ; in Russia or Southern Ukraine where they came from. Since her aunt was a widow and had one child, her father said that she could live with them. A brother of her father also lived with them for a while: &quot ; They just took each other in.&quot ; It wasn't possible to just rent an apartment. Her aunt worked as a housekeeper for a couple, &quot ; an elderly couple, we thought they were elderly at that time&quot ; . They had some grandchildren. Letkemann's cousin heard them calling grandpa and grandma, so she would call them grandpa and grandma too. They became their &quot ; grandparents&quot ; as they didn't have any others, none of them came to Canada. They would visit them once or twice a year at Roseisle, they had a car. Her aunt and her daughter lived with that couple for several years, working for them. Letkemann grew up with her cousin just like if they were sisters. When the children were still younger, Letkemann's father needed a hired man. One brother was born at Greenland, the other one at Roseisle, and the third brother also at Roseisle. Then they were six children (five plus their cousin). 1021 Mennonite religious life They lived at Graysville for 22 years. They did farm work and helped with the neighbours. All the children attended bible school which was very important for her parents. Letkemann's sister and her went to the First Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. It was a church in the basement, the bible school teachers were John Enns and Jacob Schulz. It was &quot ; wonderful times&quot ; . She, her sister and her cousin from Oak Lake, Manitoba, lived with &quot ; Ältester Klassen&quot ; for one winter. They had one room there. Letkemann and her sister had a number of winters of bible school. Later, it dissolved, there was not very many students. Letkemann's brothers went to the Elim Bible School in Altona, Manitoba. The family belonged to the First Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. They were visited by a minister once in a while. At Graysville, they were still part of that church. There was a church building only a quarter of a mile away (&quot ; you could easily walk there&quot ; ), and many Mennonite people living in the area would gather at that church. The men would take turns reading from a bible story book. They would sing and pray together, &quot ; it was fellowshipping together&quot ; . Eventually, they had ministers from four different congregations: the First Mennonite Church, Schönwieser, the Rudnerweide, and the MB (Mennonite Brethren). Every month, there would be four services from these four different churches. The younger people wanted to sing in a choir but they had no choir leader but one of the men was willing to do that job. Later on, his son, Orlando Sawatzky, started to be their &quot ; choir director&quot ; . It was lots of fun, &quot ; the highlight of the week&quot ; , &quot ; the only thing we had as young people&quot ; . They also had what they called &quot ; Jugendverein&quot ; (&quot ; Young people's endeavour&quot ; ). They met once a month, they had planned programs, and everybody was involved. In summer, they had a &quot ; Kinderfest&quot ; (activities for children). They started to have Sunday schools too, Letkemann and her sister taught there. Asked whether there were any frictions among the different Mennonite congregations, Letkemann states that she can't remember any. Finally, they got a minister who was not ordained but &quot ; felt called of God to speak&quot ; . He lived at Rosebank, Manitoba, which was several miles away, he would come by horse and buggy, &quot ; very faithfully&quot ; . Later, he joined the MB church. There was a time when they thought it would be good to have one congregation, belong to one church, but which one would it be? Letkemann thinks that the Bergthaler congregation was the fourth one, that was the one they joined later. Some ministers would come from Morden, Manitoba. Somebody from Morden would also teach catechism. The year Letkemann and her sister were baptized, they took classes in Morden. They got together with their neighbours and drove there. Her sister and her were baptized in Winnipeg in the First Mennonite Church because her parents were still members there. Her classmates were baptized in Morden in the Bergthaler Church. Eventually, they joined the Bergthaler Church, and the ministers in the area would meet monthly and had one organization. At that time, they had only one &quot ; Ältester&quot ; (elder), David Schulz. Later, they ordained referent Jacob Pauls. Letkemann was baptized at the age of 18. In the late 1940s, they joined the Bergthaler Church. It was not a hard decision. They had been members of the First Mennonite Church because of their parents but the church was &quot ; so far removed&quot ; , they couldn't go there every Sunday. Some of the others who were members of different Mennonite churches also joined the Bergthaler Church. Those who did not join could still come to church there (near Graysville). 1626 Sharing a church: the Graysville Mennonite Bergthaler Church Letkemann's siblings left home to start their own families, and her parents finally moved away from Graysville, Manitoba, in 1960. By then, the church belonged to the neighbours who were United Church members. They used it in the afternoon, because their pastor had several parishes. The Mennonites rented the church from them to use it in the mornings. The English-speaking people and the Mennonites cleaned the church together. Eventually, the Mennonites bought the church because few other people had been left. They had wonderful neighbours. Their neighbours, Mr. Baker, suggested that the rent the Mennonites had paid could already be a downpayment. In the early 1950s, the church was moved to a new place on the main road from Carman, Manitoba, to Graysville, and farther west. It was closer to the highway, and it was easier for the people to gather. At the new church, the building has a basement, and it was also enlarged. It is still in use. Photograph of the original Graysville Mennonite Bergthaler Church.,_Manitoba,_Canada) History of the original Graysville Mennonite Bergthaler Church ; photograph after moving to the new place. No transcript. audio 0



“Interview with Helen Letkemann 1.2,” Local Cultures, accessed April 16, 2021,