IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co.

Letter from Gustav Dietsch, 1919

Dresden, Germany, Oct. 20, 1919
Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Welzel

Dear Friends: Your nice long letter received.  It was very interesting to us and we were astonished at the many changes around old Postville, and in its inhabitants.  Since we receive the Postville Herald ever week we get a “moving picture” of whatever happens in and around the good old town.
Of course the Orr family outdoes anybody, and we were really glad to hear of father and mother Orr, who will be some of the famous “oldest citizens” of northeastern Iowa. Whenever I recall to my mind Mr. Orr, I see him driving around town in his go-cart, and Mrs. Orr always represented to me that class of women who helped the U. S. what it is now. Of course I don’t mean that money-grasping habit of the present time, what I mean is “assiduity and purity as rules of life.” In German I might have said this more to the point, but I mean it just the same.
There is one thing I have to say right now, that I am often very sad that I am not living in Postville; I loved that little town and its people. I often think how nice it would be to be laid to rest in that nice little cemetery on the hill looking toward Grand Meadow. Wherever a man spends the best years of his life that place will forever be his home, and only the sickness of Mrs. Dietsch made us leave Postville.

For the past five years I have been administrator of a block of 16 five-story buildings with a population of the size of Postville. There are 225 families living in that block, and take only four to a family and you have 900 inhabitants. Of course, those buildings belong to a “Savings & Buildings Association.” The job as administrator is more of an honorary one than a paying one. For collecting about $20,000 rent and keeping the renters in good humor and order I get a Christmas gift of about $100. It possibly looks foolish to you that I work for such a small amount, but I like it and do the work in my spare time. Our association owns at present 100 big buildings and we are now building 36 new ones with 400 family dwellings, and if nothing else comes up there are 500 more dwellings in prospect, so that after all is finished we will have about 2,000 dwellings. It’s a stock company. Each member has to sign at lease $50 and is responsible for $100. The highest sum a member can sign is $5,000, but he only has one vote. At present we have 6,500 members with a capital of close to a million dollars. I am cashier in the main office for the past three years, but the salary is very small ($20 a week.) It probably looks big to you, but our money don’t county very much compared to the H. C. of L. $50 a week would be necessary to buy those things a family really should have, as is evidenced by the following prices:

Milk $1.50 (a can of Iowa condensed milk) soap $2.00, bacon $4.00, coffee $4.00, cocoa $5.00, salmon $2.00, rice $1.00, beans $1.00, candy $2.00, chocolate $5.00, herring $1.00, lard $4.00, apples 30 to 50 c, peas 20 to 40 c, raisins $2.50; and all those prices for one pound.

But the worst of all is that we cannot buy one pound of wheat flour and no sugar. Those things are not for sale. We get stamps every four weeks; each person gets weekly five pounds of bread or stamps. Now, if you want some flour, you get that much less bread. And of course the flour is black, it’s rye ground out to 90 per cent and has all the bran in it yet. And the bread is terrible to eat; I simply hate to look as it. And then we had times when this black flour was mixed with potatoes or beet root flour for bread. Sugar we get very little; I guess one pound a month. There is none on the market to be brought. I often said, well, when the war is over we will get lots of stuff from America and other foreign counties, but it is not true. We get some, but not enough to mention it. But the foreigners come in and buy everything they can out of Germany, because of value of their money is so high compared to German money that they get anything almost for nothing. We have to pay here for a suit of clothes $200, shoes $35.00 a pair, coal $40 a ton, pine wood $30 a cord. I better quit or you may think I am the biggest liar in Deutschland. I just wait and wonder how long the people are going to stand such conditions.

This summer when my wife weighed only 112 lbs., I sent her to relatives in Bavaria, where foodstuffs are more plentiful. She stayed there eight weeks and gained twelve pounds. Ever since that she feels better and is able to do her own housework. Our Fred is quite a boy now.

We have in Dresden alone 5,000 clerks without employment; I guess there are millions of people without work; schools have to be closed because there is no coal for the furnace; trains for passengers will be abandoned on Sundays and limited on week days; street cars are running only about half as many as there should be; gas lights only burn a few hours a day; there is very little kerosene to be had. Well, everything is short; the only things that are just as plentiful as ever and no higher in price are air and sunshine, and some bad people probably hate it that they cannot “corner” these things too. It is simply laughable if it were not so very, very sad. And now I will come to a close.

Gustav Dietsch and Family


~Postville Herald, November 21, 1919
~transcribed by Lyn Lysne from a photocopy contributed by Reid R. Johnson


Letters & Diaries index