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Clara G. Morch White Autobiography


Posted By: Yvonne Ellwood (email)
Date: 12/28/2005 at 05:18:35

Clara G. Morch White Autobiography, with notes by her daughter Yvonne Ellwood

Clara Gustava Christoffersen Morch White Life Story

I was born at my mothers home at Cresco, Iowa in Howard County. Born 2 July 1918 and had to be in afternoon or evening as my mother had told me that she picked green beans from the garden that day.

The color of my eyes were blue and hair brown. My whole name was Clara Gustava Morch. I was named after my aunt Clara (my motherís sister) and Gustava after my grandmother in Norway (my fathers mother) her first name being Gustava.

My father Oscar Kristoffersen-Morch was born 29 May 1888 Horten, Norway and died 27 March 1956. My mother was Cora Elizabeth Sheppard born 4 April 1893 Monona, Clayton County, Iowa. She died on 30 June 1964.

My maternal grandfather was William Sheppard born 27 June 1860, Wagner Twp., Clayton County, Iowa. He died in 1921. My maternal Grandmother was Anna Ottilie Minnie Marfilius born 8 Nov. 1868 Wauzeka, Wisconsin. She died 18 Jan. 1952.

My paternal grandfather was Hagbarth Christoffersen born 1858 Horton, Norway, and died in 1931. My paternal grandmother was Gustava Pedersen born 1868 Norway, and died in the year of 1920.

I was the youngest child. No sisters, only one brother- Delmar Oscar Morch. My brother Delmar was born at Larimore, North Dakota where my folks lived the first four years of their married life. There were such bad snow storms there that a rope had to be fastened from house to barn for my dad to follow so as not to get lost. Then after 4 years there my folks moved back to Cresco where I was born.

I am thinking of some of the things that my mother had told me that I have not included in my life story. This is one of the things she told me. There was the 1918 flu epidemic, this is the year I was born. My mother had already given me to my grandmother Tillie Sheppard as she was so sick in bed with the flue that she thought she was going to die. My grandmother was taking care of my other at the time. But my mother survived and I was able to stay in my family of four.

I do not remember this but was told that I was about 3 years of age when my father was driving a team of horses in the large house yard on the farm. He saw me as I tumbled and got in the way of the horses. One horse left a hoof print on my chest when my father pulled back on the reins and said "whoa-back" to the horses. Saw me just in time. Didnít have the whole weight of the horses on me that way.

My baby nickname was "Babe". I was younger than my brother Delmar. He was 4 years older. Therefore I suppose is why I was nicknamed Babe. After I was grown up more, it was when people called me "Babe" that I did not like. My brother would like to tease me with that name also when he knew I didnít like it.

My mother told me that I took after my father in actions and ways. I was told that I looked like my mother when it came to comparing pictures, etc.

When I was a little girl I got scolded for things more than spankings. Usually my mother and dad talked nice to me. I do remember a spanking once from my mother but do not remember what for as it was so many years ago.

I never ice skated and did not roller skate as a child. When I was in my teens, I had tried roller skating at the rinks but never was good at it. For one thing, I didnít go often enough to get good at it.

In Country School the games we played at recess were Last Couple Out, Pum Pum Pull-a-way, Anti-I-Over, Fox & Geese in the snow, Baseball, Drop The Handkerchief, Musical Chairs and Hide the Button. At home, my mother, dad, brother and myself would play Parchesee at lot in the winter time.

There was never a tooth fairy when I was young or at least not in my family.

We had a cherry tree in our back yard. It was up to me to climb up the ladder and pick all the cherries I could reach. Then my father would move the ladder on each side of the tree for me to pick ther rest. Mother canned the cherries into sauce. There was a woods a little way south on our farm where I also picked plums for my mother to can. What I liked best was to see all the different kinds of birds in this woods. They didnít seem to be scared of me. They sang all kinds of songs. Near the woods were many violets growing on the bank and ditch. One teacher wanted to know if any of her pupils would know where there were lots of violets. Of course I did. So her and I picked lots of bouquets of them to give each mother of the children in school a bouquet of them for May Day the next day.

My mother was a hard worker on the farm. She would help with haying, shocked oats, and husked corn by hand, also milked cows. One time in walking home from country school, they were husking corn. They motioned for me to cross the fence and come to them and I could ride home in the wagon pulled by horses. I could sit in the back of the wagon. Pumpkins were harvested at edge of the field.

One time I fell down in our yard and a mean rooster came and started picking my head. Delmar came to my rescue and scared the rooster off. My mother went to the chicken house and caught that rooster and we had him to eat the next day.

One special Birthday Party was for my tenth birthday. Neighborhood girls and school friends were invited. Pictures taken, gifts opened and games were played. My mother made home-made ice cream and there was a Birthday Cake served.

I often went to visit the neighbor Lady Mrs. Downs. In the summertime she would have me go with her to pick a bouquet of flowers for me as she had a lot of different kinds.

In those days with my birthday on a hot day of 2 July, the ice had to be brought and purchased from town. The old ice cream maker had to have ice around the container that held the ice cream and a handle had to be turned all the time until the ice cream got solid.

In the winter, we could make the ice cream with ice from the cold outside wooden horse tank.

I did not have a bicycle. So never learned to ride one. Liked my dolls, especially one that was like a baby. It would close its eyes and had hair. I had 2 different doll buggies. Also sewing cards, puzzles, a game of Old Maid, Bingo, etc. Card games to play with neighbor girls. Had child dishes and childís cooking utensils to play with or to use to really bake with.

Never had a TV in those days nor transistor radios. I was quite young when the first radios were out and people listened to them by ear phones. When I was about in 7th or 8th grade my parents got their first radio, a large one that sat on the floor.

I grew up in a common country house. No running water. There was a pump behind the house where the soft water or rain water could be pumped by hand for washing clothes or for the cook stove reservoir for washing hands, faces, and for baths as it got warm stored there. Our well drinking water had to be carried a long distance from the well or from pipes that was connected into the barn or outside the barn.

We used kerosene lamps and lanterns to see or read with. The lanterns were used outside for the barn.

The cook stove was for coal and wood. Also an old round heater using wood kept the house warm in the front room. There were no fireplaces in country homes in those days. The larger newer houses in town may have started getting the fire places or had them. I never was in a home that did until I was grown up. Perhaps I just homes that did have them.

I liked to play in an extra store room upstairs that my mother had. Played with my dolls there a lot.

My dad had a shed that stored machinery on one side and his work shop and a place for the sheep on the other side. I would slip into the side of the sliding doors and go up some steps to a straw loft to play with kittens and cats on the machinery side.

I had my own bedroom. No sisters to share with. Only got a bottle of pop when going into town in the summer. But my mother could make real cold lemonade with fresh cold water and juice from the real lemons.

Can remember my mother cleaning lamp chimneys real often or filling with the kerosene oil and trimming the wicks., same way with the lanterns. The men hung the lanterns on the side walls in the barn. No electricity then.

For jobs to do when I was young - I dusted the furniture for my mother. Cleaned my own bedroom most of the time. It was fun to bake cookies and cake, etc. There were no bought mixes in those days so everything was baked from scratch. I had a childrenís cook book for little cooks. Washed or wiped dishes but didnít always have to. Swept floors. For outside chores I would get the eggs from the chicken house and carry in cobs and wood to be burned in the cook stove.

We called our basements "cellars", where potatoes could be stored. Also the canned fruits and vegetables. Also dry wood and coal was put in the one corner of the cellar to be kept dry for the stoves. Coal and wood was put through a basement window for that.

Some people had stair steps that led to an attic from the second level or upstairs and that made the attic the 3rd level. Many houses attics was where there was an opening in the ceiling where a board was pushed up and over and then a ladder was used to get through to the loft.

My fathersí barn and other buildings burned down when I was young. We were not home that day. Our house was saved and also the chicken house and corn crib. The machine shed and hog barn also burned down. It was a Sunday July 19, 1931. We were with Mr. & Mrs. Will Henry and their grand-daughter Avada. We went to Decorah to see the Library and Museum there. The telephone call came to ask if Oscar Morch was in the building as in those days, neighbors usually liked to listen in on the old telephones and knew what neighbors are doing. My mother talked on the phone and was told that our barn was stuck by lightning and on fire.

It was impossible to save many contents in the buildings as the fire gained much headway when neighbor men came. As my fathers workshop was in an area of the machine shed, he large tool chest was carried out and saved. One man had the extra strength to grab the heavy anvil off its resting place and saved that. There were 45 tons of hay in the barn, a full blood Hostein bull and four registered Holstein calves, one of which belonged to my brother Delmar which he was fitting to show in the 4H Boys club to exhibit at the Howard County Fair. a young shepperd dog also lost his life in the flames. Harnesses for horses together with 600 pounds of sheepís wool and 150 bushels of grain were also destroyed. The corn crib and some farm machinery was saved with difficulty due to the short distance between them and the burning buildings.

The fire truck had responded promptly to the call. The black silo was considered damaged by the heat. The fire could be seen for miles and many cars came to the place from all directions throughout the afternoon and evening. This farm where the barn and other buildings were destroyed by fire was located 4 1/2 miles north of Cresco, Iowa on the Granger road and was owned by W. F. Milz, my parents rented it. We lived there many years and is where I grew Up.

The barn was modernly equipped for dairying for the full blood Holstein cows. There was a milking machine, water system and other conveniences. Our cows and horses were out in the pasture that day. I remember that the cows had to be chased to the neighbors who lived a short distance from us and milked in his barn when he was done milking his cows.

My uncle Ben Sheppard was staying with us at the time and helping my father. He was a very good carpenter so he made cow stantions on each side of the corn crib to milk our cows. The sheepís wool was stored in the loft above the hog shed but neighbors didnít know that. The men said they could have saved it if they had known it. It was done up in blocks, one from each sheep. The sheep were hand sheared by a man that we called the sheep shearer. Think my father was waiting for higher prices before selling this wool.

Lots of new hay(45 tons) after all the hard work of preparing it from the field and the wok of putting it in the barn went up in the fire. A little door was left open at haying time to go in and out so the dog liked to go into the barn that way. So he lost his life. Suppose he got scared when the lightning stuck and went in. New buildings were built during the summer.

Uncles came and stayed some times with my parents. They were not married and helped my father with work while staying there. Also there were hired men who stayed and worked for my father.

My parents always had a Christmas tree. Santa Claus always came in the night before Christmas and left lots of gifts. We usually attended church services on Christmas eve. I can remember that my parents attended a country church program (Methodist) not our Lutheran church. Santa Claus came in through a window. Many presents were given out that were under the Christmas tree. My name was the first to be called and I received a beautiful doll. It was my special of all the dolls I ever had and Santa handed it to me.

My brother Delmar and I always hung up some stocking at Christmas time. One for him and one for me. They were always stuffed. Usually money in the bottom of the toe, Candy, Etc. Mother usually decorated the tree. Iíd come home from school and there it was all decorated. Always was a real tree. Never an imitation one like people can have now days. That good aroma of a real pin tree was great.

My mother did a lot of baking and always bought Christmas candy also. I did bake cookies sometimes. Most of the time I did get what I asked for and a lot of times I got surprises unless I asked for something too big like a pony or a baby sister. So I settled for dolls, doll buggies of which I got 2 of them one year. One of them was from my grandmother Tillie Sheppard. Also got games like "Old Maid" card games, puzzles, sewing cards and the like. The pair of skis was sure a surprise one year. Delmar and I got up on Christmas morning and there they were standing beside the tree. Delmar and I went skiiing a lot together and sometimes I went by myself. (I, Yvonne remember these skis - I used them up on Millers hill south of the Sheppard-Morch-White farm.)

We certainly had a lot of snow in the winter time at Cresco, Iowa where we lived on the farm. I went sleigh riding with our sleds of which we each had one of them also. Sometimes went tobogganing with neighbors after I was more grown up.

When it came to Thanksgiving, it was not at my grandmothers house. She lived a long distance from us. At least it seemed so when roads were not that good. If roads were thawed out-they were mud roads where my grandma lived in the country, that is if it rained. The roads were traveled with buggy and horses. My fathers first car was a model T. Ford. When roads were dry, we could visit my grandmother. I was grown up when more roads became graveled.

As for Halloween - Children did not go out to trick or treat when I was young. Older young folks or even married people would play tricks on their neighbors and mostly at night. How ever my parents did not go out to do this. My parents outside toilet was tipped over one time. My dad found some of his horse harnesses all out of place one time. We did have Halloween school programs in Country school for parents and people to attend.

The 4th of July was one of the biggest and happiest occasions when I was a young girl. Always had a new dress for it. Went somewhere to celebrate. There were fire crackers, picnics, music, etc in different towns and fireworks.

For family traditions we went to picnics and fishing in the summertime. I fished a lot with my dad. During good weather seasons tent shows would come to our town of Cresco. People acted out in persons. My father would set my chair more out in the aisle so that I could see better and would always buy me a sack of candy there that was sold during intermission. We always went to the county fair as a family. Played Parchesee a lot (the four of us) in the winter nights or Sunday afternoons.

In those days families went visiting a lot to the neighbors and there were oyster soup parties with the grown ups playing progressive 500 card games. Sometimes picnic suppers. Even dances in houses in those days and also in town. Dancing would go on until one to two oíclock in the morning. I have memories of learning to dance when very small. My father would take me out on a dance floor and taught me all the different steps including the Norwegian Schotish. My uncle, dad, and also my mother if there was a piano, played for the dances. People invited others out to Sunday dinners. Relatives did and also friends in town. I usually played with other children while parents played cards. There were neighborhood parties in those days with oyster soup suppers, playing of cards, Christmas parties, etc.

For Valentines time there was always a valentine ex-change in Country School. I received very nice valentines from boys. Also all the girls exchanged valentines also. In those days we made a lot of valentines also. Was a fun day. I saved them all, Played with them a lot and stood them up on the floor as a lot of them would stand. What a lot of them I had. Then guess my mother finally destroyed them. Wish I still had some of them. When I had a boy friend named Russell, then I received the candy and still have a swell valentine from him before I was married.

I attended all my first eight years of school in a country school north and east of Cresco, Iowa. The school was named Albion Darrow in Albion township of Howard County. There was an eighth grade graduation in the county of all the county schools at Cresco in those days. The large group had their picture taken in the Beadle Park. Then I went on to High School all four years at Cresco High School.

Must include here that I still have a tablet sheet which I will include with my Grandmaís Story and Memories album for grandchildren.

It is a poem that I made up myself. It was entitled "Thanksgiving Day". Has 12 Nov 1928 and Albion Darrow on upper left of page and name Clara Morch - grade 5 in the upper right of page. Of course the page is yellowing with age. Here is the poem:

Hurray! Hurray!
For the Thanksgiving day.
We will eat a great dinner,
and then go out to play.

Hurray! Hurray!
For Thanksgiving day
The children from over the way
Will come to my house and play.

Hurray! Hooray!
For Thanksgiving day
And when I find my hat
We will try and find the cat.

Hurray! Hooray!
For Thanksgiving day
We will help mother with the dishes
For the dinner was delicious.

I walked most of the time to Country School. It was about 1 3/4 miles. There was my brother and I. However he was 4 years older than I was so when he graduated from 8th grade I had to walk alone. On bad winter days with its snow storms my father would take me in the old bob sled with horses on stormy or very cold days. I was covered up warm in the sled and he would come get me again when schools was done for the day.. One day when stormy, I was the only one in school that day. The teacher and myself sat near the coal and wood heated heater to keep warm. We had school or I had school all day long.

My brother Delmar would drive the car my first year in High School. He was a Senior when I was a Freshman.

My cousin Florence Sheppard came to live with us and went her Junior year to high School. So it was like I had a sister that year. When she was a Senior she worked for her board in town(Cresco) worked after school.

When I went to school, I did not care for Arithmetic or History. I liked spelling and went to spelling contests i the county when in Country school. Physiology was another favorite subject. We also had a writing session. There was music and singing with a phonograph early in mornings.

In High School I liked Biology, Home-Making and Typewriting. Three of us students went to a state contest in Des Moines for Typing. I was one of us three. I did not go out for sports. I was too short to play basketball, but I played it in P.E. Sports were usually after school which was good for town kids. Had to be ready to go home with my rides when school was out as no busses in those days. I had taken piano lessons and played the piano a lot. Learning lots of the music tunes by heart. But I also could play by note. I took lessons on the violin but didnít decide to do that until I was a Senior in High School, and I played violin in orchestra. I was not a football fan at all.

Getting back to country school, I especially liked the recesses because of getting together with others to play games.

Our school house was the biggest in the county for a country school. Had a stage in front of room. Was a long and wide...........
......Coal and wood shed in back. Outside toilets.

My best subjects were Spelling, English, Writing and Music. In High School it was Typing and English.

It seemed that I usually did have lots of homework. I was a person that could actually study better at home than in school, it seemed. So I usually carried books home especially when I went to High School. I won third place for writing an essay on alcoholism. I tap danced at the May Fete in High School one year.

I played hooky only once and that was in country school. Pretended I was sick but found out that that wasnít as much fun as going to school. My parents never believed in us missing school for anything but illness.

I seemed that we never had family vacations. There was always so much farm work to do. We would make trips for a day when I was a young girl. Like visiting my fathers brother Ben Morch and family at Postville, Iowa. We lived at Cresco, Iowa at that time or we went to see my grandmother at Luana, Iowa (Sheppard Morch White Farm) and be back for the farm chores at night.

Went with my parents fishing in the summer time. Sometimes it was only my father and I that would go fishing. It was my fatherís favorite sport. When it comes to camping. I remember only once that we had a Camping trip. It was my parents and their friends Mr. & Mrs. Will Henry which was Mabel Pickings parents and myself. ( Mrs. Henry gave me-Yvonne, a doll which she made a milk filter dress for - beautiful! Just gorgeous! which I gave to my niece Coleen when she was about 20 - If I had kept it - I would still have it as it was very very very special). My father let me go out in the boat with the men on the Mississippi river where there was good fishing while the ladies stayed back at the tent to cook, etc. My father would have had to make arrangements for someone to milk his cows, chores, etc. Perhaps it could have been my brother or a hired man with my brother?

In High School, my longest rip would have been to Des Moines for the typing contest. After being married it was to visit my brother and his family whom lived in Des Moines also. After Russell passed away I lived by myself, I went on larger vacations.

I went on a vacation with Mabel Picking to Seattle, Washington and to Portland, Oregon and on down the coast to Wyoming. She drove her car. Another time and year with Mabel to North and South Caroline, Virginia and states out that way. Then one year to Washington C. D., Maryland and other states that way with Nancy, Vada and Gerald Guyer, and Geralds mother Jenny. While Russell was alive, we had vacations with Vada and Gerald to South Dakota, Yellowstone, etc, and to Montana. Also one year to Illinois, Kansas, etc. Went to Tennessee to the Grand OlíOprey with Jeleen and Merlin Hoffman. I went to Colorado with Leslie, Brenda, Michelle and Leif.

When High School age I had my first train ride to Postville, Iowa from Cresco where we lived to go visit my cousin Jeleen Bilden. She was Jeleen Morch then. Her and I attended the Postville fair which was a much larger fair than it is now. Jeleen also came and stayed with me to go to the Cresco fair. Have had train rides since then to go and come back from Montana with my cousin Irene Hofer to visit my cousins there.

One of my favorite trips was when I took the airplane flying to Norway. Nancy Guyer was with me going on that trip and Vada joined us in Norway a few days later. Was there to celebrate my 70th birthday. The King of Norway had his birthday the same day. I attended the kings celebrations. Friends in Norway baked a beautiful birthday cake for me. I have never met my grandparents and most aunts and uncles in Norway but I got to visit this one Aunt Eli Christoffersen-Nielsen was 6 years of age when my father left Norway to come to the United States. Visited cousins and an aunt who was 88 at the time and it was also the year of 1988. I saw where my father lived as a boy, where he attended church, and where he learned to swim and fish. This was Horton, Norway.

Sometimes as I was getting older, my father would give me extra money to go to the fair every day and every night at the Howard County fair. It was because my brother

Delmar and 4-H pigs at the fair, that I could go along with him and sometimes my parents as the pigs had to have food and water, pens cleaned and attended to every day. My father liked me to have fun at the fair, like going on rides, seeing things, ice cream cones or sandwiches, etc. Then there were the acts in front of the grand stand and going through all the buildings and especially seeing our own schoolís work or mine in the school building but the rides were the most fun of all to me. Usually met my girl friends at the fair to have fun with.

I used to ask my mother how old I had to be before I could date. She said 16. But then I could not go unless my brother was along or also dating. Delmar used to be good friends to the boy I ended up with. He was a neighbor boy also. Our parents were good friends.

I had favorite boy friends that had written letters to me. Also favorites at the dances. Favorites in both Country School and High School.

When dating we went or attended many movies, but dancing and music were my favorite thing. Went to the fairs and Circuses. Would go to the Cattle Congress at Waterloo and went to Cafeís and Restaurants. Usually always with other young folks and our friends.

In my married days, I canned lots of food in fruit jars. I used a wringer washing machine to wash clothes. Carried water at all places we lived. On the Byrnes place I carried water until water works was finally put into the house. Then of course, the water had to always be carried out again when not water works. Also when we lived at Luana it was carrying water also . Wood and coal was also carried to heat stoves and then ashes had to be carried out. Finally got fuel oil stoves, then furnace heat, and electric cook stove.

When first married and it was haying time, Russell asked me to rake hay in a row and I was driving a team of horses to do it.

In my married life I was a member of a kitchen band. We entertained for many programs and activities at Cresco, Iowa. I had a wash board that had a horn fastened on to it, and it was fastened to a chair. I wore a thimble on each finger on my right hand to keep in time with the players and the piano. Sometimes I used a jazz bow and played it in a kitchen sieve.

All of my children were born at Cresco, Iowa. I had my first 3 babies born on the farm at my motherís house. They were Jeleen, Arlis and Vada. After that I went to the hospital to have my babies. The doctor would go out in the country to deliver babies at the time my first 3 were born. The names of my children who were born at Cresco, Iowa Hospital. They were Harlan, Yvonne, Marilee, Wesley and Leslie.

There was a big sadness in our family when we lived at Cresco, Iowa. (The Farnsworth Place). When we lost a baby boy named Wesley Oscar at 3 mo. and 20 days of age. He and my husband Russell are both resting in the New Oregon Cemetery south of Cresco, Iowa. The baby died 23 Nov. 1949. Russell died 23 Nov. 1971. Notice that both died the same date but not same year. Both burials were the day after Thanksgiving.

I was an assistant 4 H Leader at Cresco, Iowa. Was a member of the ALCW for 35 years. I belonged to neighborhood clubs at Cresco as well as at Luana, Iowa.

Iíve baby sat for children on the farm at Luana as well as in Postville. Iíve worked as a companion to elderly ladies. I also worked at the Memorial Hospital as a food service worker for 9 years in Postville.

I have done lots of embroidering. I also have a collection of many dolls.

We moved south of Luana from Cresco when My mother wanted us to take over the farm after my father passed away. I moved to Postville in the year 1979.

Iíve had many surgeries in my life. Ended up with strokes and 2 heart attacks. I have stents in my heart at this time.

Sadness came again to me and my family when Marilee passed away in May, 2003. I have lost son-in laws and a grand-daughter Debra White. Have 26 grandchildren, and 30 great grandchildren, and one great great.

I will be 86 years of age 2 July 2004.

My father received awards for skiing, swimming, and also for being a young boys athletic exercises that they performed for programs and they wore white uniforms for it. My father had said that one time when he came home late from skiing that his father (my grandfather in Norway) took his skiis and broke them.

Another little story was that my father had an elderly aunt that was blind but she had good hearing. He would go to see her and she could tell by his steps who he was. She would say Ďis that you Oscar?" She also smoked a very long pipe.

Must say that my grandfather and my uncle(my fatherís brother) played in the Norway Navy Band.

My parents and Roy Burr also had a little dance band. Played for house dances as well as at Lime Spring, Iowa, Granger, Mn halls. Mother chorded on piano and my father and uncle would change off on the violin. Sometimes my father chorded on banjo and my uncle could change off on a guitar.

Now must write about an incident that happened when my cousin Jeleen Morch came to visit me. We were young ladies or should I say teen agers at this time. We had been to the Cresco fair. It was when we still used lamps for lights. I lit the lamp that had a handle on one side but the base of it was glass that held the kerosene. We were going to go upstaires and I was holding the lamp as I tripped over her suitcase. I just held that lamp very steady and straight when this happened. Think if I had dropped it . If the glass base would have broken, there could have been an explosion and fire of course, to hurt us or to start house on fire. A safety ending for us before we retired for the night.


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