Immanuel Lutheran Church and School
Nodaway Township, Page County, Iowa
When Immanuel Lutheran church celebrated its 125th Anniversary, my husband and I were able to attend.
Among the items prepared at that time was a paper entitled “Memories” which included an interview with my Aunt Frieda Baumgarten. She told of her years in school, church, how funerals were conducted, along with other interesting facts. I’ve gone back and reviewed it so I can in a sense pick up with memories of the next generation.
I was born and grew up on the same section of land as Immanuel Lutheran Church is situated. To be exact, I was born in the downstairs bedroom. This was not unusual in 1923. Most babies were born at home at that time. Baptism followed soon after my birth with my Grandmother Sophie Baumgarten and my Aunt Emma Rurode Sunderman being my sponsors.
Going to church every Sunday morning was a given. The first bell rang at 9:30. If we were not in the car ready to drive that 1 ¾ miles when it rang, we weren’t going! Another bell rang at 9:55 and we best be seated in a prayerful manner.
This was the wooden church with the high stained glass windows. Windows that could be opened at the top for fresh air in good weather. I remember hearing the meadow larks singing out in the cemetery in the spring - as if they were happy to join with the congregational hymns. I also remember imagining Santa Claus climbing a tall, tall ladder so he could look down to see if we were good in church on Christmas Eve. The ceiling was of painted tin squares. I wasn’t impressed then as several stores in Clarinda had the same kind of ceilings. Now I understand they were very special.
By the time I was going to church, there was a “light plant” to furnish electricity. Prior to having electricity, the pipe organ bellows had to be pumped by several strong young men. My Grandfather Baumgarten told that once he and the preacher’s son had that duty behind the organ. They got in a fight, forgetting to pump, and the organ quit. Both were severely punished, he said.
Everyone came in to the church through the big double doors and then the men went to the right and the women to the left. Couples did NOT sit together. When we were in grade school, little girls sat in the front two rows on the left side and the boys on the right. There was a small entry room off to the left of the main entry where mothers could go to change or nurse their baby or take a fussy child. Brides also did last minute touch-ups there. Confirmation (about age 14) was another rite of passage - you could now sit in the balcony! But again, boys on one side, girls on the other!
Church services were in German on the first and third Sundays, English the second and fourth. If there was a fifth Sunday, it too was in English. Hymnals were small books with words only, no music. If the pastor had picked a not-so familiar hymn, the singing faltered. We usually got our own hymnal with our named in gold on the front cover when we were confirmed.
When I was small, my Grandfather Fred Baumgarten taught me to read and write German, so I would sing along in German at the top of my childish voice! In about the mid 1930s, German services were discontinued.
Aunt Frieda told about the big Christmas tree with real candles and young men sitting on the front pew with buckets of water to put out any fire. Fortunately there was never any need for this bucket brigade. The tree was provided by a church member each year. I remember only electric lights on the tree. They were special as we did not have electricity yet at our home.
This brings me to memories of Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve service was the children’s program. Benches were turned at the front of the “men” side so we faced the Christmas tree. There were recitations--by individual children or groups of three or four. Hymns and carols were sung by various groups - the “big” room (5th through 8th grades) and the “little” room (1st through 4th grades--no kindergarten then). It was a special honor if a child got to sing a solo. Several children had very good voices--I was definitely not one of them! There were enough of us to sing two or four part harmony. We sang together every day to open the school day.
Paper bags with an orange, an apple, a few nuts (Brazil nuts were the big treat), and hard candies were passed out to all children in attendance. When I was four, my mother was in the hospital in Omaha, having had surgery. I had to stay with my Baumgarten grandparents. When my Dad took me back to Grandpa and Grandmas, I started to peel my orange. My grandmother took it away from me, saying I couldn’t have it.
That was the only time I can recall hearing my Dad contradict his mother. He said, “She always eats her orange on Christmas Eve and she can have it tonight.” To this day, I think an orange is very appropriate for a Christmas Eve snack.
Church and personal memories intertwine. So do my personal Christmas Eve memories. When we left the house, my mother took me to the outdoor privy. To church, program, bag of goodies, home, and automatically we made that trip to the outdoor privy. When we got to the porch, my Dad was waiting for us. He unlocked the door - and lo and behold, Santa had been there! In the middle of the dining table, there was a small artificial tree - with real candles that were burning brightly! My gifts were under the tree - unwrapped! As an only child, there was no question as to whose they were, so no wrapping, no ribbons, no gift cards. When I married, I convinced my husband that gifts should always be opened on Christmas Eve.
Growing up in the Drought and Depression years, I thought we had an artificial tree because we were too poor to afford a real tree. Aunt Gussie’s little artificial tree was special. She baked cut-out cookies with tiny holes in them so they could be attached to the tree with red ribbon! Cousin Paul Herzberg and I got to eat them when the tree was dismantled!
Immanuel Lutheran Church opened its school soon after the congregation was formed. The first church building was used for both Sunday services and as a school. Later another church building was erected and the old church used exclusively for school purposes. The brick school was built in 1923.
In the early days, along with the usual reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, grammar, history, geography, the German language was taught for reading, writing, spelling, penmanship, and religion. Many of the children
attended the one-room school near their home through the 6th grade. They then went to Immanuel to complete their religious training. Some rode horses while others drove buggies or even a hack for one large family.
During World War I there were those who brought about closure of the school. They believed that because the German language was taught and often spoken, they were automatically German sympathizers. The school was not re-opened until about 1920. When it was allowed to re-open, it was strictly under the direction of the County Superintendent of Schools. Immanuel School was required to use the textbooks stipulated by the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In order to graduate from the 8th grade, pupils were required to take a series of tests at the County Courthouse, under the Superintendent’s supervision. Not all private or parochial schools are required to use the same textbooks or offer the exact curriculum.
The school built in 1923 consisted of a large class room, a smaller classroom, with a hallway between where lunches were stored and outer clothing hung on hooks. Yes, there was a “pecking order” as to where you would put the dinner bucket and your outer wear. There was another small room where the pastor held his Confirmation classes when we reached the 7th and 8th grades.
There was a full basement, complete with a stage which boasted of dark blue velvet curtains. The basement was used for Ladies Aid, for end of school year programs put on by the students, for the Walther League (unmarried young people) meetings and plays, now and then a community type occasion. It was heated by a coal furnace. In about 1935 the roads were snowed shut and the truck could not deliver coal, so we had a mid-winter week’s vacation. Galoshes and overshoes were lined up at the edges of the steps leading up to the classroom floor. Again, you always used “your step”. This building was taken down in about 1980 due to structural instability. Several congregations then joined together establishing in a Lutheran parochial school in Clarinda, Iowa.
As a purely aside note: My mother told that during WWI a group of hot-headed young men approached an old farmer who was sitting on his front porch. The brash leader said, “I understand you are a German.” The old fellow replied in such a thick German accent you could cut it with a knife, “Me, a Sherrman? No, I’m a Hanovarian” The young man replied, “Oh, we must have been misinformed” and the group left. Not much different from today!
I started to Immanuel Lutheran School in September 1929. I was so shy! It was the first year the school was divided into two classrooms with two teachers. The previous year, there had been only one classroom, 66 students with ONE Teacher! Ted Volkert was my first teacher. We sat at double desks. Leola Henneman and I shared such a desk. It helped that I knew her - she was a distant cousin and friend of the family.
That year my distant cousin Eleanora Grebert was entering the 7th grade which meant she was to go to Immanuel School for the Confirmation classes conducted by the Pastor. In nice weather, she drove a buggy pulled by one horse and picked me up at the road. My family’s farm buildings were ¼ mile from the road. (Site originally selected because of the spring which had provided water on the cross-country trail.) Eleanora had to unhitch the horse (and hitch up at night, of course) as this six year old wasn’t much help at that. In the winter, Eleanor
stayed in our home and we walked to school. We found it simpler to cut across the field than to walk ¼ mile south, ½ mile west, and a mile north! We walked across two pastures - the Baumgarten and George Sunderman’s cows didn’t seem to mind.
I remember moonlight sleigh rides from just out side the house yard gate, down that quarter mile lane and onto the road! It was great having a “big sister”. I remember pedaling Mother’s sewing machine (pretending it was the organ) and baptizing my dolls. I kept in touch with Eleanora until her death and I still am in contact with her younger sister Martha.
The Steeve kids kept their spirited pony and a two-wheel cart at George Sunderman’s (just south of the school).
I recall they had to rush to get the pony hitched up and get on the seat of the cart before the other horses came from the school. If they weren’t seated, the pony went home without them!
My cousin Paul Baumgarten lived at Bethesda where his father ran a shop. He rode a bicycle. The Ersting kids traveled the same route and rode an old horse named Oscar. Occasionally, the Ernsting boys would talk Paul into letting them ride his bike and Paul rode Oscar. Every one was happy!
Classes started at 8:30, with a 15 minute morning recess, an hour for lunch and another 15 minute recess in the afternoon. School closed at 4 pm. Every morning we opened with a prayer and a hymn. Each classroom had an old reed organ. We were assigned memory work of Bible verses, the 10 Commandments, or hymn verses. In the “big” room we would stand beside the teacher’s desk for these recitations before class actually began.
Our first hour was religion. Monday, Wednesday and Friday we studied from Luther’s Small Catechism and on Tuesday and Thursday we had what was called Bible History. These were the “stories” of the bible, such as the birth of Jesus, the Fall of Jericho, Easter, various parables-- from a separate text book.
There was a large school yard. There was a backstop so two soft ball games could be played simultaneously, usually the boys from the “big” room on the east side, boys from the “little” room on the west side. We girls had a variety of games we played, a form of charades, kick the stick, hop scotch, London bridge, ring around the rosy, etc. In the winter months, fox and geese was a favorite snow game. We brought our sleds to school as there was an incline at the corner of the school yard for short rides. Eunice Sunderman and I held the record for the longest ride! We were the two largest kids, giving us a little extra weight, so we would go down that incline, onto the snow packed road, on past George Sunderman’s house, down a little hill and part way up the next! Of course, there was the long walk back! But, oh, it was fun!
We opened each school day with a hymn. Since our teacher was also the church organist, if there was a funeral or a wedding, the school children were marched over to the church for that service. If our parents were in attendance at a funeral, for example, we could sit with them. Otherwise, we got a special treat--we could sit in the balcony! Under the watchful eye of our teacher who was up there playing the organ.
If there was no time for the choir to rehearse, the school children were requested to sing at funerals. We could rehearse the same day and march to the church as a group.
I can’t help but think that being one of the school group asked to sing, the reverence of marching quietly over to the church, the actual service - all colored my feeling about attending funerals. Many people dread them. I consider this my last opportunity to publicly say that I loved/respected that person and offer my condolences to the family. I’ve learned to handle military funerals with Taps being played, but don’t think I’ll ever be able to handle a “missing man” fly-over without a few tears.
We had no church sexton per se. When there was a death, friends or neighbors were called to dig the grave in the cemetery adjacent to the church. Graves were hand dug. My father was often called when roads were muddy or snowed shut, as he could put his spade over his shoulder and cut through the fields to accomplish this task.
Aunt Frieda’s memories told that there was a prayer service at the home of the deceased prior to the church funeral service. Those people went direct to the cemetery where the body was buried. Then the church service. As long as I remember, that same type service was held at the home. However, the church service was held first, then the burial. The church bell was tolled when the procession came into view. The steep church steps were built at a time when the casket was never taken inside the church. When that practice changed, those steps were treacherous in the winter. Almost every one went out to the cemetery for that final service.
I recall the traditional Decoration (Memorial) Day routine: A few days prior, my father went to Clarinda and got my Grandma and Grandpa Baumgarten, along with the “slips” of flowers she had babied over winter.
At that time, people could plant annuals or perennials on the graves. In the summer there were many geraniums
especially, along with spirea, iris, crocus, etc. While my Dad helped Grandma with this task, Grandpa would keep me out of mischief by taking me around the cemetery, pointing out graves of family and friends. I recall there was a “weeping” mulberry tree out by the road. Grandpa told me it grew that way because someone had planted it upside down. For many years, I believed him!
We were also marched over to the church for an occasional mid-week wedding. In my school days, there were two furnaces in the church basement - about midway from the door to the altar. There were floor grates there with a half length pew to the outside of the grates. I don’t remember a wedding where the Bride’s father marched down the aisle with her. The question “Who gives this woman?“ was never asked. The respective parents were ushered in prior to the processional -- again the groom’s family on the right side and the bride’s family on the left! It was common for the bridesmaid and best man to enter, stepping aside when they reached those furnace grates. Flower girls or ring bearers came next; then the bride came in alone. At the time she reached the steps below the altar, the groom and the preacher entered from the sacristy.
My Mother never let me forget one such wedding. My cousin Elmer Baumgarten was the best man. I recall it was a case of the bridesmaid being a lot prettier than the bride in my child’s eyes. When I got home, Mother asked me about the wedding. I described the usual routine, adding, “And the groom sneaked in from the Preacher’s little room.”
When I was about in 5th grade, the County Supt of Schools provided each school with a small hand-cranked Victrola. We had to learn specified songs and sing along with it to merit a passing grade. Physical exercises
were also mandated. These were in-class exercises to the music record provided. To this day I want to stand up
and begin doing those exercises when I hear the music to “Amapola”. My cousin Paul O. Herzberg was in
probably second or third grade. He went home and told his mother we had to take “Figity” exercises. Farm kids who walked to school, jumped rope, played ball, blind man’s bluff, etc. and often did chores when they got home needed more exercises like they needed another belly button! However, I must admit we did not have an obesity problem!
My aunt Frieda’s Memories tell about the girls having to sweep the floors. Yes, we girls in the “big room” still had that little chore--no janitor! Teacher Burroughs two daughters, LaVerne and Lucille, went home for lunch and didn’t participate in sweeping the floor. No, we didn’t think that was fair! The boys still did the erasers.
When I was at Immanuel school, we had to go to the pump at the teacher’s house to get a drink of water. There was a cup hung there, but most of us brought our own folding cups we kept in our desks. “I don’t want your germs” was the common statement, as we treasured our own cup.
Girls were not allowed to wear overalls (no female pants available then) to school. When the snow was deep and/or it was below zero, some of us who walked put on overalls, went to the basement where we took them off and straightened up our skirts. We girls mostly wore skirts or jumpers with long-sleeved blouses and/or sweaters. Yes, we had two outhouses -- boys and girls. Perfect for playing a game of “Handy Over”.
One of my amusing memories was the day one of the boys wore a necktie to school. Teacher Burroughs made the mistake of telling him that wasn’t really necessary. The next day every boy wore a tie and every girl wore as gaudy a necklace or beads as we could find.
Soon after Martin Burroughs came to teach at Immanuel, he learned that Civics was the subject students were most likely to fail at the County 8th grade exams. The subject was mandatory for 7th an 8th grades, so he wisely included the 5th and 6th grades in the study. It improved the “pass” ratio. When I was in high school, Teacher Ward Batman who taught that subject, commented to me: “No matter how dumb the kids from Up North (his phrase for Immanuel School) are they always do well in Civics. I proudly explained that Teacher Burroughs wisely noted the difficulty in the subject, so he included the 5th and 6th graders--giving us four years of study instead of only two. In a genealogy class some sixty years later, I recalled some of the legal property descriptions learned back then, to the amazement of my instructor.
Confirmation was held on Palm Sunday every year. The class was questioned before the entire Congregation about the Bible and Catechism we had been studying. It was a big event in our 14 year old lives. A huge dinner was hosted by the parents of each class member - all the friends and family. It was a feather in your cap if you got the Preacher to accept your invitation. Or, if you could then get the teacher, it was still pretty good.
Girls were allowed to choose the color and type of dresses they would wear, as there were no robes then. Our class chose white taffeta. My mother was a good seamstress. She made dresses for Eunice Sunderman, Lucille Burroughs and me. Palm Sunday was in March that year which meant melted snow and mud roads. Came time for the final fitting of our dresses, the roads were so bad that Herb Sunderman hitched a team and wagon and brought Eunice, her mother, Lucille and her mother to our home for that fitting. Fortunately, the roads dried up for our Confirmation day. -6-
Boys had it a lot easier - they got a new suit, tie, shirt and shoes. Maybe a hair cut. We girls got our first heels! Formal group and individual pictures were taken at Logan’s in Clarinda.
At the end of the school year, Immanuel and the school at Yorktown had what we referred to as a picnic. Food wasn’t the focus. We had a “stand” where candy, pop, Crackerjack, etc. was sold. Each school invited the other to our program and a softball game. There was a big audience for those games, often very vocal! Like today’s “socker moms”!
Our program consisted of songs, skits, and often drills. Teacher Burroughs continued the practice of including “drills” in the program along with songs, skits, recitations. We girls did the drills, with our mothers drafted to make crepe paper decorations, hoops, dress dolls, etc. Typical, we girls got tired of them and wanted to do something different, but at the end of my 8th grade (8 girls with white Confirmation dresses), Teacher Burroughs implored us to do it one more time. The ninth girl in our class, Doris Brown, was a very accomplished pianist. She accompanied that last “Daisy Drill” which featured hoops decorated with crepe paper daisies, as I recall. And I’m glad we did!
Oh, yes, one of our classmates attending Immanuel school was not a church member. Doris Brown’s guardians, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Fail, purchased a farm about a mile from the church and school when she was in 6th grade. All the one-room country schools for miles around had long been closed. That left no where for Doris to go. I don’t recall whether or not there was any tuition involved. Doris was not required to take part in the religious portion of the school curiculum; only to sit quietly, which she did. She was welcomed by her classmates and became a great friend of all of us.
Confirmation coincided with graduation from 8th grade. Thanks to my teachers and my parents making sure I did all my homework, I did graduate as Valedictorian of Page County Rural 8th Grade in May 1937. It was the first time a student from either of the Lutheran parochial schools had attained this honor. The following year, a boy from the Yorktown school was Salutatorian. We felt this showed that we were doing well in what and how we were teaching.
The 8th Grade Graduation ceremony was held in the auditorium of Clarinda High School and I was asked to give a speech. Mr. Burroughs helped me put this together. I’d done recitations at Christmas and year-end school functions, but never before a crowd of strangers. When I finally got my four inch by six inch tongue under control, the butterflies in my tummy settled down and flew in formation. I gave the speech without embarrassing myself or any one else. I still do some public speaking from time to time - still have butterflies, but they do settle down and fly in formation!
After we’d been confirmed, we were eligible to become a part of Walther League which made up of young unmarried church members. While meetings were opened with a prayer and often included continuing religious study, we enjoyed other activities. Most popular was the annual three-act play. I enjoyed being in them. Appropriate furnishings and props were brought in, the play was directed by a very accomplished church member, and appropriate costumes were created. Tickets were sold to congregation members, Yorktown’s
similar group, relatives -- anyone we could convince they should come. We,in turn, attended theirs. As I look back, these were amazingly professional productions for a bunch of farm young folks.
Going from 8th grade at Immanuel to 9th grade at Clarinda Junior High School was indeed a big step! There were no school buses in those days - we were on our own as to how to get there. Some car-pooled; some stayed in Clarinda with relatives; some rented “light housekeeping” rooms. In 9th grade, I walked a half mile west and rode with the Emil Sunderman’s boys. The last three years, I walked a half mile east and rode with Delores and Marilyn Goecker. We carried our own lunches--no cafeteria and no money in 1937 to go to a restaurant! Another shock was having lady teachers. All my teachers at Immanuel had been men.
Junior High was a whole new way of life for this farm girl. But I quickly fit in. Then on to Senior High where I continued to make good grades, and more important, I think, got involved in activities. I was in plays, played in the orchestra, went to out-of-town typing and shorthand contests. I believe this went a long way toward forming who I am, my ability to work and play with others, to learn new things. I wore homemade clothes, just as did a lot of other students - after all we were just scratching our way out of the Great Depression. My folks had borrowed my Uncle Albert’s violin so I could play in the orchestra. Looking back, I was just plain awful! Finally made the back row of the 1st violins when I was a senior! When I graduated in May 1941, I had three scholarships. I chose one from the American Institute of Business in Des Moines, as did several of my classmates. I worked for my room and board while going to AIB.
After my husband’s death in 1998, I became interested in Genealogy. I was searching for information regarding my Grandma Rurode’s first husband. I sent an inquiry to Immanuel Luthern church. I was told that the church records prior to 1900 were in the old German script; further that the only man who could read that was in his 90s and not able to come to the church. My response to the then church secretary, Kay Herzberg, was that I planned to be in Clarinda in September for my high school class reunion and would stop by as my Grandpa Baumgarten had taught me. However, they planned to be on a tour at that time. Kay solved the problem by photocopying the ENTIRE early German church records and mailing them to me! What a task I faced!
Fortunately, I did have a booklet that someone had created listing the names of everyone in all confirmation classes. I began with that section and soon learned the quirks of the flowery cramped handwriting. Some days it was as if Grandpa Baumgarten was looking over my shoulder and pointing to a clue. Strangely, all the Marriage information was entered in English. I’ve wondered why? Because it was a legal record? While it was
a long-drawn-out project, I was able to complete it, put it into my computer, print it and provide it to Immanuel Church in September 2001. The Deaths and Marriages portions have been provided to Pat Odell who has included them in the Museum’s internet site.
There are a lot of things I remember about growing up in Page County, Iowa during the Drought and Great Depression years. Lack of money and/or possessions no doubt impacted on my growing-up years as well as my adult life. During those bad economic times, we lived on a farm and had hogs, cattle, chickens, fruit, a big garden so food was not such a big problem for us. Most of my clothes were made by my mother, or re-made from family hand-me-downs. So did every other kid I knew. The big treat of going to town (Clarinda) was a 5 cent double dip ice cream cone at Cobbs if there were a couple of nickels left after shopping for groceries we didn‘t raise. Special occasions called for their 25 cent banana split.
When we made the occasional trip to far-off Shenandoah (at least 20 miles!), my mother would fry chicken, make potato salad, butter a slice of bread - and we’d eat it in the car under a shade tree. No money for a restaurant. Cash was needed for plants - cabbage, tomato, sweet potato, etc. or baby chicks at Earl Mays or
Henry Fields. Oh, yes, we sometimes got to sit in the audience at Earl May’s to watch “Country School”, a comic radio program they put on and aired.
I recall one summer after I’d gotten my driver’s license, my Mother and I butchered, cleaned and cut up six young fryer chickens on Saturday morning. I’d drive to Clarinda and take them to Nelson’s Meat Market on the north side of the square, where they were sold. Wouldn’t dare do that today!
Now and then, my folks would spluge and we’d go to a movie at the Clarinda Theater on Sunday afternoon.
The big pipe organ was played as we came in. There were usually two movies - an A and a B - with a real live vaudeville act between. I remember Daisy Shambaugh doing a tap dance routine. Rev. Vogel from St. John’s Lutheran church in Clarinda would often park in Dr. Haxby’s lot across the street to see who went to the Sunday afternoon movies. Then preach about us sinners the next Sunday!
We went to Omaha, Ne. or St.Joseph, Mo. once in a while. Dad trucked cattle to St. Joe where there was not as much competition as from range cattle from western Nebraska. Hogs went to Omaha--again not as much competition. I also recall taking the South Omaha bridge over the Missouri River because it no longer was a toll bridge as was the newer bridge. Saved every cent. My Dad would drive to either stockyard and cash his check there. I recall him rolling up the money, putting it in the can that came with the tire patching outfit and putting it under the back seat of the car for safekeeping. Why? Because if he cashed the check at the bank in Clarinda, the bank would have required him to pay off all loans, not just those secured by the livestock sold.
On one of those trips to St. Joe, Uncle Bill and Aunt Frieda and their sons accompanied us. Aunt Frieda was shopping in a department store. Uncle Bill was bored and went and stood on the sidewalk outside the store.
For some reason, he took his hat off. A man walking by dropped a dime in it. In those days (maybe 1935), it was not that unusual to see well dressed men standing on the street asking for a hand-out.
These memories and stories probably aren’t much different from those of my classmates who are still with us. It was a very common - and wonderful - blending of church, home and school life -- life which began in 1923.
Arliss Baumgarten Powell
2465 W. Kessler Pl.
Tucson, Az. 85705