Tales of Happy Childhood

Feature Story November 2003“Tales of Happy Childhood”
Written by Jessie Heim Deweese of Dawson
(Mother of new board member Martha Hoig)
Thinking back to the home of my grandparents, Johnnie and Margaret Heim, I can still see their smiling faces and cheery welcome to all who came to their door. Their house was always open to all the relatives and friends. Grandma’s superb food was always a great attraction to all the children, especially her large, crisp sugar cookies.

They worked hard to establish a home for their family and to have a respected place in the new community where they had come to live.
Through the years, as the children grew up, married and established homes of their own, Grandma and Grandpa still welcomed them home, especially on holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Easter Sunday was always looked forward to with much anticipation as Christmas. Grandma always planned a bountiful dinner and all my uncles, aunts and uncles came to spend the day, after attending the Easter morning service at the church.

Grandma prepared Easter nests for both the children and the grownups, uing the old fashioned wooden butter trays, the kind the stores used when you bought butter, sauerkraut, etc. Each was filled with colored Easter eggs, candy and an orange. These she hid in the nooks and corners of her beautiful shady lawn. After eating our fill of the delicious dinner, Grandma gave us permission to go outside and search for the “nests.” The eggs were dyed brown she used onionskins. What fun! We children dashed here and there till all had found our treat. Then we had egg-rolling contests and many a hard-boiled egg was consumed.
Grandma carried on this tradition through the years until she became too frail. Then my mother, Regina Heim, took over until her death. We younger children try to meet and carry on this gathering together at Easter time, carrying out the feeling of gladness and rejoicing for our Risen Lord.

Grandpa was a great lover of nature. He loved flowers and he and Grandma always had a large assortment of flowers and shrubs blooming in their yard and garden. There were old-fashioned bush and rambler roses, mock orange, lilac, Japanese quince. Rose of Sharon and mums. Many a happy hour I spent when a child, sitting on the porch talking to Grandpa. I think our family was especially fortunate because our house was just across the drive from theirs. He taught me the names of the different birds and trees, and how to whistle. He would sing funny little German songs he had learned when a boy.

He loved music and spent many an evening playing his famous Regina Music Box. It had great flat discs with funny holes in them, which let the music out, much like those in player piano rolls now. My uncle Chris now has this music box. As a very special treat he would play his Jew’s harp, which was a very fascinating instrument.

This reminiscence would not be complete without mentioning “Auntie” (Alma Heim James) and the important role she played in our lives. She took care of her nieces and nephews, taught us, played with us and teased us. She was such an important part of our lives and so greatly loved, that when she passed away it left a vacancy that could never be filled.

Mother (Regina) told me tales of her childhood – how, when they moved to Nebraska, from Pennsylvania, they packed all their worldly possessions into a railroad boxcar including a barrel of soft soap, and shipped it to Nebraska. When they arrived here they found the water was so “hard” it was impossible to use the soap. They had always been accustomed to soft spring water in Pennsylvania and it was a real hardship until they learned how to “break” the water for laundry.
Mother was 15 years old when she came to Nebraska. She had just gotten her first hat and she was so happy she wore it all the way to Dawson. It was a natural color straw sailor with long, brown ribbon streamers that hung down in the back. She would walk real fast, hoping this would cause them to flutter out. The reason it was her first hat was because her parents and all the relatives in Pennsylvania were of the Dunker faith and part of their religious belief was that hats for women and girls were worldly and so forbidden. They wore little caps or sunbonnets or kerchiefs, all very plain in color and no decorations. Dresses also had to be very plain and no buttons. They used hooks and eyes. In fact, in more recent times when one of the relatives who collected buttons for a hobby, asked about some from Grandma’s old dresses some one said, “Oh no! No buttons.” They didn’t believe in “em,” I guess the reason Mother was allowed to have a hat was because the trip on the train was such a great event and she had to have her head covered, so a plain hat was permitted.

My grandparents worked hard, lived simply and lavished their love on their children’s children and their children’s children’s children. And to this day I still feel the influence of their teachings upon my life.