It’s August. It’s hot. It’s the dog days of summer.

Here in the Midwest, it’s been exceptionally hot and humid. At our house, we don’t normally need air conditioning because we live high on a hill, surrounded by breezy trees. But lately, I must admit, it’s been a bit sticky. I haven’t expected many visits from my daughter-in-law, who’s now in her final six weeks of pregnancy.

I wonder what it was like 77 years ago for my grandmother Ruth? She would have been eight months pregnant with her first child—my mother Carol, who was born August 23, 1933. Back then, there certainly wasn’t air conditioning for the common family living in Chicago. I wonder if it was hot, humid and extremely uncomfortable that year like it is now?

Or three years later, in June 1936, when she was pregnant with her daughter Judith? What was life for Ruth like then?

In the video I have of Ruth’s remembrances, she talks about her days of early motherhood. It’s mostly factual things, like where they were living. It’s interesting stuff but I wished I’d thought to also ask more personal, thoughtful questions.

What was it like being pregnant in the 1930s? What was my grandfather like as an expectant father? How hot was the August of 1933, or the June of 1936?

Anyways, here’s what we do have…

“When we decided to have a child, we moved to Blue Island, Ill,” says Ruth to me, in the video. “This is where your mother was born.

“We live there just a year. Then we moved back to Chicago and lived upstairs in an aunt and uncle of mine—their apartment. Then, when Judith was born, when I left for the hospital, I left from that apartment. While I was in the hospital, Grandma and Grandpa Arendt (Emma Hornburg Hooge Arendt and Rudolph Arendt), and an aunt of mine, and George (Ruth’s husband) moved us to a bigger apartment, nearer to church. We lived there until 1940, when we bought the bungalow on (8245 S.) Ada St.”

Stay cool everyone. It’s been hot before. It’ll be hot again.

Four Generations

A four generation gathering: In back, l-r, Emma Arendt and Ruth Larson, holding baby Carol. Seated in front, Wilhemina Hornburg.

Larson, George, Ruth, and baby Judith

George and Ruth Larson, with baby Judith.

George Larson Family

George and Ruth Larson Family, daughters Carol and Judith, circa 1939

My Aunt Judith gave me this picture. She said she remembers feeling conscious of her father holding the corner of her dress. She looks somewhat concerned about it, don’t you think?


Sisters, 1992

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit,
a golden thread to the meaning of life.
—Isadora James

Happy Sister’s Day!

Yes, today is Sister’s Day. And today, I say thanks for three gifts from God—my sisters.

The quote above says it all. Yet, sisterhood is easily one of the most complex of human relationships. Playmates, rivals, best friends, critics, compatriots in crime—it’s a bond forced upon siblings yet one we cherish throughout our lives. Small wonder the Mars gender rolls its eyes and fears the hormonal Venus side of the family.

Ruth, my grandmother, and her sister Charlotte, shared this love-hate relationship. Friends as long as they lived, they exchanged weekly long-distance phone calls, love and support. And, like all sisters, they sometimes were each other’s greatest antagonists.

“When I was 12-years old, I had a half-sister Charlotte,” says Ruth in her 1990 video, of the daughter born to her mother Emma and her step-father Rudolph Arendt. Emma married Rudolph in 1918, a year after her first husband died.

“She was quite a crybaby,” Ruth laughs of Charlotte. “My mother used to go to choir practice on Wednesday nights and my brother Carl and I had to take care of Charlotte.

“We had a (high?) Victrola that played one record and you had to wind it each time. Carl would play the Victrola and I would walk with Charlotte. And then I would take care of the Victrola and Carl would walk with her.”

And because, later in life, Charlotte passed along stories of Ruth’s side of the family, it’s only fitting that Ruth did the same of Charlotte’s. In the video, Ruth shares a few interesting tidbits of the Arendt family in the midst of Chicago’s prohibition days.

“My step-dad’s younger brother, Ed Arendt—he got into the bootlegging business. Once Uncle Carl (Ruth’s brother), well, he was young and I don’t know if he was married or not. Eddy Arndt had him deliver some home brew and he (Carl) got caught.

“Well, I guess he was going to offer the policeman some money, maybe he had a $20, and they said ‘oh, you’re just small stuff, we don’t want you,’ and they let him go.”

According to Ruth, her mother was very upset that Eddy Arndt involved Carl in his dirty work. (Eddy Arendt—doesn’t the name alone sound gangster-ish?) Anyway, it seems his visits caused conflicts.

“Eddy used to come to the house and he’d bring his pals,” tells Ruth in the video. “Grandpa Arendt (Ruth’s step-father) worked in the stockyards and he used to bring our butter and meat home. This was on a Saturday that Eddy came over and brought a friend. When they were gone, some butter was missing. They had taken it.”

Butter-schmutter. Apparently, Eddy was dealing with more than dairy delights.

“Eddy Arendt—he was pretty much in the gang, I guess,” tells Ruth. “Because he was shot and killed on his sister’s front porch. They drove by in a car and shot him.

“At his wake, this fella came and they (the Arendts) felt he had something to do with it. Eddy’s four brothers stood around the casket and just kept watching him because they were afraid he might do something.”

I ask Ruth how old she was when these things happened.

“Oh, I don’t think I was married then,” she answers. “I might have been 18, or something like that.”

And Charlotte would have been six.

Sisters Judith and Carol, September 1943

Unfortunately, I haven’t found any pictures of Ruth and Charlotte in their younger days. However, here we have Ruth’s daughters, Carol and Judith, as flower girls in Charlotte’s wedding. These hats certainly vie for attention in the Easter Bonnet posting, don’t you think?

Carol and Judith

Matching dresses are a rite of passage for sisters. I wonder if someone made them—isn’t the smocking beautiful?

Two Generations of Sisters, 1990

Many decades later, on a hot summer day in Wisconsin: sisters Carol and Judith standing behind their mother Ruth (left) and her sister Charlotte.

Judith's daughters: Ruth and Rachel

Family Secrets

June 24, 2010

“Every family has secrets. It’s what we do with them that counts.”
—Kay Elizabeth, Editor/Owner, The Cuckleburr Times

A few months ago I read an intriguing, at times heartbreaking, book called Annie’s Ghost, by Steve Luxenberg. It’s the story of his mother and how she hid the existence of her disabled sister throughout most of their lives.

The story initially caught my attention because it takes place in Detroit. My attention then grew to fascination because Luxenberg comes through with this ace investigative journalism—as well he should since he’s an associate editor at The Washington Post.

Luxenberg’s methodical research into his family’s secret interests me because we too have a family secret—unanswered questions that I would love to further investigate.

And like Luxenberg, who at times questioned revealing his mother’s secret, I too have been unsure of what to do with information many of my family members already know, but others do not.

Here’s a quote from Luxenberg’s blog. It’s the comment a reader made to him, and I’m taking it as my cue.

“I was talking about your book at a family gathering, and it led to a conversation about some family secrets that we had always avoided discussing. Thanks for making it safe for us to talk about things that we needed to bring out.”

—Comment made to Steve Luxenberg from reader of Annie’s Ghost

So here goes…

Years ago, there was an afternoon when three generations of my maternal family sat reflecting on the past—my grandmother Ruth, my mother Carol and I. We talked about things we remembered, some of them funny, some of them not so much. Naturally, I was intrigued by the story of Ruth’s father, Carl Hooge, who was a Chicago policeman and shot in the line of duty.

After our time together, my mom was upset. In private, she told me Ruth’s father was indeed shot in the line of duty, but there were rumors he wasn’t shot by someone else. He shot himself.

Does Grandma know this, I wondered?

My mother didn’t think so, and she wanted it to stay that way. She was insistent that Ruth be allowed to keep the noble image she’d always had of her father.

Well, it’s been more than 15 years since that afternoon together. My dear mother Carol died in 1999. And Ruth died seven years later at the wondrous age of 97. As far as we know, Ruth always believed her father was shot in the line of duty.

So what of those rumors? Are they true?

After reading Annie’s Ghost, I emailed Steve Luxenberg. He emailed me back. He even called. What a super guy!

Steve offered many helpful suggestions on how to research Carl Hooge’s death. He also did a little looking himself—apparently the reporter in him couldn’t resist. He sent me a Chicago Daily Tribune article, dated June 13, 1917, which reads:

Policeman Carl Hooge of Deering Street Station, 36 years old, 5340 South Wood Street, shot himself in the head while on duty at the South Halsted Street bridge yesterday. He died at the People’s hospital. A sealed letter to his wife will be opened at the inquest today.

Policeman Martin McFadden, who went to relieve him at 6 o’clock in the evening, found him in the bridge shanty shot. Hooge’s revolver lay beside him.

“So long, old pal,” Hooge murmured as he sank into unconsciousness.

No cause for the suicide is known to his comrades of the Deering Street station, where he had served four years.

—Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922); Jun 13, 1917;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1986) pg. 17

A copy of Carl’s death certificate verifies this same thing and states that the officiating undertaker was Edward Hornburg, Carl’s brother-in-law.

Not too long ago, I called Edward Hornburg’s grandson. Mr. Hornburg is, at the least, a third generation mortician for the Hornburg & Sons Funeral Homes. He’s recently retired and has closed the doors of his family’s business.

Imagine the stories that come with three generations of working with people in their greatest time of need. Perhaps Mr. Hornburg knew something of ours? After all, we are distantly related and stories do get passed along.

Mr. Hornburg, however, said he knew nothing.

I asked if it was possible for Carl’s death to be publicized in the newspaper, yet facts kept so quiet that Ruth never learned of them, even later in life?

“Yes,” he said, in the nicest of ways. “In those days if something seemed disgraceful, they would have just kept it under wraps. They didn’t want to bring shame to themselves, they thought it was a reflection on their family.”

Here’s where the questions start to arise, some of them hypothetical and some of them ethical.

First and foremost, did Carl really shoot himself?

Could it have been a murder and cover-up?

Was it right or wrong for an 8-year-old girl to be safeguarded from the truth? To be allowed to grow up with the confidence that develops when a daughter can idolize her father?

Did Ruth ever know the truth? Did she choose to ignore it? Hide it?

And finally, there’s the question of transparency. Transparency—what a cliché word this is nowadays. We’ve become such an open society and we talk about everything, including family secrets.

Should we talk about ours? Here’s why I think we should.

Of the many possibilities concerning his death, one is that Carl could have suffered from depression. Knowing what we know today of this merciless disease—that it’s a medical condition no different than diabetes or heart disease—it’s important we be aware of our family’s full medical history. Our possible medical history.

Talking about Carl’s death also compels us to think with compassion. We wonder about his life, his work, his agonies. We sympathize with his wife Emma and the decisions forced upon her. Our hearts ache for his children, his daughter—our grandmother.

And finally, Carl’s death is part of Ruth’s story. It’s who she is. It’s what made her to be. It’s our story, as well.

Certainly, there’s no shame in that.

What do you think?

A Sad and Fearful Week

June 17, 2010

Back in 1917, this must have been a sad and fearful week for an 8-year-old girl. This was the week that little Ruth Hooge heard the awful news her father was dead. This was the week she saw him laid out in a casket in their home and then taken by procession to a cemetery.

Ruth’s father was Carl Hooge, a 36-year-old Chicago policeman, and, according to a Chicago Daily Tribune article dated June 13, 1917, he had been on duty at the South Halsted Street bridge. He died later at the People’s Hospital.

“He was shot in the line of duty,” Ruth always said of her father, when speaking of him decades later to her children and grandchildren, of whom I’m one.

In a 1990 family video, Ruth talks of this week that happened so long ago. Initially, she says she doesn’t remember much. But like the obscure things that embed themselves into a child’s mind, there are some details that stayed with my grandmother throughout her life.

“In those days, you were laid out at home,” says Ruth. “My father was laid out at home in his uniform. I remember we lived upstairs in this 2-flat and he was in the casket in front of the front windows. Right next to that was a bedroom with front windows and Aunt Bert (Hornburg Reimer) took me to that window. A police band was out in front and they played ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ That song has upset me ever since.”

In the video, Ruth remembers the police band played and marched in front of the hearse all the way from their house to Bethania Cemetery where her father was buried. She says the police department paid for her father’s funeral and gravestone.

“My father — I have the funeral bill, and it was just under $500 — has a big, black marble stone, with gold printing and etching,” recalls Ruth. “My mother and father’s grave is now one of the first ones as you come into this big cemetery. It’s a Lutheran cemetery.”

Ruth also remembers the months after her father died.

“Aunt Bert and her son, my cousin Russell, lived with us for a year or so,” says Ruth. “My mother was getting $75 a month from the police department for our care.”

In the video, I’m still curious about the day her father died. I ask if perhaps a random street person shot him? Or a gangster?

“It was in the line of duty,” Ruth reiterates. “Grandma (Emma Hooge, her mother) never talked about it. She just wouldn’t talk about it.

“But I remember her sending me to a friend of hers — you’ve heard us talk of Marie Milke — and she sent me over there to tell her. They lived in a 2-flat upstairs and was I was in the front hall. She came down the stairs and I told her and she started to cry. The woman in the downstairs flat came out and she (Marie) told her what happened. This woman says, ‘Oh, you poor little orphan!’

“I said, ‘I’m not an orphan! I’ve got a mother!’

“I was eight years old,” says my grandmother.

Carl and Emma Hooge’s gravestone is in Chicago’s
Bethania Cemetery. When you drive in the front entrance off Archer Avenue, the stone is located just to the right.

Pictured here is Ruth’s husband George, probably decades later, tending to Carl’s grave. The handwriting is Ruth’s and is taken from the back of the photo.

Striking garment workers scuffling with policemen, 1915. Chicago Daily News negatives collection DN-0065587. Permission requested and granted from Chicago Historical Society, order #16922.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich sure is a big news item these days. I happened to be researching Chicago corruption and his name pops up everywhere. Interestingly, for every story on Blagojevich’s alleged dealmaking, bribery and all-around racketeering, there’s a follow up on Chicago’s synonomous past. It seems Blagojevich and the Windy City’s epic cronies may have a few things in common.

“There is a culture of corrupt and history of corruption in Chicago that dates back to 1856 when county commissioners and aldermen were in (scheme) crooked scheme to paint city hall,” says Dick Simpson, Head of the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in this recent Time magazine article.

To visualize this culture, you’ve got to know a little of Chicago’s history. And a fascinating history it is.

Since its beginnings in 1833, Chicago has been a city of immigrants. This was particularly true after its first railways, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened in 1838. These two systems established the city as a transportation hub between the east and the west.

According to author Edward M. Burke, in a Pritzker Military Library podcast interview, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world in the 19th century. By 1893, when it hosted the Chicago World’s Fair, one million people claimed it as their home.

“Chicago was an immigrant city,” says Burke. “Many of the people came from nations where they were oppressed. They came here and suddenly had this new experience, new freedoms they enjoyed…in some instances it would get out of hand.”

Of that population, Germans comprised the largest ethnic group. The Irish came in a close second. And here’s were much of Chicago’s political story began. It was the Germans and Irish in 1855, who brought on the Lager Beer Riot when they objected to increased saloon licensing fees. And it was the Germans and Irish (particularly the Irish), who dominated politics, the police and the firemen forces. (1)

Fast forward to 1909, the year a little girl named Ruth was born.

Ruth Hooge, my grandmother, was born in Chicago at a time when the American economy wavered between the promise of new businesses and exciting job opportunities, to the panic of bank runs, labor strikes and unemployment. In just 20 years, Chicago’s population had doubled, bringing its population to two million people. And it was “politics as usual” as “mayoral appointments ensured that the Police Department and other civic agencies would be controlled by partisan commissions,” according to the book To Serve and Collect, by Richard C. Lindberg. (2)

Wouldn’t you think life went on for most Chicagoans in spite of these political shenanigans? After all, crime and corruption happen everywhere, yet we still manage to play happily as children, grow up to be adults, and possibly raise families of our own.

For Ruth, however, life may not have been the same as most little girls’. Ruth’s father was a policeman, and in Chicago, being a policeman was not an easy job.

Author Richard Lindberg writes about it in his book:

“A policeman’s lot was never a happy one. The hours were long, and in the early years of the twentieth century, payless paydays were all too common because of repeated fiscal crises in city government. Disease, despair, and the prospects of an early death awaited the police officer. In addition, he had to be resourceful and keep his wits about him, because his own livelihood often depended not on how well he performed his duties, but how well he pleased his masters.” (3)

“To continue his employment on the force, the police officer was openly called upon to perform political work or to sell tickets to fund-raising events that lined the coffers of the ward organizations. The policeman, who wanted to do his duty in a forthright manner, quickly realized the perils involved when he attempted to arrest gamblers and brothel keepers who had ‘clout’. ” (4)

I once asked my grandmother about her father. She said she didn’t remember much about him.

Unlike most little girls in Chicago, Ruth’s father died when she was eight.

1. Richard Lindberg (1991). To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal. Praeger Publishers 1991.
2. Richard Lindberg (1991). To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal. Praeger Publishers 1991. pg. 53.
3. Richard Lindberg (1991). To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal. Praeger Publishers xiii.
4. Richard Lindberg (1991). To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal. Praeger Publishers 1991. pg. xiv.

More good reading:

End of Watch: Chicago Police Killed in the Line of Duty 1853–2006. By Edward M. Burke, Edward and Thomas J. O’Gorman (2006). Chicago’s Neighborhoods, Inc.

City of the Century, The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America, by Donald L. Miller (1997) Simon & Schuster.

Walpurgis Night

April 30, 2010

So, are you ready for the big celebration tonight? It’s Walpurgis Night and it’s part of our family heritage.

What? You didn’t know this?

Well, neither did I. I just happened to come across it while researching the next Beaded Bells topic—the Swedish side of our family tree.

Apparently, Walpurgis Night (Valborgsmässoafton) is a Swedish welcoming of spring. On the night of April 30, Swedes light bonfires reminiscent of those lit in the paganistic 18th century to ward off evil spirits and witches. Nowadays, the celebration continues on to the next day, which is May 1 and the Scandinavian Labour Day.

So happy Walpurgis Night!

Actually, May is George’s month—George, being Ruth’s husband—and May is the month we move on from our very Germanic roots to our Swedish. We happen to have a lot of information from the Larson side, so hang on to your seats. May is going to be a genealogical joy ride (except that it will in no way be reckless or unlawful:-)

Let’s start by talking about George.

As previously mentioned, George came into Ruth’s life in 1929, when they worked together at the C.A. Burnette Co., in Chicago. George was a bookkeeper and Ruth was a switchboard operator.

At the time, George had been living in Chicago for about ten years. According to a letter I have from my mother Carol (George and Ruth’s daughter), he moved to Chicago shortly after graduating from high school in 1918 and lived with one of his aunts.

Prior to that, he grew up on the family farm just outside Grovertown, Ind., the very place he was born on May 3, 1899, to Carl and Sophia (Lindahl) Larson. He was their third child, out of five—Olga, Clarence, George, Arthur and Esther.

Now George was a quiet man. Even though he was very much a part of my childhood and young adult years, I seldom heard him talk about himself. I do, however, have many letters written to me from his brother, Arthur, and these give good insight to their years on the farm.

According to Arthur, in a letter dated 1983, the family’s 98-acre farm was located a mile east of Grovertown, a community where many of their Larson relatives also lived. They always had lots of cows and horses “to enrich the soil,” writes Arthur, “and a few hogs and pigs to roll in the mud.”

Arthur describes their years on the farm as hard work. In addition to corn, wheat and oats, their father also planted 1-½ to 2 acres of onions to be sold as a cash crop in the fall.

“We had to crawl on our knees and pick out all the weeds,” writes Arthur. “Then Dad also planted another acre of pickles (cucumbers), which was backbreaking to pick. When finished, they had to be sorted large from small so it was quite late, and we had to deliver them to town. That was a cash crop.”

Arthur also writes of fun times like butchering a hog every fall, cutting wood in winter and sleigh rides with the horses.

“No cars or tractors back then,” he writes.

According to Arthur’s letter, Olga, George and he all went to Chicago as young adults because work there was easy to find. In 1925, their parents sold their farm in Grovertown and moved up to Michigan, where they farmed together with Clarence in the Imlay City area.

I remember as a child, my parents always had a big garden and my grandfather, George, loved to help with planting and weeding. Like the old adage says, you can take the farmer away from the farm, but can’t take the farm out of the farmer.

Here’s to Walpurgis Night, here’s to our Farmer George and here’s to any of us soon to plant our own gardens.


Carl & Sophia Larson Family, circa 1900

L-R: Carl, Clarence, Olga and Sophia, holding George.

Carl & Sophia Larson Family Farmhouse, 1993

Years ago, I sent away for the abstract and plat map for the Larson’s farm in Indiana. While vacationing in the area, we scouted down the house. Unfortunately, the owners weren’t home (or thought we looked shifty and chose not to open the door). We left a copy of the original farmhouse photo and our address, but never heard from them. It would be interesting to see the house today, yes?

Carl & Sophia Larson Family, circa 1910

A guess at identities: Back, l-r: Clarence and Olga. Middle: father Carl, Esther, and mother Sophia. Front: Arthur and George.

George, on the left, and Clarence Larson

Olga Larson, 1895-1927

Clarence Carl Larson, 1897-1959

Geroge Berthal Larson, 1899-1983

This picture was provided by Larry Newburg, our Kusin, as he likes to say. Wait to you see the information he has to share—stay tuned!

Strangely, of the many pictures we have, none of them are of Arthur. Very unfortunate, since it’s Arthur who provided so much personal information about the family. He lived from 1902-1990, and I’m hoping his daughter Donna can share as well.

Esther (Larson) Mann, 1908-1978

Another photo provided by Larry.

George Larson

Anyone know antique cars? Any ideas of the era? Look what a sharp dude George was!

George Larson 1918 military draft registration

While World War I lasted from July 1914-Nov. 1918, the U.S. didn’t get involved until April 1917.

Above is George’s draft registration card, dated September 1918. At the time, he was working as a postal clerk in Chicago and never was drafted.

Below is a more visible sample of a registration card.

1918 U.S. Draft Registration Card

Picnics and Togetherness

April 15, 2010

This Saturday is a big day here in Madison, Wisconsin—the Dane County Farmers Market opens for its summer season on the Capitol Square. And then, come June 30, Concerts on the Square begins its season.

The market and concerts are both cultural traditions that bring Madisonians in hoards to the lawns of the State Capitol. They shop, they eat, they drink, they listen to music, they kick back and play with their kids. It’s a great communing of families and friends, all who enjoy getting out and spending time together.

So, what does this Madison togetherness have to do with my grandmother Ruth?

Well, not a whole lot.

Except that it reminds me of two books I’m currently reading. They’re about Chicago’s history and they both mention the German people’s love of community.

According to “City of the Century,” by Donald L. Miller, Germans were Chicago’s largest ethnic group during the 19th century. Between 1840 and World War I, they comprised 25 percent of the city’s population. They lived together on the North Side, the Northwest Side, and in industrial areas along branches of the Chicago River.

“Rich and poor, Catholic and Lutheran, Bavarian and Prussian, Germans lived together in these virtually self-sufficient urban villages, where German was the language of common discourse,” writes Miller. “Germans seemed to do everything together, and on warm-weather Sundays they would gather in festive beer gardens within the German colony or march together, hundreds and sometimes thousands of them, to picnic grounds on the edge of the city.” (1)

Recently, I pulled out an old VCR tape we made back in 1990. On it, I’m interviewing Ruth and with only a few questions to prompt her, she does a fascinating recollection of events throughout her life. Coincidentally, she talks about picnics she had as a child with her Hornburg cousins.

“We used to go on truck picnics,” says Ruth. “We used to put benches on either side of the truck and away we’d go. My Uncle Ed, the undertaker, he had a baseball team called the Hornburg Colts. All my cousins were in it. We girl cousins used to go and root for them. We used to have a lot of fun that way.”

Ruth also talks about the church picnics they had. By that time, she had moved with her parents and brother to the south side of Chicago. But they still came back to Holy Cross, the church where she was baptized, for its picnics.

“Holy Cross Church was in the old neighborhood,” says Ruth. “They had a school and my cousins all went there. Whenever they had their picnic, they called it the Holy Cross School picnic, and they would march from the school to the train. They had a band. They all got on the train and drove out of Chicago to a grove, and they used to have big picnics. They used to have beer and they’d have, well, a swinging ball like bowling, only you swing the one big ball and hit the pins.”

“My one aunt, she was real good at it,” remembers Ruth.

I ask which aunt this was.

“That was my Aunt Minnie Hornburg, Uncle Eddie’s wife,” she answers.

Then she goes on into a familiar litany of family relations…about her other Aunt Minnie, from her mother’s side, whose first husband died and she married Minnie Hornburg’s brother Bill, so a brother and a sister married a brother and a sister, and they’re both named Minnie…you can tell by my “oh-h-h” in the background that I’m totally lost.


You’ve gotta remember there were twelve kids on the Hornburg side. Just think of all those Germans picnicking, drinking beer and swinging the bowling ball. That must have been some train ride back into the city.

Ruth Hooge, age 17

My video photgraphy skills were pretty bad back in 1990. Poor Ruth, I sat her in the shade but with the sun in the background she looks like a talking silhouette. This shot is the best it’s gonna get.

I’m planning to transfer the VCR tape to my computer. I can then insert clips into the blog and/or burn CDs—let me know if you’re interested in one.

(1) Miller, Donald L., “City of the Century,” Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1996, pg. 468-469.