lisbon

When someone sees something so horrific that the only think left to do is to act, drastic measures must be taken. Juan Pujol Garcia (aka Garbo), is one of the most successful intelligence agents in the annals of warfare. That is an amazing statement, but it is true. Garcia was a Spanish hotel manager who fiercely hated fascism and Germany. Garcia could see the horrific things that the Germans were doing, and he could not tolerate it. Garcia knew what he had to do, so he offered his services at the British embassy. Strangely, the British embassy staff laughed him out of the building, convincing the Spaniard the only way to impress the British was to infiltrate the German intelligence service, Abwehr.

Without the help of the British government, Garcia decided that he had to take matters into his own hands. He headed to Lisbon, involved himself in the intrigue of the Portuguese capital, and was soon sending Abwehr a stream of bogus intelligence supposedly gleaned while traveling through Britain. In truth, he never left Lisbon, and was concocting information from films, newspapers, and even phone books. It was a drastic plan, but the stream of information earned him the trust of the Germans, and the British government finally gave Garcia some missions. With this success to his credit, he talked his way into an interview in Britain with MI5. He was given the code name Garbo, after actress Greta Garbo, for his ability to spin convincing narratives out of thin air, and was put to work sending credible disinformation to the Germans.

Now under cover, Garbo’s crowning achievement was his involvement in the operation to deceive the Nazis about the location of the Normandy invasion. He not only mislead the German high command about the location, but convinced them the D-Day landing was a diversion for an attack elsewhere. Garcia was such an important asset to the Nazis…or so they thought. The Germans even awarded him the Iron Cross, Second Class in July 1944. He also received the MBE from the British in November 1944. He had been a very successful double agent. After the war, Garbo deliberately faded into obscurity, fearing Nazi reprisals, and relocated to Venezuela, where he died in 1988.

Bertha Emilie SchumacherAnna & Allen SpencerLife in the late 1800s was much different from life today, and in many ways, I must say better. It was a more gentle, moral time. I was once again reading through my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal, and wondering how it can be that every time I look through it, I see a part of the history of my family that I hadn’t noticed before. For a while now, I have wondered why so little is mentioned in the journal about my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer. Of course, the main reason is that by the time Bertha started writing, my grandmother was married and living in Minnesota or Wisconsin. She is mentioned in the younger years, but it was harder to know much about her daily life then, because things like cell phones, free long distance, and internet did not exist. I find it sad in so many ways that they could not stay in closer contact. I wonder if those of us in this day and age really know just how blessed we are, and how very important it is to stay in touch.

Because so many people had begun to move west, and things like towns, churches, and even schools were more scarce then, often, the religious training of the children happened at home. Bertha mentions in her journal that my great grandparents were dissatisfied by the fact that they were only able to attend church a few times a year. Carl and Henriette knew that this was not the kind of upbringing they wanted for their children. Even though they were both devout Lutherans, they knew that their children really needed to be in church…and they did too. It is so easy to slide in one’s faith when the family isn’t getting weekly or even more often, teaching in a church setting. So, Great Grandpa sold the quarter section of land that they owned, and purchased 320 acres just three miles east of Lisbon, North Dakota. Bertha remarks that this was a nice home with one of the few bathrooms in the country, and an artesian well. It must have been like moving into a castle. We take such things for granted these days. They did not.

The artesian well helped to form a ten acre lake, which my grandfather, Allen Spencer later stocked with catfish. Great Grandpa Carl Schumacher built a safe flat bottom boat for the younger children, so they could all enjoy the lake. This was a time of joy and happiness for the family. Life was changing, the children were growing up and moving out on their own, and new babies were coming too. Times were getting easier Spencer Schumacher Family cover photo2with new inventions every day designed to make life easier. Nevertheless, the problem of distance remained. I’m sure that Bertha would have written more about her older siblings families, had she had the opportunity to know them better. As a writer myself, I can relate to that. There are family members about whom it is more difficult to write, because I am not around them often. There are others about whom I know much, and so writing is easy. Nevertheless, if I write about them or not, they are all dear to me and in my thoughts often. I am, however, grateful to Bertha for her writings and the insight it has brought to me. Bertha has been an inspiration and a blessing to me. Through her writings, I feel like I know people I never met, and that is a limitless gift. It just keeps on giving.

Bertha & Elsa Schumacher a little olderThese days, with most towns having multiple schools, our school days are often taken for granted, and even viewed…by many students and boring, grueling, and basically something to get through and over with, so they can move on to real life. But, schooling in the old west, and even into the mid 1900’s wasn’t always such an easy thing to accomplish. As our nation grew, and people spread out across its vastness, schools were one thing in short supply. Many parents had to home school their children, which is becoming more of a luxury item these days, because with home schooling, comes the loss of one income, and many people can’t or don’t want to make it on one income.

When my great grandparents, Carl and Henriette Schumacher moved their family from Minnesota to North Dakota, they were quite a way from the school, but they saw the importance of educating their children. The family spoke German at home, and when the older children started school, the teachers made fun of their lack of the knowledge of the English language. Henriette immediately set out to change that. German would no longer be spoken in the home. The whole family would make the switch to English. The distance to school was a big problem, but Carl made sure that his children were there…no matter what.

That worked well for the older children, but at that time in history, many children didn’t go to school after the 6th grade, and some quit sooner. So, when Bertha and Elsa, the youngest children were in school, a new problem presented itself. The school was nearer to them now, but often there were not enough students to warrant keeping it open, thus their education became hap-hazard. That is not to say that they did not get their education, because they did, and even went on to college. Theirs was just a little bit different than their older siblings.

Bertha tells of going to school in the small school, with very few students, but she also talks of the year they were home schooled but their oldest sister, my future grandmother, Anna. She talks of the time that they spent in a small house in Lisbon, with Mina staying with them so they could go to school. And of course, there were the times they went by horse and buggy into school. Those were hard times, and I have to wonder how the girls kept up with the other students, and were able to continue on to the high school in Lisbon. It’s not that I wondered about my grandmother’s ability to teach, but with little or no regulation, how did the school in Lisbon know anything about their prior education.
Teacher Anna Schumacher
I suppose they had to take some kind of test or visit with the teacher for a time so they could determine where they were in their education, and therefore could be placed in one grade or another. I know that often in homeschooling situations today, the students are ahead of their age group, but I still wonder if that was the case then, because their materials were few and there was really no clear way to know if the teacher was keeping up with other classes for their pupils’ age groups. Those must have been hard and confusing times for Bertha and Elsa. Nevertheless, they both finished school, like their older siblings, and went on to college, but their education was definitely at The School of Hap-Hazard.

Bertha & Elsa SchumacherIt would be hard for most of us to imagine a world where we got to go to town only once a year, and yet that was the way of things back when my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher was a little girl. The Schumacher family moved from Minnesota to a place 8 miles from Lisbon, North Dakota, and the school house was 3 miles from where they lived.  Bob and I, in our many evening walks have walked 8 miles at a time, but not in the winter, and since that walk takes us 2 hours, I can’t say that it would be feasible as a way to go to town for groceries, because then there is that walk back loaded down with groceries. Just the thought of 4 hours of walking in  the winter cold is enough to make me cringe.

Nevertheless, the children needed to be in school, so Great Grandpa Carl Schumacher got up early every morning, to get the horses out and break a trail, then hook up to the sleigh for the 3 mile drive in to the school with his older children, Anna (my grandmother), Albert, and Mina. Aunt Bertie remarks in her journal, that she and Elsa were very glad that they could stay home with their mother. The sleigh was nothing like the more romantic New England cutters we all think about, but was rather a grain wagon box placed on two heavy runners pulled by their sturdiest horses because of all the deep snow the area got. Great Grandma Henriette would bring the older 3 children out to the wagon, and place bricks she had heated by their feet. Then she would wrap them in blankets that even covered their faces to protect them from the bitter cold. In all the time the children went to that school, they were there everyday, unless they were sick. It was by far the best attendance record in the school, and the Schumacher family lived the furthest away from the school. When Aunt Bertie went to school, a place she was not very fond of, she had to force herself to do what she needed to. It was at this time that she met the only teacher that would remain in her memory for the rest of her life. She was beautiful, and well dressed, but it was her graciousness and her love for children that made her the best teacher little Bertie would ever have.

Not long after Bertie started school, the family moved closer to Lisbon, and the school was only a mile away, and much to Bertie’s delight, it had an indoor bathroom. No more running outside to the outhouse in the middle of a freezing cold day and then running back inside in Bertha & Elsa Schumacher a little olderthe cold again. Bertie felt like she was attending school in a palace, I’m sure. One day, when her mother had to drive the long distance into town on a very cold winter day, she decided to leave little 4 year old Elsa at the school with Bertie and their brother, Fred for the day. Elsa had never been away from her mother before, and they were very close, so she proceeded to cry. The older children could not console her, and finally a teacher came and took Elsa under her wing, calming her and allowing her and her siblings the peace of knowing that everything was going to be alright. Bertie recalls how it is funny that the memories that really stay in your memory are the ones where someone showed such love and kindness that the memory of it lingered on for years to come. What a lovely way to be remembered. That is something I think I should like to be remembered as. Loving and kind enough that the memory of my acts of kindness and love stay in the memories of those whose lives I might have touched.

Wedding of Carl and Albertine SchumacherMy great grandfather, Carl Ludwig Theodor Schumacher, was born in the Province of Pommern in northern Germany, on May 23, 1859. He was one of the twelve children of Johann Freidrich Theodor Schumacher and Maria Maehling. He came to America after taking care of a wealthy landowners driving horses for several years beginning when he was 15. It was a job he loved very much, because he really loved horses. By the spring of 1884, he had saved enough money to pay for passage to America, with the plan of moving to Minnesota, where he had cousins.

Henriette Albertine Johanne Hensel was born in Schönwalde in the southern part of the Province of Pommern, in northern Germany on December 11, 1860. At the time she lived there all this land was part of the Prussian Empire. She was the second youngest of nine children of Carl Hensel and Henriette Tonn. Her father died before her younger brother was born in 1865. About that time, Henriette was sent to her older sister’s home to tend the 5 cows and 52 sheep she had. As time went on, she grew up and had a boyfriend…she was happy and content. Then everything changed for her. Her sister’s husband wanted to immigrate to America, and since Henriette was not married, her mother wanted her to go with them to help her with her two small daughters. She didn’t want to go, but she did go. The voyage was long, and the family spent much of it quite ill. Her sister’s husband never really recuperated fully, and he died just a few years later.

One Sunday a friend of Carl Schumacher’s asked him to sponsor at a baptism in his stead. At the baptism celebration, Carl met the mother of the baby, and her sister Henriette Hensel, who had both just recently come to America from Germany. For Carl, it was love at first sight, and he married the young lady just a year later in Belchester, Minnesota on November 12, 1886. Their marriage was blessed with seven children, Anna Louise (who became my grandmother), Albert August, Maria (who died at just three years of age), Mina Albertine, Frederick Carl, Bertha Emilie, and Elsa Ernestine.

About a year after Elsa was born, the family moved to a farm 12 miles from Lisbon, North Dakota. It was so different from Minnesota, and Albert, who was 15 at the time, fell in love with the wild country. In Minnesota he fished, but there was not much to hunt. Here there was lots to hunt, and guns quickly became Albert’s lifelong hobby. It was here, in 1910, that the family purchased their first surrey. It was a surrey with a fringed top. Anna married my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, then Albert married Christine Ida Froemke, and Mina was away at college in Fargo, finishing her high school. The neighbors started getting the new Model T car, and Albert had to have one, but Carl loved his horses, so he kept his surrey. Albert spent all of his spare time studying mechanics. Mina hated the farm, so Henriette wanted to make sure that her daughter received an education. In 1917, Henriette and Fred were both in bed with arthritis, but Henriette didn’t want Bertha to miss her senior year of high school, so she left her bed to care for Fred. After a few family meetings, they decided to leave Fred, who was feeling better now, to run the farm and the rest of the family moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where Carl and Henriette would spend the rest of their lives. Bertha graduated from Secretarial School and Elsa from high school. Mina married John Clark Spencer Schumacher Family cover photo2Spare. Bertha married Arthur C Hallgren and Elsa married Frank Lawrence. Bertha and Elsa would not have children of their own, but would “adopt” their niece, Pauline Spare Holmberg’s children, Lisa, John, Kristen, and Julie. Between the four remaining children, Carl and Henriette would receive twenty one grandchildren, and a growing number of great grandchildren, great great grandchildren, and these days, great great great grandchildren. All this from a chance meeting when Carl stood in the stead of a sponsor who was unable to be there for a baptism…wow!!

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