As American became populated, the immigrants brought with them, so much more than their belongings. I recently received my copy of the “Wisconsin Magazine of History” from the Wisconsin Historical Society, of which I am a member, and one of the cover stories was entitled, “German Brewing in Early Wisconsin.” Because I come from a strong German background, and was born in Wisconsin, this story was of particular interest to me. It seems that, while beer brewing in the United States began with the English, in the mid-1800s, but beer drinking was common in much of Europe, and in all levels of society, which surprised me some. We tend to expect that, higher society people would never drink beer, but the reality is that that is only in more recent years. The reality is that because on the lack of knowledge of sanitation and disease causing pathogens, many of the drinks people could make out of ordinary water really weren’t very safe to drink. Beer, on the other hand because it had to be boiled and fermented, did away with all those organisms, making it safe to drink. That made beer a very common drink by the Middle Ages. It was even given to the children.
Upon reading this, I wondered if my German great grandparents made beer in their home. I thought about the journal my Aunt Bertha Schumacher had written, but she never mentioned beer. I suppose it could have been because it was so common in the home, that it never occurred to her. Or could it have been because they were the exception to the rule, and didn’t really drink beer in their household. It’s hard to say, but when something is as much a cultural and traditional practice, it seems to me unlikely that they would not have done thing in the same way their families did at home. After studying German in high school, I knew that beer was talked about in many of the dialogues we learned. It just seemed to me, like it was a way to learn the words, and now a way of life, but perhaps I had been wrong on that. I suppose it could have been that because family meals in the United States, these days anyway, did not include beer, wine, or any other alcoholic drink of any kind, on a regular basis, was pretty much unheard of. It just didn’t seem like an normal activity, but in the time that my German great grandparents immigrated to the United States, drinking beer was very normal, so I have no reason to believe that they didn’t drink it, just like everyone else.
When the German immigrants arrived in America, they were required to brew their own beer. Since wheat was abundant, barley and hops easy to grow, they had no problem making their beer. I must wonder if they used whet at that time, though, because the German recipe did not include wheat, because it was needed for bread in Germany, and it wasn’t as abundant as it was in the United States. The east coast with its heat and long growing season, didn’t make a good brewing climate. When the people moved to Wisconsin, they found the climate, especially in the Milwaukee area was perfect, and I suppose the rest is history, for German beer and for Milwaukee.
Leap Day babies only get an official birthday every four yeas. According to tradition, on the off years, a Leap Day baby gets to celebrate their birthday on February 28th, March 1st, or both. I suppose they look at it this way…their actual birthday gets lost in time 3 years out of 4, so they have to make due with the other days. And maybe they even have a right to celebrate for two days. It seems strange to celebrate a lost day, but that is what they do. My granddaughter, Shai Royce is a Leap Day baby, and she has had her years of celebrating her day on the 28th, the 1st, and both, but for the most part, she chooses the 1st for her three off year birthdays. I have always celebrated her off year birthdays on March 1st, because the 28th was her great grandmother, Joann Schulenberg’s birthday, as well as her cousin, Chris Petersen’s birthday. Chris was born one day before Shai, so that day just made no sense to me. Nevertheless, tradition allows her to celebrate on both days, and so , in order to make sure that she and anyone who knows her don’t think I forgot her birthday, I at least send her a text that says, “Happy first day of your birthday.” It actually should have said, “Happy first day of your missing birthday!!
Having a birthday that goes missing three years out of four could tend to give a person a bit of a complex, but I think that most Leap Day babies look at it as have a really special day every four years, and a really special situation the other three years. It is unusual to have your birthday disappear, after all. In the United States, as of 2016 (the last Leap Year), there are currently only 187,000 people who were born on Leap Day, plus approximately four million others from around the world. Babies have a one in 1,461 chance of being born on Leap Day. That makes my girl very special, in the world’s view. Of course, I always knew she was very special.
Shai has always been a hard worker with a heart of gold. She is good at so many things. She is great with children, and she could easily have been a nurse, or something in the health care line. She has a bubbly personality, and a smile that lights up her whole face. Her beautiful expressive eyes welcome you into her wolrd. She brings the sunshine into the room with her, when she walks in. I never would have expected that Shai would be my only granddaughter, but that has turned out to be the way it was. We used to love to do our nails together, and when she got into hiking, we hiked together. She was a great companion…until she moved to Washington state. That and the day her family moved were very sad days for me. I miss my beautiful granddaughter very much, but I know that she is living life her way, and that is the best thing I could ask for her…other than an awesome missing birthday day. To day is the second day of Shai’s missing birthday. Happy birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
For most people the holidays are all about tradition. Of course, for all Christians, Christmas is about Jesus, but it’s also about family time, family traditions, parties, and gifts…with the greatest gift being Jesus. But, one tradition concerning those parties, for me and my family anyway, is the traditional Byer Family Christmas party. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer’s parents George and Hattie Byer started the tradition years and years ago, when their house really got too small to handle their large and ever growing family. The party was moved to the Mills Fire Hall, and on the day of the party, we literally filled it up!! Grandma and Grandpa Byer were surrounded by their loving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…and they were so happy. With a family as large as ours, well over 300 now, of course, you might not get to talk with each and every one, but you saw them, and they saw you, and it kept the family close. Grandma and Grandpa wanted that tradition to continue, even after their passing, and so they charged their children with the task of keeping the tradition alive, and the family close. And they did a good job of it.
Now, there are several of those kids who have, themselves, gone on to Heaven, and sadly, our numbers are dwindling, because we…the grandchildren have failed to take the reigns, and keep Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s dream alive. It is so easy to look at the aunts and assume that this is their duty, and not ours, but is it…really? Aren’t we, the grandchildren old enough now to also take up the simple task and honor our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles, in such a way. There are, of course, a number of the grandchildren who still come to the party every year, and we find ourselves very blessed by the evening. It is fun, and if we take a few minutes to walk around the room and visit with our aunts, uncles and cousins, we will find that we have a pretty wonderful family, and that the traditional Byer Family Christmas Party is a blessing that continues to grow…needing really just the watering of more loved ones to join in. It saddens me to think that the day might come, when it no longer makes sense to rent the facilities, because so few have shown up in past years, but it could come to that I suppose. We all think there is a lot of time to visit with our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but every time one of them goes to Heaven, we find out that there was so little time, and we wasted it, by thinking that our presence didn’t really matter. They could do without us. And yes, the party did go on, and we all had a great time, but the family members who were not there…who could have been, because they didn’t have to work, or have anyplace else to be, the ones who simply stayed at home…believe me…yes, you were missed, very much.
Grandma Byer was a great cook, and she taught her children well, and they taught their children well, and I can tell you that we are a family of great cooks. The food last night was delicious, everyone enjoyed it very much. The children were able to run and play without being in the way, and their parents could relax, because no one was going to think they should make their children sit still. The party is one where everyone’s feeling are treated with care, and oh my…did the children have a great time. No one got hurt, and they got to get their wiggles out, and probably eat far too many sweets, but hey, what is a party for anyway? I loved seeing all the precious little ones, whose eyes danced with glee as they got to spend time with other children that they hadn’t seen in quite a while, and as you know, kids don’t need an introduction. The see another kid their size, and it’s an instant friendship. Oh, that we adults could make friends so easily. All too soon, the party was over, and for many of us, it will be the last time we will see each other until the summer picnic…the other family tradition. We all lead busy lives, and daily visits are hard, but Grandma and Grandpa Byer wanted us to continue the tradition. So to all of you who came, thank you. It was great to see you and I really enjoyed our time together. And to all who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. Merry Christmas to all of you.
As a little kid, my grandson, Caalab Royce, like most kids was a typically goofy kid. He always had a great sense of humor, and loved making people laugh. He didn’t even have to try to make jokes, it just came naturally…and it still does. Caalab loved long hair, and even as a little baby, he carefully played with my hair every chance he got. As a little bit bigger boy, he caught the attention of everyone at church when he would climb up on the chair whenever we stood to sing, and started to play with my hair. It really was the cutest thing, and very endearing. Caalab was the kid who always loved to come to his grandparents house to spend the night. He stayed with us longer than any of the other grandchildren. It did make it hard to have him and his sister, Shai move away when their parents, my daughter Amy and her husband Travis moved to Washington.
Now that Caalab is a grown man, turning twenty today, he is proving to be a wonderful man. As his mom said, he is getting really good at adulting. Amy tells me that Caalab has done very well at doing all of the things that adults should do…paying his bills and never borrowing money, going to work on time and doing his job, and being a responsible adult. Caalab and Shai, his sister, got an apartment together about six months ago, and they have been exceptional roommates and friends. I remember how much they fought when they were little kids, and even as teenagers, and I wondered how well they would do as roommates, but I can proudly say they have been stellar roommates. Shai has even told me that Caalab has become a very clean adult. Most kids, and especially boys, are messy, and some never get out of it, but Caalab grew out of it, and Shai is very thankful.
Caalab, Shai, and their parents, Amy and Travis have started bowling on a league together. It is really the first time Caalab has bowled very much, and they had a great time. Caalab ended the year with a 127 average, and that is really good for a new bowler. Bowling is a traditional sport in our family, so it’s fun to watch the next generation coming into their own in the sport I grew up loving. I know that they will have a great time. In everything Caalab has done in his life, I can say that I am extremely pleased with all of his accomplishments. He is a wonderful young man, and I am very proud of him. Today is Caalab’s birthday. Happy 20th birthday Caalab!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I read somewhere that the Sunday before Father’s Day is Write a Letter to your Father Day, and I found myself wishing this was a day I had known about a long time ago, because while Father’s Day is traditionally a day on which we show our dads that we love and appreciate them, Write a Letter to your Father Day, in my opinion really had a far deeper meaning in so many ways. Looking back on my life, there are so many things I would love to thank my dad for, and indeed, my parents for, but since this is about dads, I’ll take this one step at a time. Since my dad, Allen Spencer is in Heaven now, my letter will not be able to be sent or received, so I’m sure my dad won’t mind if this is all done in cyberspace.
Dear Dad, Words can never really express how deeply blessed I feel to have been born your daughter. I came home to a house filled with love, and parents who raised me and my sisters in God’s ways. We learned the basics, of course, have faith in God, share with others, helpout around the house, have respect for our parents and those in authority, and to always be honorable in all things. We always knew that no matter what, we were a family, and family came first. We learned that there was nothing we could ever do to lose your love for us, and that no matter how badly we messed up, we could always come to our parents for help and guidance. The one thing we never received from you was judgment and condemnation, because those things are totally out of character with love, and you totally loved your family.
Over the years, you showed us this great country we live in and taught us to love camping and all kinds of travel. You kept the fires going to scare away the bears, because we thought it would work, and you never made us feel silly for suggesting such a crazy thing. As we grew to our teen years, you understood that getting five girls ready in the morning was not a simple matter, but rather a two hour ordeal, while you patiently waited drinking a cup of coffee. There was so much you wanted to show us, but we were girls, and while we wanted to see most of it, vacation simply did not mean that we went out in public, sans makeup. Dad, you were so outnumbered, all of your married life, but you always seemed to take it in stride.
You and Mom taught us how a marriage and family should look, and how parents should raise their kids. Our families have been enriched by the family life we lived as kids. You always wanted your family around you, and Dad you made sure that if we got busy in our lives, we didn’t forget to come and have lunch with you and Mom. It kept us connected. You loved to hear about our lives, our work, our kids, our husbands. You wanted to be a part of our lives, but you were never intrusive…just interested. I always loved that about you and Mom, and those lunches will always have a very special place in my memory files. They were among the sweetest memories.
Dad, I could go on and on about how wonderful you and Mom made our lives, but I guess that will be a letter for another day. I just want to thank you for making life for my sisters and me, the most wonderful kind of life in the world. We have been so wonderfully blessed by God when he made you and Mom our parents. Today isn’t a traditional special day, but really just a day to let you know that I am thinking of you always. I love you so much, Dad. Your daughter, Caryn.
Christmas Eve is a day full of tradition. Maybe not as much tradition as Christmas Day, but tradition nevertheless. For some people, the Christmas gifts are opened on that day, and for others, maybe just one gift is opened. It is the start of the Christmas holiday. When we think of the birth of Christ, we also think of nighttime. Maybe that is why Christmas eve is more special to us…whether we realize it or not. For Christians, Christmas is one of the special days, because it represents the day that hope arrived on the Earth again. Before that, there was no hope, whether the people knew it or not.
For my grandparents, George and Harriet Byer, and my cousins, Raylynn and Doug Williams, it is a day to remember their wedding day, in addition to our Lord’s birth of course. In years gone by, people got married at times when the family could easily get together. I’m sure that is why Grandma and Grandpa chose that day. For Raylynn and Doug, it seemed the perfect day, because of Grandma and Grandpa. I know that any day that a wedding takes place is special, but in our family, the Christmas Eve wedding is a very special one. It was what started the family.
Christmas Eve at my house, when I was growing up, meant singing Christmas carols and eating goodies, listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies. We got to open a gift too, and it was always pajamas. We knew it would be, but that was ok. We knew there would be pictures in the morning opening the gifts, and wearing those pajamas, all crisp and new, just made is Christmas somehow. In fact, I don’t think it would have been Christmas in my mind, without those new pajamas. I really miss my parents, Collene and Al Spencer at Christmastime.
For most of us, there is some celebration on Christmas Eve. For my husband, Bob’s family, Christmas Eve meant Chili, and later the addition of Lasagna, and his mom, Joann Schulenberg’s homemade cinnamon rolls. Then they opened the gifts, and the kids had a great evening. Since my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s passing, we have tried to continue that tradition, but we hadn’t had the cinnamon rolls, but my sister-in-law, Brenda wanted that tradition back. So, while they will not be like her mom’s cinnamon rolls, we will have them. Merry Christmas Eve everyone.
Every year, after Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to put up the Christmas decorations. And every year, I find myself with fewer and fewer of my little helpers to deck the halls of my home. I suppose that as time goes by, there will be a new group of little helpers to spend that special time with me, but for now, I’m hoping to have at least a couple to help on Saturday with my Christmas decorations. Either way, I will get my decorations up this weekend, because there are only so many days to get it done, and I must make hay while the sun shines…as the old saying goes.
Thinking of the decorating ahead, takes my thoughts back to the times that my family decorated our house when I was a kid. Things were very different then. I don’t recall putting up the Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, but it might have been about that time. What I do remember is my four sisters and me and our parents decorating the tree, while we sang Christmas carols and ate popcorn and other snacks. It was a big deal, and none of us would have missed it.
I remember the fanfare that led up to the decorating. We went to the lots to purchase our tree…because there weren’t any artificial trees then. We brought it home and Dad cut the excess length off so the tree would fit in the house. The fragrance of the pine filled the house, and made everything so festive. Mom and Dad would string the lights and garland. Then it was time for my sisters and me to start putting up the ornaments. Mom and Dad taught us to carefully place the ornaments to create the most beautiful effect on the tree. I’m sure that our training took time. Nevertheless, with patience and practice, we got pretty good at it. One thing that eventually went by the wayside…in most families I think is tinsel. As you can see, we all had a handful and were carefully placing it on the tree, but no matter how careful you were, that stuff always ended up on the floor or tangled in the tree branches, which wasn’t a problem with a real tree, but definitely a problem in an artificial tree.
It didn’t matter how old we were. From the oldest to the youngest, even if the youngest was only 2 years old, we decorated the tree. It was so much fun. In fact I think we looked forward to it all year. Traditions are that way. Once you start them and find them to be a lot of fun, you wish you could do them every day, but I suppose that would get boring after a while, so it’s a good thing they only come once a year. As I think back of those traditions from my youth, I feel a bit sad, because all too soon, those days are gone, and we can never get them back. We must move forward, start our own traditions, and accept the changes that have come, because that is what life is all about…whether we like it or not.
We all have memories of home…the home of our childhood. Most of those memories are as sweet as they can be. Memories of laughing and playing with our siblings, or special dinners with the family…always bring back the warm coziness of those carefree childhood days, when your dad and mom were there, taking care of you, and you knew you were safe, because their love surrounded you and every part of your world. As a kid, I experienced a closeness with my family. Dinners were eaten together, and we talked about our day. It was our way to reconnect with each other after a busy day at school or work. But, while we had a close family life that was far different from many families of today, it was nothing like the evenings that my mother and her siblings spent at their home, and in many ways, I feel like it was I, or rather our generation, who missed out. We may have had things like movies and television, but the closeness they had, and the stimulation of their imaginations…well, our world just couldn’t really compare to theirs at all.
The hours after school at my grandmother’s home involved getting dinner ready for the family, eating dinner, washing the dishes, with everyone singing while they worked. Finally, the work is done, and the evening turns cooler. Grandma and Grandpa, George and Hattie Byer would sit together on the couch covered with a blanket. All the children would get a blanket of their own, and sit around the floor and their parents feet. Everyone was cozy and warm. Then, Grandma Byer would read to the family. It was like the movies of today, except that the screen was in your mind. It was a nightly tradition, and since there was only a certain amount of time to read, a book could take weeks to read. The family never seemed to mind that, however, because the result of stopping for the night was a curiosity about where the book was headed and what would happen the next day. Every night was much the same, with the children listening intently to their mother’s voice telling them the story of cowboys and Indians, or sailing ships from far off places.
As my Aunt Sandy Pattan, who is my grandparents’ youngest child, told me about this nightly tradition from her childhood, I could hear in her voice that the thought of it was taking her back to a time when all was warm and cozy in her life. I could picture just how much fun it must have been to sit there at Grandma Byer’s feet listening to her voice reading the story, and creating a picture in your mind that was almost like being right there, in the story. It was such a pleasant story, that I began to wish that it had been a tradition in my own life, or that I had thought to start such a tradition in my own family. The mind is such an amazing part of a person, and to think that it could create a movie like story from the reading of a book, is really amazing. I think that the cozy scene I pictured in my head from just hearing Aunt Sandy tell of it, probably paled next to the reality of just how amazing a tradition it really was to listen to her mother read while sitting at her Momma’s feet.
It’s tradition…looking at your life on Thanksgiving Day, to give thanks for the many blessings that you have received over the year, and the years past. We take stock of everything. The sad things are set aside for review on another day, and we focus on our family, friends, homes, and jobs. And we look to the future and what it promises to bring for us. It isn’t all about things, and in fact, things are often the furthest things from our minds. We are much more focused on our loved ones. Of course, this isn’t the only day we give thanks for our loved ones, nor should it be, but sometimes we find ourselves so preoccupied with our daily lives, that we don’t really notice the blessings that are all around us every day.
This tradition was felt to be so important, that on October 3, 1783, President George Washington issued a proclamation making the 26th day of November as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving…a day to give thanks to Almighty God with grateful hearts for all He has done for us. While the date has been changed to the 4th Thursday of November now, the tradition has remained intact. Somehow though, many people have forgotten the prayer and thanksgiving part of the day, and remember only the food part of the day. There is nothing wrong with feasting…in fact God set aside feast days for His people too, but we must remember that the feast part of the day is supposed to coincide with the prayer and thanksgiving part of the day.
It is my belief that most people are thankful for what they have, but there is a difference between being thankful for things, and giving thanks for things. I believe that difference is acknowledging the one who gave all these things to you…God. I suppose that people who don’t believe in God would see no reason to be thankful to Him, but for me, with my deep faith in God, blessing couldn’t come from anywhere else. God loves me and He is the one who blesses me. Therefore, it is to Him…Almighty God that I give thanks on this Thanksgiving Day. I, like so many other people, neglect the need to thank God in the way that I really should, and maybe having a national day of Thanksgiving, will give us all the opportunity to step back from our busy lives and take a good look at all we have been blessed with. And maybe we can all take a few minutes out of this day to acknowledge God’s grace and loving kindness toward us…and give Him thanks for all he does for us. Happy Thanksgiving to all…and thanks be to God for His loving kindness and all the blessing He has given me and my family.
Sometimes we do things for no real reason…we just feel a need somehow. When my dad’s family was living in Holyoke, Minnesota, the family liked to go down to Oak Lake to fish. The lake is located about 15 miles southwest of Holyoke. The lake was a family favorite location. In fact, the whole area was beautiful. The kids, my Aunt Laura, Uncle Bill, my dad, Aunt Ruth, and their friends, went fishing at the lake as often without their parents as they did with them. The lake became an escape from the boredom of everyday life in a small town.
At some point the kids came across the Fire Warden’s house. You see, the area was very wooded, and there was enough fire danger to warrant not only a fire warden, but a fire watch tower in the area. Of course, the summer season in any wooded area presents a high fire danger, as the summer heat dries out the area. Over time, in their hikes through the area, the kids became friends with the fire warden, and were eventually invited to climb up in the fire tower to check out the view from far above the forest floor. It soon became a tradition. When the kids and their friends went fishing at Oak Lake, they also stopped by the tower, and climbed it every time.
Yes, they loved visiting with the person in the tower, but they also climbed the tower when it was unmanned. I suppose it was partly the challenge of climbing up the high tower. Or it could have been the beauty of the view from the top of the tower. Maybe it was the visit with the watchman in the tower. Somehow, I don’t really think that any of those were the real reason the kids and their friends climbed the tower, every time they went by it. I think they had a very simple reason that they did it…because it was there. And sometimes that is all the reason you need.