Friday, September 23, 2016

Verne Goes to the World's Fair

Despite drought that ravaged the prairie states and other hardships of the Depression years, the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair, called A Century of Progress, drew huge crowds. It opened on 27 May 1933 and closed on 12 November. Its success was so great, that it also ran from May 26-Oct 31, 1934.[1] Its lure did not evade Clint and Mary Troutman’s children. Verne was not to be left out. Perhaps, Neville went with him, for she had expressed a desire to go to her mother, who conveyed the message to Verne away from home in Decatur, Indiana attending the Reppert School of Auctioneering.[2] A note in a postcard from Mary indicates that Verne made the trip in August 1934: “Be careful of your clothes and money at the fair that you don’t lose anything.”[3] It seems likely that Verne went with his new friends from Reppert, or perhaps, with, Ruben Strate, his buddy from Winside who accompanied him to Reppert.
He saved post cards from events at the Fair that impressed him and brought home a silver and black metal cane as a souvenir, which he kept in a black footlocker with all of his other memorabilia from high school and pre-marriage days. On occasion, he unfastened the big metal clasp of the footlocker, lifted the lid, and pulled out the 4-H and track ribbons, the yearbooks, letters, postcards and other treasures, and told the stories to his children. My brother doesn’t remember the stories of the World’s Fair. Maybe he wasn’t as curious about the footlocker as his sisters. My sister remembers the black cane. The only items left are the post cards.

[1] “Century of Progress,” Wikipedia  ( : accessed 24 May 2016), “Success.”
[2] Troutman, Mary, Winside, Nebraska, to Verne Troutman, letter, 29 July 1934, news from home; “Assorted Letters, Memorabilia, and other Papers from the Collection of Verne and Lois Troutman,” binder; privately held, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.
[3] Troutman, Mary, Winside, NE, to Verne Troutman, postcard, 1 Aug. 1934, news from home; “Assorted Letters. . . .”

Friday, September 16, 2016

Getting Along in the World: Carl

With Neville, James, and Carl graduating from high school in 1929, Verne in 1932 and Virginia in 1933, my paternal grandparents Clint and Mary Troutman were experiencing a gradually emptying nest. The first one to marry was Carl.

Following his high school graduation, Carl probably worked as a farm hand for his father or for a neighbor. Farming is what he knew. If he had another job, I’m not sure, but he did have a girlfriend, dimpled, vivacious Dorothea Martha Fleer, daughter of Herman Fleer and Wilhelmina (Winter) Fleer. Herman was one of two Fleer brothers who owned the store that turned on the first electric lights in Winside (see Winside: the Place to Be).

This is Carl and Dorothy’s story in their son Darrell’s words (footnotes and bracketed words are this blogger’s):

“Apparently my Dad was a pretty intelligent young man.  I base that statement on two things:  He won a Nebraska State Mathematics championship when he was in high school and somehow he was able to graduate with Neville and Jim in 1929.  He would have been 16 1/2 years old and must have skipped at least one grade somewhere.  I don’t know what he did from 1929 to 1933 but one could safely assume that he worked as a hired hand. 

“My folks were married in early January 1933 in South Dakota.[1]  Obviously the choice of South Dakota was due to the shame and stigma of that era related to my mother being very pregnant with Gary. My uncle, Rev. Herman Hilpert [Dorothy’s brother-in-law], went along and took them to a preacher friend across the border. 

Carl and Dorothy, wedding photo.

 "After the wedding they farmed the homestead of my great grandfather Redmer[2] for a couple years. While there, a tornado caused significant damage to the place. (As an aside, my mother kept a daily diary of their first 5 years of married life, which I have.)

“They moved to a rental farm about 5 miles from Winside, coincidently in Brenna precinct,[3] and their older children also attended District 81 [where Carl and his siblings had attended; see School Days].  He farmed initially with horses, two teams, and acquired his first tractor in the early [19]40s.  I can remember picking corn by hand.  He and the young team led the way and Gary and I followed with the older docile team. I can also remember having to milk all the cows by myself so he and Gary could do other things.  I would have been 6 to 9 years old, so he started us early [as did his father Clint before him]. 
Carl Troutman family, c. 1939-40.

“One vivid memory that I have is [of him] telling me on Dec.7, 1941 about the raid. Since he was of prime draft age I’m sure he was concerned. 

“A family memory is Gary and I playing with matches on a haystack, catching it on fire, and trying to smother it by pushing more hay on it.  My mother eventually came running and saved the day. 

Little farm boys, Gary and Darrell
“In addition to farming, [Dad] fattened cattle.  It would seem that he prospered at both. . . .  [M]y mother was never comfortable on the farm.  She would bribe the hired man to do such chores as gathering the chicken eggs or she would take sticks and lift up the chickens so she wouldn’t have to touch them. . . .  She belonged in the big town of Winside where she started. 

“Their move to Winside occurred in 1946. Mom’s father, Herman Fleer, died on September 1 of that year.  The Fleer family tried, with no success, to sell both [Herman’s] General Store and the home he lived in.  For reasons unknown to me, my parents made an offer for both the store and house and it was accepted.  The funds I assume came from what they had saved in 13 years of marriage.  Dad obviously had no experience with this new profession, but he worked very hard at it.  I’m estimating about 80 hours each and every week.  There were three grocery stores in town when he started and when he retired 25 years later, his was the only one.  Dorothy and all the children also spent lots of time there. My memories of time spent there are endless.  He was a generous man, extending credit to whoever asked, and unfortunately never collecting on many of those debts after he retired.  He seemed to prosper in the store and after he died I discovered that he had acted as a banker by loaning substantial funds to many friends and acquaintances. (FYI, he even lent money to Verne on one occasion.)”[4]

Thanks, Darrell. I have many happy memories of family dinners at Carl and Dorothy Troutman's house in Winside, of the big shade trees along the walk to Uncle Carl's store a half block away, of entering by the side door next to the meat counter and smelling the fresh cuts, of browsing the aisles and, of course, buying candy. I remember Uncle Carl's teasing and Aunt Dorothy’s infectious laughter and her delicious fried chicken and cherry pie. They had plenty of children to play with, too, totaling seven by 1952, a special and very dear family. If children are a testament to their upbringing, Carl and Dorothy were a great success as parents, as all of their children have made or are making positive impacts on their world.

[1] “South Dakota, Marriages, 1905-2013,” database, ( : accessed 14 Sept. 2016), entry for Carl Troutman and Dorothy Fleer, 5 Jan. 1933; citing Bon Homme County. 
[2]  Grandfather Redmer was Dorothy’s maternal grandfather, Martin Redmer, born about 1838 in Prussia, who immigrated to the United States in 1874 (U. S. and Canada Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1500s to 1900s, database, citing Martin Rodmer, age 36.) He obtained his homestead certificate on 20 Nov. 1884: Bureau of Land Management ( :  accessed 15 September 2016), certificate no. 4568, Martin Redmer, 20 Nov. 1884.
[3] 1940 U. S. census, Wayne County, Nebraska, population schedule, Brenna precinct, enumeration district 7, sheet 4-A, visit no. 65, Carl Troutman household; digital image ( ; accessed 14 September 2016); NARA microfilm publication T-627, roll n/a. Brenna precinct was the location of Clint and Mary's first farm in Wayne County.
[4] Darrell Troutman, Lincoln, Nebraska [E-ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] to Zola Troutman Noble, e-mail, 30 May 2016, “Info request,” Darrell e-folder, privately held by Noble, [E-ADDRESS & STREET ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Anderson, Indiana, 2016.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Reunion and a Farewell

Lazy days of summer wreak havoc on my blog. Travel, visitors, gardening, swimming and such, keep me occupied so that I can't seem to find time for my blogging. I want to share one week of my summer—the events during the week of the much-anticipated reunion of the Nebraska Troutman family.  Then I will get back to the family history.

We met at Ta-ha-zou-ka Park in Norfolk on a hot, hot July day in an air-conditioned lodge. How many of us would have come if it hadn’t been air-conditioned? I wondered. I remember reunions when I was a child when we met on hot days like that, but outside at picnic tables. The day before or the morning of, my mother, grandmother, and aunts prepared bowls of homemade potato salad, Jello salads, sliced tomatoes, home grown green beans cooked with ham, home fried chicken, homemade cakes and pies. This time, we gave all the cooks a break and had our party catered. We feasted on all the above, except the green beans, and we supported a local business by hiring them to prepare the food.  Some of us brought homemade desserts and there were sliced home grown tomatoes from Indiana (my husband's garden). It was all delicious!

Troutman reunion, Norfolk, Nebraska, July 24, 2016. Photo by Roxanne Meyer.

You could say that “a good time was had by all”—and it was true: we laughed and talked and hugged and caught up on the past two years. But hanging over our heads like an ominous cloud was the knowledge that our cousin, brother, uncle, etc., Darrell Troutman, lay in his home in Lincoln spending his last days with his wife and children. After four years, cancer was about to claim his life.

Carl, Dorothy, Gary, Darrell and Judith, 1939.
Backtrack a little. The second son of Carl and Dorothy Troutman and my oldest cousin after his brother Gary passed away several years ago, Darrell has been one of my mainstays in keeping the family history and writing my blog. He’s also the tease. He added his mother’s line to our family tree, and he has faithfully read my blog, although he never commented, but I knew. He let me know in subtle ways. He kept track of all the contact information for all the cousins and their families. Not long after his mother died in 2009, he shared with me a treasure he found in a diary his mother kept on a trip from Nebraska to California in 1930 when she was fifteen. He asked for my input on how to share it with the family and how to edit it. He produced a beautiful keepsake of photos, maps, and footnotes added to his mother’s diary. I cheered.

First page of Dorothy's travel story.
In June, I sent him a message asking for information about his parents during the 1930s. He responded in his usual gracious manner with as much info as he knew. Then he added that he might not make it to the reunion in July because of “health issues.” I replied, “If you don’t make it, we may have to come to Lincoln to  see you.” I wish I had told him my husband’s comment: “He’s the one of your cousins that I like to talk with most at the reunions.”

We planned to visit him on Tuesday afternoon following the reunion, but his daughter called me on Monday morning to say that he could no longer take visitors. The next day, he passed away about the time we had planned to arrive for our visit. And so, on Saturday, we had a reunion of another sort when cousins, nieces, nephews, siblings, and Darrell’s wife and children said good-bye to him at his memorial service. His son offered a moving tribute, and the pastor’s homily inspired us all.

And so we said farewell to Darrell.

 Click on this link for Darrell's obituary. 

This link will take you to a web site that details Darrell's military service.