Sellenriek-Stemme, Hope

Recollections of Hope Sellenriek Stemme

By Hope Sellenriek Stemme

I was born on the Henry Sellenriek farm on White Road.  John Sellenriek also farmed.  I guess there wasn’t enough space for both because when I was about two, Dad (Clarence Sellenriek) got the job of lineman for the Chesterfield Telephone Company and Mother was telephone operator – what a woman – imagine women holding a job in those days!  That’s not all. She drove a machine.  Now days, we drive automobiles.  About the only ladies that drove a machine in those days were teachers and my mother.  Miss Cuno (a big room teacher) didn’t drive, but Mrs. Jessie Schrader (little room) did and so did Garnet Schaffer Glaser (Roy’s wife and Janice and Carl’s mother).  She taught at Bellefontaine School.  Back to the telephone company.  We lived on the second floor where the switch board was located.  The two story white stucco building is still standing in Chesterfield.  I hope Lou Sachs doesn’t decide to tear it down.  The Chesterfield Bank was located on the lower east side and the Chesterfield Post Office was on the lower west side.  We lived on the west side second floor.  The switchboard was in the front room and our bedroom and kitchen was behind it.  There was a hallway that ran from the front to the back and there was another three room apartment on the other side.  I remember Raymond and Emily Koenneman Glaser living there.  I used to love to go over to visit them.  One evening I ate with “pop”.  I was always timid and scared of everything.  When he said he was going to pop, I ran home crying because I didn’t want to be around if he was going to explode.  I can remember the darndest things.  Kroger’s Mercantile was across the road by the railroad tracks.  Andy Kroger had a daughter, Ruth, who was about 15 at the time and I adored her.  I used to call her from our upstairs window to bring me some ice cream and she would.  I guess Mother and Dad paid for it.  I couldn’t say Ruth.  She always answered to Ruff.  She is long gone.  Andy died and the store was sold to Clarence Wardenburg and it burned around 1945.  Clarence ran down stairs to get a bucket of coins and got trapped and burned to death.  He was one of two boys that were in my 1939 Chesterfield Grammar School graduation class.  We had to go downstairs and to the “shack” for the bathroom.  One day Mother went to the bathroom and left me upstairs after I promised to be a good girl.  I was too good because I locked the door for protection.  To make a long story short, Mother had to use Mr. Burkhardt’s telephone who lived in the brick bungalow next door, to call Dad.  He had to put an extension ladder up to the second story and crawled through the window to open the door.  I wasn’t too popular.  Also one time when Mother was busy I thought I would help with some bread that she was making.  I don’t remember what the seasonings were but I dumped several boxed of spice in the bread bucket – always wanted to see what it smelled like and stuck my nose in a quart jar of horseradish.  I thought I was going to die.  I couldn’t get my breath.   Also I remember seeing a fireworks display.  We were sitting high on some bleachers (don’t know where it was, but it was too overwhelming for a little country girl) and Dad had to hold his hat in front of my eyes because I was crying and scared to death.

My great grandmother, Anna Maria Louisa Panhorst and great grandfather, Franz Heinrich Sander, both from Germany, were married and received a Spanish Land Grant for three squares (a square was eighty acres).  They had to clear the ground and pay the taxes plus I think there was a cash payment, too.  I heard that Anna was a little frail woman who was only four and a half feet tall.  They had two little girls and a son, Franz Sander, who died of pneumonia when he was 45.  Anna almost lost the farm, but two brothers who were having a hard time living with their stepfather (Mr. Bode) who had married their widowed mother, Louisa Glaser, left home and offered to work for and help the widow woman at Chesterfield with two little girls.  The two brothers were Frank and August Glaser and the end of the story is that the farm was saved and the brothers married the sisters, thus – my grandparents – Frank Martin Glaser married Wilhelmina Emma Sander.  The story goes that Anna Sander took her savings to pay the taxes every year.  She rode the train from Chesterfield (called Drew Station) to St. Louis and someone picked her pocket.  She carried the money in a pouch in her full skirt.  When she got to St. Louis, the pouch was gone.  That was the year she almost lost the farm to foreclosure.  The story goes that she worked like a man, clearing the ground, building fences, etc.

My grandmother, Wilhelmina Emma Glaser, died in 1925 in her fifties.  She was buried a few days before Christmas.  I remember being lifted up to see her in her casket in the living room of the old house.  A lot of changes were made after her death.  Grandpa had many irons in the fire.  He was one of the founders of the Chesterfield State Farmer’s Bank (which is now Bank America).  He was St. Louis County Road overseer, which meant he hired men who ran a road grader for all the county roads.  He had a threshing machine and moved it from one farm to another until all the wheat was threshed in the neighborhood.  I understand that there were always hired men to feed and board, plus they had five children so my grandmother worked very hard.  No wonder she was worn out at 50.  Grandpa helped organize St. Thomas Evangelical Church at Gumbo (he was born Catholic) and they boarded the Chesterfield School teacher also.  This was before my time.  He was president of a three man school board, I think about all of his life.  I remember he would visit the school almost every day during my school days.  I was proud to have my grandpa around all the time.

In those days, I always thought we had the best school around – 2 rooms – the “little room “ had grades 1 thru 4 with Mrs. Jessie Schrader as teacher and Miss Cuno taught grades 6 thru 8 in the “big room”.  Both were excellent teachers.  Miss Jessie played the piano and we sang a lot. We also listened to classical music on the victrola.  Boy Blue and all the art classics hung around the room above the blackboard.  Our library consisted of a glass case with shelves all the way to the ceiling.  We had one set of encyclopedias and the rest of the books were classics and by the time we graduated we had read every book in the library.  We had music three times a week and art twice a week.  We exercised standing by our desk every day and played Andy Over at lunch time.  To play Andy Over we chose sides – half in the front of the school and the other half in the back.   We threw the ball over the building and if it was caught, that side would run around and tag as many opponents as possible.  The side ending with the most kids won the game.  We had a hot lunch once a week.  Mother volunteers would cook chili or soup in the basement.  They charged five cents a bowl to cover expenses.  The aroma that floated upstairs was so good.  We walked to school unless it was raining or cold.  Then Mother was the designated driver for us and the neighbor kids.  The Weinrich kids lived on Kehrs Mill Road and cut across the fields and came out between our house and Charley Glaser’s instead of following the road – probably saved three miles.  My, how times have changed!

When my grandmother died, Grandpa turned the farm over to Dad and Uncle Earl so we left the telephone company and moved on the hill on Wild Horse Creek Road which now is developed (Chesterfield Estates).  We stayed at Grandpa’s until the house was ready to move in.  Uncle George Glaser lived there before.  We didn’t have electric, or a furnace or running water – but neither did anyone else.  I was about 11 years old when Wild Horse was made into concrete.  It was a single land gravel road before.  Grandpa put a Delco plant in at his house and ours too.  So we had our own electricity.  All our neighbors had coal oil lamps.  We had real light bulbs and a vacuum.  Then a few years later we got a furnace and after that, a stoker.  They also did extensive remodeling on Grandpa’s house.  It was a beautiful home in its era – prettiest around – also had lots of flowers and a rock garden, even a modern bathroom and a tub with legs.  The house and 160 acres was sold to Wilbur Feinup about 40 years ago.  Mother’s share was the 76 acres on the south side of Wild Horse Creek Road.  Grandpa drove a big Nash which had glass vases on each side for artificial flowers – really fancy – only one in the neighborhood.  Saturday was the best day of the week.  Aunt Emily rode Al Lowe’s bus from Delmar Loop to Chesterfield and Grandpa and I met her at 3 p.m. at Mr. Biele’s.  This was before the 40 hour work week.  She had to work Saturday mornings.  Mr. Biele sold gasoline, candy and ice cream.  Grandpa and I would have our ice cream while waiting.  Aunt Emily stayed with relatives in Kirkwood (Aunt Rosie and Louie Fick – she was Grandpa’s sister) and attended Kirkwood High School.  When she graduated she worked for Parke Davis Drug Company – the only job she ever had.  She was a secretary and Mr. Herman was her boss – she admired him – as young as I was I thought there was more than admiration there.  He was married and had a daughter

When I was older (like 10 years old) the highlight of the week was when we went to “town” on Saturdays, Mother driving Aunt Lulu, Joan and I.  I would be afraid to drive through the neighborhood now.  We would walk to Wellston to do our shopping – most people bought groceries at Harry’s (Glaser), Krogers or Zierenbergs, but we stopped at A & P at Olive and North & South Road if we didn’t get all we needed in Wellston.  We always had hot dogs on Saturday night because we always made a full day of it and wieners were fast.  It was our treat.  There was a bakery at the corner of Page and the alley behind Aunt Irene’s house and as soon as we arrived at Aunt Irene’s they would give me a quarter and I would walk down the alley and get two slabs of coffee cake – peanut and apricot.  It was always fun to stay there for a week in the summer time too. It was wonderful to sleep in the living room and see the bright street light shining in the window because all I knew was country with woods and whippoorwills at night.  I really envied Art because he lived in the city.  My, how things changed!  We could go to either the Mikato or the Wellston show on Easton Avenue (name has been changed to Martin Luther King Drive), ride street cars, and go downtown.  It was great.  Art went to the Hempstead School on Hamilton about a block away.  On the last day of school they had a last day picnic at Forest Park Highlands every year.  Aunt Irene always fixed a picnic basket for lunch and we got to ride all the rides plus all the amusements like Six Flags.  The students marched to the Hodimont street car, led by a band, and carried little American flags.  Mother always bought a little flag for me and I marched along with them on the side.  (I was a typical country cousin).  After we boarded street cars we were taken to the Highlands.  The Highlands finally burned years later.  I’ve forgotten where it was located – I believed it was out on Kingshighway some place near Forest Park and the Science Center.

I remember when we got our first radio.  Dad would sit up on Saturday nights, put his ear phones on and listen to the barn dance music.  Uncle Earl would do the same thing when I stayed at Grandpa’s.  Uncle Earl had a Model A Ford with a rumble seat,  when I was in elementary school.  He would take Aunt Lulu and me to the Valley Park Show on Wednesday night for the double feature and they also gave dishes to the ladies.  I’d stay all night and go to school from Grandpa’s the next morning.  The only thing I didn’t like about that was their driveway was too long.  I hated that walk by myself, besides the colored school was right across the road from his driveway.

I don’t remember where it came from but we fell heir to an old upright piano so Mother insisted that I take lessons.  She played but didn’t try to teach me.  She sent me to Evelyn Mueller and paid 50 cents for an hour lesson on Saturday afternoon.  When it was cold she took me to Evelyn’s house which is where the sand business is on Highway 40 just before you cross the bridge to St. Charles County.  In the summer time I rode my bicycle – tied my music case on the handlebars.  Mildred Steiner, who was about three years older than I, lived in Gumbo and took lessons also.  So I would stop at her house and get a drink of water and then we rode the rest of the way together up blacktop two lanes Olive Street Road without any danger.  There was no traffic.  Ann Albrecht built the only real restaurant just east of Evelyn Mueller’s and I started to work there when I was about 13.  I worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and made a dollar a day.  Plate dinners cost 35 cents.  I remember going to Wellston and getting a beautiful black and white dress for $3.00.  Everything was relative.  Evelyn never did marry.  She lived with her parents and played the organ at St. Thomas Church.  When I was 16, I went to the Chesterfield Bank and got my driver’s license for 25 cents – I didn’t need to take a test – just signed the application.  I was the only one in my graduation class to start driving when I was 16.  Not too many girls drove in those days.

We had a little fire engine which was housed in Brommelsick’s garage across from Rinkel’s store.  You just prayed that your house never caught fire because everything burned to the ground in those days.  The fire department was totally manned by volunteers.  In fact, we still had a volunteer department after we were married, but we did have a chief.  If we heard a siren, we either called Bob and Helen, my best friend, Eggers who had a fire phone in his house or ran out to the road when we heard a siren and they would yell from the truck where they were going.  I still have Russell’s fireman’s hat.  He usually wore it to the firemen’s annual picnic at Schaeffer’s Grove.  A lot of beer was consumed and everyone danced on an outdoor dance floor.  That was one of the highlights of the summer.  I fact, that is where I met Russell Stemme when I was 18.

The last day of school was always wonderful.  We had our picnic at Rinkel’s Grove.  There was music and dancing in the evening.  They served soda and hot dogs.  The kids were given 5 tickets to spend on nickel hot dogs and nickel soda.  We had an all student play and a program with graduation exercises in the afternoon.  Part of the program was Kenneth Fick playing banjo and me on the piano.  Can’t you imagine how great that was?  There were three schools in the neighborhood – Chesterfield School, Bellefontaine School (town now called Hill Town) and Lake School (town now called Hog Hollow) so the whole neighborhood went to each picnic.  The date was always synchronized so we could attend all three.  Which reminds me – when I was a little girl the town of Hill Town was changed to Bellefontaine.  Bellefontaine sounded so much more sophisticated.  Here we are again – back to Hill Town.  Same thing happened to Hog Hollow.  Lake sounded better.  What goes around comes around.

Butchering and threshing were two highlights – one in the wintertime and the other in hot summer.  When it was time to butcher, it was fun to wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. hearing the women talking in the kitchen and the men were outside with a big fire roaring.  I think we butchered about 5 hogs.  That was for Grandpa and for us too.  By the time I went to school the pigs had been scalded, hair scraped, carcasses cut in two lengthwise and hanging on a makeshift pole supported by four poles (like our swing set).  The entrails were brought inside in tubs and cleaned and scraped by the women – what a smell!  Then the casings were soaked in heavy salt water.  All the kids would come home after school and eat all the good food that had been prepared to feed the butcherers.  If we were lucky, it might be 9 or 10 o’clock before the hams were seasoned, sausage stuffed, lard cooked and blood and liver sausage cooked.  Seeing the slaughtering was very distasteful to me.  I’m still not crazy about pork.  I also think I never liked to drink milk because I saw the soure when I was a little girl.

Threshing was the same – “you all come”—women in the kitchen, men in the field and kids had fun.  It was fun just to watch the threshing machine run by a steam engine.  We had to buy coal to stoke the engine and also had a water wagon to fill the boiler.  Pitchers had to be hired (transients that followed the threshing run) and all the neighboring farmers that wanted to be in the ring brought a hay wagon and team with one man.  If you were a big farmer you had to furnish two wagons.  We usually had the crew for two or three days.  Mother bought 25 pound beef roasts, killed 20 chickens, baked 25 pies (for pitchers – transients laborers that followed the thrashing machine from one farm to the next were noted for eating half a pie a piece at lunch time –sausage and cheese was served for morning lunch and pie for afternoon lunch –which was transported out to the field so the men wouldn’t waste time).  Dinner was served at noon and consisted of beef, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables, and cakes, etc.  It was a real banquet.  The bad part was that they ate dinner wherever they were stationed and Mother and Aunt Lulu never knew until just a few hours before if they were responsible for serving the meal.  Since we raised the most wheat in the neighborhood, many times the crew moved on our farm and ate before any work was done.  Really a sore spot!  Uncle Earl drove the grain wagon (a plush job), Dad had to drive a bundle wagon, and Grandpa Glaser was the boss.  In fact, the threshing machine was run by Arthur Briebauer but a generation before, Grandpa had the threshing machine.  He covered the whole area (which took all summer).  He also was the County road overseer, organized St. Thomas Evangelical Church, (even though he was reared Catholic), life-time director of the Chesterfield School (also the colored school on his property across from his entrance on Wild Horse Creek Road,) was an original director of the Chesterfield Bank, made his own healing salve, etc.  He was a quiet man.  Even as young as I was I knew he was something to be proud of.  All the Glaser kids in the neighborhood called him “Uncle Frank” but he was my GRANDPA.  He could repair anything – and he was very neat – he combed his hair and mustache before he sat down to eat.  He wasn’t good at manual labor – always had hired men plus boarded the school teacher.  My Grandmother didn’t receive all the laurels that she should have received because she was always in the background.  She worked hard to feed and board those hired men and school teachers.  She died when she was 50 – worn out.  She washed their clothes on a washboard, had a big garden, canned and raised 5 kids.  They were so fortunate because all the family was healthy – she also took care of her parents and Great grandmother Bode.  Grandma Bode lived to be in her 90’s.  Aunt Sophie took care of her until she died (another story).  Aunt Sophie was Grandpa’s half-sister.  Great grandmother Louisa Hatz Glaser lost her husband, Frank Glaser, after she had Joseph, Rose, Frank, August and George.  She married a man who could support her family.  I’m not saying why he married her, but she always called him “Mr. Bode” until the day he died.  They had one child, Aunt Sophie.  I’m really rambling – just jotting things down as I think of them.

Another big day was the church supper and picnic.  This was one of the annual occasions that we all looked forward to.  Henry Nichol’s band played outside (the only band around)).  The Ladies’ Aid Society served chicken dinners in the basement.  They also had a bazaar stand and a refreshment stand.  Doesn’t sound like much now.  They also had a fish pond for the kids which were really exciting.  I would treasure those trinkets all year.  One time I got a Betty Boop doll.  I wonder what happened to it.

I was 13 when I graduated from Chesterfield School in 1939.  I I got a Hamilton watch with 6 diamonds in it for graduation.  I still have it and it still runs and it is beautiful.  That fall I started to Eureka High School.  We had 8 in the class and 4 went on to high school.  I rode a bus over 18 miles of hills one way every day.  Mother’s teacher, when she went to school at Chesterfield, was retired and lived in Eureka at the time.  So if ice or snow was threatening, I stayed with her (Miss Chloe Lowe) instead of riding the bus over those treacherous roads.  Eureka was the closest high school and they ran a bus for all the outlying districts that didn’t have secondary schools.  We were sort of outcasts because we couldn’t participate in any after-school activities – no way to get home – but I survived.  In fact, I was the salutatorian of our class of 79 students and I was granted a scholarship to Springfield Teachers College (now Southwest State College).  But I refused it – you weren’t going to catch me teaching in a little one room school out in the country.  I wanted to be a secretary like Aunt Emily so Mother and Dad sent me to Rubicam Business College for an 18 month course – cost was $5 a week tuition plus $5 a week for room and board – big money in those days.  I shared a lovely room with Marie Ross on Enright Avenue (could walk to school on Delmar) – we were served by a maid and ate on linens with china and crystal in the dining room of a three story home.  Times have changed.  When I went to school we had a superintendent that ran the school with about 12 teachers and a coach – never heard of a counselor.  If I had had any advice I would have been told, “Get your degree – you don’t have to be a teacher” – probably could have taken all commercial courses and saved Mother and Dad a lot of money.  I wasn’t sure I could go so far away from home at that time either.  Oh well, life is like a big maze.  You win some and you lose some.  I’m satisfied.  Marie was one of the best friends I ever had.  We had a lot of fun together.  She loved life.  She died about 5 years ago.  She always called me “Doll”.  She had two children – a daughter who died about 3 years ago and a very successful son – Ross Gene Osiek.  Her husband, Gene, who died before Marie, lived in Union.  Gene was County Clerk of Franklin County.

[See the CHLPC archive files for genealogy charts for the Hatz family and the Glaser family.]

Family reunion in Grover, Missouri on August 20, 1911.  Back row:  Pete Kroenung, Gus Glaser, George Glaser, Frank Glaser, Joe Glaser and Louis Fick.  Second row:  Claudia Fick, Aunt Lon with Pearl, Sophie Kroenung, unknown, unknown, Grnadma Boothe, Mrs. Frank Glaser and Roxe Fick.  Front row:  Rose, Raymond, Irene Fick, Eva, Homer, Earl, Hilda, Charlie, Emma and Harry.  Courtesy of Hope Stemme.