In honor of my 70th birthday, June 30, 2016, I will tell you what I know about my birth. My parents were Engelbert Thomas Trausch and Edna Marie Kline Trausch. Bert, as he was known all his life, was 40 and Edna was 31 years old when I was born. They had been married nearly nine years but I was their first child. My mother had been unable to conceive and had consulted Hastings doctors, but at that time they knew little about infertility. Mom never told me about their feelings when she learned she was finally pregnant, nor did she discuss the pregnancy. Things like emotions and anything involving sex or pregnancy were not discussed.
On my mother’s 89th birthday, November 13, 2003, she reminisced about my birth. These are her memories.
“Rita [my mother’s younger sister] was here, she came over to help Bert while I was gone to the hospital. You were born on Sunday; she came over a few days before that. She was living at home yet. Bert was harvesting wheat. The weather was partly cloudy and the temperature was in the high 80s.
About 12:00 at night I told Bert “We’re going to have to go to the hospital.” So he got up to go over to the south place [one mile south and a quarter mile east] to milk the cow. All our cows were in that pasture over there. I wonder what the cow thought about that—1:00 in the morning. He didn’t know what time he would get back because we already knew that I might have a caesarian. Doctor DeBacker had taken some X-rays a week or so before that and you were in a breach position and probably would stay that way. He took X-rays to see how big my pelvis was, and he said it looked like I would have to have a caesarian. “But we will give you a chance to see if you can have it”.
Rita stayed here. I told her to go back to sleep and she was prepared for the long haul. So we went into the hospital, it must have been about three o’clock when we got there; and you were born at five o’clock. So Bert came home and Rita was surprised. She was up tending to the chickens.
I was in the hospital eleven days. Rita was here and cooked for the harvesters– Bert’s Dad, Bert, and Bud. She took care of the chickens and raced up to the hospital to see me every day. She drove Bert’s car; he came up to see me sometimes in the evening, not every day. If a little shower of rain came up and they couldn’t get the combine in the field, he came up.
That combine they had was the first combine I ever saw work. It had belonged to a man by Trumbull; he got a new one and traded that back in to Samuelson; and they bought it from Samuelson for $400.”
What bedroom were you using when I came home?
“The downstairs bedroom. Bert and I used the south bedroom upstairs, but I went in that bedroom with you. It was so hot in the upstairs in the summertime.
Rita stayed a couple weeks. After I had laid in bed for eleven days I was weak as heck. I don’t know why DeBacker kept me so long. The other women from around here that had kids the same time were all gone home—Mrs. Joe Zubrod had Danny the day after you were born; Mrs. Harry Brooks had Darlene that same Sunday evening; Marie, Mrs. Art Hoffman had a boy. I was in a five bed ward—I didn’t know any of the women in my ward.”
What baby clothes had you made?
“I had several dresses made. At that time all babies wore dresses when they were little. I hadn’t made any boys clothes. I had made some baby quilts from chicken feed sacks. It was right after World War II and fabric was hard to get.”
Did anyone come to the hospital to see me?
“Ya, my folks did and I think Bert’s folks did. If Grandpa got the idea they came; he did things in his own way and time.”
Tell me about my Baptism.
“Edward and Grace [mom’s twin brother and his wife] stood up for you. It was on a Sunday after Mass. Father Lisko was such a guy for every little detail, and Grace thought he was never going to get done with all the commotion he was having. Take another step forward and say some more prayer and they were to come another step forward. Grandpa and Grandma Trausch were there.”
You mentioned that you had pasture on the south quarter that belonged to Grandpa Matt.
“There was a good sized native pasture there. Bud [my father’s brother] broke it up. See, when Charles lived here Bert didn’t farm where we lived; he farmed that quarter down south. Then when Charles left Bert farmed all of it. There wasn’t any native pasture on this farm. Bert planted that brome grass pasture about the time he started farming this farm.” [My father’s brother Charles lived with my parents until he was left for World War II.]
I was born breech (feet first) and on a Sunday. Breech deliveries often cause long difficult labors and often, before modern medicine, the death of the baby and sometimes the mother. Consequently, there are many superstitions, most of them bad, concerning breech births. Perhaps my Sunday birth, considered a good omen, offset the bad ones.
I live in the house I was brought home to after my birth. I am proud that the original 1893 structure is unaltered except for the 2008 sunroom addition. However, in many ways the house and farmstead are very different. In 1946 the house had no electricity, no running water, and there was no telephone. There was no furnace and no air conditioning, no insulation and no storm windows. The only rooms heated in winter were the kitchen and to some extent the bedroom above.
My Dad had a tractor, but he also had work horses. He milked the cow and took care of the livestock. He was farming 400 acres using out-of-date equipment. I came home from the hospital in my Dad’s 1936 Chevy. My mother didn’t drive then.
My mother raised several hundred chickens a year and she also grew a large garden, canned fruit, vegetables, and beef. Mom supported the household with her egg and chicken money, purchasing what she did not raise, salt, sugar, flour, coffee, spices, etc. Her egg money also purchased any household items she needed and the fabric she used to make our clothing. The work was unending, but life was good.
What Were the Events of 1946?
There were several important political and scientific events in 1946. The Japanese had formally surrendered in September 1945 ending World War II. In 1946 President Harry S. Truman ordered desegregation of the US armed forces and established the Atomic Energy Commission. The first meeting of the UN was held in January. On July 1st nuclear testing began at Bikini Atoll and in a few days the bikini swim suit went on sale in Paris. Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech in Missouri, and Nazi leaders found guilty of war crimes at Nuremberg were executed.
World War II wage and price controls ended in 1946, however there were shortages of most consumer goods. The average cost of a new house was $5,600 while the average existing house sold for $1,450. Average wages per year were $2,500. The cost of a gallon of gas was 15 cents; the average new car cost $1,120. Following the war there was a great demand for consumer goods. The first Tupperware was sold and Tide detergent was introduced in 1946.
In Adams County life was returning to normal after the war. Veterans were returning home, as well as the bodies of those who had not survived. Agriculturally it was a good year, and large wheat yields help ease the flour shortage. Wheat sold for $1.75 a bushel and eggs for 25 cents a dozen. In July the Soil Conservation office opened in Hastings. The dread disease polio killed at least six in Adams County. There was a great demand for new housing and, despite shortages of almost everything, 416 new structures were built in Hastings.
1946 was the first year of the Baby Boom Generation, and the average life expectancy was 66.7 years. The Dow-Jones high in 1946 was 212. The cost of a first class stamp was three cents. The Franklin Roosevelt dime was issued. Christian Dior founded his Paris fashion house. The film It’s a Wonderful life made its debut. Popular singers were Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald.