The Birth of Catherine Ann Trausch

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.

Catherine Trausch age about three months.
Catherine Trausch age about three months.
Mom made this baby quilt from chicken feed sacks. In 1946 fabric was still difficult to obtain. flour, chicken feed and other commodities came in printed cotton sacks.
Mom made this baby quilt from chicken feed sacks. In 1946 fabric was still difficult to obtain. flour, chicken feed and other commodities came in printed cotton sacks.

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 for 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 who had kids at 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.”

Blue baby dress made by Edna Trausch for Catherine. When I asked my mother why so many of my baby clothes were blue she replied that at that time blue was the color for girls.
Blue baby dress made by Edna Trausch for Catherine. When I asked my mother why so many of my baby clothes were blue she replied that at that time blue was the color for girls.
Two bibs Mom made for my layette.
Two bibs Mom made for my layette. None of my baby clothes have any stains as my Mom was very fastidious. She made her own lye soap and soaked and scrubbed by hand any soiled items.
This white baby dress Mom made as part of my layette.
This white baby dress Mom made as part of my layette.  Both boy and girl infants wore dresses when I was born.

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 boy’s clothes. I had made some baby quilts from chicken feed sacks. It was right after World War II and fabric was hard to get.”

These felt baby shoes are the only baby clothes that were purchased. Both Agnes and I wore them.
These felt baby shoes are the only baby clothes that were purchased. Both Agnes and I wore them.

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.”

 Catherine Trausch age six months.
Catherine Trausch age six months.  The crocheted cap and sweater are blue and were made for me by my great-aunt Cecilia Kline.

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.

A baby stroller like the one my Mom had. Ours was stolen when thieves broke into the farm house This photo was taken from the internet.
A baby stroller like the one my Mom had. Ours was stolen when thieves broke into the farmhouse. This photo was taken from the internet.

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 swimsuit 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 helped 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.

Moving the Stove


By Agnes Trausch Wiltrout


The continuity in my mother’s kitchen was wonderfully soothing for me as a child. Just as sure as the trees budded in the spring and put forth leaves, and just as surely as the leaves turned golden and fell in the fall, another rite of passage was taking place inside my home.

Each spring the heating stove that had dominated the kitchen for five months or so was relegated to an ignoble spot on the back porch. The large, round black stove had been the center of our existence all winter. We simmered food on it and popped our popping corn in a long-handled wire basket, a forerunner of modern air-popped corn. It dried my wet mittens and warmed my cold fingers and toes after an afternoon of playing outside.

My parents faithfully fed it cobs and coal through the hinged lid on the front top and just as faithfully opened the small bottom door to remove ashes and clinkers. It warmed the kitchen and our lives revolved around it all winter.

I was never part of the decision making process about when the move should take place. I imagine it was a combination of the weather and the time available. I’d wake up one day and it would be stove moving time, or come home from school to find the place in turmoil with the job half done and stove pipe scattered on the front porch.

Moving that black behemoth was a ritual that meant a certain collision course for my parents. Mom was fussy about things. She wanted it done her way, and that meant done right. Daddy was in a hurry. Maybe he had plans to move the stove quickly and then attend to farming duties. They were married at least 20 years before I could have a memory of stove moving so that meant many previous bouts of moving the stove, and they still didn’t seem to agree on anything to do with the whole ordeal.

First the black chimney pipe was removed. It led from the top back of the stove to a hole in the chimney about two feet from the top of the nine-foot ceiling. If you’ve never experienced chimney soot then you wouldn’t understand why this maneuver had to be done very carefully. Soot is a dark “poof” of material that can quickly make a mess of a room. One false move with a dirty stove pipe means a fine layer of grimy soot everywhere. Perhaps that was part of the problem because mom didn’t want the extra work of cleaning up soot and daddy just wanted to finish the job quickly. She didn’t want him to do anything when she wasn’t looking and he tried to do everything quickly while her back was turned. “What do you have to do that for, you’re just making a lot of work!” my father would shout as mom scurried around being particular about the stove, the pipe and the linoleum just to mention a few. As a child, the worst position to be in during stove moving was the middle. Even though we were all in the same room, both sides voiced their frustrations with the other to me. It was the old “daddy is going to scratch the linoleum” and “mom has to make all this work” routine. A blank stare and innocent shrug was usually enough response to keep me out of the direct line of fire. Stove moving was an opportune time to practice the childhood art of laying low.


Stove pipe attached to chimney.
Stove pipe attached to the kitchen chimney.

Stove pipes came apart in two to three foot sections that were cleaned outdoors, then rolled in newspapers and stored in the storage part of the upstairs. The chimney hole left open after the removal of the pipe had to be cleaned out very carefully to prevent soot from flying all over the room. Then the hole was closed off with a round tin “plate” with spring-loaded clips on the side that slid into the opening. The plates were made especially for this purpose and had colorful painted scenes or designs on the front. They could no doubt be found in antique shops now and most people would have no idea what they were used for.


One of my Mother's flue covers on a chimney in the upstairs.
One of my Mother’s decorative flue covers over a chimney hole in the upstairs.

The stove was tugged, shoved, and wrestled across two rooms and through two doorways, being careful not to chip the woodwork paint, and onto the back porch where it was wrapped in oilcloth to spend the summer. How soon its presence was forgotten after it was moved out of the kitchen. The electric range moved to take its spot and the kitchen seemed so much roomier and brighter after that.

The whole process was reversed the next fall. My parents were always careful to check the chimney for bird nests that may have been built over the summer. A nest of dried grass and sticks could mean a dangerous chimney fire. I remember such a fire caused much alarm once. Flames shot from the top of the chimney and the walls became very hot from the inferno inside the brick chimney. The roar of the fire was easily heard inside the house. While it was a novel and somewhat frightening experience for me, I can now imagine how concerned my parents were at the prospect of a serious house fire.

While visiting the farm where I grew up, I happened to run across that black heating stove wrapped in oilcloth and stored away, never to be used again. It was much smaller and less imposing than I remembered from my childhood. It was just metal and iron now, not the center of my universe, and that had made it shrink considerably. It’s been 23 years since I moved away to my own life and family, but the stove still fills my mind with wonderful memories just as it filled the kitchen of my childhood.

Written in 1991