Engelbert Thomas Trausch known all his life as “Bert” was born in his parent’s home in Roseland Township on Thursday, March 22, 1906. He was the second son of Matt and Catherine “Kate” Kaiser Trausch. His older brother Edward was fifteen months old that day. Probably Mrs. Nick Theisen, Kate’s aunt and closest neighbor, attended the birth. The Roseland doctor was Dr. Fox. At that time doctors charged about three dollars to deliver a baby at home. Grandma would have been confined to bed “lying in” for ten days as was the custom. Matt may have hired a girl to cook, clean, do chores and care for Ed during her confinement, but more likely one of Kate’s sisters came to help. .
Grandma recalled in later years that Matt was building a kitchen cupboard the day Bert was born. I remember the cupboard, similar to a pie safe, standing in the basement of the farm house. By the 1950s Grandma used it to store her jars of home canned vegetables.
Engelbert Thomas Trausch was baptized March 25, 1906 at the age of three days. His name is written Thomas Engelbert in the church baptismal register. He was named for the priest, Father Engelbert Boll, who was well liked by his parishioners, and for his grandfather Thomas Trausch. Bert’s baptismal sponsors were his “Grosspop” Thomas Trausch and an unknown woman written as “Elizabeth Trausch” in the baptismal register. Grandma did not attend the baptism because she was “lying in.”
On March 30th in the “Assumption Neighborhood” column, the Adams County Democrat reported “Matt Trausch and wife have a little boy since last week.”
Grandma Trausch told me a few tidbits about my Dad’s first year. In the summer of 1906, when Bert was four months old, to occupy him while she worked in the kitchen, she put him in a high chair with pillows around him. Also, Bert was sipping coffee from a saucer when she heard his first tooth clicking on the saucer. Grandma also mentioned that Bert cried a lot as a baby, she described him as being “colicky.”
In a 1982 interview Uncle Ed Trausch recalled an amusing incident from his brother Bert’s childhood. “I remember when we were living in the old house yet, there was a big snowdrift between the house and barn and we took a scoop shovel and slid down on it. A turkey gobbler came along and got Bert down in the snow bank and hammered him into the snow. He cried and hollered and Mom came running out with the broom and saved him. He was a crybaby.”
Ed described the house they were born in. “It had a cave under a slanted cellar door on the south side. We used to get on there when we were small kids and slide down the door. Inside, the floors were just wide 6-inch boards. The first thing Mom was going to do was get a rug for the parlor floor. She was really pleased about that. The house was very cold; there was no heat upstairs. There was just one room upstairs. That was the room where Martha and I were playing. I was a Priest and we had Mass on the windowsill and the candle set the curtain on fire. Mom came running and put it out. That house stood right north of the brick house. The cellar door was right by Dad’s bedroom window. In the old house the basement had a dirt shelf all around the outside. We set fruit and beer there to keep it cool.”
When I inquired about the clothing they had as children Ed and Bert responded “Two or three overalls at the most, a jacket, shirts, shoes, a suit for church, made of blue or black wool. Probably two shirts and one pair of shoes that were wearable. Dad used to sit in the winter and take old thresher belts and resole the kid’s shoes. During the depression we used old tires for shoe soles.” Grandma made all the clothing, including the overalls.
Uncle Ed reminisced about spending time at his Kaiser grandparent’s home. Uncles John born in 1893 and George born in 1895 were unmarried and spent a lot of time with their Trausch nephews. Aunt Lizzie, born in 1900, was a playmate. Bert liked to go there, but would not stay away from home over night. He was too “timid.”
Birthdays were “just another day” in the Trausch household. If Grandma remembered and had the time, she made a cake. The Trausch children did not receive birthday gifts.
Christmas was a religious holiday and there were few presents, usually some candy and one toy for the boys to share. Uncle Ed remembered some of those toys “We got tinker toys once; that was real enjoyable. We got a sand mill once. You filled the hopper with sand and it ran down a slant and then ran back and dumped it. We enjoyed that. We played checkers a lot. The first years I remember Santa Claus brought the tree and the toys. Dad went out and cut it. We went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve; then Christmas dinner someone always came over.”
A combination of German and Luxembourgish was spoken in the Trausch home in 1906. Church services at Assumption were in German and the Assumption School held classes in German. One of the subjects taught was German grammar. All of that changed at the time of World War I, but that is a story for another day. In 1982 Bert reminisced: “I remember Grandma [Trausch] would call us on the phone and I’d talk German to her. She didn’t talk loud enough and I’d say “Nich verstehen.” They didn’t understand English very well. We talked German at home then too. When we visited [the Trausch Grandparents] the kids would talk in English and the folks in German. Mom and Dad would talk along and some words were in English and some, if they knew better in German, they said them in German.”.
Bert made his First Communion on June 7, 1914 at the age of eight. Twenty-eight children were in his class that year. It was traditional for boys to wear knee-length pants until they made their First Communion, which was to occur when they had reached “the age of reason.” The transition to long pants was an important “rite of passage” which Bert often mentioned during the many hours he spent reminiscing.
The United States President in 1906 was Theodore Roosevelt and the Pope was Pius X. The great San Francisco earthquake occurred in April. The Wright Brothers patented an aeroplane in May. The Panama Canal was under construction and President Roosevelt became the first president to leave the US when he went to inspect the progress. He also proclaimed Devil’s Tower the first National Monument that year.