Conversation with Jake Jost 4/29/99

Earliest Memories:

My earliest memories are of the move from Canada to Hillsboro... Mom (Justina Warkentin Jost), Katherine, Edna and I and traveled by train. The rest of the family came in a Star touring car. We traveled in Spring, I think. I don’t remember much from Canada, just what I’ve seen in pictures. I don’t remember my Mom (Tina Prieb Jost)… I probably should but I was only 4 years old when she died.
Memories of my Father (David Jost)

The main thing that I remember about my Father is that he had a heart attack when he was in his late 40’s or early 50’s and wasn’t able to work very hard after that. He would work and then have to take a rest because he would get very short of breath.

Dad had some trouble learning California farming methods (pruning, fruit farming, etc). Every once in a while he would talk about how it was back to Kansas. We all agreed that we enjoyed the Kansas method of farming better than the California method, but we got used to it. Otto, Art and I did most of the work on the farm. Dad gave us quite a bit of freedom to decide what needed to be done.
I remember that Dad was tall... about 6 feet. He was pretty stocky and was strong before his heart attack. He was bald as long as I remember. He used to complain that the barber charged him too much to trim his hair.

He wasn’t a loud person. He very seldom scolded us. I don’t recall ever seeing him angry. I’m sure there were times when things didn’t go the way they should have, but he didn’t show it. His brothers were the same way. I never heard of them getting real angry with anybody.

Farming was Dad's life… He didn't have hobbies but he loved horses. That’s all they worked with in Canada. He was a good horseman. We always had some nice horses. Back in Canada everyone took pride in having nice horses. We had to sell all the horses when we moved to Kansas and to California but Dad bought a sorrel pony with a palomino colt several months before he died. He got around well on the pony and used to keep it right close to the house.

Dad like to eat everything... He was mainly a meat, potatoes, and bread man. Everything he liked to eat is now considered bad for you... eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, cracklings, etc. It’s surprising that people lived as long as they did...

My Dad died on a Sunday evening in June of 1944. It was a graduation day but Dad and Mom didn't go that night. Dad went to bed early. Mom heard him let out a loud sigh and when she went to check, he was gone. I was in CPS service in Maryland. I took a plane to Chicago and then caught the train to Newton where I met some other family members. We traveled back to California together.

Memories of My Mom (Justina Warkentin Jost)

As long as I can remember Mom (Justina Warkentin Jost) was our Mother. She married Dad when I was four years old. There wasn't much time for fun… just lots of work. Keeping everyone fed and clothed was a full time job. Mom was not very talkative. She wore her hair in a bun most of the time.

Mom did a lot of sewing and made dresses for the girls from the patterned flour sacks we used to buy. Washing and ironing with a flat iron heated on the stove was quite a job... I helped out on wash day sometimes. Cooking and baking also took a lot of time. Mom would bake three to four loaves of bread every day and often had to get up and bake again in the morning before breakfast. We ate a lot of chocolate pudding.

Most of the fresh fruit and vegetables we take for granted weren't available in Winter. We had a big half-acre garden and grew all our own vegetables… carrots, cabbage, beans, peas, potatoes, corn, etc. We would bury carrots in damp sand in the basement and we made our own sauerkraut in large 25 gallon wooden barrels. Mom used to can pickles and put up little pickled watermelons the same way... they were really good! In Kansas, Mom used to send us kids out to gather beet leaves and a certain “weed” that we used for krutborscht.

We always had six or seven cows that we milked morning and evening. And we always raised chickens… 100 to 125 with lots of chicks in the Spring. We used a lot of eggs and sold the extra eggs along with cream for extra money. We all helped with the chickens. When company would come by unexpectedly, Mom would tell us to go out and catch the biggest rooster and he’d end up on the dinner table.

Memories of Family Get-Togethers:

In those days, my Uncles, Aunts and cousins came over to visit regularly. There was usually a big crowd for Sunday dinner after Church. Plans would be made for the get-togethers at Church. There were only 15 to 20 families in the Gnadenau Church and we knew everyone very well or were related them...
It usually took two table settings to get everyone fed. The Uncles and Aunts would sit and visit for hours. The children would play outside, riding calves, playing hide-and-go-seek. Once I fell down the stairs in the barn playing hide-and-go-seek. When I woke up, the doctor was there. They thought I'd broken my neck.

Every year in Fall, when it started to get cold, we’d butcher a beef and a pig. In those days everyone bragged about how much lard they got off the pig...not like today when lean meat is considered best. The neighbors and relatives would come over for the butchering day. We would all work together to render the lard, make cracklings, and can the beef. We smoked some of the ham and beef. Actually, we’d eat a lot of the meat before the day was over... hamburger for the noon meal and liverwurst for the evening meal.

Life in Kansas

The boys all slept in one room and the girls in another room upstairs. Dad, Mom and the little ones slept downstairs. During the Kansas thunderstorms, we would all have to get dressed and come downstairs. We didn't go down in the cellar but wanted to be downstairs in case lightning hit the house.

We started our days early… We didn't need an alarm clock because Dad would call up the stairs to wake us. We had to do the chores before leaving for school around 8 o'clock. We did the chores again when we got home. . My job was always to fill the woodbox and help with milking the cows and feeding the horses.

We all went to the one-room Hope Valley School. There were 25-27 students in the school and I went through all the grades with two other girls. We walked to school except when it was rainy or real cold. The boys with no girls in the family had to walk on those days too but since we had Katherine and Edna, Dad would come get us when the weather was bad.

We never had electricity (or indoor plumbing) in the Kansas House. We did our homework by the light of a kerosene lamp. It wasn't easy to read in that light. We got a battery-powered radio right before we left for California. Before that we'd sometimes listen to Amos and Andy on Uncle Dan's radio.
There usually wasn't much to do in the evenings and we went to bed early. We used to have a lot of time before electricity…

Although Dad went to town regularly, the kids didn't often go along. When they got older, Helen worked at the retirement home, Esther worked at the Hospital in Hillsboro and Selma worked for some people in Newton.

The Move to California

In 1937 when Grandpa Warkentin died, the folks went to California for the funeral. Dad rented the 10 acres that Grandpa Warkentin had owned and we moved to California. Dad, Mom, Otto, Katherine, Edna, David, MaryAnn and I all drove to California in a 1937 Chevy, pulling a trailer. It took five days and we arrived on April 1, 1937. Arthur stayed in Kansas for a few months to finish high school and joined us after school was out. Susie, Martha, Esther, and Helen were already married and didn't come with us. Selma was getting married soon and she stayed as well. Eventually, Susie and Selma and their families moved to California.

Life in California

We lived on Grandpa Warkentin's place for one year until we bought the 10 acres where my brother David now lives. We also bought 20 acres a half mile west of the home place. There was a pump organ in the parlor and Katherine learned to play it.

We sold the first raisins we made for $47.50 a ton, paid 3/4 cents per tray for picking and 1 cent a vine to prune. Workers earned $1.50 per day in those times.

We always worked six days a week. Except for milking cows, we didn’t work on Sunday. On Sunday afternoons or holidays in the summer, 25 to 30 kids would get together to swim in the canal near our place. The big gum tree by the canal on the home place was a landmark that could be seen for miles.
After Dad died, Mom lived on the home place with David and Mary Ann until she moved to Reedley around 1950. Mom never learned to drive... David got an early driver's permit when he was young to help drive her to town.

In the mid-60's, Mom moved to Palm Haven next to the Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church. Finally, she moved to the Pleasant View convalescent hospital when she couldn't get around any more. Mom died in Pleasant View and was buried in the Reedley Cemetery next to Dad.