My grandmother was born and raised in the Willowdale area. She and her family of origin briefly lived in Kingman but mostly it was the farm near Willowdale that she called home. Although she has been gone for almost 20 years, I was fortunately able to complete an oral history interview with her several years […]

My grandmother was born and raised in the Willowdale area. She and her family of origin briefly lived in Kingman but mostly it was the farm near Willowdale that she called home. Although she has been gone for almost 20 years, I was fortunately able to complete an oral history interview with her several years before she died. Here are some of her memories of growing up near Willowdale. The words are hers, unedited.
'I was just seven when my mother died. There was a flu epidemic. She was going to have a baby and it died. Inside of her. Of course, she had the flu along with that. After my mother died, we was living with our grandparents (Cunningham family.) My mother died in February and my grandmother died in September (of the same year), so we was orphaned twice. And after that my father got married, so that there'd be somebody to take care of the kids.'
'In Willowdale, I boarded with some people by the name of Arensdorf. After my father married his second wife, we lived on a farm 2 miles northwest of Willowdale. We'd walk to school and home of an evening. At that time, our school didn't serve meals. You took your dinner in a little dinner bucket. The main thing at Willowdale was the ball games"baseball. I could run like a deer then, but I do good to walk now.'
'The school has been torn down, and there's nothing left but the church. You would think that it would have died down"the church also. A year ago in May (1989, when she visited there) the church was full. You could hardly find a seat.'
'(In the Willowdale area) the land went from father to son to son. That's the way they do it there. Most of them are Germans, and they're old fashioned"pass the land on to the next one.'
My grandmother's father, Henry Tatro, became sick when she was 12 or 13 years old and thus her schooling ended.
'Even when my dad got well he was weak and he still needed somebody there. After you miss a whole year of school, it's hard to catch up. Then, I didn't want to go back. They should have made me, but I didn't. I did take the examination for 8th grade. And I passed it. But I never did take the 8th grade.
Catherine (Tatro) Vondracek never returned to formal schooling, although her self-education continued her entire life. I will always remember her as an avid reader and writer of letters.