Welcome to my World: In Mom's own words

Submitted photo Mary Kohler's graduation in 1915.
Carole Christman Koch

Out of a family of ten, I was the one who loved to write. In my early 40s, my 10 siblings and myself helped take care of our father, who had a stroke in his 80s. On nights when it was my turn to sleep over, I sat with Mom and collected her stories.

After both my parents died, I did a Christmas family newsletter from 1988 through 1999. I was able to get more stories this way as I always asked a question on a “growing up” remembrance of my mother’s.

Thus it was, in future years, I was able to glean many stories through the newsletter, adding my own, and getting them published.

My mother, Mary Alice (Kohler) Christman was born August 16, 1898, near Klinesville, at the Kohler farmhouse, on Kohler Road.

In her own words:

“I was a sickly child; I didn’t start growing much until I was nine months old.”

“I attended the former Center School, on the road leading from the 3-Mile House to Klinesville, at the bottom of what is Kohler Hill. I walked the 1 ˝ miles to school with my cousins on the next farm (7-8 kids). The school day was from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and it included first through eighth grade. We brought our lunch and walked to a nearby farmhouse to “fetch” water. I had a three year perfect attendance and received a Bible.”

“My father was William Kohler and my mother, Janetta Kistler. They had seven children: Minerva, Edwin, Alfred, John, Annie, Ellen, and me, Mary.”

“My father took me to Kutztown when I was about twelve years old to have our picture taken. I was the baby in the family and my father and I were close.”

“In 1910, my father woke me up in the middle of the night to see Halley’s Comet. (Mom saw this comet again in 1986!)”

“Days on the farm we seemed to be always making butter. A man, who had ice on his wagon, picked up our butter and eggs. We usually ordered groceries for the next week---crackers, sugar, flour---nothing else.”

“Our horses names were Prince and Dolly. We attended church in a 2-horse carriage. If our parents didn’t go to church, we walked the three miles.”

“Every Friday night there was some type of society that parents and older children attended in Kutztown. There were political debates and all kinds of discussions. My father told a cute story one time: ‘Our chickens are almost all clucks. If you don’t believe it, go and look!’ (I didn’t get it but Mom still thought it was funny!) “

“Neighbor kids would ask to rake hay and mind the cows. My father paid 10 cents or dinner---never both.”

“If sisters and brothers had a fight, they had to sleep on the floor. Last one on the pot in the morning had to empty it. We had to wash at the outside pump, even in winter---they were quick baths. When I was older, we finally had a cement tub and water was heated on the stove.”

“If anyone laughed at the table, they had to leave. The prayer had to be said in High German and I never knew what I was saying.”

“All of my brothers and sisters attended a 2-year college term at Kutztown Normal School and became teachers. You had to pass a county exam to go to college. I refused to go to college---I wanted to stay on the farm. (During her courting days with Pop, she told him she wanted to be a farmer’s wife. For the love of a woman, he learned the trade.)”

“When I attended High School me and some other girls boarded at a “little house” in Kutztown. I graduated from the Class of 1915 when I was sixteen years old. I made my own dress and my flower was a forget-me-not. My commencement was held at a building on Main Street (now a gas station). My speech was on Kutztown and its industries.”

“After graduation I helped Aunt Lilah and Uncle Seth (a doctor) in Nanticoke. I took care of the house and family. I worked only one winter---they owned 5 homes but never paid me. Since Uncle Seth was a doctor, I sometimes had to console patients and stay with them until he returned from delivering babies. The waiting room was filled with injured, dirty coal miners. I used to have to wash hankies and I hated that job.”

“I also helped my brother, Alfred, who lived in Bethlehem with his young family. I took care of the children, milked cows, worked in fields, and made meals.”

“My last job, prior to marriage on November 13, 1920, was a housekeeping position with Rev. Emil Fisher and family. Rev. Fisher later performed my marriage ceremony in Philadelphia,”

Carole Christman Koch grew up in Berks County and has been published in numerous publications. She has a passion for writing and has many stories from growing up on a farm to raising children to humorous stories about her and her husband to everyday stories to season stories and more.