Reinhardt Family History

Memories of Eggs and Chickens

Stories from Neil Reinhardt

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of Eggs & Chickens


On election day, April 7, 1903 the stork visited the home of J. J. and Maggie Reinhardt at 257 Fond du Lac Avenue in the City of Fond du Lac, and delivered a red-haired baby girl to the house her dad had built. Our Mother had a white bulldog at the time, and he welcomed the new baby without a fuss. As baby Margaret grew our Mother would take her for a ride in the buggy when she went shopping, and the bulldog went along. If anyone thought to play a prank when the baby was left for a few minutes in front of a store, they soon changed their minds, as the dog guarded her faithfully. After the family moved to a farm in the town of Lamartine, Margaret was joined by a new sister Catherine. From that farm they moved to a farm 2 miles east of the city on Fourth Street Road. That place became their home for a number of years, and the family increased by Helen, Neil and Dorothy. Margaret started school at the rural Fourth street school.

Good times were had by the older kids sliding down the hill in the winter on a bobsled that dad had made. Soon a larger farm was needed, so the family moved from the 40 acre farm to a 109 acre farm on Martin Road. The remaining members of the family were born there: Edna, Frances, Robert, Patsy and John Jr. (Or Jim as we all called him). Ten kids was quite a houseful. Margaret became her dad's right-hand man, working in the fields driving horses, plowing and cultivating. One day we were playing in the yard and heard the shout "Whoa, Whoa", and dad calling "Jump on his head!". As Margaret had come in from the field with Bud and Daisy, she had stopped to close the gate in the lane. The horses, eager to get to the barn, started walking as she closed the gate. When she ran to pick up the lines, they started running too, and one crowded the other into the fence. They tore out 13 rods of fence and became tangled in the wires. I remember dad running to help as this was happening. Bud was down and trying to get up, and dad was calling to Margaret to hold his head down so he wouldn't struggle and get more cut up by the barbed wire.

On the day a tornado struck the farm, Margaret was due at the Court House to write the 8th grade exams to graduate from the country school. Because of the calamity, she had to walk all the way into town. In the operation of the farm she drove the horses, helping to plow and plant crops. As she was planting corn one day, Jim Carr came along. He remarked to her in jest "It would take a very short-backed team to get around the rows when you are cultivating!" Needless to say, the rows were very straight.

Another time when she was driving the milk wagon home from town, the horses bolted when she dropped a line. One went on each side of a telephone pole, and she sustained various bumps and bruises as a result of the mishap. Another day when Margaret was cutting hay, our dog Shep came running along and, seeing a bird, he jumped over the sickle bar, thereby having a front paw cut off. Shep survived nicely and lived to a ripe old age. In 1919 when we got our first Model T car, she learned to drive it almost as soon as dad did. One time when she was going to visit grandma in town, I wanted to go along. I hid in the back seat on the floor covered with a blanket. She was surprised, and I was scared by the time we arrived at grandma's.

Margaret worked a number of places. One was at the Bonita Candy Co., where she helped make Leaping Lenas; another was at the Menzies Shoe Co. She happened to be working for lawyer Phelps in Fond du Lac at the time he was murdered. A man he had represented in a court case walked up to his car as he parked it on Main St., opened the car door and shot him. Soon after that she had a chance to go to California with a family, to look after their children. They vacationed there for some time. Another job opportunity came along when the family was to return to Wisconsin, so Margaret stayed on in California. Probably the warm weather and sunshine helped her decide to stay on longer than planned. Following that job she worked for a family in Glendale, and the following summer accompanied their children to Seattle by train. After vacationing most of the summer with their aunt, Margaret took the children by boat back to Glendale. It was quite an excursion and a lot of responsibility for her. She joined the Young Ladies Institute of a Catholic Church in Glendale, and traveled in that area with the Institutes Drill team. These are just a few items in the first years she was in California. She became a gourmet cook in the ensuing years, and worked in this capacity for Max Factor, Bing Crosby, as well as other well known people. She is shy about telling of her many experiences.

In 1946 she married Joseph Foster Nelson. He was a mechanical engineer, and during the war time he was an instructor at several air bases. He also taught machine shop in the evenings. His hobby was model railroad trains, and he built a live steam engine which he operated in one of the parks for passengers in the summers. He found time to write a technical book on this subject, titled "So You Want to Build a Live Steam Locomotive?", which is used by many railroad buffs as they pursue this hobby. Margaret's main occupations were her garden and her sewing. She often wrote about her produce and her flowers in notes to family members. She had a number of dogs and cats which were like family to her and Foster. After Foster died she returned to Fond du Lac, where she is close to her family. Margaret has said that the thing she misses most is being able to drive her car, which she was still doing in 1987, and getting out and walking out of doors. We are all happy to have her back in the area, though I'm sure she misses sunny California.