Here is the transcript of the audio recording of Nadine Virgina Harms that was recorded sometime in the early 1980’s. Special thanks to Paul Benton (Uncle Paul) for the transcript. I’ve included it as actual text in this post as well as a text file for download. Here is audio recording link if you haven’t listened to it yet.
START OF TRANSCRIPT
Nadine Virginia Harms
Recorded by Nadine Virgina Harms in the early 1980’s
Transcript by Paul Benton November 2007
Hi kids, this is grandma. Your mother invited me to your family home evening and asked me to tell you a little bit about my parents. My mother was Bertha Rubel. She was born in Stockton, San Joaquin County, California.
This is inland from Oakland and San Francisco. The date was January 9th, 1895. She was the second daughter and third and last child of Daniel Rubel, her daddy, and Anna Marie Bachmann Rubel, her mother. Her sister Anna was only nineteen and a half months old when she was born and her brother, Daniel Faden Rubel Jr, had already died. When Bertha was only six months old her mother died. It seemed she had picked a pimple on her face that became infected. Her poor father had not only lost his wife and companion, but now he had two small daughters to raise. Aunt Herminia Bachmann, who was sister to Anna Marie, took over the care of these two little girls until Bertha was nearly two years of age. And at that time Aunt Herminia married. Daniel put his two daughters in the Children’s Home of Stockton. This was commonly called the orphanage. Now he didn’t abandon them, he paid for their board and room and came to see them as often as possible. Anna has told me of being made to sit at the table to finish her cold breakfast of oatmeal. If she didn’t it would be served to her at the next meal. She didn’t like that very much. Also the children in the orphanage had to eat their breakfast (oatmeal) even if it was burned. Needless to say it did not endear them to oatmeal for breakfast. Also when they were older, all the children from the home marched down the street in pairs to go to school or where ever they were going. She proudly recalls that one of the matrons at the home told her that her father always saw to it that the girls had a coin to put in the collection plate on Sunday when they attended church. Unfortunately for them they weren’t raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But there were memories of good times too, when her father would rent a horse and carriage and take them for a ride in the country. That must have really been a special treat. When Bertha was sixteen years old her father passed away. She had not completed school but now she was on her own. She went to work for the Rothenbush family and worked in their home. One of things I remember her telling me she did not like to do was clean the dirty spittoons. These were common in that era. The men chewed tobacco and then spit the juice into these brass spittoons. One of the other things she didn’t like was the Chinese cook. And she was frightened when she had to go into his area of the house to iron the clothes with old flat irons that were heated on the cooking stove. Later she progressed to working in an automobile agency, and helped with the book keeping. When I was a young student myself and was having problem with arithmetic she would tell me of the problems she had adding columns down and then across and making them balance in both directions.
My father’s name is William John Harms and he was born in Germany at a place called Warnamunde. His birthdate to the best of my knowledge is January 20th, 1878. To date I have not been able to find his birth record. All I know is what I have been told. That he was raised by his grandmother and I don’t even know whether it was his father’s mother or mother’s mother, because I never asked. And that his mother worked as a wet nurse to support him. Rumor or family stories say that she later remarried, to whom we don’t know for sure. The other rumor is that the man she married was a burgermeister or mayor of the town. William John lived near the sea and it is not surprising that he worked on ships. My daddy told me of going to sea and being informed by the authorities in Germany that at the end of that current trip he would have to go into the army. Back in those days they had mandatory conscription, which meant that everybody had to take their turn for all young men. As he did not want to go in the army, when he arrived in this country (USA), he jumped ship! Can you imagine how you would feel landing in a strange land, at least different from what you were familiar with. Not knowing the language let alone the customs. And without a friend or relative with whom you could confide or discuss your problems or situations. That must have been very difficult. My daddy told stories of eating out of garbage cans until he learned enough words in English to ask for work. And I am sure he was too proud to beg. Census records show that he worked on farms in the beginning. And in 1904 he became a naturalized citizen of his adopted land. These proceedings took place in the Superior Court in San Francisco. But today they don’t have any record of this as the records were destroyed in the infamous earthquake and resulting fire of 1906. But I have my daddy’s original naturalization papers and they were a prized possession of his. He also told me of working on the waterfront area in San Francisco Bay. And in 1950 the State of California traced him down. They wanted to pick his brain of how the delta region was originally, which were natural, and which were man made cuts; and they were delighted to find that his memory was lucid and clear. He apparently had this knowledge having run a general store in the area. My daddy was first married to a woman named Addie May(sp?), I don’t know her sur name or the date that they were married, but I do know and have a final decree of divorcement that he received from her on December 18th, 1916. And the reason given was that she deserted him. It was on September 1st, 1917 that my mother, Bertha Rubel married William John Harms. She told me that they got married on her lunch hour and that she had to return to work. I don’t know how she met my father but it could have been through the Rothenbush family for they owned the El Dorado Brewery where her father had worked and where my daddy also worked. They lived in an apartment for the first part of their married life. My brother, William John Harms Jr, made his appearance May 6th, 1918. When it was discovered that he was to have a playmate, Bertha’s five hundred dollar inheritance from her father was used as a down payment for a home at 126 West Elm St, Stockton and it was there that Lucille Anna Harms, my sister came, after her birth on October 6th, 1919. Times were rough for this young family during prohibition, that means that it’s illegal to sell alcoholic beverages. And the Great Depression that took place following the 1929 stock market crash. And it was just prior to that, on December 9th, 1928, that I joined the family. That means Nadine Virginia Harms. I was too young to remember those times but have been told that my father went out to look for work each day with only a slice of dry bread in his pocket for his lunch. By the time I can remember, my daddy was working at the El Dorado Brewery. His title there was an operating engineer and he always worked the swing shift. That meant from 3 o’clock in the afternoon to 11 o’clock at night. He was responsible for the engines and boilers and many gauges and his duties required him to go from the engine room where the heat was overwhelming into the ice cold cellars. To keep from getting sick, he wore 100% long wool underwear. Yes, the kind with the drop seat both winter and summer. In those days, now this was way, way back in the 1930’s you worked 365 days a year. There was no such thing as vacation or sick leave. And it wasn’t until years later that I remember my father working a five day week. It was during the 1940’s, World War Two time, my mother had a hard time getting clothes for daddy as the wool yarn went mostly into clothing for men in the service. But those long johns that were only part wool and part cotton did not do the job so she spent many hours at her sewing machine keeping his clothes neatly mended. Both of my parents were short in stature. Being in the 5’3”-4” range. But my daddy was quite heavy and wore a 19(inch) shirt collar. Guess he fit in the category of mister five by five. He was a very soft spoken man and I never remember him getting angry.
In looking through some other things I have, which includes a clipping from the newspaper when my father died, it tells, how accurately I’m not sure, that when he came to San Francisco from Germany that he went to work in the Delta on a dredge crew. It also indicates that at the time of the San Francisco earthquake he was working for the Herman Safe Company. And mentioned a time he worked in the Bakersfield oil fields. The newspaper notice also said that he did work for the brewery company for thirty years, an d later worked for the San Joaquin Federal Housing Authority as a custodian. This is when he had the opportunity to work five days a week.
My daddy was a member of the San Joaquin Lodge of Mason’s and the Commandery, and the Shrine. It is too bad that you children, my grand children did not have the opportunity to know him, he would have loved you very much. Grandmother is going to try to find a picture of both Grandma and Grandpa to send to mother for you to see. This tape is probably long enough because by now you are probably tired of listening to me talk. But Grandmother will have to make you another tape to play at another time. I love all of you very, very much. Kisses and hugs for every body. And sweet dreams. Nighty night.
END OF TRANSCRIPT