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Swehla/Svehla Family Newsletter

Swehla Profiles

Health New and Updates
Violet's wish
What is a Swehla/Svehla?
Memories of Immigration
First Swehla farmsteads in Iowa
Swehla Family Tree
Reunion 2004
Swehla Profiles
Letter to the Editor
Our Swehla Children's Artwork


Violet Evans



Violet Evans born to James Evan and Elizabeth Helen Swehla April 11 1903. Some of you might remember talking with Violet or receiving a family group sheet in the mail from her back in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.Violet is the one who should be credited for a doing alot of the research on the early years of the Swehla history. She did not have it quite as easy as I have it they didn’t have the technology we have today and had to spend a lot of time handwriting and mailing all her requests, then having to wait a very long time sometimes years, for a response. She truly has made it all possible. I wish I would of started my research before 1992 so I would have had a chance to meet her. The best I can do now in honor of her is to continue her work

My Life Story

Written by Violet Evans

The earliest memories of one's life is probably interesting only to oneself, and that interest only in passing moments. To find these incidents one has to dig around, sort, and reach back like grappling for something almost gone.

An Aunt had placed me upon some wrapping paper which had been rolled out on a counter. She would roll the paper and me from side to side, gasping with chuckles and words of endearment...I couldn’t help but respond with some giggles of my own. People don’t wrap children in wrapping paper on high store counters very often. Another memory, is of my mother calling me and I would answer, “ I be a minnie, Mama” .

I would get down on one knee to a visitor and with one hand over my heart and say,” Way down in my heart I have a feeling for you."  Mother was proud of me. She told people I could read the whole Sweet Pea reader before I ever went to school.

She used to break into a line or two of a song while she was working, or holding me on her lap. One of them was, “ Meet in in St Louis, Louie, meet me at the affair” Another was, waltz me around, Willie, around and around.

She was pretty, Mama was. A Bohemian with black hair and large dark eyes. Because I looked like my father, somewhat, I thought of myself as being a mixture of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh. It wasn't until I was much older, when I was working on my genealogy, that I realized that I was a considerable part Bohemian too.

Back in Seattle where we lived, it was those slanting sidewalks that other kids skated on, shiny wheels of steel while I had clumsy wooden ones. In the early evening we all played RUN SHEEP RUN by the old gas street lamp. This is the time cousins on the Evans side would come and stay all night. My first experience with pillow fights and bouncing on the bed as if it were a trampoline, was about then. There was much rough play and laughter.

I was always going to a new school and the building were always gray or dull red brick. The kids march in and out in regimental fashion. It was fun to be that proper. I loved school. The blackboards were awesome magic and the teachers angels.

At one new school a big fat girl chased me during recess with a line-up of girls behind her. They were chanting" Teacher's Pet!” After what seemed an endless ordeal, the girl said, “that’s enough, come on lets go” They obediently disbanded. I have wondered what she turned out to be when she grew up.

Mother often sent me to the meat market for a quarter’s worth of round steak. The market had sawdust floors and a line of drooping fowls with rough skins and sick eyes….they were icky! When I got home I would stand at the window and look out and enjoy the smell of the frying meat behind me. My father was in the music store business for awhile. I remember pianos, sewing machines, sheet music, phonographs with twirl horns, and many containers of Cylinder records. Later he was in Real-estate in Sunnyside, Washington. The small store which was his office had a livery stable behind it. That’s how I happened to have a white pony with a pink nose for a very short time until a buyer came along. The kids followed when I rode my pony yelling “ Give me a ride!” Once I let a oversized girl climb on behind and Snowball bucked us both off.

I came home one day with a beautiful Shepard dog,. The next day the sheriff came after him. About that time I got Typhoid fever. It was thought I may have been eating unclean snow. I was taken to the hospital in Seattle. When I was getting better, a nurse brought me vanilla ice-cream when I wanted strawberry. She took it back and put it in a pink dish.

One time when we living temporally at a house, before it was sold, a a man and wife came over and played whist one evening. Probably prospective buyers of the place. Anna and I were permitted to lie on the hearth in front of the fireplace, The pleasant hum of the adult voices soon put us to sleep. Our parents carried us upstairs to bed after the guests were gone. The fireplace and upstairs had been a new experience, I was not to sleepy that I didn’t feel a comfort in the carrying.

My father liked to play solitaire. This is was way for him to get his mind off things. I watched him play, big eyed from the corner of the table. He would wink at me and turn over a card, one he wasn’t suppose to look at. I knew he was going to get he best willy-nilly of that guy called solitaire.

When I was eleven I wasn’t to see my father for over 30 years. My grandmother Swehla was very ill and my mother, sister and I went by train to Wilson, Kansas.. We had been on the farm but a few days when my grandmother died. The old farm was crowed with Bohemian relative and neighbors. Grandpa Swehla stood out not only because he was baled headed and had a wavey beard, but because he was Francis Joseph Swehla who had brought more Bohemians to Central Kansas than anyone else. Anna and I liked him because, although we were children he seemed to enjoy teaching us to play eucher. After a supper of warmed over potatoes, fried eggs, baking powder biscuits and milk, the mantles of the gasoline lamp were lit and we would begin our game. It wasn’t long before he was teaching us to drop seeds in the rows he made in the garden and to scatter grain to the chickens. We liked to go after his mail a mile and a half down the road because, now and again, we would see the Union Pacific train go by near thecorner where the mail boxes were.

Mother showed us how to gathers eggs, but  not the ones under the hen. Later, we learned the miracle of the baby chick picking its way out of the shell looking so sprightly with eyes, beak, claws and golden feathers. She made us fishing poles and took us across the pastures to Smokey Hill River. On the way she had us avoid the cacti, snakes and fresh cow chips and be sure to notice the wild flowers. She was the first to take us down to the spring house where there was a tin cup from which to drink. Further off the pond was Uncles Ben's homemade rowboat looking as if it owned the place. It was always filled with water and had to be dipped out whenever anyone used it.

Mother taught me how to cut up a chicken and fry it and mix bread. One time I put my dishpan of rising bread on a chair, Anna and I were romping around the room and I backed into the bread and mashed it. Before sun-up I used to hear the gasoline pump drawing water to a tank for the horses. My grandfather, uncle's and mother would be already up and had their breakfast. Mother would have skimmed the milk that was in the crocks in the pantry for thick rich cream to go with our biscuits. When school was out cousin Romeo and Violet Swehla would come to visit us from Ellsworth. Sometimes cousins Rose and Helen would come too, from five miles away. They liked to come to grandpas. When the parents of the cousins would come, there would be fried chicken, homemade bread, black current pie and lots of talk in Bohemian. During the harvest a stranger would come with a team of horses with gaudy harness. Neighbors would trade labor. The kids would carry lemonade to the fields. Women in the kitchen would bake bread, kolashes, pies and heaps of fried chicken. When the harvest was over, Anna and I would wade barefoot in the full wheat bins in the grainary,. When there were no cows nor horses in the barn, we liked to walk in the sift, spongy earth which had such a pungent odor. When we first came to the farm Grandpa’s youngest son was living there. Benjamin was nineteen and had numerous hobbies. He would let us go to his large dark closet he called his darkroom and watch him develop pictures. We marveled at the forms coming to life for never had we seen such a thing before. Uncle Charley came home from the Navy. We had been going to town with the eggs in a single horse buggy. Now, there was the Auborne. When I was allowed to drive something happened. Uncle charley bulged out his eyes and said, “you striped the gears!” He liked to fix cars so much that I wasn’t sure if I did something wrong or not. Ben and Charley eventually went into the car business at Kansas City, Missouri, then later in Hollywood, California, to fix the cars of the movie stars. After some twenty six years I traveled to Wilson, Kansas, to attend one annual Czech Festival. While there, along with other members of the family, we visited the old farm. It belongs to strangers now. There used to be four or five horses, some cows, a few hogs and chickens. Now, fences had been removed and a beef herd was grazing. The only building left was the chicken coop and part of the stone wall, The stone wall had been the living room but, also had a long table with chairs, enough to feed the harvesters, or company. I sat and played it so long that grandfather would look up from his book, slap a fly from his bald head, and look at me quizzically. There was a phonograph with cylinder records among which were called Some of these Days. It went...some of these days you’re going to be lonely. There was Day Dreams, Mighty like a Rose, That little boy of mine. We didn’t have many records.

A man from the Kansas Historical Society came out to interview Grandpa because he had written," Bohemians in Central Kansas”

And they wanted his picture. It was taken in front of the desk where he sat so often. There were kinfolks at the Festival at Wilson that I hadn’t seen for many years, and many whom I had never seen. Some of us went to the cemetery to look at the gravestones, and then drove out to the old farm. The stone  wall out there that I spoke of, looked so gaunt and pathetic. Of course it would...without the loving arms of the peach orchard around it, and the proud red grainary that use to face it. In spite of all these things, the wall had a magnetic charm that drew us towards it. We went over to it. Once inside, without realizing it, we had formed a circle and seemed in silent prayer. A cousin shoveling the toe of his shoe into the dust and weeds dug up one lone organ stop from the beloved old organ. We got into our cars and went back to the festival in Wilson.


Editor-Lynn Kimball