MY STORY: THE AUGUST & DONALD
FISCHER FAMILIES (Part 2)
BY DONALD FISCHER
I had a full boyhood. My mom and dad each came from large families. Therefore, our social life was spent visiting relatives on Sundays and birthdays. The food was always good and plentiful. Christmas Eve was spent in Avoca with my maternal grandparents. We would stay overnight, and awaken to more food and family fellowship. Then it was time to return to Walnut and the home of my paternal grandparents, which meant more food and visiting. We only exchanged gifts with the family in Avoca. It was the best of life.
The Walnut Bureau, March 15, 1923
At 12 years of age, I was an only child. In November of 1933, it became clear to me that was about to change, although I didn’t understand. My mother was now using our spare bedroom and remained bedfast for days on end. It was ordered by Dr. Moore. I spent time with her, never realizing that all was not well. In our conversations she would ask certain things of me. We talked about God, goodness, kindness, respect, all of which seemed pretty normal to me. On the wall near her vanity was a black and white picture of a lady with a verse affixed. One day my mother asked me to learn that by heart for her. The words of the verse I retain to this day: “Your mother’s love enfolds me in all of my affairs. And this one thought upholds me, I know that mother cares.” Good words which I have often recited in my activities.
It was now February of 1934. Not much had changed. During the past several months we had a young woman come in during the day to carry on with the household chores and be with my mother. On the night of Wednesday, February 14, I attended a cowboy movie at the local theater. On exiting, it was dark and chilly. I headed toward home on the run. As I turned the corner, where I could see our house, I noticed all the lights were on and several cars were parked outside. I learned that my dad and Dr. Moore with my mom had just left for the Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs. I had just missed them. My aunt and cousin were waiting for me, so that we could follow.
About 7 a.m. the next morning, our small group left the hospital for breakfast. There was a very small cafe on the corner in front of the hospital. We had not been there long before we saw a man coming down the long walk toward us. We instinctively knew the message he carried and immediately returned to the hospital, but too late. Mother and her infant son were buried together on February 18, 1934 in the Layton Township Cemetery.
Certainly life would change for us. But all was not lost. There were still good times ahead.
The summers in the mid 30’s were mostly dry and hot. My dad wore a sailor straw hat. On this particular trip into Omaha, I had chosen to ride along. The day being hot and since there was no air conditioning in cars; we had both windows in the cab rolled down. As we were near the center of the Ak-Sar-Ben Bridge crossing the Missouri River and exiting on Dodge St., a sudden gust of wind removed the hat from my dad’s head, past me on the passenger side, and out the window. It was a spectacular sight to watch the hat in its turbulent flight to the water. The trip was otherwise uneventful and caused us many laughs in the days following.
Our neighbor Caroline Christiansen had lost her husband and was left with a daughter, Ethelyn. My dad and Caroline were married on June 21, 1936. About the same time, Dad sold his grocery business and went into the chicken hatchery business in partnership with his brother-in-law, Otto Christensen, husband of Clara Fischer. In 1945, Dad sold his interest to Otto and he and Caroline prepared to move to Los Angeles, California.
One of the best months of my life was February of 1946. My folks had sold their house in Walnut and had given possession. The house in California was not yet finished. So in the meantime, Annie Moritz being Caroline’s sister, with a large and nice house and living alone, opened her house to them. When I came home from the Navy, I, too, lived in her house. The days became a routine. I would go downtown, come home for lunch, and go back downtown until 2 p.m. when I would go back to the house. Annie and Caroline were waiting. The card table was set up for buck euchre. Every day we played a couple of hours. It was so much fun. Both were tigers to win and were good card players. I loved that time together.
In 1948, Dad and Caroline moved to the San Fernando Valley and got into egg production. This was successful for 10 years, until the Valley became heavily populated and they settled in Yucaipa, California and again went into the egg business. They retired after several years and stayed in Yucaipa. Dad became ill in 1975 and died on December 4, 1975. He was buried beside my mother, Ella, and their infant son.
Some years ago I remember reading about a tribe in Africa. The son of one of the tribe members related as to how he had learned from his father. He likened it to a building process where the father lifted the son on his shoulders and would share in the gaining of knowledge and experience.
Like so many father and son relationships the real appreciation often comes too late. One of the most precious events that occurred with my father was on his deathbed. I had been called by my stepmother that it was time for me to be present. I flew into the airport near to where the hospital was located. My stepmother and her daughter met me and we were off to the hospital. It was obvious that the end was near. Soon it was evening and the three of us would return to Yucaipa where my folks were living. We left the room, having said our goodbyes. Walking down the long hallway, I suddenly needed to return to his bedside. I asked that I be granted a private moment with my dad. Standing beside his bed, I took his hand in mine and thanked him for the good times. Before departing, I asked if I could pray. He consented. My last words to him were, “Dad I love you.” Several hours later, at home, the telephone rang. I answered. It was over. How blessed through the years I have been with that memory. Much of what I have been through the years is as a result of having been on his shoulders.
Caroline Fischer returned to Walnut in 1976 and lived to be over 104 years old. She died on February 28, 1994 and was buried with her first husband, August T. Christiansen in the Layton Township Cemetery.
Sharlene Rosemary Osler and I were married in the Little Church of the Flowers in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California on April 26, 1946. Each of us had served in WWII and received an honorable discharge. We had known each other as playmates while growing up in Walnut. Our first several years were spent in the Los Angeles vicinity. We had not really settled into anything permanent. On September 9, 1948, our daughter, Kathy, was born. Still having no real goal in life, we moved back to Walnut in the later part of 1951. Our son, Scott, was born in Iowa on January 31, 1952. My father-in-law, Carl Osler, had a farm between Avoca and Walnut. That became our home and occupation for the time being. I had grown up with a lot of exposure to farm life, but this was the real thing. I learned to put in crops, raised pigs and milked cows.
Kathy and Don Fischer at the farm
By November, we mutually decided that we were not meant to be farmers. We were back in California by the end of the year. This time we were settled in a house of our own, and I had gotten a job that lasted 27 years. My work-a-day-life on that job was one of several events that I consider to be miracles. A friend whom I had known some years previously and with whom I had not been in touch for a number of years, called me on the evening of the day before I was to begin employment at the post office. His opening words were, “How would you like to work on the campus at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)?” The work consisted of various aspects of floriculture and flower breeding. After some hesitation, I began work on the following Monday. 14 years were on the UCLA campus and 13 years were on the Davis campus. They were such good years. God continued to bless our family.
We never had a plan for our lives. It just seemed as though we went with the flow. I cannot explain why we had so many good things happen to us during the course of our 55 years of marriage. We never wanted for anything; we always had good housing and friends and our two children grew into adulthood and beyond as dedicated Christians. I count my blessings.
This union ended in 2001, when Sharlene had a massive stroke from which she never recovered. I live alone now near my daughter. I am 94 and look forward to meeting Sharlene again. I have lived believing God is my Hope. I thank him for the good life that has been mine.
Don and Sharlene Fischer in 2001