|Welcome to the
The Alfred & Frances Riedmann, Sr. Family
As a child Al was a paperboy for the Omaha Bee News and also worked at the O.K. Gallagher Co., rolling cigars. He worked hard and long hours. His mother favored him, much to the displeasure of his siblings, because he helped so much. When he came home from work he was served first and ate all he wanted. The other kids had to wait. He also got fresh fruit and sometimes there would not be any for the rest.
Al's best friend was
Charlie Kyra (Karroll). As a youth he played baseball at Bill Pen Park
for the Riverside Baseball Team. In winter, he would put together a sled
called the Traveler. It was 2 sleds with big planks connecting them and
tied together. With 4-6 people they would go down Hickory Hill which was
a steep, winding hill.
She attended Assumption School, walking 2 1/2 miles each way. She quit after fifth grade to stay home and cook, iron, feed the chickens, pump water for the livestock, clean the chicken coops and sew. Electricity was put in her home when she was 15 years old. She later worked at the M.E. Smith Building making bib overalls. In those days a dressmaker would make a dress for $.65.
Frances went places by walking or by taking the streetcar or train. She chummed around with Julie Stehno Riha, Mary Riha Wichita and Josephine Vacek Visty. They went to dances, movies and picnics. Her dream was to take piano lessons, but she never did. On St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, she would get an orange, a few English walnuts, and candy; or coal if she was naughty.
When Al got out of the Navy in 1919 Frances was waiting for him. They soon became engaged. They were married at Assumption Church on August 5, 1919 at 9 AM mass. They went to church in a horse-drawn carriage. The maid of Honor was her sister, Josephine; and the Best Man was Al's brother, Lou Riedmann. A breakfast reception was held at the Vacek home on 30th and Harrison. They had kolache and coffee. In the evening there was large dinner. There was an accordion player for dancing, and keg beer until midnight. At midnight Ann Vacek sang the Czech song "White Dove" and the veil was removed from the bride's head. A shawl was tied on and they gave the groom an old hat to wear. The bride and groom then danced. There was no honeymoon.
Their Years Together
After the World War I, Al returned to the Willow Springs Brewing Company, which was a branch of Willow Springs Distillery, and was a brewmaster. The plant was located at 4th and Pierce. However, with prohibition stopping the production of alcoholic beverages in 1919, the company became Willow Springs Beverage Co. and began making only near beer, malt and soda pop. Later the company had a disastrous turn of events. During Prohibition people were allowed to make their own beer as long as they didn't make too much. One of the workers wasn't paying attention while they were producing malt, which was used by for making home brew, and the batch was burned. Rather than admit what had happened, the whole batch was bottled and shipped out. This turned out even worst because now the product made it out into the public and their name was ruined. Customers came back and demanded refunds, which the company didn't have as money was tight. This just about bankrupt the business and they decided to get out of the malt business.
In 1929, right before the Depression, Al bought the Willow Springs name, and with partner Ed Nelson he moved the plant to 13th and Jones and began bottling soda pop. The company name now was Willow Springs Bottling Co. Al handled production and Ed handled sales. Later, when Ed become seriously ill, Al bought Ed's interest for $5,000.00 and became sole proprietor. He then moved the plant to 18th and California. All four of their sons worked at the pop plant. The business supported the family through good times and bad. The picture to the right is of sons Lory, Al Jr, George and their father, Al.
The company was the first to introduce Squirt in Omaha. They also produced Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush. Eventually the plant was sold to 7-Up and he moved Willow Springs to 20th and N Street. Al's hours were long and the building so cold he would come home chilled to the bone. Sometimes he would receive deep cuts in his fingers from bottles exploding. The Willow Springs name is still in the Riedmann family.
Al was an active member of the American Legion South Omaha Post #331 where he was Post Commander and in charge of the Sons of the Legion group. He was also very active in the German-American Society and was president multiple times. He enjoyed playing cards with friends and relatives. He loved his cigars and made home brewed beer in the basement. His children would remember times when the bottles expoded and leave a mess in the basement because too much pressure would build up in the bottles.
As a member of the German American Society the family would partake in their yearly summer picnics on the grounds of the original German American Club on 13th Street just south of the Henry Doorly Zoo. This would include a lot of food, games and pop for the kids. During the winter there would be a Christmas play that would be presented in German. The hall would be packed with young and old. During the festivities a speaker would go to the microphone and give a report on where Santa was and that he was getting closer to Omaha. Santa Claus would then make an appearance at the end of the presentations much to the delight of the children.
Frances was a great mother and homemaker. She was thrifty and with Al going into business, she really had to watch her pennies. She made clothes out of chicken feed sacks. They were made into colorful little girl's dresses, boy's shirts and aprons. Out of sugar sacks she made bloomers, slips, sheets, mattress covers and dishtowels. She knew every which way to make hamburger dishes, and canned constantly. She baked fabulous kolache and cinnamon rolls.
They had apple trees, a huge bing cherry tree and apricot or peach trees. When the fruit was almost ripe everyone had to watch at night to make sure the neighborhood boys wouldn't steal them. Naturally, while this was going on the Riedmann boys conducted their own raids on the neighbors for their fruit. There was a garden with lettuce, radishes, potatoes, onions and lots of tomatoes for canning. Al grew horseradish too. They also raised chickens and tried to raise ducks once.
Frances was an active member in the South Omaha American Legion Auxiliary. She did not learn how to drive a car and never smoked a cigarette. She was credited with saving a neighbor girl's life. Grace Caruso was a toddler and sucking on a butterscotch wafer candy and it became stuck in her throat. Mrs. Caruso came running over to Frances for help. Frances went over and turned Gracie upside down and the candy came out. Boy, was she blessed and hugged by Mrs. Caruso!
Al is also credited with saving a persons life. When Al was a young man people would go swimming in the Missouri River since there were few places to swim back then. One day he was swimming in the river and a man began to yell for help as he was starting to drown. Al swam out to him and tried to grab him. But the man was struggling so desperately that he start to pull Al under too. Al spotted a large stick floating nearby and smacked the man over the head. That 'calmed' him down so Al could could drag him back to the shore.
Every Sunday was Chicken Dinner Day at the Riedmann household. On Saturday evening or Sunday morning, Frances would chop the heads off 2 or 3 chickens, sometimes 4 as the family grew, with an ax over a tree stump. Sometimes Al would do it for her. After the chicken was dipped in hot water the girls would pluck the feathers, cut the chicken open, remove the insides and cut it up. She fried it on Sunday for dinner. It was always out of this world!! She also excelled with her pork roasts and liver dumpling soup. As they sat around the table enjoying their dinner together they would sing the Omaha song.
Together Al and Frances enjoyed going to the Legion hall together. They went to the movies every Saturday night.
Frances Riedmann died at the age of 57 years on May 19, 1954 at Immanuel Hospital. This was 16 days after Lou, had his first child, Louis Jr. (Chip), and about 4 months before Ruth gave birth to her first, Deb. Frances is buried in Calvary Cemetery. She had 12 grandchildren at that time.
Alfred remarried Frances' cousin Mary Riha Wichita on October 3, 1959. She had lost her husband shortly before and both couples had been good friends. At that time they had 62 grandchildren between them. They lived at 1430 So. 12th St. Mary had 7 children from her first marriage: Marie, Walter, Frank, Arnold, Agnes, Jerome, and James.
In 1964 Al and Mary traveled to Germany and to Stetten in particular to search out his father's family. His daughter Madge and her husband Tony and Julie and Frank Riha traveled through the towns Tony had seen during World War II. When they arrived in Stetten they were greeted by his aunts an uncles who were still alive including Johann Kaspar Riedmann and his daughter Rita, Maria (Sister Enswida) and Mathilda (Sister Iphigenia). The mayor of Stetten met them and a ceremony of welcome was held in his honor, complete with a band. The whole town was excited to have Americans visit, especially a descendant of one of their families.
Alfred Riedmann died on September 19, 1972 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery next to Frances. Al was 77 years old. Later their daughter Ruth was buried next to them. There were 31 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren: Wendy Van Moorleghem, James Sobczyk, Jr. and Therese Sobczyk.
Mary died on Al's birthday, May 30, 1989. She is buried next to her first husband.
The Riedmann home
on Martha Street still stands, overlooking the Omaha Botanical Garden.
It is just south of, and can sometimes be seen when the trees are bare,
from the Herb Garden which is on the western end of the Lauritzen Botanical Garden.
Up at 504 Martha, Omaha, Nebraska
The Dahlman Neighborhood
Living in Dahlman
Growing up in their part of the Dahlman area everyone knew everyone by their ethnic makeup. Being both German and Czech they were a bit of a rarity as back then most never married across ethnic barriers. Their neighborhood was mostly Czechs, Italians, Polish, Irish, German and one black man. It was very common to know each other by their ethnic slang names; ethnic differences and habits were a way of life. In fact, the Catholic schools (Dahlman was predominately Catholic) you attended were by sorted by ethnic background: St. Wenceslaus - Czechs, St Joseph's - German, St Patrick's - Irish, and St. Philomenia - Italian. Since the kids were both German & Czech, their parents couldn't agree on where to send them so they attended St. Patrick's, the Irish school! Later on, a Bishop came to Omaha and divided the parishes and school districts geographically to end the ethnic separations. Boy did that shake up the neighborhoods!
Many famous people grew up in the neighborhood. Some would be their childhood friends. These included Tom "Train Wreck" Novak, a great football player at the University of Nebraska; the Dusek brothers who would later become famous in the early days of professional wrestling, before the WWF; U.S. Senator Roman Hruska; the Dworak family which produced an Omaha mayor; Omaha Fire Chief Warsocki who was a friend of Lory's; and the Caniglia family which is famous for all the Caniglia family restaurants in Omaha
What's for Dinner?
Hunting for food was part of life. They ate squirrel, rabbit, pheasants and a deer if you could get one. They raised and ate chickens, ducks, rabbits & had laying hens for eggs.
Home delivery of food was alive and well. The bread man, milk man, ice man and the fruit peddler were all regular visitors and a source for groceries. They also walked down to the dairy at 4th and Bancroft for gallons of skim milk every other day. Their parents would go to the grocery store somewhere downtown on Saturday.
The Germans were known for making their home brew in their basements which would then be traded with the Italians who were the winemakers of that area. It was not uncommon for the kids to have a sip of wine or a glass of beer on special occasions.
The Italians in the area had a tradition back then of serving "tomato-bread". This consisted of flat pieces of bread that were used to check the temperature of the ovens. Rather than throw it out they would pour tomato sauce over it and add other ingredients to make it tastier. This dish later came to be known as pizza.
It would not be uncommon for the kids to come home and find what was referred to as a "bum" eating a sandwich in their back yard. They were never allowed in the house but they were a common sight and always fed. Bums were no one to be afraid of, just someone temporarily down on their luck and traveling through.
Utilities in Dahlman
Their basic utilities consisted of wood, coal, gas and electricity enough for lights. Some neighbors had to use a water cistern which was filled weekly from the fire-hydrant for water. They were fortunate enough to have their own water system. Some homes did without electricity from time to time and would use oil lanterns.
Heating systems graduated from a wood stove to a coal furnace to an oil furnace and finally gas. Thank goodness because the coal bins were messy, scary and lots of work.
Working in Dahlman
The kids would also haul coal for the neighbors, work at the post office, shovel snow for the railroad, work at the brewery or bottling plant wherever and whenever they could.
Along with the peddlers bringing food, the junkmen would also come by and buy scraps of brass, iron, copper or aluminum that the families would gather (mainly from the dumps in the area).
The biggest prank for the boys was to disconnect the trolleys. Back then the trolleys were electric and they were powered by an electric wire that ran overhead. There was a connecting device that extended from the top of the trolley to the cable. The usual prank was for one person to try and distract the driver while the other would sneak up behind the trolley and pull the rope that was attached to the connecting device. When the driver would try and resume his route there'd be no power! Boy, would he be mad and start hollering at the boys. Of course they would be long gone by this time.
Later the family did own a Nash automobile. The family would occasionally pile into the car and go all the way out to Elmwood Park for a family picnic. At that time, Elmwood was on the western edge of Omaha and almost out in the country. They would sings songs as they road out there. Their mom would pack up a big meal, including fried chicken to enjoy while they were there.
Playing in Dahlman
There were, of course, the usual childhood pranks, such as filling a paper sack with something rotten, such as old eggs, placing the sack on the front porch of a house, lighting the sack on fire, then ringing the doorbell and running as fast as they could. When the homeowner would come out he would immediately see the fire and begin to stomp it out. By that time it was too late to realize what had just happened and the smell would be atrocious. What a mess it would create.
When the WPA was installing culverts in the area in about 1938 Al remembers sneaking down and putting his initials and marbles in the wet concrete. When Al started working on the Botanical Garden committee he continually searched the area during construction for evidence of those pranks. He always searched not thinking that with all the time and changes that took place since he had played there that he would be able to locate a piece of concrete with some of his handy work. One day, there it was. A worker found a chunk of concrete with some of his marbles still in it! That was really an emotional find for Al that took him back 60 years.
More history of
the Riedmann family can be found in the Riedmann family cookbook printed
for the 1992 family reunion, or on the Riedmann Family Cookbook website.
Many stories were written by family members in recollection of their younger
years. Some of the stories will provide more detailed information to some
of the above stories. To leave this page and go to the Cookbook/ Memories
page click here. When you are finished,
click the back button or look at the end of the stories for the link to
bring you back here.
|Updated 5/2013||Webmaster: Chip Riedmann|