Below you can find many of the stories that make our family unique and special.
Please read on and enjoy these memories shared by your relatives.
These stories were originally printed in the family cookbook for the 1992 reunion.
Tony Panowicz says,”I’ve tried to think of something funny to tell and I find everything, our whole life, 50 years of it, has been really funny with the Riedmanns. They are just a funny bunch. Eight different funnies to live by – all in all it’s been great. Wait until I ask if I can borrow a couple of grand for a couple of months, and I bet that will turn on the serious ‘think about it’ faucet. A good bunch of people.
Madge Panowicz remembers some of Grandma Riedmann’s sayings:
Eska Hoka, de me hubisku. Pretty Girl, give me a kiss.
Eska Klu, Klu, de me hubisku. Pretty Boy, give me a kiss.
Yasi dam, fausk ku! You be quiet or you’ll get a slap!
She would hold her hand up, cupped fingers together and you knew she meant business!
Madge also remembers Grandpa Riedmann always liked his feet rubbed as he lay in his arm chair after work. He smoked his cigar and finished a beer. It was the girls job to wait on him when he came home from a long day at Willow Springs Bottling Company. “Mom had us trained well.”
On Thanksgiving, the Riedmann family and Visty family would have dinner together. Aunt Jo would make her famous chocolate pies and Mom would make her sponge cake. Uncle Boris would make us girls all do dishes with him and would always have us singing, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, “You Are My Sunshine”, and “Suwannee River”.
Irene Van Moorleghem remembers:
Her Dad used to call people a “knucklehead” or a “nuts-a-fagin”.
He used to say a prayer to us in German about an angel.
We had a Star car. Everyone else had a Model T, but we had a Star car. It had a running board on each side which we stood on to get in the car. It was open on both sides and Dad snapped on Insinglass windows in the winter. There was a tool box built in on the running board.
We had a large bing cherry tree in the back yard and we had to stay home when they were ripe to pick them, because the neighbor boys would come over and raid the tree when we were gone. Times were tight, so the fruit was important to us to can. In the winter, we counted the cherries in each dish, so we all had the same.
Dad made bon fires in the fall with all of the raked up leaves and we would throw in potatoes to roast. They were delicious after you got through the blackened outside.
Dad’s treat was good home baked rye bread with caraway seeds and butter and a can of shrimp with white onions and vinegar mixed in. The longer it set, the better it was.
Another treat was Sveevil Kugen at Christmas. It was a German dish. Mom took kolache dough, spread it in a 9″ cake pan and topped it with chopped onions, fried in butter. This was “his” treat for Christmas.
She also remembers her Mom teaching her in Czech, the word Klebba, which means bread.
She always said, “You are never too old to learn.”
Mom canned a lot. She made a lot of grape jelly and jam. Our Septembers were busy after school, as we would squeeze grapes to separate the skins from the inside. Sometimes mom would get 6 bushels from her brother, Uncle John Vacek. Every fall, I still remember opening my lunch box and smelling dill pickles and Concord grapes. Mom also made grape “Booktha” – Kolache dough spread in a cake pan and topped with blue grapes and sprinkled with a mixture of flour and sugar.
She taught us to put a dash of allspice in creamed chicken to bring out the flavor; and to add a little sugar to canned vegetables to bring out a fresh flavor.
A rare treat for breakfast was what we called “Bubble Gravy.” It’s tapioca vanilla pudding made from scratch, sprinkled with sugar. It was delicious.
Mom’s favorite flowers were pansies, dahlias, nasturtiums and geraniums. A treasure was a mock orange blossom bush in the yard. It was an oldie.
Mom had a yellow canary called Perry. When the sun would shine, the bird would sing beautifully. Mom whistled to him to get him to sing. When Mom died, the bird died soon after from missing her.
She remembers Mom listening in the morning while making breakfast, to a man called Byron Head. He’d sing with the records (78’s). She waited for him to play “When the White Azaleas are Blooming”. She enjoyed hearing him sing with the record.
On Sundays, she’d “air out the house.” That meant we had to stay in the bedrooms while she opened the front door on the south and the back door on the north. It was wintertime and the cold air would rush through the house. Mom would then close up the house. Oh, it smelled good and with the sun shining and polkas playing on the radio, she would proceed to grab a broom and start dancing around the dining room table. She was radiant and happy. She loved polkas.
Mom would take left over coffee grounds, almost dry, and sprinkle them on the living room carpet. That freshened the carpet and kept the dust down while sweeping with a broom. No electric vacuums at that time!
In the spring, Mom would get newborn chickens and put them under the kitchen stove to keep them warm. She put boards around the legs of the stove. She kept them there until they started to jump over the boards and then they would be put outside. She killed chickens on Saturday and we’d have them Sundays.
She was an expert on Imperial Cake. No one made them as good. The nuns loved them, and she sent them to sons and sons-in-laws in the service in World War 2. She packed them in popcorn.
Verses we sang as kids were:
I see London
I see France
I see __ underpants.
Mom taught us that when we didn’t sit like ladies.
When someone tattled and it wasn’t true, we’d say: “Liar, liar Your pants are on fire”.
When we fought, or someone called us names:
“Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But names will never hurt me”.
This was said in a sing-song fashion.
My mom always sang this to my kids, and I sing it to my grandkids. They all love it.
Fishy, fishy in the brook
Daddy caught them with a hook
Mommy fried them in a pan
_ ate them like a man.
When we got in trouble with someone:
Everybody knows your name.
What’s your name?
Puddin’ tame. Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.
What’s your name?
John Brown. Ask me again and I’ll knock you down.
Their first home was on 3rd street between Pine and Williams. They moved to 504 Martha Street in 1921. The first 7 children were born at home. Madeline Marie arrived at the rented home on 3rd street on 9-16-20. Irene Josephine (1-20-22), Frances Anne (5-26-23), George Boris (Michael) (10-5-26), Alfred Adam,Jr. (6-12-28), Lawrence John (8-5-30) and Ruth Ann (4-2-33) were born at 504 Martha in the front bedroom. Louis Michael (1-22-35) was born at St. Catherine’s Hospital.
Dad sold the house in 1959 to Ed and Donna Nimerichter. They are still living there.
CHRISTMAS AT 504
Irene Van Moorleghem
We always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. On the 23rd we would string popcorn for garland. When we woke up on Christmas Eve morning, there was a sheet hung over the living room archway. Everyone had to use the back door that day. We would watch the sheet, and when moving air made the sheet move we knew Santa was in the living room. In the evening we would hear the front door open and feel the cold air through the sheet. The tree lights would go on and we heard heavy stomping and paper rustling, and then (and it seemed like an hour) a school bell would ring in the closed room and the door would close. Dad then lifted a corner of the sheet from the bottom and let the littlest look in to see if Santa had gone. He then lifted the rest of the sheet and we all got to look. We knelt while Dad said a prayer and then sat patiently for Dad to call our name.
When George Riedmann was 2 or 3 years old, he had a harmonica that was his favorite. Nobody touched it. He was a cutie with his curly blonde hair, bib overalls, and hugging his harmonica. His sisters spoiled him a lot. He was their first brother.
Irene says she almost killed him. She gave him green grapes and he went into convulsions. She never forgot it. Their mom cried so hard.
George Riedmann remembers,” When Mom would put us to work cleaning and polishing. We’d grumble, and she told us it would be easier if we said this rhyme and repeat it faster and faster: ‘Polish it in every corner.’ Keep repeating it. Try it!
Our treat was going with Dad on Sunday morning to check out the Pop plant. One Saturday, we left a rake in the yard and someone stole it, so Dad wouldn’t take us on Sunday for 4 weeks. The boys used Dad’s tools and never put them back, so Dad chopped a hole in the floor and put a plank in front of the tool drawers to keep the boys out. Lory found a way to crawl under the work bench and put his hand up under to get the tools out. They put the tools back, and Dad never knew.
We all had to walk to Bancroft Dairy on 3rd and Bancroft and get gallons of milk at 5 cents a gallon. A bread man would drive into our back yard and bring Mom day old bread. So the boys would stuff potatoes in the tailpipe of his truck and then hide. When he’d start the truck, the potatoes would shoot out and hit the dirt bank.
Dad’s favorite expression was ‘Roundhead.’
Some of the things Mom and Dad would say were: “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”.
“I don’t make pop for you kids to drink, I make it to sell.”
“If you can’t talk and work, don’t talk at all.”
“If you’re going to cry, I’ll put you in the coal bin.”
We had a stack of beer cases in the back yard and we’d have to chop those to burn in the furnace instead of coal.
Dad had an old Stake truck that had hard rubber tires, and when he would turn the corner on 6th & Dorcas, the tires made a lot of noise on the brick streets. The chains connecting the stakes on the truck bed would rattle, and we could hear him coming from 2 blocks away.
Dad always hid the money from the day in the pop plant at night. He hired 2 Indian boys and they found out where he put it, so they stole it and never came back to work.
Every night Dad would stop at the Glass Front Bar at 13th & Williams and get a glass of beer for 10 cents. The bartender would see him coming and have 2 glasses sitting on the counter for him. He only stayed 10 minutes.
At work, George always called his Dad, ‘Boss.’
They bottled Squirt, Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush and O’ So Grape. Al and I would want to learn how to mix pop and when we would ask Dad, he’d say, ‘All in good time. You will have your turn.’ I was 36 when my turn came and I got to mix pop.
Dad’s favorite expression was, ‘Do something!’ One day the Dr. Pepper sales rep was in and standing looking out of the window. As usual Dad got irritated and said to him, ‘Do something!’ The guy shot back, ‘I am, I’m thinking of what I should be doing.’ We enjoyed that.
We had to give all of our salary to Mom. We got to keep 10%, so if I made $40.00, I got to keep $4.00 until I was 21. Then I could keep all but $10.00 and that was for room and board. All the kids did that.”
Margie Riedmann Sobczyk was very young when Grandma Riedmann died, but one thing she remembers is every time she asked Grandma what she was doing, the response was always the same: “Making a pair of pants for a fish.”
Bill Van Moorleghem says,”I remember round galvanized washtubs full of chunks of ice and water. Just below the surface – treasures for kids – cold bottles of O-So-Grape and Orange Crush in thick glass bottles that looked like they’d been through a bottling machine a million times.
I remember picking apricots on hot June days at Martha Street. Mushed up fruit was always smeared into the grass under the trees. We had to compete with big wasps – with one eye looking for the fattest apricots and the other looking out for wasps. One time Ruth Ann got it! I was about four then, but I can still vividly recall poor Ruth Ann screaming as she kind of ran in place at hyperspeed. Aunt Ruth was there. She daubed mud on the sting, which was supposed to take the sting out. But those yellow-jackets were so big, I doubt if it really made any difference.”
SO CLOSE TO HOME
Upon returning from a delightful vacation at their Florida home, Lou and Sharon had their homecoming plans go awry by an unfortunate series of events. It all started when they called ahead to arrange transportation from the airport. Daughter Beth, who was taking some time off from her career, answered the call and volunteered to pick them up at the airport. For the record, I am told by confidential sources, another person was requested to pick them up, but… Beth, being the helpful sort, wished to perform this service since she was crashing at Dad’s house. From here everything goes downhill.
Beth was visiting her sister, Lisa, at her home in southwest Omaha when it came time to pick up the folks. Since Beth had been away from Omaha for a while, her sense of direction was a little out of whack. After hopping on the interstate to go to the airport, she soon realized that she was getting closer to Lincoln than she was to downtown Omaha. I assume it was the change in the number of cows vs. people that tipped her off. Well, eventually she did get herself turned around and made it to the airport.
Of course by this time Lou was waiting patiently at the curb for car and driver (as most of our elders know, you don’t survive five children without having lots of patience). As the usual pleasantries were exchanged, Sharon asked Beth to unlock the passenger door for her so she could start loading the car. Since she was driving Sharon’s car, which had all those fancy buttons on it, Beth pushed the “unlock” button and jumped out of the car closing the door behind her. So she says. Actually, she pushed the “lock” button and sealed the car shut, leaving the keys in the ignition and the engine still running! After a short discussion of all the available options it was decided to call Sharon’s sister, Sandy, and ask her to drive over to their house and get the spare set of car keys. As Sharon returned from inside the airport, she explained to all what the plan was. Beth asked if Sandy had her own key to their house to which Sharon replied that Sandy would use the hidden key to get into the house. Now it gets worse. Beth next asked if it was the same key she had been using the past several days and now had in her possession. Of course it was.
Meanwhile, poor Sandy, who left before Sharon could call her back, arrived at the house and soon discovered that there was no key to be found. She spotted Lou and Sharon’s neighbor out puttering around his house and asked him if he could be of any help. Well, low and behold (being a good neighbor) he just happens to have a key to the house! As they proudly marched over to the house to unlock the front door, they grabbed the outside screen door and found that someone had locked it also! Foiled again. Their only option now was to go find a screwdriver and remove the whole screendoor frame, complete with 8000 screws, so they could get to the front door and unlock it. Having finally achieved entrance to the house, Sandy grabbed the spare car keys, jumped into the car and quickly and diligently followed all the detours from Bellevue up to the airport.
For those who don’t get that way often, there used to be a freeway that connected South Omaha to the rest of the world. Well, at that time it was under reconstruction and didn’t exist. After two hours of patiently waiting (remember the patience part) Sandy successfully arrives at the airport, car still running and bags and tempers still intact on the curb. Next stop – the closest gas station!
JUST FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS
One afternoon, when Betty Riedmann returned from shopping, she found 12-year old Mary Pat on her hands and knees on the kitchen floor, smearing Crisco on a pillow case. Being just a little curious, she asked the young girl what she was doing. Mary Pat’s reply was, “I was making Peanut Brittle, and the recipe said to spread it onto a greased sheet. I thought the sheet was too big, so I decided to use a pillow case.
WHAT IS A TIDBIT?
One summer day, Aunt Renie called and invited everyone down to her cabin. She asked if we could bring some tidbits to snack on. Betty Riedmann sent her daughter, Mary Pat to the grocery store for the snacks. When she returned home, she had in her bag a can of pineapple tidbits. Needless to say, someone else had to run to the store to pick up the snacks.