Hickory Nut Cake and Snapdragons: Memories of Mrs. Busch

My mom & Mrs. Busch, abt 1964
My mom and Mrs. Busch, about 1964. (Image source: Drake family photo, privately held.)

I was named for two very special women in my mom’s life. One of them was Mrs. Eva Busch, who was like a grandmother to my mom when she was young. She lived right around the corner when my mom was growing up, and would often watch her while her parents were at work. Mrs. Busch had been good friends with my mom’s Grandma Kaiser, and although she sometimes took care of other children in the neighborhood, she had a special bond with my mom. My mom would spend time at her house after school and during the summer when her parents were at work. They spent many of their days baking pies, cookies, or bread. One of her specialties was Hickory Nut Cake. In the fall, they would gather nuts from the Hickory trees in their yards, and they would spend many hours cracking them and separating the nuts from the shells. After all that hard work, the cake was quite a treat! On warm days, my mom enjoyed reading a book underneath the large white bridal wreath bush in front of her house. Mrs. Busch’s garden also always had colorful snapdragons, and she would show my mom how to pinch the flowers to make the “dragons” snap open their “mouths.” On cold or rainy days, Mrs. Busch taught my mom how to play solitaire or other card games. Mrs. Busch passed away when my mom was in college. Although my mom always called her Mrs. Busch, she thought her first name, Eva, was a pretty name, and when I was born, she paired it with my aunt’s middle name, Anne, to make my first name. Mrs. Busch and my aunt were very kind, patient, and practical women, and were talented bakers. I’m hoping to live up to my name!

Each clover is lucky…

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George Weil on his front porch, about 1980.

When I was still pretty young, I learned that four-leaf clovers were lucky. As a youngster, I would spend hours crawling through the lush clovers that grew in our backyard to try to find one. (I never did!) One day after yet another fruitless search, my dad told me about the four-leaf clovers that he used to get in the mail from his grandfather, George Weil (1889-1981). He told me this story: Continue reading “Each clover is lucky…”

Letters from a Kaiser in the Great War

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Glenn Kaiser, 1917-1919, in his Army uniform.

In celebration of my 50th blog post, and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, I have a very special announcement! In a previous post, I introduced my great-grandfather Glenn Kaiser, who served in the American Army during World War I. During 1918-1919, he was stationed in France and Germany along the front lines. Like many soldiers at the front, he sent frequent letters home to his family. I am currently scanning and transcribing some of the surviving letters that he sent home during his time abroad. I’ll be sharing these letters on a special section on my blog, starting today! The first batch of letters include some of his letters from training before he was sent overseas.

As a special preview of the project, here’s a letter from Glenn Kaiser to his mother, Jennie Holbrook, written 100 years ago today. Continue reading “Letters from a Kaiser in the Great War”

Floyd, the youngest Kaiser brother

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Floyd Kaiser, about 1917. This may be his high school photo. (Image Source: Kaiser Family Photos)

My great-great-grandparents, Andrew Kaiser and Jennie Holbrook, had a large, blended family. Between the two of them, they had 18 children. This is the story of my great-great uncle Floyd, who was their youngest child, who also died when he was very young.

Andrew Kaiser and Jennie Holbrook were married on 22 July 1885. Both of them had been married previously, and had had children with their previous spouses. Andrew had eleven children with his previous wife, Elizabeth Wentsel. Four of these children died young, before Elizabeth’s death in 1884. Jennie had previously married Thomas Burke, and they had three children. She was granted a divorce from him in June of 1885. Although it’s not clear how Jennie and Andrew met, they lived in the same small town of Prophetstown in Whiteside County, Illinois. Thomas Burke was a druggist in town, and Andrew Kaiser was a tinner. Both businessmen may have known each other, and may have been in the same social circles. After losing their first spouses, both Andrew and Jennie found themselves as single parents, with at least several small children at home. Joining their households was likely a beneficial situation for them both. Continue reading “Floyd, the youngest Kaiser brother”