Dolly Winger and Amy Winger

Recorded September 3, 2006 Archived September 3, 2006 00:00 minutes
Audio not available

Interview ID: MBY001979


Amy talks with her mother, Dolly, about growing up on a farm in North Dakota.

Subject Log / Time Code

When Dolly was born, the kitten was hit by a truck. Her father said “the baby died” and everyone thought he was talking about Dolly.
Dolly built her daughter a dollhouse that was ruined in the fireplace.
Dolly used to use peach wrappers as toilet paper in the outhouse when they ran out of sears catalogs.
Dolly would play school and teach her dolls to read.


  • Dolly Winger
  • Amy Winger

Recording Location

MobileBooth West


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00:00 Yelp

00:05 I'm Dolly Winger, actually, I'm Dolores Winger, but nobody calls me Dolores except the Internal Revenue Service. My dad told me two things only two things. Don't don't Demaree an alcoholic and don't mess with the Internal Revenue Service just as of recently and because I have cancer I am delighted to be 60 years old and today's date is help me with that one. Will you honey? I don't know if they were ordered and we're at the city market here in Kansas City, Missouri, and I'm going to be talking with my my partner Amy, who is my elder daughter.

00:53 And I'm Amy Winger. I'm 34 and it is

01:01 September 3rd 2006 and we're in the City Market in Kansas City, Missouri, and I am going to be interviewing my mom Delores Dolly Winger.

01:13 So today we're going to talk about life growing up in North Dakota and most of growing up in the 40s and 50s, but maybe growing up in the 70s and 80s, that's me not you I would have already been growing up. Okay, and we want to start out with the story of your birth as told to you by one of your brother is right exactly. My my younger brother Dennis, LOL. All my brothers are as you know much older than I think like 11 and 13 and 14 years older than I and the one who seems to have the most memories a specific memories is my brother Dennis. He has wonderful memories and I wish it was he was I wish you were here, but he told me I was the only child that was born in a hospital in our family all my brothers are born at home, of course, but my mom had gone to Fargo to await my birth since we're so far.

02:13 Nowhere 45 miles from Fargo. So we had to prepare for this. How did she get there? I have absolutely no idea. I suppose my dad took her there and she must have been staying probably in the one of the hotels like the the garden are the grave or something. She stayed in a hotel near the hospital I would say so yeah, cuz this hotel to write downtown, you know, the garden in the Graver maybe you don't know there's any more now, I think there are Apartments now anyway, so my brothers were left at home in my my brother Dennis recalls that he was in the car with my dad and maybe one of my other brothers and they had a a baby kitten on the farm at that point and the boys have been gone. Maybe the school know not to school cuz they're so far but they've been gone and said it hadn't really knowing what it happened but they were excited about the baby kitten and my dad came to pick up my brothers and he said as they were going home. I'm really Story the baby died today.

03:13 Play hard today and my brother was just devastated the baby died. And then my dad went on to run over by Red Birds gravel truck and my brother then started to put it together. You know that it was the baby. It was the kitten who had died. Right? And he said he never been so happy to see a dead cat in this whole life so that my brother has no great stories. And if I could just tell one other one that is so long the same line if I haven't been born yet, but it's a great story my living there on the farm. We had neighbors who are only like half mile away half mile south half-mile north so far the Telikin where the where the farm. Oh, okay 100 North Dakota, which was about 45 miles north-west of Fargo, North Dakota.

04:12 Okay, so we're about seven miles out of Hunter six and a half miles that a hunter whatever and okay. What was I doing? So my my brother when he was about five or six of this is maybe it mean oh five six years before I was born and tells that my mother had gone down to Ben's Miller's which was just at the end of the mile to be a midwife as their daughter was giving birth and my brother didn't know what was going on at all cuz he was only five or six years old, but he knew my mom was down at Ben's Millers and then dr. Richter came by and he had as he always did this Bulldog standing in the front of the car and he has his hands his paws up on the dash and my dad said to the boys there goes doc Rector. He's delivering a baby and my brother said so

05:12 Maybe that's a bulldog a midwife. Yeah, that's something that happened a lot. You know, I'm just thinking that was probably pretty common that some fairly mature neighbor lady would probably help out doc Richter when he came out to my birth.

05:41 I was not aware of that, but I think that was probably pretty common.

05:45 I remember Jack Rector just just barely.

05:49 He was elderly at the time that I had any memories.

05:55 So you were born in Fargo I was and then they brought you back to the farm. Yes, and and they were delighted and the whole everyone with everyone in the world because the family had waited for so long for a girl. So if we look in my baby book, we see all these cards that say so happy for you that you had a girl and so forth and so on and and I don't really know anything about those early days except the people were happy and and people said. She's such a little doll and that's how I got to be called darling such a little doll. Do you remember anything about it being if is August it was Harvest Time and so we're people very busy, undoubtedly, undoubtedly, I often wonder why I chose them to get married in August to having known that only half of the people I knew were going to come to the wedding. Everybody was out in the in the field harvesting.

06:49 In August right down after everybody was invited to the wedding, you know, you just put it in the church bulletin darling David getting married. Please come Bubba blah. So there were no invitation to your wedding invitations by hand to people who were out of town people who work Farmers. I only remember riding too far away relatives.

07:17 Anyway back to the farm. Yes, okay.

07:22 And I do I remember about growing up on the farm. Yes. What do you remember about growing up on the fire or what? Do you remember about it about your mom about Grandma being a midwife. So that means she was she was busy. Yeah, grandma was as you know, an extremely hard worker. I think that's probably that and her religious beliefs and Robbins her background real it you mean she was a Christian. She was a Lutheran. I think actually she probably began as a maybe a Methodist and then he eventually became a Lutheran. But anyway, she was a Christian and her Christian faith was very important to her to study the Bible her pretty much her entire life and we can't talk too much about gravity religious Faith because

08:12 I'm going to cry. That won't be good.

08:16 Nexus we do OK Google kleenexes are good. Okay. So what else are we going to talk about about Grandma about that? She was a hard worker. Yes, Lord, Lord how I used to love when she would just come and sit down with me like in front of the TV cuz I love TV and it was a new invention for them. I think we got TV in about 1952. So, you know, it's a pretty much I was in first grade and I think yeah, I think they both like TV a lot and we watched it in the dark of course is everybody did those days and had that little less around make the TV light over top of TV and

08:58 But grandma would never sit down during the day and only a limited part of the night. I never saw Grandma sit down. Yes. It does. She was always up when I was a little girl before everybody else. And then she was all day long doing projects and it wasn't like she was outside of the house buying things and doing things. She's always in the house with many projects.

09:26 Yeah, she was busy all the time knitting sewing cooking studying and I think that hold busyness things certainly part of her religious beliefs to you know, no Idle Hands that kind of thing and always that you're serving you serving others.

09:49 Throughout the day. I like to sit up late and watch movies with her, you know, this old old black and white movies and and and she would like it to I could tell but she would ultimately say I better go to bed. And I think that was just because your grandpa was already in bed, you know, my dad was already in bed, and we had to prepare for another work day. So we couldn't just lollygag around watching TV all night.

10:17 Dumb, I think that's what I remember about her. You know, I'm a member of wash days. I think we're always on Monday and I loved wash days when not in the summer cuz then I had to be involved but I loved it because I know there's always going to be bean soup because she would make bean soup all day long on the stove while she was doing the laundry.

10:36 In the kitchen, so that was it. That was a good day. So were you always part of all of the of the family activities on the farm as far as all of the work that was very different. My brothers were always outside in the field. My my older brother Donnie was driving the grain truck when he was six years old when he was six years old that's incredible isn't and I hope I'm not making up a lie about that. But I know he was so little he could barely reach the pedals and he recalls being terrified when he would take that truck up into the elevator in town having to go up that incline and not being able to see you know, where the truck was going to land cuz he was social art yet. It was such a steep incline and he was so tiny and he was terrified but he did that in of the boys worked outside, but I never worked outside and why was that I had you were young like I was pagali, you know, I was the girl I was the dolly. I was the baby. I was very

11:36 But that was just at our house because there were other girls my age friends with my cousin Bonnie who did work outside so wasn't typical for everyone but it was typical. I mean it was that the status at my house that I was inside doing girl things scrubbing floors and that kind of thing.

11:56 Learning to cook, you know, I did learn to to cook. I didn't realize I was learning to cook. I thought I was just hanging out with my mom, you know, but I was learning all the time all the stuff that she knew unfortunately not the specifics about you know, how many cups and so forth and I'm a table sheet. Everybody think things you were learning to cook early things you were learning in the kitchen because that's what I remember a lot about Grandma a lot of food a lot of time in the kitchen always baking bread. Yeah, wonderful loaves of bread and buns and yeah, I'm I'm surprised that I can't just go in the kitchen to just do that as many times as I saw it and cinnamon rolls.

12:46 Frosted cinnamon rolls. I think I remember a lot of the holiday dinners. You know, what cuz at that point. I made it such a huge family and everybody in the family with all the uncles and aunts and cousins would come and we'd have the huge turkey that you'd gotten up at like 5 in the morning and I didn't do that only takes a few hours. I know I don't understand why that ever happened.

13:16 Is it the slow slow oven? Maybe they had their oven really low or something. I can only tell you that turkey was magnificent. I think we should try that. So turkey turkey with huge, you know, cuz there were so many people.

13:34 And where did we get that turkey? Probably from some probably from scabies or something for a steady snow just another family. They sell chickens and I supposed to spell turkeys and if I'm making that up, I'm surely sorry, you know.

13:53 From some local kind of person and so the family holidays were very different when you were going up there when I was growing up cuz there were so many people the menu was always the same for instance remembering grandma's Christmas dinner from her Thanksgiving dinner from Easter dinner. And I think of you stir the difference was there was a hand or maybe there was always a turkey and there were our potatoes and I always set the table in exactly the same way. That was the same to all the segments of our family and I'll do all the Greggy uncle's is it may be at Uncle Lou's we have Place cards star next to your name and I kind of always made my dad a little bit crazy that somebody was telling him where to sit

14:47 The grandpa always sat at the head of the table at our house. I don't actually know on a day-to-day basis to he know he sat at the side of the table and grandma said that they had but I think that was because it was nearest is so she was always up and down replenishing dishes and so forth and so on. I remember sitting when I was a little girl being able to sit to the side of grandma just maybe the right to the right of Grandma and all my utensils. I got to use the small fork and a small talk like this when I'm drinking water and I was very special to be able to sit next to Grandma which was there. I guess grandpa said at the foot of the table and Grandma's at the head of the table.

15:36 And the TV was in the doorway.

15:39 That's what I remember often about a meal of the day today kind of thing at our house is grandpa had Grandpa was such a carpenter. Grandpa was such a talented person and that one thing that he was a carpenter and he had built a rolling stand for the television. And so the television came from the living room into the doorway every night so that we could watch the news while we were watching supper this world right in there. So there was a lot of conversation at at mealtime cuz we were watching TV

16:15 So that was Grandpa always busy doing something and you know, I don't think I ever realized that about my dad cuz to me he was just always my dad. But before I was born he had wired that house completely in Hunter know my my brothers grew up in a different house that my brother Dennis cause the rest of house over and I think maybe it had could have had a tin roof possibly and there was rust he'll probably kill me if that's not why but anyway, they were little when they came to the new house and I wasn't born yet, but my dad did all the wiring at that house. How did he know how to do that? He did all the plumbing at that house. How did he know how to do that? And it was a carpenter. Like I said, I remember that wonderful Doll House that he made me that one year member. I tried to recreate a dollhouse brick before, you know, you tried to recreate the dollhouse for Linda.

17:16 This is when I was living in New York and dating Josh. Yes, and so we came home for for Christmas to to gwinner North Dakota 1 year, and this is after Josh. I've been together for about five years, but we weren't married yet. So he was cute as a tune to the craziness of the family and you had put the and it's cold in North Dakota. So it's it's like freezing freezing freezing cold and you would put this big beautiful place like in on top of the great where the where the wood would go in order to hide it from her because it was being built before I came home from the babysitter I think and then I put it in the fireplace and we and that our fireplace in the winter was I was covered with that black piece of Styrofoam.

18:16 I painted it at least it wasn't quite so anyway, go on with the story cuz you can tell a bath right so I think you were just counting on it being so cold and then of course there was the inevitable. Christmas Eve and I think it was when it was going to maybe dad and Josh were removing subtropical like removing the same piece of Styrofoam from the opening of the fireplace and Linda and I were in the kitchen. I was keeping her to be a big surprise feeling of this thing you worked on for so long and then he had no idea. I recreate recreating my father's gift to me of this side the piece of Styrofoam. And of course the whole thing is covered with black runny set from the snow melts just as like to get the Christmas tree and we got the kid and how old was he?

19:16 ND she was little yeah, but she's six or eight I am taking maybe around 6.

19:23 Could be a ha and so we we brought her in to remember you. I remember I remember waiting. You know, I'm with her and a member waiting. I'm like guys can you guys are like totally Stylin guys what's happening? And you just no response cuz I don't know where you try not to laugh or where you try not to cry or whatever trying at first not to not to laugh because the whole thing seems like such a story and and then we realized how upset you and Lindy would be a really helps that you were going to be because you had done all of this with this whole overlay of of grandpa and grandma is craftsmanship and then we just can't plan anything classic bad management.

20:23 All right. Well and ultimately I don't remember that it was too terribly upset cuz it was so hilarious. You know when you get right down to it. It was what Lindsay's reaction was. No.

20:34 I don't have to ask her.

20:38 So Grandpa built things and Grandpa also was musical near musically music play the accordion. I miss that so much play the piano by ear.

20:53 And I think maybe that's why I was able to become a piano player. It just seems so so natural to me cuz it was also irritating sometimes too because as he watched TV, he always had his right hand out playing something on the piano while he's watching TV. So you're trying to watch TV, but your dad is also playing the piano on the entire time with that one hand. He have a piano in the living room.

21:19 And of course, he never had any lessons in any of that. So how did he know how to do that? He just could pick that up, you know, and it was a poet too. And you know, I swear he told me that he went through 5th grade one time. But I mean what time did he told me they went through physical but my brother says that he definitely graduated graduated from eighth grade. But anyway that that didn't teach him how to become a poet and musician or a computer and a plumber and electrician and I feel bad that I didn't realize any of that when I was growing up, you know, cuz it's my dad seemed like everybody else's dad, right, but I think he was

22:00 Phenomenal

22:03 Okay enough on that I should talk about the fun on the farm a gathering up cuz though it was a difference. So what would you tell Eli about the fun? Because Eli now is growing up in a world of play dates and everything scheduled and so she's not going to have any understanding of like, what did Grandma do I was thinking about that the other day that he that he wouldn't understand that but you know living on the farm we actually did have play dates because we were the Farms are relatively close a lot closer than they are today, of course, but we would still in the moms that have to call and say, you know with Dolly like to come up at 3 and play with Pammy and Susie or you know, how long on the party line. We were one short one long and one short always wish that we could have just been through shorts because one short one long one short

23:03 It seems so contrived to me. You know, I like embarrassing to have to call my house. I just said I just dropped grant grant cracked would have been a lot simpler and somebody actually did have three shorts with it. It wasn't us. But anyway, so I think Eli's play dates might not be very different in that way what's different is that I could go out at the beginning of the day and not come in till noon and go out after dinner and not come in until night, you know, which I think was pretty typical of the way you grew up and going there too. I did a lot of you know, dangerous things on the ultimately potentially a dangerous place. One thing that I love to do was get up in the hopper the combine with all my God. I was a dangerous place and he had to I had to plant your feet in such a way, you know, because the inside of the Hop or was

24:03 Tangled and go down and you know that the ground was going to go down into this, you know down into the machine, right? So yeah, I had to plant my feet at various various angle. So that sounds like I had more than two feet but different angles and then I would play I was Christopher Columbus cuz I could see over the Prairie there, you know, and I would pretend I was Christopher Columbus on the ocean about to cite the new land and I could do that over and over. Wow. Yeah, it was great and it was fun to when some of my friends would come out from town cuz then she could be like the crew on the ship present for the sighting of the land because it sounds so dangerous.

24:44 And I we played in the Outhouse to and that of course was dangerous. Yes also and and unsanitary but outhouses it was just a special little house, you know, so it seems good for a little people and I played in the trees and I remember that I did a lot of cannon at sneak over to the I didn't have to sneak but as a child, of course, I thought it was sneaking over to the the farmer's field across the road and get some ears of corn and come home and not out those often and pretend to can those in the old jars that I had found out in the trash pile with his wonderful trash pile out on the on the field road going out through the trees and onto the field road. So it always scab engine there for four jars and stuff that I could use in my Canon cuz obviously I was always watching my mom can you know, so

25:39 I knew you put fresh things and I also thank you God smart enough to know I should never eat any of that stuff too. So that was fun playing in the trees. Right? Would you build forts in the trees? I think I was building houses, you know, I was setting up a counter so that I could work at the counter just like Grandma was working in the house. Yeah. I don't think I've ever actually built a fort that seemed probably too much like a boy. I was building use your kitchen getting some chairs.

26:14 Some I think we're using like Peach box has a lot of in a peach. Wooden Peach crates.

26:20 For the furniture

26:22 In the maple leaf kitchen and so, where would you get the peach crates? You know what that time when the peaches would come to the store in the wooden crate and every little Peach was wrapped in the little pink paper. I don't know is that I don't know how do peaches come to stores nowadays. I don't even know that but yeah, it was a lovely time on the farm cuz then we got all these Peach papers to use for toilet tissue in the Outhouse cuz otherwise all we had was the Sears catalog Montgomery Ward's catalog and as my cousin Bonnie Raitt cause yes, but everybody use Catalyst and woe to you if you use too many pages of the catalog to you had to be very conservative with your use of the catalog doesn't you know, the Catalyst only came twice a year. Oh my God. Yeah. So when it was peach season that off that was so lovely cuz they're out of speech papers and they were so fragrant and sad love like

27:19 Oh, yeah, I never used to play at the at the Outhouse and other kids places to and their mothers are always out in their out threatening the children getting them out of the office. I was just awful place to play but attractive to us because it was Tiny like a playhouse like a playhouse.

27:43 I don't think I ever really had a playhouse know. So what else about playing on the farm while the snow seems like we have a lot more snow than so huge Banks of snow and I could go between the banks of snow and make another house and I remember one time especially the snow is piled up in an in huge dress by the pasture in the pasture fence. It may do you know a line of for one of the snowbank since I just remember being they're sticking bottles that I gotten I suppose I must have got him from that trash pile by the Farm Road. I don't know the field road and sticking he's all into the side of the bank like it was some cupboard in the kitchen.

28:37 And it was magnificent because the bank was so high that it was over top of my head while yeah and so I could be down in that bank and Grandma couldn't see what I was doing. That was important, but it it just meant I could be by myself. Like I always like to be by myself, which is good because I was by myself right or a lot of your brothers were gone gone. So I'm the only kid on the farm and 6 miles out of out of town. And if you were going to play with a friend here there, you know, it had to be set up because everybody's families were busy working.

29:14 Sounds good to me that I like to be alone, or maybe because I was alone. That's why I like to be alone. I don't know. I spent a lot of time playing school if I wasn't the mom. I was always a school teacher. I remember just being like 5 years old upstairs in the in the house again by myself on the second level and lining up all the four little chairs from my white and green little play table set and then my high chair my own personal high chair and then putting my baby dolls and teddy bears in this line of like 5 and then I would teach them to read and about I'd have to be very quiet because I wouldn't want to be embarrassed if if Grandma would hear me downstairs because sometimes you would hear me to come to the bottom of the stairs and she say who you talkin to Dolores.

30:04 And what you say I said are you the IRS? I would go to the the top of the stairs and I would say that I was just embarrassed because it was silly. I suppose you were talking out loud to yourself and I was I was talking to the students and having them talk back to me. It was great. I was always the teacher and it was always great great fun. And of course I was able to sneak into Grandma's stuff sometime. Maybe that's why cuz she was always the Bible school teacher the Sunday school teacher so she had flannelgraph commitment by flannelgraph you could tell stories by affixing these these paper figures on to the flannel. How long do I know not Jesus or Moses? That doesn't work.

30:58 Stop. Maybe that's why I was so quiet sometimes cuz I was into her stuff cuz I could use that flannelgraph to teach reading to the Bears and the dolls.

31:10 It was it was great time being a teacher. I I think I was a teacher from the time as a little girl.

31:17 And I even at school when we had play at recess, you know, how ridiculous is that? We're at school for recess we play school teacher that never let me be the this the kid and why was that do you suppose I think you're just you're just born to do it. Yeah, I think so like how at a party now, you know how to play the piano so you always have to play the piano and it's whether they like it or not.

31:56 It's cool. I always had to play the piano to it and I could really identify with the kids and went earlier when I eventually. For a hundred years or so those piano players that didn't want to play the piano. They just want to sing like everybody else and people get on their case. If you know, well, you know, we need a piano player that's for kids. Sometimes you just want to sing and you don't want to play the piano just because you can play the piano. But yeah, I was piano player in German class too soon. It just didn't have to do much before me publicly, but for practice I was piano player.

32:37 And then play I was the teacher and let you know I wanted to go to Concordia and I wanted to be a foreign language major and I wanted to be an interpreter at the United Nations did that happen? No, I went straight up that Country Road 20 miles to Mayville and became a that adopted a teacher or a teacher for thirty-odd years very odd. They were I know you know teaching was fantastic. It was like I felt it was like a party everyday in my room. I was given a party people to come to the party and it was great your students have excellent memories of being taught in your classroom because it was always hi. Hi Jinx and shenanigans.

33:25 Someone asked. Oh well so back to the farm. So you grew up on the farm was great and really thankful for those years. I miss the farm and I think maybe maybe the house isn't even there anymore. Yeah. I think the house is gone. I know it's over growing for so many years. You can barely see it cuz that's the volunteer trees just took over but who I think you're right. I think they tore it down, but it was

33:59 Back and you know the 50 is what what do you think you can think of a perfect day and describe a perfect day as a child. What were you doing playing playing outside in the grass is green and the sky was blue and and the dog was there for the dog the dog was Buster or Skippy or or or sailor don't ask about what happened, but it was just playing and I was in my long sleeve shirt in my pants and or maybe if I was really lucky we had a bear a lot in the yard and I would walk on the barrel and if I was I wasn't very good at it so far is really lucky my mama to come out for a few minutes and hold my hand as I walked on the barrel, you know, like a circus performer like like balancing on the side of the barrel. Yeah.

34:51 And this is summer. It was summer at all my memories, but most of my memories are of North Dakota growing up as a child where yeah, it was summer.

35:02 Life isn't because I wasn't in school and I had all this free time or I was riding my bike riding. My bike was great. Where do you ride your bike on the gravel roads? Yeah. Well that on the gravel road right by our house there on that on that first Mile North that that cuz that was all dirt. So that was lovely. I was just black dirt, so it made great riding.

35:24 The bike

35:27 Tell the bike was good.

35:30 Cuz I could do it by myself imagination. You know, I read one time that if you're going to be a teacher you have to be able to go into an empty room and sit in the center that room in a chair and and not be bored for at least an hour and I'll be able to be entertained for an hour and I never had that problem is I've never really been very bored.

36:01 In my life, I think you've always said something like for it is in your head. Oh, yeah board is in your head. What should make me so mad. So yeah, I'm sorry about that. I think a lot of things are in your head evidently.

36:19 So anything else were growing up on the farm? Well?

36:24 It was idyllic and I didn't know it. You know, it's leads me to believe that today. My life is ideal. Like could I probably don't know it either.

36:35 That's all.