Community memories...Olinger shares recollections

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Ann Olinger and her late husband, Cyril "Lilly" Leliefeld, proudly stand in front of Lilly's Standard Service, in a photo taken sometime during the mid-1950s. The Standard station was located on the corner of Schiller and River Park Drive. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Nonagenarian Ann Olinger was born in 1920. She recently celebrated her 99th birthday. She currently resides in a comfortable spacious room at the River Living Center in Guttenberg. 

The family farm

Ann grew up on a 60-acre farm on the outskirts of Luxemburg. "We milked 10 cows by hand every day!" she exclaimed. The daughter of Andrew and Philomena Scheller, her family included five girls and two boys. "Evelyn, Fran, Vi and Kate were my sisters, and my brothers were Joe and Ambrose. My mother lost a baby between Ambrose and Evelyn. It was stillborn," she recalled. 

Life on the farm was never easy. "We had a half-acre garden and plenty of potatoes that needed to be hoed. We had two horses and lots of ducks and chickens. One time I killed a duck by slamming its neck in the screen door. You never thought about buying anything — it was always homegrown or homemade," she shared. 

School days

The hardy Scheller family had to walk to attend school and church services in Luxemburg. Ann recollected, "We walked five miles to go to church at Holy Trinity in Luxemburg. We went to country school in the early years but then switched to Luxemburg. We stayed with the nuns in the winter when the weather got bad."

Christmas memories 

Ann shared her Christmas memories. "Christmas was celebrated pretty poorly. Lots of homemade stuff. We went out in the timber and cut down our tree. We strung popcorn for decorations. We did a lot of baking. We made lots of different cookies and there was always a fruitcake," she said. 

Going to town for groceries was a big deal for the large family. "We shopped at Ungs/Steffen store in Luxemburg. Fred Schrunk had a store in Millville. That was a lot closer. We only had to walk two miles instead of five," she said with a chuckle. 

The button factory

Ann met her husband while employed at the button factory in Guttenberg. "I worked at the button factory. It was an okay place to work. The girls in the factory were all excited, saying 'Lilly was coming!' I remember saying, who the hell is Lilly?" she declared. 

Cyril Leliefeld was employed as a second shift shell sorter at the button factory. Ann said of her first encounter, "I remember when I met him I was in seventh heaven. He was older than I was. I had to shake hands with him. I recall I had to dry my hands off first. After I shook his hand he said, 'I will see you at Lakeside.' I will never forget. The Tom Owens band was playing." 

Entertainment for young men and women in Guttenberg was sparse. Ann explained, "We had a movie theater, Princess Theatre, and Lakeside and Turner Hall. Turner Hall was kind of dinky, but it was someplace to go." 

The Leliefeld family

Weddings were a very simple affair. "I was married at St. Mary's in Guttenberg. My sister, Kate, was my bridesmaid and Norm Leliefeld, my  husband's nephew, was the groomsman. We got married at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and had breakfast at the house afterwards. I was married 28 years," she continued. "We had three children, Louise, Phoebe and Susan. Susan passed away at age nine months."

She fondly remembers her husband's fun-loving nature. "He was a kid at heart – a pretty good egg. He loved to play St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 and dress up as Santa Claus. He would take bets from the neighborhood gang on the day of the Kentucky Derby," she said with a smile. 

Ann remembered her grandmother was a good seamstress.
"One day Rosalie Kickbush came to town to play and wanted to go to church with us. She wore pants, and you had to wear a dress in church. Grandma quickly whipped up a flour sack dress so Rosalie could attend church," she said. 

Working outside the home

Ann shared her work career. "I took care of my mother, my aunt and helped Lilly run the Standard station. It was called Lilly's Standard Service, on the corner of Schiller Street and River Park Drive," she continued. "I had to drive a big blue truck to Dubuque to get ice for our ice house. We sold ice out of the filling station. There were three gas stations in town at the time: Ted Roth, Mike Jacquette and Lilly's Standard. Gas was about 27-cents a gallon."

Dave Brown also employed Ann for several years, "I washed cars for Dave Brown for many years. Those cars were clean when I was done with them. I also had to keep the cars moving, and re-parked them several times a week. I worked at the school as a custodian in later years. That was a good job. It was like a vacation from what I was used to doing," she laughed. 

Ann lost her first husband when she was 65 years old. She later married Byron Olinger in April 1990. 

She concluded, "Times were simple back then. We didn't have much, but what we had we appreciated. We didn't need much for entertainment. We just had fun."

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