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History Of Bertha Durtschi
& Knowlin Hansen

Bertha Durtschi
Bertha Durtschi
Life History of Bertha Margaret Durtschi Hansen
Written by Bertha Hansen 1982; Copyright 2001 by Bertha Hansen

Presented in bits and pieces for the "Durtschi Reunion" August 6, 1981, at Jackson, Wyoming - then it was completed for the 1982 Reunion in Pratt Ward.

If after last year's reading, anyone got the notion that my life has been "a bowl of cherries," forget it. Ha, I've had my ups and I've had my downs. Yet, my feelings have always been, that at a funeral, it's ever so much more comfortable, if the speakers dwell, not so much on the weaknesses of the deceased, but on his strong points. In my case, now, I'll gloss over the unpleasant and surely do a better job of selling myself to the Durtschi family.

Every now and again, over the last several years, I've been nudged by the Reunion Committee, to get my history going - just in case. Maybe it's a good thing they kept at me - I certainly wouldn't be for trusting it to anyone else! Haha. Oh, I did start a few years ago -- four lines and I was out of material. HaHa. Even now, I wouldn't have been so tardy if it wasn't for phones, door bells and 5th class mail. And, I either didn't inherit the qualities of patience and organization that my cousins have - or else I did a poor job of follow-through.

It is said that stealing ideas from one person is plagiarism, stealing from two or more is research. Whatever, I will finally get about assembling materials, including excerpts from everyone else's compilation, trying to get into written form a semblance of the essentials that would be pertinent to my 72-year sojourn.

I as born at Driggs, then Fremont County, Idaho, the eldest child of Edward and Elizabeth Muetzenberg Durtschi. Reportedly, my father was mid-wife so that I was born in the good ol' home that still stands - though dilapidated. When I was blessed, I was given the name "Bertha Margaret," by George B. Green in Pratt Ward, which is on the Wyoming side. It seems I was born so long ago that State records were not kept, so in later years when I needed a birth certificate, I confidently wrote to the Church for it, and only then, found that I'd always been on church records as having been born in Wyoming (not Idaho) so I was obliged to get the document through "affidavit." Fortunately, Uncle Alfred Durtschi and Uncle Rudolph Kaufman were still with us and they did supply evidence of my birth.

Incidentally, the folks named me for Mother's Swiss girl friend in Salt Lake. It was Bertha Dappen, who later moved to Portland, Oregon, but I still remember how Mother would light up when one of her regular letters would come. To be sure, my name - the "Bertha" part, has been used and misused. In High School I was often nicknamed "Bert!" More often "Aunt Bertha" is laid on me, I hope affectionately. But at a fair some time back, I was alerted by the lusty call "Aunt Bertha" -- turned to find it was the County Coroner, a school chum of our son. This was the last straw, for it caused tittering through the crowd - but I'm not sure, either, that I'd exchange it for any other, unless it would be Grunelda.

My father, I remember as being a tall, well-built man, with dark hair that had a natural wave. As kids we enjoyed him so much because he would let us work along with him doing farm work and come in to meals like big folk. He was always the first one out those cold winter mornings to light a fire. To me, it seemed he and Uncle Alfred were always working together and they were usually joking. When the two divided the farm, animals and implements so agreeably, I can still remember the look on Mother's face - she just couldn't believe that it was over and done and that both of them seemed completely satisfied.

One day Father found one of his beautiful horses maliciously injured - and all the time he was treating it, he suffered right along with it, and wasn't his jovial self for weeks, neither would he discuss it. If he wanted revenge, he didn't let on.

Over the years, it seems that Uncle Alfred invariably ended up being Santa at Christmas time - whether there were few or many children to enjoy the festivity. Just after Santa left, here would come Uncle Alfred and we'd excitedly relate the evening's fun and were always sorry that he missed Santa "again." I learned that he tried to get my Father to play the part, but he was too shy. When we would meet the neighbor kids and exclaim about Santa, they were really curious and wondered why he never came to their house. We surely had a home filled with lovely traditions and we'd sing certain songs in Swiss - or German - whichever. The folks really sacrificed to make things special.

In March, 1922, the family's illness and Father's passing was such a shock that we simply felt we could not recover from it, but relatives and friends surely stood by and with Mother's pluck, she shouldered the responsibilities - five living children and the three farms - two farms and one homestead.

Many times Mother seemed strangely absorbed. Then as time passed she would tell us that we must be good children because Father as watching over us. Then there were the times when she would be overwhelmed with decisions and Father actually came - one time when she was walking in the field - and she came away from that experience knowing just what she must do - and time proved that that course was the best.

Mother passed away July 24th, 1944, and Uncle Alfred was still here to conduct her services. She suffered so much at the last, but the William Hansen Mortuary in St. Anthony, had her looking like her wedding picture. She had wanted to go for some time - to join Father and the little boy who passed away at six weeks, Arthur Edward. She had set some goals for herself - doing genealogy and putting her five children on their feet, as it were, so they could make a living. Too, she sent three of the five on missions. In life, she really went the extra mile and endured in spite of her fragile body. She always paid her tithing generously and trusted in the Lord. A more genuine and loyal soul will never "enter the gates."

In our ranch home, mealtime was usually a fun time - where we'd eat well and often end up with a giggling match that would exasperate Mother, especially if it was prolonged. We all did our part, but when Armin reached "the age" we pretty much left the witticisms to him.

Mother was a good cook, despite limited resources. The grain threshing crew liked to come to our house each fall, knowing they'd get a healthy meal.

So that we wouldn't embarrass Mother, in the company of neighbors who somehow afforded more of the niceties, she would save to buy some special food item to introduce us to, so we wouldn't go out and blurt that we'd NEVER EVER tasted that.

Across the road from us in Wyoming, lived John and Geneve Waddell and their three children. They were wonderful neighbors. Down the road a ways, the youngest daughter, Carrol, married Seth, Knowlin's brother and she has been a mighty sweet sister-in-law.

But, back to the days in the old neighborhood. After us country kids had put in a day's labor, the folks would often let us round up the Waddell kids and others for an endless game of Run-Sheep-Run. We seemed never to tire of that, especially after Spring broke.

About 1928, Mother purchased a Model T Ford Sedan. It wouldn't have done to have climbed over each other, getting in, as we do with our two-door cars these days. Ha. Since Mother didn't drive, as the very oldest kid, I mostly got the privilege. This day the cousins on the North were all gathered to inspect and admire - they teased for a ride. Mother wasn't home, but I thought it would be OK - so the kids who didn't fit inside were hanging on the running boards. We took off toward Uncle Alfred's - came to the ol' mud-hole - when I realized I'd have to speed up or we'd get stuck - so I poured on the gas - got through in good shape - except, you should have seen those kids with their splattered Sunday-go-meet'in togs.

One experience in my past, that I so often recall, was during high school days when I worked for my board in the home of Albert and Rula Choles. The winters were severe and the 4 miles travel too much, so we usually boarded or batched in town.

While I was with them, Stake President, Don. C. Driggs, moved to Arizona and Bro. Choules was chosen to succeed him. That seemed to please the Valley people for he was such a warm and capable person. It was exciting when the Church Authorities would visit. To me, the two times when Pres. Heber J. Grant came, seemed to stand out.

Choules' were the perfect parents and I have said that if any of their six children veered from the "straight and narrow" the blame won't be on the parents. They had their problems - they'd labor over them until the best solution was agreed upon - and always with such trust in each other.

Some of us remember the Old Stake Structure - the arrangement arena - type so that every person could see every other one from any vantage point. When we met in any kind of gathering, you just felt like one big family. Really, it was the Church AND Civic Center. Come the 4th of July, for instance, typically the Valley folk would come together and stage a terrific patriotic program that would bring us to our feet - featuring the BEST music, the BEST speakers.

Pres. Choules' Mormon gatherings were far from dull. Let a session of Conference lag and he'd be sure to come up with something to liven things up -- "Ora Gillette, would you come up and sing a hymn for us!" She could really move us.

Or he'd call four brethren up to sing as a quartet - explaining that they weren't practiced, but "we'll expect them to do their best." THEN we were good for a few more speakers. HaHa.

In a Chicago Ward, while I was on my mission, we had a somewhat similar practice. A sister in the Ward read scripture beautifully -- if the meeting lagged, you might expect that the Bishop would ask her to come up to the stand - "Would you help us enjoy a few passages of scripture!"

While still at the Choules home, Sister Choules' parents, the Tom Wilsons, were so good to me. Once, though, he took me aside and demonstrated some of the antics he'd watched me go through during the evening's basketball game. The tip was in order and I as somewhat more reserved at sports events thereafter.

August 21st, 1930, I received a call to The Northern States Mission, headquartered in Chicago. Mother was financing me in the LDS Business College in Salt Lake at that time. Life there was interesting - had good friends, like Ruth Harris Freebairn, etc. and I had some hesitancy about changing to such a "serious" life. Why, most of the L.M.'s I'd known were either staid old maids or had married widowers on their return. Fortunately, it didn't take long to teach me plenty about values in life. From then on I was always comparing those rich experiences to the shallower ones.

I record that my Missionary Farewell was September 11th with a capacity crowd in the Pratt Church and Pres. Choules giving a wonderful talk, and $125. contribution, which was a huge sum for those days.

Ten days in the Mission Home left an indelible impression. Then I labored in Southern Illinois, the Chicago Mission Office where we had Pres. Noah S. Pond and on his release, Pres. George S. Romney, thence on to West Michigan. One day the District President came to town - said he'd arranged for a picture of the missionaries and would I write the accompanying article - that we were going to make the Liahona that month - and we did! It was also the same Prez who worked me over for excessive spending that month - $25.

Impressed indelibly on my memory, was an experience I participated in soon after I returned from my mission. Uncle Alfred Durtschi, over 25 years the Bishop of the Home Ward, asked me to be president of the Y.W.M.I.A. There were problems I knew of, so I resisted while he insisted.

Morris Christensen was Y.M.M.I.A Superintendent with abilities galore. The first chance - we pointedly laid out said problems - asked each one to join in making the year's activities productive to justify the "sweat and tears" - the traveling in severe weather, etc. Thence full speed ahead and we were so relieved.

We soon discovered that we were having large attendances - babes, teenagers, adults, plus non-members so we knew we must have good programs. My counselors were good sports so we agreed that the able Bro. Christensen should conduct all the meetings. All week we'd work and set up a program - then we'd lay it all out for him in Prayer Meeting, and he'd go into gear, near spell-binding a chapel filled with people. Of course, he had some help like Milo Dalley, Phoebe Christensen, LaRena Christensen Waddell, Aunt Ida Durtschi and others. In fact, we ended up with a Cantata that won honors in the Stake, with the General Board inviting us to enter the contest in Salt Lake - providing consuming was up to par.

In those "good ol' days" you created your own amusement. Visits with neighbors and friends were a treat, for you sandwiched them in between all your work. "Basket" parties and "Ward" dances, you wouldn't miss - and plays were so well done and such fun. Bet I can speak for others who left the Valley - we've never been the same - deprived of hearing the singers who used to thrill us so. There were lovely ladies' combinations and then oh then the MALE QUARTETS. And before I neglect to ring up another favorite - the still-popular "reader" - the "one-of-kind," Theola Green Ricks.

Bertha, Knowlin and children
Back Row: Eloise, K. DeVere and Murla Vee. Front Row: Bertha and Knowlin

A few months after we were married, Knowlin accepted an assignment in the Driggs Ward M.I.A. speaking, as I recall, to the subject of "Child Training." I sat in the audience plenty amused at what he put out. Recently, I was reading from Cleon Skousen's book, "So You Want to Raise a Boy" and was reminded of Knowlin's speech, where Bro. Skousen says, "I once had a friend who was newly out of college, and he boldly proclaimed himself to be an expert - but when I met him a few years later, he was a broken man. He said he had married soon after graduation and when his children came along they repealed his education."

When we came to Pocatello in 1936, we rented a basement apartment on Oak and 12th and belonged to the 4th ward. Our first two children were born there. Fortunately for us, we got on Rose an Floyd Wolley's list. They really looked after us and we had a standing dinner invitation on Sundays and fun with their teenagers.

Anyway, they urged us to get out of that basement - look for a lot to build on. We ended up "West of the Tracks," as they say, and have always loved this quiet area. We bought the West Half of two lots from James and Alice Knowles - just enough ground to set a house on - and you must know why.

While still in the basement, the Woolleys asked us if we would stay in their home while they went on a two-week vacation. We were delighted - but for slow folk an education went with the deal. They left the 3 1/2 acres ship-shape -- but not a misplaced anything. We'd rise early and start in - give it another whirl when Knowlin came home from Stephenson's Music - but when they returned, the place was overgrown. Us impetuous ones, decided, then and there, that we would want, for ourselves, only enough ground to set a house on, running concrete on out to the curb. We almost stuck with it, except that there was a 140-foot lot adjoining us in the back that could be purchased - but who was interested? Later, Knowlin's dad came around and let us know that if we didn't buy that lot, that he was going to - and that did move us.

Many a time since, we've thanked our lucky stars - or Grandpa Hansen - because we wouldn't have had elbow-room without it. And we brag about the wonderful garden grown on it - especially since Knowlin lost his cool with Pocatello soil and dug and hauled it out to a depth of 4 feet - then filled it back with good stuff. Oh, the garden was slightly sunken for a few years. Ask him about his patent on tomatoes and carrots. Ha.

This story has been worth telling - for you know we're probably here to stay. Don't know about the house, but we'd never leave the dirt.

The missing chapter, still, is the erection of the house. Knowlin dug the basement shovel by shovel. To the neighbors it appeared a make-shift operation and they were concerned -- but we got it enclosed before winter.

We had some contract work done on it, but mostly Knowlin and Rose and Floyd worked in the evenings. Typical, isn't it, you get put on your feet and then neglect your benefactor. Even if we've been going too fast to say so, we will always remember who helped put the roof over our heads.

Really, I know better than to throw up to a kid the superior qualities of another - yet I did once mention to DeVore that "A. Ralph Niper" was such a model fellow - suggested he pick up some of his traits! Ralph was the son of Wolley's good neighbors -- he was High School Student-body president -- so handsome, and the friendliest ever. Tragically, he was the first casualty from our area in World War II. Luckily, Devere did turn out to be a friendly sort. At least, old people made a fuss over him and I like to think it wasn't all bad, that I pushed the kid around.

One afternoon, at graduation time, when students attend school spasmodically, Devere and six of his friends, just Juniors, ended up on our back lawn. After a phone call, I walked out -- there they were, heads together, bodies extended - laid out like a sun-dial -- just more than whopping it up -- until I walked up and lowered it -- "I was just told that the German Exchange Girl doesn't have a date for the Senior Festivities tonight." I went it, about the disgrace of it -- she could go back to Germany and tell folks that they staged events galore, but she wasn't included. I ended up with, "One of you has to take her," and walked back into the house. A bit later DeVere ambles in, rather dutifully, to say that THE OTHER GUYS WON'T, but, go ahead, plan on me. Reportedly, they had a fun evening.

Our youngest, Eloise, was always a fun kid and life went somewhat smoother for her than for the other two - depending on how you weigh. In Junior High, one year, she won "the shapeliest girl" prize. That did bring Mother to her feet. The next year's line-up was slightly revamped.

During the first few years of children raising, I was so edgy about every little upset and had a beaten path to the doctors and hospitals. We had their tonsils out - all three - that was the in-thing. THEN, I find, to my horror, that tonsils and appendix help clear the body of it's purification! Then there were the 6 years when I plain dragged myself around. After periodic "liver shots" the doc would let me know that there was nothing WRONG. WHERE does that leave you -- everyone thinking yu are just lazy. That's next to cruelty to dumb animals. They finally persuaded me to go to a "quack" and he "empties" my gall bladder - and I walked out "a new gal."

That set me off, so since I've tried to do some "right" things for myself and others. I was dubious about "the selling racket" but got talked into SHAKLEE cleaners, cosmetics and vitamins. Other brands have come and gone, but we feel this is reputable and lead such an exciting life in this department. Presently, we feel that if you run good food and Shaklee as nutrition and the mini-trampoline as exercise, you're on the way.

Eight years ago Knowlin retired from the U.P. Railroad. But retirement for him was only meant going faster. He'd always been so intrigued with railroading and appreciated the security it gave us, so I just felt that he'd have real problems adjusting. But he's gone from that to his present addictions without any qualms. He is always collecting tricycle and bike parts - then painting and assembling them to look like new. Routinely, he and his sister, Alice and husband, Ralph, cover the garage sales.

Out of the blue, on November 19th, 1957, I received, by mail, a check for $82.61 from the estate of Arnold and Marianna Kampf Amstutz estate - from the Consul of Switzerland. A "rich Uncle" gave us quite a sensation.

Every now and again, through the kid - raising years, we'd give in to a pet -- dog or cat - but it didn't last - and the kids would say, "Mother, don't you like pets?" My come-back-- "Yes, but I can't keep house after them."

Our three children, a girl and a boy and a girl, were as different as different -- as if that was anything new! But one didn't have much over the other when it came to conversation. What I used to miss, after they'd pulled out - was listening in on their telephone sessions. You get them on the other end now, and they sound chipper, no matter - be the luck up or down.

Maybe I'm nil in MUSIC, but still I go for it. Knowlin's folks had one of those notorious player pianos. It was agreed, that the one who went furthest in piano would eventually get it -- so after we were married, Knowlin did - and it was such a fun thing. Finally, though, the rubber fittings dried and it was hard to work, so the garbage man got the internals. A bit later, we were told that a "relative" repaired them all the time. Too we stashed the beautiful old piano rolls in the attic for years, concluding that players were gone - so we caved in and gave those to the G. man. Then, wouldn't you know, we found that smaller players were being manufactured. We were SICK-SICK! By comparison, modern rolls are tin-ny sounding - so here was twice "the luck" struck us down. Later, we sold that big piano, but non-musical me, still had this yen for a piano - so in 1977 I up and bought a small player. At least, the Grandkids and I have fun and it doesn't do a thing to me now, when I pass a piano shop. Once, back in High School, Mother financed me in a violin course and I as intrigued, but just never got back to it.

Our kids got their rhythm from their dad and would have GONE, had I put them to practicing. Myrla Vee did take off, playing by ear or note, but one time she wrote from Switzerland, where she was on her mission, "Sunday night I am to accompany a professional violinist - and I freeze at the thought -- "Mother, why didn't you make me practice!"

Johnny Carson, the nightly humorist, I occasionally listen to as I unwind at the end of the day, recently quipped about his old piano teacher and then cracked, "But Cora has now gone to that great key-board in the sky." I can hope that when I get "over there" I'll be given a second chance.

As someone has put it, "One good Grandmother is worth two or three or even more doctors." I tell ours that you just can't raise kids without Grandparents. Ha. We fairly begrudge ourselves the garden's peas, raspberries or apricots that are a premium for city folk. Feeling the Grands should have first chance - for their nutrition, whether they know it or not. Ha.

The data in the newly published book, "Driggs Idaho Stake Diamond Jubilee" gives Sept. 2, 1901, as the date that "Teton Stake" was organized. With that comes the rude reminder that when we received our invitation to the 50th, we let some fool thing keep us home - not realizing, at the time, that many of the people attending, we'd never again see in this life.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my own brother and three sisters - and the impact they've had on my life. They are genuine Ephraimites, in that they are courageous enough to take life on with a vim. We've had "good and bad" on the way, but we're determined to make it. Flora's "three" are making history - Hilda's scattered from city to city, still keep tab on each other. Armin keeps his "seven" pretty near and they are always enjoying get-to-gethers. LaVerne and her "one" and "five" and "three" (two families worth) set a pace that is hard to match - for slower family members.

When we moved to Pocatello, I was happy to be eligible for LaEspra Missionary Club, composed of returned L.M.'s. [lady missionaries] In this study group we've had the same class leader for years, Ione Woodland, who to my mind, is a super scriptorian.

A couple of other mentionables -- I've taken the Cleon Skousen "Freemen" course on the American Constitution 5 times -- a Self-Esteem class from my good friend, Aileen Johnston, 6 times. Am I ever dense! Really, each time is more so.

At different times, I've gone on a binge of typing out parts of the letters our kids wrote when they were away from us. To read some of that back now, is near traumatic -- brings satisfactions and remorse - because we didn't shape up better as parents. Much water has gone under the bridge. But our "three" have certainly kept things humming - and they've been so supportive. They have given us so much and brought so much happiness into our lives.

My "over the years" collection, presents a problem - now that I am OLD. Knowlin claims if I go first, he will simply back a truck up to the door and shove it all out -- and if he goes first, I will back a truck up to the backyard and shove it all in. Realistically, though, even to throw out my voluminous notes would be a pity. For years when I've heard something that struck me, I'd make a bee-line to the typewriter -- and THAT goes when I GO?!!!

Knowlin has remarked that if anything happens to him, he'll give me 6 months and I'll be on Church Welfare. I'm a spendthrift, but not that bad. Besides, I only contribute to good causes - his money. And, I can't see traveling, just because we're retired. I get more comfort sinking the shekels into family - Church - Country and enemies - in that order. Granted, I would be a trail to the best man on earth. Bearing the brunt of my idiosyncrasies, I don't rightly know what my Danisman will be writing in his memoirs. He's notorious for coming out with a cliché like -- "Nobody understands women."

Life is on-going nonetheless. It seems I am in pursuit, of, first one thing and then another. Things don't slow - and I run the wheels off typewriters and cars, consult into the night and write bossy letters - some to the newspapers.

Politically, I am a very non-partisan person - though I'd have a time making anyone fall for that one. Ha. Oh, I lean Republican and am active in the Party, BUT I try to be open-minded and then you're slugging for some Republicans and a few Democrats. Ha. I'm too stubborn to quit trying to rid ourselves of fake Statesmen. The prejudiced and uninformed electorate have heaped to themselves a mess they deserve.

Over the years, I have appreciated the discipline that activity in the Church gives one. I've had the opportunity to serve in Ward and Stake positions, in Teton and Pocatello Stakes mainly. I have always felt especially fortunate having both Father and Mother moved by the Spirit to make the sacrifice they did, making it possible for so many of us to be born in America and not another land less blessed. Would I, on my own, have had what it took, to do what they did for us! Yes, the kind who do all they can and then trust the Lord for the difference; and here, I must quote from Uncle John's history --

"When I was old enough to go to the field with Father, he would plant grain, broadcasting it with his hands. Whenever he finished planting a patch, he would take off his hat and ask that the Lord would protect it, and bless it, that he might be able to harvest a crop. Before his death he said that he had planted and harvested crops for some fifty-five years, and had never lost a crop." What a challenge to us - as we fumble and stumble.

Remember the cowboy song that goes something like, "...you always think there'll be another day, but before you know it, life's gone and slipped away."

Our time is now - to be worthy of that GREAT DURTSCHI REUNION IN THE SKY. Fortunate, indeed, were we to have had three sweet - bright - healthy - happy children:

MYRLA VEE is a graduate of BYU - a summer at Northwestern in Chicago, where she got the urge to go on a mission and was called to our "beloved" Switzerland, serving also in Germany; wrestling with German, Italian, French and "Schweizer-Deutsche." Then she taught high school in Ogden, Utah, but was persuaded to join the Congressional Staff of our esteemed George Hansen. In Washington she met Pratt Gordon Bethers, and they married March 19th, 1966, in the Idaho Falls Temple. As heirs, they have four sons. For 15 years they lived in Delaware but, for some reason, moved to Pocatello 12 months before Gordon's death on July 26th, 1980. She and Gordon built a fine Shaklee business that she now maintains. Their family has traveled all over t he world to company conventions.

K. DEVERE always went out for sports -- all of them. He kept independent because he could always talk someone into giving him a job. He had one year at BYU - then to California where he married Charlotte Williams and had two children. After their divorce, he married Suzanne Wagner whom he later divorced. DeVere maintains a lovely home in Fountain Valley, California. Having served in the Army Paratroopers, he enjoyed skydiving for many years -- both in the service and later as a hobby. He is always winning top prize at car shows with his souped up rebuilt trucks.

ELOISE attended BYU for one year where she met Pocatellan Wm. E. Chandler. They married August 22nd, 1964 and had five children. Bill took dentistry in Portland, Oregon and spent a year in Viet Nam as an Army Captain. Bill passed away January 13th, 1978. On May 13th, 1979, Eolise married Wayne Bell, mayor of Preston, Idaho. Wayne has four sons - two married. In December, 1981, they moved into a beautiful home on the golf course which they had designed and had built for their large family.


Postlog: As of July 2001 Bertha is continuing to live out her life in in Pocatello.


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Page Updated: 1 July 01