Letters written by John Holets, son of Vaclav and Anna Pecina Holets to the Holets Family Reunion gathering. John lived well into his 94th year, having been born in 1855 and died in 1950.
Then and now for the Holets family Reunion from grandfather John:
As you know that I can not speak, I will try to write a few lines. I do not know weather I will be able to be present as one year has elapsed and my health is not any better. I lost my beloved wife and that’s one member less in the Holets family during the year. Well to tell you of some old times when I was 15 years old I plowed the land where the town of Swisher stands and I worked for Frank Swisher on spring for 75 cents a day.
I remember when brother Wencil was bitten by a rattler while behind the hills, on his way from school. He was bleeding from four places so we put turpentine on the wounds and we gave him all the whisky he could drink. After he drank the whisky we gave him warm milk, he was vomiting so they gave more milk and whisky and then some more whisky. The whisky saved him, if it was now the boy would have to die. Well the whisky and the snakes seem like a sort of a go together…. The snakes have disappeared and so has the whisky. But, still we find the snakes along the road and so we find the whisky.
Now a few words to the grandchildren, what a difference it is going to school. We used to walk through snowdrifts and there were no roads. Now the children ride in autos they have better clothes, better books, better teachers and better dinner pails. We used to have men teachers now they have girl teachers for the smaller schools. They are better teachers than men as they can handle the small children better and they can learn them more in less time. You older boys and girls have a better opportunity to go to high school or college than we had. Of course the times have changed when we have better education. You will become better citizens and people have more respect for others.
And, when you become husband or wife and make a good hitch, you may be a good example for the village or neighborhood. Nothing like a good mother and then a good wife. A good wife is the foundation of a good family and home, and again from such parents may good children come. Weather it is on the farm or in a small town. The best men were born on the farm or in a small town. Lindy was born in a small town and President Masarik also came from a small town. He helped his father in a blacksmith shop while he was attending school. Well I do not expect to make presidents out of you boys and girls. Be good… keep your name clean… take advice from your parents while you are young and then when you are older use your good judgement. Well I wish you good luck and a happy long life to all of you.
Well as I started to tell you of the old times I’ll tell you how I got my start when I was 16 years old I went to learn harness trade. Worked 14 months for board that was the go them days; the Boss gave me 50 cents for the Fourth of July and his wife gave me on new shirt. Then I got work in Iowa City and I got 50 cents a day and board stayed 4 weeks and when harvest time came the wages were $3.20 a day so I quit and went harvesting and thrashing, Then I got word that there was work for me in harness trade in Bell Plaine so I went there to work and got $4.00 week and when Christmas came there wasn’t any work and I needed school so I started at my aunt. My Boss said you can go to school and in spring I give you work again; so I went to school which I needed to. Then spring came and there was work only 2 months and I had $7.00 less then when I came there. Then I came to Cedar Rapids and got work at once working bye the piece and was improving. I soon got full wages from $9.00 to $11.00 dollars a work; there were two other men working in the shop. After two years stay the work wasn’t plenty so I got work in Solon. Worked there 8 months for better pay and made harness. The farmers told the Boss that he had better harness in the shop then he ever had before. After he had his shop full of harness he said to me, well I hate to let you go but when the spring trade came I want you to come back so I went to Cedar Rapids again and asked the Boss is there any work; he said yes go to work. After 3 weeks I got a letter from Solon to come to work that the harness are all gone so I told this Boss if there is steady work here I’ll stay and he said yes, so I stayed. Then he bought a harness shop in Fairfax and put me there to run it; I run it one year and then he kept some of my wages back and busted; and I lost $70 of my wages that was my start. Then I started a shop of my own and had plenty of work. I was the first Bohemian in town that was in 1877
Cedar Rapids, Aug. 9th, 1937
Jest short letter to the 9th Reunion this is not a poetry. I jest want to tell you that I had the honor to be invited to eat dinner with threshers at Mr. Robersons out in north East of Iowa County - there I had the opportunity to tell themm tthat it is jest 64 years ago when I was binding wheat and help thresh it – it was big wheat crop and the wages was from $3.00 to $3.50 a day and $1.50 at threshing meshin - I was prentis in harness to do worke at Iowa City - Was gitteng 50 cents a day and bord - I quit and went harvest. I could due mans worke in harvest fild threshing. I don’t remember what the price of wheat was – year before that it was big corn crop – and the corn yield was 14 to 16 cents bushel – people berned it in saday cole – it was cold winter with out much snow – then nex year corn was 50 cents busel – it was big price for corn them days – the price of land was $30 to $40 an aker – I was thinking wouldent it be nice to write each year short letter to the reunin by the members who has same toiling experience – or to have little childern program – of corse thats for members to think it over – This is jest kinder proposition – yours truly
By John Poetry August 11, 1937
We often here to say
(Note from Barb Horak - What I got from this poem is that John apparently
was born in a jail. His mother was arrested for gathering feed for
the cow in the Count’s forest just prior to his birth. He was born
a Hero because his crying convinced the warden to release the women.
John was born in Bohemia.)
Cedar Rapids, Aug. 9th, 1938
Dear folks as the weather is hot I am not able to come to the femely reunin I could not stand the heat – so I disided to write some thing I didn’t think of before – about how Frank my son was kidnap – it was in 1892 – when we usto had fairs in fairfax – he was 2 years old then – it was on Friday afternoon when there was horse rasing – hole crowd was watchin horse races – we held him in our arms each one my wife and I and he wanted to be on ground to play we let him down and watch him - moment – and at once he disaper – it was not menite – we look round and there was women at candy stand bying candy for him – she give him candy grab him in her arms and put handechef over his face and (hike) to the show stand – we folowed her and wanted our baby – first she refuse to give it up – she said it belong to that show – wife said its my baby so she knew she was catch – could not rich the tent – as wife got the baby in arms the baby was asleep – she must had sooked that headchef with clreform – it was quite a while til the baby came to – I didn’t do any thing a bout it – the policeman was all in crowd – it would take time to git police to arest her and then to go to cort – I write this becase I thought it belonged to Holets family history – I forgot to mention that the show man had 3 girls 9 to 10 years old they play muisc and vilen they had long curled hair – and Frank had them too – I suppose they wanted him in band.
This is all I can write this time