Alvin and Leona (Meineke) Jindra

written by Michael Jindra

Alvin Jindra was born 17 Jan 1889 in the Town of Mishicot, Manitowoc county, Wisconsin. He was the son of George and Maria (Lenhardt) Jindra.

Alvin worked at a brick factory (where bricks for the Mishicot Catholic Church were made) on Hwy 147 near Hillcrest Road and then attended the agricultural “short course” at UW-Madison around the year 1910 (mainly for cheese). He then worked in a cheese factory in Wisconsin Rapids and one near Denmark (Steve’s cheese) before purchasing the cheese factory south of Kingsbridge in 1912 or 13. He married Leona K. Meineke, daughter of Charles Peter and Wilhelmina Maria (Schmidt) Meineke 7 Apr 1914. They moved to the upstairs flat at the cheese factory.

Alvin met Leona possibly because his sister Alice lived at the Meineke farm and taught at a school near there before she married Rev. Zell from Mishicot. Alvin would occasionally come to pick up his sister. Alvin’s friend Bill Menges married Leona’s sister Nora in 1917, thus making ties between the two families even stronger. Al and Bill were born in the same year, and possibly went to short course together. Bill and Nora had a cheese factory near Two Creeks and later a grocery store in Larrabee.

Alvin and Leona had 5 children.


The Cheese Factory

Ethel Jindra and Al Jindra (nicknamed Junior) were both born to Alvin and Leona (Meineke) Jindra at the cheese factory, and Grandma Meineke came to help with the births. The cheese was hauled to Pauly & Pauly in Francis Creek and shipped out via railroad. Alvin kept it refrigerated in an icehouse in back. The business had its ups and downs and was sold in 1924, when he also sold the truck and bought a Ford Model T. At this time cheese factories were turning into cooperatives and getting bigger, causing smaller ones to go out of business.


In Two Rivers

The family moved to Two Rivers in 1924 and Alvin began to work in Griep’s grocery store on 13th St. (still a grocery store today). The family lived at 2416 12th St., a 3-bedroom house that was heated by a coal/wood furnace. Al remembers cutting wood for heating from old stumps at Uncle John Jindra’s farm north of Shoto. Roy, Dan and Grace were all born at the home in Two Rivers. Leona helped out by picking beans for Lakeside packing in the mid 1920s, taking along Ethel and Al. Al, while he was in grammar school, helped the milkman on his south side route, earning 25 cents/day. They used horses to deliver the milk, and also used a charcoal burner in the sleigh box to keep the milk from freezing in the winter.

In the 1930s the Depression struck, and Alvin worked on government WPA projects to provide for the family, but never went on general relief, even though the family often had little food. Alvin was fortunate to get a night watchman’s job at Mirro for 2 or 3 years. During the depression “everybody was in the same boat” and frequently helped each other out. Alvin had to give up his insurance policy to make ends meet, and also had to borrow $36 one time from Ethel, which was all she had in her bank account at the time. At Ethel’s confirmation, relatives and friends helped pitch in for her confirmation dress and for other expenses. Grace remembers getting a new outfit to be worn for the Christmas Eve service and program at school. Aunt Hilda bought a living room rug for the house because the family couldn’t afford it.

The children played in the surrounding area and on the river and often swam in Lake Michigan, even taking a brief plunge every May 1. Roy remembers returning one Sunday from Mishicot to learn that a childhood friend (also named Roy) drowned playing on the railroad trestle over the West Twin River. Grace remembers pushing her doll buggy past the house back and forth, acting as a look-out for the cops while her brothers harassed a neighbor boy.

Ethel remembers John and Mary Jindra visiting and playing cards (the game “500”) often. They had moved to Manitowoc after their tavern at Kingsbridge had burnt down, sometime in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. The family would sometimes go out to Point Beach and pick elderberrry blossoms, from which Alvin would make wine (during Prohibition). The women would drink wine and eat candy and the men would have home-brewed beer especially at the “card clubs”, which would meet once a month. Among couples attending were the Stoers, Ulrich’s, Wilsmans, Stoebbes(?) and Terrys, enough to make 4 tables of 4 each. Each couple would take turns hosting it.

Ethel and Al went to St. John’s school for a couple years, then Koenig school. Al went to Jr. high through 10th grade in TR, and Ethel graduated from Two Rivers high school. She worked at Mirro and roomed and boarded in TR.

During this time, the family continued to attend St. Peter’s church in Mishicot. They also frequently visited the home farm. If the roads were impassable in the winter, George Jr. would bring the sleigh and meet them on their drive from Two Rivers at the Catholic church, and then ride to the farm, often meeting other relatives such as the Zells and Stoers. On the farm, the kids would play hide and seek, climb over cows, ride the calves, and play up in the hay mow.Al (Jr.) lived and worked on the farm one summer (1933) with Oscar and Viola and attended catechism class in Mishicot.


Back on the farm

In 1936 or 37, Alvin took over the farm from his brother Oscar, who had worked it for about two years. George Jr. traded the farm (plus $500?) for the 12th St. Two Rivers house from Alvin. Oscar later moved into this house and lived there until his death in 1964, working for a while at a brewery. His widow Viola retired from Paragon Electric in 1974 and lived there until shortly before she died in 2002.
The Mishicot farmhouse was a 4 bedroom wood frame house that was heated by 2 stoves, a coal stove in the living room (which would be stoked at night) and a coal/wood stove in the kitchen (see drawing). Later there was an oil stove. In the large bedroom upstairs there was sometimes 5 beds, 3 for the boys and extras for a hired man or visitors. The boys’ room had a stove pipe running through their room, but Grace had no heat in hers and had to huddle in her feather tick (mattress) to stay warm. Nevertheless, sometimes a window was kept open in the winter to provide fresh air. The house did have a fruit cellar, and the harvest from an acre of potatoes was put in the cellar, along with apples, canned fruits, vegetables and sauerkraut.

Electricity did not come until 1928 or 29. Before this gas lamps were hung in the kitchen and barn. Al later installed an intercom between the house and barn. A windmill was used to pump water from the well, which was used to cool the milk and also for drinking, cooking and washing. The water then had to be carried to the house. In 1940-42 a water system was installed. A six ft. deep trench was dug for this, from the well to the barn and house, which received running water at this point. The hard water from the well was not used for washing. Instead the rain water from the cistern was used. A shower was put in the basement of the house later, which never had a toilet or bathtub. The family took baths in the kitchen in winter, and in summer used the summer kitchen (attached to the porch) for cooking and bathing.

Food was more plentiful on the farm than it had been in Two Rivers. The family ate mostly from foods produced on the farm: lots of pork and chicken, and eggs, and also apple sauce, pickles, and fried potatoes. Cows were never slaughtered on the farm, and bologna sausage was bought at Skwor’s market until Alvin had a dispute with Charlie Skwor over a weight, after which the family bought their meat at Scheuer’s meat market (now River Edge galleries) or at Kadow’s. They made their own summer sausage, which could be stored in the basement before there was refrigeration. An icebox was used to keep milk cool.
Bread, potatoes, corn, peas, beats, and cabbage were usually eaten at the midday meal, which was the biggest of the day. As in most farm families, supper was a lighter meal. The family made homemade noodles, served with a sweet sauce. Rice was cooked with sugar and cinnamon and sometimes was the entire evening supper. Irish Smear (originally “Eire smear” or “egg” in German, a sweet egg sauce spread over bread) was sometimes eaten for breakfast, as were eggs, which were also taken to Holtz’s store for cash.

Alvin continually updated the farm by keeping up with the latest innovations and keeping in close touch with the county agricultural agent. He was a Farm Bureau member, and he was also a member and officer of the poultry breeders association, and showed chickens at the county fair (Rhode Island Reds). Al went along to the poultry and rabbits show and slept there. They had chicken coops in TR, and hatched chickens in the spring. Alvin would attend local farmers meetings, where they would learn about agricultural innovations, new feeds, etc. They would go to a farm and judge cattle, and the “little shit” Jindra would often win, as Ethel remembers him being called.

Alvin was proud that he was able to pay off the mortgage on the farm in only 10 years.

Field corn went in the silo. Peas went to Lakeside Packing. 127 acres were owned, of which 27 were woods. Chickens and hogs were also kept. In the fall, about 20-25 of the relation would come out for a corn husking bee in the evening. Beer and other refreshments were provided. The threshing of the wheat and oats (used for chicken feed) and barley (sold for cash to malters) also brought the neighbors to help, and a large dinner was provided.Roy and Dan once got a bicycle for hoeing corn, which they rode together to school, sometimes even giving Grace a ride to make three on the bike.

Horses, and a truck and tractor were used for fieldwork and for hauling hay, milk, or wood. A colt would be born every spring, which would eventually be a work horse, and had names such as Daisy, Bell, Dick, Queen, May, and Sam. At first there was a small Ford truck and later a larger one with dual wheels.

Nothing was wasted in these years. Even the corners of the fields were hand-scythed. Crops extended part of the way down the hill to the river. Later the fence was brought up. It was so steep a load was once lost there, and a tractor Roy drove once tipped and was caught by a tree, possibly saving his life.

Grace helped with the chores, driving the truck (once backing into the woodshed wall). She sometimes had to finish chores while Roy and Dan left for basketball games, even though she was a cheerleader herself.

The cows were usually driven down to the river and then driven back at dusk by one of the kids. Grace remembers going with the dog and “dawdling” along the way, playing in the river. Grace enjoyed the barn work more than the housework, and she also kept the lawn mowed with a reel power mower.

There was a series of hired men who helped on the farm after the boys began leaving (Al for school in Madison, Roy to work in the plumbing shop and Dan to school). Work was more labor intensive then, so hired men helped on the farm when 2 or 3 of the boys weren’t around. In 1949 Dan and a hired man were working. Billie Fey remembers being struck by the way Alvin would order Dan (and also the hired man) back to work after the noon-time dinner. Some of the hired men were not too trustworthy. One would “even hang one on” on Sundays, so Grace would have to help with chores, even after she was married in 1951.

Alvin hauled milk to the Kempen cheese factory on Hwy 147 across from the fire station in Mishicot and Grace would often ride along to school. Alvin was a charter member of the Lake to Lake dairy cooperative, and he was one of the first of his neighbors to go from Grade B to Grade A milk, after he bought a mechanical milk cooler.

George Jr. and Mary were still on the farm through this time. Mary would cook and strain apple juice for apple jelly, and sell it in Two Rivers, and Hilda would help deliver it to customers, sometimes helped by her niece Ruth Zell. At first everyone ate meals together, but separate quarters were made for them on the first floor to prevent the inevitable conflict over such things as organization of the household (especially kitchen) and discipline of the kids (“you’re not raising the kids right”). Grace remembers that the back porch often had a chair with a milk pitcher, white porcelain dish with eggs and a pound of butter set out for Grandpa George and Mary. Mary broke her hip in 1941, and died at home a year later. Grace remembers walking home from school and seeing the hearse and Pastor Zell there, and every one saying a prayer as they stood around her body lying in the bed. Spechts funeral home on Main St. in Mishicot hosted the wake and the funeral was at St. Peter’s church, officiated by her son-in-law, Pastor Ed Zell, Sr.

The kids attended catechism class at St. Peter’s in Mishicot, conducted by Pastor and Uncle Ed Zell, for whom they would sometimes pick beans after class. Ethel would often come out from Two Rivers and would stay on the farm on weekends. Grace looked forward to these visits from her well-dressed older sister, and the gifts she would sometimes bring. One of Ethel’s memories is of the strong smell of Sloan’s liniment in the farm kitchen as her future husband Eddie kissed her goodnight. Alvin suffered from arthritis and rheumatism and would use the liniment before going to bed.

Al, Roy and Dan sometimes helped Uncle Bill and Aunt Nora Menges with their grocery truck route in the Larrabee area, and sometimes played “store.” Harold Haese drove the truck when Bill and Mildred (Menges) worked at the store. The boys also set bowling pins at the Mishicot bowling alleys.

Saturday was the day everyone took a bath, and Leona made lots of bakery: kolaches, poppyseed cakes, and coffee cakes. Supper on Saturday night was coffee cakes. There was a garden on the farm, and among other things, poppyseed was grown, which went into the kolaches. Ethel did help in the kitchen, but took so long baking that she usually ended up doing the cleaning while her mother completed the baking.

Sunday mornings everyone would go to church, after which a Sunday drive was in order, often to family gatherings or relatives homes. The relation had lots of family picnics. The Jindra bunch would get together for the 4th of July, when Alvin would come with fireworks. Picnics were often held on the farm property by the “old swimming hole” on the river, where they would catch bullheads. Cars would be driven down the steep hill to the river, and sometimes needed a push to get back up the hill; there were fewer trees there at the time, since cows were pastured there. One could pick berries also. Cold food was eaten, as outdoor grilling did not become common until after 1950.

The Meineke side would also get together, often at Larrabee. Picnics were sometimes held in the woods at the Schmidt farm on Hillcrest road. (Leona’s mother was a Schmidt).

Relatives would also often come over to play cards, especially Aunt Mae and Uncle John, and Uncle Reub and Aunt Blanche. The most popular games were sheepshead, rummy and canasta, and the ensuing “bickering” over the games was entertaining for the kids looking on.

The “birthday club” brought the neighbors together to celebrate birthdays. Samz, Baugniet, Dvorak, Tesarik, Terens, Rheins, Peltier, Kochs- all gathered together for a lunch and cards. The women would talk while the men would go into the kitchen and play sheepshead, often “cracking” (doubling) and “recracking” the ante. Birthday presents were not given, nor was there a birthday cake, but there was always a lunch.

Alvin, Leona and the kids would often take Sunday afternoon drives in their Essex and later a big, beautiful, Hudson. As Leona waited in the car, Alvin would light his cigar at the kitchen wood stove and puff away as they drove to Horstman’s (Ella, the daughter of Fred and Aunt Kate Freiss(?), Uncle John Jindra’s, Uncle Henry Schmidt’s, Shambeaus, the Cavil’s at DePere, or others).

For fun, the kids would have fun around the farm, making toys, looking for polliwogs, riding pigs or cows. Since Grace did not have anybody her own age to play with, she often had to find her own entertainment. Pets (a dog and numerous cats) were usually around, and Grace sometimes dressed them up and rode them around in her buggy. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the plane that Roy and others in the Mishicot area used was sometimes kept on the farm, and occasionally they would go up for a ride after chores.

The Vets Club was a popular place. Al remembers someone (Denver Mleziva) breaking his back jumping off the diving board that was installed there.
When they were older, the Jindras often went to the dance halls to listen to the dance bands and orchestras that were popular at the time. Tisch Mills, Larrabee, Kellnersville, Francis Creek and Mishicot (Levenhagen’s, which used to be the old opera house and is now Frank and Rose’s) were popular places.

Mrs. Eli Baugniet was one of Mary Jindra’s best friends, and besides the birthday clubs, they would have feather bees. Her son, Florenz, later built Fox Hills. Florenz wanted the Jindra farm for the restaurant and golf course, and possibly also an air strip. In the 1950s Alvin wanted to sell out to Florenz, but Florenz owed the government money because of past failure to take withholding taxes on the mink ranch. Alvin finally sold out to Rahmlow’s, the present owners of the farm, and Florenz later bought the land on the other side of the road, which became Fox Hills Resort.

Al wrote an essay for Sears & Roebuck, Inc. and won a scholarship to UW-Madison, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone. College took seven years because he worked at various jobs (Oscar Meyer, the Seed Service) in Madison. He also drove a cab and taught a year at school. During one summer, Al, Bill Zell and Bob Jindra drove out to Yellowstone and North Dakota to view the sights.

After Al and Billie Fey returned from their honeymoon to visit the farm, they were met by a cacophony of whistles and banging on pots, which was kept up until money was produced for an impromptu party. This was called a “chivaree”, a humorous variation of the old European custom of the “charivari”, which was a rite of public humiliation for those who had offended public morality.

Ethel worked at the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Co. (Mirro). Al also worked there a year or two before he went to college. Grace helped on the farm until she married Emil Schleis (Red) in 1951 at age 20, became secretary of the cemetery association, and worked at Krause’s supermarket from 1964 until its close.

Leona had a heart attack in October of 1953 (the night of Mark Schleis baptism) and stayed at Schleis’s while recovering. She died in 1959. A year before this Alvin and Leona sold the farm and moved to a house on Elm Street behind St. Peter’s, next to his sister Alice, who was widowed by Pastor Ed Zell in 1958. A garden was kept in back of the house, which was tended by Roy and the grandchildren. All of his children and grandchildren gathered there every year after Christmas and exchanged presents until Alvin died in 1970. In the early 1960s, Alvin served on the Manitowoc County Board.

One of the memories of Alvin’s grandchildren is the Bohemian chant he would say while we were on his lap, moving our hands and dipping us below his knee while saying “dola dola….!” None of us knew what it meant until grandchild Ann Winter discovered the meaning in 2005 by doing some research on the Internet. The full text and meaning are below.

The tradition of family gatherings continued, and in 1969 and 1979 reunions were held at the Vets Club in Mishicot (see newspaper article about 1969 reunion). In 1984 a smaller one was held at Dan’s cottage near Mountain in Oconto County. Annual gatherings of Alvin and Leona’s descendants continue to take place just after Christmas and at “Jindra Camp”, held at a different campground every year (see locations below).

Jindra rhyme, used with his grandchildren:

Phonetic: Shee-a, Shee-a spitz (or sfitz?)
Salam ko-pea toe
Dola! Dola! Dola! Dola!

Grace Schleis remembers as: Sheea, sheea schvetz, zama kapeeto, paunie mamoo ma, pustem eeto, ah neva vould pustem, ———–ah sojem responso, dolo, dolo, dolo,

It is a rhyme used to exercise hands of kids. Kopytec and kopyto are synonyms, I believe. The rhyme is listed at this website and given as follows:

Sije sije svec, (napodobujeme sití)
zlámal kopytec,
zlámal kopyto,
odpustme mu to.

amateur translation:
Stitches, stitches cobbler, (imitate stitching),
he has broken his shoe-tree,
he has broken his shoe-tree,
let us forgive him.
Dole! Dole! Dole! Dole! I believe means “Down, down, down, down”


Skating on the East Twinby Michael Jindra


One Comment on “Alvin and Leona (Meineke) Jindra

  1. Ellen says:

    The Kingsbridge Fire burning down the John F. Jindra Dance Hall occurred in 1921. See the article under places of interest, Kingsbridge

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