Georgia Zirul on family

Published Dec 11th 2013

My mom was from Bacup in England. Before she moved to the United States, she worked in Manchester in a shoe factory.  Her brother moved to the US before her, working as a minister.

She emigrated when she was 30, moving to work as a maid and a cook on a farm for the Weghorns (a German name). It was my father’s parents’ farm.  She ended up staying there and marrying my dad. They farmed for most of their lives and never paid rent because they always gave part of the crops back instead.

I was born in 1932 in Ellsworth, Wisconsin, at the hospital that was there at the time. It has since become a rest home.

Three of my four siblings were significantly older, so I never knew them very well. My sister Susan was 11 years older; Arthur 10 years older; Fred five years older; and my adopted sister Pamela was 14 years younger than me. My older sister and brother were both gone from home by the time I was three.

I have only snatches of memory of my young life.  I guess I was a very introverted, afraid child. When we went to town – my dad and I – I kept hold of his coattails all the time. Consequently I went with him very few times.

When I was young, we used a horse buggy – that was nice.  We lived on a dairy farm. All the roads we have now, we didn’t have then. The roads by our house were all dirt, and when it rained, we sometimes couldn’t get out because it would get so muddy.

I really liked working with cows and horses and was very young when I decided to go out with a tin can to milk a cow in the barnyard. I was five years old. My dad decided that if I could do that, I could milk in the barn. So – from that time on, I milked morning and night.

During the summer, there was always lots of work to do outside. We had a big garden. I cleaned barns and fed the horses and cows. I walked to the pasture to bring the cows to the barn morning and night. I piled hay in the hay mow.

In the fall, I went out to the corn field and helped Mom and Dad pick corn. We snapped it off the stalk and husked it and put it into piles.

Dad got me to work faster by making things into a competition between us – milking and husking corn, for example. I enjoyed it.

When I was eleven, my mother had an acute gall bladder attack. She had to have it removed. While she was there, Dad had a ruptured appendix. They were both in the same room at Red Wing City Hospital.

My sister Susan came home to be with Fred and me. She made a batch of bread and asked me to take care of it. I looked at it and had no idea what to do with it so I took it to the neighbour, Mrs. Albert Hoyer, my friend Delphinia’s grandmother. She remixed it and did whatever needed to be done. When it was baked, she called me and I took the loaves home. I didn’t tell Susan for a while how it had turned out so well.

I wanted to go to the hospital to see Mom and Dad. The neighbor, Walter Stern, said he would take me if he could get his chores done on time. So several times I milked our 12 cows and then went and helped him with his. I guess I milked four of his.

Mother was in the hospital for a week, but Dad nearly died. He was in the hospital for a month and turned a green color. He was still a green color when he came home. He was very weak for a long time. Mother and I did the chores, and I’m thinking that Fred and Arthur must have done the field work. We were renting via a share of the crops.

When we first moved to what we called the Falkofske place, we went to church at the Brick Church on Hwy. 72. We walked to get there. It was just a mile. When it got cold, I don’t know why we started to go to the Ellsworth Presbyterian Church. Uncle Fred Eastwood had been a minister there in 1918 or there about. Before Mother came to the U.S.

We went to church twice a day on Sunday and to Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night. Mother wouldn’t allow us to play ball or any kind of game on Sunday. I usually read a book.

We lived on that farm for 10 years. I was four when we moved there and 14 when we moved to the farm south of Ellsworth.

I really liked the place we lived in for those 10 years. The house was old and hard to heat, but I liked it. We had a good-sized kitchen, a big dining room, a big pantry, a big living room and nice bedroom downstairs. Upstairs, there were two small bedrooms and one large bedroom and an attic, something like Aunt Jessie’s.

We rarely used the living room. The dining room became the kitchen during the winter. We had a heavy kitchen cook stove that they moved from one room to the other every spring and fall. The kitchen became a bedroom for Fred and me and Arthur whenever he was there. It was actually easier for Mom when the winter time came because the pantry was where all the dishes and pans were kept. She didn’t have to go so far when winter came. The kitchen stove heated the whole house.

I remember how I liked it when we would come in at night and Mom would have made popcorn (we grew our own) and after we were in for the night, she would put a comforter over both the back door and the front door.

Mom was so embarrassed one time when I went out on the road and collected all the beer bottles I could find and lined them up on the front porch.

When I was six or seven, I had a dog named Skippy and a goat named Billy. I had a great time with both of them. But Skippy started to run with other dogs who killed sheep so he had to be shot. Then my goat became too big and started to fight with the cows. Dad sent me to play with Delphinia at her house and when I came home, Billy was gone. It took me a long time to get over that.

I liked all outside work, including field work, and never did anything inside with my mom. I worked on the family farm until I got married, which meant that when I did get married, I didn’t know anything about housekeeping.

I met Zellery Nadeau (it’s a French name) at our church’s youth group when I was 14. He was my best friend’s brother and had just gotten home from army service in World War Two.

For some reason, I caught his eye and he mine. He gave me a locket with our pictures in it. Mom and Dad said I had to give it back, but I hid it. We continued to see each other at the youth group meetings.

During that time, our group was going to different churches and singing. I was the soloist. Fred and I were in a quartet with the pastor and his wife, Mel and Charlotte Steinbron. It was that year that we first got electric lights and a telephone in the house.

Anyway, when I was 15, Zell bought me a diamond.  In June, the summer I turned 16, I had to have my appendix out. I was in the hospital for 12 days. Most of the time I was delirious. I had 60 shots of penicillin during that time. I don’t know how my parents were able to pay the bills. Fred had an appendix operation later that summer, in early August.

Zell and I got married that year, on September 1, 1948. We went to Duluth, Minnesota for our honeymoon for two days. On the way home, he got sleepy and told me to drive the car. Me – who had never driven anything but a tractor, and that very little. All I knew how to do was to keep the car on the road. Not how to stop it or shift it. We did get home safe. God is good.

We were not going to have children for a year or so, but after I quit school, we decided we would. What a year! I was sick from the very first month – November – until Bob was born in July 1949.

I need to go back a few years to when I was 14. My sister Pam had come to live with us that summer, and I spent lots of time with her while Mom was canning and doing other work. I used to pretend she was mine. I’m sure it was hard for her when I was married. And then when Bob was born, she wanted to throw him out the window, but after a while, they got along just fine.

Zell’s parents were also farmers, and we bought their farm after we were married and built a new house there. We lived with the Nadeau’s until our basement was built, which was when Bob was about four months old.

We moved in before all the building work was done. I really didn’t know anything about housekeeping or cooking, and we had an old iron, wood-burning kitchen stove and somehow I learned to cook on it. It was nice when we eventually got a gas stove.

During the next summer, 1950, the basement became too wet to stay in so we moved back in with the Nadeau’s until Don was born later that year. By then, we had the house framed in, and we lived in it with two-by-four walls for several years. Little-by-little, Zell and Grandpa Jess put the fiber board on the walls. We had old linoleum on the kitchen floor, with the rest covered in tar paper. Those first two years, we used the front bedroom as a living room. We lived in that house for 30 years.

I really enjoyed the children when they were young. I was young with them so I grew up at the same time. I always looked forward to summers so we could be outside together.

I don’t remember the year Zell started working at Nutrena Mills in the Cities, but he used to bring feedsacks home that had gotten torn. He got quite a few that were the same pattern. I made shirts alike for Bob, Don, Zell and Grandpa. I made all my dresses and skirts from sacks and dresses for Pam. I made shirt and shorts sets for the boys. I really enjoyed that!

The boys were together constantly until Bob started school. Don would sleep on the couch almost all day until Bob got home. Then when Don started school, they sort of drifted apart because Don was able to make friends easily and Bob wasn’t.

In February 1957, Marlene was born. Bob did a great deal of Marlene-sitting when I washed clothes, which was every day. Zell had promised that if we had a girl, he would buy me a good sewing machine. He did, and I still have it.

Marlene was sick a lot the first year. She would have 105 degree fevers and many nightmares. She had those for several years.

I used to go over to visit Mother and Dad every other day or so. The boys didn’t dare to go with me, but Marlene did, until she was in first grade. Then I used to go while she was in school. Mother died on February 1, 1968.

In 1954, on March 5, Zell’s brother Clifford was killed in a plane accident. Actually, the plane blew up. They were carrying bombs, and it was thought to be sabotage.

We left for Tucson, Arizona the next day in our Lincoln. Zell, Jessie and I sat in the front seat most of the time, and Grandma, Grandpa, Bob and Don were in the back. The plane had blown up as it was leaving Tucson. We were there several days and then came home by way of the Grand Canyon. The overdrive of the car went out on the way home, so we had to stay in a motel for three days until it could be fixed. What fun that was with two little boys.

Then, in April, my brother Arthur was killed in a car accident in Montevideo, Minnesota. We started out that night – Zell, Grandma and Grandpa Weghorn, Pam and I. Jessie stayed with Bob and Don. We were back by the next night. John Weghorn was 10 months old, Jean was two and a half years old. Fred and I drove out again a week later to bring Betty and the kids home to her parents.

I don’t remember the year when Susan and Ken, John, Kenny and Jim Daugherty moved to Ellsworth to a farm house east of Ellsworth. Ken rode with Zell and two other men to work in the Cities. On the week that Ken drove to work, I would have our car and we would go over to Susan’s and the boys would play outside together. They only lived there a year or so. Ken wanted to go back to Madison. On the way, moving back, they had some sort of accident. Susan’s door came open, and she was hit in the stomach by it. She had to have her spleen removed and was in the hospital for a while. We went down to get John and Kenny and brought them home to stay with us for several weeks. All four boys caught the chicken pox. Bob, of course, didn’t get very sick, but the other three did.

In 1956, Zell bought a two-door Mercury and in June, we went on a trip. We went to Tucson to see Tiny and the girls, then into Mexico, then to California to visit Zell’s counsin Audry and Ralligh Carlson. The length of that trip was hard on the boys. Don was five and Bob was almost seven.

Zellery eventually starting driving a truck for work, and he was killed in 1970 while driving.

My second husband, Julius Zirul, was a house builder. We met at work and got married in 1981. We moved to New Richmond and lived on Cedar Lake. It was very beautiful – lots of fishing there. I commuting to the Cities for work from there for a few years, and then I stopped working.

We traveled in a motor home three to five months a year down south. We did that for 11 years and often stayed in a camp called Coast to Coast. We went from motorhome camp to motorhome camp. There were a lot.

We were married for 14 years. He died in 1995 from cancer.

Then I moved back to River Falls near where my daughter lived. I stayed in an apartment for a year, then in my daughter’s basement for two years, and then she moved to Maryland so I found an apartment, which is where I am now, and I’ve been here 15 years.

God has been good to me – I’ve never been sad about leaving a place; I’ve always looked ahead to the next place and adventure.

I try to think in broad brushstrokes and don’t think too much about the past. For example, I loved the house we built in Beldenville, even living in it while finishing the building. Yet when we left, I didn’t mind because I don’t look back. We can’t change things after they have happened.


My family is all scattered so no one is around here, and it’s expensive to even drive places, so I don’t do that too much.

I have seven great grandchildren. I see two of them – they are all grown up. There are three in Montana, two in Eau Claire and two in Bloomer. I took care of my daughter’s children for ten years so I have a lot of their old stuff stored in my garage. I don’t want to get rid of it. I need my granddaughter to go through it for me.

I like to read… I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t read. I often don’t talk to anyone from Sunday to Sunday. I buy books at Goodwill and garage sales.

I like to walk. I walk into River Falls. Five blocks from my house I can get groceries. It’s two blocks to the Post Office and four blocks to the bank. I walk down to the river to see the ducks and geese and whatever else is on the lake.


  • A bawling cow soon forgets her calf.
  • I’ve slept since then.
  • I’ve drowned the miller.  [too much water for the amount of flour she had]
  • I could ride to Boston on this.  [a dull knife]
  • Roll me over and put it in me pocket.  [if we were lazy]
  • Some fine day when it’s raining on a Monday in the middle of the week.
  • Wangbee [a stalk of celery that was limp]

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