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Memories of Grandpa Mike Souhrada and Oxford Junction Iowa

[by Catherine (Souhrada) Wyrobeck - written in 1998]


When Itís Springtime in the Rockies ♪  ♫

 

I can still hear him playing that song on his concertina. I was so impressed. We'd sit on his porch on a hot summer night and I'd tinker with that accordion. I remember wishing that I could play it with his skill.


Summertime trips to Iowa were a big deal for me as a kid. When my parents planned a trip to see our Grandparents, I would get so excited that I couldn't sleep. So, they wouldn't tell me until the last minute that we were going out to I-O-WAY. My dad (Albert-son of Mike) settled in Milwaukee after the war (WWII). My mother (Helen Ales Souhrada) was from Lost Nation. They came to Milwaukee to find work when my dad got out of the service. I'm sure that was a big step for them to leave Iowa and their community and move to the "big city."

We usually made the trip "back home" during the fourth of July, right around the time the corn was knee high. Of course in Iowa, the corn was taller by the fourth. Up to my neck. We watched the fireworks from Grandpa's porch. They were shot off at Wapsie Park near the band shell. What a memory. Good memories. I remember going with Grandpa to Coon's Corner store. I liked to look at the dry goods and see what kind of fabric they had or stamped goods for embroidery work. I was always attracted to handwork.

 

Grandpa would stop at the grocery store on the North side of Main Street. I remember it had a red store front. He always bought those Colonial (brand) frosted cinnamon rolls to have with his varnish-like coffee. I guess that was the bo-hunk way!

He liked to travel and he and Flo Powlishta (his second wife) went to California every year on the train. Flo use to say that she was looking for a man with a pension and a pass and she found Mike. He was very good to her and they had many happy years together. When my son was born Grandpa Mike came to Milwaukee unexpectedly. I believe he hitched a ride with John Vanicek. He came to see the baby (Anthony Paul Wyrobeck) and gave me some $$$ for a pair of shoes for the "boy" and brought me a twin sized chenille bedspread in his suitcase. I was a little surprised, but he felt that I could use it.

 

When I was about 20 years old, I looked just like my Grandmother Marie (Zak) Souhrada. I look differently now but I remember being in Oxford one summer and since my grandmother had died before I was born, I had no memory of her nor had seen any pictures of her in her youth. I searched the house looking for old pictures and came across an old oval portrait of Mike and Marie (in the railroad "car house" out back). It was like staring at myself. At that time I wore my hair parted down the middle like Jane Eyre. This is how Marie wore here hair when she was 18. Our facial features and eyes were the same, but I must admit, I never had an 18" waist. She did lose that too in her middle years. I also have her temperament and a rather direct manner.

 

I remember that Grandpa always liked the ladies. When he saw a good lookin woman - his eyes would light up. Toward the end of his days in his home in Oxford Junction I remember one occasion in particular.  Flo (his second wife) had passed on and he was alone. He was going up town to get the mail etc. and we told him to put on a jacket. Bull head, no, he didn't want to. I remember saying that Grandpa, you never know, some good looking woman might see you in that snappy jacket and think what a good looking man. He said nothing and put the jacket on. Piece of cake! Gotta know what motivates a person.

 

Grandpa Mike had a curio cabinet in his living room. Any every time I went to Oxford I would look through all his treasures in that cabinet. Mostly, I remember the piece of the Battle Ship Maine - one of his Spanish American War mementos and a very prized possession. I have a spooner that he had in that cupboard. He gave it to me on a visit that I had made when my son was just a baby. Grandpa told me that he bought it for his mother when he was a little boy for a nickel. In those days spoons were kept on the kitchen table in one of these decorative glass containers.