Stories from 100 Years Ago
The Heritage Task Force asked for church member family stories about events happening in 1918. We received two stories from Harriet Major and Marie Sedlacek which are shared below. We thank them for sharing their stories.
My father, Alfred Bihler, volunteered for service in the Army during World War I. He was a private, and he was honorably discharged after several months because of a hip injury. During this brief period of service, he established a friendship with a Bill R., also a private in the Army. During this war, there was a popular song, My Buddy, which described his friendship with Bill R. My brother, although named for my father, always went by the name, Bud or Buddy, in remembrance of my Dad's relationship with Bill R. These two men never saw each other after the war and didn't maintain any contact. However, Bill R. sent my father a beautiful three piece version of Les Miserables shortly after the war ended. Although the set is somewhat worn after these many years, its beauty is still there with the elegant leather covers, the gold leaf paper edges, and the delicate, fine paper. I still have this lovely memento and treasure it as a precious memory of a relationship between two young men who together survived the trauma of a war.
My maternal Grandmother, Mary Sehested Schultz, was a strong Baptist woman who came to our country at the age of eighteen. As I understand it, Baptist folks at the time were, and still are, very much anti-liquor, and my Grandmother was a strong advocate of this position. As it happened, she was one of the victims of the flu epidemic in 1918 and was close to death from this disease. My parents lived with my Grandparents briefly after my father was discharged from the Army, and my Grandmother claimed that he saved her life with his recipe for a very strong liquor hot toddy which he prepared for her more than several times. Interesting to me how life can change some of our strongest beliefs when we deem them necessary.
My mom, Victory Pták, was born November 12, 1918, the day after Armistice was declared in Omaha. So, of course, her parents named her "Victory" not Victoria. Her family lived on South 13th Street a few blocks north of Missouri Avenue. Her parents were Czech immigrants from Bohemia, were surrounded by Czech families and active in the Czech community that thrived further north on 13th Street between Sokol Hall and William Streets. Her parents and extended family supported US expat movement to bring about the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
The Spanish Influenza of 1918 was sickening and killing people world-wide and South 13th Street was not spared. The family doctor then was Dr. Olga Šťastný. Also, a Czech immigrant, she was one of the few women practicing medicine at the time. Dr. Šťastný received her medical degree from the University of Nebraska Medical School in 1913.
The story goes that my grandmother, Mary Pták, became ill after my mother was born (a touch of the dreaded flu?) and was taking some medicine. Subsequently, my grandmother asked Dr. Šťastný to check on baby Victory. Little Victory was sleeping all the time. Of course, the baby was being breast fed. On checking the medicine or tonic that grandmother was taking; Dr. Šťastný pronounced that it was not surprising that the baby slept all the time. The medicine was mostly alcohol. The joke in the family was that mother was drunk as a baby. Certainly not an acceptable situation and cause for alarm in our day. But that was 1918. Grandmother and my mother survived. Both lived long, good lives.
If you are interested, here is a link to a bio of Dr. Šťastný. I remember mom pointing out Dr. Šťastný's home/office on South 16th Street. Go here: www.amwa-doc.org/wwibios/dr-olga-stastny/