The following is the story my mother, Jennie Hoftiezer Neerhof, read at her 80th birthday party on June 4, 1977, to an audience of relatives who came to help celebrate the event.
Now, this is a true story and took place exactly 74 years ago this very evening, June 4, 1903, in the town of Sherman in Sheboygan County.
Little Jennie soon would be 6 years old. Jennie knew nothing about birthday parties but had heard thrilling stories from school playmates. She was sure nothing could be nicer. She mulled it over in her mind and decided that she, too, would like to have one.
Little Jennie asked her mother, “Can I have a birthday party?”
“Yes, Jennie, you can have a birthday party.”
But all seemed to be forgotten. No more was said about it. Little Jennie did not forget. She went ahead with her plans and when June 4 came along, so did her party. She invited all her playmates to come for a party after school. A dozen or more came along to the Hoftiezer home. Jennie still remembers how old Sport barked when the happy kids came. The girls scattered and screamed with fright because of that dog.
Poor Mother now became aware of her plight — a supper to prepare for those unexpected guests. She was not prepared for a birthday party supper these 74 years ago. A good neighbor lady, Maggie Swan, helped Mother by giving her a cake she could spare and Mother fixed eggs. None of the little guests even seemed to think anything was amiss. They just ate what was served and then played until going-home time. Little Jennie received nice little gifts from each one. Oh, my! A birthday party was so much fun!
Little Jennie was so happy until, when all was seemingly over, the guests all gone, Jennie was in for another party. Jennie’s father came into the scene. Father put Jennie across his knee and with his big, broad hand spanked her soundly because of the frustration and inconvenience she had caused Mother. Ouch! Well, spankings were administered periodically thos days, so after tears were dried and the redness of Little Jennie’s posterior faded, she just slept and dreamed of the fun of a birthday party.
Unknown to Jennie, a real party was planned for the next Saturday. Father put up a nice swing in the barn. He used the hay fork rope and tied it to the high beams. In the early afternoon, a young lad named Mike Hand, with a horse-drawn wagon, drove into the yard with all those same little playmates, back again. The teacher, Anna Sullivan, was along too. Now, that it what Father and Mother were planning all the while! They played and swung and then swung some more. They had such fun!
A huge birthday cake, frosted and covered all around with coconut, was served along with plenty of homemade ice cream, an unusual treat 74 years ago.
All of this is still very clear in Jennie’s memory — the birthday parties, plus the spanking — and will never be forgotten.