History on a personal level

By: 
Patrick Fisher, The New Prague Times

This column was going to be about history, but on a national and state level. Now it’s going to be on a more personal level after a meeting with a couple on Sunday, May 5.

On that day I was at The Ettlin’s Cafe waiting to be seated and the couple in front of me mentioned how they were looking for someone who might know something of area history and Czech heritage in the community. I grinned at this. And then providence, destiny or what have you in the form of Aaron Tesch asked if I would sit with them. We made introductions and I found out the couple, Don and Janice Hower of Kasson were in the area, unfortunately for a funeral, but they were also looking to find out more about the area.

Don, who works for IBM in Rochester, is Czech and he wanted to know more about the festivals and how people celebrate their heritage in the area. I told him about Dozinky, the town’s Czech Harvest Festival, and Montgomery’s Kolacky Days. He and Janice were also interested in some Czech food. They both ordered meals that included vomacka. For those that don’t know, its a cream soup with vegetables served with vinegar on the side.

Janice explained she is a retired nurse, who worked at the Mayo Clinic also in Rochester. With more time on her hands she has been working on her family’s history.

She had an uncle, Clem Kral, born in 1895, who grew up in Montgomery and graduated from the high school there. He also served in World War I. After the war he went to work as a telegraph operator for the railroad in Waseca. Janice is hoping she can find relatives from the area. From her uncle’s 1971 obituary there are three Kral relatives listed, Raymond, Harold and Barbara. Anyone who knows about the family can contact me at The New Prague Times.

Janice is also planning to donate some of her uncle’s articles to the Montgomery Area Historical Society. One is a photo of him in his uniform from when he served in World War I. She explained that Clem married late in life and he and his wife Edna, who attended St. Olaf, had no children.

Talking with Janice I found out she is a second generation nurse as her mom, Verna Boyum, graduated from the Kahler Hospitals School of Nursing. It also turned out Verna knew Will and Charles Mayo, among the founders of the Mayo Clinic.

A different type of history In a different turn of history, I was asked by council member Rik Seiler if I knew about any paranormal or hauntings in New Prague. I told him the only story I knew of was a business on Main Street where someone was working alone late one night and the doors were locked to the building when they heard footsteps. Whether the story is true or not is another matter. Rik is hoping to find more stories like that. Anyone who knows any can find contact information for him through the City of New Prague’s website. In a way I can understand, nearly all of us like a good ghost story to hear or tell.

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