Thursday, April 16, 2020

Pieces From The Past - Our Country

This letter is written in English... However, I have typed it out (below the copies of the letter) for your reading pleasure.

Karl – Heinz Born
(22) Solingen-Ohligs
Niederstrasse 7
British-zone July 15, 1946

My dear family Schleich!

Now, I am a few months in my country and will send to you the best greetings.  Our crossing over the Atlantic Ocean was good.  Most of the men was seasick but we all was glad to see our country so soon.  All my relations were well too.  Often, I must think of you and on your farm who we have harvested the last sweetbeets and I will not forget to say my best thanks to you and to your wife for the excellent treatment and entertainment of us.

The POW life is over but I would (it) like (if) I could (be) there now, than here in Germany.  The conditions of life are very bad.  Everywhere you see rubbish and ruins, it is a very awful sight and the people has nothing to eat.  The same ration which we have got in one day on your farm, it must suffice here for 14 days.  As soon as it will be possible to go to the United States of America or to Canada I shall go that way.

I have not a good knowledge in writing the English language because I only have learned one year and I would be very glad when one boy of yours would write me a short letter.  Farther, I would be much obliged to you if you would send me a small parcel with food and something to smoke.  I shall pay it back one day as soon as it is possible.

Now, I will finish my letter and beg you to reply me soon.

Many regards to you, your wife and children.

Karl Heinz Born

Several statements stand out to me.  The first is the compliment of the excellent treatment and entertainment.  

Camp Trinidad was noted for their love of entertainment... This excerpt is from an article about the POW Camp, written in 2017.

"Within a few weeks, the officers began to demonstrate their talents for efficiency and organization. They scavenged lumber and metal in order to make their own furniture. They put together an orchestra and converted a rec hall into a theater, suitable for staging concerts, operas and plays, including all-male productions of Goethe’s Faust and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. (One performance re-enacted their arrival in the camp and featured dead-on parodies of certain guards.) They put out their own professional-looking newspaper, Der Spiegel (The Mirror), printed in town, which put to shame The TIC, the American soldiers’ flimsy mimeographed camp newsletter. (The TIC — short for Trinidad Internment Camp — eventually appeared in newsprint, too, but then ran out of funding.)"  ~ From Westword written by Alan Prendergast

The officers tended to be highly educated, even aristocratic — including a smattering of counts and barons. They were doctors, dentists, lawyers and professors, as well as career military men.

I wonder... what sort of entertainment was offered to these men while at the Schleich Farm?  

Most likely, simple conversation in the mutual native language of German.  Phillip and Katie weren't musicians, they were not a family that enjoyed poetry readings.  But they probably could have been considered story tellers.  I imagine that there was also conversation of news events... local and world news headlines that would have been available to them via a local newspaper.

The second item of note to me is the statement that the portion of food that was served in ONE day at the farm was what an individual would have for two weeks...  How sad is that???

One of the few recipes/meals that my Mom would make for my Dad that always invoked stories and memories of his Momma was Bierocks.  They are also known as krautburgers, German cabbage rolls, cabbage and onion burgers, and sauerkraut runzas.  

For years as Dave and I traveled across Nebraska between Colorado and Illinois we noticed that there was a popular chain restaurant by the name of Runza.  We would joke about the name, but never ate there... well... let's be honest... because of the name.

We learned last summer while helping the widow of Dave's college roommate that the Runza chains served bierocks... or cabbage rolls... also known as Runzas!  There was/is a large community of German's from Russia that settled in Nebraska (the American Historical Society of the Germans From Russia is in Lincoln) and someone capitalized on the popular food item.   

I can see that it would be an easy meal to deliver out into the field when the farmers were too busy to take a long break for the noon meal.  These hand-held pockets of bread filled with ground beef, cabbage and onions would have transported well to the field, or enjoyed after grabbing them during a quick stop at the farmhouse as they returned to the fields.  

When our girls were smaller I made them a few times.  I found that they were too labor intensive and only created an unpleasant atmosphere (and odor???) as there was generally some arguing about them eating their meal that night.  I gave it up, even though I had chosen to take a short cut and purchase frozen dinner rolls that were ready to shape and fill.

I recently tried my hand at it again and the result was really good!  Making the bread from scratch, with the help of my bread machine, was a cinch.  Making the filling was filled with guess work... brown one pound of ground beef with onion, garlic, salt and pepper.  I shredded a half of a cabbage, with my food processor, and let it cook down.  The proportion seemed about right to me... The question was whether or not I had too much or too little filling for the bread balls.

It was sheer luck that it all ran out at The. Same. Time!  Perfection!

I baked them off and they looked gorgeous!  My Dad would have been super proud of me and very pleased with them.

But I think that is one of the great things about these bierocks... you can add more cabbage than ground beef to stretch them a little further and the bread not only contained the filling, but helped to fill the belly.  

The final thing that captured my attention and thoughts was Karl's request for a small parcel of food and something to smoke... along with his begging for a response.  

Karl stated that he and the other men were happy to see "our country", but he also longed to return to the USA... Karl was not alone in wanting to make the US his home... You will see in coming letters many of them wanted to be able to say "the United States is Our Country".

And for this reason I chose the Kansas City Star pattern "Our Country."  The block, unfinished, will measure 16-1/4" square. This pattern has four squares that are foundation paper pieced... only four, so don't be scared.  Below I have some tips to help you out...

Once you’ve printed off your pattern, cut out each section, making sure to keep the 1/4” seam all around.  Take a postcard or a piece of cardstock and fold back the first line to create a nice crisp crease.  

Next you are going to trim the fabric to the size of the Red1 section BUT with a ¼ inch seam all around.  Pin into place.  RIGHT side of fabric facing down.

Now moving on to section White2.  This piece of fabric needs to be bigger than the size of the section.  It is best to always be generous in size as it’s very frustrating if you find it’s not large enough when you’ve sewn it as unpicking tiny stitches through paper is a pain. (Yes I speak from experience!)  The best way to ensure this is to hold it up to the light to check the fabric covers the whole section plus a 1/4” seam allowance all around.

Use a rotary cutter to create a straight line down one side, leaving the 1/4" seam allowance and line it up with the first section, RIGHT sides together. 

Open the pattern, right side up, and stitch along the line between section 1 and 2, remembering to use a shorter stitch length to make the removal of the paper foundation easier.  

Flip the paper over and iron section White2 into position. That’s your first two sections accurately sewn together!

Repeat the same steps for White3, as shown.

Trim to size and you are ready to piece the larger block.

So, there you go!  Wasn't that simple???  

Are you new to Foundation paper piecing?  One of the great features of FPP is the accuracy of points... nice and crisp and nearly always perfect!

While my Grandparents were never able to fulfill the requests for small parcels or care packages to the men that requested them, they probably offered the best gift possible to those men while they worked in the fields... They offered kindness...

In these challenging times of the pandemic we need to be intentional about being kind...

What is a simple act of kindness you can extend to others today?

Leave a comment... I'd love to hear about how you are spreading cheer!

Quilt Happy!


Was there something else in the letter that captured your attention?  Any other tidbit of info that brought a question to mind?

I'd love to hear that as well!

Don't forget to link up your finished block for an opportunity to win a fat quarter!  Tag me on instagram @MelvaLovesScraps and use #piecesfromthepastsewalong or post on my fb wall - also Melva Loves Scraps.  I love seeing the variety of blocks from everyone!

Are you new to the sew along?  All of the previous posts are still available...

Block 1 - Signature Block
Block 2 - Lost Goslin' Block
Block 3 - Mayflower Block
Block 4 - Flower Garden Block

Linking with:

Put Your Foot Down at For the Love of Geese
Needle & Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation
Creative Compulsions at Bijou Bead Boutique
Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Off The Wall Friday with Nina Marie
Brag About Your Beauties at From Bolt to Beauty
Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More
Friday Foto Fun at Powered by Quilting
Finished or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts
Scrap Happy Saturday at Super Scrappy
BOMs Away at What A Hoot Quilts
Sunday Stash at QuiltPaintCreate
What I Made Monday at Pretty Piney
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts


  1. After reading the letter, my first thought was "WOW".Having to live off the amount of food they had when they returned home was horrible. It must have been extremely hard for them. Did they ever make it back to the US?
    Just so you know, I am not a big fan of paper piecing. So if you heard a noise, that was just me moaning. LOL
    Thank you for the pattern.

  2. Oh I do love reading these letters, Melva. I too noticed about the ration of food that had to last 14 days! So sad. I'm sure all of them, or at least most, would much rather be back at the farm. Reminded me of the Prodigal Son who said even his father's servants were well fed. The other thing I noted was how beautiful his hand writing was! Thanks for sharing. I think the Bierocks sound awesome!! Thanks for this pattern. I'm not fond of paper piecing, but at some point will give it a go!!

  3. These runzas sound very much like Finnish pasties the men in the mines of northern Michigan would eat for lunch. No cabbage, but maybe carrots, rutabagas or turnips along with meat and potatoes. These letters are real eye openers. I'm glad you are doing this series. And I may use my tri-recs rulers on those fpp!

  4. Hi Melva! I saved your post to read later today when I could enjoy it fully. I just love reading these snippets of history, and it hurts my heart to know how bad it was for those men when they returned to Germany. Your runzas look and sound delicious! I think your father would be very proud of how you took it upon yourself to give them another try. I will give this block a try soon - I would say this weekend but who knows if it will actually happen then. What a good sized block this is! Take care, my friend and thank you for sharing this sew-along with us. ~smile~ Roseanne

  5. Yes, I imagine that homemade bread would make all the difference in the world for such a simple meal. I've never had runzas before but now I'm going to be on the lookout for them when I'm out that way!

  6. Beautiful Block - and a great story!!!

  7. Such an interesting block. I've never seen one. The comments about what their home was like, physically, struck me. With all the bombing, I imagine it looked impossible to ever make the country right again. Today, it's beautiful. My German ancestors came here in 1851, and I'm glad they did. My dad was an Army officer in that same war and served as part of the army of occupation in both Japan and later Germany. I've heard many stories of both countries, but the ones from Germany always made me so sad, the things they saw there were general destruction. Japan had the big bombs, but not as much general destruction. It would be nice if we never had to live through such times again.

  8. Melva, these Pieces from the Past posts are fascinating!! I have thoroughly enjoyed catching up on them all. My husband's family is from Nebraska, where there were a lot of German settlers (several of his family lines immigrated there from Germany in the late 1800s and early 1900s). Runzas are a big part of his memory. :)

  9. Melva, I enjoyed this bit of history and the letter. The letter just makes this story so much more real. I personally think the Runzas sound tasty! That part of your story was interesting to me because my son served a church mission in Germany and my daughter served in Russia. It was fun to see those two countries come together for a bit in your story in Nebraska.

    I also love your quilt block and tutorial!

  10. Great block, I am loving these posts. Thank you for linking up to Put your foot down.

  11. Hi again, Melva! I am happy to say I remembered to link up my block today! Woot woot. I've been meaning to ask you about this linky party and wondering how you like it. Maybe you would share you thoughts when you have a minute - no rush! I'm thinking it's cheaper than the 8/month I'm paying now for InLink with the same options . . . Thank you! ~smile~ Roseanne

  12. Hello, I just recently found your blog, don't remember where I linked in from...oh well. I am in Sterling, on the other side of Colorado. We grew up eating Cabbage Pockets at school for lunches, always homemade in the 60's. I moved to Nebraska in 1972, where I first heard them called Runzas. I have found we like ours better made with the frozen dough that Rhoades makes. We were a big family and my mom would add rice to ours to extend the filling. Something I still do. Enjoying reading the letters and history, my grandmother used to talk about some of those things.

    1. The addition of rice is seems smart! I'm glad you stopped by. Blessings!