Interview with Ludwig Bruggemann
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Northwest Public Television | Bruggemann_Ludwig
Camera man: There we go. That's pretty good?
Robert Bauman: Pretty good.
Cameraman: Okay. Seems like we ought to record that.
Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Yep.
Camera man: Yep. We’re rolling.
Bauman: Okay. All right, guess we're ready to get started.
Ludwig Bruggemann: Good.
Bauman: So, if we could start first by just having you say your name and spell it for us.
Bruggemann: My name is Ludwig Bruggemann. Ludwig, L-U-D-W-I-G, Bruggemann, B-R-U-G-G-E-M-A-N-N.
Bauman: All right, thank you very much. And my name's Bob Bauman. Today's date is September 8, 2014. And we're conducting this interview in Yakima, Washington. So, Mr. Bruggemann, I wonder if we could start by having you tell us a little bit about your family, your parents, and if you know why they moved to the area and when they did that?
Bruggemann: Okay. In my father's generation there were three brothers. And my father wanted to become a farmer. And my family had connections to people in Seattle that had access to farms, real estate evidently, real estate people. And my father migrated to America in about 1925, '26. And worked his way up the West Coast, from California on up. And in the between time, his family, or these real estate people had found a farm in the state of Washington that was installed. It was built, everything was there. The person owning it wanted to sell, and my father was able to purchase this 400-acre farm on the Columbia River. Being very important, having water, this is almost a desert area, and he had a big pump station on the Columbia River, water pump station.
Bauman: So that was in place already, when he bought it?
Bruggemann: That was in place, and he took it over and got it going, got it working right.
Bauman: Any idea how much your father paid for it?
Bruggemann: No, no idea at all, no.
Bauman: And so what sort of crops were grown on the farm?
Bruggemann: My father had--what, Paula?
Paula Bruggemann Holm: I don't know if it was soft fruit.
Bruggemann: No, it was soft fruit as I remember.
Holm: Apricots, peaches?
Bruggemann: Cherries, wasn't it? Wasn't it cherries? Peaches? Apricots? Pears, maybe.
Bruggemann: No apples, no. And he later wanted to go into grapes.
Bauman: Oh, okay so that was the plan for down the road.
Bauman: And your mother--was your father married at the time that he purchased the property?
Bruggemann: My father was married I think at the time he purchased the property. But he got a divorce and then he met my mother whose relatives were running the ferry.
Bruggemann: At Priest Rapids. And that's how my mother met him, and found him evidently a very attractive man.
Bauman: And what was your mother’s name?
Bauman: And so what memories do you have, I know you were very young when your family left, what memories do you have of the place at all?
Bruggemann: Almost none. It was a big, big place, we had animals and about my fifth birthday I got kicked over by a goat. I was trying to pet one of her children and she didn't like that. [LAUGHTER] And I did experience-I sort of have it in my memory--the two jeeps driving in. With the orders, the government orders, you have two months to pack your things and get out of here. Which is a real blow for a farmer.
Bruggemann: Because, you see, my father had his first crop on the trees. Because later in the dealings, the court dealings he had, they ask him, show us your profits. And he said look, I built up that farm and I had my first crop on the trees and your two jeeps drove in. Military jeeps.
Bauman: Right. So your father then took the government to court at some point? Is that what you're saying?
Bauman: Your father, did he go to court then?
Bruggemann: Well later, I don't know when, where, we moved then to Yakima afterwards. My father thought that he had put his youth energy into that farm and he still wanted to remain a farmer, but he wanted something smaller, and which he could get here on the outskirts of Yakima. And he went to court, I think that was a normal procedure. You had to go to court I think, to find out what the proceeds would be--what the government would they pay for the property--and you're saying it's worth a lot of money and you have to prove that it's worth a lot of money.
Bruggemann: The land, the crops and so on. And well, the government asks show us your profits. And he didn't have any profits to show, so he got much less than he had hoped he would. Mm-hm.
Bauman: Did your father and mother, do remember them talking about this much at the time or later even, when you were older? Talking about having to move in 1943?
Bruggemann: No, not really. You see, my father was a real dedicated farmer and he took over 12 acres in here, in Yakima, but with cherries, Bing cherries, that were sold in New York. Really good fruit, peaches and apricots and that subject was sort of shoved to the back. I don't really remember any discussions; I do know that they were disappointed on the outcome, the financial outcome.
Bauman: I wonder if you have any other memories of other people--on farms, neighboring farms or other people that you knew in the area or?
Bruggemann: Well, Gary and Margaret Wills, yeah, they had the contact and they were out there also weren't they?
Holm: Yeah, that's where they met them.
Bruggemann: Yeah, okay. Mr. and Mrs. Wills, they were also farmers and also came then the Yakima. See there were two big cities that you would go to, either Sunnyside or Yakima. Mm-hm, at that time.
Bauman: Right. So even when you were living on your farm if you needed to go to the city to buy things or whatever, you would go to?
Bruggemann: Yeah. Either we'd go to Sunnyside or to Yakima. And the Yakima tour was about an hour’s drive at the time.
Bauman: So you were about five years old? Is that right?
Bruggemann: I was just, my birthday's in the summer and those jeeps drove in the summer, so I was almost at my fifth birthday, right? When that happened.
Bauman: So you had not yet started school?
Bruggemann: No, no, no, no, no. I had no kindergarten--they didn't have kindergarten then. I started in Castleville, I think Castleville School, didn't I? I started there, yeah in the first grade and which I just loved--a very good school, Castleville.
Bauman: Now we were talking earlier that you and your sister had the chance to go back on site a couple years ago, Gary Peterson, right?
Bruggemann: Yeah, right.
Bauman: Had you been back before then at all?
Bruggemann: No, we would--you know where the Vantage Bridge is, Okay. I would take trips--on my trips here to the States I would take trips with my parents to the Vantage Bridge. And there's a little stop there, a little rest area there. And we would look over the fence to the old house, we thought it was the old house until--well the house was there for a while anyway, until they tore it down--but that's all, that’s the only--
Bauman: So that time with Gary was the first time you had actually been out--
Bruggemann: In the area, yes. Yes. Yes.
Bauman: What, I'm kind of curious, did it bring back any memories for you? Or what sorts of things.
Bruggemann: Not really. Not really. I don't remember the house at all, for example. I don't remember. I know my memory set in when I came to Yakima.
Bruggemann: But it was, well wait, wait, wait, one thing, one thing. My mother was always very much loaded with work and cooking and even washing for help, washing clothes and so on for help. It was a real burden for her. I don't think when she married my father, she didn't realize what type of work is involved in a big ranch because if you have 400 acres, you need a lot of help. Cooking and so on, housing these people to a certain degree.
Bauman: Do you remember any of the other buildings that were there? Your sister mentioned the cook house, I think.
Bruggemann: The cook house is still there.
Bauman: The building is still there, right?
Bruggemann: Yeah. No not, not really there. There must've been some big barns and so on there but I just don't remember that at all. I remember having a dog.
Bauman: Yeah. And you mentioned the size of the property, obviously, your father must have hired a number of workers.
Bruggemann: Oh, yes, yes.
Bauman: Do you remember workers being around?
Bruggemann: No, no, no, not really. The only thing I remember was loading--my father would take the fruit to the rails, to the, what was it? What was the rail track station? Anyway there's a there's a railroad station there. And one day—
Bruggemann: No, no. Priest Rapids or something. Anyway one day a big train came in and the engineer, the driver of the train, saw me standing down there with my father and he asked me, do you want a Coke? I must've said yes and he threw me down a Coke. [LAUGHTER]
Bruggemann: Which really impressed me at that time.
Bauman: That is something that you would remember.
Bruggemann: But that was also something that was very important, getting the fruit out of there, getting it onto the train. Make sure things are running, make sure the fruit gets to the right storage and so on, the cool house.
Bauman: What was the weather like? Do you remember winters or summers at all?
Bruggemann: No, I don't remember winters at all, but summers were warm. Warm, very warm.
Bauman: And you mentioned having a dog.
Bauman: Young people today are used to a lot of things to keep themselves entertained, and so they would probably want to know, as a young child, what did you do on the farm? You were probably too little to have any chores or anything like that, right?
Bruggemann: No, no. My mother would probably ask me to set the table or something maybe, but no, I was really, really too young. And I think also, that my sister and I were quite a burden for my mother. Because she had so much work to do and she had entertain us also. And by the way, your comment is interesting to me because young people today tend to say to the mother: I'm bored, fix that please. I never said that once my life. I took life as it came and that's one of the reasons I liked school so much because school was for me then, exciting.
Bauman: So then in 1943 when you had to move, when your family had to move, you said you moved essentially to Yakima then?
Bruggemann: We moved here into Yakima into a rented house while my father looked for a farm out here on Englewood Avenue then.
Holm: The Canfield--he bought the Canfield house.
Bruggemann: The Canfield house, okay.
Holm: He was a representative for the state or something. He never liked that house.
Bauman: So I interviewed a number of people as I explained to you earlier, both people who lived in the area before 1943 and then people came to work at Hanford during the war. Why do you think it'd be important for people to learn about--know about, learn about--these communities, these farmers, and families that were there before World War II.
Bruggemann: Well, one reason, the hardships that people were willing to go through. If at that time I would have been say, 20, 25 and I got a letter or something, saying you can earn a lot of money if you go to Hanford, well sure, I could have probably earned a lot of money but it would have been a lot of hardship also. And I think that's much different than today. People are not willing to go through hardship like that--building up a community in that short of time and working hard, maybe more than eight hours a day, to get that project working. An atomic bomb was a very important thing, you know? It was one of the factors of winning the war.
Bauman: Right. Are there any other memories, either of the farm itself, the ranch, the area that you still remember or think about, sort of standout?
Bruggemann: No, no, I just remember also a hardship. Now, now look. If my wife wants some butter, like this morning she told me I need butter. So what do I do, I get in my car, I drive a mile down to Freddy Meyer, have a butter within five minutes and I'm back again. If something happened on the ranch, my dad or my mother made an hour trip driving on roads that weren't nearly as nice as they are today.
Bruggemann: So this hardship--I noticed that. That was always a big thing. I'm sure my father had many flat tires coming to Yakima.
Bauman: Right. So things we take for granted today, a lot more work.
Bruggemann: Yeah, yeah. And the thing is, life is so easy now. You're like, let's take Freddy Meyer for an example. I was in that store this morning, it's huge and has everything that I can think of.
Bruggemann: If my mother at the ranch wanted some little thing she had to go to Yakima to get it. There was no other way of purchasing that. Meaning a trip, a dirty trip to Yakima one hour both ways.
Holm: [INAUDIBLE] White Bluffs. Some of these little towns had a few--a grocery store or something.
Bruggemann: Yes, but--
Holm: I remember, I think he went to Sunnyside.
Bauman: So I just want one more question unless you have something else you want to talk about but what would you like people to know or understand or remember about your family and the ranch? You know, we were talking earlier, the cook house that's there is one of the few buildings from pre '43 that's still standing that people can see as a concrete reminder that there were families there.
Bauman: So is there anything that you, that either of you would like people to understand if that they get a chance to see that building.
Bruggemann: Well I don't know, the German word, pioniergeist, the willingness to pioneer something. That is the important thing. And then my mother going into this pioniergeist type of thing and finding it a terrible burden. I mean things don't always work out perfectly, you know? And then something like this war situation coming up, and just completely changing your life--now for me it was probably a good change. I think I had an advantage, getting in right away at the age of six, going to a nice school here in Yakima which was probably much better than I would have had out at the ranch.
Bauman: Right. Makes sense.
Bruggemann: Yup. I also at that time, as opposed to today, I had very good teachers. 50-year-old women that knew what they were doing.
Bauman: I was just thinking, your parents in some ways came from very different places, right?
Bruggemann: Yeah, sure, sure, sure.
Bauman: So was your father bilingual? Did he speak English and German?
Bruggemann: Yes, German and English both, yes. Sure.
Bauman: Oh, okay. And did he speak both at home there?
Bruggemann: No, we didn't, at home we spoke English--my mother's language.
Bauman: Right, sure. Did you learn any German from your father growing up?
Bruggemann: No, no I didn't. I learned German the hard way. [LAUGHTER]
Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Well, the last question I wanted to ask, is there anything that you want to add? Or some memory that we haven't talked about yet?
Holm: Do you remember the hermit?
Bruggemann: The hermit? No.
Holm: On the way to Sunnyside? We'd always stop and talk to him and he just was thrilled to death, talking to my mom, our mom.
Bruggemann: No, no. I don't know that.
Bauman: That's right, you had mentioned him.
Bruggemann: I only remember--Do you remember the halfway house?
Holm: Well the name, yeah.
Bruggemann: The halfway house was an abandoned house that was sort of halfway to Yakima. [LAUGHTER]
Bauman: Oh, so that’s why it’s the halfway house?
Bruggemann: Yeah, halfway house. Yeah they never tore it down, they just let it and yeah it doesn't exist anymore. But that's also an indication that it was quite a trip to Yakima, you know?
Holm: I guess it was quite a trip when I had to go to the bathroom all the time, I'm not doing them well. I just want to kick them and go through the boards.
Bauman: So I guess, you mentioned the Wills family?
Bruggemann: The Wills, yes.
Bauman: Any other family names you remember?
Bruggemann: No, no. I don't know.
Holm: And Frye. Frye just died here, not too long ago.
Bauman: Okay, so I think you had mentioned that Gilhuly name when I was here.
Holm: F-R-Y-E, I think it is.
Bauman: One other question I was going to ask, did you have a radio or did you get a newspaper at all? I'm curious how you learned about, your family, if you know.
Bruggemann: Yes we surely had a radio but the radio became important here in Yakima, I thought because my dad would sit in the evenings--not at the TV but he would sit at the radio- and he would get the two children and say come on, listen in. And there were also some plays or something on the radio that were entertaining. Pardon?
Holm: The Cinnamon Bear every evening.
Holm: We didn't have TV until like '51.
Bruggemann: No, no. See TV was much later.
Bauman: Yeah. I just wondered if radio or newspaper, if you—
Bruggemann: No, no. Well, we had the Yakima Herald newspaper everyday, but we listened a lot in the evenings to radio. Just like people sit in front of the TV nowadays.
Bauman: Okay, well thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Bruggemann: Well I wish I knew more, but in one way it's amazing to me, too, that I have such a fragile memory of the whole thing, you know? But things changed then when we came to Yakima.
Bauman: Sure. I don't know that I remember much before I turned five, so.
Bruggemann: Yeah, yeah.
Bauman: But yeah, I appreciate you taking the time out of your trip here to the states.
Bruggemann: Sure. Well, I am very, very willing to do this. It's important to show a good picture of history, the way it was. And especially this project. I think this project—whew, any place in the world, it is surely a huge project that worked and worked under pressure too. A lot of pressure.
Bauman: Right. And we were talking earlier, we want to preserve as many of the memories- both of the people who came to work on the project and also people who were here before that, make sure people understand there were farmers and towns there.
Bruggemann: Yeah, yeah.
Bauman: That's important. Again, thank you very much, I really appreciate it.
Bauman: All right.
Years in Tri-Cities Area
Gary and Margaret Wills