But Erwin was sickly as a child. He had a heart murmer, and once overheard his mother whispering to some one that she didn't expect him to live long enough to reach adulthood. Her words would haunt him for the rest of his life...which fortunately turned out to be a long one, because despite a weak heart, Erwin Wenk was a very strong, determined man.
He loved all things mechanical, and was an expert at engines, appliances, and anything that took engineering talent. This fit in nicely with his father's threshing business, where Martin needed someone to repair and maintain the machinery.
The Wenk brothers' threshing business worked all over Washtenaw County. One of their threshing clients, the Pritchard's, would soon figure very prominently in our line of the Wenk family. In 1915, the Pritchard family had moved from Illinois to Michigan and purchased the Updike farm in Sylvan. Three years later, DOROTHY IRENE PRITCHARD was born. She grew into a bright, happy young girl, and when she was eight years old, the Wenk thresher crew arrived to work on her father's farm. Dorothy was instantly smitten with Martin's handsome teenage son, Erwin, who was working on the crew. Still, she was eight years younger than Erwin, so when the two first met, Erwin didn't take much notice of her except to ask for food and drink (his brother Ernie, shy when he was young, never even looked up from his plate)... But Erwin would take notice of her, soon enough.
But maybe the differences in their families and their upbringing made for a richer relationship. Their romance was deep and special from the start. Every moment they spent together was chronicled and photographed. Mementos fill their house in Chelsea, and have been handed down and cherished by the succeeding generations.
Dorothy remembers: "When I was first married we lived at the Wenk Homestead. The layout of the house began with the kitchen. Above the kitchen was an attic-type storage place that could have been finished off into a room but never was. The kitchen had a wood range, and a tank off the range that heated the rainwater from the cistern in the tank. It also had an electric refrigerator; nice cupboards, counters, a table and chairs were to the right as you came into the door. A sink had running hot and cold water across from the stove. Most houses had cisterns back then. That's a big hole dug in the ground, usually bricked up, you had eves from the roof that filled the cistern. If there were too much rain you had to shut off the spouts so your basement wouldn't flood. Everyone had cistern pumps. Little hand pumps. That's how you got the water up into the house."
"The Wenk homestead had an electric pump to bring up the cistern water. This was used for washing and cleaning. You had an outside well for drinking. They might have had drinking water inside via pump. There was a bathroom upstairs with a tub with running hot and cold water and a drain, no sink or no stool. Off the kitchen was a sink where you washed and shaved. The toilet was an outhouse outside. In each bedroom was a chamber pot that could be used. Off the kitchen was the dining room. Off the dining room was a bedroom. After the dining room was the living rooms, the room closest to the road, which could be closed off with sliding doors. Off the living room was another bedroom. There was a closet between both bedrooms for both bedrooms. To go upstairs you would enter off the dining room, At the top of the stairs to the left were the bathroom and a bedroom to the right. Down the hall were two more bedrooms on the left. Through the one bedroom you entered into the attic that was above the kitchen. There was a small third floor you entered via stairway in which you stored stuff. There was a window and you could look out. The basement had a cistern pump and we did our laundry down there. The furnace was down there. There was a separate room where you stored the vegetables, Potatoes, carrots, cabbage. Also there was storage of canned vegetables there. I only lived there for one year... Grandpa Wenk had a raspberry patch and strawberry patch we would all pick and start our own patches from. It was handier to have my own patch. We made apple butter. We had bees for honey and someone would use the apple peeler, and we would add spices, and apples. Paul Eisele and Ernie would get together and make it in a big iron kettle over an open fire outside. I made several pie crusts and apple pie. We had wolf river apple. We sat back and laughed as they were not the best. 'Take some without asking,' we would say. There was mincemeat with green apples. My mother used suet of some kind, used others used beef. Carrots, ate them fresh."
After Erwin and Dorothy moved out, the Wenk families stayed close. Dorothy remembers: "We had confirmations, christenings, graduationswe always got together. Edna Burkhardt was always entertaining. She was organizer of it, enjoyed it. All of us came. Ruby, Walter, Carl Norman, Arlene, we got together a lot. Christmas, and just ever so often. Not just for special occasions. Quite often we went to Burkhardt's. Edna had us more than anyone else did it seemed as I recall. We always helped out on food. She organized it and we would all come. We had our special foods we brought. The short time they had a cottage at North Lake we would go there. We did not do games, we just sat around and talked. When we did dishes the women were in the kitchen, but otherwise we were inside and outside in living, dining and other rooms. We took turns at Christmas in having the get togethers. Grandpa Wenk at Christmas gave each family a bag of nuts and the children got money."
Whenever we visited we were always a little intimidated by Erwin. The harshness of his German accent made everything he said almost sound like an order, and it would take you a minuteuntil you saw the twinkle in his eyesto realize he was actually just teasing you. His favorite target was my brother, Ericthen just called Ricky (pronounced by Grandpa as "R-R-R-R-R-eeeeeeckeeeeeeeyyyyy").
Dorothy lived to age 92, passing on 3 Sep 2010:
I LOVE YOU, GRANDMA.
MORE GENERATIONS TO COME!