Your grandmother Louise saved the life of Bernadine Dahms. Perhaps she never spoke of it.. It was such a tragic thing and Louise and I both wished it had never happened. Dr. Dahms and his family were very good friends of us Schulz's. Dr. Dahms was the doctor at my birth..(I think there were Mid-wives who assisted when the others were born.) Bernie was at least a year older than I. It was a few days after Christmas in 1908. Dr. and Mame Dahms had attended a New Year party in Rock Island given by the Tri- City Medical Ass'n. Louise often stayed with the children..Bernie and Richard.. We never used the term "baby-sitting" in those days. I had been invited to come along with Louise and see their lovely Christmas tree. The large bedroom on the 2nd floor of the new house was used as a playroom and it had a bay window for a nice location for the tree. Candles were still used.. When Bernie wanted to get started lighting the candles, Dick wanted a drink. There was no glass in the bathroom..so Louise told her to wait while she went downstairs to get a glass for the drink. Bernie didn't obey. We girls wore Buster Brown dresses those days..with large sailor collars and full bloomers to match. Bernie's dress was blue linen and with a side front opening which had large half-dollar sized pearl buttons to fasten it. Mine was very much like that, too. Bernie moved a child-sized chair over to the tree which stood from floor to ceiling tall. Dick warned her. (He was 4 years old..I was five and Bernie was 6 at that time.) Bernie proceeded to light the candles on the lower branches and then stepped on the chair to reach some of the higher branches. The flames caught the hem of the dress and she jumped to the floor and ran for the doorway. I screamed for Louise and Dick did too. Louise had to dash upstairs and she grabbed Bernie and put her down on the long hall runner. It all happened so fast!!! Louise called to me to phone Grandma Minnick..and she tore over to the neighbors for help. Mrs. Min was Mame's mother and lived two blocks east of Dahmses. The neighbors, Misses Voss were music teachers (spinsters), they attempted to get the Dr. in Rock Island. Also called the nearest doctor to our address. The Dahms' had to come home in a taxi. It was such a dreadful ordeal for all of us. Dick cried and cried.. Bernie was wrapped in the rug and the flames were smothered.. but all that was left of her clothes was a little band of one leg of the bloomers and those big, pearl buttons. Her right arm and clear up to her neck was dreadfully burned. It was months of bed rest and care. Attempts were made to graft skin from Mame to her arms and neck, but the grafts never took. Many specialists were available to offer help and advice from Chicago and elsewhere, but Bernie always had to wear high necked blouses. She was very gifted with a high I.Q. so eventually she was given a professor-in-research degree in Ann Arbor, MI. I was still with her many times until we moved from W. 8th Street to 12th and Brady Streets and I had to change schools. But the sight of the blue dress on fire stayed with me like a nightmare for many nights.
IRMA WRITES ABOUT NAMES, March 8, 1992: I feel sure Louise's name was the German "Luisa" on her Baptismal Certificate, named for Tante Luisa, the grandmother of our 2nd cousins in Basel, Switzerland. The family called her that but used the English spelling 'Louisa'. However, when she signed her name it was officially "LOUISE". Her middle name "OLGA" was after a family friend, Olga Milke, who made a big fuss over our brother Bill who was only 3 when Louise was born. He was asked what he would like to name his new baby sister & said in German, "Oh, name her Olgali (the diminutive)! "Irma went on to say, "After many interesting chats with my mother I learned that family members were always involved in naming the current new baby. Kate was not old enough to be consulted about the 2nd child's name, but Karl Jacob was named for our Uncle Karl and Jacob after our father. Phillip William was named for our father's best friend and brother-in-law, Phillip Ehret. Kate was named for our Aunt Katherine and our maternal grandmother, Salomea. August was named after Uncle August and Uncle Steffen Schulz who came to the U.S. a few years after Jacob and settled near Lone Tree, Iowa. All the older children were contemplating a name for me and I did not have a permanent name until December (4 months later)! My mother wanted WILLA, short for Wilhelmina, but Father said it sounded like Villa. He chose Viola (pronounced "Fee-oh-la" in German) and Kate chose Irma. My only problems with this name were my initials I.S. (for years, friends called me Issy!) and having to correct the spelling of my first name (everyone wanted to spell it Erma). One boy who lived in our home years ago always heard Mother call me "Ear-mah", the German pronunciation, and decided to call me "Earmuff".
Louise worked as a housekeeper. She was best known for her fantastic sense of humor, her good nature, and her cooking. An interesting note about her cooking: When cleaning the basement in her early 40s, she found an unmarked bottle on a shelf. To identify the contents, she removed the lid and took a big whiff. It was straight ammonia, so strong she lost her sense of smell and taste for the rest of her life. Everyone was amazed at her cooking being so tasty since she couldn't taste test her new recipes! She had lost much of her vision due to a stroke in 1958. While riding in the car from the airport to Marion's home in Tampa, FL about 1960, she commented, "I knew Florida had palm trees, but so many?!" She laughed more than the rest of us when we explained she was seeing telephone poles! Fortunately, with some treatment she regained much of her vision later. JLR