There is a lot that will forever remain lost to the generations that followed William Charles Kreie and his wife Elida Wilhelmina Christina Hollander. It is, however, possible to know of events that occurred during their lifetimes that undoubtedly affected them or their neighbors.
Both William and Elida were born during the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, and William died during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. Interestingly, William was born within a year of the defeat of General Armstrong Custer at the battle of the Little Bighorn in eastern Montana territory.
There were only 38 states in the United States at the times of their births and 10 more would be added before William died, including the states of North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico.
The population of the United States in 1877 was just over 46 million, but by 1955 the population had grown to nearly 166 million persons or more than tripling the population of the U.S. in their lifetimes.
Transportation changed from horse and buggy to the automobile. Diesel-powered trains replaced steam engines. The airplane was invented, but neither Elida nor William probably ever flew in an airplane.
Their lives also encompassed the occurrence of other remarkable events, including:
- The invention of the light bulb
- Cowboy actions involving the OK Corral, Billy the Kid, Jesse James
- The Washington Monument was finally completed.
- The Spanish-American War
- The sinking of the Titanic (1912)
- Passage of Constitutional Amendments XVI -XXVI
- Federal Income Tax ratified, Amendment XVI (1913)
- World War I
- Prohibition and its later repeal, Amendments XVIII & XXI (1919, 1933)
- Right of women to vote in Federal elections, Amendment XIX (1920)
- Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic to Paris (1927)
- The Great Depression
- World War II
- The beginning of the atomic age
- The beginning of the Cold War
- The development of effective antibiotics
- Beginnings of Social Security
- The Korean War
- The development of the polio vaccine
- The beginning of Rock and Roll
- The beginning of the construction of the Interstate Highway System
- Entertainment inventions: movies, radio, television, recorded music
It is impossible to know how William and Elida felt about most of these events, being somewhat isolated in the upper Midwest and probably established in the local German community in Manitowoc and Antigo.
I have sometimes wondered how the German community in Wisconsin reacted during the two World Wars. During that time William was an engineer on a major railroad, and Manitowoc during World War II was a manufacturing base for submarines. Yet, as far as I know, the German community did not face the national hostility and/or suspicion as did the Japanese Americans during World War II. William completed a registration card for both World War I and World War II, although he was 64 at the beginning of the latter war. (See Appendix 4.)
I do not know if Elida practiced her dressmaking skills in Antigo, though it would seem likely that she did so for her four daughters. In the censuses, she is never listed as having an occupation.
It is easy to imagine that William brewed his own beer during the era of prohibition, but he probably also had easy access to beer or liquor since he traveled extensively as a result of his occupation. Kenneth Garrett, a grandson, wrote that Grandpa Kreie drank 'Berlin' beer and also that he spoke with an accent. Ken also mentioned that he did not get to know him very well at all.
Whether William or Elida generally voted Republican or Democratic is not known.
It is likely that William's job on the railroad kept them from any severe repercussions from the Great Depression. It would seem that the family was well cared for, but not well to do. It also seems likely that William and Elida felt some social consciousness in their early years. It is interesting that they attended an Episcopal church rather than Lutheran or Catholic one.. Their second grandson, Edward John Fiebke, did become an ordained priest within the Episcopal Church.
Finally, as Kenneth Fiebke wrote, "All in all, I missed not getting to know my Grandparents better!"