“We came here from Switzerland in 1950 without ever seeing our farm, only pictures. There was an advertisement in the newspaper and we made a down payment. We knew we had to learn English so we studied and it was hard. We came over by boat and then took a train from New York. That was really something. We got a lot of help from people around here; the Stolces and Buchlis were our good friends. We had a lot of nice neighbors and when our kids went to school, we learned English a lot more. I had to help them with their homework and to this day, I still ask them how to write something in English sometimes when I write a letter.
The farm Elma lives on that she and her husband bought 67 years ago.
When I was 23, we had soldiers from the Swiss Army boarding horses in our family barn, which was tradition back then. My husband was their officer and it just happened that I was home. That is how we met. We got married when I was 25 and then we moved here 2 days later.
Elma’s wedding day in 1950
My husband thought being a farmer in America sounded good. It was a lot of work. The farm was in rough shape, but my husband was a workaholic. We worked a lot and when you’re young, you do those things. My folks and his folks said, “Ohhhhh, let them go, they’re going to come back soon.” At that time, you didn’t dare think about going that far so our family didn’t really visit, it was really different that way. My dad came once and he thought we were a little bit crazy. It was not always easy, but we made it. Every year, we had a different hired hand from Switzerland come and work on our farm. Most of them came because they had to learn English. There were a lot of them, I should have made a book. One of them visited me last week and he usually sends us Swiss chocolates and Swiss magazines.
The entrance to the farm that Elma and her husband moved to America to build.
The hardest part about moving here was that you didn’t use phones much at that time because it was expensive so it was hard to stay in touch with our relatives. Things have changed so much, I talk on the phone a lot these days. We have been here for over sixty years and I like it here. It still takes time for me to get used to everything. When I came, I missed some of my relatives and my mother and father, but you learn to live differently. We always had a dairy farm. We bought one farm and then another farm and a third one. My husband never got enough, I thought he was a little bit crazy. He worked too hard, sometimes you work day and night; you know how that goes with farming. I cooked for all the guys. Things have changed over the years and farming is different now, but that’s the way it goes.
I don’t like when people always criticize others; it’s sad in a way. If people are being negative (politically), I say let’s cut it short; you have a different opinion. I say ‘listen, nobody’s perfect: you and me are not perfect either. We all are different people and have different beliefs so why should we always argue.’ I am not perfect, but I tell people my opinion. They may not like me for that, but we have to take others as they are. The lord loves them all and we should, too.
I call it a miracle that I still can be here and live in my own home. I mean 92; how many of us are there? I gardened for many years, but gave it up four or five years ago; I just couldn’t do it anymore. Now, my youngest son brings me flowers and plants them for me. I have some ladies that do some baking and another that helps me with other things. My grandchildren are really always calling me and they are just a blessing. My husband passed away 9 years ago. He always thought I would go before him, but only the Lord knows when our time is up. I miss him in a way, but you accept it, you have to. So many widows I hear say, ‘Oh It’s so lonely, so lonely.’ and I say, ‘Keep on doing something; like volunteer work maybe.’ You have to try and change: the time is now, it is not in the past. Maybe I’m wrong.
Elma and her dog Sarah
My dog Sarah here is supposed to be a Swiss Cattle Dog, but she don’t like cattle too much. I saw some cattle up on the hill this morning, that was nice to see. I like it here because I think we are free like nobody else in the world maybe. Swiss people are pretty free too, but there is a lot of different opinions over there. People think they don’t need the Lord anymore and I am glad that I am able to go to a small church and we have good friends. Here, we are really free; we can say what we want, we can do what we want, buy what we want. If somebody doesn’t like us, let it be. I think American people are really generous. People would often ask me, ‘Do you want to go back?’ I told them that we are satisfied with what we have. We got our grandchildren here and we correspond with our people overseas. People have been good to us, we have lots to be thankful for. For me, the Lord is my freedom, he gives me the freedom. I’m happy to have lived this way, but I’m ready to go at any time.”
Elma and her youngest son Marcus