S: Sisters ~ Bonnie Lynn and Kathleen Ann
BC: “She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.” — Barbara Alpert
1: After being the first and only for 2 1/2 years, Bonnie was very excited about getting a new member in the family. She was even more excited when she got to see her new baby sister. She immediately became the "little mother" and was a great help in watching her new sister. | The Beginning
2: Although they now lived on a farm 10 miles south of Steele, the Barta family, especially Grandma and Grandpa Barta were present to celebrate and interact with Bonnie and Kathy. | Both within the family and without, our sisters hold up our mirrors: our images of who we are and of who we can dare to be. Elizabeth Fishel
3: From the very beginning Bonnie was a very helpful. After the birth of Kathy, Mom had a bout of depression. The doctor suggested that Dad take her on a vacation, but financially they were not able to do that. Later Bonnie was in the hospital and Kathy had to stay with Aunt Emma and Uncle Rennie. Here is a letter she sent to Kathy in Bonnie's name: | Dear Cathy, I am feeling fine and having a nice rest – no fights with my baby sister. I am in a room with 4 beds. I am up on 4th floor and I can look out of the window & see Koenigs store. There is snow on all the roofs & I can see the cars go by & hear the trains, too. They are giving me steam. They have the steamers going all the time and they give me one medicine to drink. I like the nurses and Dr. Freise was in to see me today. I like him a lot. I saw Dr. Thompson and Grosued yesterday as Freise was so busy. Mommie is staying with Klevens and last nite Sandra slept with Mommie. Today Mommie spent all forenoon downtown and bought quite a lot of things for me. A lot of color books and something to cut out. Then Mommie brought me a rose bathrobe fore me so we both have one now. Are you having lots of fun with Aunt Emma? You are being a good girl eating your prunes and drinking lots of milk. Mommie went in to see Dale Frasen & Tommy Weiser. Then Cana Weiser was in to see me, too. I don’t know for . . . . I’ll be home but I hope Mon. or Tues. You be. . . . . . . . . . . . . . pray for cathy. . . Tell Aunt Emma hello & be nice to Aunt Em & Unc Rennie & have lots of fun. We love you, Bonnie & Mommie
4: We also spent time with our Aunt Elma and Uncle Howard and our cousins Vernon and Duane who lived 60 miles away in Jamestown.
5: Although the farms were somewhat distant, Mom and Dad had get-togethers with their neighbor-friends and the kids could all have fun times. | Bonnie on left end & Kathy on second from right on steps. Taken at Grandma Fallgatter's house in Kintyre. | Kathy, Bonnie, John Ross Riskedahl, Eunice Swanson, and Roger Riskedahl.
6: What fun we would have as we were always playing together – we had no one else there, so we became best friends. One “game” we loved to play was house in the “woods” just north of the house. In the summer time it was always cooler and darker there. We had some little pots and pans that we would cook our grass and weeds in, we had some dishes and silverware to eat our delicious “meals,” and we had our “babies’ to take care of. I remember we loved to have tea parties. We would dress our dolls and take them to tea. There were always dogs and kitties around. I liked the kitties, but they didn’t especially want to be held so it was a struggle to “love” them. They were outdoor pets and never really bonded with us.
7: In 1946 the family drove to Washington for Christmas. It was hard for Mom living in North Dakota while all her family was in Washington. Dad was aware of her loneliness and tried to take these trips. We all had lots of fun with our Washington cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. | Upside down with Uncle Chet and Mom | We were with Grandpa and Grandma Hill | Fun in a wheelbarrow with Uncle Chet | We are in the park with Mom and Aunt Mabel
8: Lillian, Ruthie and Cammie visited ND in 1945. Here Cammie is with Bonnie and Kathy. Guess she wasn't too happy. | Summers were always the best on the farm. Here we are on the farm before we moved into town. | Summer Fun
9: In 1947, it was time for Bonnie to go to school. Because she had asthma, the doctor did not think she should go to a country school. Of course Bonnie had been looking forward to going to school at the schoolhouse quite close to the farm. She had asked Mom and Dad to get her a little red pedal car to drive to school. When they took her into the kitchen to tell her they were going to move, she thought they were going to tell her she would get her pedal car. So when she realized she was not going to be able to drive to school, she was very disappointed. | Before school began, Dad had the wash house from the farm moved into town. He made that into the kitchen and bedroom and added two rooms - a living room and another bedroom for Bonnie and me - to the front of the house plus a bathroom. He also made part of the full basement into an apartment where Dave and Vivian Barth lived.
10: In 1948, we again made the trip to Washington for Christmas with the Hills. Here we are with first Dad and then Mom at Snoqualmie Pass. It was the last time we would try to travel across the mountains for Christmas. We stopped at a lodge and ordered fried chicken. They brought us finger bowls and Bonnie and I had no idea what they were. Mom had to explain what they were and how to use them.
11: We were growing up changing from the two little girls from the country to city girls. Bonnie was a flower girl for a wedding, and we got a tricycle and wagon to use in the city. | Bonnie and I would often play together, especially in the winter when it was too cold to go outside. If she wanted me to do something and I objected, she would threaten to run-away from home. She would get out her little maroon suitcase and start to pack up the things she would take. How gullible I was as I would always capitulate and let her have her way. She was so smart she could always out-manipulate me.
12: The summer of 1949 was a fun time. We celebrated both Bonnie & Kathy's birthdays - Bonnie got a new bike so Kathy got her old tricycle. We were hot stuff! | We also found out that we were to be joined by a baby, and we were so excited. | Sisterhood is a club with a lifetime membership!
13: The summer of 1950 included a trip to Washington. This time since it was summer, we could stop and see all the wonderful sights. The first were the Badlands of North Dakota. Then we went on to Yellowstone Park where we were really impressed by Old Faithful geyser. We also got to dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean. It was so cold! This was a very special trip because it was really our first sightseeing vacation. We also had fun at Lake Goodwin with Cammie, Steven, and Sheila. | We never had enough time to stop and read the road-side historical markers. I vowed that when I grew up I was going to take a road trip and stop at all the roadside markers.
14: Mom loved to tell us Bible stories.As a teacher and Sunday school teacher she made a flannel board. She would cut out figures of Bible characters and tell us the stories as she used the board. Even though she had quit teaching she never quit being a teacher to her children. One thing she had wanted to do was to have Dad build a travel trailer and tour all over the United States. She was always adventuresome and eager to learn. She decided she would take us out of school and teach us as we traveled. However, when she got pregnant with Charette she put that dream aside.
15: When we first moved to town we were so excited to have lots of people to play with – Bonnie made friends with Carol Jean Leetun right away. Since Carol Jean didn’t have a little sister, she was fond of me and wanted to take me along when she and Bonnie would play. I was younger, and even though there were kids my age within a block of my home, Mom didn’t want me to go to their houses alone. She would always make Bonnie take me along. It was all right at first, but as she grew older, she didn’t want me tagging along. | Majorettes - Janell Leetun, Bonnie, Carol Jean Leetun and Kathy | We got a TV set when we were in elementary school. We got it through Dave Barth who worked at Hedahl’s. It was a console TV in a light finish. When we first got it there was not early a.m. coverage. We would sit and watch the test pattern until the TV began its broadcast day. A favorite program was “Valiant Lady” a “soap” about a woman whose husband was in a coma. She fell in love with someone else but could not be with him because she was obligated to her husband. We really enjoyed Saturday night when “The Hit Parade” would come on. We especially enjoyed watching Gisele MacKenzie sing “How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?” Snooky Lanson, Dorothy Collins, and Tommy Leonetti were also our favorites. Since we didn’t buy records at that time, those were the artists we remember with the songs instead of the original artists. Dad liked to watch wrestling on late TV on Saturday nights. He knew it was staged so enjoyed the antics of the wrestlers. Jack took Dad to see one of the matches, but he said Dad did not seem to really enjoy the “real” thing.
16: In 1952 we made another summer trip by car to Washington. Dad bought Mom a 1952 Chrysler which was a real luxury for us. Cammie died in 1950, but Aunt Mabel had married Uncle Michael and Uncle Chet married Aunt Bernita. They added Bradd to the family and would later add Cordd, Brenda & Denise. Aunt Lillian would also add Shelly. So instead of four Hill cousins we now had four with four more on the way.
17: One day the neighborhood had a softball game in our driveway. I had been particularly obnoxious about getting to play. Bonnie didn’t want me to play because I wasn’t very good. But the others felt sorry for me and persuaded her to let me play. As usual I made more than my share of errors which made Bonnie more convinced that I shouldn’t be playing. It was my turn to bat and I actually hit the ball. It was really a good hit, and I ran to first and then to second. The ball came in, and I was safe, but Bonnie insisted that on the close call I was out. I was so mad and humiliated that I went into the house and the bathroom. I lay down on the floor and kicked the door. Unfortunately the door was just made of Masonite and gave way. I had kicked a hole in the door! I knew I was in trouble. Mom and Dad were working on the new 2-story house next door, and I decided it was better to tell them right away. They both came to observe the scene of the crime. Dad was very stern with me and asked me what had happened. He told me that since I was truthful – which wasn’t always the case – that my punishment would be less severe. Afterwards Mom told me that she and Dad had stood out in the hall and laughed about my temper and my strength. | Growing up . . .
18: We also played in the band at school. We both started out on a trumpet. Bonnie ended up playing a mellophone until Mom and Dad got her a French horn. Eventually Mom and Dad bought me a baritone horn. The biggest problem was that as the band became better, they were invited to parades, but we had no uniforms. So a Band Boosters was organized. Mom and Dad were very involved. Their biggest fund raiser was a booth where they sold drinks and sloppy joes. They always asked Dad to take the late night shift as the patrons were leaving the bar. They would come over and order sloppy joes and coffee - lots of coffee. And Dad was the perfect listener. He made lots of money for them. I think he would have been a good bartender. The irony was that once we got the uniforms they were so hot because they were made of wool. We would be in the parade and then run quickly and get out of them because they were so uncomfortable. | By the time I got into high school, Bonnie and I again became friends – she was the big sister and I was very proud of her. On the other hand I had my own friends and didn’t have to “run-around” with Bonnie and her friends. Our school was such that there wasn’t too much separation between junior high and high school. We had the same classrooms and the same teachers. I was in science class and the science teacher for some reason made a crack about Bonnie and called her a “slut” or something like that. I was furious. Normally I was an obedient student and never got into trouble or talked back to my teachers. But he had gone too far. I said, “You can’t talk about my sister like that!” I think he was totally taken aback by my response. I think he realized he had gone too far, because I never got into trouble for talking back. I may say nasty things about my sister, but no one else had the right to say nasty things about her!
19: In 1958 when Bonnie went off to Concordia College, I was so lonely for her. She asked Mom if I could come down for a week-end and stay with her. I was over-joyed. Bonnie welcomed me with open arms, and she included me in everything and didn’t act ashamed of me. It was such a confidence builder for me. At that point, our relationship changed forever. | By the time I was ready to go to college, Bonnie was attending Jamestown College. She was well established becoming the first female Student Body Treasurer. When I got a scholarship to go there, I was thrilled to be able to go to Bonnie’s college. Bonnie worked in the Admissions office the summer of 1961. After my acceptance, I applied for housing. I received a letter telling me that my request for a specific roommate was denied. I could not room with Robbie Fallgatter as she was not enrolled. Of course we realized that Bonnie had to have been behind the letter as Rob Fallgatter was my boyfriend. | In 1962 right after their graduation, Bonnie and Jack were married and not only moved to Fargo, but moved into a new stage of their lives. We kept in touch - I went to NDSU in Fargo for two years (1964-1965). After my graduation I moved to California. Although we were miles apart the rest of our lives, we continued the close relationship they formed earlier in life.
20: I think Bonnie had the greatest influence on my life. I was proud of how smart Bonnie was, and I tried to live up to the Barta tradition in high school. Bonnie never criticized me nor treated me as if I was not as smart as she. She ignored me for many years, as she was expected to let me tag along with her friends and her. I really understood why she would get upset with Mom for making her take me along, but I also loved being with them. When I wanted to do something, I would say, “Mom will never let me do that.” Finally Bonnie said, “if you don’t ask, you’ll never get to do it. You never know, she may let you. All she can do is say ‘No’!” She also had a wonderful sense of humor and a quick wit. When I explain that to other I tell the story of when I was older, and we were talking about my lack of physical prowess. I said, “The only thing I’m half-way good at is bowling.” Bonnie’s response was “Blind people bowl!” She always had that slightly skewed sense of humor, and I loved it. I couldn’t be witty like she was, but I could enjoy being with her and laughing with her. | The best thing about having a sister is that I always have a friend