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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

Hidden Treasure: Eleanora Ernestine Ressler Hechler

I have reached the age where, when cleaning out files, I find all kinds of my own hidden treasures.

When I was in College Station at Texas A & M, I had to interview the oldest living member of my family for a methods class on teaching history. At the time, that honor fell to my paternal grandmother, Eleanora Ernestine Ressler Hechler, who was about eighty years young at the time.

So, I present to you the following with a few changes. The interview was conducted by question and answer, and at the time I did the project, I answered in the third person. For the sake of bringing the story alive, I have rewritten the answers here in first person. I have done so without leaving out any of the historical context or content.

First, for a bit of background on my grandmother. She was born in 1905 in Frelsburg, Texas, to Josef Ressler and Annie Lutonsky. Neither of her parents were born here, and my father has Josef's naturalization papers. He was from Austria, although he came over as a very small boy. His mother boarded a boat in the old country and landed at New Orleans (shipping record). The story Grandma Hechler told was that his father was to join them after the war. Neither Josef, nor his mother, ever heard from the man once they left to come to the states. lt appears, based on what my grandmother often said, that the Lutonskys came at the same time and in the same situation - without their husband and father. He never came to join them either.

Grandma grew up in Colorado County, and she was almost grown when Josef moved the family to Crosby, Texas, where he bought a large acreage of land. Even at 80, she was sharp as a tack. She never, however, progressed past the fifth grade. She could speak English and Czech (which she conversed in solidly when with her sisters) and her memories, even when I interviewed her, were sharp and keen. If you got her working on a jigsaw puzzle, she would talk for hours. Even at her advanced age, you could detect the Czech accent which, at the time, I took no notice of. It was only in later years that I realized why she spoke a bit differently than the rest of us. When I conducted the interview, I seem to remember being at her house and around her dining table.

Eleanora Ressler (Hechler), left, and Helen Ressler, righ, First Communion, about 1910

And now - the interview . . ..

Which person in history do you think of as most interesting or remarkable and why?

I think Franklin Roosevelt is the most remarkable person because he was president during the depression. Times were so hard then, but he always tried to the honest thing.

What historical event happened in your lifetime that had the most significant effect upon your life?

The depression, even though we did not have a real hard time like most people. A lot of people lost their jobs and had a hard time making ends meet. I remember the soup lines. But your grandfather never lost his job [Humble Oil and Refinery] nor got his wages cut, so we were one of the lucky ones.

Tell about your early school experience.

I went to school in Fredericksburg. I was the youngest of ten children, so by the time I went to school I mostly went by myself. I really liked school and my favorite subject was arithmetic. Back then, the children went to school if they wanted to, but they did not have to go. The other kids in school were really mean kids, especially the girls. I remember one day, when I was twelve years old, one of the girls was thirteen, and she went upstairs in the attic and used the bathroom. The school was a one room wooden schoolhouse and that morning drops of water started to fall into the classroom. It was funny now, but it was not funny then.

What did you do for fun as a child?

I remember playing dolls with the neighbor girl who was about my age.

What are some of the things that are different today [abt 1984] for children than when you were a child?

I think children today are a lot like children when I was a child. I don't think parents take care of their children today like they did when I was a child. Parents are too busy doing their own thing.

In your present day society, what problems causes you the most concern?

Well, I wish more families would stay together. I also wish more people would, or could, work. when you are working you have less time to get into, or even think about getting into, trouble. And I wish, again, that people would take better care of their children.

Eleanora Ernestine Ressler Hechler lived another ten years past the interview, leaving this life in November of 1995. She was ninety years old.

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