LIFE’S SUNSHINE COMES THROUGH HELENA BRUSCHKE’S WINDOW
By Lois B. Mays
Charlton County Herald, July 31, 1985
When the poet wrote that “Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute, afore it’s a home there’s got t’ be a heap of living in it,” he must have had in mind dwellings such as the Bill Bruschke home place located on Homeland Park Road. Glancing out the living room window while guiding four needles trailing tails of dark green thread across a stretched-out, almost complete quilt this week, Helena Bruschke recalled “the lovin’ that made this house a home.”
“It seems to me that some of the most important and many of the every-day events in my life could have been seen through this very window!” she said. “My parents, the Herman Carl Wunderlich’s and my husband Bill’s parents, Richard and Emma Bruschke, were German immigrants from Saxony and Frankfort on the Oder River and settled down in this community next door to each other.”
“It must have been a familiar sight for Bill’s parents, who once lived in this house, to have seen through the window my family traveling this dusty road with a horse and wagon,” Helena commented thoughtfully.
When Bill Bruschke and his sister Charlotte, both having been born in Germany, became old enough, they attended school in Homeland with Mrs. M.G. White as their teacher. These German-speaking children learned their first English words there, and then taught their parents the new language.
The view from the window surely included the scenes from the courting days of Bill and Helena. They spent much of their time together strolling along the sandy road that connected the two homes, picking wildflowers. He “just happened to be” available to escort her home after dark when Helena and Bill’s sister, Helen, had finished high school bookkeeping homework assignments at the Bruschke home.
Bill and Helena decided, in February 1932, on a Sunday evening date, to marry on the following Monday even though she was to be an honor graduate at high school graduation in the spring. They told no one their plans and she wore her wedding dress, a fashionable tan crepe outfit with pleats along the hem, to school. Her friends “couldn’t understand why I was so dressed up that day,” she said. “That afternoon, after school was out, Bill took me for a ride in a friend’s car before going to the courthouse. He did this to allow for my classmates to leave the school and courthouse area so they wouldn’t know about the wedding.”
When the students had gone home Helena and Bill went to Ordinary Henry G. Gibson’s office at the county courthouse. Since two witnesses were necessary for the marriage ritual, Mrs. Lizzie Roddenberry, the county’s Tax Collector, and Jasper Stokes, who also worked at the courthouse attended the ceremony.
“We lived here nearly all our married life and we watched our children through this window as they played in the yard,” Mrs. Bruschke said as she ticked off the names…Richard, Jr., Walter, Dorothy and Doris. “Now I can watch a great-grand baby, Luke Gowen, when he runs across the lawn,” she said with obvious satisfaction.
The country was in a severe economic depression during the first years of marriage of the Bruschke family. Helena often watched from the window as Bill, who was a skilled carpenter, left for work early in the mornings, walking down the road with his tool box on his shoulder. It would be several years before they, and many others, could afford a car or truck.
Bill used his carpentering ability to build additional rooms on the Bruschke home. A lasting memorial to his craftsmanship is the two sections of wood pews he constructed which fill the sanctuary of the church where the Bruschke family worshipped, Homeland United Methodist Church.
“The scene across the road has changed through the years,” Helena said. “I remember when the 4-H Club log building was constructed, about where the pool is now. My father made the shingles for the building from cypress grown in the Okefenokee Swamp. Bill’s father helped put the logs together to make the building and received a painful injury to his hand when a log was dropped on it,”
For several years the Bruschke family could see through their window, wooden structures erected in front of the 4-H Club building for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). There were long dormitories, an office and a building for the kitchen and dining room. Near the road a small garden of roses bloomed, tended by members of the CCC. When the buildings were removed several years later, Helena rescued one of the rose bushes. It still grows along a section of fence in her front yard and in the spring she can see from her living room the pink blossoms that cover the hardy plant.
When Helena was asked to recall her most memorable experience while standing by her living room window, her reply was immediate. “It would have to be when Bill returned from World War Two” she said. She had known that he was on his way home but didn’t know when he would arrive as her last letter from him had been sent from Fort Ord, California. “I heard the dog bark and looked out toward the front yard. It was dark, but then I heard the sound of Bill’s steps as he ran toward the porch, and I saw him through the window…that just has to be one of the happiest moments of my life,” she said, with tears glistening in her eyes.
There’s been a heap o’ lovin’ in the Bruschke home, with members of five generations laughing together, loving and sharing with one another, demonstrating an obvious affection for this house. They understand just what the poet was thinking when he ended his verse with “Ye’ve got to love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome; it takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.”