By Myra Lee Adams Goff
When the United States was getting ready to celebrate its bi-centennial in 1976, Herb Skoog had an idea to do something locally that would commemorate this event. Little did he know that he would be starting a compilation of local history that would be on-going even to this day.
Skoog’s brainchild was the beginning of the Reflections program housed and conducted at the Sophienburg. The Reflections program records interviews of people of all ages and walks of life about the historic events and people of NB. Since its inception, 2041 interviewshave been recorded. And with the exception of a two year lapse when the Archives were being moved to the present location, this programhas aired on radio station KGNB on Sunday mornings ever since.
The first of the Reflections interviews was with newspaper editor Fred Oheim. Oheim wrote many articles about history. Also joining Oheim was Valeska Startz, Oscar Haas, Paul Jahn, and Pete Nowotny.
Interviewing people was nothing new to Skoog for he became manager of radio station KGNB in 1962 and then KNBT in 1968. His Saturday morning “Comment” program interviewing people about public affairs was followed by “Orchids and Onions” where he asked for controversial opinions. The first Reflections program was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape in the studio and later in the basement of the old City Hall when the Archives were located there. In time, recordings were put on audio cassettes, then digital audio tapes, and finally as they are now, on CDs. When the Sophienburg moved to its present location, a new studio was included by a donation from Joel Erben, honoring his mother, Joline Erben.
Over the years Skoog has shared the interviewer spot with Bob Pfeuffer, J.C. Reagan, Doyle and Roxolin Krueger, Iris Schumann, and occasionally others.
When asked about his favorite interviews, Skoog admitted that a few stood out in his mind. For example, when he interviewed Charlie Duke, he felt it was unusual to actually talk to someone who had walked on the moon. (All of you that have walked on the moon hold up your hand).
He said that he had talked to several people over 100 years old and for several years, he interviewed Myron Floren when he came for Wurstfest. Those interviews are even more irreplaceable since Floren is now deceased. One program was with Floren and Rocky Rodriguez, Milton Kaderli, Gus Kaderli and Maj. Gen. Walter Richardson. All were in the same area in different military units during the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. Floren, on the other hand, was there at the same time entertaining the troops with the USO. He had been classified 4F, meaning he was not eligible to be drafted.
Skoog said that people from the rural areas around the county liked to talk about when they got their first big appliances and the Model T cars. City dwellers talked more about events that happened in town and about holidays and festivals. He remembers talking to NB’s first woman mayor, Margaret Naegelin, and Councilwoman Laverne Eberhard.
There are many interviews covering the German and Hispanic cultures. One program paired Frances Tays and Hortense Hernandez together to discuss differences in the two cultural groups.
Alfred Liebscher’s interview was of particular interest to Skoog. As a young man, Liebscher was working in Chicago selling German artificial flowers when he met Bruno Dittlinger who was going to school there. Dittlinger invited Liebscher to come to NB, which he did. He began working for Hippolyt Dittlinger in the flour mill, married the boss’s daughter, and eventually became a very successful president of the company.
This year, Dr. Fred Willard has taken over the chairmanship of the Reflections committee at the Archives and he is now transferringinterviews that are on tape to CDs. They may be purchased there. If you are interested in being interviewed, call the Sophienburg and keep on listening!