Black-and-white photo of two men, two children, a dog, and two horses in front of a barn.

Rural Michigan, Pearl Harbor, Scarlet Fever

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By Annie Vokes

To begin, I really don’t consider my story to be all that exciting or above average, but I am very proud of my family and the many great things I have watched them accomplish. I currently am blessed with seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. My life may seem simple, but I am very happy with the things that I have done with my time in this world.

My name is Dulcia Wichert, and I was born on October 24, 1935 in Bad Ax, Michigan. At only 22 months old, I lost my father to acute appendicitis. I can honestly say I have almost no memory of him, but my mother and older brother would often tell me stories about things he had done. After his death, my mother took me and my older brother, Frank, to her late husband’s parents’ home where we remained until she could afford a home of her own. They were fairly well known stonemasons and carpenters, and many of their buildings are actually still standing today.

Black and white photo of smiling adults, two small children between them sitting higher up on a window sill.
Dulcia Wichert was born in 1935 and was only 22 months old when her father died. Photo credit: Dulcia’s personal archive

Roughly after a year of staying with them, my mother then brought our small family to Pigeon, Michigan. She began by getting a job where she sorted, picked, and bagged soybeans for a living. It was hard work, and my brother and I would often stay at our relatives’ homes for long periods of time. Luckily, most of my family wasn’t too far away from home, so when she got her next job at the local cleaners, we continued to visit our relatives often.

Black-and-white photo of two men, two children, a dog, and two horses in front of a barn.
Dulcia typically stayed with her father’s brothers. Most of these men were stonemasons and carpenters, and they had large families of their own. Photo credit: Dulcia’s personal archive

I don’t have many memories of this time, but I do remember the outbreak of scarlet fever in our town. Similar to now, people would be quarantined to their houses to stay safe, and due to my age I was just confused as to why I could only play with certain kids on my street.

Close-up of white little girl smiling, bowl haircut, black-and-white photo
Dulcia says she doesn’t remember much from when she was very little, but she does remember being excited by moving to all the different places her family lived. Photo credit: Dulcia’s personal archive

Also, I was about six years old when we got the announcement for Pearl Harbor. Even to this day, I remember coming home from Sunday school, and listening to the announcement with my family in the kitchen. After that, we would also have practice “black outs.” That’s when we had to have all of the lights out to prepare for potential air raids (people would even walk around going door to door to enforce the rules). Although, I didn’t know much about what was going on, I was terrified that we would get caught because my mother would hide in the living room and leave a light on so she could continue mending clothes for her job. We also had food stamps, and my mother would often trade with the family next door because they had several children to provide for. One of the most memorable things from this time was going to get nylons with my aunts. Since they were in such high demand, yet never in stock anywhere, we would wait in a huge line, or my aunts would draw a line on the backs of their legs so they could pretend they were wearing nylons for church on Sundays.

Black-and-white image of young woman smiling, wears white shirt, floral curtain as backdrop
Dulcia has lived through many significant historical events. The ones she remembers most vividly are when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the outbreak of the scarlet fever, and the polio epidemic. Photo credit: Dulcia’s personal archive

Me and my brother [sic!] went to school in the small town of Pigeon, and stayed in the same school district until we graduated. My brother graduated in 1951 and went directly into the American air force. When I was old enough to get a working permit, I worked at Schure Hospital as a trade girl. We would deliver meals to all of the patients, and got to help out the nurses who worked there. My favorite memory from high school was when I got a job at the local dairy barn my senior year. I had a lot of friends who worked there with me, and I loved to talk to the older girls about their significant others who were overseas in the military. Some of the friends I made at my jobs and in high school have remained my friends for most of my life.

I graduated in 1953, and after graduation I worked at my high school in the office for about a year. After that year was up, I moved out and then got a job at Consumers in Saginaw, Michigan, in the personnel department. Since I couldn’t afford a car on my own, I had to take the bus to work everyday, and whenever I missed the bus I had to walk quite a few blocks to get to work. My mother waited until I was steadily working and staying in an apartment, but eventually decided to move back to Bad Ax, Michigan, where she worked at the local doctor’s office. Despite the distance between us, and the limited transportation, me and my mother [sic!] remained very close. 

Black-and-white image of woman in long light color coat, holding large box-style purse, house and snow in the background
Since she couldn’t afford a car of her own, Dulcia rode the bus to her jobs. She remembers having to walk several blocks whenever she missed the bus – especially when it was cold outside. Photo credit: Dulcia’s personal archive

Not too long after I began living on my own, I also started receiving letters from the boy I had been seeing when I worked at my old high school. Don Wichert had gone into the Navy, and loved to send me pictures of his crew, the ship, and every port he stopped at. We sent letters back and forth all the time to one another, and eventually he sent me a letter with a very important question. When he returned to Michigan in 1955, we were married, but sadly he did have to return to the Navy before we could begin our lives together.

Once we were officially married, I stayed with my mother until he returned from service in 1957. Together we bought a small farmhouse in Bay Port, Michigan, near the quarry where Donald worked. Also, I decided to get a secretary job at an auto parts store nearby. In October of 1957, I had my first son Dave, in 1959 I had my second son Dan, and in 1963 I had my daughter Dawn. My life soon revolved around my children, and me and my husband [sic!] did everything we could to give them the best life we could. Also, we moved to Sebewaing, Michigan, in 1968, and I decided to be a stay at home mom until 1969. That year I worked at a clothing store until it closed a few years later due to lack of business. I really loved this job because it gave me flexible hours and summers off, so I could spend more time with my children.

Black-and-white photo of two white parents holding three smaller children, one in the dad's arms, smiling and posing by a car.
After Donald finally came home from the Navy, Dulcia bought a small farmhouse by the quarry where Donald was employed at the time. While living there, they had three children: Dave, Dan, and Dawn. Photo credit: Dulcia’s personal archive

After my last child graduated, I decided to get a job back at Schure hospital as a nurse’s assistant. I kept this job for about 20 years, and then I eventually decided to retire. Me and my husband [sic!] also eventually moved back to the town of Pigeon, Michigan, where we had both grown up. While living back in Pigeon, I took care of my mother, which was easier now that we were closer. Although, she had dementia and eventually had to be moved to a place with supervision, because she kept forgetting basic things (such as leaving the tea kettle on, or turning the thermostat down and forgetting to turn it back up, or making a cake with coffee grounds). There were many nights where me and my husband [sic!] slept over at her house to supervise her, but we made sure she was always taken care of. Me and my husband [sic!] were able to send all three of our children to college, and were happy to watch them all find careers they loved. We lived in the same house until 2001, but our move was only to the neighbors’ house. The same house we have lived in up to today.

Older couple by red and white house and trees, squating down holding white coffee mugs, smiling, both with white hair
Dulcia and Don celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2020. They are also proud to have seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Photo credit: Dulcia’s personal archive

Overall, I have lived a very easy life, but I am happy to have had so many experiences with the people I have met over the years. I am very thankful for my family, and wouldn’t trade them for the world.

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