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11. My Family and Canright's Book
BOTH MY father's and my mother's people immigrated from Europe to the New World. My father, John Januszewski, immigrated with his parents from the Russo-Polish border country to Quebec, Canada. When they took up their new life here they were ardent Catholics, and it was the Catholic priest who sponsored the family when they came to the Western world. They thought it an honor to apprentice father, at the age of ten, to the priest. He became the man's personal valet and altar boy, and was carefully trained in the routine of the church.
As a boy he became skilled in his duties and in time became adept at lifting coins from the church coffers. He observed others engaged in this latter activity and reasoned, Why not me? When his father and mother, brothers and sisters, crossed the border into the United States and settled in Winona, Minnesota, John was left in Canada in the care of the clergy. At age sixteen he became restless and determined to follow his parents. To get into the United States where they now lived, he swam part of the way across the St. Lawrence River. In time he married my mother, Susan Koenig.
My mother's parents had immigrated from Posen, Prussia, where they served in the household of Prince Otto Von Bismark. Grandfather had been quartered on Prince Bismark's summer estate as veterinarian. Grandmother was first lady's maid to the princess. They were strict Lutherans and chose to come to America because of religious persecution. Grandfather also wanted to avoid being drafted into the king's personal army guard.
While in Prussia, grandma had listened to conversations by the princess about the Seventh-day Sabbath. It appears that literature on this subject had been sent to the royal household by J. H. Waggoner. Now, many years later in America, my mother's parents heard the same subject again discussed.
Father attended church only occasionally and probably went to confession once a year at Easter time. He remained a Catholic all his life, and exhibited fiery intolerance at the sight or sound of a Seventh-day Adventist. Mother allowed the children to be baptized Catholics, and at first she shared father's attitude toward Adventists.
When I was nearly five, my parents lived on a farm at Plover, Wisconsin, where I was born, the eleventh of twelve children. Plover was nine miles from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. In 1897 Elder Allen Moon, with an associate, organized a group of Sabbath believers in Stevens Point. Someone in this group sometimes sent a Sabbath school quarterly in German or the Hausefreund, the Adventist church paper for German-speaking believers, to my mother. She appreciated this friendly gesture. It provided something she could read in her own language. Each of my parents understood the other's language.
Father spoke Polish to mother, and she spoke German to him. I often wondered how the farm animals understood and responded appropriately to their commands in different languages. As children we absorbed a little of both languages until we started school, after which we spoke mostly in English.
One hot summer day while we were living at this farm in Plover, Wisconsin, mother was baking bread with the windows and doors wide open. All at once she noticed a man coming over the hill. She concluded that he must have come by train to Stevens Point and then walked the nine miles to our home. As he came closer, she realized that it must be Uncle John.
Mother knew that her parents and family had attended Elders Schultz and Hill's Bible class in Winona, Minnesota, and had been baptized as Seventh-day Adventists and that
they were now members of the Winona Seventh-day Adventist church. To her at that time, Uncle John was an unwelcome guest.
She declared, "If he says anything about that Sabbath, this time I'll fix him good."
Soon Uncle John was seated in the kitchen in front of the open window with me on his lap. He proceeded to teach me how to count from the calendar on the wall.
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven is the Sabbath," he repeated time and again until I could count to "seven is the Sabbath."
After I had learned this sequence he taught me the days of the week in a similar manner: "Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday," always ending with, "Saturday is the Sabbath."
Before long this dialog was more than mother could stand. Suddenly she seized a piece of stove wood, which she had carefully laid aside for just such an occasion, and rushed at Uncle John, brandishing it and shouting, "I'll show you about that Sabbath!"
Uncle John, who was small of stature but nimble as a cat, dropped me unceremoniously and plunged through the open window, breaking the mosquito netting.
Once outside, he stood at a safe distance and quoted Mark 6:11 to mother in German. I shall always remember his saying, "Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them." Having delivered his message, he proceeded over the hill in the direction from which he had come, whistling as he went.
Suddenly the realization of what she had done struck home to mother. She began to cry.
"What have I done?" she lamented. "I have chased my brother away. He may never come back, and he came all the way from Winona, Minnesota, to see me."
In deep remorse and contrition, she said to her eight-year old son, "Fritz, make it fast, overtake Uncle John and bring him back. Tell him I will listen to him, and that he must come back!"
Fred (Fritz) ShaskyNote 1 still remembers how fast he ran that summer day to bring Uncle John back.
The next day Uncle John was again ordered to leave the house, this time by my father, who straitly commanded him to make a hasty exit and forbade him ever to darken our door again.
While father turned a deaf ear to Uncle John's teachings, mother pondered his words"One, two, three, four five, six, seven is the Sabbath."
During the next twelve years we moved five times, mostly because father wanted to get away from the Adventists. Yet it seemed that each time we settled near Adventists.
After our first move to Caledonia, Wisconsin, father learned too late that his second closest neighbor was a Seventh-day Adventist by the name of Grant Owens. This realization brought on an outburst of anger, but in time father simmered down and eventually Grant Owens became father's most helpful and trusted neighbor. The other moves to Lewiston, Wisconsin, and Moundville and Tomah, Wisconsin, again brought us close to Adventist neighbors, so that one day father declared in frustration that Adventists were neither born nor made, they just oozed up from the ground.
The move to the Tomah farm brought the family closer to Winona, Minnesota, where Uncle John and Aunt Augusta lived. One day Uncle John and his wife drove into the yard with horse and buggy to visit mother. Mother welcomed them heartily.
Father was not home when they arrived. Uncle John, an interior decorator, often carried rolls of wallpaper in his buggy. Mother quickly figured a way to make it possible for Uncle John and his wife to be allowed to stay in our home for a few days. She ordered us children to quickly strip the old wallpaper from the dining room and kitchen walls. When father returned three hours later, Uncle John and Aunt Augusta were cheerfully applying new wall paper. What could he say? He could not order them out of the house, so he gave them a time limit to complete the job. With Mother's subtle encouragement,
Uncle John took his time, but eventually there was another explosion, which ended in another sudden departure for Uncle John.
There was an Adventist church twelve miles from our home in Tomah. My older sister, Mary, and my brother Fred decided to investigate that church. In order to attend each Sabbath, they walked through swamps and woods, crossed fields and climbed through barbed-wire fences, but at least they arrived on time for Sabbath school and church. Here they were baptized and became members of the Tomah, Wisconsin, church. Mary Omans and Fred Shasky, still living at this writing, marvel at their then-youthful energy and zeal.
Father's next move was to Perham, a northern Minnesota prairie town of 1,300 inhabitants. Nearly all his relatives lived in the surrounding communityalmost 150 of them. In this place my associates were all Catholics. This included my relatives, my teachers, and the nuns and priests. Who frequently visited father, eating at our home and partaking with father of his choicest liquors. I attended Catholic functions, mass, and liturgical sessions and joined my cousins attending confessionals.
Early one Sunday evening in the spring of 1912, an older sister, a cousin, and I returned from services in the Catholic church. As we passed the little Methodist church, we observed that lights were burning in it. Twice a day going to and from school we passed this building. It had been boarded up, so when we saw lights in the church we became curious and wondered what we should do.
"Shall we report it to the police," we asked one another, "or shall we investigate the matter ourselves?" We knew it was a Protestant church, and we also knew we would be violating the rules of the Catholic Church if we were to enter. We had been taught that to enter a Protestant church would be a "mortal sin."
My cousin, the boldest of the three of us, said, "Oh, come on, we can confess it later to the priest!"
As we entered cautiously we were greeted by several people, including an itinerant Methodist preacher. He inquired whether any of us girls could play the organ. I answered that I could.
His stentorian voice covered my errors, and we enjoyed a lively song service.
I still remember the first hymn, "Marching to Zion." The words of the opening line"Come ye that love the Lord, and let your joys be known"still linger in my memory. It was an exciting experience. I gladly accepted the preacher's invitation to return the following Sunday night to play for the service. Soon he asked me to teach a class of children in the Sunday school. These meetings were new and very different from the meetings to which I had been accustomed. I had to study the Sunday school lessons and lesson helps diligently each week as I prepared myself to teach the children. But I enjoyed the work.
Everything went smoothly because father supposed that when I left home on Sunday evening I must be going to the Catholic church. But before long the preacher began to urge me to become a member of his church. At the time, membership in a Protestant church was the farthest thing from my mind. The preacher persisted, and I felt he was badgering me. He said I could not play the organ or teach the children's Sunday school class unless I joined his church. This made me most unhappy. Why should I have to do that? Finally I blurted out, "If ever I become a Protestant, I will be a Seventh-day Adventist."
To this he retorted, "There isn't a Seventh-day Adventist church within thirty-five miles of here."
I know it," I replied, "and that is why I said it. I don't want to join any Protestant church."
In exasperation he said, "I have a book that I will bring for you to read. If you read it, you will have all you want of Seventh-day Adventism."
I promised to read the book as a way out of a tight situation. The next Sunday the preacher handed me the bookSeventh-day Adventism Renounced, by D. M. Canright. He told me in considerable detail who D. M. Canright was, and assured me that the author was still living.
I took the book home and showed it to mother, wishing I hadn't promised to read it. My mother didn't read English or speak it well.
"You read to me what stands in there," she requested.
Carefully concealing the book from father, I read to mother after he had retired. I found the book hard to understand. But after my mother listened to me read from it a few chapters, she said, "There is error in that book. You take it back to the preacher."
I took the book back to the church the next Sunday evening. Not knowing what to say, I said rather undiplomatically, "I brought your book back. Mother says there is error in it."
He asked, "What do you think about what your mother said?"
I replied, "Well, you say the author is still living. If I should ever meet him, that will be time enough to decide whether he is right or wrong."
The exasperated Methodist preacher quickly terminated my activity in his church. However, his congregation felt that without the organist the services had lost something. Attendance dwindled from this and other causes, and soon the building was closed and boarded up.
With my abrupt dismissal I felt as if the center beam of my physical structure had collapsed. My Sunday school girls of ten and twelve had been my pride and joy. I had been teaching them music on the church organ, and was organizing children's programs for the benefit of the church. I had no desire to return to my old associates. Now all this activity I had enjoyed so much was over. My sister, who had accompanied me into the church to investigate, was now in Fargo, North Dakota, attending a normal teachers' training school. For my part I had completed high school, but what was there left for me to do?
About this time an inner voice kept saying, "Make good what you told the preacher. Make good what you told the preacher." Over and over it repeated, "Make good what you told the preacher."
I began to wonder what I had actually told the preacher. With deliberate and serious concentration, I finally remembered. I remembered I had told him that if ever I joined a Protestant church it would be the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
1. The public school teacher, unable to negotiate the name Januszewski, changed it to Shasky, and the family, father excepted, adopted this simplification. [back to text]