Tell It Like It Was - Roy Jentzsch - Ponde-Rosa-Lakes – a floating swimming pool? – Delco plant down in the basement – the sawmill – a performance stage – talking to the quail on the telephone
Gentle thinkers, I typed “ponderosa” on my laptop and immediately came up with these meager definitions from Wiktionary: noun – 1. A ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa. 2. Common and widely distributed tall timber pine of western North America having dark green needles in bunches of 2 to 5 and thick bark with dark brown plates when mature. C’mon guys, dig a little deeper.
Then a similar definition popped up on Merriam-Webster. However, after I scrolled down a bit, some etymology was offered: New Latin ponderosa, specific epithet of Pinus ponderosa, from Latin, feminine of ponderosus ponderous. That’s better. I remember learning the adjetivo, ponderosa (heavy), from the Mexican laborers that worked for Tony Kooyumjian, the previous owner of Montelle and Augusta Wineries. I assumed ponderosa was derived from Latin.
But if we’re also willing to use American pop culture of the last 64 years as a source, we have to include the fictional Ponderosa ranch of Bonanza which was an American Western television series that ran on NBC from September 12, 1959, to January 16, 1973…oh…I’m sorry…some of you weren’t even born yet.
But truthfully, all of this has nothing to do with the naming of the Jentzsch’s farm in Schluersburg. I know this because I asked Roy Jentzsch. We spoke by phone on October 9, 2023.
paulO: Do you remember that show called Bonanza? The name of their ranch was Ponderosa, like the pine trees. I was curious…I know ponderosa, if you go back to Latin, means heavy and big. Were you naming it after heavy and big or…
Roy Jentzsch: Dad, he named it because he had to plant all them multiflora roses all around the lake. Those roses…that was a bad thing to do…they took over…terrible things.
pO: They’re invasive, yes.
RJ: Yeah, the Conservation Department brought that stuff out.
pO: So, that’s why he named it Ponde-Rosa-Lakes.
RJ: Yeah, we had them planted around the lakes…they claimed it was a living fence…but boy, that didn’t work.
Gentle readers, you probably guessed we didn’t start our conversation that way. Not hardly…but before I welcome you into the heart of our conversation, I think we should look back at a description of Ponde-Rosa-Lakes written by Bill Schiermeier in his Cracker Barrel Country column, published December 18, 1974, in the Washington Missourian newspaper. It reads:
Ponde Rosa Lakes, a recreational farm of 202 acres in Schluersburg, Missouri, has a variety of interesting installations for anyone to enjoy regardless of the season. There are four fishing lakes, spacious picnic and camping areas where electric outlets, restroom, shower facilities, etc., are provided. There is also a miniature 18-hole golf course and a floating swimming pool.
The visitor immediately realizes that all of the recreational facilities are located in an historical area, and owners Frank Jentzsch (pronounced Yensch) and his son, Roy, are exceptionally well informed in local Femme Osage Valley history.
They have a fine appreciation of the pioneering effort that transpired here, and they enjoy talking about what they have done to convey this knowledge to others. Two century old log cabins have been restored. One is used for the headquarters, and one is a museum.
Headquarters of Ponde-Rosa-Lakes
RJ: I’ve got some stuff I wrote up here that I’m going to give to you so you can read it.
pO: Let’s start with the interview first because my main thing is…tends to be more personal. It’s like, who is Roy Jentzsch…and your life story, but that said, it’s part of your story that you have collected historical information, so we’ll definitely get to that too.
RJ: Yeah…I don’t like that (interviews) too much, but I guess you don’t either.
pO: Oh…I’m sorry…I mean if you don’t want to do it, I guess this is the time to back out.
RJ: Yeah, I’ll do it, I guess. I’ll try it. If nothing else, I’ve got a lot of information here I wanna show you…all the land grants…and the deeds… It’s something that cannot be had, I don’t think, anymore.
pO: Right, and that’s something I don’t want to pass up. So, can you tell me what year you were born? And where?
RJ: I was born in 1937 in West Alton, MO…born at home.
pO: And your wife’s name…
RJ: She’s Geraldine. They came here, and I met her in Schluersburg. They came here to Luecke’s place down there in town…in Schluersburg. Her dad run that dairy for Luecke.
pO: Where was that dairy farm?
RJ: It’s right across from the church (UCC)…you know that big silo there.
pO: Is that the place that the Steidleys own? That explains some of those outbuildings.
RJ: He was the first…Jacob Zumwalt…was the first one here in this area…with the Boone land grant…was settled there. In 1828. I think it was because of the spring down below…there was a big spring. It’s gone dry now…all the sinkholes up above it. The water table has dropped down, you see. I wrote about all that.
pO: Okay, we’ll get to that too then. What was Geraldine’s maiden name?
pO: Did her parents buy a place out here?
RJ: No, they were renting. Then he died, and her mother moved to Illinois where they came from.
pO: What are your parents’ names?
RK: Frank and Pearl Jentzsch. We moved here in 1944 from West Alton.
pO? Do you know why they decided to move?
RJ: Well…they were just looking for farms, they were. They were living with their parents, and they didn’t have much ground…only 66 acres. He looked at several farms, and he bought this one through the FHA…government loans (Farmers Home Administration). Had that a long time, and paid it, and then we decided to put in lakes and have some fishing…camping grounds and stuff, you know. Then we got another loan from them to build the lakes.
One of the Ponde-Rosa-Lakes
pO: Tell me a little more about your family.
RJ: My sister, Joyce, she died last February. She was 5 years younger than me. There was only me and her. (Roy had another sister, Esther, who died at the age of 13 months.)
pO: What did your sister think about the lake and farm and everything?
RJ: Oh, she helped when we had the lakes here. She married a fellow by the name of…he got cancer…Donald (Schagg?) They were only married a couple years, and he suddenly got cancer…of the throat. I took care of him at the home here. I also took care of my parents here. Well, dad was 7 years, and mom, about 4 or 5 years. I took care of Mom until she died here at the home. Now, I’m taking care of my wife. (Joyce later was married to Charles Link. She died February 5, 2023.)
pO: Did you and Geraldine have children?
RJ: Just one daughter, Jane. She’s married to Jim Coghlan. (Hence, Roy has 3 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild.)
pO: Where are your parents, Frank and Pearl buried?
RJ: Up at the cemetery in Schluersburg. And my grandpa and grandma’s up there too. They moved up here…Dad had built that house over there for them, where I lived, on the road over there. And they lived there for a few years, and then they moved back to West Alton. But grandpa was so feeble that he only lasted about a year after that; he died. He shouldn’t have moved. He should have stayed here. But he got it in his mind he was going to farm, but he couldn’t farm…he was about 85 years old. I’m 86…I’ve outlived them all.
House Frank built on Schluersburg Road
pO: Where did you go to grade school?
RJ: I went to Schluersburg, here. And in the last year I graduated up at Augusta.
pO: When you say Schluersburg, do you mean Happy Glen? I read a story by Bill Schiermeier that said that the school was previously called Lonesome Glen. (Quoting Schiermeier, No. 358, Feb. 18, 1981: “Lonesome Glen School was moved to the west end outskirts and given a new name, that of ‘Happy Glen School’ by a particular teacher’s request.”)
RJ: Yeah, I don’t know about that…I know it was there quite a while…I think Andy Maschmeier went there.
pO: And it eventually burned down, but someone has rebuilt it.
Reconstructed Happy Glen on Moll Road
RJ: There was schools before that. There was one built…I didn’t know where it was or what happened to it. It was about where…the golf course goes in there. It was up along…back beyond the woods up there…that hillside as it comes down where the golf course is.
pO: Tell me a little bit about your school. How many years did you go there?
RJ: I went there from when I moved here in ’44 till…I guess ’51. I was the janitor the last 2 years. ’51-’52, I went to Augusta.
pO: Were you a janitor while you were a student?
RJ: Yeah, I cleaned up after school.
pO: I guess you got paid to do that?
RJ: Yeah, I got $6 a month; the one before me only got $5. Dad was on the school board, and he got a dollar more.
pO: How many children do you think were there…in any given year?
RJ: I guess there was about maybe a dozen to 15…somewhere in that range.
pO: Do you know if any of them are still around?
RJ: Yeah, Darlene…she came a little later. That was Virgil Kleine’s sister. And I think Carol’s living, too…another sibling…Darlene’s sister.
pO: So, you went to 8th grade in Augusta?
RJ: Yeah, I only went to 8th grade. I didn’t go to high school. I took a course of high school…American School, I think it was called. The gave me a diploma in mathematics and English.
pO: Did you have to do that through the mail?
RJ: Yeah, I got interested in farming more than schooling. I didn’t like school too good. Oh. I was so glad…I remember the day I got out of school. I run down through the field there…Dad had that old Model D John Deere. I jumped on it…rode it while he plowed.
Happy or Lonesome Glen School
pO: So, you farmed before you started putting in lakes?
RJ: Yeah, we put the lakes in about…well, the big lakes and the one down by the road in 1964. Aholts built the lakes. They (the lakes) were advertised in the Rand McNally book. People came from all over the United States.
pO: Before the lakes did you have row crops, the usual things, like corn and beans?
RJ: The first few years…corn and wheat…and then soybeans. Dad had cows…all through the years he had all kinds of things. We had sheep, had cattle, hogs, dogs, chickens…we started out with chickens, really. There was a big, long chicken house here.
We didn’t have electric here. They put in electric only a year or two after we moved here. We had a Delco plant down in the basement. We had all the batteries…glass batteries. And they had lights out there in the chicken house with timing on it. That was built before…I think Carter Realty Company made it. It was rich people that owned it before, and they put that chicken house in there…a hundred feet long.
Remaining portion of the chicken house
pO: So, you said there was a big Delco battery…
RJ: Well, it had a bunch of batteries, glass batteries. I remember them down in the cellar. I think it was 32 volts.
pO: So, you generated your own electricity and stored it in those batteries. Did it burn gasoline or diesel?
RJ: It was gasoline. I’ve still got the thing out in the shed. Before they put in electric, I think they had one too up there at the church (UCC). They had an electric plant there.
pO: Do you still have the glass batteries?
RJ: No, dad sold…got rid of them a long time ago.
Generator portion of Delco plant
pO: Now, I didn’t meet you guys (Frank and Roy) until…I guess the late 70s.
RJ: Yeah, 40 some years ago. I guess we started the sawmill then…it wasn’t too long, because I remember seeing you.
pO: I know there are other people who remember you well…like Glen Frank used to visit you guys. (Glen told me that Ponde-Rosa-Lakes was popular with the St. Louis Cardinals, and that Whitey Herzog was a visitor there.)
RJ: He had a store there in Augusta.
pO: I remember sometimes we’d come visit you and your dad just for the fun of it. Your dad…he played guitar, right?
RJ: Yeah, he messed around with that. I used to play guitar. I don’t anymore. I do some singing too. I sing in church sometimes (Bethany United Church of Christ).
Gentle readers, let me say this gently, Roy’s father, Frank, was…uhm…not particularly good at the guitar…but he sure had fun! He even built a performance stage in the log building known as headquarters. I got dragged in there a few times, but it proved to be a good time. There’s still a drum set on the old stage.
Frank’s drums on the stage
pO: Was the idea of the stage to be entertainment for the guests there?
RJ: He just done it for himself. I didn’t know you’d seen that...yeah, that was long ago. And he decided he could play drums and he had me taking him down there to…O’Fallon. A guy was teaching him drums, but he was too old to start something like that, you know.
My friends, back a few sentences, Roy mentioned the sawmill which he and his dad operated.
Roy and Frank at the sawmill
This seems like a good time to tell you about a tree that came down decades ago behind Dave Klaas’ house on Lower St. and it was taken to the Jentzsch sawmill. I’m going to let Franz Mayer tell you the story because I recorded his very words when he shared the story with me by phone on October 17, 2023.
Franz Mayer: Many years ago, a big walnut tree came down in Dave Klaas’ ravine. And he didn’t have any way to get it out, so I went up there, and struck a deal: I furnished my time and my equipment, and we worked together and salvaged a bunch of logs. We took them over to Jentzsch’s to be sawed up. And I have some furniture here that came from that.
Of course, all sawyers ask, are there any nails…where was this tree, and so on…especially when they didn’t have bandsaws…they had those big steel blades, and one nail would wipe out one day’s worth of profit for them if they hit it.
One of Roy’s sawblades
And that’s what happened. Turns out, he hit a nail in one of our logs and he (Roy) was the most kind gentleman about it. He told us about it, but there was no animosity. It struck me how kind he was.
pO: Dale Dufer (a mutual friend) made some furniture (for you). Was that the same walnut?
FM: Well, between Dale and Michael Bauermeister, we’ve got a lot of walnut here from logs that I salvaged. I’d have to think about it.
pO: Do think about it and take a picture or two because I could put that in. It enriches the story to know that a local has furniture that was made from wood they milled there.
FM: Hey! I’ll tell you one other…my first exposure to Ponde-Rosa Farm was way back before I even heard of Augusta, or lived here, or knew anything about it. I had a friend in Bridgeton who was an avid fisherman, and he had a car long before I did, and we used to run a lot together in Bridgeton. And one day he said he wanted to go fishing, and he knew this place, this private lake out in the country somewhere. It turns out that’s what it was…Ponde-Rosa.
Gentle lovers of handcrafted furniture, on the same day I spoke with Franz, Rebecca Weis Mayer texted me this photo with two captions: (1) Walnut office desk from wood sawn at Ponde-Rosa and (2) Crafted by Michael Bauermeister.
Franz Mayer’s desk
Below you see a beautiful island in Dave Klaas’ kitchen which was rendered from the same walnut tree that fell behind Dave’s house. This work was done by our mutual friend, Dale Dufer. The maple top is from Freedom Products which is east of Linn, MO on Hwy. 50.
Dave’s walnut island
pO: Roy, someone told me a story about how you were really close to your pet bird, and one time, you had to go away, and the bird got sad or upset…so, you talked with it on the telephone.
RJ: Maybe that was a quail. I could’ve shown you. The quail’s in the house there. I had it mounted.
pO: So, you had a quail. And do you remember talking to the quail on the telephone?
RJ: Yeah, I do. I think I was out in Utah.
pO: You’re in Utah, and the quail was not doing too well?
RJ: Yeah, something like that, yeah. And this quail, he…mom and Dad was there in the house, and I’d come over there and eat lunch…that quail, he’d come up and wait. And he’d keep looking at me until I put my arm down, and he’d crawl up on my arm, and he’d sit there for hours, just grooming his feathers. He’d do that all the time.
Gentle readers, there is no end to what I could write about Roy. He’s like an open book, and he has many stories to tell. So, let’s call it quits for now, and see what bubbles up in part 2.
Curiouser and curiouser,