RIVER FALLS -- From 1800s Bohemia to modern day River Falls, Charla Kusilek tells the history of her family, and with it, the history of River Falls in her new book “Legacy of a Family in Small Town U.S.A. River Falls, Wisconsin.”
The book will be available starting Friday, July 10, when Kusilek will hold a book signing event at Freeman Drug Store.
“It’s far more than a family history book,” Kusilek said.
Kusilek’s great-grandparents Frank and Anna Rosenberg immigrated from Bohemia, before they built the Rosenberg House in 1885, beginning the family’s long history with River Falls. Five generations lived in the house over the years: the great-grandparents Frank and Anna; Kusilek’s grandmother Emma Anna; her mother, Bertha, and uncle Ernest; herself; and for one summer, her son.
Her book recalls the stories that were passed down, not just about their family but about the town as well. It also includes her experiences growing up in River Falls in her youth, playing with the kids downtown at a time when children had the freedom to explore and found their own entertainment.
“That’s what I liked writing about, was the fun that we created,” Kusilek said. “We didn’t have organizations and coaches and school sports programs. We had to make our own fun.”
It’s a personal story, but a relatable one as well.
“I figure my family is no different than any other family,” Kusilek said.
The book’s history goes through 2008, when Kusilek lost her mother, the last resident-owner of the Rosenberg House property. From there, Kusilek said she also takes the chance to look into the future.
“Where are we going now?” Kusilek said. “That’s what history is all about really. It’s not just the past, it’s the future.”
The generations came and went, and Kusilek said she was the left as the heir of the house, as well as the old Mack Veterinary Hospital that her uncle and grandfather ran.
Sorting through the various things left behind by her own family in the Rosenberg House. also spurred on the book. When she donated them to the public library, the curator asked for a short write up of the history, which eventually became the book itself.
“Most everything was stashed there, including many photos and paperwork and letters and obituaries and even old newspapers in the old corners of the attic before the remodeling and the downsizing that took place in the 1920s,” she said. “I was left with all that.”
As she’s grown older, she’s seen the vast changes to life and technology since her ancestors first came. That also served as inspiration for the book.
“There's more changes than at any time in the whole history of the world in the past 150 years since they, my great-grandparents, arrived from Bohemia,” Kusilek said. “To me that is really worth noting and really worth researching and really worth thoughtful consideration."
Kusilek said it’s important to recognize the contributions that were made before us.
“I really hope that people will take a peek back and see the extreme change in the way we live and the way they lived, and kind of glean from it for the benefit of the future of us and our progeny,” she said.
Digging into her family history, Kusilek said there were many things that surprised her. One mystery that remains is her great-grandfather’s heritage. Unlike her great-grandmother, there’s no document of his ancestry.
“I found some clues in the house that are in the book, for anyone who wants to pursue that mystery,” she said.
A meet-the-author event will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, July 10, at Freeman Drug Store. From then on the book will be available for purchase from the store’s locally authored shelf.