Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dorothy Nelson, oldest sister of my mother, Deloris Pickens, passes away at age 98.

Here is an article done on Dorothy Nelson, soon after her 98th birthday.  She passed away this week.  Lovely woman.

Dorothy Nelson doing great at 98, article by the New Richland Star

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 11:41

98 AND COUNTING — Dorothy Nelson of Ellendale celebrated her 98th birthday July 1st. She still lives alone in her house, with very little help, and can recollect many moments in Ellendale history. (Star Eagle photo by Kathy Paulsen)

Staff Writer
"Dear Lord, So far today, I am doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or self indulgent. I have not whined, complained, cried or eaten any chocolate. I have charged no money on my credit card, but I am getting out of bed in a minute. I think that I will really need your help then."

So sayeth the label on Dorothy Nelson’s refrigerator.

Nelson turned 98 years old on July 1st, another year for others to be blessed by this sharp, witty little woman. She is a great woman, and deeply loved by many.

The oldest child of seven children in the family of Lafayette and Irene Cress, Dorothy was born in 1913. Her sister, Daisy, was born in 1918. Lawrence, a brother, was born in 1921. Another brother, Donald, was born in 1922, and later died in World War II. The family tree also includes an infant brother, who is buried in Geneva; and a sister, Deloris, born in 1927, and living in Oklahoma. Another brother, Richard, was born in 1935 and killed in a car accident in 1957. Dorothy and Deloris are the only two living.

Dorothy was just a baby when she and her family moved to Minnesota. Her father was a farmer. The day he sold $600 worth of hogs, she entered the world. Ninety-eight years ago, $600 worth of hogs was a lot and a great deal of money.

The Cress family, of Danish decent, moved to the Lerdahl area in Southern Minnesota, when she was less than 2 years old. It was a big change for Dorothy and her family. The family moved two miles west of Geneva in 1918.

Back in that day, high school girls usually boarded with townspeople because of transportation issues. So, Dorothy lived with Andrew Muri. Dorothy later left high school when she was only a junior, as she had an ill mother who needed care.

She also needed to care for her brothers and sisters. It was hard for her to leave school, but that was expected back then; people had to accept the responsibility.

Dorothy later met and married Iver Larson. They were the parents of three children, Warren Larson, who lived in Michigan and is no longer with us; Mary Sullivan of Emmons, MN and Roger Larson of rural Ellendale. She is also a grandmother of 11 and great grandmother of 23.

Dorothy later married Henry Nelson after Iver passed away. In 1973, she moved into town from the farm and has lived in the little house on the corner north of Lerberg’s in Ellendale ever since. Her son, Roger, and his wife, Joyce, live on the family farm.

When Lerberg’s Foods delivered her groceries on Friday, July 1st, there was also a big, bright birthday card, signed by many friends, neighbors and relatives, included in the grocery bag. Many more cards were sent her way that week as well, from many corners of the world.

She also enjoyed birthday phone calls and messages, including a phone call from her son Warren’s wife, Thelma, who lives in St. Augustine, Florida. Dorothy remarked that Thelma has a sweet little white dog, Snickers. Dorothy also said she received a birthday card and snapshots from her grandson, Matthew.

We can't forget a beautiful bouquet of flowers, completed with a nest of robin eggs, from her grandson Brad Larson.

Dorothy has always loved flowers and enjoyed working in her gardens. Last fall, she received a helpful hand from the Healthy Seniors group. The group came and cleaned Dorothy’s flower gardens before the snow flew. Interestingly enough, Dorothy often dreams of working in her garden and waking up feeling as tired as if she had worked all night.

Dorothy lives alone with very little extra help, and does so very well. She experiences some difficulty with her eyes, which limits her from doing some things she loves to do, like reading books. Her memory is as sharp as a tack.

She remembers an incident when her family lived on the Doc Ertel farm, near Ellendale. One of their sheep had fallen in the water tank. With no one home, she had to call her Grandpa Richard (Hanson) to come and get the wet, soaked beast out of the water tank. She felt so sorry to have to ask for help, but getting the sheep out of the water tank was more than she could do alone.

Another recollection was of a school picnic when her niece, the teacher, marveled at her home-baked beans, cooked of course in a cast iron Dutch oven.

Held in the old Lutheran church in Ellendale, the church ladies often had lutefisk and lefse suppers. The ladies had to get cream cans of hot water from the creamery to wash the dishes, as they didn't have a water heater.

Dorothy received cards from all over the country, including one from a Marine grandson who lives near Troy, New York; a niece, who lives near Nederland, Texas; and a grand niece who is in the Peace Corps in Mongolia, to name a few.

Her grandson, Brad, the one who sent her the flowers for her birthday, teaches in Chicago. She was proud to say he loaded a school bus with volunteers recently en route to Alabama to help with the crisis there.

Neighbors and businesses up and down Main Street in Ellendale brought memories and giggles to Dorothy. She recalls "Speed" Nelson’s grocery store on the southeast corner of Ellendale, which was later moved to the northwest corner of town. Then there was Norris Thompson, who had a shop on Main Street. He once sold Dorothy a tractor.

Cecil Campbell ran the Ellendale Eagle; Anderson, Butcher Brothers, had the meat market; Miller brothers ran the hardware store, and also worked on wells, windmills and sold appliances. Little Joe Margaheck, had a beer joint; and Sander Jellum, a barber shop. There was also Nelson Meland’s hardware store; Olson Implement; Sande’s Bank and Aronson’s Garage.

George Jorgensen, along with his wife and two girls, had a cafe; Art Thorsen had a barber shop and beauty salon, and Johana Jensen and her husband ran a restaurant. Tillie Lerum sold hamburgers for a nickel and had boarders in the old hotel. Dorothy also mentioned that Ellendale used to have outdoor free shows.

"Gus Jacobson Gas Station,” which is on the corner across the street from the old creamery, now Al's Body Shop in Ellendale, was the first gas station in town. She commented that it might not have been built by Jacobson but by Harvey Mohs.

A highlight of Dorothy’s life — shortly after Helen and Warren Sawyer built their new home — was when Helen and her daughter, Julie, invited many of the older ladies in town to Helen’s home for lunch. The guest list was as follows: Nina Olson, Helen "Speed" Nelson, Edythe Ellingson, Mrs. Joyce Aronson, and Louella Thompson.

Dorothy then commented that she enjoys reading the Whatever Comes To Mind column in the Star Eagle. It gets her mind thinking. When asked how she stayed so smart, she remarked, "I'm always thinking, even when I'm sleeping. You'd be surprised what I know. I play mind games. I'll start with the beginning of the alphabet and name cities or people etc., that go with the letter A and work my way to the end. I think about all the things we did when we were young; my, how the times have changed over the years. Oh, if television had such ‘reality’ shows now."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Filled Ice Box Cookies - recipe for a wood/coal burning stove.

So here is the recipe for the Date Swirl Cookies, as I came to know them as a child growing up.  My mother, Deloris Pickens used this recipe from her sister Mrs. Daisy Wilker, which was passed down to her, from their mother, Irene Cress.

It was known as Filled Ice Box Cookies

Filled Ice Box Cookies

1 C. butter
1 C. sugar
1 C. brown sugar
3 eggs
4 C. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinamon
1/4 tsp. salt
Roll 1/2 " thick (like jelly rolls) and fill with following mixture.  Chill, slice and bake 12 minutes in hot oven

1 lb dates or raisins
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. water
1 C. finely chopped nuts
Cool in double boiler until a thick paste.  Cool and spread.

Now to put this into modern terms, probably be best if one chills the dough, like one would for sugar cookies, before putting the date paste and rolling.  Also one could use just a pan, instead of a double boiler, in order to cook down the dates/raisins.  Also, this was originally a recipe for a wood/coal burning stove.  Preheat the modern oven for 375 degrees.  Watch and bake for 12 minutes.  Take a look at 12 minutes to see if golden brown, if not, contnue to bake at 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minute intervals.  Can be variable upon your cookie sheet and oven.

Now this is a tasty old fashioned danish cookie recipe.  Enjoy!   Gail Pickens-Barger

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas in my childhood in the 1930's

Christmas in my childhood in the 1930’s

    I will try and remember some of the things that we did at Christmas when I was a child.  The main thing I remember is that my parents told us that if we not good that Santa would not come to visit us.  That kept a lot of commotion from popping up as the Holiday Season drew near.

    The first Christmas gift that I remember was a little Red chair that Santa had left in an upstairs closet for me.  I always wondered how he knew to put it in that closet.  The next gift that I remember was that I received a doll for every Christmas.  Each year the doll that I received was larger.  I had 5 dolls ranging from a very small doll to a large doll and I played with the 5 dolls all at the same time as I got a little older.

    I remember that my brother Don bought me a little tin tea set and I kept that until I was about 25 years old and then I let my son Hugh play with it and it was lost.  I even had the box until I was that old.  Another gift that I really enjoyed was a little cast iron Model T Ford.  I liked that toy car .  We also received marbles and we played marbles on a crocheted rug. 

    Now some of the traditions that we celebrated at our house.  We usually went to the Christmas program at the Methodist church in Geneva and I remember one year that we went to church in the sleigh which was pulled by the horses.  It was 3 miles to Geneva from our house and the roads must have been blocked with snow and we were unable to go by car.  Think we heated rocks to keep us warm and wrapped up in blankets for the ride into town.

    My Mother always made her famous date filled cookies at Christmas time and I have continued to do that every year also.  The receipt was brought from Denmark by her Mother and they are very delicious cookies .  We usually had goose or duck for our Christmas dinner and Mother made oyster stuffing or her stuffing made with bread, raisins, apples, onions and an egg.  I still make the dressing with the apples  and so forth.  We had mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberries and probably  creamed peas and carrots.  Maybe jello with whipped cream .   

    As there were 6 of us children in the family we drew names after we were a little older and usually had only one gift.  We did have a Christmas tree and decorations.

    We always had a Christmas program in the country schools where I grew up.  The children put on plays, we sang Christmas carols and one year I learned how to clog and we danced for the parents. Two children were assigned to draw the curtains and we were out in the hall until our turn came to recite in the plays or sing.  Of course all the parents came and I can’t remember if we had refreshments or not but I think that we did.

    I can remember being in a church program in Ellendale after we had moved to the farm south of Hope.  I would have been about 9 years old at that time.  I can remember my Mother saying that I had the lightest blonde hair of any child in the program. 

    The folks used to send out a lot of Christmas cards and the postage on the cards was one and one half cents.  They heard from all the cousins and brothers and sisters in Iowa and their nieces and nephews.  It was a time when families kept in contact with each other before the day of long distance telephones.

    There was not much money to be spent on gifts but we all had a good time anyway.  Remember that this was in the Great Depression and money was very limited.  This is a little about what I remember in the 1930’s.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Farming in the 30's and 40's

Farming in the 30’s and 40’s

I will try and tell you about what I remember about farming when I was a child. Bear in mind that I am now 84 years old and I hope these memories are correct.

When I was a child in the 30’s we were in the middle of the Great Depression and the first 8 years of my life was spent on a 80 acre farm 3 miles west of the village of Geneva Minnesota. This farm had a house, barn, chicken house, hog house, machinery shed, summer kitchen, brooder house and a small building next to the windmill with a water tank on top of it. The house had a kitchen, dining room, living room and a bedroom down stairs. I think there were 3 bedrooms upstairs and the girls slept in one bedroom and my brothers slept in the other bedroom. We had running cold water in the house but the outhouse was outside. In the winter we used the pot and also at night if we had to go to the bathroom. We did have electricity in the house at one time but we couldn’t pay the bill and the electricity was cut off.

I don’t remember my Mother using the summer kitchen but it was used for storage and I remember that there was a table in it and clothes lines to hang the clothes to dry in the winter. In back of the summer kitchen and outside was a huge bin that we dumped used tin cans and bottles. South of the summer kitchen my Father had planted about 6 black walnut trees. We had a large garden and think we had berry bushes in it. I picked up a white wasp nest one time and never did that again. I thought it was a ball.

Inside the water building we had a large whet stone mounted on a bicycle sort of body. You peddled it and then some one else held the axe and sharpened it and it was also used to sharpen tools. Outside the tool shed was an old buggy that wasn’t used any more and I used to play in it. Inside the tool shed was a gleaner that was used to clean up seeds. That was used to get the chaff out of oats and so forth. Suppose my Dad cleaned some of the oats after harvest and picked out the good seeds to plant next years crop. I remember my Dad going through the best looking corn ears and picking out the best looking seeds. This was before the days of hybrid corn.

My Dad had a small herd of dairy cows and I think it was about 15 or 20 milking cows. He raised mostly Guernseys as they produced a richer milk than the Holsteins. My father had a Model T Ford at that time and I think he used it in good weather to take the cream to Geneva. If you didn’t have gasoline all the time you could use kerosene to run those cars. Her bought it new for $400.00 and that was sometime in the 20’s. The creamery in Geneva sold ice and in the winter they cut the ice out of Geneva Lake and packed it in saw dust in the ice house. Think the ice lasted all summer and my Dad would bring a cake home ever so often. I don’t remember if we had an ice box on that farm or not.

My older brothers and sister used to be dropped off at Geneva Lake when my Dad went to the creamery and grocery store in the summer. They had fishing poles and would fish until my Dad came back to get them.

We had 4 horses on that farm to pull the machinery for plowing and harvesting. I remember the name of the roan horses and they were called King and Pet. We also had 2 dark colored horses but I can’t remember their names. The dark colored horses did most of the farm work. Pet the female roan horse was ornery and a piece of work. She didn’t like to work. One time my Dad had to go to Iowa and Larry and Don were probably 12 and 14 years old. They had to hitch up King and Pet to haul the manure out to the field. King and Pet always stomped their feet and raised cain for my Dad but the boys put the harness on them and they never moved a foot. They hitched them up and never gave the boys any trouble but they loved to devil my Father with their actions.

Now I want to tell you about the farm implements that we used for farming. We had a walking plow that you hitched one horse to and it was used mostly for plowing a garden. You walked behind the plow and guided it in the furrow. They made several different kinds of walking plows depending on the soil that you were working with. Every small village had a blacksmith and he sharpened plows and worked on other implements and made implements. The blacksmith was a very important person in the farming community. Then you had a sulky plow and it was a riding plow. One wheel was larger than the other as the small wheel ran in the furrow. Then you had the two bottom plow, which was also a riding plow and it used 2 teams of horses. You controlled the horses by pulling on the reins either left or right. To start the horses you said getty up and to stop the horses you said whoo.

After you had plowed the field you then had to disc it to break up the soil. I think the disc were all riding implements and were pulled by two teams of horses. That was to further prepare the soil to make it ready for planting. The discs were round metal pieces probably about 20 inches tall. You had levers in front of the hard metal seat to lift and lower the discs. I think my Father also had a cultivator which was also a riding implement with levers to lift and lower the small cultivators. There was probably about 16 small cultivators on this implement. It was used for summer fallowing, weed-eradication and mulching. I think my dad had one called a spring tooth cultivator. This covers the implements that were used to get the ground ready for planting.

Now I will try to tell you about the implements that we used to plant corn and oats. We had a riding corn planter that had two seed boxes on it. The boxes had a plate in the bottom that let the corn come out to be planted. If I remember right they had a wire running through it so that the corn would be planted evenly. There was a tiny plow in front of the seed box to open up the seed bed and then there were a couple of small discs in back to cover the seed up. The wire had a knot in it and worked the plate in the bottom of the seed box so that your corn was planted evenly. You had to move the wire after you planted every row. The corn was planted so that you could cultivate the field both ways after the corn came up.

The implement companies made corn and cotton seed planters depending on how we wanted to use them. We also had what was called a drill. It was a large implement with a big seed box that we used to drill in oats. It could also be used to drill in clover, flax, sedan grass, wheat, rye or even corn, peas etc. without clogging. This probably also used two teams of horses. I think the drill had discs of some kind to cover up the seeds.

There were several different types of corn cultivators. We used one that was powered by a team of horses and you had to ride on the hard metal seat. I don’t remember if ours was a disc cultivator or had something like a small plow to cultivate the corn. You had to plow the corn at least 4 times to get the weeds out and you plowed it both lengthwise and crosswise of the field. The old saying in Minnesota was that your corn needed to be knee high by the 4th of July. So there was a never ending job to be done in the summer time. When the corn was mature we picked it by hand. You put a corn husker on and went out in the field with a wagon and a bunch of kids and picked the corn off the stalks and threw it in the wagon. You husked the corn in the field and then took it to the corn storage building. The corn storage building was not all enclosed, if I remember right it had boards that were a few inches apart and you stored the corn in it. I think we used the corn to feed the pigs and we took some to the mill in Geneva and had it ground up for chicken feed and maybe fed some to the cows. We also had it ground up fine so that we could make corn bread out of it. Every small village had a mill as they didn’t have power grinders on most farms in the 30’s and early 40’s.

We also drilled corn in sometime in June or July and we didn’t let that corn mature. We used that corn to make silage for the cattle. Some farmer in the area had a silage cutter that was used to cut up the corn and put it in the silo to feed the cattle in the winter time. They had a corn binder that cut the immature corn and wrapped some kind of cord around the corn so that you could shock the corn. It was then shocked by hand and then taken into the silo with a team of horses and a wagon. It had to unloaded by hand and pitch fork and put into the ensilage cutter and then was blown up into the round silo.

We also had a hand operated corn sheller that you put the corn in and turned a handle and shelled the mature corn that was then used to feed the animals. That sheller was kind of fun to run and the children could do that. That’s about all I can think of in connection with raising corn. Now we will go to oats.

The ground was prepared for oats the same as for corn and the oats was drilled in with the drilling implement. We didn’t have to do any cultivating of the oats but I remember we used to have to pick the wild mustard out of the oats fields by hand. Now we will go to the harvesting of the oats. We had a team driven oats binder that cut the oats and then wrapped the binder twine around the oats so that it was in bundles. After it was cut you then had to shock the oat bundles by hand. You put about 5 or 6 bundles in a shock which was shaped like a pyramid. This was so when the men came to the fields to put the oats in the wagons you didn’t have to pick up each bundle separately. This was also hand work with a team of horses and a wagon and probably one person drove the wagon and the other pitched the oat bundles in the wagon. This was done by all the neighbors who came in to help harvest the oats and take it to the threshing machine.

One neighbor would have a threshing machine and then 5 or 6 other neighbors would help each other get the threshing done. This usually happened about the first part of August. The neighbors would come in with their wagons and teams of horses and go to the fields and pick up the oats by hand. They would then bring the oats to the threshing machine and it would be run through the machine and the oats would go in a wagon the straw would be thrown out the chutes. My father was the one who would usually make the straw stack and so I don’t think he helped pick up the oats. There was a real art in making a straw stack and he was probably the only one who was good at it in our neighborhood. The oats would then be taken to the building called the grainery and unloaded by a scoop shovel. That covers the oats quite well, now I will try to tell you about the machinery we used for hay and what we did with it.

We had prairie hay and alfalfa hay on our farm. When the hay was the right height and you had some sunny days and it was dry it was cut by a mowing machine. This was also a horse driven machine and it had sharp blades on it and we were warned as children to be very careful around the mower. After the hay was cut we then used a side delivery rake to pile up the hay in rows. That was also horse driven and you ran the rake over the hay and dumped it so that it made a nice even row. We did not have a hay baler on our farm so we handled the hay in a different way. The barns in Minnesota had a hay mow. After the hay was put in rows it was picked up by another machine called a hay loader. We had a hay wagon with board on the sides and you put rope slings on the bed of the wagon. You then ran over the row of hay and pitched the hay to cover the sling evenly. When you had the right amount in the sling you then put down another sling and put hay on top of it. You usually had 3 slings loaded in your wagon.

You took the hay to the hay mow and attached the sling to a carrier that ran on a track into the hay mow. You then attached the horses to the sling with a double tree and the horses pulled the hay up into the hay mow and then you dumped the hay and spread it out. You had one person in the hay mow and the other pulling the hay up into the mow. You had to spread out the hay evenly in the hay mow and then in the winter you pitched the hay down to the cattle and spread it out in the barn so they could eat it.

Now I will tell you about the manure spreader. It was a machine that was pulled by horses and it had some kind of a belt that was attached to something so that it would move. It also had rotating bars on the back to spread the manure evenly on your fields. In the barn you had a container that ran on a track to the manure pile. You had the scoop the manure out every day and put it in the container and then run it outside to the manure pile and dump it. I think they let it sit there for a while and dry out some. Then you had to put it in the manure spreader and take it to the fields and spread it on the ground. This was before the day of lots of commercial fertilizer and so the farmers were doing organic farming at that period of time. I think I have covered the machinery that we used quite well and remember I am going back 75 years and kids didn’t pay that much attention. So there may be some errors in this stuff.

I will now try to tell you about taking care of the animals and girls weren’t supposed to know that stuff. All the boar pigs had to be castrated and the farmers did that themselves. They didn’t call a vet to do that. So if you had 20 or 30 little pigs to castrate they did it when the pigs were small. My father sold the male calves as veal and didn’t keep them and I don’t know if he did anything to them or not. We always kept a registered bull and we kept him locked up in the barn. When a cow would come in heat the bull would do his duty and we usually kept the good heifers and I think we took some to market.

We also raised chickens on the farm and when I was big enough I picked the eggs and got them ready for market. We raised ducks for several years and I helped take care of them. The chickens had to sit on the duck eggs as the ducks are worthless on sitting on their eggs and raising their young.

The farm was a lot of work and you had things to do every day and there was not much to do after the work was done but to play cards in the winter and go to the free shows in the summer time. The county fair was the big thing and my Dad would try to take us every day. The fair was the third week in August after the oats was harvested and before the corn was ready. We used to have a Harvest festival in Ellendale and they would Barbecue a pig in a pit and all the farming families would come to town and visit and some of them would drink a little.

On the farm south of Hope where we moved in 1936 the man who owned the threshing machine would have a settling up party after the oats was harvested. The farmers exchanged work and they kept track of the hours that they worked on each farm. Then Pete Motz charged them for harvesting the oats and I think everyone brought food and Pete always had a keg of beer. He was Bohemian and most of our neighbors were Bohemian and they let the little kids drink a little beer.

We would go to the Bohemian wedding dances when one of the neighbors children were married. My folks didn’t dance but they visited with the neighbors and the little Bohemian girls taught me to do folk dancing when I was about 8 years old. Well I think I have rattled on long enough and this is a little bit more about what I remember in the 30’s and early 40’s… I was lucky to have a Massey Harris catalog dating in the 1930’s that had pictures of all the farm implements so I was able to describe them better…

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This Really Happened

This Really  Happened

    I will tell you about a few funny things that really happened to myself and other people.   I will start out with some things that happened in my early years.  One time my father went on a bus trip to Winona Minnesota where the Watkins Co  is located.  Watkins had sponsored the trip and it didn’t cost the people anything to go .  They handed out all the passengers a bottle of Watkins Liniment.  One of the men on the trip decided that the liniment would be good to drink so he took a big swig of it.  My Dad came home laughing about it.  I think he said the guy had been drinking before he got on the bus.

    My uncle Ernest had a farm in South Dakota and for some reason or another my Dad went out to where his farm was located on the pretense that he was interested in buying the place. Uncle Ernest had been having some trouble with the tenant.  So my dad  went out there and starts talking to the tenant.  The tenant did not know that he was Uncle Ernest’s brother in law.  He proceed to tell my Dad how he had cheated his landlord.  Seems he divided up a hog with Uncle Ernest and instead of giving him a good hog, he gave him one that had died of some disease.  My dad of course came back from South Dakota and told Uncle Ernest about it.  I don’t know what he did, but probably cancelled the rental contract.  More than one way to skin a pig.

    Uncle Ernest had owned that farm during the dust bowl days and guess it was a pain  to take care of it.  Uncle Ernest retired in about 1941 or 42 and he and my cousin Verna went to South Dakota and decided to farm that land.  Everything Uncle Ernest did turned out well.  They raised wheat and had good crops for a year or two and he sold the farm with a handsome profit.  He had never farmed in his life but did well with that investment.

     I started working on the railroad and was called a green horn and the first thing they pulled off on you was to send you out to the house track and get the seal off a flat car.  Of course the flat cars could not be sealed  like the regular cars and you could spend 30 mins looking for the seal and then you realized that it was a joke.  More fun.

    I was working 3rd trick here in Ponca City and at that time we had a local train that went to Blackwell and came back every day.  They spent the day switching the smelter in Blackwell.  The crew on this local were from the Panhandle division and they slept in the caboose at night.  Well one morning about 3 a m  one of the crew showed up at the ticket counter and wanted to cash a check for $40.00.  Seems 4 of the crew got in trouble with the law.  They had started on a small drinking spree after getting in here about 9 p m.  One of the crew got away before the police could pick him up and he was in the caboose under the covers.  The police knocked on the door and asked him where he had been.  He said, ” Oh I have been sleeping.”  The policeman said…”Well do you always sleep with your boots on?”

    In the late seventies  I along with some other drivers transported the High School Band to Okla City for a state contest.  We had been in the city for a couple of days and were getting ready to come back to Ponca City. There were several girls sitting in the bus and I was sitting in the drivers seat.  I had been looking straight ahead just killing time and the girls started to twitter in the seats behind me.  It was a real funny kind of laugh.  Soon they started doing that again and I looked out the window and a station wagon with a load of boys went by and one of the boys mooned us.  I was shocked out of my head and said ‘Oh my g  I don’t believe this.’  One of the girls had been on my route when she was in fourth grade and she went home and told her Mother.  She said I thought Mrs Pickens was going to have a heart attack..  Never a dull moment.

    In 1980 four of us decided to go to the national bowling tournament in Seattle Washington.  We were in Seattle for a couple of days and decided to take a tour of the harbor.  About the same thing happened.  We were out on a tour boat and a small boat went by and everyone started to laugh.  We were mooned by 3 people on the small boat.  For several years we had a running joke about when you were mooned last…

    In the early eighties we had several rent houses and that will really give you an education.  People show up to rent a place and they are so good at lying.  They have been lying all their lives and you have a hard time catching them at it.  It took me about a year to get smart to them.  I joined the retail credit and when you ask for a credit check before renting they do not come back.

    You can not believe the mess that some of the renters leave.  Dale rented a house one time to some people and he failed to ask it they had any animals.  Turns out that they had 6 pit bull dogs of all different sizes.  This particular rent house had a small fenced back yard but they didn’t keep the dogs in the back yard, they brought them into the house.  They failed to pay the rent so were only in the house about 3 months.  Well the house was carpeted and I had to steam clean the carpet. Steam cleaning did not take the odor out and there was a small screened in back porch  that had been used as a toilet.  The stench was terrible. I went down to the farm supply place and bought a bottle of creosote dip.  I remembered using it on the farm in the barn so I mixed it with water and  gave the porch a good cleaning.  Well it killed the smell but you could smell the creosote for ever.  Now the carpet was another story…I dumped baking soda on it, I dumped coffee on it, and neither did much to kill the smell.  Finally I went down and bought a couple of gallons of vinegar and I mopped the carpet with it.  That  almost killed all the smell.  What a mess.

    We had another renter that was not paying the rent and it was summer time.  The air conditioning went out and they wanted it fixed.  We refused to fix the air conditioning and they moved out owing us rent money.  That seemed to be the only way to get them out.

    Most of our rent houses had stoves, refrigerators and dish washers.  When they moved out I usually had a nice big job cleaning up the stoves.  I found it was easier to buy new liners for the heating elements than it was to try and clean up the mess.  The bathrooms were almost always dirty and I had to spiff them up also.  Sometimes it was easier to repaint than it was to get the walls clean. 

    The first day I drove the school bus the kids shot paper wads all over the bus in the evening.  The next day I told the kids that who ever was the last person on the bus that they had to pick up the mess. Needless to say I didn’t have any more trouble with that.  One day I was substituting  on a route and a senior high boy brought a small animal trap on the bus and was snapping it in the back of the bus.  I called him up to the front and made him give me the trap and when he got off the bus I gave it back to him.

    One of our drivers was taking kids home and she looked up and a boy was choking another child with a bolo tie.  The child  was starting to turn blue and of course she stopped the bus and took the tie away.  You could drive the bus for 6 weeks and know that a child would be poking other children with a pencil but it was heck to catch them in the act.  You can’t see everything and drive safely.  But usually you knew who was doing that kind of stuff.  And then of course parents don’t think their little angels do that kind of stuff.

    One day one of my former students came up to me in a restaurant and said ‘Mrs Pickens how did you ever drive that bus and keep order.  I have 3 children now and they almost drive me crazy.’  She had been one of my favorite students but she had twin sisters that were always trying to sneak a coke on the bus.

    I served on the board of the Okla State Quilters for several years and I was  secretary  when this happened.  Two women came up to the President and were complaining about something they didn’t like.  The President told them she had 2 vacancies on the board and she wanted to know which vacancy they wanted to serve on.  End of discussion and complaining as they didn’t want to do that..

    One thing I like about caller I D is that people used to tell me that they called about something and I wasn’t home.  They can’t try that old story any more and get away with it.  I feel sorry for the young people now.  I guess it is a good thing that their parents can keep close tabs on them but sometimes a person needs to get away from the telephone.

    Now I am going to tell you about one of the people on our bus route.  This happened in the early seventies and this woman was a little bit slow.  Dale had been driving the route for a few days and she had a young son that was a bit retarded riding the bus.  Well I happened to be driving the bus that morning and she came out to the bus in her robe and it was partly open and she had nothing on underneath.  I had a couple of 4th grade girls sitting up near the front of the bus and they just rolled their eyes.

    Then we found a woman to drive the route and the electricity went off one night and her alarm clock didn’t go off.  She got up and was a little late on the route that morning.  The next morning this same woman brought her an alarm clock so she would be there on time.  Wow.

    We handled part of the handicapped children the next year and a good friend of ours had the other handicapped route.  The first day of school we had a new principal at one of the grade schools. The other bus contractor called me that morning as he had been to the school getting children’s names and addresses so he could know where to drop off the children on his route.  Lo and behold this woman was in the office and she had brought the new principal  some after shaving lotion. He didn’t know what to think and the bus contractor was sitting there when it happened.  So as soon as he got home he called me and said you should have seen the principals face,  Well the principal had to call me that afternoon about some problem and so I asked him  ‘How did you like you gift this morning?’.  He couldn’t figure out how I knew about it.  We laughed about that for a long time.  Never know what goes on in school…

    Dale had another complaint about some children not getting on the bus.  He asked the bus driver about it and she said that the children stood on the front porch and would not ever be out at the bus stop even though they could see the bus coming for a  mile.  She had told them to be out there and they still would stand on the porch.  Well Mama called one day and complained again and Dale told her ‘Well you can’t catch the bus standing on the front porch.’

    Another time a child on one of the routes called the bus driver a nasty name.  The driver called Dale and told him what had happened.  That evening Mama called and complained about the bus driver mistreating her son.  Dale asked her if her son had told her what he had called the bus driver.  She said ‘No.’  Dale then proceeded to tell her and he had to tell her about 3 times before she believed him.  You never know what the little angels will do and parents don’t believe you.

    Then we had another parent that would get drunk and call Dale up at ten o clock at night and give him a blessing out over his child getting mistreated. Of course the child had done something and had to be corrected.

    The best one happened about 35 years ago and you  would get fired now for  taking care of problems this way.  Dale was on a out of town 10th grade football trip and was driving home from the game.  He looked out his left side mirror and a boy in the back of the bus was giving all the cars the finger.  Dale told the coach  who was sitting behind him to watch this boy.  The coach saw him do it again and he got up, walked to the back of the bus and hit the boy on the top of his head with his clipboard, didn’t say a word and came back and sat down.  End of problem…

    That’s about all I can remember right now.  Enjoy

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The War Years 1941 - 1945

The war Years 1941-1945

    I need to tell you some things about World War 2 as I remember that period of time.  I remember the day the Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  We had a battery operated radio in our house and the only time my folks turned the radio on was for the world news.

    My brothers Lawrence and Don had taken the 1941 Plymouth out that Sunday.  They were probably out on dates or just driving around seeing friends.  They came home about 4 p.m. on that Sunday afternoon and said that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor that morning.  I was 14 years old at that time and in 10th grade at Owatonna High School.

    The next day or the day after President Roosevelt made a speech to everyone in America on the radio.  I think it was a declaration of War against Japan and Germany.  The speech was in the High School auditorium and it came over the radio.  An assembly was called and all the students in school listened to that speech.  Our life as we knew it would never be the same again.

    My brother Don enlisted in the navy and was sent to boot camp at I think Great Lakes.  He  was tested and then went to a training camp in Pennsylvania.  He  was tested and he learned the Morse Code and later he was selected to be the radioman on the submarine Robalo.  He was also trained at New London Conn.  I have a picture of him and the whole crew of the Robalo.   The submarine went down the Mississippi river to New Orleans and went through the Panama Canal and ended up at Freemantle Australia.  The submarine either hit a mine in the South China Sea or a torpedo from a  enemy destroyer  hit it.  Three men escaped and were later taken as prisoners of war.  No one survived from that submarine.  The submarine went down between June and August of 1944.

    My brother Lawrence stayed on the farm as he was also eligible to being drafted.  Lawrence had a 2 C draft deferment.  There were a lot of farm boys with that classification as they were needed on the farms to help the war effort. I remember that the farm boys around Owatonna formed a 2 C club and they sponsored dances to raise money for the War effort.

    We collected bacon  grease for the war effort and it was turned in and I don’t remember what it was used for.  Everybody pitches in and the car manufacturing plant were making jeeps and tanks and Boeing at Wichita was making airplanes.  Every one that was able bodied begin to help with the war effort.   Josten’s at Owatonna was making the Nordic bomb sight  and they were hiring16 year old young people to work in their plant.  When I was a senior in High School some of the boys were working part time at Jostens.  Young people of 16 were also working as fire fighters.  I remember one young man that would leave school whenever there was a fire.  The fire truck would come by the school to get him.

    Within a short period of time we were given ration books.  They had small red cardboard coins that said O P A  and numeral 1  and red point printed on it.  I don’t remember how much meat you could buy with that but it also included butter.  My Mother bought a butter churn and churned cream for us so we didn’t have to use the OPA point for butter.  We also butchered our own meat and chickens.

    My father could do almost anything and I remember how they butchered a hog.  First you had to shoot it and let it bleed out.  Then you had a contraption that you fastened the hogs legs to and then you dumped it into boiling hot water.  You then had to scrape all the hair off and then you had to cut it up just like butchers do.  My Mother rendered the lard by heating it and then she stored it in a 5 gal crock. 

I don’t remember if she used that lard for making soap or if she went to the butcher shop and got the suet after beef had been butchered.  There was a frozen food locker in Hope and my folks rented a locker and stored chickens and meat and strawberries in the locker.  When they went after groceries they would get the meat out of the locker.  The locker was located in the creamery at Hope and that creamery is one of the few in Steele County that is still in operation.  Hope butter is really something else.  They have their own label and also they sell butter  to Land O Lakes.

    We also had gasoline rationing and you had a book for that.  The farmers got the best rationing books and they also were able to get gasoline for their tractors.   Tires were another thing that it was difficult to obtain and I think they were also rationed.  For you speed nuts that think 55 miles per hour is slow,  well it was the law of the land that the speed limit on highways for everybody was 35 miles per hour.  It saved our precious tires and saved gasoline.

    Other things were also hard to obtain.  Material for clothing was difficult to find as well as many other products.  My Mother made a skirt for me out of light weight curtain material of some kind or other.  New sewing machines were non existent and so older machines were reconditioned and sold to people.  Almost all women at that time knew how to run a sewing machine.  I learned at 12 to start making clothes on my Mother’s 1912 Minnesota treadle machine.

    We were fortunate that my folks had purchased a new 1941 Plymouth car and so we had dependable transportation.  My Dad also had a 1937 tractor and he had the plow and other attachments for it.  I don’t remember if he ground oats with that tractor  but I think that he did.  You had a belt that attached to the tractor and then it ran a small grinding machine.  We fed our cattle  silage and then we top dressed it with ground oats, the cattle really liked that in the winter time.  You planted a late crop of corn and did not let it mature.  Some one in the neighborhood had a silage cutter.  You  cut the corn green and then hauled it to the silo .  The silage cutter had long spouts on it and it put the silage in the silo.  The cutter was ran by a tractor.  The silos were about  10 to 15 feet in diameter and were probably about 25 feet high.   The silo had doors  and the doors had rungs on them.  In the winter you would climb up the silo and pitch down the silage.  Then as you got silage out you would take that door off and be on the next level.  Their was an outside chute on the silo and you would pitch the silage down it into a cart of some kind or other.  Then you had to take it to the barn and feed the cattle.

    I was young at this time and didn’t pay all that much attention as to what went on at the farm.  I was helping Mother and watching Dick and picking eggs from the hen house so was plenty busy.

    People in town also raised victory gardens and they canned the excess and ate very well during this time.  We always had a big garden on the farm and part of my work was to pull weeds out of the garden.  One time my Mother went down to help my sister Dorothy with her new daughter Mary.  The tomatoes were ready to be canned and so I went down into the garden and picked the tomatoes and canned them.  I was 15 years old at that time.  My Mother came home and couldn’t believe that I had accomplished that.    I had helped my Mother can tomatoes and peaches and pears so I knew what had to be done.

    I remember cooking for us at that time also.  I can’t remember what I cooked but it was done on the cast iron wood burning cook stove and maybe a little on the two burner kerosene stove that we used in the summer time.  That kept me out of any mischief that I might have been thinking about.
    I want to tell you a little about chickens now.  We always bought baby pullets to raise for laying hens.  We had what is called a brooder house especially for the baby chicks.  The brooder house was a octagon shaped small building and had a door going into it and then a small trap door that you opened to let the chicks out when they got about 3 weeks old.  There was a kerosene heater in the center of the brooder house and it had a large lid on it.  When you brought the baby chicks in they had a warm place to stay under this lid.  You took the chicks out of the box that they came in and the first thing you did was to dip their bills in some water so they could learn how to drink water.  We had little feeders with little round holes on the top of them so the chicks could eat the feed.  The watering jars were fruit jars which had a pan like contraption fastened to the top of the jar.  You filled the jar with water and then turned it upside down and the baby chicks could then drink the water.  You had to keep the jars clean and that was one of my jobs.  You checked on the chicks several times a day and removed any that had died.  You usually lost a few chicks.

    We also bought 100 roosters.  The funny thing was if you bought 100 roosters they were all roosters but if you bought 100 pullets you always got 5 or 6 roosters.  Roosters were not considered that valuable back in the 40’s.   When the roosters got about 8 weeks old we would start eating them.  My Mother killed the roosters by cutting their head off with an axe.  We then let it bleed out and then my job was to pick the feathers off.  You dipped the bird in very hot water and then picked it.  My Mother then gutted the bird and cut it into pieces and then soaked it in salt water for about an hour and then fried it.  We ate lots of fried chicken in the summer time.  We also took some of the chickens to the locker in Hope and then could  use them later on.

    Later on when I was working for the Supt of our High school, the art teacher who was an avid hunter brought two pheasants by one Saturday afternoon when the Burt’s were gone and I was taking care of the little boys.  Now I had never cut up a chicken but I heated up the water and got the feathers off the pheasants and then I had to gut them and cut them up.  I had watched my Mother do it a hundred times and  I just cleaned them up but didn’t cut them up.  Mrs Burt was so surprised when I told her about the pheasants and she asked me what I did.  I told her they were all cleaned up and ready to be baked.  We didn’t fry pheasants, we usually baked them and stuffed them.  They were real good eating.

    The other job that I had on the farm was to pick the eggs and get them ready to go to the grocery store in exchange for other groceries.  Some of the hens were mean and they would like to peck you when you went to get the eggs.  I just slapped them lightly on the head and then they wouldn’t peck you any more.  I brought the eggs up to the house and cleaned them with vinegar water if they were dirty and then packed them in the egg case.  I think the big egg cases were 12 dozen and the small ones were 6 dozen.   We kept the eggs in the basement in the summer time as it was cool down there.

    By the time I was 13 I was doing all the ironing for the family.  We had came up in the world as we had a gas iron.  You had to buy white gasoline for it and then there was a pump of the back of the iron.  It was so much easier than using the old sad irons that you heated on the stove.  My Mother hated to iron so the job fell to me.  She would iron the silk things and I would do the rest.  We had silk clothing and silk stockings in the early 40’s.  The silk blouses had to be ironed on low heat and the silk had to be completely wet when you ironed it.  Oh ,yes we had lots of starched things to iron.  You made the starch and dipped your clothes in it.  Then you dried the clothing outside  and then you had to dampen the clothing.  A coke bottle with a top with holes in it was the favorite way to dampen clothing.    Automatic washing machines and steam irons were a few years in the future.

    This is just a little more about life in the good old days.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More About Life in the 1940's

  More about life in the 1940’s

    I will go into a little more depth about what life was like in the 40’s.  In March of 1940 my parents moved from a farm 2 miles south of Hope MN to a farm 5 miles south of Owatonna on the Lemond Road.  This farm was large and had 360 acres.  I was in 8th grade at this time so here we go attending a new school where I didn’t know anyone.

    The school was located 2 and ½ miles from the farm.  One of the neighbors came over and said that they had a car pool going to school and we were welcome to be in the car pool.   Once a week each family drove the children to school.   There were 5 families involved and  7 children.  So 7 children were  in the car and off we went to school.  Remember this was before the days of seat belts and the cars were a lot smaller than they are now.

    I was the new kid on the block and was in 8th grade but I had no trouble getting along in this school.  I think we started at 9 a.m. and got out of school at 4 p.m.  We had an hour for lunch and then had a morning recess of 15 minutes and an afternoon recess of 15 minutes.  The 7th and 8th graders helped the teacher with the first graders and I think there was 6 children in first grade.  Only a couple of them had learned anything about learning to read.  So we helped them with their reading as best we could.  I remember listening to the first graders recite.

    At the end of school  we had a school picnic.  All the neighbors brought food and drinks for a nice mid day meal.  The older children in the neighborhood came to the picnic and some had already graduated from High School in Owatonna.  It was a good way for my folks to get acquainted with the neighbors and suppose my Dad made the connection with neighbors about harvesting oats.

    There was a small creamery about a mile from the house and my brother Larry went to the creamery every third day.  Two other neighbors exchanged days and they hauled the cream in the cars.  Steele county was known as the Butter Capital of the United States at that time and there were small creameries scattered all over the county.
Hope Creamery building

    This new farm had a small woods on it.  Suppose the woods covered about 10 acres.  I was always off exploring and in the summer there were several patches of wild raspberries.  There were also small patches of wild strawberries on the farm and they were very small but good to eat.  There was a huge hip roofed barn on this place and you could drive a team into it on the second floor or hay mow.  We used to go up in the hay mow and jump off the beams into the hay.  One time my brother Dick jumped about 10 feet but he didn’t get hurt.

    I was the only girl at home so I helped my Mother around the house.  By that time I was doing some cleaning by myself and always wiped the dishes after a meal.  We had a nice flat lawn in front of the house and I kept the lawn mowed.  The folks bought us a croquet set and my brother Dick and I played croquet every nice day that we had in summer.  Now remember I mowed that yard with a push mower by hand.

    At this time I was also milking cows.  We had been able to purchase a small milking machine that was run by a Briggs and Stratton motor.  There was no electricity on this farm.  After we washed the cows teats then my brother would put the milking machine on and milk the cows.  We always had to go back in with a pail and do what we called the final stripping to get all the milk.  We put the milk in a bowl on top of the cream separator and then turned a handle by hand to separate the milk from the cream.  There was 2 spouts on the cream separator and the cream came out one and the milk out the other.

    We put the cream in a can after the evening milking and then we put it in a cold water tank to keep it cool until the next morning.  Then we put the morning cream in and took it to the creamery early in the morning.  The separator had to be carefully washed every day.  We had a bench outside the pump house and I washed the separator every day.

We always ran cold water through the separator after we had finished separating the milk and the cream.  That came in handy to know when I had children as I rinsed the bottles out after feeding the babies.

    In the winter time we kept the cows in the barn and would let them out to drink water.  We had a cast iron stove of some kind or another and we had to light a fire in it to melt the ice on the water tank.  My Dad took the skim milk down to the hog house and he mixed it up with grain for the hogs.  We called that stuff slop.  In other words we slopped the pigs. We didn’t have an ice box until the summer time.  My Mother would make home made ice cream in the winter as we would get the ice out of the cattle watering tank.  She used pure cream and made a custard for the ice cream base.  Boy was it good.

    In the fall of 1940 I moved down to east of Ellendale  with my sister Dorothy and family.  This was so I could start High School at Ellendale. My nephew Warren was about 4 years old at that time.  I helped Dorothy the same as at home.  She was a terrible hard worker and she was out milking cows every morning and evening.  I didn’t do any milking there but I watched Warren and I picked up eggs and was just generally useful as a 13 year old can be.

    My clothes for High School weren’t to classy but then no one else had anything that looked much better.  I remember that Dorothy made me a nice wool skirt out of some things that Uncle Ernie had sent to us.  I caught the bus into High school and they had two routes to cover.  I was on the late route going to school and then I was on the late route coming home.  In the winter we had about 45 minutes after school and so the boys and girls would play basketball .  We would get up a team from various classes and I played forward.  Got half way good at shooting baskets.  We usually got on our bus to go home about 4:30.   Wouldn’t the teachers today have a fit if they had to watch a bunch of kids after school for 45 minutes.  But we probably acted better.  I also read and did home work in that period of time.

    I remember the terrible blizzard that we had on Nov 11 1940.  I went to school that day and it was a real warm day for November.  About 11 a.m. it started to snow.  I remember our High school Supt looking out the window at the snow.  The Supt’s office was right across the hall from our home room.  A little while later he called for the early morning bus riders to get ready to go home.  He had called the bus drivers early and decided it was best that we get home.  I of course went home on what we called the 2nd bus.  By 2p.m. we had a raging blizzard on our hands.  My sister Dorothy told me that we had to go out and round up the chickens and get them in the chicken house.  The chickens had been out all morning scratching around for seeds and bugs and whatever.  The blizzard lasted for about 3 days and a lot of people died.  They got caught out away from home in their cars and couldn’t get to shelter.

    My brother Don was a Senior in High School while I was in 9th grade.  He worked on a farm that year and rode the bus to school.  Don played football, basketball and he was a baseball pitcher.  I think he pitched a no hit no run game in High School one time.  They wanted him to play on the Legion team but World war 2 started and he was off to the Navy.

    While I was in school in Ellendale I sold candy at noon to the other students.  Most of the kids didn’t want to sell candy, they wanted to walk up and down the halls and flirt with the boys.  If you sold candy at noon you were able to eat one candy bar without paying for it.  I sampled every kind of candy that we sold.  We had to make change and turn it in and all that good stuff.

    We had the starting of a hot lunch program in our school at that time.  I think it cost 5 cents.  A woman came in and made stuff for us to eat with our lunch packed from home.  Sometimes we had macaroni and cheese and sometimes hot soup and sometimes hot chocolate.  At Ellendale we all took our lunches to school in a lunch bucket.  The next year when I went to Owatonna all the kids packed their lunches in a paper sack.  A lunch bucket was a no no in Owatonna.

    In the winter time when I was staying with Dorothy I used to go up the road and Eugene and I would go ice skating on a frozen pond close to his house.  Would just do that on Saturdays.  I think we probably played some games with Eugene’s step mother.

    I remember some of  kids problems that were on my school bus.  One of the neighbor girl’s Mother had died and she was in 10th grade.  I think she was going to school and doing most of the housework and helping take care of her younger sister who was in 7th grade.  Another family on the route had lost both parents and there was 5 or 6 children in the family.  The oldest boy was about 22 and he had a sister about 20 and he did the farming with the help of some uncles and managed to put the rest of the kids through school.  Some of the younger children were just in second or third grade.  I think that maybe some of the other farmers in the area helped out with the farm work and advise.  But they kept the children together and they turned out all right.

    People were more inclined to help their neighbors back in that time.  Farmers exchanged work back and forth so that they could get harvesting done and also haying and other chores.  But you didn’t take advantage of your neighbors and try to get by without returning favors.

    I enjoyed the library that we had in the school at Ellendale and was always checking books out to read and take home.  Dorothy liked to read so we would both read the same books.  I probably left the books home and she read them in the day time in winter when there was not much you could be doing outside.  At that time there was no electricity in the house and your heat came from a wood cook stove and then another heating stove in the living room.  There was a wood pile outside and someone had to bring the wood in and think it was stored in a small entryway.   I don’t remember if we used much coal or not.  It came in real handy when I went to work for the railroad to know how to start a fire in a pot bellied stove and how to bank a stove in those cold railroad stations so that all you had to do was add more coal in the morning.

    Dorothy had a big garden and when I was first there in September she had an ever bearing strawberry patch.  I remember her going down and picking a dish pan full of strawberries.  She made shortcake and of course we poured pure cream over all of it.  We did eat good on the farm.  Dorothy was an exceptionally good cook and I enjoyed that. 

    Most of the farming families where I grew up got by in the depression quite well.  We didn’t have anything to spend on stuff we didn’t need but we were always able to have good shoes and clothes to wear and we never went hungry.  Things begin to get better about 1938 and then after the War started there was more money available to buy things.

    I went to Owatonna the next year and stayed at home and car pooled with 2 other neighbors.  My brother Larry said that all he did was car pool at that time.  He went to Owatonna twice a day every 3 days.  Then Dick was in grade school and he had 2 trips to grade school once every 5 days.  Then he went to the creamery every 3rd day.  He said he spent a lot of time in the car getting all the running done.

    When we lived on the farm south of Owatonna a terrible fire happened to one of our neighbors about a mile south of us.  Their 5 year old little boy went out in the barn with some matches and started a fire.  The barn burned down and the little boy was in it.  It was a terrible windy day and pieces of the barn came into our pasture which was about ¾ of a mile north of the barn .  My parents never left any of us alone in the house if they had to go out at night.  We used kerosene lamps and they just didn’t trust us to be careful around those lamps.  We had a healthy respect for fire.  We used kerosene lamps when we were milking in the evening and we were so careful with them.  To this day I do not want a lighted candle in my house.

    My  tenth grade in school was the last year that I stayed at home all year.  The neighbors that we car pooled with graduated from High School and so I worked for my room and board and stayed with the Supt of our High School in my 11th and 12th grade.  A lot of girls that lived on the farm did that and the Dean of Women in our High School kept a list of people that wanted a girl to stay and help them and she  picked out the girls who she thought would make a good fit with  some one on the list.

    I answered the phone and helped with the house work and watched after the two little boys when they had to go at night.  I could go out if they weren’t going anywhere and I had to be in at ten on school nights and at twelve on Friday and Saturday nights.  I sold them about 3 dozen eggs when I would go home every other week and used that money to go to the movies.  The movies were fifteen cents and that was for the shoot em up westerns.  The better movies were twenty five cents.  There were three or four movie theatres in Owatonna.  At that time the population of Owatonna was 5000 people.

    I did go to the football and basketball games at that time.  I also went roller skating and did some ice skating in the winter time.  Mrs Burt sold me her ice skates for two dollars and the city in Owatonna had a ice rink on the Straight river.  They had an attendant at the rink that kept a bonfire going so that we could warm up when we got too cold.  It was high school age kids that went skating and think it stayed open until about 9 p.m.

    This is just a little bit more detail about my life in the forties for a couple of years.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Stories my parents told me.

    I was fortunate  in that I would go see my parents in Minnesota and would usually stay with them at least a week and we did a lot of visiting in that period of time.  I have been working with genealogy for the past 30 years and have found  out a lot more information on my own.

    I will start with my Mother’s family as I know very little about them.  Her father’s name before coming to America from Denmark was Mads Goldfelt.  We think he was Jewish.  He came from the part of Denmark which was next to Germany  and I suppose he was looking for a better life in the States.  My Mother’s mother came from Copenhagen and her name was Anna Thompson.  They  were married and came to the States in about 1865. 

    My grandfather changed his name to Chris Madison when he came to America.  He had been trained as a barrel maker and they came to Linn County Iowa.  He was one of the first employees at the Wilson-Sinclair packing house and was employed as a barrel maker.

Wilson-Sinclair was later changed to the Wilson Packing Co.  My Mother told me that everyone in Denmark was trained to do some kind of work.  Isn’t that amazing that people in Europe were trained for a job and we still do not  do that here in America.

English: Cooper's workshop, Open air museum Roscheider Hof, Konz, Germany
Deutsch: Holz- und Waldmuseum, K├╝ferwerkstatt, Freilichtmuseum Roscheider Hof, Konz

    There were 6 children born in this marriage.  George, Carl ,Ernest, Tillie , a girl who died at 6 years of age and my mother Irene.  My grandfather worked at the packing house and he also did some fishing in the Mississippi River.  They lived in  Marion Iowa.  My grandfather was crippled as a result of an accident.  He was out cutting wood and his axe hit his leg somewhere.  It was a terrible wound and he started a fire and think he cut off his leg and he put the leg in the fire to keep from bleeding to death. 

    My grandmother died when she was 57 years old as a result of an operation to take out her gall bladder.  I did not know  my Uncle’s George and Carl as they moved to Washington state years before I was born.  I did know my Uncle Ernest.  He was a depot agent for the CNW Railroad at Fox Lake Minn and lived about 100 miles from us.  We went down one time and stayed about a week.  I was about 9 years old at that time.  Uncle Ernie raised his 3 children by himself as his wife had died a few years before. 

    Uncle Ernie never got upset about anything.  I could play with the typewriter in the office and helped him carry the mail up to the post office.  They had a turntable at Fox Lake and I could go out and play on it and think he let me fool around climbing on the baggage wagons.  Of course he knew there were not any trains coming while I was doing all that messing around.

    Uncle Ernie had a grape arbor and I remember the grapes were ripe and I think I got sick eating all those grapes.  He used to send my Mother clothing so that she could remake things for our family.   My Mother and Ernie were real close and my two older sister’s used to go see him.  I know my sister Daisy caught the train at Albert Lea and went out to Fox Lake at least one time.

    My Mother graduated from Marion High School in 1907 and she worked as a school teacher for 4 or 5 years.  She met my Father when she was teaching at rural School No 9 and was staying with my Great Uncle Jim Hagerman.  She taught my cousin Everett Cress when he was about in first grade.  Everett and Erma were visiting my folks in Sandstone Minn one time when I was there and they were talking about the old days.  Seems that dist No 9 had ran off several teachers.  My Mother had been teaching for a while when she came out there and the first day a 17 year old boy sassed her and she proceeded to grab him by the shoulders and sit him down in his seat and said “There will be no more of that.“  She didn’t have any trouble after that.

    Everett told another story about a teacher.  He said this woman was small and some child gave her fits and she took the broom and smacked him a few times.  She then got up in front of the class and said ”Now if anyone else wants to sass me, just come on up”  Everett said there was no more trouble in that school.

    Mother met my father while she was teaching at No 9 as I think my father was working for his Uncle Jim.  They were married in 1912 and my Mother didn’t know how to cook.  My folks laughed and told the story about how my Mother made biscuits and they were hard and my Dad couldn’t eat them.  He said ”Irene I think I better go down to Toddville and get my Mother to teach  you how to do some cooking.”  So his Mother came out and stayed a week and my Mother’s biscuits were the best.

    My folks also talked about how my Dad’s grandmother Angelina Hagerman came out and spent a week or so visiting with them after they were married.  She always waited about a month after any of her grandchildren were married and then she would come out a visit for a week.  I remember my father telling me about that when he was past 80 years old  and he said” Oh, how I would like to have those days back.”

      My  folks were married in 1912 and they farmed in the Marion Iowa area for about 5 years.  They then bought a farm about 5 miles north of Albert Lea Minn and farmed there for a few years.  Dorothy was born in Iowa and Daisy was born in Minnesota.  They moved their household equipment and their livestock from Marion to Albert Lea in a immigrant car.  That is you went down to the railroad and arranged to get a car to put all your stuff in it.    You loaded your stuff and then the railroad took you to your destination.  Remember there were not any trucks or roads to move you around in 1917.  Most of your traveling was by train and there were passenger trains everywhere.  My dad went ahead and got settled and then my Mother came later with Dorothy.

    When they moved to Albert Lea my Dad had to take cream to the creamery and there were a lot of Norwegian farmers in that area.  My Dad went home and told my Mother that they were making fun of him and he didn’t like it.  So the next time he went to the creamery he took my Mother and she could speak all the Scandinavian languages and she told the Norwegians  something and they didn’t bother my father again.

    My folks later moved to 3 miles west of Geneva Minn and I have told you some other stories about my life on the farm at Geneva.  We did have a nice orchard and a huge garden on the farm at Geneva.  It was just an 80 acre farm and that is about all one farmer could take care of using horses and no mechanical equipment to do the farming.

    Now I will tell you about my fathers family and it is a long story as his family had been in the states as early as 1630.  My great great grandmother was a Howe and her family goes back to the early families in New England.  She was related to the Hibberd’s and the Walden’s and the Gardiner’s and the Fuller’s.  My great grandmother Angelina Gray Hagerman claimed to be related to the early White family and also to Lady Jane Gray in England. 

    The Gray family showed up in Sharon Conn early on and then they went to Oswego New York and  then they bought land in Tioga County Pa about 1798.  I have a post card that my great grandmother wrote to my grandmother  Sarah Hagerman Cress that says she was born in Gray Valley Sullivan Twp Tioga County  Pa in 1825.  Now you need to remember that my Father knew his grandmother very well.  He was born in 1882 and my great grandmother died in 1914.  Now I will tell you about that families trip westward.

    Hosea Wilson Gray was in Iowa about 1838.  He was a young man and I assume he rode horseback from probably Bradford Pa to Linn County Iowa.  I have no idea who else came west with him.  My research shows that he went back to Pa and told the family about the good land to be had and so several of the Gray families got together and formed a wagon train to move west.  Included in the wagon train was  George White Gray and his family and Silas Gray his brother and his family.  Silas Gray had several sons that were probably in their late teens or early twenties.  George White Gray brought 4 children west with him.  They were Angelina Gray,, Parthenia White Gray, Calista Gray and William Wallace Gray.

    I have the obituary of William Wallace Gray in Sarah Hagerman Cress Sparks bible.  It tells of the trip west and the difficulties that they encountered.  I think they stayed in Ohio for a year and then came on to Linn county.  At that time they must have crossed the Mississippi river on some kind of a ferry.  Now here comes the interesting part.  Amariah Hagerman came west with the wagon train.  He was about 21 years old at that time.  He did not have a wagon and probably rode horseback all the way.  He was very important to the wagon train as he was a trained wheel wright.  That  is he knew how to fix the wheels on the wagons.

    Angelina Gray was a comely 15 years old at that time and Ameriah probably took a shine to her as they were married in 1845.  Ameriah came from near Williamsport Pa and his father James and grandfather  Aaron came into that area soon after the Revolutionary War.  There is a creek or small river in the Williamsport area named Hagerman’s Run.

    My father, Rob Hagerman and Mary Beggs made a trip by train to Williamsport Pa in 1907 and I have a picture of them in my possession at their great grandfathers grave at Newbury Jct Pa.  This is close to  Williamsport.  Dale and I tried to find the grave and we found the church and some older people said there used to be a grave yard near where the church was located but that the headstones had  been taken down  several years before.  That was about 25 years ago. 

    My Father used to get letters from one of his cousins Anna Hagerman  into the 30’s.  I have my fathers letters that were saved and some go back over 100 years.  Dale and I went into an antique shop in Williamsport and were asking around about the Hagerman’s and an elderly lady in the shop knew about Anna Hagerman.  She said she had been a school teacher.

    While in Williamsport we went to the library and did some research.  They have a wonderful genealogy section in the library at Williamsport.  At that time I didn’t know much about the Gray’s except what my Dad had told me.  So I found a history book in the library and it was the history of Tioga County which is the next county north of Williamsport.  Lo and Behold  the Gray’s were in the book.  Now my dad’s name was Lafayette Gray Cress and I have a picture of Lafayette Gray who my father was named after.  Well here Lafayette Gray shows up in that book along with some other Gray’s.  I copied that stuff off and then Dale and I decided to go to the county seat of Tioga Pa which is Wellsboro Pa.

    We went in the library and they had 40 pages of information about the Gray’s including the info about the Gray family burial ground.  We photocopied off that information and then head out in the country south of Mainesburg Pa trying to find the family plot.  We had a map  where it was located and stopped at a farm near by and asked about it and if it would be all right to go check it out.  The young man at the farm didn’t know about the burial ground but he knew where to take  us.  We walked across a field of tall grass and found it.

    Parthenia White Gray and James Gray were there as was Angelina Gray Hagerman’s mother Sarah Howe.  There was a flag at James  grave indicating that he was a Revolutionary War veteran.   We also read Sarah’s stone and it read Howe.  So my grandmother Sarah Hagerman Cress was named after her grandmother.  Sarah Howe died in 1834 before the family came west.

    My Father was named after Lafayette Gray and I think he was probably a favorite cousin of my great grandmother’s.  I do have a picture of him and his wife in my collection of things.

    The family came west about 1840 or 41 and I think George White Gray settled in the Marion area.  You could homestead at that point in time and the land probably didn’t cost anything except the filing fees.  Ameriah Hagerman and Angelina Gray were married in 1845 and they settled in Otter Tail Twp close to Toddville Iowa.  They had 10 children and raised 5 of them to maturity.  Angelina lost 3 little girls before my grandmother Sarah was born in 1850.

    The whole family lived close to each other after they were grown.  Jim Hagerman, Robert Hagerman, George Hagerman, Billy Beggs who was my Aunt Ellen’s husband and Jacob Cress who was my grandmother’s husband all lived close to each other.  My grandfather Jacob Cress died in 1895 when my father was 13 years old and his brother John was 15.  The boys had to do the farm work and my  Father talked about hoeing corn by hand.

    I will now tell you a few stories about life on that farm.  My grandmother was a very religious woman and they all walked down the railroad tracks to church on Wednesday night and then they walked to church twice on Sunday.  This was after my grandfather died and I suppose my grandmother was lonely and  farm work was hard.  I think her brothers helped with the farm work as they were living close to each other.

    My Aunt Mina, my dad’s sister told me about the children swimming in the Cedar river and my dad told me about catching catfish in the Cedar River.  My aunt Mina said all the kids were down at the river one time and the boys had gone in swimming and left all their clothes on the bank.  The girls came down and took their clothes and she said Uncle John just stayed in the water but my Dad came out naked and got his clothes.  Aunt Mina was probably about 80 at that time and we laughed and laughed about that.  Her granddaughter Ann told me just about a year ago that  Mina never talked about any of her sister’s and brother except my Dad.

    My Dad brought a deck of cards home once and his Mother took them and burned them in the cook stove.  When my Dad was past 80 he would say ”My Mother would turn over in her grave if she knew I was playing cards.”  He loved pinochle and 500 and think he used to play gin rummy at the tavern in Hope for money.  When Dale and I would go to Minnesota we wouldn’t be in the house 10 minutes before my Dad was getting the card table set up.

    My grandmother remarried in 1905 and the boys were grown so they were out on their own.  John married at 18 but my Father married when he was 30.  He left Toddville for a while and went to Duncan Ariz with someone who was going to farm in that area.  He said they left El Paso Texas on the train coming back to Iowa and it took all day for the train to go from El Paso to Ft Worth.  It’s about 550 miles.

    Now I need to tell you about his other grandparents who also came to Iowa about 1840.  His grandmother Lydia Neighbor died in 1864 and her family had been in the States since 1738.  Her Mother Margaret Weise Neighbor came west out of Newcomerstown  Ohio in about 1840.  Margret had 8 children with her when she came to Iowa.  The Neighbors or Nachbar’s had settled in and around Dover New Jersey in 1738.  They came west in 1815 along with several other families and settled in what was later called Newcomerstown Ohio.   I know quite a lot about the Neighbors that I have found out on my own as not to many stories were passed down to my Father.  They did come by wagon train and I think they spent a year in Ohio and then came on west and settled in the same area that the Hagerman’s settled.  The Neighbors and the Oliphants were good friends and my Great grandfather John Cress and Lydia Neighbor and my Grandmother Sarah Hagerman Cress and Jacob Cress are all buried in the Oliphant Cemetery near Center Point Iowa.

    They were farmers and teachers and preachers and were in every kind of business close to Center Point Iowa.  My Dad said at one time that he was related to almost every one in Center Point Iowa.

    Lydia Neighbor and John Cress had 6 children and I have family information on all of them.  Lydia died in 1864 and suppose it was child birth fever.  I do know that her sister Mrs Thomas and her husband raised 5 nieces and nephews including my Great Aunt Mary Cress who later married a Mounce.  About 20 years ago  two of Mary’s daughters were still alive and living in Center Point and I visited with them a couple of times.  The oldest Maude Price could remember my grandfather Jake Cress as she was 97 years old at that time and had been about 10 years old when my grandfather  died.

    John Cress my father’s grandfather came west about 1841 or so with several brothers.  He had came out of the Richmond Virginia area and they were probably looking for land to homestead out west.  He and Lydia were married in 1845 and he lived until 1888.  My Dad said he was always afraid of him as I guess he had red hair and he was just a small child at that time.  They had changed their name from Grass to Cress and they were also of German stock and I have information on that family all the way back to Germany into the 1600’s.  It was a tradition in that family that the Fathers name would be John and that his oldest son would be Jacob and then Jacobs oldest son would be named John.

    Many of the daughters were named after their grandmother’s.  Sarah Hagerman was named after her grandmother Sarah Howe Gray.  My Aunt Angie was the first born child of Sarah and Jacob Cress and her given name was Angelina Lydia Cress.  She was named after both grandmothers.  You will find that a lot when checking through the old records.

    I remember one more story that my Dad told and that was when he was working for someone as a hired hand and his employer got into a squabble with a neighbor about a cow.  They had to go to court and spent a lot of money getting this settled.  My Dad always said to stay out of troubles with the neighbors and save your money for something else.

    My Father also told about the time he went to Cedar Rapids for something and decided that he would do a little drinking.  He went down and bough a bottle of Peach Brandy and got a little tight on it.  He said he got up the next morning and took a drink of water and he got tight again.  He said that cured him from drinking.  He never smoked or drank and lived to the ripe old age of 95.  This is a few of the stories that I remember.