In this letter Grace shares something I had never heard before, and never did hear in person from her. She talks about a young man that she knew well, but never “went out” with. Is that a common thing? What comes to mind is a certain young lady who was very special to me in high school, we were together many times, double dated and such. We enjoyed many of the same activities in school, signed the yearbook with some special sentiments, but we never hit it off. Now, how many years later, we are still friends. Somehow that closeness never developed into a deep romance. Maybe that’s good?
Steele high school
I think I enjoyed that second year at Steele a lot more than I did the first. I was so bashful + scared to talk to anybody that a lot of kids thought I was stuck up. Guess its hard for all kids to start in a new school, it sure was for me. We always had a homecoming dance + ball game in the fall with a queen + all that goes with it. That year someone nominated me + another gal to run for queen. She got elected but it was quite an honor anyway.
Manual labor was a big part of life in the thirties. That’s about the only job a teenager could find back then. The pay may seem a little low, but converting 1930 dollars to 2015 dollars means Lucy was making about $20 per week. That’s not too bad for a first job, taken on while going to school.
By the time Judy and I came of age manual labor had given way to service oriented jobs. I did some sweeping floors initially, but quickly graduated to working in an office putting together mailings and brochures. Judy got a fabulous job working as a telephone operator at the television station with her mother.
During the depression years when I was a “teenager,” jobs were so hard to get. I knew the best thing I could do for my mother was to be away during the summer. She cooked for teachers, rented out part of our house, washed clothes for the Moody Farm during the winter but during the summer having Selmer Engen come to the house for meals was her only income.
My new bike.
When I was six years old I had a shiny new bike that my mother let me ride anywhere at any time. That bike was the ticket to freedom. It was the best way to have fun and explore the town.
The best time of the day was an early summer morning. Temperature swings in North Dakota could be quite extreme – especially in the mornings. Early on the air was cool, and at that time of day the air seemed almost humid. As the sun rose higher, the greens of the trees and grass seemed to change by the minute. The sun poked through the trees and the heat of summer started to show. By late afternoon the heat stopped any active bike riding. I rode early, in the cool summer air. Continue reading
Louie is on the left. After throwing a left.
Louie was big into sports, especially football. Somewhere along the line he took a short detour into boxing. This letter takes a two sentence trip into the Golden Gloves experience, and there is one photo in his collection that shows him boxing. It’s not clear just where the match took place, but there were almost fifty people watching in just the corner we can see. There must have been hundreds cheering from ringside.
Later in life Louie would still watch boxing on television. He also enjoyed football, which was his true passion in high school and earned him a scholarship to Jamestown College. I knew very well that football was his game. I knew his coach, too. Ernie Gates. Mr Gates coached my dad and taught PE in the forties, and he did the same in the sixties when I came through high school. Though he never actually said the words, I could feel his disappointment when this budding football star couldn’t even do a push-up. Let’s just say that there’s not enough money or glory in the world to put me in a place like Louie’s in the picture to the right.
I think that I have mentioned the Kist family before, but the one that sticks in my mind is the boy named Leon.
In grade school, at the Franklin school, Leon and I were in the same grade. He loved to catch me on the way home after school and as the old saying goes “beat the living be-Jesus out of me.”
Jim and Franklin Corser
How many things are there in life that we just don’t talk about? Is it the pain that keeps us from talking about love or death? In this case it’s obvious that the memories are clear, but it’s only in these letters that Jim allows us a look into his heart to see the love and respect he had for his step-father. Jim always gave me the impression that life with Franklin Corser was difficult and not a place to go in general discussion. Talk about cars, camping, or a Guard weekend was much more important. Anything but stories about Dad.
Jim revealed many more emotions to his typewriter than he ever did directly to me. Even after writing these letters, we never really talked about what he had written. We shared how important and memorable they were, but discussing things like his love for his father just didn’t enter into the conversation. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels easier to expose my own emotions to this blog, just as Jim did in this letter.
It was September 1949 and I was working nights at the Millers Falls Paper Mill. I was staying at the lake cottage with Dad and Flora. This wasn’t an ideal arrangement, the cabin was small, the walls were thin and it is always difficult to adjust to a routine of working nights and trying to sleep days. For some time my mother and I had been … Continue reading
Some of Louie’s pennies
Louie loved coin collecting. I’ve always found it mildly interesting, but rarely to the degree that others have enjoyed. Since I love people energized by something, there have been two situations where coin collecting became a focused activity.
In college my roommate was a hard-core penny collector. Collectors like him are why you never see wheat back pennies these days. His idea for a great weekend was to pick up dozens of rolls of pennies from the bank and spend a Saturday sorting through them, looking for any older than 1958. When we were in college, there were still plenty of them. By plenty I mean one penny in every other roll of fifty coins. Continue reading
Joyce & Guy – Prom 1967
Lately the letters from Grace and Lucy have been about the various dances they went to in high school. I don’t remember my mother ever talking about going to dances, she never taught me how to dance, but I never missed a dance. In the early days it was John, Mark and me going to the dances just to watch the bands and talk about their guitars and drum kits. Later on I became interested in taking girls to the dances.
The first dances I remember going to with a date were the ones at the Masonic Lodge. They were pretty formal affairs, with dance cards and such. The school put on a number of dances, too, like homecoming. Generally it was pretty important to never go to the dance alone.
Last month Lucy wrote about her first date and the dances she and her best friend Evy went to. One does not go to a dance alone, especially in the thirties.
Duke Ellington’s band at the Crystal Ballroom in Fargo
The dance Lucy describes in this letter was at the Crystal Ballroom in Fargo. The first time I read this letter that fact didn’t seem to mean much. There were little ballrooms in every town, but this one was in Fargo, and Lucy had to drive 24 miles from Gardner to get there. That fact alone means the Crystal Ballroom was something special. Over in Kidder County, Grace lived in a boarding house in Steele because the 23 miles from the farm was too great a distance to travel every day to get to school.
The Crystal Ballroom hosted some famous bands, demonstrated by an album recorded in 1940 by Duke Ellington and his band, live at the Crystal Ballroom. Such a high-class place as that certainly wouldn’t let in the likes of people who dressed like Lucy and her best friend.
Dancing was the big thing in high school. If you weren’t dating and dancing you were considered a “wall flower.” My brother Lewellyn (Lew) taught me how to dance by standing on his toes when I was small. Loving music added fun to it of course – some times. Evy Malen (my best friend) and I would have 5 + 6 dances ahead. Guess that is not done now.
Evy and I went to Fargo with two men and we went to the Crystal Ballroom to dance. While we danced a big fat lady with a badge on her shoulder said we had to leave the dance hall because we were wearing anklets. She was a deputy and we were the talk of the high school. We thought it was fun.
Why was swimming such a big deal in the old days? Swimming played a big part in my childhood, but now my appetite for swimming is satisfied with about three minutes per year in a pool.
Guy & Judy sailing on the Jamestown reservoir, 1975.
Swimming was what we did in Jamestown during the summer. It had been for years. In the Great Depression the CCC built a swimming pool in Pipestem Creek, next to Klaus Park, just down the street from our house. They had cut a new channel in the river, controlled the input and output of the large concrete-lined pool, built a bath house and landscaped the area. It must have been a beautiful sight in the day, there were lovely lawns with trees planted artistically along the hillside and river.
By the time I roamed the park the bath house was long gone, except for the concrete floor, and the pool itself was just another channel in the river, but with concrete sides. My little friends and I spent a lot of time back in that woods looking for treasure. Most of the treasure consisted of various rocks, sticks, and the occasional critter. Continue reading
Every summer, in the middle of August, the hottest and most allergy prone time of the year, our local History Center hosts a festival with threshing machines, grain shocking, antique tractors and more. We’ve always loved going to these events, and taking the grand children. The dusty fields, the smoke of those old tractors, the thumping of the engines, the whir of the huge belt between the tractor and the machine, everything makes a cacophony of noise and light that keeps me entertained for hours. Louie had to do the work, all day, for pennies.
Pennies bought a lot more in 1940 than they do today.
Each fall when I was growing up, the late 1930’s and early 1940’s there would be the big harvesting of the summer crops in North Dakota.