After the Death of our Daughter

Ken Thurlow

Ken Thurlow

Most of Lucy’s letters are positive, relating the good things in life. In this letter, Lucy lets the hard times show through the happy veneer. Every sentence she writes is the seed of another story. Lucy did share some of the stories with us while she was living in Rochester, but somehow we never found the time to listen to them or try to remember them. It’s only now that she’s gone I realize that there is something more important than deciding what to have for dinner tonight, or that there is too much dust on the furniture. We should have been listening to Grandma Lucy tell the stories about how she drove downtown to get her driver’s license.

This letter relates a lot of sadness, hard work, and the potential for great joy. I hope everyone who reads it has a chance to share their own stories and take the time to listen to other people’s stories. That’s so much more important than getting that dust off the furniture.

Lucy writes:

After the death of our daughter Ken was still not able to work. He would sit in his chair with a flat iron with a belt thru the handle – and would lift it up many times a day. It was hard for him to be so inactive but for me – guess I really needed him to be with me. I hadn’t slept for such a long time and I felt so depressed. Ken had built a room on the side of our house for my mom. She had decided to retire and it was his suggestion. He was always helping people. Audrey lived with us weekends and summers for seven years. He helped Loly and Paul build a house which they lived in while her 3 children were born.

Continue reading

Montreal Olympics

76_Olympics_JRay_188We enjoyed every minute of the summer of 1973. The sun shone every weekend we went camping, and we camped a lot with our college crew. I was in the last couple of months of graduate school, finishing up on my master’s degree. Several companies had offered me jobs, and I had accepted the one at IBM in Rochester. Life was looking good.

The camping group wanted to make the feeling repeatable. How about a trip to the Olympics in Montreal in just three years, 1976? We could make this happen.

Making it happen was a major piece of work. I ended up with the job of buying tickets and finding housing for a group of ten people. If you remember my post from a couple of months ago, telephone calls weren’t cheap, the Internet didn’t exist. I did just about every piece of preparation through the mail, paper mail. Continue reading

First Taste of Flying

Eric writes:

When I was in about the third grade I got my first taste of flying.

Pat and Grant Knowlen at Fanny's, 1980.

Pat and Grant Knowlen at Fanny’s, 1980.

It was over the Fourth of July week when Jamestown had the Stutsman County Fair. Out at the airport, the Fixed Base Operator gave airplane rides for a penny per pound. Since I weighed about 40 to 50 pounds, my fare was under fifty cents.

I remember taking off and flying around the city and over the fair grounds. It was beautiful. All I can remember was that I wanted to fly again.

My second taste of flying came when my Cousin Grant Knowlen came to town. He flew in with his very own Cessna 1132. He took us for a ride in his plane and once again it hooked me. I knew that some day I would have to learn to fly.

— Eric H

I Volunteered for the Infantry!

This was the army job Louie really wanted.

This was the army job Louie really wanted.

Louie was proud of his military service, he was in the Army for several stints, including two in Korea, one in Europe, and a couple more state side.

Louie writes:

I remember the day my big brother Bob came home from the war in late 1944. We met him at the train depot in Jamestown. He hugged everyone he seen except me. I finally walked up to him and asked him if he remembered me. He said that he didn’t seem to know me. When he left I was a 97 lb. weakling and on this day I stood about two inches taller than him and outweighed him about 40 pounds. Kind of surprised him who I was. While in the South Pacific fighting the Japs …  Continue reading

Country School

Jim (r) and his step-father Einar in about 1953.

Jim (r) and his step-father Einar in about 1953.

If you’ve read this blog for very long you’ve seen stories similar to this one before. It seems that just about everyone in Jim’s generation told stories about one room schools. Most of my generation missed the opportunity, and there can’t be many left. Some think that home schooling can replicate the one room school learning environment, but there isn’t much that can bring back the daily grind of a horse-drawn sleigh in the winter.

How many blankets and burlap sacks would it take to keep warm for that long ride through the snow? I’ve heard stories about heating rocks on the cook stove and wrapping them in burlap to use as foot warmers. That’s more believable than the one about using rabbits or cats to keep warm.

My four block walk to Franklin School seems pretty tame by comparison.

Jim writes:

Many of the people I visit with in my age bracket state that they attended a small one room school in the country. I, too, am one of those in that group. The year was 1930 and the school had about twelve students from the first thru the eigth grades. It was heated by a coal stove and the further you sat from it  Continue reading

Starting College

High School Graduation - Cathy and Guy

High School Graduation – Cathy and Guy

Several events in the last couple of months brought the summer of 1968 to mind. This summer we’ve been to high school graduation parties and friends told us about their kids trips to various colleges. There are stories on the radio about what’s happening with tuition rates. For some time there’s been a story in the news about for profit colleges and student loans. I remember 1968 being a lot simpler time. Or maybe quite complicated, the more I think about it.

I had already decided to become an electrical engineer. Not that I had any idea what that meant. I had never met anyone with an engineering degree, for all I know there may not have been any engineers in Jamestown, except maybe one or two mechanical engineers at the plant that manufactured some sort of agricultural implements. My decision was the right one, but based on serendipity, not knowledge.

Three colleges fit the bill for my engineering education, at least that’s how many I applied to. In 1968 the automobile industry was still on a high. General Motors was the epitome of corporate perfection. They were so big they sponsored their own university to train engineers to design cars. Attending General Motors Institute would meet a couple of goals, engineering and cars. I sent an application. No answer. Continue reading

Lincoln School Neighborhood

Eric, Guy, Chris and Linn at the 319 house

Eric, Guy, Chris and Linn at the 319 house

Eric writes:

My first friends were Lori and Shelly Sucy, who lived just across the street from our house on 4th Avenue. Next door to them was Bonnie Schmidt. These were my playmates until I started the first grade. I still remember getting my first kiss from Bonnie while we were sitting on Grandma’s front porch. I was only in the first or second grade.

I started first grade at Lincoln Elementary just a block away from our house. The first day at school I met Mike Koushkouski. We have been fast friends ever since. Some of the other kids I remember are Mike’s younger brother and sister, David and Jeannie, and his older sister Peggy. There was Donna Rehak who lived behind and across the alley from Mike’s house. Continue reading

Grandma’s Kitchen

Scrapple-001This may be the longest story Grace wrote. It’s a good one!

Grandma Fanny loved to cook. She never actually said those words, but given how much time she invested in baking and cooking, she had to love it. Some of Grandma’s stories took place in the farm kitchen, and involved cooking for the large number of hired hands that came through during harvest time. She talked about fixing lunch and taking a wagon load of food to the fields for the men. Then it was right back to the kitchen to start cooking the afternoon snack, which sounded more like a major lunch to me. Those men were working hard, so they earned their pies and scrapple sandwiches.

In Jamestown, when I lived with Grandma, she baked continuously. Often for us (the best caramel rolls ever), but more often to sell at Wolf’s Grocery, the little store a half block away. The grocery was small by today’s standards, maybe 2,000 square feet, barely a house size. Mr. Wolf and his family lived upstairs.

Grandma baked rolls, bread, pies, and kuchen. She had great recipes, and insisted on using the best ingredients. One day a friend of hers asked why her caramel rolls were so good. Grandma explained the recipe, and that she used butter. The friend said, “Well, I just use shortening because it’s cheaper.” Grandma was incensed that her friend wouldn’t consider using butter, even though that was the distinguishing ingredient. I’ve taken that lesson to heart, cutting cooking corners only when flavor, texture, and presentation are not compromised. I always use butter, never margarine. I blame Grandma for that.

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Grace writes:

Dear ones,

I’ve been thinking about what Mama’s kitchen was like. In comparison to what we have now, she sure didn’t have much. With so little work space and no running water, electricity or gas it’s amazing how much she did.

The kitchen was a fairly large room and the first room you came into from outside. There was a front door that opened into the entryway at the bottom of the stairs and into the living room but we never used that door so the kitchen was always a busy place. The coal-wood range was the most important thing in the room. On it all the meals were cooked, wash water heated, bath water heated, meat and vegetables processed + canned. Clothes dryed by it in winter, the baby bathed close by to be nice + warm. All the bread, and rolls + cakes were baked in it and sometimes we warmed our feet in the oven. Even baby lambs or other little animals would be brought in when they were freezing outside to be warmed and nursed back to health by the warmth of that stove. Continue reading

Susan and Mr Otterson

Ken, Susan, and Lucy

Ken, Susan, and Lucy

Some stories should be told, but aren’t. They’re too painful. Lucy lost the most important person in her life, her daughter, to what then was an incurable disease. Today Wilm’s tumor is highly treatable. Not so in 1950. Lucy didn’t like to share the memories of her little girl traveling to Rochester’s Mayo Clinic where the doctors told them to go home and make peace with God. I surprised her when I took a job in that same town after graduating college. We now live just blocks from the hospital where Susan was unsuccessfully treated. Lucy came to grips with her daughter living in Rochester. Lucy even spent the last ten years of her life here. She never got used to telling the story about Susan. We know very little of that little girl’s life. Can you sense the reticence in Lucy’s telling of this story? She talks around the edges, but we never get to hear what really happened. Never.

Lucy writes:

Susan + Friend Mr Otterson – She blamed him for everything she did wrong. What a relief it was to be back home. We bought a few new things like curtains – end tables and a brand new bedroom set – a crib and then began making diapers. No “disposables” then, flannel gowns. Oh such excitement. Susan Lynn was born on the 11th of June. She had tight curls on her head – big brown eyes and we all loved her so much. She was so good – as my mother said once “That child is too beautiful and is loved by every one.” Guess she was right. Continue reading

What to do with my life?

What to do, what to do? Junior high was where I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had read every science fiction book in the library and most of the astronomy books as well. So it was obvious; I would become an astronomer. This held for a short while, until I figured out that nobody much hired astronomers and they had to work at night. That was not for me. Could there be something else? Science was interesting. I had no artistic abilities. What would I do? Weighty questions for an eighth grader. The insides of things fascinated me. Toys. Clocks. Radios. Televisions. I started taking them apart every chance I had. Radios and televisions became my favorite. I learned about the tubes and parts that made up most home radios of the fifties and sixties. These were little radios that sat on the kitchen counter and played only AM stations.

From Wikimedia commons. Public Domain photo.

A vacuum tube, similar to the ones I played with.

I was also the proud owner of an old AM broadcast and shortwave radio, one of the old floor standing models that you see in pictures from the thirties. That’s the one I used to scan the dial for clear channel stations like KOA in Denver and KOMA in Oklahoma City. I strung a long wire from the radio’s antenna connector into the back yard to get a better signal, then looked up possible stations in the amateur radio magazine to see which frequencies the clear channels broadcast on. I enjoyed listening for their call letters, and hearing the latest music (even on WSM) and news updates. Stations only broadcast their call letters on the hour and half hour, so it was a challenge to verify which station I was listening to. Static and distant thunder storms added to the challenge.

By the time I was in high school I had taken apart enough of the table radios to know how they worked and how to repair them. Just about every radio set used the same design, based around the “All American Five” tube set. (Nerds, please look it up on Wikipedia.) I could turn on the radio, look in the back and usually guess which tube was bad or what the problem was. Numbers like 50C5 and 6AV6 were second nature to me. Radios soon gave way to television sets. They were a little more complicated, a couple dozen tubes instead of five. Some high voltage stuff and the picture tube. I loved getting two nonfunctional sets and ending up with one that worked. These were a little tougher to diagnose, but I got pretty good at identifying which tubes to check at the drug store.

All this activity presented an opportunity. Maybe TV repairman was in my future? I was making good progress figuring these things out on my own. There were a couple of repair shops in town, as televisions broke down regularly. Repairs were usually quick and relatively inexpensive. Maybe that would be the life for me? Continue reading