Grace and Louie Wedding

Wedding cake. In the dining room of the Pink House. Kitchen is visible through the door.

Wedding cake, in the dining room of the Pink House. The kitchen is visible through the door.

In her letter a couple of weeks ago, Grace mentioned that there was an “old-fashioned” refrigerator in the Pink House when they moved in. This week, while writing about her wedding to Louie, refrigerators come up again. That juxtaposition illustrates something about Grace’s character that she learned from her mother. It’s a character trait that she passed on to me. My brothers are afflicted with the same fault: practicality.

Jim and Lucy taught me about love and kindness. Grace was all into making life functional. Some use joy to ease the pains of life, some figure out how to work through the difficulties to make the joy possible. Grace found joy in knowing that her family would be happier if she smoothed out some of the rough edges of life. Smoothed out with new slip covers on the couch.

Grace’s practicality paid off for me. She and Louie invested a lot of time and energy in putting together a wedding photo album and keeping mementos of the day. Being able to flip through the pictures and cards today lets me touch the joy and anticipation they must have felt on those summer days in 1949. The abandon they felt while running around Itasca Park in northern Minnesota reflected on Judy and me as we enjoyed our honeymoon on exactly the same ground.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Itasca Park, MN

Grace at the Headwaters of the Mississippi in Itasca Park

 

Grace writes:

We had a small wedding cake with real yellow roses around it. Afterwards had pictures taken at King Studio.

Itasca Park and Minneapolis made up our honeymoon. I wore a yellow pinwale corduroy outfit I had made. Had a jacket, skirt + slacks with white shirts.

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The summer of ’48

Grace in 1945

Grace in 1945

Not much happened, she says. Then the letter continues with two of the most important things that happened in her life. Was that juxtaposition intentional on her part, or did Grace decide in mid-sentence to start sharing something big from 1948?

I don’t recall exactly when I learned that Grace dropped out of high school, it may have been when I read this letter back in the nineties. I’m still amazed. Even though she dropped out, based on how she encouraged me to go to college, she clearly knew the importance of education. All four of her boys went on to college, even though she didn’t finish high school.

She says that Mama didn’t make much of a fuss. That may be because neither Fanny nor Ted even started high school, let alone finished. I believe that only one of Grace’s older siblings went for education beyond high school. Maybe she was a success by the standards of the day?

The second “earth shattering event” of the letter is the big wedding. The wedding continues in Grace’s next letter; watch for it soon.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

The summer of ’48 went by with no earth shattering events that I can recall. School started and I didn’t. I became a Hi School dropout. Doesn’t seem that Mama even made too much fuss about it. Work wasn’t to available either, but I did work at a 5+10 store for a few months over Christmas and then at Preds’ for a while.

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The Fall of 1947

In the fall of 1947 Grace gets to know the Havelick family, but somehow manages to elude meeting the man who would become the love of her life. Her best friend is Dorothy, Louie’s little sister. You’ve heard about her and seen her pictures in Louie’s previous letters. In that small town, living in the same neighborhood, I don’t know how she could avoid meeting Louie, but that meeting will have to wait for another letter.

Mary Jane McCurdy

Mary Jane McCurdy

One reason Grace and Louie didn’t meet was that Louie was married to Mary Jane McCurdy. They had a daughter, named Sunnie Jane. Grace mentions the baby in this letter, but does not go into the back story. The received history, not written down, but shared occasionally, was that daughter Sunnie Jane died because of complications of an instrument delivery by an incompetent doctor. She is buried in the family area of the Highland Home Cemetery just north of Jamestown.

My daughter had a spiritual connection with her grandpa Louie and her would be aunt Sunnie Jane. It’s something beyond my understanding, but if you ever send Mara an email, you’ll have a clue as to the depth of her feelings.

On a lighter note, I find it pleasing that twenty years later I went to high school in the same building as my mother, perhaps going to classes in the same rooms. In the last sentence of this letter Grace ends her high school career. She adds a little more detail in the next letter.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

The fall of 1947 I started my junior year of high school in Jamestown. I got acquainted real soon with the girls that lived southwest where we did. We all walked to school together + would go to the teen canteen together after school + sometimes to White’s Drug.

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Moving to Jamestown

Jamestown ND

Rear view of the “Pink” house a few years after they moved to Jamestown.

How about something a little different this time? Reading this letter from Grace brought up so many memories that I feel the need to say something about every sentence she wrote. There is a story behind each sentence, and this time I feel like I know the back story.

For this letter, I’m going to use a different format than you’re used to. After each sentence of Grace’s, I’m going to give you some background about it. Every sentence in every one of her letters, Louie’s letters, Lucy’s letters and Jim’s letters could probably get the same treatment, but today is my mother’s turn.

Grace writes:

Hi everyone,

We’re on the road again this lovely late summer morning in Wisconsin.

Guy’s comment:

After Grace and Norris got married they usually took at least one trip each year, often several. They brought Chris, Eric and Linn along when they were young enough. Later it was just the two of them. These trips sometimes involved fishing in Canada, hunting in Montana, national parks in Arizona, tourist stops in Wisconsin, or relatives in North Dakota. They put on thousands of miles, stopping every 100 miles for a quick break and to change drivers. On one of their trips the car broke down and they bought a new one in Jamestown. Each of their trips could be its own story. The year she wrote these letters they went through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, stopping to visit relatives, including Judy and me.

Grace writes:

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Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear

20080Ear worms. They are the most irritating thing that goes on in my little brain. From this letter, it’s clear that my grandmother hated them, too. When my mother’s friend planted this ear worm it caused a fuss. What makes me chuckle at this story is that Grandma could plant ear worms with the best of them. Every now and then she’d break into song for a moment. The one that hangs with me so many years after she left us is a familiar novelty tune.

Mairzy doats and dozy doats 
and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, Wooden shoe!"

I wasn’t known for musical talent, so had some trouble figuring out what she was singing about. Years later I’d learn the English words to the song. With luck neither of these irritating songs will stick to your brain after reading this post.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

Hi,

When Esther was going to school in Fargo at the business college she stayed with Gladys Johnson who had a daughter Joan about my age.

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Lake Williams Horses

Abandoned Lumberyard in Lake Williams ND

Abandoned lumberyard in Lake Williams ND

My brothers and I took several trips together in the late eighties and early nineties. The memories we built on those trips are among my most valued. On one of the trips we stopped to visit our Uncle Henry. Henry was an eccentric old man, and my favorite uncle. While we were visiting him this time, he took us on a tour of the country side. The five of us piled into his big GM sedan and hit the road; gravel roads, driving well over the limit, taking his half out of the middle.

Suddenly he hits the brakes and stops in the middle of the road, in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Pettibone and Woodworth. He throws open the door and jumps out, saying “Here’s the town of Marstonmoor.” We look quizzically at each other, wonder if it’s OK to park in the middle of the road, climb out and look around. There’s nothing there. Well, there’s grass and the road.

Henry says “Look over there … see that cement sticking out of the grass?” We crane our necks for a better view, realize the railroad tracks (abandoned?) are just a few feet beyond, and yes, indeed! There is an old concrete foundation there. Overgrown, crumbled, and not all that big to start with.

Henry gave us a quick history of the town. It was a railroad invention, they had to have stations every couple of miles along the rail line to support farmers who had only horse and wagon to deliver milk and cream to the railroad. Towns grew up around some of the stations, but not around others. This town was not one where dreamers succeeded.

Lake Williams fared a little better, there are still houses and buildings around where the rail station used to be. Not much else remains. Uncle Henry owned one of the old buildings in town. He used it to store his collection of cars and things. He wasn’t a car collector like my friends in the AACA, Henry just never bothered to ever sell a car. Ever. His place was just down the block from the lumberyard in the picture.

In this letter, Grace recounts the dreams of a rancher who thought he could get rich on fancy horses in Kidder County. That plan just didn’t work. Neither did my grand father’s plan of raising Herefords on the north forty. Not much remains in that area these days. If you listen to the wind and stare at the prairie grass long enough you can almost hear and see dreams floating by.

They’re gone now.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

Summer always seemed hot + long + the cool water in Lake Williams was a nice place to swim and fish and boat. Sometimes we would have a picnic there under the trees.

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The Race Horse and Piano

Grace with the schoolteaher's horse.

Grace with the schoolteacher’s horse.

I’m going to focus on the musical “talent” Grace focused on in this letter. The horse makes a good story, and her sister Esther has a wonderful story about another horse they owned on the farm by the name of Topsy.

One important difference between my life as a child and my life now as a parent and grand parent is the presence of music. As Grace writes in this letter, she wasn’t much of a singer. There wasn’t much music in the household. She passed that missing music trait down to me as a total and complete lack of musical ability. I like to tell people the only musical instrument I’ve mastered is a CD player.

In the seventh grade all the kids in our junior high school class had to take part in at least one music class. Mine was the “Glee Club,” which I loved. We had a lot of fun learning old favorites. Every now and then I catch myself singing the Caisson Song, or the Happy Wanderer. Try and get that ear worm out of your head now. I’ll wait.

To get into the Glee Club, each of us had to spend a few minutes with the director to figure out which part we could sing. I failed miserably. He played a scale and all I had to do was sing along. I thought he was going down the scale. I was wrong.

Not long after that I got the music bug and tried to learn, but the raw talent just wasn’t there. I’ve had to console myself with the ability to play a CD or Pandora. We have a beautiful old piano played by the grand kids, and Judy’s Irish band practices in the living room regularly. There’s almost always some sort of music happening here.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

Dear ones,

The year I was in sixth grade two very exciting things happened. The lady who had been teaching our school needed a place to store her piano and board her horse. What kind of a deal Mama made with her I don’t know but we had the horse several years and then had her colt to keep. Continue reading